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.”

Read more …

 

 

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5% of humans in the blue, 5% in the red.

 

 

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Feb 082021
 


Claude Monet Houses of Parliament, Sunset 1904

 

South Africa Halts AstraZeneca Vaccinations Over Variant Data (R.)
New Israeli Drug Cured 29 Of 30 Moderate/Serious Covid Cases In Days (ToI)
In Corzano 10% Of Population Positive For English Variant (ANSA)
Even ‘Scientist’ Models Now Forecast COVID Scourge Ending By Summer (ZH)
WaPo Says COVID Lab Accident “Plausible”, “Must Be Investigated” (ZH)
UK Vaccine Minister Says Gov’t Is Not Planning Covid Vaccine Passport (RT)
The World Welcomes Biden But Hedges Its Bets (Feffer)
US Moves To Rejoin UN Human Rights Council (AP)
The Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows (Greenwald)
The Coming “Monetary Hurricane” Is A White Swan (Bassman)
“This Is For You, Dad”: Interview With An Anonymous GameStop Investor (Taibbi)
Shark Deaths Have Left a ‘Gaping Hole’ in Ocean Life (SA)

 

 

NOTE: Don’t miss John Day MD’s guide for COVID prevention and treatment that I published earlier today: Treat Your Own COVID.

It could save your life.

 

 

What happens when you bet everythig on red under emergency authorizations.

..preliminary data showed efficacy dropped to 22% against the South African variant..

South Africa Halts AstraZeneca Vaccinations Over Variant Data (R.)

South Africa will put on hold use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot in its vaccination programme, after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country’s dominant coronavirus variant. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Sunday that the government would await advice from scientists on how best to proceed, after a trial showed the AstraZeneca vaccine did not significantly reduce the risk of mild or moderate COVID-19 from the 501Y.V2 variant that caused a second wave of infections starting late last year. Prior to widespread circulation of the more contagious variant, the vaccine was showing efficacy of around 75%, researchers said.

In a later analysis based mostly on infections by the new variant, there was only a 22% lower risk of developing mild-to-moderate COVID-19 versus those given a placebo. Although researchers said the figure was not statistically significant, due to trial design, it is well below the benchmark of at least 50% regulators have set for vaccines to be considered effective against the virus. The study did not assess whether the vaccine helped prevent severe COVID-19 because it involved mostly relatively young adults not considered to be at high risk for serious illness. AstraZeneca said on Saturday that it believed its vaccine could protect against severe disease and that it had already started adapting it against the 501Y.V2 variant.

Still, professor Shabir Madhi, lead investigator on the AstraZeneca trial in South Africa, said data on the vaccine were a reality check and that it was time to “recalibrate our expectations of COVID-19 vaccines”.

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EXO-CD24

New Israeli Drug Cured 29 Of 30 Moderate/Serious Covid Cases In Days (ToI)

A new coronavirus treatment being developed at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center has successfully completed phase 1 trials and appears to have helped numerous moderate-to-serious cases of COVID-19 quickly recover from the disease, the hospital said Friday. Hailing a “huge breakthrough,” the hospital said Prof. Nadir Arber’s EXO-CD24 substance had been administered to 30 patients whose conditions were moderate or worse, and all 30 recovered — 29 of them within three to five days. The medicine fights the cytokine storm — a potentially lethal immune overreaction to the coronavirus infection that is believed to be responsible for much of the deaths associated with the disease.

It uses exosomes — tiny carrier sacs that shuttle materials between cells — to deliver a protein called CD24 to the lungs, which Arber has spent decades researching. “This protein is located on the surface of cells and has a well known and important role in regulating the immune system,” said researcher Shiran Shapira of Arber’s lab. The protein helps calm down the immune system and curb the storm. “The preparation is inhaled once a day for a few minutes, for five days,” Arber said. “The preparation is directed straight to the heart of the storm — the lungs — so unlike other formulas… which selectively restrain a certain cytokine, or operate widely but cause many serious side effects, EXO-CD24 is administered locally, works broadly and without side effects.”

The medicine will now move on to further trial phases, but hospital officials were already hailing it as a possible game-changer in fighting serious COVID-19 illness. Ichilov director Roni Gamzu, the former coronavirus czar, said the research “is advanced and sophisticated and may save coronavirus patients. The results of the phase 1 trial are excellent and give us all confidence in the method [Arber] has been researching in his lab for many years.” He added: “I am proud that at Ichilov we are… possibly bringing a blue and white remedy to a terrible global pandemic.”

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Through Google Translate.

10% of the village of Corzano Flag of Italy has the #B117 variant—10% of all residents! 60% of cases are kids from kindergarten and primary school, other 40% are their parents.

In Corzano 10% Of Population Positive For English Variant (ANSA)

10% of the population of Corzano, a town of 1400 people in the province of Brescia, is positive for covid. “We have 140 positives and 60% are elementary and kindergarten students who in turn infected their families”, the mayor of the town Giovanni Benzoni, also positive, explained to ANSA. “Three out of four have covid at home,” he said. According to the analyzes of Ats Brescia, the population is infected by the English variant of Covid. The mayor has closed schools until February 8. “But the ordinance will be extended – he specified – because the recall swabs begin today and therefore we will have to wait for the results”. The authorities would be considering the possibility of closing the country in and out. “I didn’t know anything, but I can say that in the last few hours we have had only one more case. All the families are in solitary confinement and we expect the curve to go down again,” commented the mayor.

Read more …

How much of the good news is due to adjusting PCR testing cycles?

Even ‘Scientist’ Models Now Forecast COVID Scourge Ending By Summer (ZH)

The covid pandemic was front and center today in economic news, when its impact was felt throughout the January payrolls report (if not to the same extent as December payrolls), whose disappointing +49k reading could be easily explained by continued job losses in the Leisure & Hospitality sector due to COVID-19 outbreaks and associated lockdown measures and restrictions. However, as BofA’s Hans Mikkelsen writes, “given that the US COVID-19 situation is improving rapidly – for example the number of people hospitalized is down one-third over the past month – and restrictions are lifted in many large states like California, it is straightforward to expect much stronger payrolls going forward.” Indeed, the latest Covid data shows that absent any major shocks – such as a mutant strain that is fully immune to any existing vaccines – the pandemic should be a thing of the past relatively soon.


Here are the latest facts: the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US has declined dramatically to 88,668, or 43,806 – one-third – off the peak which occurred on January 5th (Figure 4) – a rapid turn in the crisis (Figure 5). The decrease is broad-based (48 states+DC, except for AK, MT and VT that saw minimal 1, 1 and 7 person increases over the past week, respectively).

The weekly percentage change in US COVID-19 hospitalized is consistent with the largest declines seen during the Coronavirus crisis (Figure 6). Moreover the 7-day test positivity rate has declined to 7.6% from the 13.6% peak on January 8th (Figure 7).

Since hospitalizations are lagged relative to time of infection the US Corona outbreaks peaked back in the second half of December. Finally, the vaccine rollout continues in the US at a rapid pace of around 1mn doses per day and a cumulative 35.2mn doses administered through February 2rd.

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And now we’ll never know.

WaPo Says COVID Lab Accident “Plausible”, “Must Be Investigated” (ZH)

Exactly one year ago today, Zero Hedge was ‘enjoying’ our suspension by Twitter after we pointed out that scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been experimenting on bat coronaviruses, and that investigators trying to determine the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak might want to have a word with them. We later reported that the same scientists had been using ‘gain-of-function’ research to make bat coronaviruses more transmissible to human beings – for which they were roundly criticized in 2015. Thus, it seemed only logical that the possibility of a lab escape at ‘ground zero’ was at least non-zero, and should be investigated alongside the ‘natural origin’ theory which posits that the virus jumped from bats to an intermediary species, which then infected a cluster of people at a Wuhan wet market.

According to a study published in The Lancet, 66% of patients admitted to Wuhan hospitals (27 out of 41) as of January 2nd, 2020 had been exposed to the Huanan seafood market. Since then, the lab leak hypothesis has gained traction – and has been elevated to let’s at least investigate status by legitimate bodies. Three weeks ago, the US State Department announced that while they haven’t determined whether the COVID-19 pandemic “began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China,” the US government “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

And in late January, A World Health Organization (WHO) adviser who previously worked under President Clinton and then-Senator Joe Biden said that COVID-19 was most likely an accidental lab leak. Which brings us to the Washington Post, whose editorial board on Sunday suggested that the lab leak hypothesis was “plausible” and “must be investigated.” “Many scientists have speculated that the virus leaped from animals, such as bats, to humans, perhaps with an intermediate stop in another animal. This kind of zoonotic spillover has occurred before, such as in the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014. But there is another pathway, also plausible, that must be investigated. That is the possibility of a laboratory accident or leak. It could have involved a virus that was improperly disposed of or perhaps infected a laboratory worker who then passed it to others.”

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I would like to see them try, and then get stiffed in court.

UK Vaccine Minister Says Gov’t Is Not Planning Covid Vaccine Passport (RT)

Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi denied claims that the UK government is planning to introduce a “vaccine passport” detailing which Brits have been vaccinated and which haven’t, calling the idea “discriminatory.” Asked during an interview with Sky News on Sunday whether the government is looking at the possibility of creating a vaccine passport, as has been speculated, Zahawi said, “No we are not.” The minister explained that those who receive their first dose of the vaccine get “a card from the NHS with their name on it,” the date they received their first dose, and the date of the second dose, and that this is all the government is currently supporting.

Zahawi said the major reasons why the government is not planning a vaccine passport is because “we don’t know the impact of the vaccines on transmission,” with vaccinated Brits currently being warned that they could still carry the virus, and that the practice “would be discriminatory.” “I think the right thing to do is to make sure that people come forward and be vaccinated because they want to, rather than it being made in some way mandatory through a passport. If other countries demand proof of vaccination for entry, he added, “then you can ask your GP, because your GP will hold the record.” Zahawi did acknowledge that technology companies have received funding from UK Research and Innovation to look at the creation of vaccine passport apps, but concluded, “We are not planning to have a passport in the UK.”

“I just want to repeat that because I’ve had a lot of it on my social media,” he explained, adding, “We are certainly not looking to introduce this as part of the vaccine deployment program.” A petition calling for the UK government to commit against rolling out a vaccine passport received nearly 60,000 signatures after reports indicated that it was looking at such a system to allow Brits to go abroad. The concept of a vaccine passport has become extremely controversial in the UK and elsewhere, with figures like former Prime Minister Tony Blair in support, but others arguing it would turn those who have not been vaccinated into ‘second-class’ citizens and essentially strongarm them into getting vaccinated against their wishes.

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Nothing changes. Other than the window dressing.

The World Welcomes Biden But Hedges Its Bets (Feffer)

The nightmare is over. The vanquished beast has crawled back to Mar-a-Lago to lick his wounds. The heroes are hard at work repairing the damage. As America returns to the international stage, the world heaves a collective sigh of relief. That, at least, is the story the incoming Biden administration is telling. “America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back,” as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the administration’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, put it shortly after the election. According to this narrative of redemption, the globe’s Atlas shrugged off its burden during the four years of Donald Trump’s tenure but is now ready to reassume its global leadership responsibilities.

Don’t believe it, though. Much of the rest of the world seems visibly queasy at the prospect of sitting on America’s shoulders, since who’s to say that Atlas won’t shrug again? And perhaps Atlas wasn’t such a responsible fellow in the first place.

Over the last several decades, the United States has displayed all the hallmarks of a country suffering from a serious personality disorder characterized by mood swings of gargantuan proportions. From the compromised multilateralism of the Bill Clinton years, the United States pivoted to the aggressive armed unilateralism of George W. Bush. Then, after boomeranging back to the centrist (if still over-armed) internationalism of Barack Obama, it took the wildest of detours into MAGA-land with Donald Trump. In the latest case of foreign-policy whiplash, Joe Biden is now preparing to return the country to a “new and improved” version of Obama’s global liberalism (with a dash of anti-Chinese fervor thrown in). Americans are by now remarkably familiar with such side effects of twenty-first-century democracy. We’ve skimmed the fine print on the label more than once and become reasonably inured to the adverse consequences of our civic religion.

Much of the world, however, is not accustomed to such volatility. The Kim family has ruled North Korea from day one, while Paul Biya has run Cameroon since 1982. Over the last 30 years, China has settled into its predictable version of market Leninism. Putatively democratic countries like Russia and Turkey have had the same leadership for two decades, while a genuinely democratic country like Germany has had the same chancellor for 15 years. The rest of Western Europe has seen numerous changes in those who hold the reins of power, but oscillations in governance have generally stayed within a relatively narrow political spectrum. European Union policies have similarly remained on a remarkably even keel, despite disruptions like Brexit. These days, however, democrats and dictators alike are unsure, from one day to the next, whether the United States will be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

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“Neither Obama nor Trump were able to reform this fundamentally broken UN agency that institutionally legitimizes human rights abusers. Biden must not only confront the Council’s systemic antisemitism, but its complicity in China’s human rights abuses.”

US Moves To Rejoin UN Human Rights Council (AP)

The Biden administration is set to announce this week that it will reengage with the much-maligned U.N. Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago, U.S. officials said Sunday. The decision reverses another Trump-era move away from multilateral organizations and agreements. U..S. officials say Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a senior U.S. diplomat in Geneva will announce on Monday that Washington will return to the Geneva-based body as an observer with an eye toward seeking election as a full member. The decision is likely to draw criticism from conservative lawmakers and many in the pro-Israel community.

Trump pulled out of the world body’s main human rights agency in 2018 due to its disproportionate focus on Israel, which has received by far the largest number of critical council resolutions against any country, as well as the number of authoritarian countries among its members and because it failed to meet an extensive list of reforms demanded by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. In addition to the council’s persistent focus on Israel, the Trump administration took issue with the body’s membership, which currently includes China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of human rights abuses.

One senior U.S. official said the Biden administration believed the council must still reform but that the best way to promote change is to “engage with it in a principled fashion.” The official said it can be “an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world” and the U.S. presence intends to “ensure it can live up to that potential.”

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Cancel Culture.

The Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows (Greenwald)

A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism.

I’ve written before about one particularly toxic strain of this authoritarian “reporting.” Teams of journalists at three of the most influential corporate media outlets — CNN’s “media reporters” (Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy), NBC’s “disinformation space unit” (Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny), and the tech reporters of The New York Times (Mike Isaac, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel) — devote the bulk of their “journalism” to searching for online spaces where they believe speech and conduct rules are being violated, flagging them, and then pleading that punitive action be taken (banning, censorship, content regulation, after-school detention). These hall-monitor reporters are a major factor explaining why tech monopolies, which (for reasons of self-interest and ideology) never wanted the responsibility to censor, now do so with abandon and seemingly arbitrary blunt force: they are shamed by the world’s loudest media companies when they do not.

Just as the NSA is obsessed with ensuring there be no place on earth where humans can communicate free of their spying eyes and ears, these journalistic hall monitors cannot abide the idea that there can be any place on the internet where people are free to speak in ways they do not approve. Like some creepy informant for a state security apparatus, they spend their days trolling the depths of chat rooms and 4Chan bulletin boards and sub-Reddit threads and private communications apps to find anyone — influential or obscure — who is saying something they believe should be forbidden, and then use the corporate megaphones they did not build and could not have built but have been handed in order to silence and destroy anyone who dissents from the orthodoxies of their corporate managers or challenges their information hegemony.

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Harley Bassman, creator of the MOVE index, aka the “VIX for bonds”.

The Coming “Monetary Hurricane” Is A White Swan (Bassman)

When one hears hoof beats, look for horses not zebras. There is no reason to ruminate over exotic possibilities when the problems we face are quite clear. Once again, ignore the merits of the public policy response – what is important is that there is wide support from both the Democrats and Republicans to offer significant Fiscal relief supported by massive Monetary expansion. Will this be inflationary – Yes; but it is unclear how soon. I made the case in my December 2, 2020 commentary, ”The Wages of Fear”, that demographics will set ablaze the dry kindling of printed money sometime between 2023 to 2025; and nothing has occurred to change that prediction. What is clear is that a financial bubble is being inflated, and there is risk on both sides of the distribution.

Ordinarily the bloviating pundits advise one to sell assets, or perhaps execute some sort of hedge such as buying puts or selling covered calls. They are looking in the wrong direction. While I am not a stomping bull, the approaching monetary hurricane could well make the “surprise” a further rally in equities. Printed money should elevate stocks; either via a continued flow into assets, or into the pockets of consumers who will spend it and thus increase corporate profits. (Yes, higher taxes could be an offset, but let’s save that for another Commentary.) As noted, inflation is an eventual certainty, so one should own real assets; and over the longest run stocks will hold their real value. Notwithstanding the Robinhood day traders, stock equity is an ownership right in a real company.

Weimar Germany is the nightmare scenario for inflation; but contrary to expectations, stockholders were protected. While the German Papiermark vs. USD exchange rate exploded (4.2 Trillion per USD), the German Stock Index, currency adjusted into USD, held its value. As such, when faced with nominal inflation – Do not sell call options.

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Great interview. Must read.

“This Is For You, Dad”: Interview With An Anonymous GameStop Investor (Taibbi)

Thursday, January 21st was a critical day in the story of the video game chain GameStop (ticker name: GME). Retail investors, including many subscribers to a Reddit forum called wallstreetbets, pushed the company’s stock from $6 to $43.03, but experts said playtime was over. It was time for the big shots to clean up. According to Citron Research, one of many funds that had bet on the brick-and-mortar store to fail, those investing in GME were “the suckers at this poker game,” and would soon be sorry when the stock went “back to $20 fast.” They were wrong. Instead of amateurs being shoved aside by hedge funds, it was the pros who had their backs broken, as GME soared to $65.05, beginning a steep ascent that would become an international news phenomenon.

It was the “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” moment for Wall Street. The pros had been sloppy. By late 2020, shares in GameStop were well over 100% short. A sudden rise in value would force shorts to pay exorbitant prices just to get out of the trade. By the afternoon of the 21st, all the “suckers” on Reddit had to do to beat them was nothing, and they did just that, behind the rallying cry “diamond hands,” signifying a determination to hold at all costs. Why hold? One of the millions of subscribers to wallstreetbets posted a note, explaining what the trade meant to him:

This is for you, Dad

I remember when the housing collapse sent a torpedo through my family. My father’s concrete company collapsed almost overnight. My father lost his home. My uncle lost his home. I remember my brother helping my father count pocket change on our kitchen table. That was all the money he had left in the world. While this was happening in my home, I saw hedge funders literally drinking champagne as they looked down on the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I will never forget that. My father never recovered from that blow. He fell deeper and deeper into alcoholism and exists now as a shell of his former self, waiting for death. This is all the money I have and I’d rather lose it all than give them what they need to destroy me. Taking money from me won’t hurt me, because I don’t value it at all. I’ll burn it down just to spite them. This is for you, Dad.

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Don’t count on them bouncing back.

Shark Deaths Have Left a ‘Gaping Hole’ in Ocean Life (SA)

Overfishing has wiped out over 70 percent of some shark and ray populations in the last half-century, leaving a “gaping, growing hole” in ocean life, according to a new study. Researchers found alarming declines in species ranging from hammerhead sharks to manta rays. Among the worst affected is the oceanic whitetip, a powerful shark often described as particularly dangerous to man, which now hovers on the edge of extinction because of human activity. Targeted for their fins, oceanic whitetips are caught up by indiscriminate fishing techniques. Their global population has dropped 98 percent in the last 60 years, said Nick Dulvy, the study’s senior author and a professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

“That’s a worse decline than most large terrestrial mammal populations, and getting up there or as bad as the blue whale decline,” he told AFP. Dulvy and a team of scientists spent years collecting and analysing information from scientific studies and fisheries data to build up a picture of the global state of 31 species of sharks and rays. They found three-quarters of the species examined were so depleted that they face extinction. These are “the most wide-ranging species in the largest, most remote habitats on the earth, which are often assumed to be protected from human influence”, the study’s lead author Nathan Pacoureau told AFP. “We knew the situation was bad in a lot of places but that information came from different studies and reports, so it was difficult to have an idea of the global situation,” added Pacoureau, a post-doctoral fellow at SFU’s department of biological science.

