Mar 022021
 
 March 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  26 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Acrobat 1930

 

“Did You Agree To This? Everybody’s Locked Up” – Edward Snowden (ZH)
Coronavirus Crisis Unlikely To Be Over By The End Of The Year – WHO (G.)
WHO Panel: Hydroxychloroquine Should Not Be Used To Prevent COVID-19 (Hill)
Data On Long Covid In UK Children Is Cause For Concern, Scientists Say (G.)
A Return To Normalcy Seen In November (K.)
Party Like It’s 1984 (Jim Kunstler)
US, EU Set To Impose Sanctions On Russia (NBC)
Duckworth Calls For Russian Bounties Intelligence To Be Declassified (Hill)
Stefan Halper’s Role In Crossfire Hurricane Larger Than Previously Known (ET)
Halper Reports Reveal Wider-Ranging Operation To Spy On Trump Campaign (JTN)
Bernie Sanders Vows To Force Vote On $15 Minimum Wage (Hill)
Joe Biden Says His Hands Are Tied On $15 Minimum Wage. That’s Not True (Sirota)
Finance As Culture (Luttig)
Mob Justice May Be Poetic Justice, But Cuomo Deserves Due Process (Turley)
Cuomo Swears He Always Kept Mask On While Sexually Harassing Women (BBee)
Odyssey Banned for Violence, Sexism; Is this the End of World Classics? (GR)

 

 

Update: as you may notice, we’re experimenting with ads a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Word!

“Did You Agree To This? Everybody’s Locked Up” – Edward Snowden (ZH)

A new video montage of recent interviews with former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden exposes how the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns – which have been particularly severe and far-reaching in Western countries like the UK, Canada, and in a number of major US cities – coupled with the already immense power of Silicon Valley and its allies in the national security state, has served to keep individuals and entire populations ‘gated off’ from one another. “This is just the beginning,” Snowden warns of these unprecedented times. “All of these things today have consequences which we are not informed about.” “I would say this is sort of unusual… we’re all spread all over the world in different rooms, everybody’s locked up… but for me this is how I’ve always lived.”

He narrates that so much of our life is “intermediated by the screens.” Increasingly our lives are “intermediated by these screens. We spend less time outside and more and more time staring into glass or through glass to connect with that larger world – something beyond ourselves.”Ultimately he poses the following questions as a warning in the video entitled, “Edward Snowden 2021: The Most VICIOUS HONEST 10 Minutes of your LIFE!”… “Increasingly it feels something distinct from us, something apart from us – something that we are witnessing rather than participating in. Ask yourself: Is this your will? Is this what you want? Did you agree to this? Is this consistent with the vision of the future you want to see?

Snowden continues, “The institutional powers of our day… which have assumed for themselves some mandate – whether to conduct business, whether its to govern the lives of others, whether it’s to make war, .. these institutional powers don’t seem to particularly care about your answer to that question: is this what you wanted? Is this OK? Did you agree to it?” The answer is frequently “you don’t have a choice” as to whether you agree or not… “because they have the gun, they have the baton. And Facebook would say ‘Click OK to continue’ – and if you don’t you can’t do anything…”

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the “virus is very much in control”…

Coronavirus Crisis Unlikely To Be Over By The End Of The Year – WHO (G.)

Despite the spread of Covid-19 being slowed in some countries due to lockdowns and vaccination programs, it is “premature” and “unrealistic” to the think the pandemic will be over by the end of the year, the World Health Organization’s executive director of emergency services has said. Speaking at a press briefing Geneva, Dr Michael Ryan said while vaccinating the most vulnerable people, including healthcare workers, would help remove the “tragedy and fear” from the situation, and would help to ease pressure on hospitals, the “virus is very much in control”. “It will be very premature, and I think unrealistic, to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year,” Ryan said.


“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalisation, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic.” The number of new global infections rose last week for the first time in almost two months. Reported cases increased in four of the WHO’s six regions: the Americas, Europe, south-east Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. “This is disappointing, but not surprising,” said the director general of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We’re working to better understand these increases in transmission. Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard.” He said while vaccines would help to save lives, “if countries rely solely on vaccines, they’re making a mistake”.

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Meawhile in Greece…

A Return To Normalcy Seen In November (K.)

Greek authorities’ main concern is now the timeline for a return to normalcy, after a year of the pandemic. The economy cannot withstand many more months of lockdowns and increasing coronavirus fatigue is gripping the population. Experts say the return to normalcy will happen when “herd immunity” is achieved. For that to happen, they say, 70% of the population must be vaccinated. Then, of course, there are questions of how long the immunity lasts, whether the disease will recur, and so on. According to a team of researchers at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki who have developed a Covid-19 risk evaluation model, the vaccination of 70% of the population, and thus herd immunity, will be achieved in November, provided there are 1 million vaccinations per month.


Under this caveat, the percentage of the vaccinated population, now standing at 9%, will reach 30% at the end of May, 38% in June, 46% in July, 54% in August and 62% in September. By the end of May, a “wall of immunity” for the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and those suffering from serious underlying diseases – will have been built, the researchers say. “[The wall] doesn’t mean complete freedom but at least means the likelihood of lockdown becomes remote,” says Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, professor of environmental engineering at Aristotle University.

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Ok, let’s see the trials.

WHO Panel: Hydroxychloroquine Should Not Be Used To Prevent COVID-19 (Hill)

The anti-inflammatory drug hydroxychloroquine should not be used to prevent COVID-19, according to a new recommendation from the World Health Organization. Multiple clinical trials of more than 6,000 people showed the drug had no meaningful effect on death or admissions to the hospital in people who had no prior exposure to COVID-19. The trials showed a “moderate certainty” that not only did hydroxychloroquine have no meaningful effect on laboratory confirmed COVID-19 infection, it also probably increased the risk of adverse effects.


The WHO’s recommendation was published in The BMJ, a medical journal. A WHO expert panel is studying different drugs that could be used to prevent COVID-19 infection, and the hydroxychloroquine recommendation is the first that the panel has published. “The panel considers that this drug is no longer a research priority and that resources should be used to evaluate other more promising drugs to prevent COVID-19,” the WHO said in a statement. The recommendations are meant “to provide trustworthy guidance on the management of COVID-19 and help doctors make better decisions with their patients,” the WHO said.

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No word on how many children are affected. If it’s just five, maybe they should tell us.

Data On Long Covid In UK Children Is Cause For Concern, Scientists Say (G.)

Scientists have warned that emerging data on long Covid in children should not be ignored given the lack of a vaccine for this age group, but cautioned that the evidence describing these enduring symptoms in the young is so far uncertain. Recently published data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has caused worry. The data suggest that 13% of under 11s and about 15% of 12- to 16-year-olds reported at least one symptom five weeks after a confirmed Covid-19 infection. ONS samples households randomly, therefore positive cases do not depend on having had symptoms and being tested.

With schools in England poised to reopen on Monday – Prof Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage committee and director of clinical operational research at University College London – in a Twitter post suggested that although emerging data on long Covid in children was uncertain, it should not be ignored, particularly given there was no licensed vaccine for these age groups, and there probably won’t be until the end of this year or early next year. Although children are relatively less likely to become infected, transmit the virus and be hospitalised, the key question is whether even mild or asymptomatic infection can lead to long Covid in children, said Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London.

[..] Some children are initially asymptomatic or have mild symptoms but then it might be six or seven weeks before they start experiencing long Covid symptoms, which can range from standard post-viral fatigue and headaches to neuropsychiatric symptoms such as seizures, or even skin lesions. At the moment there is no consensus on the scale and impact of long Covid in adults, but emerging data is concerning. For children, the data is even more scarce. Recent reports from hospitals in Sweden and Italy have generated concern, but this data is not from national trials – they are single-centre studies – and include relatively small patient numbers, said Sir Terence Stephenson, a Nuffield professor of child health at University College London.

Stephenson was awarded £1.36m last month to lead a study investigating long Covid in 11- to 17-year-olds. “I don’t have a scientific view on what long Covid is in young people is – because frankly, we don’t know,” he said.

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Of course, steers and cows are easier to push around than bulls, and the technology for transforming bulls into steers — or men in to eunuchs — is not that complex or nuanced..

Party Like It’s 1984 (Jim Kunstler)

Chalk up a fatal blow to The Patriarchy. That avatar of toxic masculinity, Mr. Potato Head has been dumped into the same humid chamber of perdition where the ghosts of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Theodore Bilbo, and Phyllis Schlafly howl and squirm — liberating the billions of potatoes world-wide from the mental prison of binary sexuality. The move by Hasbro (bro? really??) may yet disappoint the legions in Wokesterdom as a-bridge-not-far-enough while they await the debut of Transitioning Potato Head, complete with play hormone syringe and play scalpel, so that the under-six crowd can begin to map out their own gender reassignments without the meddling of Adult 1 and Adult 2, formerly known as Mommy and Daddy.

Was it mere coincidence that the action in Toyland happened the same week that one Rachel Levine was grilled in hir Senate confirmation hearing for the post as Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services? The hearing tilted toward transphobia when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) asked zie, a little too aggressively, if they were in favor of pubescent children opting for sexual reassignment in opposition to xyr parents. The nominee, who hirself transitioned from “male” to “female” in 2011, answered that transgender medical issues are “complex and nuanced.” True (perhaps). And probably more than a Senator who transitioned from ophthalmologist to politician might appreciate.

Such are the great preoccupations of American leadership in these late days of empire. Are their any “historic firsts” left for Progressives to achieve in the march to a transhuman nirvana? An “undocumented” president? Animal representation in the House and Senate? A-I “entities” qualifying for public office — Governor Smartphone? Let’s face it, the pitiful old school humans in charge of things for so long are making a hash of our affairs. A cash register could probably do a better job as Chairman of the Federal Reserve than the always-waffley Jerome Powell. And a MacBook Pro might make a better president than Joe Biden in the brief daily operational hours before his managers a “call a lid.” We’d have to come up with some new personal pronouns for them, of course.

Pundits and observers-of-the-scene have warned us that all this artificially-generated turmoil over the sex-of-things is but one part of the prelude to a “Great Reset” in which people the world over are to be herded into corrals of ultra-regulated behavior. Of course, steers and cows are easier to push around than bulls, and the technology for transforming bulls into steers — or men in to eunuchs — is not that complex or nuanced. The question is: will enough American men submit to castration, either chemical, financial, political, or literal? Maybe not.

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Oh, cut it out already.

US, EU Set To Impose Sanctions On Russia (NBC)

The U.S. and the European Union are expected to impose coordinated sanctions on Russia as early as Tuesday for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his arrest and detention that followed, three sources familiar with the planning said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not otherwise authorized to speak to the media. The sanctions will be the first to target Moscow since Joe Biden became president and opened a comprehensive review of U.S.-Russia policy, including the Kremlin’s actions against Navalny, interference into the U.S. election, the Solar Winds hack and reported bounties offered to Taliban-linked groups to target U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Trump administration declined to take action against Russia for the attempted assassination of Navalny.

The U.S. is expected to use legal authorities to impose sanctions on Russia for its use of a chemical nerve agent against Navalny in August, said a senior administration official, a congressional aide and a Western diplomat. Toxicology tests conducted in Germany, France and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that Navalny was poisoned with a novel form of the Novichok nerve agent in violation of the international Chemical Weapons Convention. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the attack. Upon his return to Russia in January, Navalny was arrested and sentenced to more than two years in jail. He has been transferred to a penal colony. The E.U. has taken action against Russia for poisoning Navalny, restricting travel and freezing the assets of six Russians in October, but this week’s sanctions would be the first issued under the E.U.’s new human rights regime.

E.U. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told the Atlantic Council last week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had asked the E.U. to coordinate with the U.S. on the new sanctions. The E.U.’s procedural vote to formally adopt the sanctions will close at noon Tuesday Brussels time. “I wouldn’t want to speak to any measures that we may have coming, but suffice it to say that we have coordinated very closely,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday about the cooperation between the U.S and the E.U. Price did not elaborate on the timing of the sanctions but added, “We’ve been working on it as an urgent challenge.” An investigation by U.N. experts released Monday found that the attack against Navalny falls within a wider trend, observed over several decades, of arbitrary killings and attempted killings of Russian citizens and government critics, both within Russia and extraterritorially.

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I said cut it out!

Duckworth Calls For Russian Bounties Intelligence To Be Declassified (Hill)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Monday called for the Biden administration to declassify intelligence related to reports that the Kremlin offered bounties to Taliban forces for targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “While any intelligence assessment on this matter is understandably sensitive, the American public, and Gold Star Families in particular, have a pressing need to know if there is any truth to these claims,” Duckworth wrote in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines first obtained by Politico. “I believe such a finding may be presented while protecting classified information.” The intelligence, first reported last year, was dismissed as a “hoax” by then-President Trump.

Last September, Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said the military was still investigating, adding that the report “has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me.” Haines has been tasked with reviewing intelligence on recent Russian activity, including the alleged bounty initiative. In her letter, Duckworth asked for Haines to publish an unclassified report to “provide urgently needed transparency on this grave matter.” Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, was one of the leading voices calling for action in response to the report last year. In July, she led a letter from Senate Democrats asking to see the then-president’s intelligence briefings relating to the alleged bounties.

“Despite my persistent attempts to bring transparency to these alarming reports, the Trump administration failed to provide an official response to basic questions: did the United States Government or our partners assess the likelihood of the existence of the GRU bounty payment activity, and did the United States Government find evidence indicating correlation or causation between GRU bounty payments and deadly attacks on U.S. troops by Taliban-linked militants?” Duckworth wrote in the letter on Monday, referring to Russia’s secretive military intelligence agency.

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Always thought his role was quite substantial.

Stefan Halper’s Role In Crossfire Hurricane Larger Than Previously Known (ET)

Newly released FBI documents shed light on two meetings between FBI Agent Stephen Somma and FBI source Stefan Halper, providing further insight into the wide scope of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign—and the active role played by Halper, who acted as a confidential human source (CHS) for the FBI. Although Halper was not considered an official CHS for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation prior to these meetings, Somma had known Halper since 2011, according to the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on FISA Abuse. Additionally, Somma had served as Halper’s handler from “2011 through 2016” as part of Somma’s “regular investigative activities.”

The FBI’s meetings with Halper on Aug. 11 and 12, 2016, were done at the proposal of Somma, who said he “lacked a basic understanding” of political campaigns. Somma said that he selected Halper because he knew that Halper had been “affiliated with national political campaigns since the early 1970s” and “might have information about, and potentially may have met, one or more of the Crossfire Hurricane subjects”—Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Somma said that he did not initially tell Halper that there was already an open FBI investigation or who the subjects were, nor, he told the IG, did he tell Halper of the conversation between Papadopoulos and Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, which was the FBI’s claimed reason for opening Crossfire Hurricane.

Somma was proven to be prophetic, as Halper already had direct knowledge of two of the three people considered subjects of Crossfire Hurricane. And Halper would later fashion a meeting in London with Papadopoulos, the one person he didn’t already know. Halper also managed a meeting with Sam Clovis from the Trump campaign. Additionally, based on the FBI documents obtained by Just The News, it appears that Halper was responsible for pushing Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as a “person of interest” to the FBI with what appears to have been a false story that the FBI failed to immediately verify—and then later failed to correct as the story gained traction in the media during a crucial period of the Trump presidency.

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Problem remains: who will investigate the investigators?

Halper Reports Reveal Wider-Ranging Operation To Spy On Trump Campaign (JTN)

Once-secret reports show the FBI effort to spy on the Trump campaign was far wider than previously disclosed, as agents directed an undercover informant to make secret recordings, pressed for intelligence on numerous GOP figures, and sought to find “anyone in the Trump campaign” with ties to Russia who could acquire dirt “damaging to Hillary Clinton.” The now-declassified operational handling reports for FBI confidential human source Stefan Halper — codenamed “Mitch” — provide an unprecedented window both into the tactics used by the bureau to probe the Trump campaign and the wide dragnet that was cast to target numerous high-level officials inside the GOP campaign just weeks before Americans chose their next president in the November 2016 election.

Among the revelations, the memos make clear that: Almost immediately after the FBI opened a Russia collusion probe on July 31, 2016 narrowly focused on the foreign lobbying of a single Trump campaign aide named George Papadopoulos, agents pressed Halper for information on more than a half dozen other figures, including future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, foreign policy adviser Sam Clovis, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, economic adviser Peter Navarro, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign adviser Carter Page. Halper provided significant exculpatory evidence to the FBI — including transcripts of conversations he recorded of targeted Trump advisers providing statements of innocence — that was never disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approved a year of surveillance targeting the Trump campaign, and specifically Page.

While current FBI Director Chris Wray has insisted the bureau did not engage in spying on the Trump campaign, Halper’s taskings include many of the tradecraft tactics of espionage, including the creation of a fake cover story (he wanted a job at the Trump campaign), secret recordings, providing background on targets, suggested questions to ask and even contact information for potential targets. But the memos’ most explosive revelations are the sheer breadth of the FBI’s insufficiently predicated dragnet targeting the Trump campaign, and the agents’ clearly stated purpose of thwarting any Trump campaign effort to get dirt from Russia that could hurt his Democratic rival.

“The Crossfire Hurricane investigative team is attempting to determine if anyone in the Trump campaign is in a position to have received information either directly or indirectly from the Russian Federation regarding the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton,” one of the early FBI electronic communications (ECs) from Halper’s undercover work stated. Ordinarily, FBI counterintelligence investigations that target Americans legally must be predicated on specific allegations that narrowly focus the bureau’s spy powers on limited targets to avoid unnecessary infringement of privacy and civil liberties. But the Halper documents reveal a large, unfocused FBI search with little substantiation of alleged wrongdoing, and significant evidence that undermined the core allegations, experts told Just the News.

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Bernie vs Ol’ Joe.

Bernie Sanders Vows To Force Vote On $15 Minimum Wage (Hill)

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says Democrats should “ignore” the recent ruling of the Senate parliamentarian and is vowing to force the Senate to vote this week on an amendment to set the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour. Sanders on Monday declared he would not back down on his signature wage initiative after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled last week that a provision setting the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour would not be eligible under special budget rules Democrats are using to avoid a filibuster while passing their coronavirus relief bill. “My personal view is that the idea that we have a Senate staffer, a high-ranking staffer, deciding whether 30 million Americans get a pay raise or not is nonsensical.


“We have got to make that decision, not a staffer who’s unelected, so my own view is that we should ignore the rulings, the decision of the parliamentarian,” Sanders told reporters. Sanders added, “Given the enormous crises facing this country and the desperation of working families, we have got to as soon as possible end the filibuster.” “We cannot have a minority of members define what the American people want,” he said. Sanders said he will force a vote on an amendment raising the federal minimum wage this week. “To the best of my knowledge, there will be a vote on the minimum wage, and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I intend to offer the bill that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and we’ll see how the votes go.” “If we fail in this legislation, I will be back,” he warned. “We are going to keep going. “We are going to raise that minimum wage very shortly to $15 an hour,” he said.

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LBJ did it.

Joe Biden Says His Hands Are Tied On $15 Minimum Wage. That’s Not True (Sirota)

When a Republican is president, Democratic politicians, pundits and activists will tell you that the presidency is an all-powerful office that can do anything it wants. When a Democrat is president, these same politicians, pundits and activists will tell you that the presidency has no power to do anything. In fact, they will tell you a Democratic president cannot even use the bully pulpit and other forms of pressure to try to shift the votes of senators in his own party. A tale from history proves this latter myth is complete garbage – and that tale is newly relevant in today’s supercharged debate over a $15 minimum wage. In that debate so far, we have seen Democratic senators prepare to surrender the $15 minimum wage their party promised by insisting they are powerless in the face of a non-binding advisory opinion of a parliamentarian they can ignore or fire.

That explanation is patently ridiculous and factually false, so Democratic apologists are starting to further justify the surrender by suggesting that even if the party kept a $15 minimum wage in the Covid relief bill, conservative Democrats such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would block it anyway. The White House itself is now falling back on the idea that it doesn’t have the votes to do much of anything, insinuating that Joe Biden – who occupies the world’s most powerful office – somehow has no power to try to change the legislative dynamic. And this spin is being predictably amplified across social media. [..] it is laughable and preposterous to argue that a newly elected president has zero power to even try to shift the dynamic.

And yet, whether you call this all deliberate deception or learned helplessness, this fantastical myth of the Powerless President will inevitably be used to shield Biden from criticism for abandoning his pledge to fight for a $15 minimum wage. The apologism is particularly absurd because unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who was a relative newcomer to politics, Biden’s major selling point was that he knows “how to make government work”. The guy explicitly pitched himself as the best Democratic presidential candidate by suggesting that in an era of gridlock, he knows how to make the Democratic agenda a reality and Get Things Done™, like master of the Senate Lyndon Baines Johnson. That’s where LBJ himself comes in to destroy the narrative that Democratic presidents in general – and Biden specifically – are inherently helpless.

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Memes “R” Us.

Finance As Culture (Luttig)

In practice, what does financialization look like? We’ve all heard the institutional narrative. The US stock market has nearly tripled in the past 10 years. The FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate) now accounts for 20% of US GDP, versus 10% in 1947. S&P buybacks nearly doubled in the 2010s. IPOs grew 2.5x in 2020. But financialization is no longer purely institutional; it has seeped into our culture. A combination of low interest rates, a historic tech bull run, and the resulting torrent of fomo has tethered us to our monitors to watch candlestick charts. The financialization of culture has manifested in two primary ways: lottery culture and equity culture. We’ve always had lottery culture, in which people trade assets hoping to make money without understanding or conviction of their fundamental value.

In the summer of 1929, for example, Joe Kennedy’s shoe shine boy gave him stock tips, signaling the market peak. But lottery culture has exploded in the past few years. Robinhood has achieved its vision of democratizing access to financial markets, boasting over ten million monthly active users and exponential growth. Retail investor trading as a percentage of stock market volume has more than doubled since 2010. When “stocks only go up”, people realize the stock market is a casino with much better payouts. Gamified trading has tethered us to our phones and bank accounts. Through GameStop, even protest became financialized. At the peak of the GameStop saga, millions of Americans owned GME, arming themselves against hedge funds.

This was part protest, part nihilistic hail mary to get rich. The number of subscribers to the wallstreetbets (WSB) subreddit certainly spiked in 2021, but the exponential compounding for years beforehand implies a degree of inevitability. Memes took lottery culture to new heights. Stocks popular among a retail audience, like Apple, have historically traded at higher multiples than others in their category. Tesla accelerated the divergence between retail excitement and fundamentals: TSLA revenue grew 50% over the past two years, but meme culture helped its market cap grow by 12x. GameStop completed the meme-fundamentals duality: investors don’t even pretend that the company’s fundamentals will ever substantiate its market cap.WSB revealed where Robinhood culture was headed all along: a nihilistic lottery. It was historically viewed as a disorganized and degenerate mob, but the mob has evolved into a laser-focused and motivated militia.

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So do the people who died in care homes.

Mob Justice May Be Poetic Justice, But Cuomo Deserves Due Process (Turley)

In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before at Northwestern University Law School to announce President Obama’s “kill list” policy, under which he reserved the right to unilaterally order the death of any American deemed an imminent threat. After all, Holder explained, “the Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The response was as chilling as the message: The audience of judges, lawyers and law students applauded an attorney general who just told them that any of them could be killed tomorrow on the president’s order. Some of us denounced the “kill list” policy, which foreshadowed what has become a campaign against due process. In our hair-triggered culture of Twitter attacks and “canceling” opponents, due process is treated as hopelessly arcane and inconvenient.

Our political discourse must now be tweet-worthy — less than 280 words — and delivered in a news cycle measured in minutes. Due process, like free speech, is rarely valued until its loss becomes personal. Take Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.). Cuomo advanced his political career by positioning himself at the front of every mob pursuing political rivals, as during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Before hearing the defense of now-Justice Kavanaugh, Cuomo described the allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford as presumptively true. He not only effectively called Kavanaugh a rapist, without any due process, but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph as a condition to be believed. Cuomo was not alone. Many Democratic leaders insisted that “women must be believed” when raising sexual harassment allegations and declared Kavanaugh guilty before hearing any testimony.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) dismissed due process concerns for Kavanaugh, adding: “When we talk about … due process and justice, it must focus on the victim.” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Kavanaugh was not entitled to a presumption of innocence and that men should “just shut up” and accept the allegations. Last year, when Lindsey Boylan’s allegations went public, I wrote a column asking if Cuomo would presume himself guilty, absent a polygraph. Now, after Boylan added details of Cuomo’s alleged kissing and propositioning her, many are struggling with his (and their) prior positions against due process. While CNN, MSNBC and other networks blacked-out the story or barely covered it, others — including many on the right — have declared Cuomo to be guilty and dangerous.

Cuomo deserves due process, despite loudly denying it for others. Simply because Boylan made the allegations is not proof of guilt. Both sides have a right to be heard — not a right to be believed solely on their word. Due process allows us to determine who is a victim — not, as AOC suggested, to vindicate one party as the declared victim. [..] Of course, as Gov. Cuomo has learned, one can lead a mob one day only to be pursued by the mob on the next. It would be easy to leave him to the mob and call it poetic justice, but that is not justice of any kind. Cuomo should receive all of the due process he denied to others — not because he deserves it, but because he embodies the costs of ignoring it.

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He’ll be arrested any day now.

Cuomo Swears He Always Kept Mask On While Sexually Harassing Women (BBee)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized this weekend for his long-standing habit of sexually abusing young women he holds power over. And while that all sounds quite bad, Governor Cuomo did make it clear to the public that he always wore a mask and socially distanced during these interactions– a fact that has some folks saying he should get off free. “I have the greatest respect for my employees,” Cuomo explained during a press conference. “Especially the girls—we’ve got a lot of young girls on staff who do a really good job.” Cuomo paused for a moment and seemed to wink at someone offscreen.


“And I can guarantee you right now, sure I might be a sexual predator, but not once did I remove my mask, never once broke the six-foot rule during conversations with my girls– at least in 2020. Isn’t that right, Kelly?” Cuomo went on to explain how some of his sexual jokes may not have landed with the women since they couldn’t see his facial expressions. He also claimed that the women may have misheard him since his words were muffled by his mask and they were standing so far apart. “Do I regret making those comments?” Cuomo asked as he stood up to leave the press conference. “No. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some strip poker, er– I mean poker, to play.”

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Ban the Bible!