[..] For 18 species where more data was available, the researchers concluded global populations had fallen over 70 percent since 1970. Dulvy said the figure was likely to be similar, or even worse, for other oceanic sharks and rays, but gaps in data made it difficult to draw conclusions. The results were a shock even for experts, Pacoureau said, describing specialists at a meeting on shark conservation being “stunned into silence” when confronted with the figures.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 062021
 


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Allegory of the Planets and Continents 1752

 

New Covid Strains ‘May Even Escape The Immune Response’ – Biden Advisor (CNBC)
Domestic Violence Is a Pandemic Within the COVID-19 Pandemic (Time)
YouTube Censors Senate Testimony From Doctor On Possible Covid Drug (Turley)
Biden Revokes Terrorist Designation For Yemen’s Houthis (Fox)
Biden: Trump Should No Longer Receive Classified Intelligence Briefings (CNN)
Trump’s Decision Not To Testify Is Not Evidence Of His Guilt (Turley)
The Fire This Time (Kunstler)
Sanders Says He Never Intended To Raise Minimum Wage To $15 During Pandemic (JTN)
EU Parliament Snubs Anti-Corruption Researchers (EUO)
Ecuador Gov’t Scrambles to Privatize the Central Bank Before Elections (MPN)
Nevada Bill Would Allow Tech Companies To Create Governments (AP)
The WEF’s Simulation of a Coming “Cyber Pandemic” (Webb/Vedmore)

 

 

 

 

Not sure what to make of this. Is she just selling vaccines?

New Covid Strains ‘May Even Escape The Immune Response’ – Biden Advisor (CNBC)

A member of the Biden-Harris Transition Covid Advisory Board warned about the highly transmissible new Covid variants and vaccine resistance during a Thursday evening interview on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.” “They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder. “So it’s really important right now that we do everything possible to preserve the vaccines to make sure they keep working and that means preventing the spread of these new variants.” Three highly contagious mutations of Covid have been detected in at least 33 states across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers say these highly transmissible variants could prolong the pandemic and potentially create another surge. Projections out of the CDC even predict the U.K. variant to be the dominant variant in the U.S. by March. Gounder, an epidemiologist at NYU, told host Shepard Smith that she’s “concerned” that people will let their guards down in March and that it could potentially lead to another surge. “That’s a time when you might have some families taking spring break, so you would have the additive effect of, again, a holiday where people might be socializing, not taking all the safety measures, on top of this far more contagious variant,” warned Gounder.

Johnson & Johnson announced that it filed emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its coronavirus vaccine. Last week it released data showing it was about 66% effective in protecting against the virus. If J&J’s application is approved, it would be the third vaccine in the arsenal authorized for emergency use in the U.S. behind vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Unlike the other two shots, however, the J&J vaccine only requires one shot and requires basic refrigeration for storage.

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“The abuser says, ‘You can’t go out; you’re not going anywhere,’ and the government also is saying, ‘You have to stay in.’”

Domestic Violence Is a Pandemic Within the COVID-19 Pandemic (Time)

Growing evidence shows the pandemic has made intimate partner violence more common—and often more severe. “COVID doesn’t make an abuser,” says Jacky Mulveen, project manager of Women’s Empowerment and Recovery Educators (WE:ARE), an advocacy and support group in Birmingham, England. “But COVID exacerbates it. It gives them more tools, more chances to control you. The abuser says, ‘You can’t go out; you’re not going anywhere,’ and the government also is saying, ‘You have to stay in.’” That was Sheila’s experience. “The abuse was going to happen anyway,” she says. “Having the excuse of there’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing to do, didn’t help.”

Surveys around the world have shown domestic abuse spiking since January of 2020—jumping markedly year over year compared to the same period in 2019. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and the United Nations group U.N. Women, when the pandemic began, incidents of domestic violence increased 300% in Hubei, China; 25% in Argentina, 30% in Cyprus, 33% in Singapore and 50% in Brazil. The U.K., where calls to domestic violence hotlines have soared since the pandemic hit, was particularly shaken in June by the death of Amy-Leanne Stringfellow, 26, a mother of one and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, allegedly at the hands of her 45-year-old boyfriend.

In the U.S., the situation is equally troubling, with police departments reporting increases in cities around the country: for example, 18% in San Antonio, 22% in Portland, Ore.; and 10% in New York City, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. One study in the journal Radiology reports that at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, radiology scans and superficial wounds consistent with domestic abuse from March 11 to May 3 of this year exceeded the totals for the same period in 2018 and 2019 combined. And as the pandemic has dragged on, so too has the abuse. Just as the disease continues to claim more lives, quarantine-linked domestic violence is claiming more victims—and not just women in heterosexual relationships. Intimate partner violence occurs in same-sex couples at rates equal to or even higher than the rates in opposite sex partners.

What’s more, the economic challenges of the pandemic have hit same-sex couples especially hard, with members of the LGBTQ community likelier to be employed in highly affected industries like education, restaurants, hospitals and retail, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. That means higher stress and, concomitantly, the higher risk that that stress will explode into violence. As with so many things, communities of color are affected more severely as well, with systemic inequities often meaning lower income and less access to social and private services. “While one in three white women report having experienced domestic violence [during the pandemic], the rates of abuse increased dramatically to about 50% and higher for those marginalized by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, and cognitive physical ability,” says Erika Sussman, executive director of the Center for Survivor Advocacy and Justice (CSAJ), a support and research organization.

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Turley noticed what happened right after I posted the Pierre Kory video -again- in last week’s Criminal COVID Negligence. A few hours later it was gone. I replaced it with a Kory video from Vimeo. Easy. Still, censoring Senate hearings should be out of the question for Big Tech.

YouTube Censors Senate Testimony From Doctor On Possible Covid Drug (Turley)

We have have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. The erosion of free speech has been radically accelerated by the Big Tech and social media companies, including YouTube. Now YouTube has censored actual testimony given to the United States Senate by Dr. Pierre Kory, who was testifying on different drug treatment. So now these companies are going to censor what was told to the government and decide what viewers will be allowed to consider from the public debate. It is a continuation of the movement to prevent people from hearing opposing views and to control what is shared or discussed in a growing attack on free speech.

YouTube removed two videos from a December 8th hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It featured Kory who discussed the use of Ivermectin as a potential treatment for Covid-19, particularly in the early stages. It is a drug that treats tropical diseases caused by parasites. Kory was calling for a review by National Institutes of Health on trials for the drug. Ultimately, it does appear that the NIH did change the status of the drug. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has said that the videos were blocked on his account, including Kory’s testimony. The Federalist maintained that YouTube removed the videos to the platform’s COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy. That policy stipulates that anything which goes against “local health authorities’ or the WHO medical information about COVID-19” will be removed.

I can hardly shed light on the merits of the medical debate but this is the censoring of an actual Senate hearing that is so disturbing. YouTube is preventing citizens from watching testimony on an issue of national importance. It is an example of the slippery slope of censorship and how such speech regulation becomes an insatiable appetite for many. [..] There is ample ability of people to challenge such testimony. However, many do not want to engage in a debate. They want to silence others and control what fellow citizens are allowed to consider. In the meantime, hosts on CNN are assuring people that they do not have to call such acts censorship but “harm reduction.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal recently calling for “robust content modification” on the Internet. Those voices of censorship are only growing stronger in the United States.

Indeed, in the wake of the Capitol riot, Democratic members and others are calling for a crackdown on free speech and punitive actions for those viewed as complicit with Trump. What is striking is how censorship, blacklists, and speech controls are being repackaged as righteous and virtuous. Indeed, the failure to sign such anti-free speech screeds is a precarious choice for many as writers and publishers call for blacklists. We are watching the most successful campaign against free speech in the history of the United States. It is being supported by many in the media and academia. If we allow companies like YouTube to succeed in such speech controls, true free speech could become a quaint historical relic in the United States.

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Sounds okay, but this whole thing started when he was VP. And he can still bomb the crap out of them.

Biden Revokes Terrorist Designation For Yemen’s Houthis (Fox)

President Joe Biden’s administration is moving to revoke the designation of Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group, citing the need to mitigate one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. President Donald Trump’s administration had branded the Iranian-backed Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, a move that limited the provision of aid to the beleaguered Yemeni people, who have suffered under a yearslong civil war and famine. A senior State Department official confirmed the move Friday after members of Congress were notified of the administration’s plans. The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the removal changed nothing about the Biden administration’s views of the Houthis, who have targeted civilians and kidnapped Americans.


“Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the official said. The move comes a day after Biden announced an end to offensive support to Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis. The Obama administration in 2015 gave its approval to Saudi Arabia leading a cross-border air campaign targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who were seizing ever more territory, including Sanaa. The Houthis have launched multiple drone and missile strikes deep into Saudi Arabia. The U.S. says the Saudi-led campaign has entrenched Iran’s role in the conflict, on the side of the Houthis.

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Obama kept getting the intelligence briefings while he was colluding with intelligence against Trump.

Biden: Trump Should No Longer Receive Classified Intelligence Briefings (CNN)

President Joe Biden doesn’t believe former President Donald Trump should receive classified intelligence briefings, as is tradition for past presidents, citing Trump’s “erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection.” When asked in an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell if he thought Trump should receive an intelligence briefing if he requested one, Biden said, “I think not.” “I’d rather not speculate out loud,” Biden said when asked what he fears could happen if Trump continued to receive the briefings. “I just think that there is no need for him to have the — the intelligence briefings. What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”


Former presidents traditionally have been allowed to request and receive intelligence briefings. A senior administration official previously told CNN that Trump has not submitted any requests at this point. There are many ways intelligence can be presented, the official said, something the intelligence community would formulate should any request come in. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN on Thursday that “the intelligence community supports requests for intelligence briefings by former presidents and will review any incoming requests, as they always have.” Trump was not known to fully or regularly read the President’s Daily Brief, the highly classified summary of the nation’s secrets, when he was in office. He was instead orally briefed two or three times a week by his intelligence officials, CNN has reported.

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“As the Supreme Court declared in 1964, it is the embodiment of “many of our fundamental values and most noble aspirations.”

Trump’s Decision Not To Testify Is Not Evidence Of His Guilt (Turley)

[..] the statement of House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., this week was breathtaking. A former law professor, Raskin declared that the decision of Trump not to testify in the Senate could be cited or used by House managers as an inference of his guilt — a statement that contradicts not just our constitutional principles but centuries of legal writing. Presidents have historically not testified at impeachment trials. One reason is that, until now, only sitting presidents have been impeached and presidents balked at the prospect of being examined as head of the Executive Branch by the Legislative Branch. Moreover, it was likely viewed as undignified and frankly too risky. Indeed, most defense attorneys routinely discourage their clients from testifying in actual criminal cases because the risks outweigh any benefits.

Despite the historical precedent for presidents not testifying, Raskin made an extraordinary and chilling declaration on behalf of the House of Representatives. He wrote in a letter to Trump that “If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.” Raskin justified his position by noting that Trump “denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment.” Thus, he insisted Trump needed to testify or his silence is evidence of guilt. Under this theory, any response other than conceding the allegations would trigger this response and allow the House to use the silence of the accused as an inference of guilt. This is the nature of “the cruel trilemma of self-accusation, perjury or contempt.” Murphy v. Waterfront Commission, 378 U.S. 52, 55 (1964)

The statement was a conflict with one of the most precious and revered principles in American law that such a refusal to testify cannot be used against an accused party. The statement also highlighted the fact that the House has done nothing to lock in testimony of those who could shed light on Trump’s intent. After using a “snap impeachment,” the House let weeks pass without any effort to call any of the roughly dozen witnesses who could testify on Trump’s statements and conduct in the White House. Many of those witnesses have already given public interviews. Of course, the relative passivity of the House simply shows a lack of effort to actually win this case. The Raskin statement is far more disturbing. The Fifth Amendment embodies this touchstone of American law in declaring that “[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” It was a rejection of the type of abuses associated with the infamous Star Chamber in Great Britain. As the Supreme Court declared in 1964, it is the embodiment of “many of our fundamental values and most noble aspirations.”

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“It sure won’t be like 1957 again, but it would give an awful lot of idle people more to do when they get up in the morning.”

The Fire This Time (Kunstler)

The economy won’t be fixed by policy because the things that have to happen to fix it will be resisted to the death by the parasitical entities feeding on what little remains. For instance, Walmart. Do you think it’s unhealthy that all the profit in American commerce is funneled into Bentonville, Arkansas? It used to be distributed in hundreds of thousands of small businesses in tens of thousands of US towns and cities. What do you think will die first: Walmart or the organism its feeding on? Since the dynamic at work is emergent and non-linear, other forces can come between these relationships and change things. We are already in conflict with China, the land that supplies most of the merchandise in Walmart.

The conflict right now is mostly playing out in the capture of US corporate and cultural enterprise, and in cyberwarfare, and it’s liable to hotten up around the continued sovereignty of Taiwan (America’s China). It’s difficult to assign intentions to another country but it appears that China’s China wishes to cancel the USA as the fading hegemon on the world stage, at least neutralize us, and perhaps dominate us. Mr. Trump is no longer in place to resist that, and the country might be forced to consider all those deals that our new president, “China Joe” enjoyed from the Biden family’s business ventures there over the years. Emergently, then, the Big Box business model could fail, and in fairly short order, which would at least give Americans a chance to self-reorganize the production and distribution of goods in our own country.

It sure won’t be like 1957 again, but it would give an awful lot of idle people more to do when they get up in the morning. Wait for it, and plan accordingly. In the meantime, we are treated to the sordid spectacle of Democratic Wokesters endeavoring to destroy what remains of American cultural life. It’s an incomparably stupid and malign distraction from the imperatives of this historical moment. They will not succeed in cancelling those who object to the systematic disassembly of our national language, myth, and meaning, even if we have to go back to the mimeograph machine to keep these things alive. They will not turn a republic into a psychopathic despotism. Politics, they say, is downstream from culture. Truth is the antidote to a culture of lies. The upcoming impeachment trial of former president Trump will be a showcase for that, and it may prove to be a hoax too far.

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Everyone just walks back what they’ve said like it never meant a thing.

“On Biden’s Inauguration Day, Sanders vowed to use budget reconciliation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour..”

Sanders Says He Never Intended To Raise Minimum Wage To $15 During Pandemic (JTN)

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders overnight Thursday helped nix Democrats’ effort to include a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, as part of their $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, despite having championed such an increase. However, Sanders made clear that he supported the GOP-backed amendment to keep an immediate wage hike out of the relief measure became he wants a gradual increase. “It was never my intention to increase the minimum wage to $15 immediately and during the pandemic,” Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said on the Senate floor late Thursday night. “My legislation gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period and that is what I believe we have got to do.”

The vote took place during a “vote-a-rama” session in which senators voted on amendments to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which fellow Democrats are seeking to pass through “budget reconciliation” without GOP votes. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, proposed the amendment that would prohibit an increase of the federal minimum wage during the global COVID-19 pandemic. “A $15 federal minimum wage would be devastating for our hardest-hit small businesses at a time when they can least afford it,” she said. After Sanders spoke up, the measure to keep the hike out of the COVID relief package was then approved through a voice vote, helping avoid a partisan showdown on the issue.

However, Democrats and Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, are expected to reinsert the wage hike into the package as a gradual increase. On Biden’s Inauguration Day, Sanders vowed to use budget reconciliation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour if the GOP does not support the move.

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“The parliament did the same in 2014, when the NGO launched a similar probe. A letter sent by the parliament’s president at that time claimed itself to be “extremely transparent” and so saw no need to cooperate. It has now sent the very same letter to its most recent study.”

EU Parliament Snubs Anti-Corruption Researchers (EUO)

The European Parliament refused to cooperate with an EU institutional-wide study on integrity and ethics by Transparency International, one of the world’s most prestigious anti-corruption NGOs. “The European Parliament, despite its publicly-stated support for greater transparency was, in fact, the only institution that refused to cooperate,” said Michiel van Hulten, who heads Transparency International’s EU office in Brussels. The parliament did the same in 2014, when the NGO launched a similar probe. A letter sent by the parliament’s president at that time claimed itself to be “extremely transparent” and so saw no need to cooperate. It has now sent the very same letter to its most recent study.


“They unfortunately did not go through the trouble of writing a new letter,” noted the lead author of the reports, Transparency International’s Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm. He ascribed the parliament’s decision as an overall lack of accountability within its administrative leadership. This includes the ‘Bureau’, composed of the secretary general and the vice presidents. “Honestly we are not sure what ultimately the reason is,” he said, noting that the initial response had been positive. But the final study, also published on Thursday, noted almost zero penalties whenever an MEP breaks internal house conduct rules.

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Lenin Moreno is outta here.

Ecuador Gov’t Scrambles to Privatize the Central Bank Before Elections (MPN)

With just days until Ecuador’s February 7 presidential election and four months remaining on President Lenin Moreno’s mandate, the Ecuadorian government and right-wing elites are still scrambling to privatize the country’s central bank. The process involves fast-tracking an emergency law dubbed the Humanitarian Support Organic Law, which will “lockdown” the central bank, siphon it from the public sector, and place Ecuador’s financial sovereignty at the whims of private interests. According to right-wing figures and the country’s mainstream media apparatus that protects and serves its interest, the unconstitutional move is being touted as a necessity. Both parties have claimed that the measure would “safeguard” the country’s dollarization.

In 2000, the U.S. dollar was implemented as part of the country’s national monetary system during the neoliberal administration of Jamil Mahuad. Sixteen financial institutions were bailed out by his government at a whopping cost of $2.6 billion. Ecuador’s dollarization occurred just months after the infamous “bank holiday,” in which 70% of all banking institutions declared bankruptcy, hurling the Andean Republic into its worst economic crisis in a century. Millions of people lost their life savings during the chaos and the former national currency, the sucre, plummeted in value by 195%. A migrant crisis accompanied the economic downturn. More than 267,000 Ecuadorians fled the country during a two year period (1999 and 2000), eventually leading to a total of 2.2 million Ecuadorians migrating, a figure that at the time represented nearly 20% of the country’s population.

Even more lost their life savings. The middle class was obliterated and inequality worsened. The current claim that the country’s dollarization needs to be “safeguarded,” a claim repeated by the political and economic elites, local media, and the bulk-some of the 15 presidential hopefuls, is rooted in the work of the leading presidential candidate, Andrés Arauz. Since the end of Rafael Correa’s term in office, Arauz has been in charge of the Dollarization Observatory. This organization informs the public on economic matters, often focusing on the ways in which neoliberal interests threaten Ecuador’s economy. The myth claiming that Arauz wants to forcibly remove the dollar as the national currency comes from an article he wrote last April in which he gave examples of “good and bad” de-dollarization processes.

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Mussolini smiles.

Nevada Bill Would Allow Tech Companies To Create Governments (AP)

Planned legislation to establish new business areas in Nevada would allow technology companies to effectively form separate local governments. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a plan to launch so-called Innovation Zones in Nevada to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday. The zones would permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services. The measure to further economic development with the “alternative form of local government” has not yet been introduced in the Legislature.

Sisolak pitched the concept in his State of the State address delivered Jan. 19. The plan would bring in new businesses at the forefront of “groundbreaking technologies” without the use of tax abatements or other publicly funded incentive packages that previously helped Nevada attract companies like Tesla Inc. Sisolak named Blockchains, LLC as a company that had committed to developing a “smart city” in an area east of Reno after the legislation has passed. The draft proposal said the traditional local government model is “inadequate alone” to provide the resources to make Nevada a leader in attracting and retaining businesses and fostering economic development in emerging technologies and industries.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development would oversee applications for the zones, which would be limited to companies working in specific business areas including blockchain, autonomous technology, the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, wireless, biometrics and renewable resource technology.

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“The forum’s current agenda and its past track record of hosting prophetic simulations demands that the exercise be scrutinized.”

The WEF’s Simulation of a Coming “Cyber Pandemic” (Webb/Vedmore)

On Wednesday, the World Economic Forum (WEF), along with Russia’s Sberbank and its cybersecurity subsidiary BI.ZONE announced that a new global cyberattack simulation would take place this coming July to instruct participants in “developing secure ecosystems” by simulating a supply-chain cyberattack similar to the recent SolarWinds hack that would “assess the cyber resilience” of the exercise’s participants. On the newly updated event website, the simulation, called Cyber Polygon 2021, ominously warns that, given the digitalization trends largely spurred by the COVID-19 crisis, “a single vulnerable link is enough to bring down the entire system, just like the domino effect,” adding that “a secure approach to digital development today will determine the future of humanity for decades to come.”

The exercise comes several months after the WEF, the “international organization for public-private cooperation” that counts the world’s richest elite among its members, formally announced its movement for a Great Reset, which would involve the coordinated transition to a Fourth Industrial Revolution global economy in which human workers become increasingly irrelevant. This revolution, including its biggest proponent, WEF founder Klaus Schwab, has previously presented a major problem for WEF members and member organizations in terms of what will happen to the masses of people left unemployed by the increasing automation and digitalization in the workplace.

New economic systems that are digitally based and either partnered with or run by central banks are a key part of the WEF’s Great Reset, and such systems would be part of the answer to controlling the masses of the recently unemployed. As others have noted, these digital monopolies, not just financial services, would allow those who control them to “turn off” a person’s money and access to services if that individual does not comply with certain laws, mandates and regulations. The WEF has been actively promoting and creating such systems and has most recently taken to calling its preferred model “stakeholder capitalism.” Though advertised as a more “inclusive” form of capitalism, stakeholder capitalism would essentially fuse the public and private sectors, creating a system much more like Mussolini’s corporatist style of fascism than anything else.

Yet, to usher in this new and radically different system, the current corrupt system must somehow collapse in its entirety, and its replacement must be successfully marketed to the masses as somehow better than its predecessor. When the world’s most powerful people, such as members of the WEF, desire to make radical changes, crises conveniently emerge—whether a war, a plague, or economic collapse—that enable a “reset” of the system, which is frequently accompanied by a massive upward transfer of wealth.

In recent decades, such events have often been preceded by simulations that come thick and fast before the very event they were meant to “prevent” takes place. Recent examples include the 2020 US election and COVID-19. One of these, Event 201, was cohosted by the World Economic Forum in October 2019 and simulated a novel coronavirus pandemic that spreads around the world and causes major disruptions to the global economy—just a few weeks before the first case of COVID-19 appeared. Cyber Polygon 2021 is merely the latest such simulation, cosponsored by the World Economic Forum. The forum’s current agenda and its past track record of hosting prophetic simulations demands that the exercise be scrutinized.

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Feb 052021
 


Winslow Homer Mending the nets 1881

 

Atlantic Council Anonymous Expose Calls for Regime Change in China (MPN)
Macron: EU Shouldn’t Gang Up On China With US (Pol.eu)
Hunger Games (Ben Hunt)
US Covid Hospitalizations Drop To Lowest Level Since Before Thanksgiving (F.)
No Special Freedoms For The Vaccinated In Germany (DW)
Trump Rejects Dems’ Request To Testify At Impeachment Trial (AP)
Incitement Is Not A Real Crime (McMaken)
Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit vs Fox News, Giuliani, Powell (CNN)
Biden Withdraws Judy Shelton’s Fed Nomination (Hill)
Largest US Mall Landlord Sent Jingle Mail to Deutsche Bank (WS)
Dominant Capital Is Much More Powerful Than You Think (RWER)
Dems Are Lucy, The Football Is $2,000 (DP)
Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking (DP)
The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election (Time)

 

 

Here’s what will determine US politics in the next 4 years. Lack of clickbait. War would be good for ratings.

 

 

Warmongers “R” Us. Any thoughts on Russia?

Atlantic Council Anonymous Expose Calls for Regime Change in China (MPN)

Influential D.C. think tank the Atlantic Council has printed a 26,000-word report laying out its strategy for combating China. Published anonymously, the report states that “the single most important challenge facing the United States” in the twenty-first century is China’s growth to rival their own power. To do so, the report states that the U.S. must use “the power of its military,” the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency, and American control over technology and communication to suffocate the nation of 1.4 billion people. It advises President Biden to draw a number of “red lines” past which the U.S. would directly intervene (presumably militarily). These include Chinese attempts to expand into the South China Sea, an attack on the disputed Senkaku Islands, or moves against Taiwan’s independence.

A North Korean strike on any of its neighbors would also necessitate an American response against China, the report insists, because “China must fully own responsibility for the behavior of its North Korean ally.” Any backing down from this stance, the council states, would result in national “humiliation” for the United States. Perhaps most notably, however, the report also envisages what a successful American China policy would look like by 2050: “the United States and its major allies continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all the major indices of power;” and that head of state Xi Jinping “has been replaced by a more moderate party leadership; and that the Chinese people themselves have come to question and challenge the Communist Party’s century-long proposition that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined to an authoritarian future.” In other words, that China has been broken and that some sort of regime change has occurred.

The Atlantic Council is a NATO-offshoot organization funded by the U.S. and other allied governments, including the Gulf dictatorships. Among its largest corporate sponsors include weapons manufacturers like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. Its board of directors is full of high statespeople like Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice as well as senior military figures such as retired generals Wesley Clark, David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Lt. General Brent Scowcroft and Admiral James Stavridis. At least seven former CIA directors are also on the board. Thus, the council could be said to represent the consensus opinion of the national security state.

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“..during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council..”

Macron: EU Shouldn’t Gang Up On China With US (Pol.eu)

The EU shouldn’t gang up on China with the U.S. even if it stands closer to Washington by virtue of shared values, according to French President Emmanuel Macron. “A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality. This one, for me, is counterproductive,” Macron said, speaking in English, during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council on Thursday. This kind of common front against China — as other European leaders have advocated given the new Biden administration’s revived openness to traditional alliances — risks pushing Beijing to lower its cooperation on issues like combatting climate change, and exacerbating its aggressive behavior in Asia, including in the South China Sea, according to the French president.


Macron also said “the coming semesters will be very critical for Chinese leaders and China,” given the Biden administration’s reengagement in multilateral frameworks like the World Health Organization. “As the U.S. is reengaging itself, what will be the behavior of China?” Macron asked. He pitched, once again, holding a summit of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, the U.S., U.K. and Russia. He had tried to hold such a summit in 2020 but it had fallen prey to Sino-American tensions and never materialized. Macron was answering questions from a handful of U.S. think-tankers, professors and former officials via video link in a 90-minute session recorded at the Elysée on Wednesday afternoon.

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“You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market.”

Hunger Games (Ben Hunt)

You have been told that investing in the stock market is like betting on a sports game. You have been told that you are a SPECTATOR in the game of markets, that you are WATCHING a game being played out in front of you by lots of different companies. You have been told that you should make ‘bets’ on those companies based on how well you think those companies can play the game that you are watching. The companies will play the game and they will keep score by ‘beating’ or ‘missing’ on revenues and earnings and the like, and then that score will determine whether or not your bets pay off. You have been told that the better you are at ‘analyzing’ the teams playing this game, the more ‘due diligence’ you put into studying the teams playing this game, the more money you will make with your bets.

You have been told that everyone can win with their bets, that this is how you, too, can achieve the wealth that you deserve. You have been told that the odds are ever in your favor. You have been told this for your entire life. More and more, you suspect this is a lie. But if it is a lie … what then? What meaning exists in the stock market if this is a lie? Over the past few weeks you have been told a new story. A brave story. A story of heroes. A story of meaning. You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market. You have been told that you can slough off your market oppressors who “want companies to fail”.

You have been told that you can be a PARTICIPANT in the game of markets, that you can storm the playing field of companies, that you can take matters into your own hands and rescue a promising company under unfair attack. And, yes, make some good money in the process. Why not? Seems only fair. Today, as you see the collapsing stock prices of the companies you supported, you suspect that this was a lie, as well. And you’d be right. Neither story is true. Neither story has EVER been true. Both of these stories are narratives for our very own Hunger Games, a spectacle that chews up the participants in the arena while delivering enormous profits to the networks (media, financial and political) that put them on. Media networks count their profits in eyeballs, in the attention the Games garner.

Financial networks count their profits the old-fashioned way, in the sheer volume of dollar-generating order flow the Games produce. As for politicians, they get their most valuable coin of the modern realm – an issue. The wackos on the left get to propose insane transaction taxes. The wackos on the right get to tell us how much liBeRtY we are enjoying by giving Ken Griffin all of our money. The very serious centrists get to tell us about how we need “a national conversation” about the T+2 settlement issues raised here. And what about the rest of us? What about all of us reading story after story about the “Reddit Revolution” and what it means for us? What do WE get out of the Hunger Games?

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And then come the variants.

US Covid Hospitalizations Drop To Lowest Level Since Before Thanksgiving (F.)

Coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.S. are down to their lowest level since Nov. 24, according to The COVID Tracking Project, as signs of improvement in the pandemic appear evident across essentially the entire United States. On Thursday, there were 88,668 Covid-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, which remains well above the height of the spring and summer surges of 2020 but a significant drop from the record high of 132,474 hospitalized on Jan. 6. The rate of new cases in the U.S. has been declining for weeks, and is now averaging just under 120,000 a day for the first time since Nov. 5, according to Johns Hopkins University. Deaths, which lag behind increases in other metrics and have been at record levels, appear to finally be on the decline.

The 7-day rolling average for deaths has dropped every day during February, and is now below 3,000 a day, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Health officials are warning against complacency, especially with new strains of Covid that seem much more contagious, like the U.K. and South African varieties, that are spreading in the United States. “Now is not the time to let our guard down. Keep taking steps to protect each other,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing Wednesday.


Vaccination efforts are continuing to ramp up in the United States. As of Thursday evening, around 36.7 million Covid shots had been administered around the U.S., according to a Bloomberg tracker, with estimated 2.3% of the population fully vaccinated with two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna shots. And more help is likely on the way. On Thursday evening, Johnson & Johnson applied for emergency use authorization with the FDA for its vaccine, which only requires a single dose. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects approval to come “within a week or so,” and the company appears on track for a March rollout.

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Vaccinated with a non-approved and hardly tested vaccin. Take ’em to court.

No Special Freedoms For The Vaccinated In Germany (DW)

The German Ethics Council on Thursday spoke out against lifting restrictions for individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Germany has been in partial lockdown since November. Bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting facilities are closed. Schools and non-essential shops were added to the list in mid-December, with rules on mask-wearing and working from home tightened in January amid concerns over new virus variants. Vaccinations started at the end of December with people over 80 and their carers front of the line. There is currently a shortage of vaccines in Germany, and it will take several months for a majority of people to be immunized and become eligible for the lifting of restrictions.

Over the past few weeks tourism agencies, event managers and some politicians had suggested allowing those who have been vaccinated to travel, eat in restaurants, attend concerts and other events which would involve close contact with a high number of other people. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was the first high-profile politician to speak out in favor of lifting restrictions. “Someone who cannot fall seriously ill with the coronavirus anymore will not need intensive care and burden the health care system. He should no longer have to suffer restrictions to his basic rights and freedoms,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in January. Such proposals have been met with criticism, for example from Left party chairwoman Katja Kipping, who urged adherence to freedom and equality stipulations in the German constitution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also ruled out special regulations this Monday. The COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory in Germany. Distinguishing between the vaccinated and those not vaccinated would be the same as a mandatory vaccination,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had warned. The ethics council on Thursday pointed out that it had to be clarified first whether vaccinated people might still be able to transmit the virus. Only if that were ruled out could any exemption from rules such as wearing masks in public places be considered. “At the present time, withdrawing state restrictions on freedoms for vaccinated people should not take place as it is not yet possible to reliably assess infectiousness,” Ethics Council head Alena Buyx told a news conference in Berlin on Thursday.

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For entertainment purposes only.

Trump Rejects Dems’ Request To Testify At Impeachment Trial (AP)

House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging him to respond to their charge that he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol. A Trump adviser said the former president won’t testify. Although Democrats might not have the power to force Trump’s testimony, the request from House impeachment managers is part of their overall effort to put the violent events of Jan. 6 on the record for history and hold him accountable for his words. Democrats will look to use his refusal to testify against him as they argue that the ex-president has avoided responsibility for his actions.

Hours after the Democrats’ request was revealed, Trump adviser Jason Miller dismissed the trial as “an unconstitutional proceeding” and said the former president would not testify. Separately, Trump’s lawyers denounced the request as a “public relations stunt.” The impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is charged with inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count. Five people died. Before the riot, Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat. Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability for the attack. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from seeking office again.

In the letter to the former president and his attorneys, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump explain why he and his team have disputed key factual allegations at the center of their case. He asked that Trump provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and not later than Thursday, Feb. 11. The request from Raskin cites the words of Trump’s own attorneys, who in a legal brief earlier this week not only denied that Trump had incited the riot but also asserted that he had “performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people.”

With that argument, Raskin said, Trump had questioned critical facts in the case “notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.” He said Trump should be able to testify now that he is no longer president. Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen responded hours later that the letter proves that Democrats “cannot prove your allegations” and that an impeachment trial is too serious “to try to play these games.”

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Not a new issue.

Incitement Is Not A Real Crime (McMaken)

[..] in an essay written for a small newspaper in the late 1960s, Rothbard explains the problem with claiming incitement is a real crime: “Suppose that Mr. A tells Mr. B: “Go out and shoot the mayor.” Suppose, then, that Mr. B, pondering this suggestion, decides it’s a darn good idea and goes out and shoots the mayor. Now obviously B is responsible for the shooting. But in what sense can A be held responsible? A did not do the shooting, and didn’t take part, we will assume, in any of the planning or executing of the act itself. The very fact that he made that suggestion cannot really mean that A should be held responsible. For does not B have free will? Is he not a free agent? And if he is, then B and B alone is responsible for the shooting.

If we attribute any responsibility at all to A, we have fallen into the trap of determinism. We are then assuming that B has no will of his own, that he is then only a tool in some way manipulated by A. Now, if Person A participated in the planning of a riot or a murder, then Person A is guilty of conspiracy, not incitement. But Person A is not guilty of anything for have merely suggested to Person B that he shoot the mayor. Person B, after all, is responsible for his own actions. [..] if the will is free, then no man is determined by another; then just because somebody shouts “burn, baby, burn,” no one hearing this advice is thereby compelled or determined to go and carry the suggestion out. Anybody who does carry out the advice is responsible for his own actions, and solely responsible.

Therefore, the “inciter” cannot be held in any way responsible. In the nature of man and morality, there is no such crime as “incitement to riot,” and therefore the very concept of such a “crime” should be stricken from the statute books.” [..] Cracking down on “incitement to riot,” then, is simply and purely cracking down on one’s natural and crucial right to freedom of speech. Speech is not a crime. And hence the injustice, not only of the crime of incitement, but also of such other “crimes” as “criminal sedition” (sharp criticism of the government), or “conspiracy to advocate overthrow of the government”—in other words, planning someday to exercise one’s basic and natural right to freedom of speech and advocacy.

A decade later, Rothbard emphasized the importance of rejecting the notion of incitement as a crime in his book For a New Liberty. Under the section titled “Freedom of Speech,” he writes: “What, for example, of “incitement to riot,” in which the speaker is held guilty of a crime for whipping up a mob, which then riots and commits various actions and crimes against person and property? In our view, “incitement” can only be considered a crime if we deny every man’s freedom of will and of choice, and assume that if A tells B and C: “You and him go ahead and riot!” that somehow B and C are then helplessly determined to proceed and commit the wrongful act. But the libertarian, who believes in freedom of the will, must insist that while it might be immoral or unfortunate for A to advocate a riot, that this is strictly in the realm of advocacy and should not be subject to legal penalty.”

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Maybe you can indict them for incitement.

Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit vs Fox News, Giuliani, Powell (CNN)

A voting technology company swept up in baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election filed a monster $2.7 billion lawsuit on Thursday against Fox News, some of the network’s star hosts, and pro-Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, alleging the parties worked in concert to wage a “disinformation campaign” that has jeopardized its very survival. “We have no choice,” Antonio Mugica, the chief executive and founder of Smartmatic, told CNN Business in an interview about the company’s decision to file the lawsuit. “The disinformation campaign that was launched against us is an obliterating one. For us, this is existential, and we have to take action.”

The lawsuit, filed in New York state court, accused Fox, Giuliani, Powell and hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro of intentionally lying about Smartmatic in an effort to mislead the public into the false belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. “They needed a villain,” the lawsuit said. “They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.” “Without any true villain, defendants invented one,” the lawsuit added. “Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story.”

In a statement on behalf of the network and the named hosts issued after the lawsuit was filed, a Fox News spokesperson said, “FOX News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.” Asked for comment, Powell said in a statement, “I have not received notice or a copy of this alleged lawsuit. However, your characterization of the claims shows that this is just another political maneuver motivated by the radical left that has no basis in fact or law.” In a statement of his own, Giuliani said, “The Smartmatic lawsuit presents another golden opportunity for discovery. I look forward to litigating with them.”

Giuliani and Powell have also been sued by another voting technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, for promoting their voter fraud conspiracies. Giuliani called Dominion’s lawsuit against him an “act of intimidation” to “censor the exercise of free speech” and Powell called Dominion’s lawsuit against her “baseless.”

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Danielle DiMartino Booth: “Suggesting administration should have sway over Fed policy was error in judgment. But let’s face it, since Volcker departed, each successive administration’s influence increased. Judy just gave voice to the truth. In the end, the establishment won the war..”

Biden Withdraws Judy Shelton’s Fed Nomination (Hill)

President Biden on Thursday formally withdrew Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board, closing the book on her quest to join the central bank. Shelton’s nomination was withdrawn with more than two dozen other officials nominated by former President Trump in January shortly before he left office. The Democratic takeover of the Senate in January effectively ended Shelton’s chances of confirmation, and Biden’s withdrawal of her nomination does little more than clear the way for his eventual pick to fill the final vacant spot on the Fed board. Biden has not yet indicated who he would nominate in Shelton’s place.


Trump announced in 2019 that he would nominate Shelton, a former campaign adviser, to the Fed board after Senate Republicans rejected four of his previous picks. She was formally nominated in early 2020 and narrowly approved for a confirmation vote by the Senate Banking Committee last July despite GOP concerns about her criticism of Fed independence, past support for the gold standard and inconsistent views on monetary policy. Shelton came remarkably close to confirmation in December, but coronavirus-related absences and the opposition of three Republican senators blocked her from joining the Fed. Trump renominated Shelton in January after the new Congress convened, but Republicans were unable to confirm her before losing their Senate majority.

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“Simon Property Group has washed its hands off it, letting the CMBS holders eat the losses. And the new owners, Deutsche Bank and holders of CMBS, will now get to manage the mall.”

Largest US Mall Landlord Sent Jingle Mail to Deutsche Bank (WS)

Deutsche Bank this week foreclosed on a $177.5 million mall mortgage. The mortgage had been securitized and spread over two commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) in 2012. The collateral is 560,000 square feet of retail space at the 1.2 million square-foot Town Center at Cobb, in Kennesaw, Cobb County, Georgia. The regional mall has over 170 stores, including a Macy’s, a JCPenney, and a Belk (just filed for bankruptcy). The mall was owned by Simon Property Group, the largest mall landlord and mall REIT [SPG] in America, which, in one of its acts of jingle mail, had returned the mall to the lenders. “Jingle mail” was engraved into the American lexicon during the housing bust, when homeowners voluntarily turned their homes over to lenders, presumably by mailing them the house keys.

Most home mortgages are recourse loans, and banks can drag the homeowner to court over any deficiency after the foreclosure sale – except in the 12 “non-recourse” states. But commercial real estate mortgages are non-recourse; all the lender gets is the collateral, and the owner walks away. At the time of securitization in 2012, the collateral for the loan was valued at $322 million, according to Trepp, a data firm that tracks CMBS. And everything was hunky-dory. In October 2020, the value was slashed by 60% to $130.4 million. The legal notice by Deutsche Bank of the foreclosure sale, reported by the Marietta Daily Journal on January 27, specified that the mall would be sold on February 2 “at public outcry to the highest bidder for cash before the Courthouse door of Cobb County.” The opening bid would be $130.4 million.