Odyssey Banned for Violence, Sexism; Is this the End of World Classics? (GR)

Odyssey, Homer’s classic of world literature written in the time of Ancient Greece, was recently banned in Lawrence, Massachusetts for portraying ideas that do not conform to modern norms of behavior. The move, reported recently by the Wall Street Journal, appears to stem from a “social justice” movement, created by Twitter users, called #DisruptTexts. Its proponents believe that any world literature that does not portray the norms that they hold today in terms of gender roles, violence and racial equality must be banned in the interest of shaping a new generation that will not be allowed to come into contact with concepts that they consider repugnant — or even just outdated.

Penelope, sitting at her loom patiently for twenty years while hubby Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War, is not the model of female behavior that teachers who espouse this new type of book banning want their students to emulate. But not only do they not want their students to emulate these behaviors — they want to ban books that contain they want to ban books that portray violence, traditional gender roles and racism, making sure that future generations will never learn about the many adventures of Odysseus and his companions as they made their way across the sea, fought against Troy and wended their way back home after twenty years away.

Books such as this, which provide a treasury of historical references and form the basis of educated peoples’ understanding of the Classical world, naturally contain violent images of battle and strife and portray the social milieu of the day. Until recently, however, teachers would focus on the tremendous literary and historical merit of the world of Homer and other ancient writers, leaving their students to come to their own conclusions as to whether or not they would like to wage warfare or alternatively sit at home weaving while the husband is away at battle.

[..] But the politically-correct rush to judgment, which began in recent years with the banning of American classics such as Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and even more recent works such as How to Kill a Mockingbird — for the use of the n-word — has come back to bite society now that the floodgates have been opened. Originally, the pendulum swung the other way, and it was conservative Americans who were originally guilty of banning books — despite the freedom of speech and expression explicitly enshrined in the Constitution. The first book to be officially banned in America was Thomas Morton’s “New English Canaan,” published in 1637.

A massive, three-volume work, it contained not only Morton’s insightful observations about Native Americans, but also — raising the ire of those who had settled Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Company — a biting satire of the Puritans. As the centuries went on, it wasn’t just political positions that drew the ire of book banners, it was more often portrayals of sex that attracted the eye of censors and caused works of literature to come under scrutiny. And the list of banned books in America is shamefully long, including Peyton Place,The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Beloved, and The Lord of the Flies.

Read more …

 

 

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Mar 012021
 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Dance at Bougival 1883

 

Guidelines To Place Children In Solitary Quarantine ‘Cruel Punishment’ (TSun)
Bill Gates Warns Post-Covid Return To Normal Could Take All 2022 (F.)
Brazil Variant May Make Foreign Summer Holidays Impossible, Ministers Told (G.)
Why “New Cases” Are Plummeting (OffG.)
Trump On 2024: ‘I May Decide To Beat Them For A Third Time’ (SAC)
Biden’s Message To Iran: The Battlefield Has Been Inaugurated (Magnier)
Cuomo Cedes Control Of Harassment Probe (JTN)
NY’s Sexual Harassment Working Group Urges Gov. Cuomo To Resign (NYP)
Democrats Demand The Firing Of The Senate Parliamentarian (Turley)
Efforts In Key Battleground States To Return Voting To Pre-2020 Rules (JTN)
China’s Fiscal Risks ‘Extremely Severe’, Former Finance Minister Warns (SCMP)
The Big “Buy & Hype” Bitcoin Casino (Wolf Richter)
Far-Right Platform Gab Has Been Hacked—Including Private Data (Wired)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrative of the state of mind the world has entered. Zero comprehension of complex systems. Everything exists in one dimension only.

Guidelines To Place Children In Solitary Quarantine ‘Cruel Punishment’ (TSun)

Peel Health has issued guidelines to parents instructing them to keep any children who have been sent home because a classmate has tested positive for COVID-19 isolated in a separate room from all other family members for 14 days. The severe guidelines, which apply even to small children who are dismissed from child care, are being criticized by experts as harmful and not supported by science. “This is cruel punishment for a child, especially for younger children, 4-10 years old,” Dr. Susan Richardson, a microbiologist and infectious disease physician who is also a professor emerita at University of Toronto, wrote in an email to the Sun. “Shutting a child off from their parents and siblings for up to 14 days in this manner could produce significant and long-lasting emotional and psychological effects.”

The handout distributed at Peel Region schools explains, “If your child does not have any symptoms: the child must self-isolate, which means stay in a separate room, eat in a separate room apart from others, use a separate bathroom if possible.” The handout also says, “If the child must leave their room, they should wear a mask and stay 2 metres apart from others.” Any other children in the household not only must be both separated from their siblings but also stay home for 14 days. “This does not seem practically possible and is highly likely to cause harm to children who would already be experiencing considerable distress with having to remain at home,” Dr. Tess Clifford, the director of the Psychology Clinic at Queen’s University, said in an email to the Sun.

Clifford said those making decisions about pandemic mitigation measures need to consider the well-being of children across multiple domains of health. “I don’t understand how any health-care professional has moved so far away from the fundamentals of public health and of doing no harm that they would think that basically incarcerating a child in a room for 14 days is in any way justified,” said Dr. Martha Fulford, an infectious diseases physician at Hamilton Health Science who focuses on pediatrics. “This is shocking,” adds Fulford, “especially when you consider this is being proposed for children who are not in any way sick.”

Read more …

There is only one truth, and Gates and Fauci control it.

Bill Gates Warns Post-Covid Return To Normal Could Take All 2022 (F.)

Fresh off a third vaccine candidate garnering U.S. regulatory approval, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called the rapid development of vaccines “a miracle” that should help Americans return to an “almost-normal” way of life as early as fall but also warned that lawmakers aren’t doing enough globally to usher in a full return-to-normal before the end of next year. Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, 65-year-old Gates said that autumn should bring about some normalcy for Americans with “basically every school back in session,” some level of occupancy in restaurants and sporting events all once again taking place.

“The big problem is that we’re not doing enough to end the pandemic globally,” Gates warned, adding that vaccines thus far are “just going to rich countries,” which leaves the risk that contagious variants could spread abroad and creep back into the United States. That risk–compounded by the potential wave of reinfections–means a full return to normal “could take all of 2022 unless we do a better job,” Gates said. Additional vaccine factories in nations like India could help curtail the risk of infection abroad and bring about a quicker return to normalcy, Gates suggested, pointing to vaccine-makers AstraZeneca, NovaVax and Johnson & Johnson that are already working on such projects.

Speaking to CNN earlier Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the United States now has three “really good vaccines” that Americans should “have no hesitancy whatsoever to take”–a sentiment Gates echoed of the five candidates approved for distribution in the Western World.

Read more …

From a live blog.

Brazil Variant May Make Foreign Summer Holidays Impossible, Ministers Told (G.)

Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the home affairs committee, was on the Today programme this morning saying that ministers have repeatedly been told that the measures currently in place in England may be inadequate. She made the same points in a thread on Twitter last night with accompanying ‘I told you so’ evidence. On the Today programme she made a further point, saying that the latest development illustrated why summer holidays abroad might not be possible this year. When she was asked if she thought the government would have to ban holiday flights over the summer, she replied:


“You’re right, there is a concern about whether the government is raising expectations about summer holidays that they may not be able to meet, because this will depend on the relationship between the spread of these new variants and what happens with the vaccine, and the timetable about things like boosters for the vaccine. And we’ve been advised on the committee by scientists that these border measures, and the strength of these border measures, becomes even more important as domestic cases fall. So as our own cases fall, and as the economy and society opens up, they argue that that’s when you actually need stronger measures at the border, rather than reducing them. The trouble is at the moment the government is encouraging people to think that those summer holidays are all going to be possible and international travel is going to return.”

Read more …

As we know.

Why “New Cases” Are Plummeting (OffG.)

The decline started in mid-January, far too early for any vaccination program to have any effect. Many experts said as much: “Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said the falling case numbers can’t be attributed to the COVID-19 vaccine, because not even a tenth of the population has been vaccinated, according to the CDC.” Further, the drop is happening simultaneously in different countries all around the world, and not every country is vaccinating at the same rate or even using the same vaccine. So no, the “vaccines” are not causing the drop. Another suspect is the lockdown, with blaring propaganda stating that all the various government-imposed house arrests and “distancing” measures have finally had an impact. That’s not it either. Sweden, famously, never locked down at all. Yet their “cases” and “Covid related deaths” have been dropping exactly in parallel with the UK:

Clearly, if countries that never locked down are also seeing declines in case numbers, the lockdown cannot be causing them. So what is? Maybe for our answer, we should look at the date the decline started. Observe this graph:

As you can see, the global decline in “Covid deaths” starts in mid-to-late January. What else happened around that time? Well, on January 13th the WHO published a memo regarding the problem of asymptomatic cases being discovered by PCR tests, and suggesting any asymptomatic positive tests be repeated. This followed up their previous memo, instructing labs around the world to use lower cycle thresholds (CT values) for PCR tests, as values over 35 could produce false positives. Essentially, in two memos the WHO ensured future testing would be less likely to produce false positives and made it much harder to be labelled an “asymptomatic case”. In short, logic would suggest we’re not in fact seeing a “decline in Covid cases” or a “decrease in Covid deaths” at all.


What we’re seeing is a decline in perfectly healthy people being labelled “covid cases” based on a false positive from an unreliable testing process. And we’re seeing fewer people dying of pneumonia, cancer or other disease have “Covid19” added to their death certificate based on testing criteria designed to inflate the pandemic.

Read more …

Is it getting a bit old, or is that just me?

Trump On 2024: ‘I May Decide To Beat Them For A Third Time’ (SAC)

In his first post-White House appearance, former President Donald Trump ripped into President Joe Biden and stressed the importance of a united GOP to win future elections.. He also dropped hints about his political future at this year’s CPAC. The president told the cheering crowd that he may consider running again in 2024. It was what many in the crowd were hoping to hear as the week’s long CPAC event ended in Orlando, Florida. The 45th president spoke for roughly 90 minutes about immigration, women’s sports, and other Biden policies. “Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history… In just one short month, we have gone from America first to America last,” Trump said.


Trump spoke on COVID lockdowns and the politics surrounding reopening schools. “There’s no reason whatsoever why the vast majority of young Americans should not be back in school immediately,” Trump said. “The only reason that most parents do not have that choice is because Joe Biden sold out America’s children to the teachers’ unions.” He also commented on the 2020 election, saying it was not a fair election and if it had been, it would have had a “very different” result. “This election was rigged. And the Supreme Court didn’t want to do anything about it,” he said. Trump even teased a future for his political career, saying he [thinks] a Republcian will in in the next cycle, and he asked “I wonder who that will be?”

Read more …

“Biden’s ill-considered murder of Iraqi soldiers fighting ISIS.”

Biden’s Message To Iran: The Battlefield Has Been Inaugurated (Magnier)

Several F-15’s have launched an attack against multiple targets on the Iraqi-Syrian borders against Iraqi security forces, Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces – PMF), by direct order of President Joe Biden. This is the first military action ordered by the new President and certainly not the last. So far, the US President has followed his predecessor’s steps concerning the sanctions imposed on foreign states and groups. One symbolic exception was the Yemeni Ansar Allah’s delisting from the US terrorist list without lifting the harsh sanctions on food supply, medicine, and oil. Moreover, it is not realistic to consider the US bombing of PMF positions, described by the Pentagon as “Iranian-backed militant groups”, as anything but a direct message directed to Iran in person.

The US is saying that the bombing of the Iraqi security forces means that its military option is on the table and will be used without hesitation against any threat to US interests in the Middle East, particularly those close to Iran. This is a challenge that is certainly not unexpected by Iran, which has vowed to expel all US forces from west Asia following the unlawful assassination of Soleimani. The battlefield has been inaugurated. A few days ago, President Biden contacted the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kahdimi following the rocket attacks against US bases in Kurdistan-Iraq earlier this month. Biden told al-Kadhimi that he would retaliate against the rocket attack. The Iraqi Prime Minister failed to inform the US President that the US forces mandate doesn’t allow the violation of the Iraqi sovereignty neither the bombing of its security forces deployed on the borders to prevent the “Islamic State” (ISIS) movement of the militants’ supply line and potential attacks.

Biden, like his predecessor Donald Trump, ordered the bombing of the most crucial position to Iran and its allies: Albu Kamal – al Qaem crossing. This same crossing was under ISIS control when the assassinated Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani led the attack to liberate it following the US occupation of al-Tanf crossing between Syria and Iraq. This rapid move by Iran angered both Israel and the US, who wished to impose a land siege on Syria to prevent the flow of goods from Iraq and prevent the “Axis of the Resistance” link between Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

Read more …

Now he’s gone. Pelosi and Biden weigh in.

Cuomo Cedes Control Of Harassment Probe (JTN)

Under fire from dual scandals, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday ceded control of an investigation into whether he sexually harassed female subordinates and admitted for the first time some of his behavior with women “may have been insensitive or too personal.” The reversal by New York’s top Democrat came as senior members of his own party called the allegations against him credible and demanded an independent probe. “The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Fox News, signaling the fallout from Cuomo’s scandals had stretched beyond Albany to Washington. “The independent investigation must have due process and respect for everyone involved.”

Cuomo on Saturday evening initially appointed a former federal judge to evaluate the sex harassment allegations from two state former workers, Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan. But he reversed course Sunday amid mounting criticism he was trying to control the probe. He ceded to demands that Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, control the inquiry. James said she planned to deputize an outside law firm to conduct “a rigorous and independent investigation.” Cuomo also issued an apology, saying that while he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone he may have engaged in inappropriate comments that felt like flirtation to women.

[..] The Biden White House weighed in on Sunday as well, calling for an independent review. “There should be an independent review looking in to these allegations, and that’s certainly something he supports and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told CNN’s State of the Union. Prominent Democrats, including state Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, had urged Cuomo to follow the state’s tradition and refer the probe to James. “As has become standard practice in the State of New York when allegations relate directly to the Executive, Governor Cuomo should refer the matter to the Attorney General, who should, in turn, appoint an independent investigator,” Nadler said.

Read more …

“An anti-sexual-harassment group made up of former state legislative staffers..”

NY’s Sexual Harassment Working Group Urges Gov. Cuomo To Resign (NYP)

An anti-sexual-harassment group made up of former state legislative staffers called on Gov. Cuomo to resign Saturday in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him. “ENOUGH. New York State has now lost the talents and ambition of yet another woman, whose safety and integrity were eliminated to serve a powerful man’s desires. Andrew Cuomo must resign now,” the Sexual Harassment Working Group said in a statement, after ex-Cuomo aide, Charlotte Bennett, accused the governor of behaving inappropriately toward her last year. Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that Cuomo, 63, complained to her about being “lonely” and not being able to hug anyone during the pandemic, before pressing her on who she last hugged.


When she revealed her own history of sexual assault to Cuomo, Bennett claimed his reaction “was something out of a horror movie,” the paper reported. Cuomo allegedly kept repeating to Bennett, “‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes … It was like he was testing me,” she told a friend in a text message which was viewed by The Times. Earlier this week, the Sexual Harassment Working Group had called for in investigation of the governor after another former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, accused him of trying to kiss her on the mouth and suggesting a game of “strip poker.” “There must be an immediate independent investigation into Governor Cuomo’s workplace behavior, conducted by an entity over which Cuomo does not have any appointment or supervisory powers,” the group tweeted hours after Boylan came forward.

Read more …

“The use of a reconciliation bill was an effort to circumvent the filibuster and allow a majority vote on the hike. However, by using reconciliation, the Democrats triggered the ‘Byrd rule’..”

Democrats Demand The Firing Of The Senate Parliamentarian (Turley)

Democratic members this week attacked Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough after she (correctly) ruled that the inclusion of the $15 minimum wage hike in a reconciliation bill violated Senate rules. The response from Democratic members and many in the blogosphere was withering. Rep. Ilhan Omar called for MacDonough to be fired and others denounced her actions and called the Senate to simply overrule her — and the long-standing rules. It is not just the effort to gut or flip the “Byrd Rule” but vicious attacks on this parliamentarian that is so disconcerting. The use of a reconciliation bill was an effort to circumvent the filibuster and allow a majority vote on the hike. However, by using reconciliation, the Democrats triggered the ‘Byrd rule’ – which limits the type of provisions in the reconciliation process to taxing and spending.

The purpose is to limit an add-ons through reconciliation to measures designed to have a direct impact on the federal budget—barring the use of reconciliation to introduce “extraneous” measures. Otherwise, reconciliations could circumvent the normal legislative process and the filibuster option for the minority. The rule allows a senator to object when a reconciliation bill is brought to the floor through a Point of Order on the bill. After the Byrd Rule is raised, the Senate Parliamentarian informs the Presiding Officer on how to rule and the Presiding office conveys that to the Senate. Senators can then vote to overrule the Presiding Officer but the process protects the minority and the parliamentarian by requiring that a vote to overrule secure a three-fifths majority.

The Parliamentarian’s role is key to a system of orderly legislative process. To simply disregard such rules (and fire those who seek to maintain them) is yet another example of the rage that has replaced reason in our current politics. Byrd was famous for putting the interests of the Senate and the Constitution before his own party. This effort shows increasingly rare such institutional defenders have become in this age of rage. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the first to balk at any rules standing in the way of reform: “I think the parliamentarian is verging on, you know, just really intruding in this legislative process in a very concerning way.” I am not really sure what that actually means. Parliamentary rules are the thing that defines the legislative process and guarantees a neutral and ordered process of deliberation and enactment.

Read more …

Too many people don’t *want* transparent elections.

Efforts In Key Battleground States To Return Voting To Pre-2020 Rules (JTN)

Significant legislative attempts are underway in multiple U.S. states, including key battleground states, to roll back major changes in voting rules and regulations to various pre-2020 status quo antes. The efforts come after an historically chaotic election process that has left millions of Americans doubtful of election fairness, security, transparency and accountability. Changes to election rules — some of them enacted prior to 2020 and others put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year — have included expansive mail-in voting, expanded early voting, relaxation of verification rules, and extensions to ballot receipt deadlines. Those rules likely contributed to a record 158,000,000-plus votes cast in the 2020 election.

But the relaxation of various voting requirements has also led to significant distrust in the election system: Nearly 40% of voters believe that U.S. elections are beset by fraud, while a similar number claim that such concerns haven’t been properly vetted by public authorities. Legislators in numerous states are angling to address some of those concerns by pushing for legislation to shore up what critics claim are the vulnerabilities created by relaxed voting rules. In Georgia — which flipped blue for Biden this year in one of several razor-thin races that went in the Democrat’s favor — the Senate passed a bill that would require voters to submit “photocopies of voter identification documents for absentee ballot applications.”

The bill would do away with the current signature-matching system currently in place for absentee voting. Critics have accused that system of being ripe for fraud and abuse, particularly after the state’s Gov. Brian Kemp agreed to activist demands last year to make it much more onerous for officials to reject disputed signatures. In Pennsylvania — which Trump lost by fewer than 100,000 votes — state lawmakers have signaled an intent to repeal the state’s “no-excuse” mail-in voting system, first implemented in 2019. State Sens. Patrick Stefano and Doug Mastriano last month said in a Senate memorandum that they “intend to introduce legislation repealing the no-excuse mail-in ballot provisions” put in place two years ago via the state’s Act 77.

“By removing the provisions of law that allow for no-excuse mail-in ballots, we can regain some trust in our elections’ integrity,” the senators argued. Stefano has also vowed to repeal Act 77’s “annual mail-in voter list” and to mandate that “only the Pennsylvania Department of State may send applications for mail in ballots to eligible voters.” “By guaranteeing that eligible voters must apply for a mail-in ballot for each election, and that only the Department of State may distribute the applications to apply for mail-in ballots,” he wrote, “we can address much of the confusion and frustration that surrounded our most recent election cycle.”

Read more …

“Lou charged that the United States was monetising its budget deficit to transfer its debt burden to the rest of the world..”

China’s Fiscal Risks ‘Extremely Severe’, Former Finance Minister Warns (SCMP)

China’s fiscal situation is “extremely severe with risks and challenges”, former finance minister Lou Jiwei has warned, citing fallout from aggressive US stimulus policies, the global economic slowdown during the pandemic, an ageing Chinese population and mounting domestic local government debt. Lou offered his sharp critique in December but the assessment has only been made public more recently, with just days to go now before China’s political elites meet for their annual legislative session to decide the details of economic policy. Among the big issues will be whether to scale back the fiscal stimulus implemented last year to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and instead focus on curbing rising debt risks.

Beijing is expected to cut back fiscal stimulus even as Washington closes in on approval for an additional US$1.9 trillion in economic stimulus proposed by President Joe Biden. Lou, who served as China’s finance minister from 2013 to 2016, warned that the country’s fiscal revenue was expected to be stuck at “a low level” in the coming five years, with no sign of the government cutting back its spending. “The fiscal difficulties are not only a near-term or short-term issue, but also will be serious in the medium term,” said Lou, who is known for his outspoken views. Lou’s remarks were contained in a speech delivered in December but only published in February by a magazine affiliated with the Ministry of Finance.

Lou charged that the United States was monetising its budget deficit to transfer its debt burden to the rest of the world, especially to developing countries like China. To finance its large and growing budget deficit, the US government has had to issue increasingly large amounts of Treasury bonds. In addition, the Federal Reserve had bought large amounts of those bonds to inject liquidity into the market – so-called quantitative easing – with the additional cash rapidly pushing up the prices of stocks and other financial assets to levels far beyond those justified by economic fundamentals, Lou said.

[..] On Thursday, US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell reaffirmed that the central bank had no plans to tighten monetary policy until it had seen a sustained improvement in employment. He expressed no concern at the prospect of rising inflation and rising asset prices. But Lou warned that the US view was short-sighted. “Once the pandemic has been brought under control and the [global] economy begins to recover, fiscal and monetary policies will make a turn that will impact on global financial stability and the economic growth of various countries,” Lou said. “Emerging market countries are facing a double blow to both their economies and finances, with the economic risk transforming into fiscal and financial risks, raising the risk of a debt crisis.”

Read more …

Nice story. Wolf will make some enemies with this.

The Big “Buy & Hype” Bitcoin Casino (Wolf Richter)

So bitcoin is trading at about 57,000 bucks at the moment. Its market cap is over $1 trillion. This glorious moment jogged my memory, so I dug up that old email. Back in August 2012, I was contacted via my website by some guy about bitcoin. At the time, bitcoin was at 10 bucks. He wanted to buy my book and pay with bitcoin. So for the paperback, which sells for about 15 bucks on Amazon, he would have had to fork over 1 and a half bitcoin. So today, the proceeds from the sale of that paperback would be around 85,000 despised fiat dollars. He called bitcoin a “monetary revolution.” He wrote, “There is a large and growing community of bitcoin users, who are migrating away from the dollar and euro, because those currencies are being inflated away to nothing.”

And he said, “The value of a bitcoin has doubled in the last 4 months.” Which is the monetary revolution, apparently, that money keeps doubling every few months. He offered me a deal. If I listed my book on a site called CoinDL, he’d buy my book, and he said he would “recommend it on the bitcoin internet forums.” And then, on my site, I would need to encourage people to buy bitcoin. I would have to post my bitcoin address, ask for donations in bitcoin, etc. to let people know that I was endorsing bitcoin, and that I held bitcoin, so that they too would pile into it. Maybe I could have sold one book to him, plus three more books to some other folks on the internet forums he frequented, four books in total, for six bitcoin in total.

Today, those six bitcoin would have amounted to 342,000 despised fiat dollars. What was striking about the deal he tried to draw me into: He offered to buy my book for bitcoin and help me sell a few more books for bitcoin, and in return I would leverage my site to hype bitcoin to my readers. Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly how it worked universally, and even today the same principle is in effect, but now big players have jumped into it, and they quietly bought bitcoin, and then they used their global megaphones that the mainstream media amplified for all to see, and they hyped bitcoin, and it’s on the front of the mainstream media, and bitcoin has soared.

Buy and hype. This is the principle on which bitcoin has operated from day one. Everyone getting into it would become a hype artist. And there would be no metric by which its price could be judged. These two factors were the true genius behind bitcoin. So obviously, I didn’t go for the deal. I didn’t need to participate in a “monetary revolution,” where the value doubles in four months. This has nothing to do with monetary anything, but is a form of gambling that relies on ever more new gamblers entering the casino and bidding up the price, with more and more gamblers selling each other the bitcoin, all united in the singular purpose of driving up its price so that everyone could get rich.

Read more …

Gab is not a far right platform. It’s just a platform that doesn’t censor.

Far-Right Platform Gab Has Been Hacked—Including Private Data (Wired)

When Twitter banned Donald Trump and a slew of other far-right users in January, many of them became digital refugees, migrating to sites like Parler and Gab to find a home that wouldn’t moderate their hate speech and disinformation. Days later, Parler was hacked and then dropped by Amazon web hosting, knocking the site offline. Now Gab, which inherited some of Parler’s displaced users, has been badly hacked too. An enormous trove of its contents has been stolen—including what appears to be passwords and private communications. On Sunday night the WikiLeaks-style group Distributed Denial of Secrets is revealing what it calls calling “GabLeaks,” a collection of more than 70 gigabytes of Gab data representing more than 40 million posts.

DDoSecrets says a hacktivist who self-identifies as “JaXpArO and My Little Anonymous Revival Project” siphoned that data out of Gab’s backend databases in an effort to expose the platform’s largely rightwing users. Those Gab patrons, whose numbers have swelled after Parler went offline, include large numbers of Qanon conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and promoters of former president Donald Trump’s election-stealing conspiracies that resulted in the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. DDoSecrets cofounder Emma Best says that the hacked data includes not only all of Gab’s public posts and profiles—with the exception of any photos or videos uploaded to the site—but also private group and private individual account posts and messages, as well as user passwords and group passwords.

“It contains pretty much everything on Gab, including user data and private posts, everything someone needs to run a nearly complete analysis on Gab users and content,” Best wrote in a text message interview with WIRED. “It’s another gold mine of research for people looking at militias, neo-Nazis, the far right, QAnon and everything surrounding January 6.” DDoSecrets says it’s not publicly releasing the data due to its sensitivity and the vast amounts of private information it contains. Instead the group says it will selectively share it with journalists, social scientists, and researchers. WIRED viewed a sample of the data, and it does appear to contain Gab users’ individual and group profiles—their descriptions and privacy settings—public and private posts, and passwords. Gab CEO Andrew Torba acknowledged the breach in a brief statement Sunday.

Passwords for private groups are unencrypted, which Torba says the platform discloses to users when they create one. Individual user account passwords appear to be cryptographically hashed—a safeguard that may help prevent them from being compromised—but the level of security depends on the hashing scheme used and the strength of the underlying password. Among the users whose hashed passwords appeared to be included in the data were those for Donald Trump, Republican congresswoman and QAnon-conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, MyPillow CEO and election-conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, and disinformation-spouting radio host Alex Jones. The hacked data also includes a chatlogs.txt file that appears to contain private conversations between the site’s users. That file’s contents begin with an added note from JaXpArO: “FUCK TRUMP. FUCK COLONIZERS & CAPITALISTS. DEATH TO AMERIKKKA.”

Read more …

 

 

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Tesla

 

 

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Feb 282021
 
 February 28, 2021  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  35 Responses »


Dome ceiling at the Ambassadors’ Hall in the Royal Alcazar of Seville, Spain 1427 (click to enlarge)

 

Vaccine Passports Are A Technical And Ethical Minefield (FT)
I’ve Had The Covid Jab – And All It Cost Me Was My Freedom (Hitchens )
First Vaccine To Fully Immunize Against Malaria Builds On RNA Tech (AT)
Czech Leader Asks Putin For Sputnik V Vaccine Without EU Certification (RT)
Biden Says US Will ‘Never’ Accept Russia’s Annexation of Crimea (Antiwar)
Putin, Crusaders, & Barbarians (Escobar)
Second Former Aide Accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo Of Sexual Harassment (NYP)
The Danger of the Administrative State (AIER)
Can The US Become Self-Sufficient In Rare Earth Materials Again? (F.)
India Targets Climate Activists With the Help of Big Tech (Naomi Klein)
Why Bill Gates Is Now The US Biggest Farmland Owner (NYP)
Unmasking Bitcoin Inventor May Send Cryptomarket Into Tailspin – Coinbase (RT)

 

 

 

 

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
– Virginia Woolf

 

 

Promising title, missed opportunity.

Vaccine Passports Are A Technical And Ethical Minefield (FT)

Vaccine passports are essentially certificates that link proof of vaccination to the identity of the holder, a potential silver bullet to return to our pre-Covid-19 lives. Before the pandemic, the EU was working on plans for cross-border electronic certificates to replace the paper booklets that many travellers carry. At this week’s EU summit some leaders pressed for further steps towards coronavirus passports. A recent Royal Society report that I led came up with 12 different criteria that would need to be satisfied to make such passports feasible. This is a complex ecosystem that requires an understanding of everything from immunity and infection to technology, ethics and behavioural factors. But the underlying question must be: what would a vaccine passport be used for?

The head of Heathrow airport has called for digital health certificates to reboot international travel. Estonia and Iceland already link e-vaccination certificates to travel and exclusion from quarantine. Greece is pressing the EU to move quickly. There are precedents such as the airline industry group Iata’s travel pass initiative. But would these certificates only be required for international travel or could they be needed for getting a job, attending a football match, or buying some milk? Israel recently introduced a green pass heralded as “the first step back to an almost normal life”. It opens entry to gyms, cinemas, hotels and meets some our technical criteria such as verifiable credentials, portability, (attempts at) security for personal data and interoperability. It is valid for six months after a second dose and for “those who have recovered from coronavirus”.

But this could be problematic. Current vaccines protect against severe disease, but we do not yet know whether they stop transmission, how quickly immunity wanes or if they are compromised by emerging variants. Whether someone who has “recovered” meets immunity criteria remains a question. In addition to an expiry date, we would need the ability to revoke a vaccine passport. Israel’s warning of severe punishment for forgery is another reminder of what could go wrong. There is also the question of mission creep. Recall the UK’s early digital contact tracing app, which raised concerns about privacy, government surveillance and private sector data sharing. Or consider the technical problems with the Tawakkalna app, introduced in Saudi Arabia, which is used for entry into many places but recently froze.

All vaccine passports have the potential to block people from essential goods and services and exclude those who lack identification or do not own or cannot afford a smartphone. The RS criteria for a workable vaccine passport included equity, ethics and non-discrimination. That means we must ask who would we exclude? There is higher vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minorities and the jabs are being rolled out by age. Plus some people are excluded entirely: children, pregnant women and those with allergies.

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Using popular writers to soften resistance? “I’d tried to fight against it but I lost.”?

I’ve Had The Covid Jab – And All It Cost Me Was My Freedom (Peter Hitchens)

So sorry, Your Majesty, but I have had my first Covid vaccination for wholly selfish reasons. I did not do it for the good of others but for my own convenience. And I will have my second for the same purpose. A very important part of my family now lives abroad and I am deeply tired of not being able to see them. I get the strong sense that any sort of travel, and plenty of other things, will be impossible if I don’t have the necessary vaccine certificate. I hope it becomes known as the Blair Passport – as it is largely the warmongering Creature’s idea and people will come to hate it, as they have come to hate so many of his actions. So I have been more or less forced to have an immunisation I would not normally have bothered with.

Don’t, if you are wise, dare call me an ‘anti-vaxxer’. I have, in a long life, been injected against tetanus, smallpox, TB, polio, diphtheria and yellow fever. I’m a fiend for preventive medicine and the precautions I take when I’m in malarial areas are so elaborate my companions laugh at them – from swallowing horrible protective medicines to blasting my hotel room with ultra-strength death sprays to exterminate any possible mosquitoes. These are all terrible diseases and I think it’s wise to do this. And if you think Covid is as dangerous as them, I certainly don’t want to put you off the jab. Indeed, I don’t want to put you off in any way. It’s your business, not mine, and not even the Queen’s. I dislike her growing habit of getting involved in politics and I’d feel the same if she supported any cause I liked.

Of course my selfish injection didn’t hurt. I’m a blood donor (so also please don’t call me selfish), used to far bigger needles in my arm, for a lot longer. But I did feel a pang of regret and loss. For me, the vaccination was a gloomy submission to a new world of excessive safety and regulation. I’d tried to fight against it but I lost. The New Jerusalem, in which we allow the state to boss us around even more, in the name of our own good, is now coming into being.

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Now test it properly. Yes, that takes years, we know.

First Vaccine To Fully Immunize Against Malaria Builds On RNA Tech (AT)

Consistently ranked as one of the leading causes of death around the world, malaria doesn’t have an effective vaccine yet. But researchers have invented a promising new blueprint for one — with properties akin to the novel RNA-based vaccine for COVID-19. Making a vaccine for malaria is challenging because its associated parasite, Plasmodium, contains a protein that inhibits production of memory T-cells, which protect against previously encountered pathogens.

If the body can’t generate these cells, a vaccine is ineffective. But scientists recently tried a new approach using an RNA-based platform. Their design circumvented the sneaky protein, allowed the body to produce the needed T-cells and completely immunized against malaria. The patent application for their novel vaccine, which hasn’t yet been tested on humans, was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Feb. 4. “It’s probably the highest level of protection that has been seen in a mouse model,” said Richard Bucala, co-inventor of the new vaccine and a physician and professor at Yale School of Medicine.

The team’s breakthrough could save hundreds of thousands of lives, particularly in developing nations. In 2019 alone, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria and 409,000 deaths worldwide. Of those deaths, 94% were in Africa, with children being the most vulnerable. “It affects societies and populations that have the least amount of resources and expertise to manage these infections well,” Bucala told The Academic Times. “We need new vaccines, and we need more tools.” Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the National Institutes of Health funded the work. GlaxoSmithKline is an assignee on the patent, which if approved, will allow the company to produce the vaccine and make it available to the public.

At present, the only vaccine to prevent malaria is called RTS,S. Approved two years ago, this vaccine is the result of nearly two decades of research, but is only about 30% effective. And after four years, that figure drops to 15%.“It doesn’t work very well,” Bucala said. “And the research studies all have the conclusion that the people who fail to mount a vaccine response, or who get reinfected, have poor memory T-cell responses.”

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“According to data from Johns Hopkins University, its death rate per 100,000 people is currently the worst in the world.”

Czech Leader Asks Putin For Sputnik V Vaccine Without EU Certification (RT)

Czech President Milos Zeman says he has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for a Sputnik V vaccine shipment. Zeman said that Prague won’t insist on EU agency approval for use of the jab. Speaking to CNN Prima News on Saturday, Zeman revealed that the letter to the Russian leader was penned in agreement with the country’s PM Andrej Babis. The Czech leader said that he expects Putin to approve the request. “If I am properly informed, this request will be granted,” he told the channel. Zeman noted that the jab will need to be certified by the local regulator, the State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL), before the Russian vaccine can be rolled out. He added that its seal of approval will be “enough” to launch the vaccination campaign.

Zeman’s statement appears to run contrary to that of his top health official, Jan Blatny, who has been health minister since October, representing Babis’ pro-EU Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) populist party. Earlier this month, Blatny ruled out the possibility of the Czech Republic importing Sputnik V on his watch unless it is first greenlighted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Amid a spike in coronavirus infections, believed to be driven by a new, highly contagious variant, the Czech government extended a state of emergency on Friday, which will now run until March 28. Under the newly extended emergency, the authorities are expected to tighten curbs on the freedom of movement, including the imposition of bans on non-essential travel to other countries.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the sweeping travel ban will be enforced by the military and the police. The restrictions will also see nurseries and schools for disabled children shut their doors, and people will be banned from leaving their municipalities other than for essential purposes. “We have to do it to prevent a total collapse of our hospitals,” Babis said on Friday, warning that if the lockdown is not properly enforced, “the whole world will watch Bergamo in the Czech Republic.” The country, with a population of 10.7 million, has reported some 1.2 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 20,000 fatalities from the virus. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, its death rate per 100,000 people is currently the worst in the world.

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It makes zero difference. You lost.

Biden Says US Will ‘Never’ Accept Russia’s Annexation of Crimea (Antiwar)

President Biden released a statement on Friday marking the seventh anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea where he said the US will “never” accept Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. “The United States continues to stand with Ukraine and its allies and partners today, as it has from the beginning of this conflict,” Biden said. “The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts.” Left out of Biden’s statement was the reason for the Russian annexation.


In 2014, the US-orchestrated a coup in Ukraine. The largely ethnic Russian population of Crimea rejected the new nationalist anti-Russian government in Kyiv that even had neo-nazis in its midst. Polls after the annexation show the majority of Crimeans were in favor of joining Russia. The Biden family benefited greatly from the coup. Shortly after the change in government, President Biden’s son Hunter landed a high-paying job on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company. President Biden tapped an architect of the Ukraine coup for a high-level position in the State Department. Victoria Nuland, the wife of neoconservative Robert Kagan, is the nominee to be the under secretary of state for political affairs.

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“Orthodox Christian, thus appealing to swaths of the West; consolidated as major Eurasian power; a military, hypersonic superpower; and boasting unrivaled diplomatic skills, appreciated all across the Global South.”

Putin, Crusaders, & Barbarians (Escobar)

Moscow is painfully aware that the US/NATO “strategy” of containment of Russia is already reaching fever pitch. Again. This past Wednesday, at a very important meeting with the Federal Security Service board, President Putin laid it all out in stark terms: “We are up against the so-called policy of containing Russia. This is not about competition, which is a natural thing for international relations. This is about a consistent and quite aggressive policy aimed at disrupting our development, slowing it down, creating problems along the outer perimeter, triggering domestic instability, undermining the values that unite Russian society, and ultimately to weaken Russia and put it under external control, just the way we are witnessing it transpire in some countries in the post-Soviet space.”

Not without a touch of wickedness, Putin added this was no exaggeration: “In fact, you don’t need to be convinced of this as you yourselves know it perfectly well, perhaps even better than anybody else.” The Kremlin is very much aware “containment” of Russia focuses on its perimeter: Ukraine, Georgia and Central Asia. And the ultimate target remains regime change. Putin’s remarks may also be interpreted as an indirect answer to a section of President Biden’s speech at the Munich Security Conference. According to Biden’s scriptwriters, “Putin seeks to weaken the European project and the NATO alliance because it is much easier for the Kremlin to intimidate individual countries than to negotiate with the united transatlantic community … The Russian authorities want others to think that our system is just as corrupt or even more corrupt.”

A clumsy, direct personal attack against the head of state of a major nuclear power does not exactly qualify as sophisticated diplomacy. At least it glaringly shows how trust between Washington and Moscow is now reduced to less than zero. As much as Biden’s Deep State handlers refuse to see Putin as a worthy negotiating partner, the Kremlin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have already dismissed Washington as “non-agreement capable.” Once again, this is all about sovereignty. The “unfriendly attitude towards Russia,” as Putin defined it, extends to “other independent, sovereign centers of global development.” Read it as mainly China and Iran. All these three sovereign states happen to be categorized as top “threats” by the US National Security Strategy.

Yet Russia is the real nightmare for the Exceptionalists: Orthodox Christian, thus appealing to swaths of the West; consolidated as major Eurasian power; a military, hypersonic superpower; and boasting unrivaled diplomatic skills, appreciated all across the Global South. In contrast, there’s not much left for the deep state except endlessly demonizing both Russia and China to justify a Western military build-up, the “logic” inbuilt in a new strategic concept named NATO 2030: United for a New Era. The experts behind the concept hailed it as an “implicit” response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaring NATO “brain dead.” Well, at least the concept proves Macron was right.

Read more …

Your daily Cuomo drip drip.

Second Former Aide Accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo Of Sexual Harassment (NYP)

A second woman has accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, according to a new report. Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor asked her inappropriate personal questions, told her he was open to relationships with women in their 20s, and left her feeling that he “wanted to sleep with me.” Bennett, who worked as an executive assistant and health-policy adviser, told the Times the interactions took place in the spring, as the coronavirus pandemic flared. Cuomo, 63, never made any physical advances, she said. Still, she described a June meeting in Cuomo’s Albany office, during which he griped about being lonely during the pandemic and whined he “can’t even hug anyone.”

Cuomo, 63, then pressed her: “Who did I last hug,” she said. She tried to dodge the question by saying she missed hugging her parents. “And he was, like, ‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody,’” she said. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And [I] was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.” Bennett, who grew up in Westchester County, is around the same age as Cuomo’s oldest daughters. She said she told the governor how she had once played soccer against one of his girls. When she told Cuomo in May of her experience as a sexual-assault survivor, he seemed fixated by the revelation, she said.

She told a friend via text message: “The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” according to the Times. “It was like he was testing me.” Cuomo told her he was lonely since his relationship celebrity chef Sandra Lee, his girlfriend of 14 years, ended in 2019. He stressed to her that Lee was “out of the picture,” and referred to “wanting a girlfriend, preferably in the Albany area.” “Age doesn’t matter,” he told her, as he asked about her feelings about age differences in relationships — a conversation she told a friend about at the time, in a text reviewed by the Times.

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It’s not just the state. Hospitals often have more managers and administrators than doctors and nurses.

The Danger of the Administrative State (AIER)

The chilling narrative about the growth of the administrative state, which is essentially the regulatory apparatus of the executive branch, is usually confined to specialist professions. The ever-present danger of a slowly expanding and unaccountable apparatus of bureaucrats that threatens to sap the life out of American society and drown it in a sea of paperwork is typically a concern that only keeps policy wonks and lawyers up at night. Although many lawyers probably celebrate this dystopian vision because they benefit from the compliance fees. The regulatory state not only threatens to make society that much slower and dreary with its excessive onslaught of regulation but it also makes us poorer. Robert Samuelson writes for the Washington Post that

“No one really knows by how much, but “there is ample evidence that regulation has expanded and that this expansion has limited economic growth,” as Ted Gayer and Philip Wallach of the Brookings Institution recently wrote. One study estimates that regulation has shaved 0.8 percent off the U.S. annual growth rate, which — if confirmed by other studies — would be huge.” The regulatory state refers to organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, and all the other three-letter agencies in Washington, DC. If you would like to see how long the list of agencies is, take a look at the Federal Register, to which there are 455.

That number is absolutely mind-boggling and you don’t need a fancy degree in political science like I have to say that society can function without their oversight. A paper by Peter Strauss at Columbia Law School notes that there are currently over 2 million civilians employed in the federal government alone. He notes that for context, “The first Congress to meet once the Constitution was ratified created a Post Office and Departments of War, Navy, Foreign Affairs, and Treasury, each in unique ways suited to its responsibilities; this new government employed few civil servants to manage all its affairs. The first serious count of federal civilian employees, in 1816, reported that they numbered 4,837.”

The drastic expansion of the administrative state has come at a cost to not only our liberty, which is slowly being eroded by a sea of paperwork and regulations, but it also undermines our democracy. According to Article 1 of the Constitution, the legislative branch or Congress is supposed to be the primary law-making body of our government. That is because if there are bad laws or laws society doesn’t like, we can hold people accountable. However, more and more power has been shifted to the executive branch because of the growth of the administrative state. Even the judicial system is losing power to the administrative state after the establishment of a legal doctrine known as Chevron Deference, which binds the court system to defer to the administrative agency’s interpretation of a rule, not the Constitutional interpretation of a sitting judge.

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These things are dirty.

Can The US Become Self-Sufficient In Rare Earth Materials Again? (F.)

The extraction process involves crushing the ore and milling it into granules, followed by some range of mechanical separation processes which might involve using magnetic sorting, gravity separation, or floatation. This is then usually followed by acid leaching, baking, or a solvent extraction step. This is why we don’t like processing it in the U.S. – it creates toxic wastes which have to be dealt with. Sometimes you get radioactive elements with it, like radium and thorium in the waste streams, which makes it even worse. So when we export it to China for processing, we really are exporting a lot of pollution with it.

China is the largest provider in the world today. It has three major ore deposits in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, and Shangdong Provinces, as well lower grade deposits mainly in Jianxi, Guangdong, Fujian, and Guanxi Provinces in which the rare earths are adsorbed onto the surface of clay minerals. Though these lower-grade “weathered crust elution deposits” have lower concentrations of the actual rare earth elements, they are easier to extract. Dissolving them in salt water or ammonium sulfate solutions, and then precipitating them out with oxalic acid or ammonium bicarbonate – inexpensive chemicals – does the trick. It is a much less expensive process than extracting from ores, which has given Chinese producers a significant cost advantage.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. led the world in research on rare earths, but by the 1980s funding for the chemistry, separation technology, and processing was reduced. Low-pricing from China made U.S. mining and processing uncompetitive, and the Mountain Pass mine was closed in the 1990s, only to be reopened in 2013 after China restricted supplies. Could the U.S. become self-sufficient again? Bokan Mountain, on Prince of Wales Island in southeastern Alaska, is the site of a project by Nova Scotia-based Ucore Rare Metals. The company is trying to extract dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium over the projected 11 – 15 year life of the mine. From the 1950s – 1970s, the area was the location of a uranium mine, so the contaminated soil and waste rock today mark a Superfund site.

NioCorp. is also trying to develop a mine for rare earths and niobium in Elk Creek, Nebraska. In addition to rare earths, it could be one of the world’s largest sources of niobium, a critical ingredient in high temperature alloys used in jet and rocket engines, as well as in low-temperature superconducting wire. Bear Lodge, in the northeast corner of Wyoming, is another prospective mine development. Lynas Corp. and Texas Mineral Resources Corp. are also building processing plants in the U.S. MP Materials also plans to begin domestic processing in 2022.

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They’re everywhere.

India Targets Climate Activists With the Help of Big Tech (Naomi Klein)

The bank of cameras that camped outside Delhi’s sprawling Tihar jail was the sort of media frenzy you would expect to await a prime minister caught in an embezzlement scandal, or perhaps a Bollywood star caught in the wrong bed. Instead, the cameras were waiting for Disha Ravi, a nature-loving 22-year-old vegan climate activist who against all odds has found herself ensnared in an Orwellian legal saga that includes accusations of sedition, incitement, and involvement in an international conspiracy whose elements include (but are not limited to): Indian farmers in revolt, the global pop star Rihanna, supposed plots against yoga and chai, Sikh separatism, and Greta Thunberg. If you think that sounds far-fetched, well, so did the judge who released Ravi after nine days in jail under police interrogation.

Judge Dharmender Rana was supposed to rule on whether Ravi, one of the founders of the Indian chapter of Fridays For Future, the youth climate group started by Thunberg, should continue to be denied bail. He ruled that there was no reason for bail to be denied, which cleared the way for Ravi’s return to her home in Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore) that night. But the judge also felt the need to go much further, to issue a scathing 18-page ruling on the underlying case that has gripped Indian media for weeks, issuing his own personal verdict on the various explanations provided by the Delhi police for why Ravi had been apprehended in the first place. The police’s evidence against the young climate activist is, he wrote, “scanty and sketchy,” and there is not “even an iota” of proof to support the claims of sedition, incitement, or conspiracy that have been leveled against her and at least two other young activists.

Though the international conspiracy case appears to be falling apart, Ravi’s arrest has spotlighted a different kind of collusion, this one between the increasingly oppressive and anti-democratic Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Silicon Valley companies whose tools and platforms have become the primary means for government forces to incite hatred against vulnerable minorities and critics — and for police to ensnare peaceful activists like Ravi in a high-tech digital web. The case against Ravi and her “co-conspirators” hinges entirely on routine uses of well-known digital tools: WhatsApp groups, a collectively edited Google Doc, a private Zoom meeting, and several high-profile tweets, all of which have been weaponized into key pieces of alleged evidence in a state-sponsored and media-amplified activist hunt.

At the same time, these very tools have been used in a coordinated pro-government messaging campaign to turn public sentiment against the young activists and the movement of farmers they came together to support, often in clear violation of the guardrails social media companies claim to have erected to prevent violent incitement on their platforms.

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Gates is all about money.

Why Bill Gates Is Now The US Biggest Farmland Owner (NYP)

Late last year, Eric O’Keefe was researching a mysterious recent purchase of 14,500 acres of prime Washington state farmland. His magazine, The Land Report, tracks major land transactions and produces an annual list of the 100 biggest US landowners. Sales of more than a thousand acres are “blue-moon events,” O’Keefe noted, so this one stood out. And Eastern Washington has some of the richest, most expensive farmland in the country. But the purchaser of record was a small, obscure company in Louisiana. “That immediately set off alarm bells,” O’Keefe says. He assigned his research team to dig a little deeper. Soon they came back with the answer: The Louisiana company was acting on behalf of Cascade Investment LLC, the secretive investment firm that manages most of the huge fortune belonging to Bill Gates.

O’Keefe knew Gates had been acquiring farmland for years, mostly through various Cascade subsidiaries. The mogul’s holdings include large tracts in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, California, and about a dozen other states. With the Washington state acreage and other recent additions to his portfolio, O’Keefe calculated, Gates now owns at least 242,000 acres of American farmland. “Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has an alter ego,” O’Keefe wrote: “Farmer Bill, the guy who owns more farmland than anyone else in America.” The Land Report scoop made headlines. Many stories focused on Gates’ longstanding interest in climate change and sustainability and suggested those concerns might be driving the land purchases. Newsweek called him a “sustainable agriculture champion.”

[..] Investment guru Michael Larson, who has worked with Gates since 1994, runs the Washington-based Cascade Investment, as well as supervising the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s nearly $50 billion endowment. “The arrangement is simple,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in a 2014 profile. “Mr. Larson makes money, and Mr. Gates gives it away.” Larson and his team are famously tight-lipped. Cascade employees almost never speak to the press. According to the Journal, they are even discouraged from using Facebook and other social-media platforms. Larson sees to it that Gates’ wealth is sensibly, even conservatively, invested.


He’s the new MacDonald: Bill Gates owns hundreds of thousands of acres across the United States — including 242,000 acres of farmland — making him the country’s top agricultural landholder, according to Eric O’Keefe’s The Land Report. NY Post graphic/Mike Guillen

According to public records, the billionaire’s portfolio includes shares in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, a Coca-Cola bottling company, and the tractor manufacturer Deere & Co., among other non-flashy investments. Larson also makes sure Gates keeps his eggs in a wide variety of baskets. His portfolio is diversified, in other words. And that’s where the land purchases come in. Most of us imagine farmers tilling the soil that has been in their families for generations. But many farmers lease at least some of the land they cultivate. According to Bruce Sherrick, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about 60 percent of row-crop farmland in the Midwest is leased. The landowners can include investors like Gates.


For investors who know what they’re doing, agricultural land offers financial stability in uncertain times. “Farmland has had a remarkably consistent ability to hedge against inflation,” Sherrick says. And it tends to be “negatively correlated” against other investments, he adds: If the stock market is going down, the return on farmland is likely to be going up. But farmland isn’t easy to buy.

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“At bitcoin’s current value, Nakamoto’s fortune could exceed $50 billion..”

Unmasking Bitcoin Inventor May Send Cryptomarket Into Tailspin – Coinbase (RT)

The largest US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which is getting ready to go public, has named bitcoin’s developer, known to the world as Satoshi Nakamoto, as one of the major risks to its business.In its IPO filing sent to the Securities Exchange Commission earlier this week, Coinbase listed Nakamoto, an individual creator or a group of people thought to be behind the creation of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, as one of the recipients of the document. However, the same anonymous inventor could pose a risk to the entire “cryptoeconomy.”


According to the filing, if the identity is revealed or if Nakamoto’s bitcoins are transferred, the prices of the most valued digital coins, bitcoin and ethereum, may deteriorate. The creator, or a group of creators, are believed to hold around 1.1 million bitcoin, which account for around five percent of all bitcoins that can be ever mined. At bitcoin’s current value, Nakamoto’s fortune could exceed $50 billion, making him almost as rich as Chinese entrepreneur and the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma. Since Nakamoto published the white paper titled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ in 2008, various theories have emerged about his identity. However, little is still known about him.

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Feb 272021
 
 February 27, 2021  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Paul Klee Dancing Under the Empire of Fear 1938

 

House Passes Second Largest Stimulus Package In History At $1.9T (JTN)
What IS the Truth About Covid Deaths? (DM)
Nearly 1 In 5 US Adults Have Now Gotten At Least One Covid19 Vaccine Dose (F.)
Johnson & Johnson One-Shot Covid Vaccine Gets Nod From FDA Advisory Panel (G.)
What The Neera Tanden Affair Reveals About The Washington DC Swamp (Sirota)
Biden Doesn’t Penalize Saudi Crown Prince (CNN)
Shadowland (Jim Kunstler)
Trapped (CHS)
IMF To Propose Ways To Improve Transparency Of Trade In SDR (R.)
Bitcoin Energy Use ‘Bigger Than Most Countries’ (BBC)
Congress And The Slippery Slope Of Censorship (Turley)
Durham Steps Down As US Attorney, Remains In Charge Of Russia Probe (JTN)

 

 


Jim Bianco: 13 days past the impeachment vote (Feb 13) and cable news STILL spends more time talking about Trump than Biden.