And this is what happened on February 2, according to the Marietta Daily Journal: “[Attorney Matthew Norton of the law firm Polsinelli] “read the legal notice in full on the southern steps of the county’s justice center, a recitation that took over half an hour to complete. The bargain hunters who attended the morning’s residential foreclosure auctions left hours before, leaving Norton to conduct the “public outcry” on the courthouse steps across the street from an empty Flournoy Park.” And there were no bids. So Deutsche Bank and other CMBS holders are now the proud owners of the mall. Simon Property Group has washed its hands off it, letting the CMBS holders eat the losses. And the new owners, Deutsche Bank and holders of CMBS, will now get to manage the mall.

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“In capitalism, capital is power, and to accumulate it differentially – i.e., relative to others – is to fortify and augment one’s organized power over others.”

Dominant Capital Is Much More Powerful Than You Think (RWER)

According to the theory of capital as power (CasP), capitalists and corporations are driven not to maximize profit, but to ‘beat the average’. Their yardstick is not an unmeasurable theoretical abstraction, but the readily observable performance of others. Their aim is not to increase their ‘material gain’, counted in fictitious utils or socially necessary abstract labour time, but to earn more money than everyone else. And the reason, we argue, has to do with power. In capitalism, capital is power, and to accumulate it differentially – i.e., relative to others – is to fortify and augment one’s organized power over others. Following Kepler’s modern notion of force, CasP sees capitalized power not as a stand-alone qualitative entity, but as a quantitative relationship between entities.

First, capitalized power is not absolute, but relational. It’s not a ‘battery’ or ‘energy’ that some entities possess and use to impose their will over others. Instead, it is the actual structure of differential relationships among capitalist owners and organizations as well as between those owners and organization and others who are subjugated to them and resist their domination. Second, capitalized power is a pure quantity. The actual institutions, structures and processes of capitalist power – from production, to finance, to government, religion, ideology, international relations, crime and what not – vary greatly. They are qualitatively different from each other and, in that sense, hard if not impossible to compare and aggregate. But in capitalism, these qualitative differences all get reduced to pure numbers: they are converted to the universal quantities of differential profit, investors’ hype and risk perceptions – and from there they get discounted to the universal quantity of differential capitalization.

The ongoing quest to beat the average and accumulate differentially goes hand in hand with CasP’s notion of ‘dominant capital’. All capitalists try to beat the average, but only some succeed and only a minority succeeds systematically, at least over a certain period. In time, this minority percolates up the hierarchies of power to formulate the cluster we call dominant capital. This cluster comprises the largest government-backed corporate coalitions at the centre of any given sector, a particular society, a group of countries and, ultimate, the capitalist world as a whole. The constituent entities of dominant capital change over time – the Alphabets and Apples of today have substituted the U.S. Steels and AT&Ts of a century ago and will likely be replaced by others in the future. But topologically, as a ruling entity, dominant capital is ubiquitous. There is hardly a capitalist setting without it.

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Why would anyone ever vote again?

Dems Are Lucy, The Football Is $2,000 (DP)

The image of Lucy and the football is a good way to understand Democrats and the promised $2,000 checks — the party promised the checks immediately, but now seems intent on pulling the ball away at the last minute, expecting Charlie Brown to laugh. But millions of struggling middle-class families who were deceived probably won’t find it funny. The Washington Post, HuffPost and Bloomberg are reporting that Democrats may limit full $1,400 survival checks to individuals earning less than $50,000 and couples earning less than $100,000. A bipartisan group of senators is also now pushing an amendment to “ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible” for checks. At least one Democratic senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, has said he opposes the new proposed income limits.


Biden’s original proposal would send full checks to individuals earning up to $75,000 and married couples earning up to $150,000 — the same income limits Congress has used for previous rounds of checks. The proposed changes, which are being discussed in the name of “targeting” payments to those who need it, could affect checks for millions of people who have previously received COVID economic impact payments. Under the new terms being debated, about four in ten Americans could be excluded or receive partial checks, according to census data. Roughly 36 percent of U.S. households earn more than $100,000 — and some of the 29 percent of American households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 are single households.

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Bezos will have more time for his hobbies soon.

Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking (DP)

Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including the Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper’s chief “fact checker” Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos’s highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations. This might seem like a simple example of a pundit knowing exactly who pays his salary, but in this case, the pundit in question has his own axe to grind. Kessler is the scion of a fossil fuel baron, which means he has an interest in defending tax cuts that were a particularly big financial windfall for oil companies, including the one linked to his family, according to Kessler’s own newspaper.

At a time when Americans’ trust in media has plummeted, Kessler is a perfect illustration of how the cottage industry of fact checking has turned itself into a system of Orwellian misinformation — one that uses fact-o-meters and Pinocchios to insist that war is peace and ignorance is strength. Rather than clarifying reality, fact checking is routinely used to hide the truth and shield the powerful from accountability — it has helped politicians hide their votes to cut Social Security; let health care industry lobbyists distort statistics about medical bankruptcies and Medicare for All; and abetted Wall Street’s efforts to downplay bank bailouts. Now, comes the crescendo: The newspaper owned by a man worth $180 billion is deploying fact checking to try to revise the entire history of the tax cuts that enriched his retail conglomerate.

And what a coincidence — the revision is happening just as the tax policy may be revisited by a new Democratic president. Not surprisingly, this particular broadside is being directed at Sanders, arguably the most prominent critic of Bezos and Amazon in all of American politics. He introduced legislation to shame the company for its labor practices, he successfully pressured the company to raise its workers’ wages and has championed legislation to tax billionaires. Bezos’s company has responded by attacking the Vermont senator — and now his newspaper is trying to reinforce those attacks under the deceptive guise of fact checking, all as it warns readers on every story that democracy dies in darkness.

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A curious celebration.

The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election (Time)

A weird thing happened right after the Nov. 3 election: nothing. The nation was braced for chaos. Liberal groups had vowed to take to the streets, planning hundreds of protests across the country. Right-wing militias were girding for battle. In a poll before Election Day, 75% of Americans voiced concern about violence. Instead, an eerie quiet descended. As President Trump refused to concede, the response was not mass action but crickets. When media organizations called the race for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, jubilation broke out instead, as people thronged cities across the U.S. to celebrate the democratic process that resulted in Trump’s ouster.

A second odd thing happened amid Trump’s attempts to reverse the result: corporate America turned on him. Hundreds of major business leaders, many of whom had backed Trump’s candidacy and supported his policies, called on him to concede. To the President, something felt amiss. “It was all very, very strange,” Trump said on Dec. 2. “Within days after the election, we witnessed an orchestrated effort to anoint the winner, even while many key states were still being counted.” In a way, Trump was right. There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day. Both sides would come to see it as a sort of implicit bargain–inspired by the summer’s massive, sometimes destructive racial-justice protests–in which the forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy.

The handshake between business and labor was just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election–an extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted. For more than a year, a loosely organized coalition of operatives scrambled to shore up America’s institutions as they came under simultaneous attack from a remorseless pandemic and an autocratically inclined President. Though much of this activity took place on the left, it was separate from the Biden campaign and crossed ideological lines, with crucial contributions by nonpartisan and conservative actors. The scenario the shadow campaigners were desperate to stop was not a Trump victory. It was an election so calamitous that no result could be discerned at all, a failure of the central act of democratic self-governance that has been a hallmark of America since its founding.

Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result. “The untold story of the election is the thousands of people of both parties who accomplished the triumph of American democracy at its very foundation,” says Norm Eisen, a prominent lawyer and former Obama Administration official who recruited Republicans and Democrats to the board of the Voter Protection Program.

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That is one scary image…

 

 

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Feb 032021
 
 February 3, 2021  Posted by at 10:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  41 Responses »


Joseph Mallord William Turner Norham Castle, Sunrise 1845

 

Dems Threaten To Exclude Families Crushed By Pandemic (DP)
Senate Approves Budget Process For Passage of $1.9T COVID19 Stimulus (JTN)
Criticism Piles On Cuomo After Week Of Blunders (F.)
France Raises More Questions About AstraZeneca Jab (ZH)
P.2 Coronavirus Variant From Brazil Found In California (LAT)
WHO Team Visits Wuhan Virus Lab At Center Of Speculation (AP)
Will WallStreetBets Send The VIX Soaring Next? (ZH)
White House Reporters Say Biden Team Wanted Questions In Advance (JTN)
Florida Gov. DeSantis, Lawmakers Plan To Take Action On Big Tech (JTN)
Academic Media Censorship Conference Censored by YouTube (MPN)
NYPD Deploys Counter Terrorism Unit To Protect Wall Street (MPN)
Economics’ Failure Over Destruction Of Nature Presents ‘Extreme Risks’ (G.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, c’mon man, he lied about sending out the checks “immediatedly”. At least have the guts to call him on that. You may be on his side, but your credibility is at stake.

Dems Threaten To Exclude Families Crushed By Pandemic (DP)

The nation’s biggest business lobby is pushing Democrats to slash COVID relief checks for middle class families, despite new census data showing that nearly half of those families have lost income because of the pandemic. Top Democrats are now reportedly considering excluding millions of those families from the checks, and President Biden himself has said he is willing to negotiate with Republicans on limiting eligibility for the checks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $82 million lobbying in Washington last year, sent a letter to the White House and Congress on Tuesday urging them to consider “targeting any additional stimulus checks based on income, loss of employment, or similar criteria.”

The corporate lobbying group — whose members undoubtedly benefit from a desperate workforce — attempted to twist census data showing broad economic devastation to make the point that families earning more than $50,000 don’t need new survival checks. “While the pandemic induced recession has created near unprecedented levels of hardship, the impact has not been universal,” the Chamber wrote. “The Census Bureau Pulse survey indicates that while a majority of households with less than $50,000 in income have experienced a loss of employment income, a majority of household with more than $50,000 in income — including those between $50,000 and $150,000 — have not experienced any loss in earned income.”

This is a misleading way to frame the census survey results. Recent census data shows that 45 percent of households earning between $50,000 and $150,000 have experienced a loss of employment income since March 2020 — including 48 percent of households earning between $50,000 and $75,000. Nearly a quarter of households earning between $50,000 and $150,000 say they expect to lose employment income over the next four weeks. The Chamber is adding its voice to a chorus of pleas in the Beltway to limit who’s eligible for COVID relief checks. The campaign was first kicked off by discredited austerity economist Larry Summers and columnists at the Washington Post and Bloomberg News, which are owned by billionaires Jeff Bezos and Mike Bloomberg respectively.

President Biden’s COVID relief plan would send full $1,400 survival checks to individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has repeatedly demanded the relief checks be more “targeted.” Senate Republicans on Monday proposed that Congress limit full stimulus checks to individuals earning up to $40,000 and couples earning $80,000 — a move that would deny checks to an additional 80 million people, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

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“Immediately” now has a whole new meaning. See you in summer.

Senate Approves Budget Process For Passage of $1.9T COVID19 Stimulus (JTN)

The Democratic-led Senate voted on Tuesday in favor of starting the budget reconciliation process for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal. The vote on the budget resolution was 50-49 with Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voting with the Democrats in favor of the resolution. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey was not present for the vote. The use of budget reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass their coronavirus relief plan without relying on any votes from Republicans.


Senate Republicans have criticized Senate Democrats for proceeding with reconciliation instead of seeking bipartisan input on additional COVID-19 stimulus funds. Large-scale coronavirus relief bills were passed last year with votes from Republicans and Democrats in the GOP-led Senate when former President Trump was in office. GOP senators like John Barrasso of Wyoming said on Tuesday the reconciliation move conflicts with Biden’s message of unity during his inaugural address. Senate Democrats are tying a $15 per hour federal minimum wage to the coronavirus stimulus bill.

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Hiw own brother’s network turns on him. That part is sort of interesting. Other than that, he’s as out of his depth as 95+% of politicians.

Criticism Piles On Cuomo After Week Of Blunders (F.)

Starting with last Thursday’s report from the New York Attorney General’s Office that accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration of underreporting nursing home deaths tied to Covid-19—potentially by as much as 50%—the Democratic governor has consistently found himself at the center of harsh bipartisan criticism over the past week regarding his pandemic leadership. The report renewed outrage over Cuomo’s early policy to send recovering Covid-19 patients back to nursing homes, which the attorney general’s office said may have led to excess deaths—a possibility Cuomo brushed off on Thursday by saying the patients would have died either way, there or in a hospital: “Who cares? 33 [percent]. 28 [percent]. Died in a hospital. Died in a nursing home … they died.”

The report, coupled with Cuomo’s reaction, drew sharp criticism from both sides of the aisle and both state and federal officials, with Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim (Queens) saying there are serious talks underway about stripping Cuomo’s emergency powers, which are in place until April and can be revoked by a joint resolution from the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate and Assembly. “We’ve seen this governor prioritize his ego over the best interests of New Yorkers time and time again,” Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (Bronx) said Monday. Another round of scrutiny came on Monday after The New York Times reported that at least nine of New York’s senior health officials left their positions in recent months amid a rift between the governor and experts, who he poked at during a Friday news conference, saying: “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust experts … because I don’t.”

Cuomo was sharply criticized in light of the reporting and his press conference rhetoric, with CNN anchor Jake Tapper labeling Cuomo’s statement “wildly irresponsible” and the network’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta saying he was “really quite stunned,” adding, “If you start to take away the credence of these experts I think that’s really, really harmful, especially now.” When asked about the staff departures, a spokesperson for Cuomo directed Forbes to the governor’s response at a Tuesday press conference, in which he attributed turnover in the New York State Health Department to the “highly stressful, highly challenging, highly exhausting, highly fatiguing” nature of the pandemic.

The governor continued to stir controversy into Tuesday as he spontaneously announced the expansion of vaccine eligibility to NYC restaurant workers after calling demands for this group’s immediate inclusion “a cheap, insincere discussion” a day prior, and as a New York Times report highlighted his announcement about bringing back indoor dining last week had cited misleading data about test positivity rates in the city.

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This piece is actually more about AZ doing its own peer review..

France Raises More Questions About AstraZeneca Jab (ZH)

The latest update on the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID jab was released Tuesday afternoon in a report from the University which offered more insight on exactly when vaccine-induced immunity begins, and how effective the vaccine can be after its first dose and after its second. Unsurprisingly, the data offer a more optimistic read than the batch released by AZ and Oxford the first time around. But they also suggest that the vaccine is actually more effective overall if doctors wait roughly 3 months before inoculating patients with the second dose, which provides support for “current policy” in the UK. However, in the US, the FDA-recommended vaccination dosing schedule is 21 days, which has endured despite logistical problems and other issues that have caused delivery delays in NYC and elsewhere (so much for the consistency of the “science”).

And the new AstraZeneca vaccine might be able to fix all that. According to the research team, the first dose alone offers 76% protection from symptomatic COVID 22 days post-vaccination. But the jab successfully offers sustained protection through a 3-month period, even without receiving the second dose, a data point that has already been transformed into a marketing opportunity by AstraZeneca. Prof Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator of Oxford Vaccine Trial and co-author of the paper, said in a statement: “These new data provide an important verification of the interim data that was used by more than 25 regulators including the MHRA and EMA to grant the vaccine emergency use authorization.”

“It also supports the policy recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination & Immunisation for a 12-week prime-boost interval, as they look for the optimal approach to roll out, & reassures us that people are protected from 22 days after a single dose of the vaccine.” The new data, which are culled from cases extended through Dec. 7, purportedly show the optimal window for the second booster dose could be up to 14 weeks. That means it’s less risky to give patients the AstraZeneca shot, because even if there are supply delays, patients won’t be badly harmed. After the second dose, immunity rises to 82.4%, according to data taken from cases throughout the 3-month interval window. The research team offered the data with a 95% confidence interval of 62.7% – 91.7% at 12+ weeks

In another “unprecedented” update, the data suggest the vaccine helps prevent transmission of the virus, with 67% reduction in positive swabs among those vaccinated” “However, overall cases of any PCR+ were reduced by 67% (95%CI 49%, 78%) after a single SD vaccine suggesting the potential for a substantial reduction in transmission,” the authors of the paper wrote. Officials likely hoped the report would help cement public support for the AstraZeneca vaccine, (at least in Europe, its primary market, where it has inked deals for billions of doses). The AZ vaccine is, notably, also less effective than Russia’s “Sputnik V” vaccine, according to data published by the Lancet a few days back.

Unfortunately, its release was timed with more “problematic” comments from French President Emmanuel Macron and the French authorities. Specifically, French health authorities have approved the vaccine, but they have also warned that the AZ-Oxford vaccine should only be given to people aged under 65, after the initial preliminary reports on AZ released late last year suggested some adverse health reactions in older patients.

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Close your borders?!

P.2 Coronavirus Variant From Brazil Found In California (LAT)

A coronavirus variant from Brazil has been detected in a sample from the Bay Area, underscoring the urgency of ramping up inoculation efforts as researchers try to learn whether it, as well as others circulating in California, could undermine the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers at Stanford’s Clinical Virology Laboratory screened nearly 1,000 specimens during the last two weeks and found one case of the Brazilian variant, P.2, said Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, the laboratory’s medical director. They reported the finding to public health authorities on Jan. 25. The researchers also identified four cases of a variant from the U.K., B.1.1.7, that appears to spread more easily, may be more virulent and is already known to be circulating in California, Pinsky said.

And they found that about 29% of the specimens had the L452R mutation, a feature of a homegrown variant that has been increasingly detected across the state and may have helped drive the most recent case surge. “It’s definitely possible that they already contributed to the humongous surge we’ve seen over the last six weeks or so,” said Dr. Edward Jones-Lopez, an infectious diseases expert at USC. “And it could get even worse if these strains are indeed fitter than previous strains and people lower their guard and we are not very logistically efficient in delivering vaccines. “When we put those two factors together, it might still be a rough next two to three months.”

The P.2 variant is distinct from another detected in Brazil, P.1, that was linked to an abrupt resurgence in cases in Manaus that took place after much of the population was already believed to have been infected. But the variants share a mutation that appears to help the virus evade antibodies generated by either a previous infection or vaccine, Pinsky said. And there are at least two examples of people being infected with the P.2 variant after they had been infected by another strain, a feat that has been demonstrated by P.1 and multiple other coronavirus strains. That finding has led researchers to theorize that P.2 may have similar properties as the P.1 variant, he said. “There’s a lot less known about the Brazil P.2 strain, so that’s one to keep an eye on,” he said.

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A carefully orchestrated pantomime.

WHO Team Visits Wuhan Virus Lab At Center Of Speculation (AP)

World Health Organization investigators on Wednesday visited a research center in the Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus, with one member saying they’d intended to meet key staff and press them on critical issues. The WHO team’s visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was a highlight of their mission to gather data and search for clues as to where the virus originated and how it spread. “We’re looking forward to meeting with all the key people here and asking all the important questions that need to be asked,” zoologist and team member Peter Daszak said, according to footage run by Japanese broadcaster TBS.

Reporters followed the team to the high security facility, but as with past visits, there was little direct access to team members, who have given scant details of their discussions and visits thus far. Uniformed and plainclothes security guards stood watch along the facility’s gated front entrance, but there was no sign of the protective suits team members had donned Tuesday during a visit to an animal disease research center. It wasn’t clear what protective gear was worn inside the institute. The team left after around three hours without speaking to waiting journalists.

Following two weeks in quarantine, the WHO team that includes experts in veterinary medicine, virology, food safety and epidemiology from 10 nations has over the past six days visited hospitals, research institutes and a traditional wet market linked to many of the first cases. Their visit followed months of negotiations as China seeks to retain tight control over information about the outbreak and the investigation into its origins, in what some have seen as an attempt to avoid blame for any missteps in its early response.

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They don’t have that kind of clout yet.

Will WallStreetBets Send The VIX Soaring Next? (ZH)

One week ago, the Reddit crowd – then numbering 2 million users- sparked a historic squeeze among the most shorted Russell 3000 stocks (led by Gamestop) which inflicted hundreds of billions of losses on some hedge funds (while making other hedge funds that much richer), and launched a deleveraging VaR shockwave which forced even non-shorting hedge funds to unwind some of their biggest (and most popular) positions. Then, this Monday, the same Reddit crowd – now having tripled to 7.5 million users – managed to spark the biggest surge in silver prices since the collapse of Lehman, and even though there were not nearly as many shorts here, the move was sizable enough to unleash another major VaR shockwave across markets, and forcing even unlinked assets to selloff amid another degrossing wave.