 

 

Irish scandemic

 

 

A highway for Schumer, a bridge for Pelosi… and $1,400, not $2,000 checks.

House Passes Second Largest Stimulus Package In History At $1.9T (JTN)

The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the second-largest stimulus package in U.S. history in the early hours of Saturday that includes a gradual $15 minimum wage hike, despite the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling. Two Democrats, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine and Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, joined Republicans in voting against the bill. The final vote shortly after 2 a.m. was 219 to 212 and the bill now moves to the Democratic-led Senate. Democrats are using budget reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan, which the Senate parliamentarian ruled cannot include a minimum wage increase. Reconciliation allows Democrats to pass the bill without relying on any votes from Senate Republicans. The largest stimulus bill in history was the CARES Act that was passed in March of last year during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits and $1,400 direct payments, the legislation includes more than $100 million for transportation projects in New York and California. “This is not a bailout. It is a rescue package,” House Rules Committee Chair Rep. Jim McGovern said on Friday. House Rules Committee Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole argued that the coronavirus bill is excessive, given that it would add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over a 5-year period. “Last year Congress passed and the president signed into law five bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages that appropriated around $4 trillion. Not all of that money has been spent yet. But if the majority has their way, within one year we will have appropriated just shy of $6 trillion for COVID-19 relief packages,” Cole said. “This is one and one-third times the amount of money the federal government appropriated for all of 2019.”

The national debt is approaching $28 trillion, according to the latest Treasury Department data. Cole said there’s about $1 trillion in unspent stimulus funds. “To make matters worse, of the previous COVID-19 relief packages, there remains nearly $1 trillion in unspent funds. Before we leap ahead into another gigantic spending package that drives the American people further into debt, shouldn’t we at least spend down the funds already allocated and see if new money is actually required?” he said. Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess wrote on Twitter before the vote that “the premise of this legislation was to provide relief against COVID-19. Instead it puts forward a partisan agenda.”

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Yes, but .. les jeux sont faits.

What IS the Truth About Covid Deaths? (DM)

Grieving families last night said deaths had been wrongly certified as Covid-19. Demanding an inquiry, top medical experts and MPs also insisted they were ‘certain’ that too many fatalities were being blamed on the virus. One funeral director said it was ‘a national scandal’. The claims are part of a Daily Mail investigation that raises serious questions over the spiralling death toll. More than 100 readers wrote heartbreaking letters following a moving article by Bel Mooney last Saturday. She revealed the death of her 99-year-old father, who suffered from dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was recorded as coronavirus. Dozens expressed similar frustrations that the causes of death of elderly and already-unwell relatives had been wrongly attributed.

Eight of the families who wrote to the Daily Mail have successfully urged doctors to change causes of death previously recorded as Covid-19. Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said: ‘The Government should call a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic immediately with an interim investigation into all Covid deaths that should report as soon as possible.’ Tory MP Paul Bristow, a member of the Commons health committee, said: ‘It’s almost certain that a number of deaths have been wrongly attributed to Covid-19. ‘Not only has this skewed figures when data has been so important in deciding how we respond to the pandemic, it has caused distress and anxiety for relatives.

A funeral director in the North West told the Mail: ‘The way Covid has been recorded and reported is a national scandal and a thorough enquiry should be opened immediately.’ Medical experts have cited pressure on doctors to include Covid-19 as a cause of death because it was last year ruled a ‘notifiable disease’, meaning any case needs to be reported officially.

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This is really starting to scare me. 100s of millions will soon have been injected with hardly tested substances designed to play footsie with their genes.

Nearly 1 In 5 US Adults Have Now Gotten At Least One Covid19 Vaccine Dose (F.)

Nearly one in five American adults have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the U.S. reached 50 million vaccine doses ahead of schedule, the White House said Friday, as the pace of vaccinations starts to pick up after a slow start ahead of a substantial increase in the country’s vaccine supply.According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 18.5% of all U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot, and 8.9% of adults have received both doses. The U.S. has doubled its pace of vaccinations since President Joe Biden took office, White House Covid-19 response team advisor Andy Slavitt said at a briefing Friday, and delivered more than 50 million shots in 37 days, which was ahead of the Biden administration’s target.

Nearly half of Americans over age 65 have now gotten at least one shot and nearly 60% of those over 75, the White House advisor said, up from only 8% of Americans over 65 and 14% of over-75s who had been vaccinated six weeks ago. According to the CDC, the states that have the highest vaccination rates are Alaska and New Mexico—where 29.1% and 27% of adults have received at least one dose, respectively—and the lowest vaccination rates are in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, which have all vaccinated approximately 15% to 16% of their adult population. The White House sent out 17.5 million vaccine doses to states this week, up from 13.5 million last week and 8.6 million during Biden’s first week in office—a nearly 70% increase.

As vaccinations ramp up, the share of Americans who are willing to get inoculated soon is increasing: A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted Feb. 15-23 found the percentage of U.S. adults who said they were either already vaccinated or would get one as soon as they could increased to 55%, up from 47% in January, and the share who said they would “wait and see” decreased from 31% to 22%. 70.4 million. That’s how many Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Friday afternoon, according to the CDC. Those doses have covered 47.1 million people who have received at least one dose, with 22.6 million having completed both shots. The KFF poll found that 15% of adults will “definitely not” get the vaccine, as compared with 13% who said the same in January.

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So many questions … under the carpet.

Johnson & Johnson One-Shot Covid Vaccine Gets Nod From FDA Advisory Panel (G.)

The battle against Covid-19 took a major step forward on Friday as the US moved closer to distributing its first one-shot Covid-19 vaccine, after an independent expert advisory panel recommended drug regulators authorize the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use. The authorization would be a significant boost to the Biden administration’s vaccination plans, making Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine the third available to the public. Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine subsidiary, told a congressional hearing this week that it expects to deliver 20m doses by March and a total of 100m doses before the end of June.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, along with those from Pfizer and Moderna, should provide the US with more than enough supply to vaccinate every vaccine-eligible person. “We’re still in the midst of this deadly pandemic,” said Dr Archana Chatterjee, a voting member of the panel and an infectious disease pediatrician at Chicago Medical School, as she explained her vote in favor of recommending the vaccine. “There is a shortage of vaccines that are currently authorized, and I think authorization of this vaccine will help meet the needs at the moment.” While regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not always take the advice of their advisory panels, the agency is expected to authorize the vaccine for emergency use.

[..] The convenience of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes with caveats. The company’s clinical trials were the first to show the potential impacts of Covid-19 variants, or evolutionary changes in the virus. The vaccine was found to 85% effective at preventing severe disease and to provide complete protection against Covid-19-related hospitalization and death after 28 days. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was found to be 72% effective in clinical trials in the US, but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a variant called B1351 originated.

[..] Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses different technology from the two vaccines currently available in the US. The new vaccine uses “viral vector” technology, which introduces the body to the genetic code for the spike protein covering the outside of the coronavirus. This code is transmitted by a second, weakened virus called an adenovirus. Immunity is provoked when the body’s immune system then recognizes the coronavirus by this key structure. Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna also prompt the body to recognize spike proteins on the outside of the coronavirus, but deliver the genetic code through lipid nanoparticles, or tiny molecules of fatty acids.

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Well, she’s out for now.

What The Neera Tanden Affair Reveals About The Washington DC Swamp (Sirota)

When sifting through the wreckage to try to make sense of this epoch, future anthropologists should dust off whatever records will be preserved about Neera Tanden’s star-crossed nomination to an obscure-but-powerful White House office. The whole episode is a museum-ready diorama in miniature illustrating so many things that died in the transition from democracy to oligarchy. And in this affair, all the politicians, pundits, news outlets, and Democratic party apparatchiks involved are very blatantly telling on themselves. Tanden is being nominated to run the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the federal budget. As a political operative and head of a corporate-funded think tank, she does not have especially relevant experience for the appointment — in fact, whether in gubernatorial administrations, mayoral offices, or Capitol Hill budget committees, there are far more qualified experts for this gig.

Moreover, her particular record would raise significant red flags as a job applicant for even a mid-level management position in any organization, much less the White House: during her tenure running the Center for American Progress, she reportedly outed a sexual harassment victim and physically assaulted an employee. While she was running the organization, CAP raked in corporate and foreign government cash and a report was revised in a way that helped a billionaire donor avoid scrutiny of his bigoted policing policy. Critics allege that Tanden busted a union of journalists. And she floated Social Security cuts when Democrats in Congress were trying to stop them.

Even if you discount Tanden’s infamous statement about Libya and oil, as well as her vicious crusade against Senator Bernie Sanders and the progressive base of the Democratic party, all of these other items would seem to disqualify Tanden for a job atop a Democratic administration that claims to respect expertise and want to protect women, workers’ rights, social programs, and government ethics. From the beginning, every single Democratic senator could have simply cited Biden’s promise to be the “most pro-union president” and stated that they would not vote to confirm anyone accused of undermining a union. Or they could have said that they are not going to allow someone who runs a corporate-funded think tank — and whose nomination is being boosted by one of the most diabolical corporate lobbying groups in Washington — to be in charge of the White House office that can grant government ethics waivers. At the absolute barest minimum, these issues should have been major topics of discussion in her confirmation hearings and in the news media.

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No, I’m talking to the father now…

Biden Doesn’t Penalize Saudi Crown Prince (CNN)

Despite promising to punish senior Saudi leaders while on the campaign trail, President Joe Biden declined to apply sanctions to the one the US intelligence community determined is responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The choice not to punish Prince Mohammed directly puts into sharp relief the type of decision-making that becomes more complicated for a president versus a candidate, and demonstrates the difficulty in breaking with a troublesome ally in a volatile region. On Friday, Biden’s administration released an unclassified intelligence report on Khashoggi’s death, an action his predecessor refused to take as he downplayed US intelligence.

The report from the director of national intelligence says the crown prince, known as MBS, directly approved the killing of Khashoggi. But while Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions that affected 76 Saudis involved in harassing activists and journalists, he didn’t announce measures that touch the prince. And while a sanctions list from the Treasury Department named a former deputy intelligence chief and the Saudi Royal Guard’s rapid intervention force, the crown prince wasn’t mentioned. Two administration officials said sanctioning MBS was never really an option, operating under the belief it would have been “too complicated” and could have jeopardized US military interests in Saudi Arabia.

As a result, the administration did not even request the State Department to work up options for how to target MBS with sanctions, one State Department official said. When asked in an interview with Univision about how much he’s willing to push the crown prince to observe human rights, Biden said he was now dealing with the Saudi King and not bin Salman. He said “the rules are changing” and that significant changes could come on Monday. “We are going to hold them accountable for human rights abuses and we’re going to make sure that they, in fact, you know, if they want to deal with us, they have to deal with it in a way that the human rights abuses are dealt with,” Biden said, without being more specific about any plans to punish the crown prince.

It was a far cry from a comment in November 2019, in which Biden promised to punish senior Saudi leaders in a way former President Donald Trump wouldn’t. “Yes,” he said when directly asked if he would. “And I said it at the time. Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them the pariah that they are.” “There’s very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “They have to be held accountable.”

Smedley Butler

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“What did they think they were doing when they engineered the election of this empty suit, this blank cartridge, this political mannequin, this man-who-isn’t-there?”

Shadowland (Jim Kunstler)

The State of the Union speech is a somewhat squishy national ritual. Since Franklin Roosevelt, presidents have delivered it early each year in-person to a joint session of congress, with every other dignitary in government on hand — except for one cabinet officer designated the “lone survivior,” who sits it out elsewhere in case, say, the Capitol gets blown up. Before Woodrow Wilson, presidents customarily sent over a written message. Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the constitution only stipulates that a president “from time to time” shall report to Congress on how the nation is doing. Lately, it’s mostly just a made-for-TV special, like the Oscars, allowing a lot of familiar faces to preen before the cameras for the home-folks.

Ronald Reagan introduced the gimmick of showboating heroes or victims of this-and-that seated up in the galleries, which has naturally devolved into a maudlin, cringeworthy feature of the show. But often presidents use the occasion to drop a ripe phrase on the big audience that captures the spirit of the moment: “The era of big government is over” (Bill Clinton); “the axis of evil” (G. W. Bush); FDR’s “four freedoms.” In 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced an instant op-ed closer feature to the proceedings, ripping up Mr. Trump’s speech behind his back in a striking display of pique, much applauded by the avatars of rising Wokesterdom, who had only days earlier seen their half-assed impeachment attempt flop. Kinda looks like our current president, Joe Biden, will skip the grand show this year.

Too busy playing “Mario Kart” with the grandkids, or something like that. The Washington press corps has given him a pass on it, apparently. There’s no chatter, no buzz on the cable channels or in The New York Times, though a few newsies have begun to whine about Mr. Biden’s general unwillingness to hold a routine press conference with freely-pitched questions — not hand-picked, vetted ones, as the president’s handlers have insisted. How long will it be before the public realizes that Mr. Biden is being strictly concealed from view by his managers? And how long can they keep it up? A few more weeks, maybe, I’d guess. What did they think they were doing when they engineered the election of this empty suit, this blank cartridge, this political mannequin, this man-who-isn’t-there?

Of all the hundred-million-odd adults over 35-years-of-age in this country, they picked this empty vessel to lead in a year of obvious crisis? Apparently so — an act so collectively insane it makes you shudder to think about it. Like, the Democratic Party really thought this was a good idea? And who’s calling the shots behind this false front? Some committee chaired by Susan Rice? With directives coming into the Oval Office by messenger from Barack Obama’s Kalorama fortress, with, say, Eric Holder, Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod, John Brennan, and a few others charting the daily play-by-play?

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…shadow nationalization..

Trapped (CHS)

Back when prosperity was authentic, the Federal Reserve had little need for public relations. But now that “prosperity” is an illusion that must be managed lest the phantasm vanish, the Fed’s public relations pronouncements are a ceaseless flood as the The Babble-On 7 are the spokespeople for a propaganda machine bent on “managing expectations.” Managing Expectations is the code phrase for “front-run what we say and your profits are guaranteed.” When the Fed says it’s going after X, then simply buy whatever will benefit from X happening, and for 12 long years, X unfolds and those who front-ran the FedSpeak reaped billions in essentially zero-risk profits.

Managing Expectations is part of the Fed’s shadow nationalization of key markets. If price discovery of credit and risk is allowed to live, the Fed’s carefully inflated speculative bubbles pop. And so the Fed’s Job One is killing all price discovery via shadow nationalization. The first market shadow nationalized was the mortgage market, the foundation of the housing market. After Wall Street’s epic swindle (subprime mortgages) imploded in 2008, the Fed printed trillions of dollars out of thin air and bought hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages. The federal government nationalized the quasi-governmental mortgage issuers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the net result was virtually the entire mortgage market was government guaranteed or owned.

Since Wall Street’s fraud had nearly vaporized the entire global financial system, the Fed also shadow nationalized the stock market, which had imploded once the house of cards collapsed. Thus the S&P 500 has advanced from 667 to 3,850 with just enough brief wobbles to maintain the semblance of an organic market. This shadow nationalization has been the most well-promoted PR campaign in the history of central banking. The flood of FedSpeak and trillions of dollars in direct purchases of assets over the past 12 years has relentlessly trained the Wall Street and retail rats to buy the dip because the Fed has your back, meaning the Fed will never let its nationalized stock market decline for more than a few weeks.

The profits from front-running FedSpeak are in the trillions of dollars. No wonder the Wall Street rats scurry over and frantically press the buy button–the rewards and have been both reliable and immense. Now the Fed is in the process of shadow nationalizing the entire bond market. It signaled its intent long ago with quantitative easing, i.e. strangling price discovery in the Treasury market, and recently it began buying corporate bonds (proxies come in handy here).

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Ultimate globalization.

IMF To Propose Ways To Improve Transparency Of Trade In SDR (R.)

The International Monetary Fund on Friday said it would propose ways to improve the transparency and accountability of how its Special Drawing Rights are used, a key U.S. demand for its support of a new issuance of the IMF’s own currency. Geoffrey Okamoto, first deputy managing director of the IMF, said a new allocation of SDRs would boost the reserve positions of all IMF members, calling it “a far superior option to the alternatives” currently available to poorer countries. “The IMF will respond to the #G20’s call for a proposal on a general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs),” he said in a tweet.


“So that countries see maximum benefit from new SDRs, we will propose ways to improve transparency and accountability in how SDRs are allocated and traded,” he added. He gave no details. Finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies on Friday expressed broad support for boosting the IMF’s emergency reserves after U.S. officials dropped the previous administration’s opposition. Italy, which heads the G20 this year, is pushing for a $500 billion issuance of SDRs, a move backed by many other G20 members as a way to provide liquidity to poor countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic without increasing their debt levels. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday expressed her qualified support, but called for greater transparency about the trading and use of SDRs.

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“If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency,” he speculates, “the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [US] Federal budget to spend on electricity.”

Bitcoin Energy Use ‘Bigger Than Most Countries’ (BBC)

We’ve all heard the stories of Bitcoin millionaires. Elon Musk is the latest. His electric car company Tesla made a paper profit of more than $900m (£646m) after buying $1.5bn (£1bn) -worth of the cryptocurrency in early February. Its high profile support helped pushed the price of a single Bitcoin to more than $58,000. But it isn’t just the digital asset’s price that has hit an all-time high. So has its energy footprint. And that’s caused blowback for Mr Musk, as the scale of the currency’s environmental impact becomes clearer. It also helped prompt a series of high profile critics to slate the digital currency this week, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.


President Biden’s top economic adviser described Bitcoin as “an extremely inefficient way to conduct transactions,” saying “the amount of energy consumed in processing those transactions is staggering”. It’s unclear exactly how much energy Bitcoin uses. Cryptocurrencies are – by design – hard to track. But the consensus is that Bitcoin mining is a very energy-intensive business. The University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) studies the burgeoning business of cryptocurrencies. It calculates that Bitcoin’s total energy consumption is somewhere between 40 and 445 annualised terawatt hours (TWh), with a central estimate of about 130 terawatt hours. The UK’s electricity consumption is a little over 300 TWh a year, while Argentina uses around the same amount of power as the CCAF’s best guess for Bitcoin. And the electricity the Bitcoin miners use overwhelmingly comes from polluting sources.

The CCAF team surveys the people who manage the Bitcoin network around the world on their energy use and found that about two-thirds of it is from fossil fuels. Huge computing power – and therefore energy use – is built into the way the blockchain technology that underpins the cryptocurrency has been designed. It relies on a vast decentralised network of computers. These are the so-called Bitcoin “miners” who enable new Bitcoins to be created, but also independently verify and record every transaction made in the currency. In fact, the Bitcoins are the reward miners get for maintaining this record accurately. It works like a lottery that runs every 10 minutes, explains Gina Pieters, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and a research fellow with the CCAF team.


[..] We can track how much effort miners are making to create the currency. They are currently reckoned to be making 160 quintillion calculations every second – that’s 160,000,000,000,000,000,000, in case you were wondering. And this vast computational effort is the cryptocurrency’s Achilles heel, says Alex de Vries, the founder of the Digiconomy website and an expert on Bitcoin. All the millions of trillions of calculations it takes to keep the system running aren’t really doing any useful work. “They’re computations that serve no other purpose,” says de Vries, “they’re just immediately discarded again. Right now we’re using a whole lot of energy to produce those calculations, but also the majority of that is sourced from fossil energy.” The vast effort it requires also makes Bitcoin inherently difficult to scale, he argues.”If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency,” he speculates, “the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [US] Federal budget to spend on electricity.”

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“The measures being discussed in Congress have the potential to defeat us all. It is surprisingly easy to convince a free people to give up their freedoms, and exceedingly difficult to regain those freedoms once they are lost.”

Congress And The Slippery Slope Of Censorship (Turley)

Democrats are pushing for cable carriers to explain their “moral” criteria for allowing tens of millions of viewers access to Fox News and other targeted networks. The answer should begin with the obvious principles of free speech and a free press, which are not even referenced in the Eshoo-McNerney letter. Instead, the companies are asked if they will impose a morality judgment on news coverage and, ultimately, public access. This country went through a long and troubling period of morality codes used to bar speakers or censor material that barred atheists, feminists, and others from espousing their viewpoints in newspapers, books, and movies. Indeed, there was a time when the Democratic Party fought such morality rules, in defense of free speech.

Those seeking free-speech limits often speak of speech like it is a swimming pool that must be monitored and carefully controlled for purity and safety. I view speech more as a rolling ocean, dangerous but also majestic and inspiring, its immense size allowing for a natural balance. Free speech allows false ideas to be challenged in the open, rather than forcing dissenting viewpoints beneath the surface. I do not believe today’s activists will succeed in removing the most-watched cable news channel in 2020 from the airways. But, then again, I did not think social media sites — given legal immunity in exchange for being content-neutral — would ever censor viewpoints.

Roughly 70 years ago, Justice William O. Douglas accepted a prestigious award with a speech entitled “The One Un-American Act,” about the greatest threat to a free nation. He warned that the restriction of free speech “is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” The measures being discussed in Congress have the potential to defeat us all. It is surprisingly easy to convince a free people to give up their freedoms, and exceedingly difficult to regain those freedoms once they are lost.

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Don’t hold your breath.

Durham Steps Down As US Attorney, Remains In Charge Of Russia Probe (JTN)

John Durham, a decorated career prosecutor, announced Friday he is stepping down at the end of the month as a U.S. attorney in Connecticut but will continue as special prosecutor investigating the origins of the Russia collusion probe that dogged the early Trump presidency. Durham’s announcement, which was widely expected as part of the transition inside the Biden Justice Department, allows him to focus on wrapping up the Russia investigation from Washington DC where the probe has been ongoing since 2019. “My career has been as fulfilling as I could ever have imagined when I graduated from law school way back in 1975,” Durham said. “Much of that fulfillment has come from all the people with whom I’ve been blessed to share this workplace, and in our partner law enforcement agencies.


“My love and respect for this Office and the vitally important work done here have never diminished.” Durham will be succeeded in Connecticut in the interim by his deputy Leonard Boyle. Durham’s special counsel probe is focused on whether the FBI inappropriately opened an investigation into the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 or committed any criminal acts by continuing the investigation and seeking FISA warrants that contained inaccurate or omitted information. He has secured one criminal conviction of the former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for doctoring evidence submitted to the FISA court. And in December, the Justice Department signaled Durham’s investigation had found further criminal activity, upgrading him to the position of special counsel.

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Feb 262021
 


Jean-Francois Millet The flight into Egypt 1864

 

Ivermectin Could Cut Covid Deaths By Up To 75% (DM)
CDC Reports Shocking Data About Asymptomatic Spread (Fed.)
Report Says Spirulina Algae Could Reduce Covid Mortality Rate (JPost)
Latin American Govts ‘Held To Ransom’ By Pfizer During Vaccine Talks (RT)
US Bombs Facilities In Syria Used By Iran-Backed Militia (AP)
Russia Is ‘Existential Threat’ To West That NATO Must Neutralize (RT)
Senate Parliamentarian: Minimum Wage Can’t Be In Covid Relief Bill (CNN)
Secret Memo Shows How Harris Must Now Advance Minimum Wage Hike (DP)
In Final Days, Trump Gave Up on Forcing Release of Russiagate Files |(Maté)
The Great Reset Is Here (Rickards)
Boeing 777 Makes Emergency Landing In Moscow Due To Engine Trouble (ZH)
700+ Children In Detention at US Border, Spike In Unaccompanied Crossings (RT)
Atlantic Ocean Circulation At Weakest In A Millennium (G.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

We need more testing! Only 100s of millions of people have taken it! Who knows if it’s safe?

Ivermectin Could Cut Covid Deaths By Up To 75% (DM)

A cheap and safe drug widely used against parasites cuts Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths by about 75 per cent, a study shows. More than 30 trials across the world found that ivermectin causes ‘repeated, consistent, large magnitude improvements in clinical outcomes’ at all stages of the disease. The peer-reviewed study, to be published in the US journal Frontiers of Pharmacology, says the evidence is so strong that the drug – used to treat head lice and scabies – should become a standard therapy everywhere, so hastening the global recovery.

Study co-author Professor Paul Marik, director of emergency and pulmonary care at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in the US, said: ‘The data is overwhelming – we are in a pandemic, and this is an incredibly effective way to combat it. If we use ivermectin widely, our societies can open up.’ Other medications have been touted as effective treatments for combating coronavirus, only for trials to dash hopes – notably with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug. An earlier study by Professor Andrew Hill of Liverpool University also concluded that ivermectin cuts death rates by around three-quarters. He recommended there should be larger trials before it was approved by UK regulators. A new trial of ivermectin as a Covid treatment is due to start shortly at Oxford University.

Dr Tess Lawrie, director of the Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy in Bath, convened an online summit of international experts last weekend to discuss the new data. It included evidence that widespread use of ivermectin in parts of India and South America has led to a big reduction in infections and deaths. Yesterday Dr Lawrie submitted a 97-page report to the World Health Organisation, urging it immediately to recommend ivermectin to treat Covid. The drug, taken in tablet form or as drops, is licensed in Britain only as a treatment for parasitic worms, head lice and scabies. It has been used by hundreds of millions of patients over the past 30 years, mainly in developing countries, and at around £50 per patient – less in some countries – is far cheaper than other new Covid treatments, such as the rheumatism drug tocilizumab, which costs £1,000 per patient.

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”If the contagiousness of people without symptoms is not what drives the spread of SARS-COV-2, then no COVID restriction on public life besides staying home when you are clearly sick could be justified..”

CDC Reports Shocking Data About Asymptomatic Spread (Fed.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control slipped in a shocking piece of evidence in a recent report on low in-school COVID-19 transmission that severely undercuts the rationale for most COVID restrictions, including lockdowns. The Jan. 29 report’s conclusion seems to fit the pro-mask narrative, of course: “Schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts [such as masking and not allowing student cohorts to mix] in place.” In the 17 rural Wisconsin schools surveyed, only seven cases were linked to in-school transmission out of 4,876 pupils, and no staff members were infected at school during the study period.