What the two episodes had in common is that any outlier event – and last week’s “most shorted vs most popular” slamdown was a 7 sigma event, which nobody had anticipated, with Goldman writing that Tuesday “was the worst day for GS HF VIP longs vs GS Most Short in our records (-7.7%)”… stood to unleash a cascading sequence of adverse events due to just one thing: leverage. It’s the record level of leverage in the system that prompted Morgan Stanley’s chief equity strategist to warn that the short-squeeze shake out is not yet over and that the correction is “likely to get worse”:

“Third, the aggressive short squeeze strategies employed by a certain group of investors was the spark. These targeted squeezes forced the leverage to come out of the system starting with hedge fund gross exposures. Initially, it didn’t have much of an effect on the major indices but last week that all changed. The forced reduction of gross leverage via short covering led to a reduction in long exposure and net leverage. Major averages traded lower by 3-5% with many stocks down 10% or more.”

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But that’s just to serve you better…

White House Reporters Say Biden Team Wanted Questions In Advance (JTN)

The Daily Beast on Monday published a rather scathing piece about the new Biden White House and its press operation. “White House Reporters: Biden Team Wanted Our Questions in Advance,” blared the headline. “If you’re a reporter with a tough question for the White House press secretary, Joe Biden’s staff wouldn’t mind knowing about it in advance,” said the lead. “According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the new president’s communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings.”

Pretty damning report. The Fourth Estate is protected in the Constitution and its job is to demand answers from America’s political leaders, without fear or prejudice. The idea that the media, already viewed as liberal and supportive of Democrats — from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to Biden to congressional lawmakers — could be colluding with the White House provoked alarm. “The left demands 100 percent loyalty from the press, not the 99 percent they already get,” Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News. “In today’s cancel culture, journalists don’t dare be open in their criticism, so that’s why this story is all whispers,” said Gainor.

The Beast’s report drew other questions, though. Was the White House simply trying to find out what reporters were interested in on any given day, or asking for the exact questions they would ask the press secretary in the daily briefing? Citing anonymous sources, the Beast said it was the latter. “[T]he press can’t really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want,” one White House correspondent told the website. “That’s not really a free press at all.” Biden’s press team “did not deny that staffers had solicited questions from reporters,” said the Beast. “But the White House contended that it has tried to foster a better relationship with the press corps than the previous administration, and has tried to reach out to reporters directly in order to avoid appearing to dodge questions during briefings.”

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Censor him!

Florida Gov. DeSantis, Lawmakers Plan To Take Action On Big Tech (JTN)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Tuesday news conference discussed plans for the Sunshine State to pursue legislation pertaining to big tech companies. “The message is loud and clear: When it comes to elections in Florida, big tech should stay out of it,” Gov. DeSantis said. “We can’t allow Floridans’ privacy to be violated, their voices and even their livelihoods diminished and their elections interfered with.” Among the various moves that the governor and state lawmakers have planned is a fine for deplatforming political candidates during an election. “Under our proposal if a technology company deplatforms a candidate for elected office in Florida during an election, a company will face a daily fine of $100,000 until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored,” he said.


“Further, if a technology company promotes a candidate for office against another, the value of that free promotion must be recorded as a political campaign contribution enforced by the Florida Elections Commission,” he said. The governor, who previously served as a lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives, said that tech businesses will face fines if they utilize “content and user-related algorithms” to boost or depress access to material pertaining to a candidate or cause that is up for a vote. “Florida consumers deserve protection for their privacy,” DeSantis said, noting that “with the help of our legislative partners we’re gonna stand together in support of Floridians and put a stop to big tech’s practice of preying on consumers.”

Tucker De Santis
https://twitter.com/i/status/1356792854647984129

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There you go.

Academic Media Censorship Conference Censored by YouTube (MPN)

An academic critical media literacy conference warning of the dangers of media censorship has, ironically, been censored by YouTube. The Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas 2020 took place without incident online over two days in October and featured a number of esteemed speakers and panels discussing issues concerning modern media studies. Weeks later, however, the entire video record of the conference — estimated at around 24 hours of material — disappeared from YouTube. Organizer Nolan Higdon of California State University East Bay, began receiving worried messages from other academics, some of which were shared with MintPress, who had been using the material in their classrooms, noting that it had all mysteriously disappeared.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” said Mickey Huff of Diablo Valley College, California. “My initial reaction was ‘that’s absurd;’ there must have been a mistake or an accident or it must have got swept under somehow. There is no violation, there was no reasoning, there was no warning, there was not an explanation, there was no nothing. The entire channel was just gone,” he told MintPress. Huff is also the director of Project Censored, an organization that sponsored the event. Higdon suspected that it was the content critical of big tech monopolies like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter that was the reason why the channel was deleted. “Each video was a different panel and every panel had different people from the other ones, so it is not like there was one theme or person or copyrighted content in all of our videos; this seems to be an attack on the conference, not on a singular video,” he said.

The organizers were careful to avoid copyright infringement, with the large majority of their videos in lecture format, essentially a recorded Zoom call. Speakers included some of the best-known names in media studies, with the event sponsored by institutions like Stanford University and UCLA. “This wasn’t a keg party with Parler users: it was an academic conference,” Huff said. These are pioneering figures in critical media literacy scholarship. It’s mind numbing that all of this was just disappeared from YouTube. The irony is writ large…This is part of a potentially algorithmic way of getting rid of more radical positions that criticize establishment media systems, including journalism.”

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Ha ha ha. “The bull was covered in a blue tarp to prevent further vandalism.”

NYPD Deploys Counter Terrorism Unit To Protect Wall Street (MPN)

The Charging Bull statue in Manhattan’s Financial District has become the sight of protests amid a wider financial rebellion happening online. On Friday, a handful of activists were seen in Bowling Green Park, posing with the bull, and holding signs that said “Tax Wall Street Trades.” A thin band of tape was also placed on the statue’s head and rear end, featuring slogans like “Hold the line” and “WSB” — both allusions to the GameStop insurrection against hedge funds organized by Reddit’s “Wall Street Bets” community. A similar fate befell the new Fearless Girl statue, which faces the New York Stock Exchange building. Both the bull and the girl are meant to symbolize the power, bravery and daring of the city’s financial traders.


In response, the New York Police Department (NYPD) mobilized its anti-terrorism unit, sending masked, blad clad police officers wearing armor and carrying assault rifles to protect and secure the area. “The Stock Market has had an interesting week to say the least. We are happy to report that the Wall Street Charging Bull is secure and continues to preside over Bowling Green for the foreseeable future,” it announced. The bull was covered in a blue tarp to prevent further vandalism. The decision to deploy counter-terrorism officers on the streets of Manhattan was not well appreciated, at least judging by replies left on the unit’s official social media pages. “Perfect example of how police exist to protect private property and not people,” was the highest rated response. Other popular replies included, “You brought out the automatic rifles and body armor… for tape,” “Good ad for defunding the police right here,” and, “If this was a shot in a movie, I’d think it was too on the nose.”

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A summit hosted by Boris will not protect the planet, but the rich. It’s like the Paris accord, designed to let them continue to control the topic. And make a lot of money of painting stuff green.

Economics’ Failure Over Destruction Of Nature Presents ‘Extreme Risks’ (G.)

The world is being put at “extreme risk” by the failure of economics to take account of the rapid depletion of the natural world and needs to find new measures of success to avoid a catastrophic breakdown, a landmark review has concluded. Prosperity was coming at a “devastating cost” to the ecosystems that provide humanity with food, water and clean air, said Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, the Cambridge University economist who conducted the review. Radical global changes to production, consumption, finance and education were urgently needed, he said. The 600-page review was commissioned by the UK Treasury, the first time a national finance ministry has authorised a full assessment of the economic importance of nature. A similar Treasury-sponsored review in 2006 by Nicholas Stern is credited with transforming economic understanding of the climate crisis.

The review said that two UN conferences this year – on biodiversity and climate change – provided opportunities for the international community to rethink an approach that has seen a 40% plunge in the stocks of natural capital per head between 1992 and 2014. “Nature is our home. Good economics demands we manage it better,” said Dasgupta. “Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them. It also means accounting fully for the impact of our interactions with nature. Covid-19 has shown us what can happen when we don’t do this.” Sir David Attenborough said the review was “immensely important”. In a foreword, he said: “If we continue this damage, whole ecosystems will collapse. That is now a real risk. The review at last puts biodiversity at the core [of economics]. It shows how we can help save the natural world at what may be the last minute, and in doing so, save ourselves.”

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who will host the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, said: “This year is critical in determining whether we can stop and reverse the concerning trend of fast-declining biodiversity. I welcome the review, which makes clear that protecting and enhancing nature needs more than good intentions – it requires concerted, coordinated action.” Humanity’s impact on the natural world is stark, with animal populations having dropped by an average of 68% since 1970 and forest destruction continuing at pace – some scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life is under way and accelerating. Today, just 4% of the world’s mammals are wild, hugely outweighed by humans and their livestock.

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Feb 022021
 
 February 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


MC Escher Relativity 1953

 

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)
Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)
Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)
How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)
COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)
The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)
Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)
Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)
The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)
Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)
Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)
Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)
Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)
Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)
Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

 

 

 

 

“Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!”

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)

Robinhood fancies themselves as commission free trading which is giving normal people free access to the stock market. They are the Facebook of the financial world. You think it’s free, but your data ends up being sold to another big business who profits off of it more than you do. For Zuckerberg, he sells all your data to businesses across the world. For Robinhood, they sell your data to Ken Griffin and other High Frequency Trading shops. You could write a book on the nuances of it, but let’s leave it there for now. As Facebook and (anti)social media grew too large, it has created mass hysterias. Neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris, speaks on his podcast about humans losing sense of their rationality. Because of the constant propaganda being thrown on social media, humans are having a hard time deciphering truths and often create false realities.

Humans end up giving their attention to the most extreme personalities (watch the Tekashi69 Documentary on HBO) and the values of balance and a middle class lifestyle go out the door. In the same way that Facebook has distorted human perception, Robinhood is doing this to capital markets, which might be even scarier. If no one knows the value of things, then how do we attempt to live in a civilized society and trade value for value? Stan Druckenmiller has said that there should be some sort of hurdle rate for investment into the market. Perhaps this is what he saw coming? One of the words that I am shorting over the next five years is ‘scale’. One of the words that will likely replace it is ‘balance’. With balance, you get real growth and real innovation. You accept the fact you are human and fallible while constantly trying to learn from your failures. With scale, you just want to control things as fast as you can at the expense of the herd.

I worked as a trader for 12 years before tapping out and realizing my job was getting eaten alive by algorithms & high-frequency-trading. I tried to out-hustle it, but the incentive to make things cheaper for the end consumer to buy stocks inevitably won. As a free market capitalist, I have to give passive investment, HFT & Robinhood some major props. What they did was brilliant, but I can’t help but ask myself whether we’ve sacrificed social stability in that pursuit of scale. Behind closed doors, I know they are concerned and they can’t unwind what they’ve built. I get messages from Wall Street friends everyday now who can’t openly speak about it, but know how messed up the capital markets are.

With retail equity and call buying at all time records, liquidity could get funky if pay-for-order flow providers pull back at all. CEO’s at Schwab, TD and Virtu will likely try to distance themselves from that model. In the interim, Robinhood will likely do a nice round of mea-culpas with the best PR firms on the market and apologize to everyone about the GameStop situation. The big VC’s on Robinhood’s cap table who are obsessed with scale will make their calls into Washington. Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!

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What will be the new normal? Can’t imagine it will be like the old one.

Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)

APMEX Statement On Current Market Conditions:

In the last week, we have seen a dramatic shift in Silver demand from our customers. For example, the ratio of ounces sold per day was running about two times earlier in the week and closer to four times the average demand by the end of the week. Once markets closed on Friday, we saw demand hit as much as six times a typical business day and more than 12 times a normal weekend day. Combined with the extremely high demand levels, we are also seeing a surge in new customers. On Saturday alone, we added as many new customers as we usually add in a week.

Any Precious Metal dealer will take a long position in the futures market to protect against spot price exposure when the markets open. We do this because it is our goal not to take a speculative position on metal. The weekends are unique as we are not able to real-time hedge our position. We took an aggressive position this weekend, but clearly could not have predicted the volumes that were seen. We have partnerships around to world that allowed us to cover these long positions, but only to a point. Once we exceeded our comfort levels, we had little choice but to stop the sale of Silver on our website. This was a difficult decision to make and unprecedented in our history.

As we evaluate the markets, it is difficult to know where Silver’s price and demand will go in the coming day and weeks. APMEX is highly capitalized and has more than $150 million in inventory to support demand. We have made strategic decisions to procure additional metal, locking up any metal we can find in the market place. We suspect premiums will rise and rise quickly, as we are seeing significant increases in our costs, when we can even locate the metal. It is also highly likely that we will need an additional day or two to fill orders based on current order counts. The one guarantee we can make to our customers is that you will only be sold metal that is on-site, or we have procured the metal with a firm commitment date from our partners. In markets like this, we feel this is the best approach a retailer can take, as no one can predict product availability.

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“The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.”

Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)

The death spiral of the American Empire will not be halted with civility. It will not be halted with the 42 executive orders signed by President Joe Biden, however welcome many are, especially since they can, with a new chief executive, be immediately revoked. It will not be halted by removing Donald Trump, and the crackpot conspiracy theorists, Christian fascists and racists who support him, from social media. It will not be halted by locking up the Proud Boys and the clueless protestors who stormed the Congress on Jan. 6. and took selfies in Vice President Mike Pence’s Senate chair. It will not be halted by restoring the frayed alliances with our European allies or rejoining the World Health Organization or the Paris Climate Agreement.


Mr. Fish

All of these measures are window dressing, masking the root cause of the demise of America — unchecked oligarchic power and greed. The longer wealth is funneled upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal, who put Biden into office and whose interests he assiduously serves, we are doomed. Once an oligarchy seizes power, deforming governing institutions to exclusively serve their narrow interests and turning the citizenry into serfs, there are only two options, as Aristotle pointed out — tyranny or revolution. The staggering concentration of wealth and obscene avarice of the very rich now dwarfs the hedonism and excesses of the world’s most heinous despots and wealthiest capitalists of the past.

In 2015, shortly before he died, Forbes estimated David Rockefeller’s net worth was $3 billion. The Shah of Iran looted an estimated $1 billion from his country. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos amassed between $5 and $10 billion. And the former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was worth about a billion. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are each at $180 billion. The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.

It was made possible by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton who, in exchange for corporate money to fund their campaigns and later Clinton’s foundation and post-presidency opulent lifestyle, abolished the regulations that once protected the citizenry from the worst forms of monopoly exploitation. The demolishing of regulations made possible the largest upwards transference of wealth in American history. Whatever you say about Trump, he at least initiated moves to break up Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other Silicon Valley monopolists, none of which will happen under Biden, whose campaign these corporations bankrolled. And that has to be one of the reasons these digital platforms disappeared Trump from social media.

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We’re all hostages to these companies now. No-one talks about boosting your immune system, or getting fitter, natural defenses are not done.

How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)

Labs worldwide are racing to understand the threat that emerging coronavirus variants pose for vaccines. But early insights from these studies are mixed and incomplete. A variant identified in late 2020 in South Africa, called 501Y.V2 (also known as variant B.1.351), is among the most worrying. Lab assays have found that it carries mutations that sap the potency of virus-inactivating ‘neutralizing antibodies’ that were made by people who received either the Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccines. Whether these changes are enough to lower the effectiveness of those vaccines is not clear, says Subbarao. “That is the million-dollar question, because we don’t know how much antibody you need.” Other immune responses that vaccines prompt might help to protect against the effects of variants.

But on 28 January, biotech firm Novavax released data from clinical trials showing that its experimental vaccine, designed to combat the original virus, was about 85% effective against a variant identified in the United Kingdom — but less than 50% effective against 501Y.V2. That drop is concerning, say researchers, because it indicates that 501Y.V2 and other variants like it can cause a significant drop in vaccines’ effectiveness. “I think it’s inevitable for the vaccines to maintain tip-top efficacy, they will need to be updated. The only question is how often and when,” says Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City who co-led one of the neutralizing-antibody studies. Scientists, health officials and vaccine makers are starting to hash this out. Researchers are only beginning to learn how different mutations alter vaccine responses and how evolutionary forces can cause mutations to spread. “I certainly wouldn’t update them now,” says Bieniasz.

One model that COVID vaccine updates could follow is that of seasonal flu vaccines, says Subbarao, who directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne. Centres including hers monitor emerging flu strains for genetic changes that might influence vaccines’ effectiveness. Researchers use studies with ferret and human antibodies to determine whether a new flu strain is likely to evade a previous season’s vaccine, and therefore necessitate an update. These reviews are conducted annually for each hemisphere’s flu season, and changes are made only when a vaccine-evading strain is widespread, says Subbarao. “If it’s localized to one region, one country, we wouldn’t change the vaccine for the whole hemisphere.”

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Drug pricing is not the scandal here.

COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)

When the U.S. government awarded over $10 billion in contracts and advance- purchase commitments to drug companies working on COVID-19 vaccine and treatments, it did not require the recipients of government money to agree to offer their products at fair prices or share intellectual property rights to enable faster production. Now, two of the companies awarded those contracts—Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson—are trying to prevent shareholders from voting on resolutions to require the companies to disclose information about the impact of government funding on vaccine access. The U.S. government has purchased 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, for about $20 and $10 per dose, respectively.

The shareholder resolutions, filed by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a shareholder activism organization, ask those two companies to inform their shareholders how “receipt of public financial support for development and manufacture of products for COVID-19 is being, or will be, taken into account when making decisions that affect access to such products, such as setting prices.” Similar resolutions were also filed at Eli Lilly, Gilead, Merck, and Regeneron. Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson filed “no action requests” with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December, asking the agency to rule that the companies can withhold the proposals from shareholders.

In nearly identical filings prepared by the same lawyer, both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson argued that the proposals attempt to “micromanage” the companies “by requesting an intricately detailed report.” Meg Jones-Monteiro, ICCR’s health equity director, called the micromanaging claim “ludicrous.” The claim that investors are trying to “micromanage” the companies comes from an SEC precedent finding that certain “ordinary business operations” should not be subject to shareholder oversight. But Jones-Monteiro argues that the issue of vaccine pricing during pandemics doesn’t fall into this category.

“Anything related to drug pricing has been established as a social policy issue,” Jones-Monteiro told The Daily Poster, meaning it isn’t just ordinary business that doesn’t need any shareholder oversight. She noted that the proposals don’t ask about ordinary pricing decisions or ask for intricate details about pricing algorithms. “We are asking very generally: did you take government funding into account? And how did you take it into account?” Oxfam, an ICCR member who filed the proposed resolution with Johnson & Johnson, wrote in a supporting statement that “JNJ stated publicly that it will distribute a COVID-19 vaccine on a “nonprofit” basis,” adding: “JNJ has not clarified what ‘nonprofit’ means when the government funds a significant portion of the research and development cost.”

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Pretty bad.

The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)

Even in a year of horrendous suffering, what is unfolding in Brazil stands out. In the rainforest city of Manaus, home to 2 million people, bodies are reportedly being dropped into mass graves as quickly as they can be dug. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, and people with potentially treatable cases of COVID-19 are dying of asphyxia. This nature and scale of mortality have not been seen since the first months of the pandemic. This is happening in a very unlikely place. Manaus saw a devastating outbreak last April that similarly overwhelmed systems, infecting the majority of the city. Because the morbidity was so ubiquitous, many scientists believed the population had since developed a high level of immunity that would preclude another devastating wave of infection.

On the whole, Brazil has already reported the second-highest death toll in the world (though half that of the United States). As the country headed into summer, the worst was thought to be behind it. Data seemed to support the idea that herd immunity in Manaus was near. In Science this month, researchers mapped the virus’s takeover last year: In April, blood tests found that 4.8 percent of the city’s population had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. By June, the number was up to 52.5 percent. Since people who get infected do not always test positive for antibodies, the researchers estimated that by June about two-thirds of the city had been infected. By November, the estimate was about 76 percent. In The Lancet this week, a team of Brazilian researchers noted that even if these estimates were off by a large margin, infection on this scale “should confer important population immunity to avoid a larger outbreak.”

Indeed, it seemed to. The city was able to largely reopen and remain open throughout its winter with low levels of COVID-19 cases. Yet now, the nightmare scenario is happening a second time. The situation defies expert expectations about how immunity would help protect the hardest-hit populations. By estimates of leading infectious-disease specialists, such as Anthony Fauci, when roughly 70 to 75 percent of the population is immune, there can still be clusters of cases, but sustaining a large-scale outbreak becomes mathematically impossible. Still somehow, according to The Washington Post, hospitals in Manaus that had thought they were well prepared are now overwhelmed.

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What a clown.

Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)

First he said don’t wear a mask. Then he said wear a mask. Then he said wear two masks. Then he said just wear one mask. Keeping up with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mask-wearing recommendations is getting tough. Back in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” the doctor said on CBS News. Of course, we didn’t know much back then, and how to slow the spread has since evolved.

Soon after Fauci made his comments, experts – including those in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – said Americans should wear masks, citing estimates that 40% or more of those infected were asymptomatic but could still spread the virus. “We were not aware that 40% to 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor were we aware that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from people who are without symptoms. That makes it overwhelmingly important for everyone to wear a mask,” Fauci said in September, noting that “the data now are very, very clear.”

Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and is now President Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said last month that wearing two masks is likely more effective than wearing one. “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it, just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci told NBC News. Then over the weekend, Fauci said: “There are many people who feel, you know, if you want to have an extra little bit of protection, maybe I should put two masks on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s no data that indicates that that is going to make a difference and that’s the reason why the CDC has not changed the recommendation.”

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HCQ research has been dead since April, thanks to the Lancet. That’s also when the vaccine trials started.

Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)

Facebook’s independent Oversight Board has reversed the social media platform’s decision to remove an October 2020 post pertaining to the drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. “In October 2020, a user posted a video and accompanying text in French in a public Facebook group related to COVID-19,” the board explained on its website. “The post alleged a scandal at the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products), which refused to authorize hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin for use against COVID-19, but authorized and promoted remdesivir. The user criticized the lack of a health strategy in France and stated that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives.

“The user’s post also questioned what society had to lose by allowing doctors to prescribe in an emergency a “harmless drug” when the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.” While the person’s post pushed back against a government policy, it did not urge people to obtain or take medicine without a prescription, the board noted. “[The] user was opposing a governmental policy and aimed to change that policy,” the board said in explaining its ruling. “The combination of medicines that the post claims constitute a cure are not available without a prescription in France and the content does not encourage people to buy or take drugs without a prescription. Considering these and other contextual factors, the Board noted that Facebook had not demonstrated the post would rise to the level of imminent harm, as required by its own rule in the Community Standards.”

Facebook also failed to show why it did not opt for a less severe remedy than removing the post from the platform, the panel found. “Given that Facebook has a range of tools to deal with misinformation, such as providing users with additional context, the company failed to demonstrate why it did not choose a less intrusive option than removing the content,” the board explained. The board also determined that the social media giant’s misinformation and imminent harm rule is too vague and recommended that the platform consolidate and clarify its standards on health misinformation in one place.

“The Board also found Facebook’s misinformation and imminent harm rule, which this post is said to have violated, to be inappropriately vague and inconsistent with international human rights standards,” the panel said. “A patchwork of policies found on different parts of Facebook’s website make it difficult for users to understand what content is prohibited. Changes to Facebook’s COVID-19 policies announced in the company’s Newsroom have not always been reflected in its Community Standards, while some of these changes even appear to contradict them.”

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“It looks like they mean bidness.”

The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)

It’s been fifty years since precious metals enjoyed any official peg with the US dollar, but for five thousand years previously gold and silver were money itself and paper currencies became mere representations of that money. That relationship ended in 1971 when President Nixon closed the “window” that allowed foreign countries to redeem gold in exchange for dollars they accumulated from the commercial trade of goods — and, our dollar being the world’s supreme reserve currency, the rest of the world’s currencies followed.

Despite all efforts since then by banking authorities to denigrate the value and the role of gold and silver in financial affairs, the “barbarous relics” retained a persistent influence in men’s minds because of their intrinsic qualities. These were: the vested energy they represented from mining and refining, their physical durability, portability, and divisibility, their freedom from counterparty obligations, and, especially in modern times, their vital usefulness in electronics and other industrial applications. The latter quality is greatly reinforced by the powerful wish to transition from a fossil fuel economy to an alt-energy economy of solar cells and wind turbines — a wish that probably won’t come true.

And so, as promised by the subreddit vigilantes, the silver price was up around $3 or ten percent in overnight trading going into the week’s Monday open. It looks like they mean bidness. And that could mean many things. The most obvious is a very conscious effort to punish the high hats of Wall Street for years of lawless game-playing that made them ultra-rich and left everybody else in the country impoverished. Some of the vigilantes frankly express the desire to wreck the degenerate banking system altogether, a great purge of evil to restore something like God-fearing accountability, moving toward a fresh and honest re-start of markets and banking. I’m not convinced that we would get any such orderly re-start in the sense that global banking could be reconstructed along pre-2020 lines.

Rather, wrecking the banks in a daisy-chain of shattered obligations would be an express ticket to the Palookaville of neo-medievalism I’ve been warning about, and probably in a sharp, disorderly, violent, and deadly episode of losing everything that has made us civilized. In any case, the country has already prepped itself for some kind of spectacular failure with all the social mind-fuckery of the past four years that eventuated with the empty shell of Joe Biden in the White House, and millions of his supporters swept into an epic hysteria of manufactured moral outrage over pseudo-realities initiated by academic racketeers and then weaponized by our politicians. But the game is on, whether you like it or not. This may be a last opportunity to get your minds right before you lose your country and your future.

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There are hundreds of them.

Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)

Jake Sullivan was one of the most prolific users of Hillary Clinton’s forbidden email server. Now he’s Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland previously had ties to Christopher Steele in the Russia scandal. White House domestic adviser Susan Rice once falsely declared the Benghazi terror attack was provoked by an anti-Muslim video and later wrote the famously curious did-it-by-the-books email in the Russia scandal during her last minutes in he Obama administration. And top Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement official Melissa Hodgman is married to Peter Strzok, the fired FBI agent who supervised the discredited Crossfire Hurricane probe into Russia-Trump collusion. As Biden fills out his team, the list of people tied to past scandals and controversy keeps getting bigger.


And the pattern has some prominent Republicans taking note. “If you look at the larger picture, the Russia hoaxers, the people that were pushing this out from the very beginning and lying about it after the fact, they’re all at the top echelons of the Biden administration,” former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday. During an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday show hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Nunes took issue with Hodgman’s appointment as acting chief of the SEC enforcement division, saying while she “could be a great public servant,” it created the appearance of a Democratic payback to her husband for pursuing Trump. “Looks like Peter Strozk is actually going to get reimbursed for all of his troubles,” Nunes said. “The guy lost his job, but nothing’s happened to him at this point.”

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Incompetence as a strategic move.

Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)

Joe Biden waited nearly four decades to become the most powerful man in the free world. Now that he is, he’s making himself scarce. Biden is leaning on doctors and health experts to publicly detail his Covid policy. He’s relying on his Cabinet, economic advisers and other high-ranking administration officials to help sell his nearly $2 trillion rescue package. Biden’s press team, meanwhile, is standing in for their boss by blanketing TV programs with pledges to tell the truth even when it’s inconvenient. It’s one of the more arresting shifts after four years of a president who delighted in torturing the media with sudden pronouncements that often surprised and befuddled his own advisers.

“He trusts them, and Americans will trust experts,” John Anzalone, a top Biden adviser and campaign pollster, said of the president’s approach to his team. “Plus,” he added, “Biden is dealing with multiple crises and is a good delegator.” White House aides describe the strategy not so much as delegation but as an concerted effort to restore confidence with a public battered by the contradictory messaging and scorched-earth politics of the Trump years. In just over a week, the White House has booked 80 TV and radio interviews with 20 senior administration officials, members of the Covid-19 response team and Cabinet secretary designates. They’ve had officials on each major network, booking them on every Sunday show in the first week.

And they worked with CNN to have three of the doctors in charge of its Covid-19 response take questions from the public during a coronavirus town hall, said Mariel Sáez, the White House director of broadcast media. Who’s not been booked for any sit-down interviews: Biden. But the president hasn’t exactly been absent either. He appeared for brief ceremonies where he signed executive orders and delivered mostly scripted remarks. He’s taken a handful of questions from the news media. And he’s expected to give a major foreign policy address on Monday amid a planned trip to the State Department, his first visit to a Cabinet agency.

As main protagonists go, Biden’s role has been comparatively limited — a startling contrast to the omnipresent president who preceded him. Donald Trump didn’t so much love the spotlight as he sought to totally consume it. Whether he was sending Twitter screeds at all hours or shouting answers over the ear-splitting blades of his presidential aircraft, Trump craved media attention like no American leader before him.

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Who built the cages?

Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)

President Joe Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term. A federal judge last week ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. In recent days, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported immigrants to at least three countries: 15 people to Jamaica on Thursday and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday. More deportation flights were scheduled Monday.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that the Department of Homeland Security issued to enforcement agencies and that took effect Monday. Some of the people put on the flights may have been expelled — which is a quicker process than deportation — under a public health order that former President Donald Trump invoked during the coronavirus pandemic and that Biden has kept in place. In the border city of El Paso, Texas, immigration authorities on Friday deported a woman who witnessed the 2019 massacre at a Walmart that left 22 people dead.

She had agreed to be a witness against the gunman and has met with the local district attorney’s office, according to her lawyers. Rosa was pulled over Wednesday for a broken brake light, detained based on previous traffic warrants, then transferred to ICE, which deported her before she could reach her attorney, said Melissa Lopez, executive director of the nonprofit Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, which represents her.

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They want him off the map.

Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)

The Biden administration is reviewing whether to take away the ability of former President Donald Trump to receive classified security briefings as the former president in the wake of the Capitol riot.White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki punted on the question when asked about a topic that also came up during the transition – but also confirmed Monday the administration was reviewing the matter. ‘This is a good question,’ said Psaki. ‘It’s something that’s obviously under review.’ The review comes as Trump critics demand he be forced to relinquish some of the perks of power that follow a president even after he leaves office. Former presidents get classified briefings by tradition – although not at the very highest levels reserved for the current officeholder.

In Trump’s case, the briefings would go to a former president who failed to attend the inauguration and spent months claiming that he had ‘won.’ Trump’s statement on his impeachment legal team over the weekend referred to him as the ’45th president of the United States.’ Trump has a small staff that has been running out of Mar-a-Lago. Former presidents get a substantial office stipend, and Secret Service protection costing up to $1 million per year. Even Trump’s adult children are getting Secret Service protection for the next six months, ABC News reported this month. If the Senate were to convict Trump of ‘incitement of insurrection’ following his impeachment trial, it could also vote to strip him of his ability to hold future office. It is unclear what current perks, if any, would go away if he were convicted.

Trump caused an uproar during his 2017 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak after it was reported he revealed highly classified information about ISIS in Syria to the U.S. adversary. He gave up highly sensitive information from a U.S. ally, reported to be Israel, that resulted in the U.S. having to extract a top-level source inside the Russian government. Trump also once tweeted out what appeared to be a classified photo of an Iranian nuclear installation. Trump said he had the power to declassify material. All that preceded the Capitol riots, which followed Trump telling his supporters to ‘fight’ on the day Congress was counting the Electoral College vote.

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“Green” has more than one meaning. It’s what the Paris accord is based on.

Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)

Last week the Biden team delivered their first press conference on the Democrat’s much-anticipated Climate Plan. The good news is that Climate Envoy, John Kerry and Advisor, Gina McCarthy are talking about the Climate Plan delivering “Good paying Union Jobs”. All hail to that ambition. The bad news is that this ain’t no Rooseveltian New Deal. Roosevelt confronted Wall St from the get go. His administration systematically drained the Street of power, and made it servant to the economy and ecosystem. Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary could rightly boast: “We moved the financial capital from London and Wall Street right to my desk at the Treasury. (Rauchway, 2017, p. 227)”

John Kerry on behalf of President Biden did the reverse. With breath-taking haste he genuflected to Wall St. by paying homage to the CEO of Blackrock, and then implied the mighty United States government was dependent on Wall St titans to deliver those “Good paying Union Jobs”. Kerry began the press conference by welcoming CEO Larry Fink’s recent letter and “the new awareness among asset managers about the need to be putting resources into this endeavour.” Remember readers, that Larry Fink presides over assets valued at $8.6 trillion. Blackrock’s clients include pension funds, insurance companies, charities, endowment funds and central banks. Tucked into that basket are your pensions, your insurance, your charitable donations – and your taxpayer-backed central bank.

And just this weekend, Gillian Tett of the Financial Times reminded us, in an article titled – Wall St.’s New Mantra: Green is Good – that Blackrock “Exploded in size and power this century by amassing exchange traded funds and “passive’ strategies that automatically track mainstream indices, such as the S&P 500 – which include fossil fuels… to which Blackrock is heavily exposed…” In other words, this private company uses the world’s savings to make massive capital gains from ‘passive’ almost effortless investment strategies. Worse they use their power to accelerate the climate crisis by investing “heavily” in fossil fuels. All that is bad enough. But Blackrock is able to amass their vast, global power because economists and politicians (including ‘the Left’ of the political spectrum) have conceded that power to them.

John Kerry is our witness. After paying homage to CEO Fink, Kerry placed the United States government in the role of humble supplicant – and effectively begged Wall St. to come to the rescue of the Biden Climate Plan. He could not have addressed the Street more plainly: “What the financiers, the big banks, the asset managers, private investors, venture capital, are all discovering is that there is a lot of money to be made in the jobs to be created in these sectors…” Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, drove home the point: “The question won’t be, will the private sector buy into it? The private sector is going to drive it…”

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“Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents..”

Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

Twitter has suspended the account of the Job Creators Network, a nonpartisan group that advocates for small businesses and policies that protect Main Street jobs. According to the group, the social media giant sent them a message late last week saying JCN had violated Twitter’s “rules against platform manipulation and spam.” Company President and CEO Alfredo Ortiz rejects that claim, saying the deplatforming effort is retaliation against JCN for implying that Twitter should be regulated as a utility. “Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents after JCN implied that the tech giant should be regulated as a utility,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Given that JCN’s internal review demonstrates we did not violate Twitter’s terms and conditions, the tech giant’s bold move is likely pure retaliation against us for our position on tech regulations.”


Twitter on Monday did not respond immediately to several attempts to contact the company to learn why JCN, which advocates for lower taxes and progressive policies, had been removed from the site. Last month, Ortiz wrote an op-ed published by RealClearPolitics titled, “Big Tech’s Conservative Purge Changes the Free Speech Debate.” JCN Chief Communications Officer Elaine Parker on Monday told the “John Solomon Reports” podcast the op-ed argued for Washington to begin regulating social media platforms and other tech giants as utilities. “The reason behind that is because it would it would preclude them from excluding services based on political beliefs and ideology,” Parker told host John Solomon. “I mean, when when you’re getting your phone service through AT&T, they don’t care who you vote for, or who you support or what your political background is. They just want to sell you a service … right?”

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“It is my great hope someday, to see science and decision makers rediscover what the ancients have always known. Namely that our highest currency is respect.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

“Strap yourself to a tree with roots.”
– Bob Dylan

 

 

This So Real

 

 

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Jan 302021
 
 January 30, 2021  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  43 Responses »


Wassily Kandinsky Clear connection 1925

 

GameStop Short Sellers Not Quitting Despite $20 Billion In Losses (CNBC)
GameStop Craziness Pulls Back the Curtain on the Stock Market (Dayen)
Google Deletes 100,000+ One-Star Ratings Of Robinhood App (RT)
The Man Who Isn’t There (Kunstler)
AGs: ‘Principal Political Control’ Of Government Lies With Congress (JTN)
How Biden’s Executive Orders Impact The Oil Industry (Rapier)
Macron: Oxford Vaccine Appears ‘Quasi-Ineffective’ On Elderly Patients (JTN)
Newsom Signs Bill To Extend COVID-19 Eviction Protections Through June (LAT)
Facebook’s Oversight Board Is Taking Public Comments On Trump’s Ban (F.)
Jon Stewart Joins Twitter To Defend Reddit GameStop Traders (NYP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

$20 billion or $70 billion?

Anyway, they can’t quit, because not nearly enough shares are available to cover their shorts. For now, they’re stuck.

GameStop Short Sellers Not Quitting Despite $20 Billion In Losses (CNBC)

The astronomical rally in GameStop has imposed huge losses of nearly $20 billion for short sellers this month, but they are not budging. Short-selling hedge funds have suffered a mark-to-market loss of $19.75 billion year to date in the brick-and-mortar video game retailer, including a nearly $8 billion loss on Friday as the stock kept ripping higher, according to data from S3 Partners. Still, short sellers mostly are holding onto their bearish positions or they are being replaced by new hedge funds willing to bet against the stock. GameStop shares that have been borrowed and sold short have declined by just about 5 million over the last week, marking an 8% dip in the short interest, according to S3. Most of the short covering occurred on Thursday, when the stock fell for the first time in six days.

“I keep hearing that ‘most of the GME shorts have covered’ — totally untrue,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, S3 managing director of predictive analytics. “In actuality the data shows that total net shares shorted hasn’t moved all that much.” “While the ‘value shorts’ that were in GME earlier have been squeezed, most of the borrowed shares that were returned on the back of the buy to covers were shorted by new momentum shorts in the name,” Dusaniwsky added in an email. Shares of GameStop, along with other heavily shorted stocks, spiked once again Friday, after Robinhood said it was resuming limited trading of previously restricted securities. The gain pushed GameStop’s rally this week to over 400% and this month to more than 1,600%. The video game stock has been the star of the show on the WallStreetBets Reddit forum, whose membership has grown rapidly to over 5 million.

A wave of day traders continued to encourage each other to pile into GameStop’s shares and call options, creating a massive short squeeze that inflicted pain for hedge funds betting against the stock. The borrow fee on GameStop’s stock — or the cost-to-borrow shares for the purpose of selling them short — jumped to 29.32% on existing shorts and 50% on new short positions, S3 said. “If most of the shorts had covered, we would not be seeing stock borrow rates at these high levels — by now you would be able to borrow GME stock at single digit levels due to an increase in the lendable stock loan supply due to borrowed shares being returned after all the ‘supposed’ buy-to-covers,” Dusaniwsky said. GameStop remained the most-shorted name in the market as short interest as a percentage of shares available for trading stands at 113.31%, S3 said.

Bianco GameStop

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It would be nice if this led to some kind of reform, but it’s been a very lucrative racket for a long time.

GameStop Craziness Pulls Back the Curtain on the Stock Market (Dayen)

This is, and there’s no other way to put it, hilarious. A bunch of people trading stocks on their phones have brought some of the lords of finance to their knees. They weren’t using some amazing or novel strategy: The run-up in GameStop is just the “pump” of a pump-and-dump scheme, where hype pulls people into a stock before the rug gets pulled out. In fact, that’s what hedge fund managers do all the time, making bets and using research to puff up a stock, then taking the profits off moving a stock, through force of will—theirs—rather than the inherent value of the company. The only real difference here is that ordinary investors are driving the train, and the hedge fund guys are getting run over.

The hedge funders are mad because distorting corporate stock prices beyond the fundamentals is supposed to be their thing, not the work of the hoi polloi. Now, they’ve been outfoxed. If you can think of a better use of $600 stimulus checks, let me know. Never was there a more apt name for an app in this moment than “Robinhood.” Now, this will not stay hilarious forever; we still have the “dump” part of the pump-and-dump scheme to reach. And there appears to be a lot of institutional money front-running the whole thing, capitalizing on the populist story line to take their winnings. But that’s why this can also be a teachable moment, and a moment to fully re-regulate this entire casino.