While the report spends ample time explaining the mitigation strategies employed in the schools and the high reported mask compliance (92%) among students, the authors later discuss something you probably have not seen in any of the mainstream media’s coverage of this report . “Children might be more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 than are adults…This apparent lack of transmission [in schools] is consistent with recent research (5), which found an asymptomatic attack rate of only 0.7% within households and a lower rate of transmission from children than from adults. However, this study was unable to rule out asymptomatic transmission within the school setting because surveillance testing was not conducted”

The “recent research” the study authors cite is a meta-analysis of 54 household COVID-19 transmission studies that observed 77,758 participants, which was posted as a pre-print this summer and published in December. The text of the analysis is even more consequential than the CDC’s reference makes it seem: “Estimated mean household secondary attack rate from symptomatic index cases (18.0%; 95% CI, 14.2%-22.1%) was significantly higher than from asymptomatic or presymptomatic index cases (0.7%; 95% CI, 0%-4.9%; P<.001), although there were few studies in the latter group. These findings are consistent with other household studies, reporting asymptomatic index cases as having limited role in household transmission”.

The 0.7 percent figure includes not just people who never show symptoms of COVID-19, but people who haven’t yet shown symptoms—two groups that have been alleged to be major factors driving the spread of the virus. This is a major data point often underplayed or even challenged in much media coverage of the virus. The key, if not central, rationale for non-pharmaceutical interventions such as masking, distancing, and staying at home is allegedly significant transmission from people who don’t show symptoms. If the contagiousness of people without symptoms is not what drives the spread of SARS-COV-2, then no COVID restriction on public life besides staying home when you are clearly sick could be justified, considering the obvious negative consequences of these restrictions.

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Anti-inflammatory.

Report Says Spirulina Algae Could Reduce Covid Mortality Rate (JPost)

A team of scientists from Israel and Iceland have published research showing that an extract of spirulina algae has the potential to reduce the chances of COVID-19 patients developing a serious case of the disease. The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Biotechnology, found that an extract of photosynthetically manipulated Spirulina is 70% effective in inhibiting the release of the cytokine TNF-a, a small signaling protein used by the immune system. The research was conducted in a MIGAL laboratory in northern Israel with algae grown and cultivated by the Israeli company VAXA, which is located in Iceland. VAXA received funding from the European Union to explore and develop natural treatments for coronavirus. Iceland’s MATIS Research Institute also participated in the study.


In a small percentage of patients, infection with the coronavirus causes the immune system to release an excessive number of TNF-a cytokines, resulting in what is known as a cytokine storm. The storm causes acute respiratory distress syndrome and damage to other organs, the leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients. “If you control or are able to mitigate the excessive release of TNF-a, you can eventually reduce mortality,” said Asaf Tzachor, a researcher from the IDC Herzliya School of Sustainability and the lead author of the study. During cultivation, growth conditions were adjusted to control the algae’s metabolomic profile and bioactive molecules. The result is what Tzachor refers to as “enhanced” algae.

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Anyone surprised?

Latin American Govts ‘Held To Ransom’ By Pfizer During Vaccine Talks (RT)

A number of Latin American countries have reportedly experienced extremely aggressive negotiating tactics by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has demanded full immunity from any civil claims and state assets as a guarantee. The questionable negotiating tactics by the pharmaceutical giant have been highlighted in a fresh report by the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ). Officials from Argentina, as well as from another unspecified Latin American country, talked to the outlet, describing Pfizer’s approach to negotiations as “high-level bullying” that made the governments feel like they were being “held to ransom.” Argentina was among the first countries to begin negotiations with the company.

The talks started last June, yet ultimately flopped as Pfizer’s demands became less and less reasonable, an official told the BIJ. The pharmaceutical giant assertively demanded additional clauses that would make it immune against any civil claims citizens might file over side effects from receiving the Pfizer jab. While a new bill regulating the vaccination process was adopted in October, the company was still unhappy with its wording, as it did not grant full immunity to pharmaceutical companies but rather allowed a change of jurisdiction established in advance in the contract. Pfizer ultimately requested a “new law” from the government, then-Health Minister Gonzalez Garcia said in December, describing the demands as “somewhat unacceptable.”

“Argentina could compensate for the vaccine’s adverse effects, but not if Pfizer makes a mistake,” the official, cited by BIJ, said. “For example, what would happen if Pfizer unintentionally interrupted the vaccine’s cold … and a citizen wants to sue them? It would not be fair for Argentina to pay for a Pfizer error.” The company then urged Argentina to take out international insurance to pay for potential future cases against the manufacturer, and ultimately demanded that it put up unspecified sovereign assets as collateral in December. “We offered to pay for millions of doses in advance, we accepted this international insurance, but the last request was unusual: Pfizer demanded that the sovereign assets of Argentina also be part of the legal support,” the official said.

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Who are in reality Iraqi troops fighting ISIS?

US Bombs Facilities In Syria Used By Iran-Backed Militia (AP)

The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. The airstrike was the first known military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. “This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures , including consultation with coalition partners,” the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, said in announcing the strikes.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.” Biden administration officials condemned the Feb. 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out. Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted U.S. personnel or facilities in Iraq. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, had said Tuesday that Iraq is in charge of investigating the Feb. 15 attack.

“Right now, we’re not able to give you a certain attribution as to who was behind these attacks, what groups, and I’m not going to get into the tactical details of every bit of weaponry used here,” Kirby said. “Let’s let the investigations complete and conclude, and then when we have more to say, we will.”

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Syria, Iran, Russia.

Russia Is ‘Existential Threat’ To West That NATO Must Neutralize (RT)

The Cold War ended decades ago, but Moscow is still working to maintain its Soviet-era influence over Eastern Europe, one of Washington’s top generals has claimed, warning that the US must take on Russia to deliver world peace. In a speech published by the Pentagon’s press service on Wednesday, the head of the country’s European Command, Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, claimed that, when it comes to projecting American force abroad, “everything we do is about generating peace.” However, he caveated, “we compete to win … and if deterrence fails, we’re prepared to respond to aggression, primarily through NATO.”

Wolters is also the US-led bloc’s supreme allied commander on the continent, and recent weeks have seen its members stage drills and engage in a series of stand-offs with Russian sailors in the Black Sea. “Beyond exercises,” he added, “we conduct operations and other activities to compete, deter and prepare to respond to aggression,” including maintaining a presence in the disputed region. The general insisted that the West is locked in a struggle for dominance with Moscow, and it has to come out on top. “We’re in an era of global power competition. Winning in this era is ensuring that global power competition does not become a global power war,” he argued. “Despite widespread international condemnation and continued economic sanctions, Russia engages in destabilizing and malign activities across the globe, with many of those activities happening close to home,” he said.

The US Department of Defense has since added a caveat to the transcript to make it clear he meant to refer to shadowy Russian schemes in Europe, rather than, say, an American presidential election. In that context, Wolters claimed, “Russia remains an enduring existential threat to the United States and our European allies,” he said. “Russia… and China – having declared itself a near-Arctic power – continued to militarize the region and seek to establish economic footholds to gain influence over regional governance,” he suggested. This, Wolters said, underlined the need to “maintain a credible Arctic deterrence and ensure vital sea lines of communication remain open by securing the Greenland, Iceland and United Kingdom gap.”

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They’re hiding behind a guy who only gives advice?

Senate Parliamentarian: Minimum Wage Can’t Be In Covid Relief Bill (CNN)

The Senate parliamentarian has ruled against including the increase in the minimum wage in the Covid relief bill. While Democrats had pushed for the increase to be included — and leadership expressed its disappointment in the ruling Thursday evening — its removal may actually make it easier to pass the bill, senior Democratic sources believe, because it’ll avoid a messy fight over whether to strip it out of the bill and whether to compromise. “President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”


For now, far from being a defeat, the ruling is viewed as clearing the way for the bill’s passage in the Senate, a Biden administration official told CNN. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday evening the provision will remain in the House bill on which the chamber is voting Friday. However, the parliamentarian ruled that the increase to $15 per hour did not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the Senate’s reconciliation process. That means that the House will pass its bill, the Senate will have to strip the minimum wage provision out, and then eventually the House will have to pass that bill again at the end of the process.

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Well, they can’t. Kamala can do it. And she won’t.

Secret Memo Shows How Harris Must Now Advance Minimum Wage Hike (DP)

On Thursday, a key Senate official advised Democratic lawmakers that the chamber’s rules do not allow them to include a minimum wage increase in President Joe Biden’s first COVID-19 relief legislation. The ruling from the parliamentarian means that Vice President Kamala Harris could decide the fate of one of the Democratic Party’s most significant campaign promises — but it remains unclear what she will end up doing. As the presiding officer of the Senate, Harris — who has long touted her support for a $15 minimum wage — can now use the power her predecessors have used to ignore the advisory opinion and fulfill Biden’s campaign promise to boost the wage. A confidential memo obtained by The Daily Poster now circulating on Capitol Hill spells out exactly how that could be accomplished.

However, White House chief of staff Ron Klain this week declared that Harris will refuse to use that power — a decision that would effectively put the Biden-Harris administration in the position of potentially killing the prospect of minimum wage legislation for the foreseeable future. Immediately after the parliamentarian’s ruling, the White House issued a statement reiterating Klain’s comment, declaring that “Biden respects the parliamentarian’s decision.” Some congressional Democrats have already been arguing that the Biden administration’s refusal to overrule the parliamentarian would be immoral and a political disaster for their party. “It’s been 12 years since we’ve raised the minimum wage, and if we’re going to make those promises, we have to be able to deliver on them,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday on MSNBC.

“Because, I’ll tell you what, in two years… when people vote in the midterms, you’re not gonna be able to say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, we couldn’t raise the minimum wage because the parliamentarian ruled that we couldn’t do it.’ That’s not gonna fly.” The maddening process conversation surrounding a $15 minimum wage increase is the result of Democrats refusing to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which means Republicans can block most legislation unless Democrats find 60 votes. As such, Democrats are working to pass the COVID bill using the convoluted budget reconciliation process. The process will allow for a simple majority vote on the final legislation, but it also allows Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to recommend tossing certain provisions if she decides they violate the so-called Byrd Rule, which is designed to prohibit extraneous matters outside of federal spending issues to be added to budget legislation.

The minimum wage, however, has budget implications, according to the Congressional Budget Office — which is why proponents had hoped MacDonough would advise that it is in order, especially since the nonpartisan parliamentarian has previously ruled that other less significant budget-related issues were in order. MacDonough, however, refused to do so on Thursday evening. The development is not catastrophic for the $15 minimum wage provision — if Harris simply uses her power to ignore the opinion and clear the path for the measure she has long insisted she supports. The problem is that the White House is signaling she will do the opposite.

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We will never know.

In Final Days, Trump Gave Up on Forcing Release of Russiagate Files |(Maté)

After four years of railing against “deep state” actors who, he said, tried to undermine his presidency, Donald Trump relented to U.S. intelligence leaders in his final days in office, allowing them to block the release of critical material in the Russia investigation, according to a former senior congressional investigator who later joined the Trump administration. Kash Patel, whose work on the House Intelligence Committee helped unearth U.S. intelligence malpractice during the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe, said he does not know why Trump did not force the release of documents that would expose further wrongdoing. But he said senior intelligence officials “continuously impeded” their release – usually by slow-walking their reviews of the material. Patel said Trump’s CIA Director, Gina Haspel, was instrumental in blocking one of the most critical documents, he said.

Patel, who has seen the Russia probe’s underlying intelligence and co-wrote critical reports that have yet to be declassified, said new disclosures would expose additional misconduct and evidentiary holes in the CIA and FBI’s work. “I think there were people within the IC [Intelligence Community], at the heads of certain intelligence agencies, who did not want their tradecraft called out, even though it was during a former administration, because it doesn’t look good on the agency itself,” Patel [said]. Although a Department of Justice inspector general’s report in December 2019 exposed significant intelligence failings and malpractice, Patel said more damning information is still being kept under wraps. And despite an ongoing investigation by Special Counsel John Durham into the conduct of the officials who carried out the Trump-Russia inquiry, it is unclear if key documents will ever see the light of day.

Patel did not suggest that a game-changing smoking gun is being kept from the public. Core intelligence failures have been exposed – especially regarding the FBI’s reliance on Christopher Steele’s now debunked dossier to secure FISA warrants used to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. But he said the withheld material would reveal more misconduct as well as major problems with the CIA’s assessment that Russia, on Vladimir Putin’s orders, ordered a sweeping and systematic interference 2016 campaign to elect Trump. Patel was cautious about going into detail on any sensitive information that has not yet been declassified.

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“Once the cattle (that’s us) have been herded into the digital slaughterhouse, we will be told to “use it or lose it” when it comes to our own money. In other words, either we spend the money, or the government will take it away.”

The Great Reset Is Here (Rickards)

In 1999, the euro replaced the individual currencies of Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy and other major economies in Europe. Today, the number of countries that have joined the euro is up to 19, and more countries are awaiting admission. The euro is the second largest reserve currency asset after the U.S. dollar. The creation of the euro can be thought of as a stepping stone from national currencies to a single world currency. Now, the euro (along with the Chinese yuan) is moving quickly to become a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). A CBDC combines a traditional currency with the blockchain technology of a cryptocurrency. It’s an important move in the direction of eliminating cash and forcing users into a 100% digital system using credit cards, debit cards, and smartphone apps.

Why are China and Europe so focused on eliminating cash? I’ve said all along that you cannot put negative interest rates on consumers until you eliminate cash. Otherwise, savers would just withdraw cash from the banks and stuff it in mattresses to avoid the negative rates. Implicitly, the European Central Bank (ECB) seems to agree. One of the ECB Board members says that negative rates (really confiscation) will be applied as a “penalty” against “hoarding” cash. In plain English, that means they will create digital money, force you to spend it, and if you don’t spend it, they will take it away as a “negative rate.” Now all of the pieces of the global elite plan are converging. The IMF SDR issuance will reliquify global central banks that cannot print dollars. Then CBDCs will be used to eliminate cash.

Once the cattle (that’s us) have been herded into the digital slaughterhouse, we will be told to “use it or lose it” when it comes to our own money. In other words, either we spend the money, or the government will take it away. Of course, the spending can be channeled into politically correct causes by excluding unpopular vendors such as gun dealers or conservative social media platforms from the payment system. This represents total domination of human behavior through world money + digital currencies + confiscation. This is not speculation anymore; it’s happening in front of our eyes. The Great Reset is coming fast. The future is here.

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“designed by clowns…supervised by monkeys”

Boeing 777 Makes Emergency Landing In Moscow Due To Engine Trouble (ZH)

It really has not been a good year for Boeing. Or a good decade for that matter. Just days after a Boeing-777 became the latest symbol of all that is wrong with the once almighty aircraft maker, when the plane’s right engine exploded (with debris striking houses below it in a scene right out of Breaking Bad) and only a miracle prevented a tragedy, moments ago another Boeing-777 made an emergency landing in Russia’s Sheremetyevo airport outside of Moscow, Interfax reports, adding that the plane crew requested the landing after one of left engine control channels failed The news service doesn’t name the airline operator; but said that the plane was flying from Hong Kong to Madrid. Luckily, no injuries were reported.

The latest mishap followed even more bad news for the aerospace giant, which earlier on Thursday agreed to pay $6.6 million to U.S. regulators as part of a settlement with the Federal Aviation Administration over the planemaker’s failure to comply with a 2015 safety agreement including quality and safety-oversight lapses going back years, a setback that comes as Boeing wrestles with repairs to flawed 787 Dreamliner jets that could dwarf the cost of the federal penalty. As Reuters reported, Boeing is beginning painstaking repairs and forensic inspections to fix structural integrity flaws embedded deep inside at least 88 parked 787s built over the last year or so. The inspections and retrofits could take up to a month per plane and are likely to cost hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars, though it depends on the number of planes and defects involved.

The penalties include $5.4 million for not complying with the agreement in which Boeing pledged to change its internal processes to improve and prioritize regulatory compliance and $1.21 million to settle two pending FAA enforcement cases. “The FAA is holding Boeing accountable by imposing additional penalties,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement. But the biggest challenge facing Boeing is whether or not it can find passengers for its 737 MAX now that the infamous deadly airplane which was reportedly “designed by clowns…supervised by monkeys” is set to fly again. While the plane may indeed have gotten a green light from the FAA, a far bigger question is whether Boeing has by now lost the trust of the public for good.

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The “left wing” press will bury it.

700+ Children In Detention at US Border, Spike In Unaccompanied Crossings (RT)

Hundreds of unaccompanied minors have been held at the US border waiting to be processed, Axios reported. Almost a third of them have been lingering in detention for more than two days, as the backlog piles up. Around 700 minors who crossed into the US on their own were kept in Border Patrol Custody as of Sunday, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing an internal Customs and Border Protection document. By that time, around 200 children had already been held up for over 48 hours, and in the case of nine child migrants, for over 72 hours, which exceeds the maximum limit under the Flores Settlement Agreement, which stipulates that CBP cannot hold children for more than three days. Per the same agreement, asylum-seeking children transferred to ICE detention centers cannot spend more than 20 days there, after which they must be released.


The processing system is under increasing strain due to an influx of child migrants. In January, CBP encountered 5,707 child migrants at the southwest border, almost a thousand more than in December (4,855). President Biden, who was promising a U-turn from the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy, has recently come under fire for reopening a child detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The Biden administration was quick to defend the move as a temporary fix in the times of pandemic, arguing that the infamous Trump facility was reopened since the Office of Refugee Resettlement cannot house as many asylum seekers as before due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

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If you say things like “..could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century..”, people will think: I won’t be alive by then, so would should I care?

Atlantic Ocean Circulation At Weakest In A Millennium (G.)

The Atlantic Ocean circulation that underpins the Gulf Stream, the weather system that brings warm and mild weather to Europe, is at its weakest in more than a millennium, and climate breakdown is the probable cause, according to new data. Further weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could result in more storms battering the UK, more intense winters and an increase in damaging heatwaves and droughts across Europe. Scientists predict that the AMOC will weaken further if global heating continues, and could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century, which could bring us close to a “tipping point” at which the system could become irrevocably unstable. A weakened Gulf Stream would also raise sea levels on the Atlantic coast of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who co-authored the study published on Thursday in Nature Geoscience, told the Guardian that a weakening AMOC would increase the number and severity of storms hitting Britain, and bring more heatwaves to Europe. He said the circulation had already slowed by about 15%, and the impacts were being seen. “In 20 to 30 years it is likely to weaken further, and that will inevitably influence our weather, so we would see an increase in storms and heatwaves in Europe, and sea level rises on the east coast of the US,” he said. Rahmstorf and scientists from Maynooth University in Ireland and University College London in the UK concluded that the current weakening had not been seen over at least the last 1,000 years, after studying sediments, Greenland ice cores and other proxy data that revealed past weather patterns over that time.

The AMOC has only been measured directly since 2004. The AMOC is one of the world’s biggest ocean circulation systems, carrying warm surface water from the Gulf of Mexico towards the north Atlantic, where it cools and becomes saltier until it sinks north of Iceland, which in turn pulls more warm water from the Caribbean. This circulation is accompanied by winds that also help to bring mild and wet weather to Ireland, the UK and other parts of western Europe. Scientists have long predicted a weakening of the AMOC as a result of global heating, and have raised concerns that it could collapse altogether. The new study found that any such point was likely to be decades away, but that continued high greenhouse gas emissions would bring it closer.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 252021
 
 February 25, 2021  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn The flight into Egypt – a night piece 1651

 

Coronavirus Deaths Worldwide Fell By 20% Last Week – WHO (F.)
Researchers Find Emerging COVID-19 Strain in New York (NYP)
COVID Aid Bill Pays Federal Employees With Kids Out Of School Up To $21K (F.)
US Senators Weigh Paring Back Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Aid Plan (R.)
New US Report To Blame Saudi Crown Prince For 2018 Killing Of Khashoggi (NBC)
Swalwell Committee Colleagues Ask FBI For Briefing On China ‘Honey Pot’ (NYP)
Twitter Deletes Dozens of Accounts for “Undermining Faith in NATO” (MPN)
NZ Housing Policy Stand Blows Up The Bond Market (AFR)
Lincoln Project Got $32mn In Free Media Coverage Since Sex Scandal Broke (RT)
House Dems Call for Biden to Give Up Sole Launch Authority for Nukes (NM)
The Greatest Threat to the Planet You’ve Never Heard Of (NC)
California Bill Requires ‘Gender Neutral’ Stores (DW)

 

 

 

 

Anyone seen an explanation?

Coronavirus Deaths Worldwide Fell By 20% Last Week – WHO (F.)

The number of coronavirus-related deaths decreased by 20% worldwide last week compared to the week before, according to an analysis by the World Health Organization, which coincides with a drop in cases and deaths in the United States as well, as it appears the course of both the global and domestic outbreaks of the virus may finally be slowing. Slightly fewer than 66,000 fatalities worldwide were reported last week—the third consecutive week the fatality rate has decreased. The WHO also announced the total number of new cases fell to 2.4 million for the week of Feb. 15 through Feb. 21, representing an 11% dip from the prior week, which marks the sixth consecutive week the global case count has declined.


The U.S. has averaged 68,038 new cases per day over the past seven days, a decrease of nearly 40% compared to the average earlier this month. On Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the U.S. dropped below 56,000 for the first time since early November. While there is no disputing the fact that the numbers are trending in the right direction, the emergence of new variants has many health professionals concerned. Three particular variants, B.1.1.7 (first found in the U.K.), B.1.351 (South Africa) and P.1 (Brazil) are the most prevalent at this point.

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There will be thousands. Get fit. One of the many drawbacks of the vaccines is that the virus will beat them. Too many people are infected worldwide to prevent this.

Researchers Find Emerging COVID-19 Strain in New York (NYP)

A new coronavirus strain that shares some characteristics with the South Africa variant is emerging in New York City, researchers said Wednesday. As of mid-February, the new variant, called B.1.526, was present in about 12 percent of coronavirus samples collected in the Big Apple and surrounding areas, according to researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. In their analysis of publicly available databases, the Columbia researchers did not find a high prevalence of the South Africa or Brazil COVID-19 variants in the region.


“Instead we found high numbers of this home-grown lineage,” Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement. The Columbia study found the new strain shares some similarities to the South Africa strain, which scientists believe can spread more easily than other virus variants. B.1.526 was also described in research published this week by the California Institute of Technology.

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“Critics call it a personal bailout for bureaucrats.”

COVID Aid Bill Pays Federal Employees With Kids Out Of School Up To $21K (F.)

The U.S. House version of the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” – a $1.9 trillion emergency aid package to help America recover from the coronavirus pandemic has an extra perk for federal workers: Enhanced paid time off if your child is enrolled in a school that isn’t back to full-time, in-classroom instruction. Critics call it a personal bailout for bureaucrats. It is funded through a new $570 million family leave account exclusively for federal workers. While millions of parents struggle to work from home with kids who are enrolled in shuttered or partially shuttered schools, and millions more left the workforce or lost jobs to care for their at-home children, evidently parents in the federal bureaucracy need their own, personal Covid-19 bailout.

Buried on page 305 of the House bill released late last Friday night (included after the bailout details for states and localities), is a new Treasury Department fund called the “Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund.” $570 million in the new fund is available through September 30. Federal employees caring for others due to Covid-19 are eligible for paid leave. Among those eligible are those who are “unable to work” because they are caring for school-aged children not physically in school full time “due to Covid-19 precautions[.]” The new Fund allows a federal employee “caring for a son or daughter” to qualify for the paid leave, specifically:


“if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, if the school of such son or daughter requires or makes optional a virtual learning instruction model or requires or makes optional a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning instruction models, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to Covid-19 precautions;” Under the bill as currently drafted, full-time federal employees can take up to 600 hours in paid leave until September 30, up to $35 an hour and $1,400 a week. That’s 15 weeks for a 40-hour employee. Part-time and “seasonal” employees are eligible, too, with equivalent hours established by their agency.

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Find in your thesaurus under “dysfunctional”.

US Senators Weigh Paring Back Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Aid Plan (R.)

U.S. senators on Wednesday were eyeing potentially significant cuts to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as they awaited a ruling on whether the measure can include raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Senate parliamentarian was expected to decide soon whether Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed minimum wage increase is allowable under a rule allowing a simple majority of the 100-member Senate to approve the sweeping relief measure, instead of the chamber’s typical 60-vote majority. The House of Representatives on Friday could pass the bill that would help tackle the heavy human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.

The Senate is likely to follow up in early March. The measure is Biden’s top legislative priority. Senate Democrats and Republicans were looking at scaling back some of the biggest provisions, including expanded federal unemployment benefits, $1,400 direct payments to Americans and money for state and local governments, according to lawmakers and aides. [..] A new round of stimulus checks could be scaled back to exclude more high earners, the aide said. Several senators, including Democrat Joe Manchin, have said they were looking at a minimum wage increase to $10 to $11 an hour, instead of $15 by 2025, up from the current $7.25.


“I think even though several Democrats have some concerns, that we can still find a basis for agreement,” Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who must juggle demands of progressive and moderate Democrats amid Republican opposition, described a U.S. economy in need of help beyond the nearly $4 trillion provided last year.

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“During the 2020 election campaign, Biden promised to make the Saudis “pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”

New US Report To Blame Saudi Crown Prince For 2018 Killing Of Khashoggi (NBC)

The Biden administration will release an intelligence report Thursday that concludes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, three U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The intelligence assessment, based largely on work by the CIA, is not new — NBC News was among the organizations that confirmed it in 2018. But its public release will mark a significant new chapter in the U.S.-Saudi relationship and a clear break by President Joe Biden with former President Donald Trump’s policy of equivocating about the Saudi state’s role in a brutal murder that was widely condemned by members of Congress, journalists and a U.N. investigator.

Reuters first reported on the declassified intelligence summary scheduled for release Thursday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden would communicate with the Saudi king, rather than his son the crown prince. She said the declassified report was being prepared for release soon. It remains to be seen how releasing the report will affect U.S.-Saudi relations. Biden officials have been engaging with the Saudis since they took office, according to the State Department.


[..] During the 2020 election campaign, Biden promised to make the Saudis “pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.” Biden has ended American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, but he has not moved to cut off military aid to an important Middle East ally and counterterrorism partner. “The president’s intention, as is the intention of this government, is to recalibrate our engagement with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki said Wednesday.

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Get him under oath.