The idea that the stock market value represents a snapshot of a company’s true worth or expected future profits was always a little cockeyed, and now it’s just been revealed as absurd. Financial-market rigging was always discreetly lurking in the background of stock tickers, like the one that flashes across CNBC, and now it’s been screamingly placed into the foreground. The same dopamine rush that fuels sports betting and online poker has moved into retail market trading, but it was always there at the level of big money. These markets were always reckless and disconnected from reality.

I’m certain that institutional investors will use this as a moment to demand regulation to stop the Robinhood frenzy. But that’s a slippery slope, as there’s not much difference between what the Robinhooders are doing and the normal course of Wall Street looting. Maybe all of that should be investigated. Maybe financial transaction taxes should be applied to encourage limits on trading, and pump-and-dumps strongly restricted. Maybe the real economy should be nurtured with public investment, and these private, more corrupt markets subject to root-and-branch overhaul. (It’s also funny to see the hedge fund guys super-mad that a stock is going up.)

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And Apple too. WTF?

Google Deletes 100,000+ One-Star Ratings Of Robinhood App (RT)

Google has come to the rescue of the stock-trading app Robinhood, deleting negative reviews flooding the company after it had blocked the purchase of stock in companies like GameStop, AMC, and others. After Robinhood controversially stepped in and made the “risk management decision” to block the purchasing of stocks being made unusually popular thanks to the r/WallStreetBets subreddit, its app on Google Play was inundated with reviews from unsatisfied customers. The app’s near-perfect rating stumbled to just one star on Thursday after over 100,000 reviews came in. Google has now deleted enough of those reviews, however, that the app’s rating has jumped to over four stars (out of five).


Google admitted to actively deleting the reviews, as they violate a policy the company has on reviews that are published specifically to manipulate a company’s overall rating. On Apple’s App Store, Robinhood holds a near-perfect five-star rating, though there are numerous one-star reviews from Thursday when the app made the controversial decision to delist certain stocks for individual traders, a move that has drawn the ire of everyone from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

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Now you see him, now you don’t.

The Man Who Isn’t There (Kunstler)

The New York Times, mouthpiece of Wokery, is working triple overtime to sell the narrative of white supremacists on the loose. Anyone to the right of Woke is now an enemy of the state. Last time I looked, it was Antifa and BLM tearing up the streets, setting federal courthouses and police stations on fire, looting stores, destroying businesses, and injuring policemen — in the case of Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, all summer long. Democrats somehow omitted to label them as any kind of threat to the public interest. Vice-president Kamala Harris (then-senator), led a campaign to raise bail money for Antifas and BLMs arrested during last year’s riots. Woke District Attorney’s dropped charges against hundreds of them. Governors and mayors sat on their hands. There were no consequences for any of that.

If anything, the political right-wing of the USA has shown miraculous self-restraint through four years of FBI / DOJ / CIA sedition, tech company tyranny, impeachment chicanery, and the rage-fueled calumnies of Pelosi and Company, all aggravated by questionable Covid-19 lockdowns, and climaxing in a fraud-inflected election that has not had been subject to any adequate judicial audit.

How much of the current artificial hysteria these first weeks of the “Biden” regime is designed to divert attention from the question of who is actually running Joe Biden? My guess would be Barack Obama via Susan Rice, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and formerly Mr. Obama’s National Security Advisor. I would suppose that Ms. Rice is on the phone with Mr. Obama bright and early every morning, and for more than casual conversation. She is surely plugged into the rest of the Obama network, too, in effect a shadow government, which may explain the seeming flimsiness of the crew assembled around Joe Biden. Seems to work for now. But how many weeks will go by before the whole country realizes that Mr. Biden is not actually functioning as president?

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“[A] president is not a Prime Minister or a King..”

AGs: ‘Principal Political Control’ Of Government Lies With Congress (JTN)

Half a dozen state attorneys general wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden this week that the president’s role in the U.S. is “limited” by the Constitution, and that the primary political power of the national government lies in Congress, not the executive office. The letter, signed by the attorneys general of Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana and Indiana, sought to stress the “limited presidential power” the office of the presidency enjoys within the American framework of government. “Under the Constitution, the principal political control of our government is entrusted not to the President, but to the carefully constructed Congress which serves as both sail and anchor of the federal ship of state,” they wrote.


“Congress writes the laws and the President and his officers are limited under the Constitution to the role of faithfully carrying them out.” Noting that the divided structure of the U.S. government “makes it quite difficult to enact significant legislation,” the attorneys general wrote that “it is just as important to respect the absence of legislation as its passage.” “[A] president is not a Prime Minister or a King and must respect that his constitutional office is a limited Chief Executive not the supreme authority of the state,” they wrote, arguing further that “overreaching and defying Congress will not be rewarded or succeed.”

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Not.

How Biden’s Executive Orders Impact The Oil Industry (Rapier)

On his second day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. The biggest takeaway from the Executive Order was the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit. The project had been rejected by President Obama in late 2015, fast-tracked by President Trump in 2017, and now once more rejected by President Biden in 2021. But there is no mention of fracking in this executive order. Last week the administration also issued Secretarial Order No. 3395, which implemented a 60-day suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for federal land and water.

This week President Biden followed that action up with Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The biggest takeaway from this order was an indefinite “pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands” until a comprehensive review on the climate change impacts can be completed. The sound bite for many from this executive order was that President Biden had banned fracking as a consequence of this action. But as with the previous order, fracking isn’t mentioned in this executive order. Further, if an operator has an existing lease and permit but haven’t drilled yet, they can still drill the well and frack it.

The order does potentially impact some future fracking operations, but Biden did reiterate before he signed it “Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up, we’re not going to ban fracking.” But what Biden can’t do by executive order is an overall ban on fracking, because most fracking takes place on private land. A complete ban would have to be passed by Congress, and that looks like a longshot. [..] I spoke with Stacey Morris, who is Director of Research for midstream index and data provider Alerian. She explained that the orders were certainly not as bad as they seemed:

“These executive orders were pretty well-telegraphed. They were even a little bit softened from what was said during the campaign. The language on the Biden website discussed banning permitting on federal land. The executive order is a pause on new leases. They aren’t looking at a full out fracking ban.” When I asked how companies might be affected, she explained “Companies have been stockpiling permits in anticipation of a move like this. Right now there are 7,700 unused permits. For example, Devon Energy has over four years of permit backlog and drilling inventory.

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More of that vaccine mess.

Macron: Oxford Vaccine Appears ‘Quasi-Ineffective’ On Elderly Patients (JTN)

French President Emmanuel Macron claimed on Friday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine appears to have little effect on elderly patients, though a major European medical authority said the data in that regard was too limited to yet make an ultimate determination. Macron told reporters that AstraZeneca’s vaccine “doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to,” and that the injection appears “quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.” Macron noted that France was still waiting on data from the European Union’s European Medicines Agency to guide its vaccination policy; the EMA later in the day deemed the vaccine safe for all adults.


“There are not yet enough results in older participants (over 55 years old) to provide a figure for how well the vaccine will work in this group,” the EMA said in a statement. “However, protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines.”

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As long as you pay 25% of your rent, you’re fine. Do we call this deflation?

Newsom Signs Bill To Extend COVID-19 Eviction Protections Through June (LAT)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed an emergency bill that will extend through June eviction protections for Californians suffering financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, acting just days before an earlier moratorium was set to expire. Newsom’s action on the legislation followed the measure’s approval Thursday by the state Legislature and was aimed at heading off what many state officials warned would be mass evictions and a surge in homelessness as Californians struggle with lost income during the pandemic. The measure prevents landlords from evicting tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent through June and attest that they face financial hardship because of COVID-19 and its effect on the economy.

The bill also provides $2.6 billion in federal funds for rent subsidies that will help pay most past-due rent by low-income tenants dating back to last April. “The issue of evictions, the issue of this moment, the economic anxiety that so many people are struggling and suffering through, is the issue, and we have not lost sight of that,” Newsom said during a livestreamed bill-signing ceremony, adding that the law he signed is “protecting millions and millions of people, tenants as well as landlords, and addressing their anxiety head-on.” [..] About 90,000 California households are behind on their rent by a collective total of $400 million, according to an estimate last week by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, although other estimates have been much higher.

Under the new bill and the measure approved last year, tenants cannot be evicted as long as they pay 25% of their rent. The measure was submitted as a budget bill, which allowed it to be approved with a majority vote. A regular bill requires a two-thirds vote to take effect immediately. Under the bill, tenants can qualify for the protections if they pay 25% of their rent each month or in a lump-sum payment by June 30, and attest that they face a financial hardship because of the pandemic. Unpaid rent converts to debt that landlords can pursue through the courts, but it can’t be used to seek an eviction.

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Facebook oversees itself.

Facebook’s Oversight Board Is Taking Public Comments On Trump’s Ban (F.)

Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent panel of experts established to review contentious cases, is accepting public comment on whether Facebook was correct in banning former president Donald Trump, allowing the public-at-large to directly weigh in on a Facebook decision relating to Trump for the first time. Facebook banned Trump indefinitely earlier this month following the riot at the Capitol, citing two posts during the attack: A video where he told rioters he “loved” them and that the election was “stolen from us” as well as a post where he said, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots.”

Though Facebook believes it was right in banning Trump, the company referred the case to the oversight board last week, which will determine whether Trump’s ban will remain permanent because Facebook has to abide by the board’s decisions. The board says the public comment process is meant for “subject matter experts and interested groups” to share relevant research and information that may help, though anyone can submit a comment. The public has 10 days to submit comments [..] “We believe our decision was necessary and right,” Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg said in a statement last week. “Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld.”

Facebook’s Oversight Board was established in 2019 in response to widespread criticism of the social network’s moderation policies. The 20-person panel includes academics and other experts, such as the former prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and Director of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center Michael McConnell. The board says their mission is to “support people’s right to free expression” by upholding or reversing Facebook’s content decisions. In its first set of rulings released this week, the board found that Facebook mistakenly took down posts in five out of six cases.

Tulsi Huckabee
https://twitter.com/i/status/1355123535333609481

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He has a brother who’s a big shot on Wall Street.

Jon Stewart Joins Twitter To Defend Reddit GameStop Traders (NYP)

Jon Stewart was prompted to join Twitter on Thursday to defend the renegade Reddit traders who turned Wall Street upside down this week. The former “Daily Show” host hit back at critics of the rogue day traders who used WallStreetBets to send GameStop’s stock skyrocketing in defiance of large hedge funds shorting the business. “This is bull—t. The Redditors aren’t cheating, they’re joining a party Wall Street insiders have been enjoying for years,” Stewart tweeted. “Don’t shut them down…maybe sue them for copyright infringement instead!!” He added: “We’ve learned nothing from 2008.”


The comedian signed his first tweet “StewBeef.” His account @jon_actual quickly became verified and was granted a blue check. “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert responded to Stewart with: “Well, one thing changed since 2008- a friend of mine joined Twitter.” In a follow-up tweet a few hours later, Stewart, 58, thanked fellow users for the warm welcome to the social media platform. “I promise to only use this app in a sporadic and ineffective manner,” he joked.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 282021
 


Gustave Courbet The cliffs of Étretat after the storm 1870

 

GameStop, AMC, 4 Other “Most Shorted Stocks” Jump 135% to 538% (WS)
GameStop’s Three Largest Shareholders Earn Over $2bn Amid Stock Surge (G.)
Putin Calls Out Big Tech In Davos (RT)
US Weighing Action Against Russia For Navalny Detention – Blinken (ZH)
Biden Freezes Arms Sales To Saudis & UAE (ZH)
Do The Democrats Really Want Unity? (Turley)
Indian Tribe: Biden Just ‘Attacked’ Our Sovereignty (TH)
Proud Boys Leader Was ‘Prolific’ Informer For Law Enforcement (R.)
German Minister Sees COVID19 Vaccine Shortage Well Into April (R.)
Farmers’ Protests Reflect Existential Crisis of Indian Agriculture (OffG)
Twitter Releases New Community-Based Tool To Find Witches (BBee)

 

 

WallStreetBets is back up. Today could be epic.

 

 

Only loneliness is safe.

 

 

Hedge funds have lost many billions because other people have taken over their game.

GameStop, AMC, 4 Other “Most Shorted Stocks” Jump 135% to 538% (WS)

What a hilarious show this zoo that has gone nuts has turned into. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki came out today and said the White House “economic team including Secretary Yellen” were “monitoring the situation.” The situation being total utter mania in the most shorted stocks, such as GameStop and AMC. The SEC came out and said today it too is “actively monitoring” the options and equities markets. “Consistent with our mission to protect investors and maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets…” which was when humongous laughter drowned out the rest. Did the SEC really say “efficient markets????” Hahahahaha. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, during the post-meeting press conference today, was asked right off the bat about the mania around GameStop and similar mania stocks, and he refused to comment.

This came after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in her inimitable style: “Gotta admit it’s really something to see Wall Streeters with a long history of treating our economy as a casino complain about a message board of posters also treating the market as a casino.” The mania revolves around the most shorted stocks, shorted by hedge funds that hoped to make a killing when those stocks collapse. Short sellers have to borrow the shares and sell them, hoping that their prices will collapse, and that they can buy them back for a song and close out their position with a huge profit. And a bunch of hedge funds jumped into this shorting of the-most-shorted-stocks business, and at one point the short interest of GameStop shares [GME] was over 140% of the float, which is ridiculous, and a sign that hedge funds were taking enormous risks.

They will all have to buy those shares to close out their positions. But who is going to sell them those shares? Well, folks figured this out, and they were ganging up on these hedge funds, organizing their Wall Street revolt on the social media, particularly on the WallStreetBets subreddit. Most of these stocks have a relatively small float – that’s why the hedge funds shorted them in the first place because stocks with a small float are a lot easier to manipulate, and Wall Street has long gotten fat off manipulating stocks. And those traders on Reddit also figured out that stocks with a small float are the easiest to manipulate if enough people got together. And they figured out that stocks that were massively shorted and didn’t have many sellers left could be driven up to the point where those that were short those stocks would panic-buy those stocks to cover their short positions and curtail their losses, and that panic buying, with no eager sellers on the other side, would trigger a huge surge in prices, which could wipe out those hated hedge funds.

Tucker Charles Payne GameStop
https://twitter.com/i/status/1354624888166772739

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But if these people sell, the WallStreetBets game could be up.

GameStop’s Three Largest Shareholders Earn Over $2bn Amid Stock Surge (G.)

The three largest shareholders in GameStop, the video game retailer at the center of a frenzied dual between Wall Street and small investors, have made more than $2bn from the company’s astronomic recent share rise. Stock in the company continued its vertiginous rise on Wednesday, hitting a fresh 52-week high of $354.83, making the 13% stake held by Ryan Cohen, 34, GameStop’s largest single shareholder, worth more than $1.3bn. Over the past two weeks, according to CNBC, Cohen’s net worth increased an average of $90m a day, or nearly $4m per hour, as GameStop stock has surged more than 1,550% this year alone. Other winners include Donald Foss, the 76-year-old founder and former CEO of Credit Acceptance Corp, a subprime auto lender. Foss bought 5% of GameStop early last year for around $12m. His stake is now worth more than $500m.


GameStop chief executive George Sherman has seen his 3.4% stake jump to a value of about $350m. On Reddit, where many of the small investors have strategized over their investments, small investors too have boasted of their outside gains from beating Wall Street. But some in Wall Street are also making huge gains. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, owned 9.2m shares in GameStop at the end of December, according to a regulatory filing. If it still holds all those shares, they were worth more than $3bn on Wednesday. The gains comes as thousands of small investors have poured into the stock and forced Wall Street hedge funds, including Melvin Capital and Citron, which were betting on GameStop’s collapse, to take billions in losses.

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Shouldn’t this have come from western leaders?

Putin Calls Out Big Tech In Davos (RT)

Big Tech companies have become rivals to governments, but there are doubts over the benefits of their monopoly for society, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said, during a virtual meeting of the annual World Economic Forum. “Where is the line between a successful global business, in-demand services and consolidation of big data – and attempts to harshly and unilaterally govern society, replace legitimate democratic institutions, restrict one’s natural right to decide for themselves how to live, what to choose, what stance to express freely?” Putin wondered.


Addressing the role of social media giants in the recent election in the US, the Russian leader pointed out that these companies “in some areas have de facto become rivals to the government.” Billions of users spend large parts of their lives on the platforms and, from the point of view of those companies, their monopolistic position is favorable for organizing economic and technological processes, Putin explained. “But there’s a question of how such monopolism fits the interest of society,” he stressed.

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Oh please…

US Weighing Action Against Russia For Navalny Detention – Blinken (ZH)

A day after the Senate confirmed President Biden’s nominee, veteran diplomat Antony Blinken, as the secretary of state, Blinken gave his first press conference Wednesday afternoon. Revealing where Biden’s foreign policy emphasis will be over the coming months, he came out swinging against Putin (who else?) and Russia (in addition to mention of Iran and China in the course of the briefing), voicing that the US is “deeply concerned” about jailed opposition activist and politician Alexei Navalny. Blinken said the US administration is now mulling “actions in response to his detention in Russia,” according to Reuters. He highlighted continued concerns for Navalny’s “security and safety”. To review, Navalny is serving a 30-day jail sentence for skipping probation related to a 2014 criminal conviction.

He recently returned to Moscow from Berlin where he had been recovering from an alleged nerve agent poisoning in August. He and German investigators have claimed it was part of a Russian intelligence assassination attempt on orders from Putin, with the Russian president brushing off the accusations given Navalny is “not important enough” to be a target of state security and intelligence services. Navalny is now urging his supporters to the streets in defiance of the government. “We have a deep concern for Mr. Navalny’s safety and security and the larger point is that his voice is the voice of many, many, many Russians and it should be heard, not muzzled,” Blinken said in his statements, also noting the US is not ruling out any punitive action on the table.

He further said he finds it striking that the Putin government is so “frightened of one man, Mr. Navalny” – in an echo of earlier comments he made. Blinken said in the press briefing: “It remains striking to me how concerned and maybe even scared the Russian government seems to be of one man, Mr. Navalny.” He said the Biden White House is closely watching the human rights situation inside Russia, following Saturday protests where hundreds were reportedly detained in demonstrations and clashes with police which were deemed ‘unauthorized’.[..] “Blinken said at his first press briefing after being sworn in that the Biden administration was reviewing how to respond to actions by Russia, including the alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on Navalny, the Solar Winds cyber attack, reports of bounties on American forces and interference in U.S. elections.”

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Looks good at face value.

But WSJ: “U.S. officials said it isn’t unusual for a new administration to review arms sales approved by a predecessor, and that despite the pause, many of the transactions are likely to ultimately go forward.”

Biden Freezes Arms Sales To Saudis & UAE (ZH)

On Wednesday the Biden administration issued a freeze of all US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at a moment Congressional scrutiny of America’s support to the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen grows. US involvement in the war goes all the way back to the Obama administration, with Trump also in the last months of his presidency approving billions in new arms sales to the kingdom. In particular Lockheed Martin produced F-35 stealth fighters that were set to be transferred to the UAE the have been “temporarily” blocked along with munitions to the Saudis, among other sales. Prior reports suggested the prior Trump deal was to send as many as 50 advanced F-35 fighters to the UAE.


The AP cited officials who identified “that among the deals being paused is a massive $23 billion transfer of stealth F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates.” “That sale and several other massive purchases of U.S. weaponry by Gulf Arab countries had been harshly criticized by Democrats in Congress,” the report added. The State Department said of the “temporary pause” that it is “temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales under Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review.” And Axios further details that “The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review.” It added that it “signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.”

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Well, yes, a unity where they get to call all the shots.

Do The Democrats Really Want Unity? (Turley)

Democrats are moving aggressively to muscle through an ambitious agenda in Congress that may raise serious constitutional questions and cause even greater political divisions. After noon, the real President Biden set to work on a host of executive orders. In the first two days, Biden signed almost three dozen new executive orders, ranging from stopping deportations of undocumented persons to extending a freeze on student loan payments, from mandating mask-wearing to guaranteeing access by transgender children to bathrooms and sports. Some of these executive orders, if implemented directly, could be challenged in court. However, Trump and other modern presidents have increasingly used such orders to set new priorities and policies.