Swalwell Committee Colleagues Ask FBI For Briefing On China ‘Honey Pot’ (NYP)

Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Republican colleagues on the House Homeland Security Committee are asking the FBI to brief them on the California Democrat’s relationship with Chinese spy Fang Fang. The GOP legislators say that it’s important to understand Swalwell’s relationship with Fang, who seduced US politicians as part of her work, to protect themselves and national secrets. The 14 Homeland Security Committee Republicans, led by Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray that “Members of Congress must understand the threats we now face and the extent of damage already done.”

“As our nation faces a growing security threat from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to infiltrate and undermine the United States Government, we write to request a full briefing regarding counterintelligence threats to Members of Congress, including information related to Representative Eric Swalwell’s ties to a suspected Chinese intelligence operative,” the legislators wrote. “In light of Fang’s infiltration of Rep. Swalwell’s inner circle, we believe Members of Congress must know the full extend of the CCP’s efforts to target Members of Congress.” The Republicans wrote to Wray, “We must ensure the Committee can safeguard Top Secret information and make an informed decision regarding Rep. Swalwell’s future access to classified information”


Swalwell is a member of both the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees, which entitles him to top-secret information. Most if not all of his GOP colleagues were unaware of his ties to Fang before a bombshell December report. Swalwell received an FBI “defensive briefing” in 2015 on Fang, who is believed to have returned to China to avoid apprehension. His brother and father remained active Facebook friends with her until after her role was publicly reported. Swalwell has refused to say if he had a romantic relationship with Fang, who fundraised for him and allegedly seduced at least two mayors as part of her work.

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Historians are going to think Twitter was a political party.

Twitter Deletes Dozens of Accounts for “Undermining Faith in NATO” (MPN)

Social media giant Twitter announced yesterday that it has deleted 373 accounts it claims were linked to Russia, Iran, and Armenia. In a blog post entitled “Disclosing networks of state-linked information operations,” it claimed that it had taken the decision to remove 69 Russian accounts primarily because they were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.”The move sparked controversy on Twitter itself, with many users joking that their own fealty to NATO was insufficiently zealous. Twitter justified the decision by pointing to its rules regarding the prohibition of state-controlled disinformation networks. Yet it failed to fully explain exactly how it knew these users were in the pay of the Kremlin or under the control of the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei.


Indeed, the supposedly “independent investigation and analysis” team at the Stanford Internet Observatory, to which Twitter contracted out its work, itself has troubling connections to the (U.S.) state. For example, its non-resident fellow Matt Masterton was, until recently, a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security. Indeed, the whole observatory is located within the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, headed by former American Ambassador to Russia (and noted Kremlin hawk) Michael McFaul. Supposed “experts” accuse users of being Russia-linked disinformation agents with great regularity. Ben Nimmo, data journalist and former NATO press officer, falsely asserted that a noted Ukrainian concert pianist and a Welsh pensioner were Kremlin bots. Nimmo was recently announced as Facebook’s chief of intelligence.

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Bubble.

NZ Housing Policy Stand Blows Up The Bond Market (AFR)

The New Zealand bond market imploded on Thursday as traders raced to price in a better-than-even chance of a rate hike coming as soon as this year, to ensure the central bank meets a shock Ardern government mandate to keep housing affordable. The yield on the 10-year New Zealand government bond soared 18.5 basis points to 1.852 per cent. Australian 10-year government bonds rose in sympathy, trading 11 basis points higher at 1.718 per cent. The New Zealand currency edged down 0.1 per cent to US74.26¢ late in the session, but it’s trading around the highest level since August 2017. The bond market sell-off came after New Zealand’s finance minister, Grant Robertson, declared that the central bank’s remit will now change so that it has to consider housing when making monetary and financial policy decisions.

Specifically, the the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) will have to take into account “government policy relating to more sustainable house prices, while working towards its objectives,” the finance minister said. In effect, that will mean that the RBNZ has to weed out investor property demand, which low rates and easy credit have fuelled. It will need to regularly explain to the government “how it has sought to assess the impacts on housing outcomes”. The finance minister also asked the RBNZ to provide advice on debt-to-income ratios and interest-only mortgages. “The minister’s direction is in tune with our recent advice to the government in which we detailed the many influences on house prices, including the actions of the Reserve Bank,” said RBNZ governor Adrian Orr. Just a day ago, he said the RBNZ had the capacity to deploy negative rates if needed.


The RBNZ is forecasting that house prices will soar to 22 per cent annual growth by mid-year, as New Zealanders turn to the investment they are most familiar with and that has delivered big returns in the past – housing. The central bank slapped new restrictions on the housing market earlier this month, after warning that speculation is helping to fuel huge post-pandemic price gains. The December REINZ house price index rose an eye-watering 17.3 per cent year on year, with prices up 18.1 per cent in Auckland and 16.6 per cent outside Auckland. ANZ New Zealand fixed income strategist David Croy said markets interpreted the government’s move to change the RBNZ’s mandate to include housing as further confirmation that the economy is flying. The market “is simply seeing the government’s move as validation of the good news,” he said.

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Sinkhole.

Lincoln Project Got $32mn In Free Media Coverage Since Sex Scandal Broke (RT)

Since the Lincoln Project’s co-founder John Weaver was accused of sexually harassing multiple young men, the controversial anti-Trump group has received tens of millions in free media coverage, according to a new analysis. Weaver’s alleged misconduct broke in a story on January 11 in a report from the American Conservative, but Lincoln Project members have still been aplenty on both CNN and MSNBC – two networks that have heavily promoted the organization, run by anti-Trump Republicans, since its inception. According to the new analysis from the conservative Washington Free Beacon, media coverage between January 11 and February 11 for the group is worth a whopping $32 million, based on advertising value estimated by media monitoring service Critical Mention. In that time, there were 40 appearances by founders and advisers – 10 on CNN and 30 on MSNBC.


Earlier this month, Weaver resigned from the group he co-founded after being accused of making unwanted sexual advances on numerous young men, often offering professional advances in exchange for sexual favors. He apologized for sending “inappropriate” messages, but reports since have indicated his behavior was known about by others, including co-founder Steve Schmidt, who has denied such knowledge. Only hours after Weaver’s departure, Schmidt appeared on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’, where he faced no questions about his fellow co-founder but was grilled about the group’s tens of millions in funding and where it goes. That subject has become yet another controversy for the group, as it has been revealed much of the money was funneled into separate organizations involved with the founders.

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Pass it to Nancy and Kamala.

House Dems Call for Biden to Give Up Sole Launch Authority for Nukes (NM)

A group of about three dozen Democrats in the House have signed a letter calling for President Joe Biden to give up his sole authority to authorize the launch of nuclear weapons, which was obtained by Politico. “Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” reads the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., according to Politico. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.” The letter continues, “While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so. The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”


The congressman said in a tweet on Wednesday: “ICYMI: I’m calling on @POTUS to install checks & balances in our nuclear command-and-control structure. Past presidents have threatened nuclear attacks on other countries or exhibited concerning behavior that cast doubt on their judgment.” The Democrats suggest several alternatives to the president’s sole authority, including requiring other officials in the presidential line of succession, specifically the vice president and the House Speaker, neither of whom can be removed by the president if they disagree — to concur with a launch order.”

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Which idiots signed that treaty?

The Greatest Threat to the Planet You’ve Never Heard Of (NC)

On 4 February the German energy giant RWE announced it wassuing the government of the Netherlands. The crime? Proposing to phase out coal from the country’s electricity mix. The company, which is Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon, is demanding €1.4bn in ‘compensation’ from the country for loss of potential earnings, because the Dutch government has banned the burning of coal for electricity from 2030. If this sounds unreasonable, then you might be surprised to learn that this kind of legal action is perfectly normal – and likely to become far more commonplace in the coming years. RWE is suing under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a little-known international agreement signed without much public debate in 1994.

The treaty binds more than 50 countries, and allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for decisions that might negatively impact their profits – including climate policies. Governments can be forced to pay huge sums in compensation if they lose an ECT case. On Tuesday, Investigate Europe revealed that the EU, the UK and Switzerland could be forced to pay more than €345bn in ECT lawsuits over climate action in the coming years. This amount, which is more than twice the EU’s annual budget, represents the total value of the fossil fuel infrastructure that is protected by the ECT, and was calculated using data gathered by Global Energy Monitor and Change of Oil International.


With ECT-covered assets worth €141bn (or more than €2,000 per citizen), the UK – which in 2019 became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law – is the country most vulnerable to future claims. In 2019 the European Commission called the ECT “outdated” and “no longer sustainable”, and more than 450 climate leaders and scientists and 300 lawmakers from across Europe have called on governments to withdraw from the treaty. But in response, powerful interests have mobilised to not just defend the treaty, but to expand it to new signatory states. These interests include the fossil fuels lobby keen to keep its outsized legal privileges; lawyers who make millions arguing ECT cases; and the Brussels-based ECT Secretariat, which has close ties to both industries and whose survival depends on the treaty’s continuation.

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That graph is downright scary.

California Bill Requires ‘Gender Neutral’ Stores (DW)

California’s Assembly is slated to consider a new bill requiring department store childrens’ sections to be largely “gender-neutral” in order to combat “prejudice” and “judgment” against gender non-conforming children. “Large retailers that sell toys, clothes, and other children’s items in California would have to devote floor space to merchandise marketed to both boys and girls under a new bill,” Politico reported earlier this week. “Stores would be able to sell the same products they do now as long as they maintain some areas where shoppers can find all toys or clothes, regardless of gender-based marketing, under CA AB2826 (19R) from Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell). It would apply to department stores with 500 or more employees beginning in 2023.”


Lowe told Politico that the idea for the bill, which he also introduced last year to little effect, came from one of his staffers, who claims her daughter wanted an item in the “boys” section but felt slighted because she felt the toy was designated for a male child. “This is an issue of children being able to express themselves without bias,” Lowe told the outlet. “Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the text of the bill notes.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 222021
 
 February 22, 2021  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Thomas Abercrombie Beirut 1957

 

Biden’s $1.9-Trillion Big Spend Is A Big Bet On MMT (LAT)
Cuomo Nursing Home Scandal May Rise To Federal Level Of Criminal Offense (Fox)
Scalise Requests Data On NY Nursing Home COVID Deaths (SAC)
More New York Politicians Accuse Cuomo Of Threatening Behavior (F.)
Why Do Democrats Pretend Andrew Cuomo Did a Good Job With COVID? (Slate)
Psaki Declines To Say Whether Biden Still Views Cuomo As ‘Gold Standard’ (JTN)
The Battery of American Power Is Running Flat (SCF)
Boeing 777s Grounded Around World After Denver Engine Failure (R.)
Garland Expected To Become Biden’s AG (Hill)
Vitamin D: Doctors Will Further Erode Trust In Experts (Cook)
Canada To Follow Australia, Take On Facebook, Seek Payment For Content (NYP)
Disney Labels ‘The Muppet Show’ As ‘Offensive Content’ (RT)

 

 

It’s Andrew Cuomo day! Why is he still in office? Well, the Dems want the GOP to go after him, so they don’t have to. Biden won’t have anything to do with this hot potato, until and unless he can squeeze political capital out of it. Among lower level Dems, there are too many that Cuomo has collected dirt on – or that are afraid he did.

This may take a while therefore, everyone’s playing a waiting game. And the press drip-drip new stories about Cuomo every day, without condemning him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’ll be the first to deny it.

Biden’s $1.9-Trillion Big Spend Is A Big Bet On MMT (LAT)

As Stephanie Kelton, former chief economist on the Senate Budget Committee, argues in her bestseller “The Deficit Myth,” the country’s real deficits are in healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, education and the climate. But rather than address those things by spending, writes Kelton, the government proceeds in terror of not “balancing the budget,” falsely believing that an unbalanced budget is the source of inflation. “We run around like a six-foot-tall guy who wanders around perpetually hunched over in a house with eight-foot ceilings because someone convinced him that if he tries to stand up tall he’ll suffer a massive head trauma,” she writes. Jason Furman, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama, concurs. “Given low interest rates, the United States actually has even more fiscal room to respond to the crisis today than it did in the financial crisis,” he told me. “We should use that room.”

If the Biden stimulus goes through, and inflation doesn’t skyrocket, the experiment may bear out a new monetary theory. It could be time at last for the nation to stand tall, and unfurl its economy to its full height. Of course, an experiment on such a big scale is unnerving, and Biden is facing substantial criticism for the $1.9-trillion plan. Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist at the IMF, tweeted earlier this month that such a stimulus would not just overheat the economy; it would incinerate it. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers issued a less hyperbolic warning but he brought up the fear: The policy would need to come with an aggressive fiscal policy to keep “inflationary pressures” at bay.

Kelton doesn’t completely disagree. On Twitter, she pointed out that the modern monetary theory she advocates requires Congress to stop talking about budgets and start talking entirely about mitigating inflation, if it comes, by other monetary policy means. You’re going to hear a lot more kvetching about government spending and, geez, $1.9 trillion. But remember, no one pushing Biden’s plan is trying to pave the way for a big, fat inflationary decade, filled with 1970s malaise, austerity measures and agony at the pump. They’re just willing to bet that a nearly $2-trillion stimulus, if the economy is monitored closely enough, will improve infrastructure, education, climate and healthcare, while making employers eager to find workers, which will push up wages and benefits. Which all sounds great. Especially when the checks show up.

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“New York’s willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense—particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation—..”

Cuomo Nursing Home Scandal May Rise To Federal Level Of Criminal Offense (Fox)

Legal experts are warning that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s alleged undercounting of nursing-home deaths amid the COVID-19 pandemic may rise to the level of a criminal offense. Cuomo has found himself at the center of a federal investigation into whether his administration sought to hide the true toll of the pandemic. The New York Post reported earlier this month that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, told lawmakers the administration had withheld the numbers for fear of them being “used against us.” In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John B. Daukas, who served as acting U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, wrote that DeRosa’s reported admissions weren’t “merely negligent, but intentional and perhaps criminal.”


Daukas said numerous federal statutes could apply, noting that Cuomo’s administration is accusing of both making false statements to the federal government and trying to thwart an investigation. “Even if it cannot be proved that the Cuomo administration knowingly provided false information to Justice and the (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), New York’s willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense—particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation—which, after all, is exactly what Ms. DeRosa reportedly said the administration did,” Daukas wrote. And on Saturday, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said DeRosa’s admission to lawmakers – if true – constitutes a potential obstruction of justice charge. Per the federal statute, Jarrett noted, if a government official falsifies or hides evidence to avoid triggering an investigation (or acts out of fear that such a probe may occur) that official is still culpable under the law of obstruction.”

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There’s a shredder working overtime somewhere…

Scalise Requests Data On NY Nursing Home COVID Deaths (SAC)

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) faces increasing criticism over reports that his administration underreported coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and a preliminary federal investigation underway, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) renewed his call Friday for Cuomo to provide all data on such deaths, describing his administration’s alleged conduct as an “apparent obstruction of justice”. Scalise, the ranking member of Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, reiterated his call in a press release emailed Friday afternoon by the House Oversight Republicans. The press release cites the February 11 New York Post exposé reporting that Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, had privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld nursing home death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

On top of that, the release mentioned the report that Cuomo had allegedly threatened a Democratic assemblyman if he didn’t help cover up the nursing home deaths. “This apparent obstruction of justice necessitates an immediate and thorough investigation by Congress especially in light of the recent revelation that you and your Administration engaged in a cover-up aimed at concealing your culpability in New York State’s COVID-19 nursing home crisis,” Scalise wrote. “Recent reporting suggests that your attempts to cover-up the truth and conceal your culpability extend beyond obstruction to threats of retaliation toward anyone who might cross you. This behavior appears to be your modus operandi when anyone attempts to question your ‘leadership.’”

The press release goes on to mention that the subcommittee’s Republicans have repeatedly called for Cuomo to provide information regarding his since-rescinded directive ordering nursing homes and long-term care facilities to admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals. According to the press release, they first asked the governor in June 2020, and subsequent times in July 2020 and last month. [..] In a letter from Scalise to Cuomo attached to the press release, the Louisiana Republican touched on the aforementioned points but also requested transcribed interviews from DeRosa and New York Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker.

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Some are just too pissed off.

More New York Politicians Accuse Cuomo Of Threatening Behavior (F.)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a growing number of allegations he and his subordinates routinely threaten critics, with two New York politicians – a former Democratic congressional candidate and a Republican ex-rival of Cuomo’s – recounting to Forbes their hostile experiences with the governor’s staff. Nate McMurray, a two-time House candidate in Western New York, told Forbes that after criticizing Cuomo for plans to attend a Buffalo Bills game, he received a call from a Cuomo aide on New Years Eve that began “you motherf***er,” before devolving into threats like “you’re done in politics.” McMurray said he took down his tweet after the call because he was “scared” and looking for a job after his run, adding that he’s heard from people in both Cuomo’s staff and the New York legislature about a “pervasive culture of fear that has trickled down from his office.”

“We’ve all been yelled at by someone in that administration,” Marc Molinaro, a Republican county executive in upstate New York who ran against Cuomo in 2018, told Forbes, adding, “It’s unacceptable but how they operate.” Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, tweeted that she was “flooded” with stories from people who said they were “bullied, mistreated, or intimidated” by Cuomo, a statement echoed by former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan, who has previously accused him of harassment. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democratic state senator, told the New Yorker Cuomo once asked her to “tell me again how your grandfather’s career ended,” which she perceived as a threat given that her grandfather, Mario Biaggi, resigned over a corruption scandal – though a Cuomo spokesperson told the New Yorker it was about the “importance of integrity in government.”

Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean tweeted that she was told by someone close to the Cuomo family to “‘Watch my back,’” when she began speaking out against him prolifically over the coronavirus-related deaths of her parents, who were both nursing home residents.

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“..a serially underachieving chief executive playing three-card monte with dead bodies. At this point, Andrew Cuomo could probably shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.”

Why Do Democrats Pretend Andrew Cuomo Did a Good Job With COVID? (Slate)

Most concerningly, Cuomo’s administration admitted this month that it had been excluding nursing home residents who died of COVID but didn’t technically die on the grounds of their facilities from its official count of COVID-related nursing home deaths. Since many such residents died only after being hospitalized, this had the effect of making the state’s nursing home outbreak look thousands of deaths smaller than it actually was. Cuomo’s office appears to have compiled the more comprehensive, accurate data months ago but didn’t release it until the state’s attorney general—who is elected independently of the governor—issued a Jan. 28 report alleging that nursing home deaths had been undercounted.

(It does not look like the discrepancy could have resulted from innocent semantic misunderstandings: A representative of the data team that manages the AARP Public Policy Institute’s Nursing Home COVID-19 dashboard noted to Slate that “CDC guidance for the data we use in our dashboard specifically states that resident deaths are supposed to be counted regardless of the place of death,” while the managing editor of the COVID Tracking Project said its staff is “not currently aware of any other US state or territory that reports deaths associated with nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities in the way that New York did for most of the pandemic.”)

[..] His press conference performances notwithstanding, the facts and evidence show that Cuomo is not someone who cares much about facts and evidence. But his liberal supporters don’t care: A Siena College poll taken after the nursing home scandal broke found that 83 percent of New York Democrats still approve of Cuomo’s handling of COVID, with more than 80 percent also saying specifically that they approve of his work “communicating with the people of New York” and “providing accurate information.”

To hammer home the cognitive dissonance, only 54 percent said he’d done a good job “making public all data about COVID-related deaths of nursing home patients,” which suggests both that 54 percent of New York Democrats are full of it and that a significant portion of the rest of them know Cuomo is full of it but don’t care. To many voters, celebrating the idea of the competent blue-state governor is more important than reckoning with the reality of a serially underachieving chief executive playing three-card monte with dead bodies. At this point, Andrew Cuomo could probably shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

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Hot potato.

Psaki Declines To Say Whether Biden Still Views Cuomo As ‘Gold Standard’ (JTN)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during an interview on ABC’s This Week would not provide a direct answer about whether President Biden still considers New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo the “gold standard” on dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Journalist Jonathan Karl posed the question after playing a clip of Biden last year stating that Cuomo has performed “one hell of a job” and describing the governor as “sorta the gold standard.” Cuomo, who has come under fire for his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, has faced heightened scrutiny since his top aide Melissa DeRosa revealed the administration held back on answering questions from lawmakers due to concerns about a potential Justice Department investigation.


“Well John, we work with Governor Cuomo just like we work with governors across the country,” Psaki said, noting that Cuomo chairs the National Governors Association and has “an important role in ensuring that we’re coordinating closely in getting assistance out to people of his state and to states across the country.” She said that any matter of investigations would be in the hands of “the appropriate law enforcement authorities to determine how that path is going to move as we look forward. ”But we are going to continue to work with a range of governors, including of course Governor Cuomo because we think the people of New York, the people of states across the country need assistance, not just to get through the pandemic, but to get through this difficult economic time.”

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NATO and Pentagon are Siamese twins.

The Battery of American Power Is Running Flat (SCF)

Historically, the United States relies on NATO as a conduit to project its power and influence over Europe. This was its fundamental objective when NATO was first set up in 1949 at the start of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. In recent decades, NATO has assumed an ever-expanding purpose for American imperial power projection, encompassing not just Western Europe but all of Europe right up to Russia’s borders. NATO has become a vehicle for American hegemonic ambitions holding sway over the Balkans, Caucasia, North Africa and the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. For an organization that nominally originated for maintaining security in the North Atlantic, it sounds rather odd indeed to hear its spokesmen talk now about the need for NATO to confront China.

That oddly expanded global mission reflects the real but unspoken fact that NATO is all about serving American global ambitions. Former President Trump was too ignorant or obsessed with money-grubbing financial costs – “we’re being ripped off” he would repeatedly complain with regard to NATO – to realize the strategic bigger picture of what the alliance is really purposed to serve. Under a new man in the White House – an old-time establishment operative – there is seemingly a more consensual approach with allies. Nevertheless, underlying the liberal lexicon there is the same old mantra of hostility towards Russia and China. Lloyd Austin, the Pentagon chief, told European allies this week that there would have to be “more burden sharing” in order to confront the “threats” allegedly posed by Russia and China.

Biden continued the same theme of confronting Russia and China during his G7 and Munich conferences over the weekend. American hegemonic ambitions required to satisfy its corporate capitalism are dependent on a zero-sum geopolitics. The globe must divided into spheres of influence as in the earlier Cold War decades. There must be antagonism to thwart genuine cooperation which is anathema to American capitalism. Indeed, it can be said that the Cold War never actually ended when the Soviet Union dissolved more three decades ago. America’s imperialist ideology continued under new guises of “fighting terrorism”, “democracy promotion and nation building”, or more recently “great power competition” with Russia and China.

The bottom line is that NATO is more important than ever for enabling Washington’s global power ambitions given the demise of American capitalism and the rise of China and Eurasia. NATO provides a crucial political cover for what would otherwise be seen as naked American imperialism.

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Ha ha ha: “Boeing has recommended grounding..”

Yeah, Boeing’s a very responible corporate citizen…

Boeing 777s Grounded Around World After Denver Engine Failure (R.)

Boeing has recommended grounding more than 120 of its 777 jets worldwide following a catastrophic engine failure on a United Airlines plane in Denver. The company said on Sunday night that airlines using the same type of engine that scattered debris across Denver before making an emergency landing should suspend operations until inspections could be carried out. Flight 328 was flying from Denver International Airport to Honolulu with 231 passengers and 10 crew on board on Saturday when one engine failed shortly after take-off. Police in Broomfield, Colorado posted photos of pieces of debris from the plane near houses and other buildings. There were no reports of any injuries on the ground or among the passengers.

United Airlines said it was temporarily grounding all 24 of its Boeing 777s on active duty, and Japan’s aviation regulator swiftly followed suit, ordering Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) to cease flying 777s that use the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines while it considered whether to take additional measures. Japan said ANA operated 19 of that kind and JAL operated 13. The planes are also used by carriers in South Korea. A spokeswoman for South Korea’s transport ministry, speaking before Boeing’s statement, said it was monitoring the situation but had not yet taken any action. Korean Air Lines said it had 12 of the planes, half of them stored, and it would consult with the manufacturer and regulators and stop flying them to Japan for now.

Boeing said in total 69 of the planes were in service and 59 were in storage, at a time when airlines have grounded planes due to a plunge in demand associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The move comes after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency directive late on Sunday that required immediate or stepped-up inspections of planes similar to the one involved in the Denver incident. “We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident,” the FAA said in a statement from its administrator, Steve Dickson . “Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes. “This will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service”.

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What will happen to Durham and the Hunter files?

Garland Expected To Become Biden’s AG (Hill)

Nearly five years after Senate Republicans refused to grant Merrick Garland a hearing to be confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court, the appeals court judge is getting his chance to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, this time as President Biden’s choice to be attorney general. In 2016, former President Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not allow a hearing on the nomination, citing the presidential election eight months later. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the seat on the high court the following year, just more than two months after he was nominated by former President Trump.

Garland is one of the last major Cabinet appointments by Biden, and he is likely to secure confirmation with bipartisan support despite the former Republican blockade on his last nomination. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has said Garland’s experience “makes him well-suited to lead the Department of Justice, and I appreciated his commitment to keep politics out of the Justice Department.” “Unless I hear something new, I expect to support his nomination before the full Senate,” Cornyn added, according to The Associated Press. In opening remarks released Sunday, Garland pledged to address the threat of domestic extremism as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, specifically invoking the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“From 1995 to 1997, I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the federal government,” Garland’s remarks read. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.” Biden has pledged that the Justice Department during his tenure will be free of political influence or interference.

The Justice Department has asked for the resignations of all Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys, a somewhat typical move for incoming administrations. But Biden left in place the U.S. attorney in Delaware in charge of investigating the tax affairs of his son Hunter Biden. He is also allowing U.S. Attorney John Durham to continue in his role as a special prosecutor probing the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, a position appointed by former Attorney General William Barr. [..] Garland currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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Jonnathan Cook picks the wrong angle. Vitamin D given to severely ill people is not the story.

Vitamin D: Doctors Will Further Erode Trust In Experts (Cook)

The role of Vitamin D on our general wellbeing and health has come under increasing scrutiny over the past two decades after it was discovered that it is the only vitamin for which there is a receptor in every cell in our body. Long before Covid, researchers had begun to understand that Vitamin D’s role in regulating our immune systems was chronically under-appreciated by most doctors. The medical profession was stuck in a paradigm from the 1950s in which Vitamin D’s use related chiefly to bone health. As a consequence, today’s recommended daily allowances – usually between 400IU and 800IU – were established long ago in accordance with the minimum needed for healthy bones rather than the maximum needed for a healthy immune system.

Today we know that many people in northern latitudes, especially the elderly, are deficient or severely deficient in Vitamin D, even those taking these low-level supplements. In fact, it would be true to say there is a global plague of Vitamin D deficiency, even in many sunny countries where people have lost the habit of spending time outdoors or shield themselves from the sun. The doctors and researchers who have been gradually piecing together the critically important role of Vitamin D are the medical equivalent of the dissident journalists who try to present a realistic picture of what goes on in Israel-Palestine.

Because Big Pharma can make no serious money from Vitamin D, researchers into the sun hormone have struggled to raise funds for their work and have mostly been denied corporate platforms from which to publicise the stunning findings they have made. Until recently, corporate medicine simply ignored most Vitamin D research, relegating it to the supposedly fringe science of “nutrition”, which is why most doctors know little or nothing about it. With the outbreak of Covid, when these Vitamin D studies should finally have come into their own, researchers found themselves shunted further into the margins. Just as journalists, politicians and human rights groups trying to tell you real things about Israel get labelled antisemites, anyone trying to tell you real things about Vitamin D gets labelled a crank, conspiracy theorist or Covid denier.

The desperate need for Covid treatments has not led to intensified interest in Vitamin D among most doctors, even though it is very cheap, almost completely safe even in large doses, and has been shown to help in damping down immune over-reaction of exactly the kind killing Covid patients. Rather, the opportunity for Big Pharma to develop a magic bullet to treat Covid has led to an intensified campaign to discredit Vitamin D research.

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When you threaten sovereign nations, others will notice.

Canada To Follow Australia, Take On Facebook, Seek Payment For Content (NYP)

Canada is poised to take on Facebook, following the example set by Australia, which began a war with the tech giant when the country’s publishers backed proposed legislation demanding payment for their content. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault condemned Facebook’s actions as “highly irresponsible” last week when the social media giant removed all Australian news content from its sites in retaliation. Guilbeault warned that Canada would be next in making sure Facebook paid for news content from Canadian publishers. Guilbeault is charged with drafting legislation in the next few months that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay up. “Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” Guilbeault told reporters.


Guilbeault said he recently met with government ministers from Australia, Finland, France and Germany to hammer out a common front with respect to Google and Facebook, the Globe and Mail reported.“It was the first ministerial meeting where we jointly started talking about what we want to do together regarding web giants, including fair compensation for media. We believe that there’s real strength in unity on that,” he said, adding that the growing coalition of countries opposed to Facebook and Google could soon reach 15. “I’m a bit curious to see what Facebook’s response will be. Is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France, with Canada, with Australia and other countries that will join? At a certain point, Facebook’s position will be completely untenable.”

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But not for animal cruelty?!

Disney Labels ‘The Muppet Show’ As ‘Offensive Content’ (RT)

Five seasons of ‘The Muppet Show’ appeared on the Disney+ streaming service on Friday night but many viewers were shocked to discover that one of their childhood favorites is now considered “offensive content.” According to a warning from Disney, the show features “stereotypes” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.” “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the roughly 300 billion-dollar corporate giant declared. “Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”


No references are made to what specifically Disney considers to be offensive about the show’s content, though it does depict minorities including Asians and people from the Middle East, as well as featuring a homeless character named “Oscar the grouch” who lives in a trash can. In season five, singer Johnny Cash also performs in front of a confederate flag. “Even the Muppets are now ‘offensive.’ Anyone watching ‘The Muppet Show’ on Disney+ will first see a warning against ‘offensive content.’ It’s time to pack up, seriously,”wrote one baffled Twitter user.

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 February 19, 2021  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  53 Responses »


Ito Shinsui Snowy night 1923

 

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)
Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)
130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)
Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)
FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)
The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)
De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)
Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)
The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)
Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)
The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)
Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)
Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)
Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)
Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

 

 

 

 

Our daily good news segment.

Mutations Made Coronavirus 8 Times More Infectious Than Original (RT)

New research has found that a mutation in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, present in variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, can make the virus up to eight times more infectious than the original. The new research into the D614G mutation on the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, present in all the latest variants currently plaguing healthcare systems the world over, was led by researchers at New York University, the New York Genome Center, and Mount Sinai. “Confirming that the mutation leads to more transmissibility may help explain, in part, why the virus has spread so rapidly over the past year,” said Neville Sanjana, assistant professor of biology at NYU, who added that the mutation has reached “near universal prevalence” among the coronavirus variants spreading across the globe.

The Mount Sinai researchers injected a virus with the D614G mutation into human lung, liver, and colon cells and compared it against cells from the original strain detected in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic. They found a whopping eight-fold increase in transmissibility between the two strains, with the mutated spike protein making the virus more resilient to being split by other proteins in the human immune system, highlighting the importance of continued vaccine research and development to combat this hardier version. “…[O]ur experimental data was pretty unambiguous – the D614G variant infects human cells much more efficiently than the wild type,” said Zharko Daniloski, a postdoctoral fellow in Sanjana’s lab at NYU and the study’s co-first author.

Thankfully, however, the mutation has not yet been linked to more intense progression of Covid-19 leading to more severe forms of the disease or an increase in hospitalization. On the other hand, this does pose another issue: the current generation of vaccines were developed based on the original Wuhan-variant spike protein structure, highlighting the need for booster vaccines or even annual vaccination programs to halt the spread of the coronavirus for good.

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More good news.

Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Make 3x Less Antibodies vs South African Strain (RT)

Vaccines developed by US companies Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are producing fewer antibodies against the coronavirus mutation that has emerged in South Africa, according to studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A lab study jointly conducted by Pfizer/BioNTech and researchers at the University of Texas in Galveston showed that the neutralization of the South African strain “was weaker by approximately two thirds,” but concluded that it was “unclear what effect” that would have on protection the vaccine provided from the disease. This is according to the letter by the researchers published on Wednesday in NEJM, the oldest US medical journal.

Another study conducted by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – whose head, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the Biden administration’s “coronavirus czar” at the moment – showed “reductions by a factor of 2.7” in the titers of neutralizing antibodies against the variant known as the B.1.351 – and by a factor of 6.4 when pitted against the full range of South African mutations. “Protection against the B.1.351 variant conferred by the mRNA-1273 vaccine remains to be determined,” says the letter from the Moderna/NIAID researchers, also published by NEJM on Wednesday. Moderna said it is working on booster shots if needed. Pfizer and BioNTech are also preparing to develop an update or a booster shot if needed, according to a statement cited by Bloomberg.

In a statement released in January, ahead of the study’s review, they said the performance of their vaccine was “slightly lower” against the South African strain when compared to other mutations, but that “small differences in viral neutralization observed in these studies are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine.” South Africa has halted the vaccination with Astra Zeneca’s formula after a study showed it didn’t work as well in preventing Covid-19 caused by the mutant strain. President Cyril Ramaphosa took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday.

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We’re on a roll.

130 Countries Have Not Received A Single Covid Vaccine Dose (G.)

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every country vaccinated as soon as possible. The UN chief told a high-level meeting of the UN security council on Wednesday that 130 countries had not yet received a single dose of vaccine. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” said. Guterres called for an urgent global vaccination plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.

He called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency taskforce to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the taskforce should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”. Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations – the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Canada and Italy – “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”. Thirteen ministers addressed the virtual council meeting organised by Britain on improving access to Covid vaccinations, including in conflict areas.

[..] China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, criticised the growing “immunity divide” and called on the world to “come together to reject ‘vaccine nationalism,’ promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, and, in particular, make them accessible and affordable for developing countries, including those in conflict”. At the WHO’s request, he said, China will contribute 10m doses of vaccines to Covax “preliminarily”. China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan and Palestine, which is a UN observer state. It has also exported vaccines to 22 countries, he said, adding that Beijing has launched research and development cooperation on Covid with more than 10 countries.

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Schools open. No mask mandate. Make of it what you will.

Florida Ranks 11th Lowest In Covid Deaths Per Capita Among Seniors (Blaze)

There’s a reason why the Biden regime is trying to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and create an illusion of a disproportionate viral crisis in the state. With no declared emergency restrictions in place at the state level since last September, the fact that Florida is doing better than the national average completely exposes the lie of lockdown and masks having any effect whatsoever on the fixed natural progression of the virus. Dr. Fauci is suggesting a novel scientific principle – that schools can’t reopen until Congress passes yet another “stimulus” bill. Yet in Florida, schools have been open all year, and the state’s excess deaths for 2020 rank the 16th lowest in the nation, according to a new analysis. What’s more, the Sunshine State, which is regarded as God’s waiting room for seniors, experienced the 11th lowest per capita rate of COVID deaths for seniors in 2020.

A new analysis conducted by RationalGround.com and exclusively obtained by TheBlaze collated CDC excess death data for 49 states (excluding North Carolina, which has incomplete data) and ranked the states from smallest to largest increase in excess deaths from 2019 to 2020. As we have seen in study after study, there is absolutely zero correlation between non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as business and school closures or mask mandates, and a lower rate of excess deaths. According to the CDC’s excess death table, there was a 16.9% national average increase in all-cause mortality in 2020 over 2019.


Given the loose way we count COVID deaths, it will take quite some time to sort out how many of those deaths are due to COVID and how many are due to the panic, anxiety, lockdowns, and missed care, but what is clear is that there is no correlation between the political measures taken by a state and fewer all-cause deaths. Florida, which is the third largest state, has the 16th lowest increase in all-cause deaths, and all of the states that had fewer excess deaths than Florida are much smaller and are mostly states with lower population density. California, on the other hand, ranked No. 40.

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I have no high hopes.

Did CNN just ban one Cuomo from interviewing the other?

FBI, US Attorney In Brooklyn Probing Cuomo Admin On Nursing Homes (TU)

The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn have launched an investigation that is examining, at least in part, the actions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus task force in its handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the pandemic, the Times Union has learned. The probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York is apparently in its early stages and is focusing on the work of some of the senior members of the governor’s task force, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter who is not authorized to comment publicly. Last March, as the virus began spreading in New York, Cuomo issued a news release listing the 13 initial members of his coronavirus task force, which has been headed by Linda Lacewell, an attorney and former chief of staff for Cuomo.

Lacewell is the superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services. Other task force members include state health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Beth Garvey, counsel to the governor. “As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” said Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.” Azzopardi did not disclose whether any members of the administration have been interviewed or if they have been served with any subpoenas. John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, on Wednesday afternoon said he could not “confirm or deny” whether the office has initiated an investigation.

Nearly three weeks after the governor’s task force was announced last year, the state health department issued an order directing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that they must accept residents who were being discharged from hospitals even if they were still testing positive for the infectious disease, as long as they were able to care for them properly. That directive, which was rescinded less than two months later, has been the focus of a firestorm of criticism directed at Cuomo’s administration, including allegations that the order — which the governor said was based on federal guidance — had contributed to the high number of fatalities of nursing home residents in New York. That assertion was largely dismissed in a report by the Department of Health that was released in July.

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“Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario..”

The Myth of Andrew Cuomo the Competent, Steady Statesman (Jac.)

Even if Cuomo never sinks low enough to lose reelection next year — given his enormous war chest and New York’s horrific campaign finance laws, it’s still an unlikely scenario — he will never again be the governor feted by Ellen and celebrated by self-described “Cuomosexuals.” He’s not getting another Emmy. His moment is over. What happened? In some sense, this has been slow-building. For months, more and more people have been waking up to the fact that the popular, media-created conception of Cuomo was nonsensical. More than 45,000 people have died of COVID-19 in New York State, the second highest absolute death toll in America, just trailing California. (California is more than twice as large, so New York maintains a far higher rate of death.)

Cuomo, like Trump, downplayed the pandemic in its earliest days and issued a shutdown order for New York far too late, defying the opinions of experts and other elected officials. It was the nursing home issue, however, and the subsequently botched vaccine rollout that began to trigger a much-deserved reevaluation of his legacy, which is one of arrogance, secrecy, and failure. Last March, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients who had been discharged from hospitals instead of directing them to large temporary facilities that had a surplus of beds. This decision likely contributed to outbreaks in nursing homes, which the state oversees.

Unlike most other states in America, if not all of them, Cuomo’s New York decided to keep a highly skewed count of nursing home deaths, only tallying those who died while physically in facilities. If you were a nursing home resident who got infected in a home, became sick there, and were transferred to a hospital dying, you were not a part of the official Department of Health tally. Confirming the suspicions of health care experts and many journalists, the state attorney general revealed in a January report that the Department of Health had undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. Shortly after, Cuomo was forced to revise the tally far higher, increasing it by more than 60 percent.

Last week, it was revealed that the Cuomo administration had purposefully withheld nursing home data from lawmakers for months out of fear the Department of Justice, under Donald Trump, would investigate. Several legislators have contemplated calling for Cuomo’s impeachment. In a rage, Cuomo called up a leftist assembly member from Queens, Ron Kim, and threatened to “destroy” his career. This is just the news that has grabbed the most headlines. Cuomo is a Clintonian Democrat with a lust for austerity, and he has been quietly slashing and burning New York’s social safety net since the pandemic arrived last year. The City University of New York, which educates a largely working-class and nonwhite student body, has faced severe budget cuts, as have local public schools and social services.

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The more I read about Cuomo, the more he resembles a character in a Scorsese movie.

De Blasio Says Threatening Phone Call To Lawmaker Is ‘Classic Andrew Cuomo’ (F.)

Compounding a month of bad press for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning that he believes the state lawmakers who claimed Cuomo threatened to “destroy” his career after he publicly criticized his administration’s handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes. De Blasio—who has had a publicly contentious relationship with the governor since the start of the coronavirus pandemic—painted Cuomo as a bully during a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The mayor said he believes New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim’s account of the phone call because “a lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls.”

“It’s a sad thing to say … but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo,” said de Blasio, explaining he’s heard complaints like Kim’s “many, many times.” Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes, though the governor’s Senior Advisor Richard Azzopardi released a statement accusing Kim of “lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo.” “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup,’” said Azzopardi, describing a “long, hostile” relationship between the two men. The comments come a day after revelations that Cuomo’s handling of nursing home death data is now under federal investigation.

“The bullying is nothing new,” said de Blasio. “I believe Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who is telling the truth should be treated that way. But, the threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment … Many, many times I’ve heard that.” Kim said he received an angry phone call from the governor last week after he publicly accused Cuomo of obstructing justice by withholding data on nursing home deaths. According to Kim, Cuomo threatened that he could “destroy” him if he did not help “cover up” comments made by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who stirred controversy earlier this month by suggesting the state had purposefully delayed releasing the full Covid-19 death toll in long-term care facilities because of concerns about a potential federal investigation.

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Something tells me you should go talk to the old time engineers who’ve worked on the grid all their lives. That’s where the stories are, not in politics.

Texas Was “Seconds And Minutes” From Complete Disaster (ZH)

As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, demand was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather. “It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.” With energy prices exploding to record highs, and with demand soaring, grid operators had to “act quickly” to cut the amount of power distributed, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis. In other words, the millions of households left without power – in some cases for days – were sacrificing for the greater good. So by manually shutting down entire parts of the grid, ERCOT avoided the worst case scenario: one where demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.

If the grid had gone totally offline, the physical damage to power infrastructure from overwhelming the grid would take months to repair, said Bernadette Johnson, senior vice president of power and renewables at Enverus, an oil and gas software and information company headquartered in Austin. “As chaotic as it was, the whole grid could’ve been in blackout,” she said. “ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators.” If that had occurred, even as power generators recovered from the cold, ERCOT would have been unable to quickly reconnect them back to the grid, Johnson said.

And since nobody can disprove a negative, one just has to take them at their word that dozens of people died so that millions more could live… or something. Grid operators would have needed to slowly and carefully bring generators and customers back online, all the while taking care to not to cause more damage to the grid. It’s a delicate process, Johnson explained, because each part of the puzzle — the generators producing power, the transmission lines that move the power and the customers that use it — must be carefully managed. “It has to balance constantly,” she said. “Once a grid goes down, it’s hard to bring it back online. If you bring on too many customers, then you have another outage.”

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A disaster long in the making.

The Failure Of The Texas Power Grid Is Worse Than You Think (Fed.)

[..] Yes, some coal plants closed because of freezing temperatures and some natural gas pipelines froze. But as Jason Isaac of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains in our pages today, the main problem with the Texas power grid isn’t that renewables failed or that fossil fuels failed. It’s that the grid itself has been made unstable by state and federal subsidies that distort the energy market and prevent the buildup of reliable power generation. Subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels have been around for a long time in Texas, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. For as much as Texas has a reputation as a deep-red oil and gas state, it was under Republican Gov. Rick Perry that billions were spent on wind turbines and transmission lines in West Texas, spurred on by massive tax credits for wind producers.

The same thing happened at the federal level when George W. Bush was governor of the state. In the months to come, there will be lengthy and bitter debates about who was responsible for this fiasco. The obvious partisan arguments are already out in the open. If any actual reforms come out of these debates, they will have to begin with an acknowledgment that the way things have been done for decades in Texas has not worked. That much, at least, is now painfully undeniable. For example, goosing the wind and solar industries with billions in tax credits in a state that produces almost a third of America’s fossil fuel energy was perhaps unwise and imprudent.

In hindsight, it looks like cronyism. So do the subsidies for fossil fuels, even if they are not as extravagant as subsidies for renewables. Maybe all of that was a bad idea from the beginning, and maybe it’s time to cut it out. Hardship like what Texas is going through right now can bring clarity. And in the teeth of this winter storm, the entire energy industry, with its high-powered lobbyists and its billions in taxpayer subsidies, is beginning to look like every other elite institution in America: a corrupt and parasitic enterprise whose failures come at the expense of ordinary Americans—in this case, people who are now trying to stay alive in their own homes.

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“Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity..”

Beleaguered Texas Hospitals With No Water Evacuate Patients (Fox4)

After a deadly blast of winter weather overwhelmed the electrical grid and left millions of Texans without power, hospitals in the state are also facing the additional stress of water shortages, crowded emergency rooms and even being forced to evacuate patients. Record-low temperatures damaged infrastructure and pipes, seriously jeopardizing drinking water systems in the Lone Star state. Authorities in Texas ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it. Some hospitals, already contending with COVID-19 patients and vaccine distribution, were also impacted by the winter storm’s havoc on state power grids and utilities. In Austin, hospitals dealt with a loss in water pressure and heat.

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said Wednesday night that it had lost water pressure from the City of Austin. Since water feeds the facility’s boiler, the hospital was also losing heat. Hospital officials were working to evacuate some patients to other area facilities and said they were distributing bottles and jugs of water to patients and employees. Officials added that they were working with the city to secure portable toilets. “Because this is a statewide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients,” said David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

In southwest Austin, officials with Ascension Seton Southwest Hospital said they too were facing intermittent issues with water pressure, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The hospital was rescheduling elective surgeries to preserve bed capacity and personnel as a result. At Houston Methodist, two of its community hospitals did not have running water but still treated patients, with most non-emergency surgeries and procedures canceled for Thursday and possibly Friday, spokeswoman Gale Smith told the Associated Press. Emergency rooms were crowded “due to patients being unable to meet their medical needs at home without electricity,” Smith said. She added that pipes had burst in Methodist’s hospitals but were being repaired as they happened.

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“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Slippery Slope from Censoring ‘Disinformation’ to Silencing Truth (RI)

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” – George Orwell. This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it. In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties. Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers. This is how it starts. Martin Niemöller’s warning about the widening net that ensnares us all still applies.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” In our case, however, it started with the censors who went after extremists spouting so-called “hate speech,” and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shamed for being perceived as politically incorrect.

Then the internet censors got involved and went after extremists spouting “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden, and few spoke out—because they were not extremists and didn’t want to be shunned for appearing to disagree with the majority. By the time the techno-censors went after extremists spouting “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Still, few spoke out. Eventually, “we the people” will be the ones in the crosshairs.At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other. When that time comes, there may be no one left to speak out or speak up in our defense.

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The MSM will be pushing this for all they’re worth.

Trump’s Former Fixer Cohen Interviewed By Manhattan DA’s Office (R.)

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a newly hired high-profile litigator interviewed Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Thursday, as part of a criminal probe of the former president’s business dealings, said two people familiar with the investigation. The interview came after Mark Pomerantz, who has extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases, joined District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s team investigating the Trump family business. Pomerantz started on Feb. 2 as special assistant district attorney, said Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance. Pomerantz’s hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance’s investigation, including the issuance in recent days of roughly a dozen new subpoenas, according to the sources.

One of those went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president’s commercial real estate holdings, the sources said. Vance’s office has also conducted interviews with Ladder’s staff, one source familiar with the matter said. The district attorney’s office has said little publicly about the probe, but noted in court filings that it was focused on “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization, including alleged falsification of records, and insurance and tax fraud. It is the only known criminal inquiry into Trump’s business practices.

Separately, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is leading a civil probe into whether Trump’s company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits. Ladder issued the loans on several of Trump’s big commercial holdings, including a $160 million mortgage on the Trump Building, a skyscraper in Manhattan’s financial district.

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He knew this a long time ago. But dangling the sausage gets votes.

Biden Privately Tells Governors: Minimum Wage Hike Likely Isn’t Happening (Pol.)

When Joe Biden met with a group of mayors and governors last week he bluntly told them to get ready for a legislative defeat: his proposed minimum wage hike was unlikely to happen, he said, at least in the near term. “I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told the group, according to a person in the room. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.” The comments, which were confirmed by two other people familiar with the conversation, were the furthest Biden has gone in conceding the coming axing of the $15-an-hour minimum wage provision from his first major legislative package.


And they suggest that the president is more inclined to manage the fallout of it not being included than to pursue long-shot, political-capital consuming efforts to fight for its insertion. Sitting in the Oval Office with Republican and Democratic elected officials last Friday to advocate for his $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, he didn’t hide his skepticism. “Doesn’t look like we can do it,” he said of the minimum wage hike. For weeks now, the White House has been trying to manage expectations on the feasibility of advancing a $15-an-hour minimum wage provision through a broader “rescue” package. Biden first suggested it might not make it into the final Covid relief bill in an interview with CBS prior to the Super Bowl, noting his belief that the Senate parliamentarian would determine it did not jibe with budgetary rules that allow a bill to pass with just 51 votes in the Senate.

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I still wonder what the legal status is of requiring people be vaccinated with a vaccine whose producer says it doesn’t prevent the spread of the virus. And then on the basis of that, allowing them into your country without testing etc., where they can spread the virus.

If you would let people fly in to an island, and they would stay there, that’s one thing. You could monitor them, trace them. But Greek tourism is based on people traveling a lot, island-hopping etc.

Greece in Talks with the UK to Create Tourism Corridor (GR)

Soon, vaccinated British citizens may be able to travel to Greece without any restrictions whatsoever, according to Greek Minister of Tourism Haris Theoharis. Greece has entered into preliminary discussions with the UK regarding tourism, Theoharis stated, and may allow vaccinated travelers from the UK into the country this summer without being tested for the coronavirus first. Inoculated tourists may also be able to avoid Greece’s mandatory seven-day quarantine once they arrive in the country. Those who have been vaccinated and hope to enter Greece may have to present a vaccine certificate, or vaccine passport, in order to skip the strict anti-virus measures currently in place in the country.

Currently, all those entering Greece must present a negative PCR test for the coronavirus, within 72 hours of their flight, before entry is allowed. In addition to the PCR test, visitors from the UK must also now take a rapid test upon arrival to Greece. Employing nearly one in five Greeks, tourism is one of the most important sectors of the country’s economy. Greece welcomes around 4 million visitors from the UK each year. The Mediterranean country hopes that opening up a tourist corridor with the UK for the summer will bring a much-needed boost to Greece’s economy, which has suffered a great deal due to travel restrictions and strict anti-virus measures. Greek tourism took a giant plunge in the third quarter of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

In total, in the first nine months of last year, the accommodation sector had revenues of only 1.89 billion euros, when last year in the corresponding period revenues were 6.15 billion euros — representing a staggering loss of 4.26 billion euros. When discussing the outlook for Greece’s tourism sector in the summer of 2021, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated to Reuters: “I am a realist, but I am also cautiously optimistic that we will do much better than last year.” The potential deal with the UK may well add to Mitsotakis’ optimism for a successful tourist season this year. The country has already struck a deal with Israel, which will allow vaccinated travelers from the Mediterranean country to enter Greece without coronavirus restrictions.

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Saved this for last because I would like some comments. Did anyone ever state vit. D was a cure for Covid? We sure did not. This epidemiologist appears to take studies on giving people already in hospital large doses of vit. D, to claim it’s useless. This is exactly how HCQ was discredited. But do chime in.

Why Vitamin D Probably Still Can’t Cure Covid-19 (Gideon)

There are many scientific questions that have come up during the pandemic. We’ve investigated the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, looked into school closures, and even checked to see whether spectacles could protect you from getting Covid-19 (the jury is still out on that one). But perhaps the most consistent question that has been asked, over and over again, is whether vitamin D supplements can treat coronavirus effectively. The allure is understandable — vitamin D is cheap, relatively safe, and there’s some evidence that it can help with the common cold, which is often caused by coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. If it worked, it could make an enormous difference in the lives of people with Covid-19 and at a very low cost.

Sadly, this has inspired endless shoddy studies that have meant that the question of whether vitamin D works for Covid-19 wasn’t answered very well (or at all) the last time I wrote about it in October 2020. This makes the recent headlines all the more understandable. A study was put up on SSRN — a preprint server run by The Lancet — a few weeks ago that purported to show a 60% decrease in mortality for people with Covid-19 who were given calcifediol (a metabolite of vitamin D) compared to a control group given treatment as usual. With such impressive-sounding results, the study soon went viral on Twitter and has been reported in news outlets around the world. If supplements really could prevent 60% of Covid-19 deaths, it would be a research finding that could literally change the course of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, as with most of the previous research, the evidence is much shakier than you might expect given the glowing headlines. Even more than a year into all of this, we still don’t really know if vitamin D does anything for Covid-19 at all.

Read more …

 

 

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#Perseverance has captured the first images of life on Mars.

 

 

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Feb 142021
 
 February 14, 2021  Posted by at 3:05 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Jean-Michel Basquiat Warrior 1982

 

 

As the second Trump impeachment circus has come to an end, which it seems to have done last night, we have to try and map what lies ahead, not just in politics, but also in the media. Which for the past 5 years have run almost exclusively on banging the Trump drum. This is not true only for the MSM, it also includes other media, including the Automatic Earth.

What are we all going to report on going forward? Trump has been acting like a kind of black hole in “news”, sucking up all the light and matter that came close to him. We ourselves didn’t get close enough to be annihilated by the black hole, like CNN and New York Times did, but its gravity pull did shape -and distort- our universe as well.

Last week I ran a graph depicting US cable TV viewer numbers, and said: “Here’s what will determine US politics in the next 4 years. Lack of clickbait. War would be good for ratings.” The graph is devastating for CNN, which lost over 40% of viewers in just one week, before and after the Biden inauguration. The network that is most anti-Trump got hammered once he was gone. The irony is palpable. It was also entirely predictable.

 

 

What will CNN and NYT and WaPo turn to now? Not Joe Biden, that’s for sure. No energy there, hence no news. Or rather, no clickbait. Of course over the past few days they were fully focused on the second impeachment, but that was the worst dud ever, sucking blood out of a stone. Did anyone ever have the idea that the Dems even tried to win this?

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley wrote well before the acquittal vote that he thought they were “tanking” it, an American football term for losing on purpose:

 

Did The Democrats “Tank” The Second Trump Trial?

In the last impeachment, I criticized the House leadership for impeaching Trump on the thinnest record in the shortest time in history. It then outdid itself by impeaching him a second time with no record and no hearing. Even a day of hearings would have reduced the serious prudential concerns of senators, but the House pushed through a snap impeachment on a muscle vote. That left the House with no record despite being denied witnesses in the prior impeachment by the Senate

The greatest indication of tanking was the language of the article itself. Even a single day of hearings would have allowed experts to discuss the potential impeachable conduct and the crafting of articles of impeachment. There was credible impeachable offenses in Trump’s conduct on January 6th and its aftermath. Instead, the House leadership insisted on impeachment for “incitement of insurrection.” The House is not alleging reckless or negligent conduct leading to a riot. It is alleging incitement to actually seek rebellion or overthrow of the country.

The article specifically refers to section 3 of the 14th Amendment in its prohibition of anyone holding office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States. Even moderate senators who condemned Trump for his speech would be highly unlikely to convict on such an article. The House made it easy on those seeking acquittal. It could have crafted an article that would appeal to broader bipartisan support. Instead, it sought the most extreme language alleging incitement to an actual insurrection — virtually guaranteeing a partisan vote and likely acquittal.

 

And then yesterday what seemed to happen was that Nancy Pelosi, as soon as she understood she would be called as a witness if any were allowed, fumbled the ball and would not allow any witnesses. Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen turned on the MSM media for their coverage of the trial, but only after his home was vandalized and he received 100 death threats. Shame he wasn’t wearing a Viking helmet.

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1360815669294596096

 

But okay, for now it’s over. Trump has made some noise about ‘this is only the beginning’, exactly what the MSM have wet dreams about, but for the near future, it’ll be Biden all the way. Sure, they will try and pin Ol’ Joe’s mishaps on Trump, but at some point they must blame his errors on him. The end of a perfectly beautiful friendship. Joe is Kryptonite for the MSM.

How many Americans have died of COVID-related issues since Inauguration Day? Oh, but that’s all Trump’s fault. OK, so how many will die from today on? Also Trump’s fault? Till when does that last? Question: why did Biden keep Dr. Fauci in his job after so many people died? Because he was heroically battling Trump? Nothing was Fauci’s fault?

That leads me to another topic that, like Trump, we have written so much about that I sometimes don’t see what more there is to say. Well, perhaps other than: why doesn’t your government do everything in its power to keep its citizens from dying, and instead only locks them down and puts facemasks on their weakened immune systems? (This is not only true for the US, of course).

They can boost those immune systems, it’s very easy even, and they know about it. So why does it continue to (not) happen? And when will the MSM finally find out about it and start reporting on it?

In a Twitter thread, British MP David Davis points to a recent study linked to the Lancet named Calcifediol Treatment and COVID-19-Related Outcomes , and says:

This is a very important study on vitamin D and Covid-19. Its findings are incredibly clear. An 80% reduction in need for ICU and a 60% reduction in deaths, simply by giving a very cheap and very safe therapy – calcifediol, or activated vitamin D. The findings of this large and well conducted study should result in this therapy being administered to every Covid patient in every hospital in the temperate latitudes.


Furthermore, since the study demonstrates that the clear relationship between vitamin D and Covid mortality is causal, the UK government should increase the dose and availability of free vitamin D to all the vulnerable groups. These approaches will save many thousands of lives. They are overdue and should be started immediately.

Calcifediol is what your body turns vit. D into, and the study doesn’t appear to mention that adequate vit. D levels reduce risk of infection by some 50% to begin with. If an MP knows this, and talks about it, can the rest of government plead ignorance?

Then, there are 38 published trials for ivermectin as a COVID treatment. Are these being ignored by the west because they took place in countries such as Israel, Peru, Mexico, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Argentina, Iran? What say you, Fauci? What say your friends in the industry?

 

 

And of course just a few days ago we had our own resident MD, John Day, explaining how to Treat Your Own COVID. So the information is out there, even if Fauci and/or the MSM won’t give it to you. And it’s information that may well save your lives, or those of people close to you.

Anyway, the premise of this article was what the MSM are going to do now that their Golden Trump Goose can no longer deliver the desired clickbait. Will they be desperate enough to tell people how to save their own lives? I must say, I don’t really see that happening. It appears much more likely that they start banging war drums, their tried and tested MO.

Thing is, can you really send troops to far away deserts while your own health care systems are imploding? And before you give people the $2,000 $1,400 $600 checks that some pundits claim will allow them to pay all their bills until July? I’d almost wish you would try, but I don’t actually want more people to die.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the MSM soon being back to where they were before Trump entered stage right: on the verge of bankruptcy. But I’m not a betting man, and I’m not always right. Still, if I were Trump I’d lay low for a while and let them draw their terminal breaths. But I’m not Trump either.

 

 

 

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Feb 102021
 


Claude Monet Houses of Parliament (Sun Breaking through the Fog) 1904

 

Nation To Celebrate 1st Anniversary Of Two Weeks To Flatten The Curve (BBee)
Mindless Lockdowns Destroy Lives — And Our Constitution (NYP)
Doctors Link Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines to Life-Threatening Blood Disorder (CHD)
Biden Team Fears No COVID Herd Immunity Until Thanksgiving (DB)
Trump Hid His Calls With Putin. Now, Biden Has Access To Them. (Pol.)
With Biden in Charge, Media Forgets Kids in Cages (MPN)
Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Lives On Under Biden’s Command (ZH)
Trump Plans A Reemergence And Some Retribution After Impeachment (Pol.)
Trump Reportedly Shocked, Enraged By Bruce Castor’s Performance (F.)
Births In China Plummeted 15% In 2020 (ZH)
Mark Cuban’s Mavericks Won’t Play National Anthem Anymore (NYP)
Biden Continues Push For Assange’s Extradition Ahead of US Appeal Deadline (RT)

 

 

“I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others–poor young clerks who loitered in front of the windows until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner–young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seems like a good time to open with Babylon Bee.

Nation To Celebrate 1st Anniversary Of Two Weeks To Flatten The Curve (BBee)

The nation is preparing to celebrate what is expected to become a beloved annual holiday: Two Weeks To Slow The Spread Day, to be held in March every year. “This time of year we like to come together to remember the historic day one year ago when we put on masks and locked ourselves down, trusting that the lockdown would be over in just two weeks,” said local man Paul Christof as he stared out his window longingly, his three masks securely in place. “This year, I’m going all out with a Zoom party with no more than five of my closest friends — I mean, closest, figuratively speaking, of course. We’ll be literally far apart, because I want to stay home and stay safe, and I don’t want grandma to die.”


Traditional festivities for the newly christened American holiday include remote Amazon gift exchanges, ordering DoorDash feasts for just yourself, and the customary binging of the Netflix. Historians believe the holiday will become a hit, and people will continue to wear masks and stay home throughout the year as the festive day is celebrated for hundreds of years to come.

Read more …

“The Constitution, Justice Robert Jackson famously wrote, “is not a suicide pact.”

Mindless Lockdowns Destroy Lives — And Our Constitution (NYP)

The US Supreme Court on Friday made clear to Team Biden and state governors that the fight against the pandemic doesn’t give them a blank check against individual liberties. In South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, the high court struck down a California emergency regulation that prohibited all indoor religious services. Six justices held that Gov. Gavin Newsom had violated the First Amendment by subjecting religious groups to a complete ban, even while groceries, public transit and retail shops remain open. Americans accepted a broad — but temporary — lockdown of society to slow the pandemic a year ago. Yet many still live under unprecedented restrictions: business and school closures, travel bans, curfews, quarantines, limits on groups and mask mandates.

Whatever the health benefits of these diktats (and many are questionable), they have been handed down with shocking disregard for the costs: strokes uncared for, cancers left undetected, psychological anguish (especially among young adults), skyrocketing domestic abuse and harm to children from lack of in-person schooling. Unemployment from lockdowns, meanwhile, will cause 890,000 additional US deaths over the next 15 years, according to a recent study. Lockdowns also inflict great harm upon liberty. Governments overrode the rights to meet, work, speak, worship or organize. Bureaucracies decided which businesses could open and which should die.

Our legal system understandably defers to the executive branch during an emergency, when swift action can save lives. The Constitution, Justice Robert Jackson famously wrote, “is not a suicide pact.” Emergency policies may prove imperfect, but our legal and political systems accept more mistakes during emergencies or war, because the costs of inaction are far higher. Still, our system doesn’t permit permanent dictatorial powers in the face of contrary data. In California, for example, the governor can unilaterally exercise any and all authority vested in the state, such as to impose quarantines and curfews, ration goods and services and regulate or even prohibit any economic and social activity.

Read more …

mRNA and auto-immune.

Doctors Link Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines to Life-Threatening Blood Disorder (CHD)

For the second time in under a month, The New York Times has published an article about people who developed a rare autoimmune disease after receiving COVID vaccines. Monday’s article featured two women, both of whom were described as healthy before they received the Moderna vaccine. The women, ages 72 and 48, are now being treated for immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), a condition that develops when the immune system attacks platelets (blood component essential for clotting) or the cells that create them, according to the Times. On Jan. 13, the Times reported on the death of Dr. Gregory Michael, a Florida doctor who died 15 days after getting the Pfizer vaccine. Michael, who was 56 and described as “perfectly healthy” by his wife, developed ITP three days after being vaccinated.

He died of a brain hemorrhage on Jan. 3. As The Defender reported on Jan. 13, Dr. Jerry L. Spivak, an expert on blood disorders at Johns Hopkins University, said it was a “medical certainty” the Pfizer vaccine led to Michael’s death. Spivak, who was interviewed for Monday’s article in the Times, reiterated the link between the vaccine and ITP. Another doctor, Dr. James Bussel, a hematologist and professor emeritus at Weill Cornell Medicine who has written more than 300 scientific articles on the platelet disorder, also said he thinks there is a “possible” association between the vaccines and ITP. Bussel told the Times: “I’m assuming there’s something that made the people who developed thrombocytopenia susceptible, given what a tiny percentage of recipients they are. Having it happen after a vaccine is well-known and has been seen with many other vaccines. Why it happens, we don’t know.”

Bussel and a colleague, Dr. Eun-Ju Lee, have identified 15 cases of ITP in COVID vaccine recipients by searching the government’s database — the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) — or by consulting with other physicians treating patients, and have submitted an article about their findings to a medical journal, according to the Times. In a statement provided to the Times, Pfizer said it was aware of ITP cases in vaccine recipients and that the company is “collecting relevant information” to share with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine maker added, however that “at this time, we have not been able to establish a causal association with our vaccine.” Moderna also provided a statement, but didn’t address cases of ITP, only saying that it “continuously monitors the safety of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine using all sources of data” and routinely shares safety information with regulators.

Read more …

Blind.

Biden Team Fears No COVID Herd Immunity Until Thanksgiving (DB)

Top members of President Joe Biden’s COVID response team are warning internally that the U.S. may not reach herd immunity until Thanksgiving or even the start of winter—months later than originally calculated—according to two senior administration officials. In an interview with CBS News this week, Biden hinted at some of these concerns, saying it would be “very difficult” to reach herd immunity—a population-wide resistance to the virus—“much before the end of the summer” with the current daily rate of approximately 1.3 million vaccine doses. Other top officials working on the federal government’s COVID-19 response say the are uneasy about vaccine supply long term and the impact on herd immunity, and have begun to explore ways to expand U.S. manufacturing capacity, potentially through new partnerships with outside pharmaceutical firms.


Beyond supply issues, though, top health officials say they are increasingly worried about the United Kingdom and South African COVID-19 variants, the likelihood that more variants will emerge in the coming months, and the possibility that those variants will evade the vaccines. There is some evidence to suggest that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protect against the B117 United Kingdom variant, though a recent study shows a new mutation could make the vaccines less effective. Data gathered by the Novavax and Johnson and Johnson clinical trials in South Africa suggest their vaccines are less effective against the variant spreading rapidly in the country. And South Africa recently said it was halting the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because evidence from clinical trials suggested the vaccine did not work well against the variant.

Tucker: Big Tech attempting to censor COVID-19 vaccine dissent

Read more …

RussiaRussia is alive and kicking.

Trump Hid His Calls With Putin. Now, Biden Has Access To Them. (Pol.)

Few Trump-era mysteries are as intriguing as what the 45th president said to Vladimir Putin in at least a dozen rambling, off-the-cuff calls and meetings over four years. Understanding what was said between the two could help illuminate whether Trump ever revealed sensitive information or struck any deals with the Kremlin leader that could take the new administration by surprise. Now that President Joe Biden is in the White House, he can see for himself. “They don’t need our approval to see those [records],” a former Trump White House official said, referring to the new Biden national security team. “Biden owns all the call materials. There is only one president at a time.” The Biden White House did not comment on whether it had seen the content of the calls.

But so far, at least, the National Security Council has not registered any complaints with their ability to access relevant call records from the previous administration. “It is a national security priority to find out what Trump said to Putin” over his four years in office, said one former national security official who is close to the new president. “Some things, like what happened in some face-to-face meetings where no American translator or note-taker was present, may never be fully known. But I would be very surprised if the new national security team were not trying to access” the call records. Trump closely guarded his private conversations with foreign leaders while in office, going as far as to have some hidden in the NSC’s top-secret codeword system to limit staffers’ and even cabinet members’ access and prevent leaks.

Readouts of their calls would often come from the Kremlin first, or through Trump’s Twitter feed. But while the calls were not recorded, aides were typically still on the line and taking notes of what was said. The resulting loose transcripts are known as “memcons,” or memorandums of conversation. Trump went to particularly great lengths to keep his in-person conversations with the Russian leader private, from confiscating his interpreter’s notes to forgoing American translators and notetakers altogether in their meetings. That desire for secrecy has extended even past his time in office. One former Trump official argued last week that records of Trump’s conversations with Putin, which often lasted an hour or more, should not be made available to his successor. “There are certain things a president and his immediate staff should be able to hold privileged to do the work of government, without being subject to constant partisan gamesmanship,” said a second former Trump White House official.

Read more …

Just give it a new name and you’re squeaky clean.

With Biden in Charge, Media Forgets Kids in Cages (MPN)

The Biden administration is opening a new child prison along the United States-Mexico border. The center, located in Carrizo Springs, around 100 miles southwest of San Antonio, is being specifically built for unaccompanied migrant children attempting to cross the border and will hold around 700 people when finished, although plans noted it will be expanded if the government deems it necessary. But corporate media do not see it that way. While the Trump years were filled with stories about “kids in cages” and ICE “concentration camps” along the border, they have instead almost universally referred to the new project as an “overflow facility” to help migrant children, as the following headlines demonstrate:

“Biden administration prepares to open overflow facility for migrant children,” CNN, “Biden administration to open overflow facility for 700 migrant children,” New York Post, “Biden administration to house migrant teens at overflow facility in Texas closed under Trump,” USA Today, “Biden Admin. to Open Migrant Overflow Facility amid Increase in Unaccompanied Minor Apprehensions,” Yahoo! News, “Biden administration prepares to open overflow facility for migrant children,” CBS. “Overflow facility” is a distinctly pleasantly sounding term for such an establishment, suggesting links to positively-charged services like swimming pools or libraries. The phrase is a completely new way to refer to prisons; a news search for “overflow facility” pre-January 2021 brings up only stories about COVID overflow clinics or emergency sewage treatment works.

The phrase “concentration camp” to describe the structure was completely absent. Searching for “Biden concentration camp” into news databases is more likely to generate stories about the plight of Uyghurs in Western China rather than domestic affairs. Perhaps the worst offender, however, was Fox News, whose headline informed readers: “Biden administration to open overflow shelter for migrant children in Texas” — a framing that invites the audience to see the move as a humanitarian gesture, along the lines of rape crisis shelters. None of the children who will be sent there will go of their own free will and it is doubtful whether many will appreciate the “shelter” that the U.S. government will provide them.

[..] Over much of the past three years, corporate media have been comparing the detention centers on the border to concentration camps, if not directly labeling them as such (e.g. CNN, Esquire, Washington Post). Data from Google Trends shows that phrases like “ICE concentration camp” were barely used until 2018, the term exploding into public consciousness a year later, especially after prominent Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez began using it. President Biden has promised to rein in many of the worst excesses of ICE policy, yet the organization’s role in society will not fundamentally change. Indeed, during the time he was vice-president (2009-2017), President Obama deported well over 2.5 million people through immigration orders, more than any other president in American history, earning him the moniker “Deporter-in-Chief” from critics.

Read more …

Iran, Russia, China. Axis of ….

Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Lives On Under Biden’s Command (ZH)

Tehran is continuing to reinforce its positions and pursue its interests. This is prompted by the fact that US President Joe Biden’s vow to rejoin the Nuclear Deal turned out to be entirely hollow. Iran demanded that the sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration be removed, otherwise rejoining the deal meant nothing. On February 8th, Biden confirmed that sanctions on Iran wouldn’t be lifted, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying that such a “big policy change” wasn’t planned. To show some “reduction in pressure”, the USS Nimitz carrier strike group was pulled out of the region, in a signal that an escalation with Iran isn’t planned. That happened as Tehran, Moscow and Beijing announced they would hold joint naval drills.


In response, US Central Command’s Gen Kenneth McKenzie said that Iran was the “Main Driver of Instability”, in his first public address since Biden became president. McKenzie repeated a usual a US accusation against Tehran, claiming that for more than forty years it “has funded and aggressively supported terrorism and terrorist organizations.” The “maximum pressure” campaign is simply “on hold”, but is not canceled. [..] US and allied interests are being pressured all around the Middle East, as the Biden administration refuses to turn its back on any of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policies. The withdrawal of the USS Nimitz CSG is a likely a welcome sign, but the sanction regime remaining, surely, spoils the party.

Read more …

Politico keeps the threat of Trump alive.

Trump Plans A Reemergence And Some Retribution After Impeachment (Pol.)

Three weeks ago may have been the nadir of Donald Trump’s political influence. A meager crowd of supporters gathered to send him off to Florida, he’d lost access to Twitter and the Senate’s most powerful Republican, Mitch McConnell, seemed fully prepared to ghost him out of the party. Now, heading into what could have been an historic bipartisan rebuke, the former president and his team are confident both of his acquittal and that he’ll come out of the trial with his influence over the Republican party all but cemented. Not even Trump’s closest allies can believe the turn in fortunes. “He’s Teflon, right. It’s been a month since the Capitol riot and I would say, for the most part, the GOP has coalesced back behind him,” said a former Trump campaign official.

The confidence from Trump allies heading into the former president’s second impeachment trial — this time over the deadly riots by Trump supporters on Capitol Hill — may seem premature, given the lingering political and legal hurdles he still must confront. But it provides a road map of sorts for how they view his path ahead. Already, Trump aides contend, the impeachment process has proved beneficial to the ex-president — exposing disloyalty within the party’s ranks and igniting grassroots backlash against Republicans who have attempted to nudge the GOP base away from Trump. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse spent last week fending off constituent criticisms and censures from state party officials after he compared Trumpism to “a civic cancer for the nation.” And Trump’s allies believe the ex-president’s impending impeachment trial will further illuminate who the turncoats are.

“It’s going to help expose more bad apples that he can primary if any senators vote to convict,” added the former campaign official. While ensconced at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Trump has remained in touch with political allies and advisers. But he has intentionally kept a low profile, something that will likely continue this week. A former aide suggested Trump try to demonstrate his indifference to it all by spending much of impeachment playing golf, “as a way of sort of saying, ‘Who cares?’” Aides expect that to change once the trial wraps up though, with Trump gradually reemerging in public and turning his attention toward seeking revenge against Republicans who, he believes, crossed him after he left office.

Read more …

A knack for picking lawyers.

Trump Reportedly Shocked, Enraged By Bruce Castor’s Performance (F.)

Count former President Donald Trump among the many critics of attorney Bruce Castor’s widely panned performance on the first day of his Senate impeachment trial, with Trump reportedly outraged at his lawyer’s apparent inability to form a coherent argument, according to multiple reports. During Castor’s muddled, 50-minute speech, NBC News and the New York Times quoted an anonymous Trump source who said it was a “deliberative strategy” aimed at “lowering the temperature” after the impeachment managers’ emotional argument. But Trump had been prepared for his current impeachment team to be far less persuasive than the group of high-powered lawyers who defended him during his first impeachment trial, according to ABC News.


Still, Trump was “stunned to hear some of the arguments,” particularly Castor’s praise for his adversaries, according to ABC and the Times, which reported that “some in Trump’s orbit were unsure why Castor seemed caught off guard by video clips that were expected for days.” Trump was “deeply unhappy” with Castor’s performance and was “borderline screaming over what was going on as he was talking to people about this,” CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins said. Even Trump allies who voted to affirm Castors’ argument that the trial is unconstitutional lashed out publicly at his performance. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told reporters Castor “rambled on and on,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he was not “effective.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters, “I thought I knew where he was going, and I really didn’t know where he was going.”

Read more …

“The collapse of the newborn population is really here..”

Births In China Plummeted 15% In 2020 (ZH)

Preliminary numbers assessing China’s births in 2020 released by the country’s household registration system are setting off alarm bells for Beijing, suggesting a continued severe population decline, given the new numbers for last year show a whopping 15% decline in births from the year before. “Concerns over the outlook for China’s population have grown after the number of newborns recorded in the country’s household registration system declined 15 per cent during a coronavirus-hit 2020,” South China Morning Post observes of the new numbers. “Last year, a total 10.035 million of newborns were recorded in the household registration system, known as hukou in China, down from 11.79 million in 2019, according to figures released by the Ministry of Public Security on Monday.”

While the hukou system only reveals preliminary information on total births across the population, it’s official demographic stats for COVID-impacted 2020 is expected to come out soon via China’s National Bureau of Statistics based on a once in ten year national census it recently conducted. As SCMP underscores it’s predicted that when total official stats do come out, expectations are for a further decline after previously 2019 saw “the lowest level since 1961” and down from 2018 as well. China is the world’s most populous country with the number of people commonly estimated at just over 1.4 billion. When the current working-age population hits retirement, there are fears the decline in births trend will severely impact the world’s second largest economy.

This also given the latest official figures out of the National Bureau of Statistics show that some 18% of the population is already over 60, with this ageing demographic to grow to one-third of the entire population by 2050. The SCMP report cited one prominent research economics professor to say the writing is on the wall. “The collapse of the newborn population is really here,” he warned, writing that: “Although we cannot deduce the decline in the birth population in these regions as the annual decline in the country, we consider that idea of having two children is weak and the number of women of childbearing age has decreased, so we need not anticipate further that the birth population in 2020 will drop significantly compared with 2019. The collapse of the newborn population is really here,” said James Liang, a research professor of applied economics at the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, in a blog post last week.

Read more …

And we all care?!

Mark Cuban’s Mavericks Won’t Play National Anthem Anymore (NYP)

Haven’t heard about any national anthem protests at Mavericks games? There’s a good reason for that: Dallas isn’t and won’t be playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” anymore. Mark Cuban told The Athletic it was his decision to eliminate the tradition of playing the anthem before games. The move went by unnoticed through the first 13 combined preseason and regular-season games at American Airlines Center because the Mavericks did not publicize it, either within the organization or through an announcement to media. Monday marked the first game in which the Mavericks allowed a limited number of fans into their arena.


Cuban has been vocal about his support of those who wish to kneel during the playing of the national anthem, the practice which former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began in 2016 and which became a lightning rod for partisan political debate. The outspoken Mavericks owner told ESPN last July of the potential for his team’s players to kneel during the anthem: “If they were taking a knee, and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them” and that he hoped he would “join them.” He later tweeted, in response to what he called “The National Anthem Police,” that if critics of the nonviolent protest of systemic racism in the United States took issue then they could “complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.”

Read more …

Depraved.

Biden Continues Push For Assange’s Extradition Ahead of US Appeal Deadline (RT)

The Joe Biden administration will continue to pursue extradition for Julian Assange, the Justice Department said, rebuffing calls from rights groups to reverse course ahead of an appeal deadline in the WikiLeaks co-founder’s case. DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi said on Tuesday that Washington has not abandoned plans for Assange’s extradition from the UK, noting that Biden will still challenge a January ruling from a British judge barring extradition over concerns that Assange might take his own life in American custody. “We continue to seek his extradition,” Raimondi told Reuters, signaling that the new Biden administration will pick up where ex-president Donald Trump left off in seeking to charge the anti-secrecy activist for his publication of classified documents.


The statement from the DOJ comes mere days before a February 12 deadline for the US government to submit its “grounds for appeal” in Assange’s extradition case, in which American attorneys will argue against UK Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling against the move. Calls on Washington to abandon the Assange case picked up momentum in the waning days of the Trump presidency, with activists and journalists across the political spectrum demanding he pardon the WikiLeaks publisher before his term was up. While Trump ultimately refused to grant clemency, much of the same pressure has carried over to the Biden administration, illustrated most recently in a letter from some two dozen civil liberties organizations condemning the indictments against Assange as a “grave threat to press freedom.”

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