What is happening on Capitol Hill is far more concerning. Democratic leaders are pushing Biden to act unilaterally, as did President Obama when faced with a divided Congress. Obama actually used his State of the Union address to declare his intent to circumvent the legislative branch after it refused to pass his legislation in areas such as the environment and immigration. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats have called on Biden to simply cancel student debt up to $50,000 per student, wiping out billions in debt and potential federal revenue. That is a major unilateral decision when the national debt is approaching $28 trillion — one done without debate or deliberation. (In fairness, students are being crushed by such debt during the pandemic and, more importantly, Congress previously gave broad authority to the Education secretary over debt management.)

Other calls for sweeping new decisions, from immigration to wealth distribution, are more concerning. Democrats insist they won both houses and the White House and, as President Obama once said, “elections have consequences.” However, this election was not an overwhelming victory or endorsement. Rather, it shows a country divided virtually down the middle. While voters clearly rejected Trump and his controversial leadership, they voted widely for Republicans down the ticket. The House saw a significant loss of Democratic seats and has one of the slimmest majorities in modern history. The Senate is divided literally in half, and a majority is only possible with Vice President Harris voting to break ties on the floor.

Clearly, voters did not support the agenda of the far left, and many seem to have preferred divided government. Yet, many on the left do not want to wait for a broader mandate to implement sweeping changes. They are pushing for the District of Columbia to be made a state, likely adding a two-vote majority for Democrats in the Senate. At the same time, there is a push to end the filibuster. Many Democrats are calling for Schumer to end that long-standing protection of minority rights in the Senate. Schumer has refused to guarantee that he will protect the filibuster tradition, even though he demanded that it be preserved during years of Republican Senate control.

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“Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any actions on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.”

Indian Tribe: Biden Just ‘Attacked’ Our Sovereignty (TH)

The Ute Indian Tribe, the second largest Indian reservation in the United States, sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Interior Scott de la Vega about President Joe Biden’s executive order that put a 60-day moratorium on permits relating to onshore and offshore oil and gas development. Those permits also include drilling. According to the Tribe’s Chairman, Luke Duncan, the executive order will have a harmful impact on his people. He is asking for the Department of the Interior to make an exemption to the order, allowing for permits to take place on tribal lands. “Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination,” Duncan wrote. “Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any actions on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.”


Duncan called on de la Vega to either completely withdraw the executive order or amend it so tribal sovereignty laws are respected. Last year, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which reallocates fees from drilling on Bureau of Land Management lands to the National Parks Service and National Forest Service. The money is used for maintaining those parks and forests. According to the Colorado Sun, BLM currently has 26.3 million acres under lease to oil and gas producers. Not having new permits threatens conservation efforts across the country.

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That should make him popular…

Proud Boys Leader Was ‘Prolific’ Informer For Law Enforcement (R.)

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement, repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters. In the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling. Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others. “I don’t know any of this,” he said, when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”


Law-enforcement officials and the court transcript contradict Tarrio’s denial. In a statement to Reuters, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio’s case, Vanessa Singh Johannes, confirmed that “he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.” Tarrio, 36, is a high-profile figure who organizes and leads the right-wing Proud Boys in their confrontations with those they believe to be Antifa, short for “anti-fascism,” an amorphous and often violent leftist movement. The Proud Boys were involved in the deadly insurrection at the Capitol January 6.

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The vaccine wars have started. Get yourself some vitamin D.

German Minister Sees COVID19 Vaccine Shortage Well Into April (R.)

Germany’s health minister said on Thursday he expects the current shortage of coronavirus vaccines to continue well into April, as the government faced new criticism over the pace of its vaccination programme. “We will still have at least 10 tough weeks with a shortage of vaccine,” Jens Spahn said in a Tweet, adding that he wanted to call a summit of federal and regional leaders in Germany to discuss vaccinations. On Thursday, Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper described the problems around procuring enough vaccines as a “scandal”. Spahn said he wanted to invite pharmaceutical companies and the manufacturers of vaccines to a meeting, to make sure that Europe gets its fair share of shots and to see where it was possible to do more to support the process.


He added that he recognised that producing vaccines was very complicated and building up production could not just be done in a few weeks if quality standards were to be upheld. On Tuesday, Spahn supported European Union proposals to set up a register of exports of COVID-19 vaccines, as tensions grow with AstraZeneca and Pfizer over sudden supply cuts just a month after the bloc started vaccinating citizens. Germany reported 17,553 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 2,178,828, and another 941 deaths. [..] Germany is preparing entry restrictions for travellers from Britain, Brazil and South Africa, the interior ministry said on Thursday, as concerns of more contagious coronavirus variants are rising.

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800 million rural population.

Farmers’ Protests Reflect Existential Crisis of Indian Agriculture (OffG)

With over 800 million people, rural India is arguably the most interesting and complex place on the planet but is plagued by farmer suicides, child malnourishment, growing unemployment, increased informalisation, indebtedness and an overall collapse of agriculture. Given that India is still an agrarian-based society, renowned journalist P Sainath says what is taking place can be described as a crisis of civilisation proportions and can be explained in just five words: hijack of agriculture by corporations. He notes the process by which it is being done in five words too: predatory commercialisation of the countryside. And another five words to describe the outcome: biggest displacement in our history.

In late November 2018, a charter was released by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (an umbrella group of around 250 farmers’ organisations) to coincide with the massive, well-publicised farmers’ march that was then taking place in Delhi. The charter stated: “Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village India are integral to the future of India and the world; as bearers of historic knowledge, skills and culture; as agents of food safety, security and sovereignty; and as guardians of biodiversity and ecological sustainability.” The farmers stated that they were alarmed at the economic, ecological, social and existential crisis of Indian agriculture as well as the persistent state neglect of the sector and discrimination against farming communities.

They were also concerned about the deepening penetration of large, predatory and profit hungry corporations, farmers’ suicide across the country and the unbearable burden of indebtedness and the widening disparities between farmers and other sectors. The charter called on the Indian parliament to immediately hold a special session to pass and enact two bills that were of, by and for the farmers of India. If passed by parliament, among other things, the Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018 would have provided for the complete loan waiver for all farmers and agricultural workers.

The second bill, The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018, would have seen the government take measures to bring down the input cost of farming through specific regulation of the prices of seeds, agriculture machinery and equipment, diesel, fertilisers and insecticides, while making purchase of farm produce below the minimum support price (MSP) both illegal and punishable.

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And anyone else you don’t like.

Twitter Releases New Community-Based Tool To Find Witches (BBee)

SALEM, MA—In a new, innovative way to handle the growing problem of witchcraft, Twitter’s Salem division has now released a community-based tool, Witchwatch, to crowdsource witch identification. “Instead of having all the decision-making of who is and who isn’t a witch in the hands of a few magistrates,” said Chief Magistrate William Stoughton, “we’re going to empower the community to identify all those who have had congress with the devil.” Anyone can apply to be a part of Witchwatch (though those who have previously been accused of witchcraft will be disqualified).


Participants in Witchwatch will receive a form on which they can write down suspected witches, supporting each accusation with evidence of witchcraft, such as unexplained illness or failing crops. = If enough different individuals accuse the same person of witchcraft, that person will have a “suspected witch” warning accompanying everything he or she says. And with even more accusations, the suspect will be burned at the stake.= “It’s a great system that’s already correctly identified witches in a few test markets,” Stoughton said. “We’ll soon release it throughout all of Salem and then hopefully after that, it can be used to combat the problem of witches worldwide.”

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 272021
 


Gustave Courbet Sunset on Lake Geneva 1876

 

Bill Gates Advised Oxford to Ditch Open Source COVID Vaccine (MPN)
FBI Knew DOJ Was Preparing To Fire Comey Long Before Trump Ordered It (JTN)
Washington Will Remain Militarized Until At Least March (Greenwald)
Biden is Already Breaking Promises (Lawrence)
Legal Counteroffensive Against Big Tech Crackdown On Conservative Dissent (JTN)
Meet the Censored: Status Coup (Taibbi)
US Billionaires ‘Have Received $1.1tn Windfall In Covid Pandemic’ (G.)
Ted Cruz Attempts To Impose Term Limits On Members Of Congress (JTN)
Judge Bars President Joe Biden From Enforcing 100-Day Deportation Ban (AP)
Migrants Increasing At “Concerning Rate” On Southern Border – CBP Agent (ZH)
Ghislaine Maxwell Asks To Throw Out Case Over Epstein Plea Deal (G.)
UK Sells Arms To Nearly 80% Of Countries Under Restrictions (G.)
Humans Are Estimated To Eat A Credit Card Worth Of Plastic Every Week (USPIRG)

 

 

 

 

Tulsi Brennan Schiff
https://twitter.com/i/status/1354035548524957697

 

 

“As a result, the planet’s poor will have to wait until at least 2024 to be immunized.”

Bill Gates Advised Oxford to Ditch Open Source COVID Vaccine (MPN)

Europe is reeling from the shock news that biotech giant AstraZeneca will not be delivering anything like the number of vaccines it promised. The company informed European Union officials that they will only be supplying 31 million doses to 27 E.U. countries, rather than the 80 million they had promised would arrive by the end of March. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti predicted that the news would reap “enormous damage” on the continent that has already sustained over 32 million confirmed cases and 703,000 deaths due to COVID-19. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been hailed last year as a miracle in the global fight against the coronavirus primarily because the research team at Oxford University had promised to share the rights to its product with any and all drugmakers, meaning that poorer countries could produce and inoculate their citizens at cost price ($3-$4 per shot — a fraction of the price of those from Pfizer or Moderna).

Last year, economist and drug patent reform advocate Dean Baker told MintPress that, “The Oxford vaccine is even more striking, since the point was to pay researchers, but not to rely on patent monopolies to generate large profits. We ended up with a cheaper, better vaccine…It would be great if we could take away some lessons from the experience of vaccine development in this crisis and get away from the antiquated patent monopoly mechanism for financing research.” However, behind the scenes, the Oxford team reneged on their promise, signing an exclusive deal with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, who made no commitment to selling the lifesaving vaccine at a low price. Even less well-known is that the decision was taken at the behest of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

“We went to Oxford and said, ‘Hey, you’re doing brilliant work,’” Gates said, “But…you really need to team up.” The 65-year-old tech tycoon is a strong proponent of patents and spends much of his time shaping global health policy. James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said that “Gates has staked out this outsized role in the vaccine world…He has an ideological belief that the intellectual property system is a wonderful mechanism that is necessary for innovation and prosperity.” The decision to put profit before people is likely to have a devastating impact on the Global South. Poor countries are not in a position to inoculate their entire populations, especially as the world’s wealthiest nations hoard the large majority of the available vaccines while refusing to support moves by companies in the Global South to produce them for themselves.

As a result, the planet’s poor will have to wait until at least 2024 to be immunized. This latest news is unlikely to do anything but set that clock further back. Unable to secure a profit in immunizing Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans, Western multinationals have turned their back on those regions, prioritizing those who can pay the most. As a result, those in the Global South have turned to Russia and China for help. While Western media have dismissed these efforts as “vaccine diplomacy” and a “charm offensive,” while casting doubt on the Sputnik V vaccine’s efficacy, global opinion studies show the Russian offering is actually the most trusted option.

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Special Counsel.

FBI Knew DOJ Was Preparing To Fire Comey Long Before Trump Ordered It (JTN)

Newly declassified FBI memos provide startling new details that undercut the frenzied 2017 effort to investigate Donald Trump for obstruction, revealing the FBI knew Director James Comey’s firing had been conceived by Justice Department leadership long before the president pulled the trigger during a key moment in the Russia probe. The memos written in May 2017 by Acting Director Andrew McCabe and a lieutenant also provide contemporaneous proof for some of the more jaw-dropping lore of the now-discredited Russia collusion scandal. For instance, the memos directly state that then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire to secretly record Trump in the Oval Office and that Rosenstein also wanted to seek Comey’s advice — after his termination — on a possible Russia special counsel. The bureau nixed both ideas, the memos show.

The documents — declassified by Trump during his final 24 hours in office — also provide a tantalizing list of names the Trump administration considered for FBI director, including former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, ex-director and eventual Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and retired Gen. John Kelly. Eventually, Trump settled on former prosecutor Chris Wray for the job. But the memos’ most explosive revelations chronicle the decision by McCabe in his early days on the job to open a formal investigation of Trump on the grounds that Comey’s firing may have been an act of obstruction of justice designed to thwart the Russia probe. The notes show McCabe informed Rosenstein during a May 16, 2017 meeting — one of their first after Comey was fired and McCabe became acting director — that he had opened the obstruction probe.

“I explained that the purpose of the investigation was to investigate allegations of possible collusion between the President and the Russian government, possible obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and possible conspiracy to obstruct justice,” McCabe wrote in typewritten notes of the meeting. One of McCabe’s lieutenants who also attended the meeting, then-bureau attorney Lisa Page, took her own notes, observing that Rosenstein’s expressed outrage over Comey’s firing seemed odd since Rosenstein had revealed to FBI officials he and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been contemplating it since January 2017. “This was a strange comment,” Page wrote, “because it was my understanding that the DAG had previously indicated that he and AG Sessions had been discussing firing Director Comey since January, but given the nature of the conversation there was no room for follow-up.”

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“The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”

Washington Will Remain Militarized Until At Least March (Greenwald)

Washington, DC has been continuously militarized beginning the week leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, when 20,000 National Guard troops were deployed onto the streets of the nation’s capital. The original justification was that this show of massive force was necessary to secure the inauguration in light of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. But with the inauguration over and done, those troops remain and are not going anywhere any time soon. Working with federal law enforcement agencies, the National Guard Bureau announced on Monday that between 5,000 and 7,000 troops will remain in Washington until at least mid-March. The rationale for this extraordinary, sustained domestic military presence has shifted several times, typically from anonymous U.S. law enforcement officials.

The original justification — the need to secure the inaugural festivities — is obviously no longer operative. So the new claim became that the impeachment trial of former President Trump that will take place in the Senate in February necessitated military reinforcements. On Sunday, Politico quoted “four people familiar with the matter” to claim that “Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial poses a security concern that federal law enforcement officials told lawmakers last week requires as many as 5,000 National Guard troops to remain in Washington through mid-March.” The next day, AP, citing “a U.S. official,” said the ongoing troop deployment was needed due to “ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol.”

But the anonymous official acknowledged that “the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility.” Even National Guard troops complained that they “have so far been given no official justifications, threat reports or any explanation for the extended mission — nor have they seen any violence thus far.” It is hard to overstate what an extreme state of affairs it is to have a sustained military presence in American streets. Prior deployments have been rare, and usually were approved for a limited period and/or in order to quell a very specific, ongoing uprising — to ensure the peaceful segregation of public schools in the South, to respond to the unrest in Detroit and Chicago in the 1960s, or to quell the 1991 Los Angeles riots that erupted after the Rodney King trial.

Deploying National Guard or military troops for domestic law enforcement purposes is so dangerous that laws in place from the country’s founding strictly limit its use. It is meant only as a last resort, when concrete, specific threats are so overwhelming that they cannot be quelled by regular law enforcement absent military reinforcements. Deploying active military troops is an even graver step than putting National Guard soldiers on the streets, but they both present dangers. As Trump’s Defense Secretary said in response to calls from some over the summer to deploy troops in response to the Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests: “The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”

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“We want you to endorse our commitment to aggression, to unlawful interventions, to ‘regime change’ ops, to merciless sanctions, and altogether to the empire. But you must make it look nice. Make it look thoughtful and complicated and considered.”

Biden is Already Breaking Promises (Lawrence)

[..] let’s draw the old lesson. You can have democracy at home or empire abroad, but you can’t have both. We will continue to suffer the latter under Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Those drawn into thinking the Biden regime would conduct America’s affairs abroad decently and humanely and in principled fashion will now discover they have been savagely sucker-punched. Those who understood from the outset that Biden’s people would go nowhere near the essential, determining questions of exceptionalism, universalism, and our consequent dedication to empire will be repelled but not surprised as the policy framework is revealed. In this case, the moment of truth came even before Biden’s inauguration.

His saccharine inauguration speech last Wednesday, with its Hallmark-card calls for unity, was quite secondary to the confirmation hearings the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the previous day. In a matter of hours, Biden’s key national security people — Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, and Lloyd Austin as defense secretary — gave us a remarkably fulsome idea of what we are in for these next four years.Haines and Austin, neither of whose records are to be admired, are at bottom functionaries who were nominated and swiftly confirmed because they do what they are told and do not think too much—always a career-advancer in Washington. It is instead Blinken, who is said to enjoy some kind of “mind-meld” with Biden, that we must consider carefully. (Such a meld must be odd terrain.)

Blinken’s Senate testimony last Tuesday sprawled over four hours. It is best to scrutinize his remarks while seated in a chair with sturdy armrests, ideally to calm one’s nerves with a pot of chamomile tea. Seen or read as a whole, those four hours gave us an extraordinary display of how empire works and how it prolongs itself. One by one, Blinken’s senatorial interlocutors told him in so many words, “Son, this is what you need to say if you want our confirmation. We want you to endorse our commitment to aggression, to unlawful interventions, to ‘regime change’ ops, to merciless sanctions, and altogether to the empire. But you must make it look nice. Make it look thoughtful and complicated and considered.”

[..] Among Blinken’s many rather sad-to-witness “Yes sirs,” two standout: his finely chiseled endorsement of Pompeo’s reckless assassination a year ago of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s revered military commander (“Taking him out was the right thing to do”), and his approval of the Trump administration’s decision to send lethal arms to the manically corrupt regime in Kiev (“Senator, I support providing that lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine,” when the Obama administration, from which he comes, did not.)

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”.. their job, under state law, is to act as a steward for shareholders. That is their legal obligation. They are not to act as an extra-governmental arm of one party of another.”

Legal Counteroffensive Against Big Tech Crackdown On Conservative Dissent (JTN)

Paxton said the tech firms also open themselves up to challenges under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which offers broad legal immunities for social media networks that claim they are neutral platforms rather than media companies making editorial decisions. “These companies put themselves out as neutral platforms,” Paxton said. “If in reality, they’re not doing that, one, they don’t deserve the protection of federal law, special protection that no other company has. And two, they may need to be looked at under consumer protection laws, because they’re presenting consumers with a choice that says, ‘We are a platform that allows any speech,’ when in reality, they are controlling what speech is being put out there.”

Justin Danhof, general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, faults conservatives themselves for long trying to brush aside the threat of social media viewpoint bias and censorship with hopeful assurances that “the free market will solve this.” “They said, ‘Just create a new platform,'” recalled Danhof. “‘If you don’t like censorship occurring on Facebook and Twitter against conservatives — which has been happening for a decade — create a new platform.’ So Parler did. But then [Big Tech] disappeared Parler.” Facebook and Twitter have both long denied any viewpoint bias against conservatives in their content moderation practices. Danhof compared what tech firms are doing in the United States to how these companies are acting in China.

“Apple — of course — deletes many apps from its app store, largely news apps, at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party,” Danhof said, alluding to deleted apps that pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were using to communicate and to get news and information. “So clearly, in China, Apple is operating as an extra-governmental arm of the Chinese Communist Party — acting at the behest of the communists to do what they want,” Danhof said. “Well, we have folks like Nancy Pelosi and AOC, Kamala Harris in the United States calling on Twitter and Facebook and others to ban President Trump. And to take down Parler. And what are they doing? They’re honoring those requests.”

Twitter’s permanent ban of President Trump led to a dramatic loss of share value for the company. Danhof argues that the company’s political decision has hurt its investors, thus exposing the company to civil action by shareholders for breach of fiduciary duty. “Lawsuits should abound from shareholders,” Danhof said. “Because boards of directors and management — their job, under state law, is to act as a steward for shareholders. That is their legal obligation. They are not to act as an extra-governmental arm of one party of another.”

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Live streamers.

Meet the Censored: Status Coup (Taibbi)

On January 6th, Jon Farina, photographer and videographer for Jordan Chariton’s Status Coup outlet, captured horrifying images. At the Capitol, a pro-Trump mob tried to burst into the building, and a police officer who attempted to intercede was caught in a door. He cried out in pain, but the crowd was indifferent, chanting, “Heave, ho!” as they tried to break in. Farina, in the middle of the physical mayhem as photojournalists often are, caught the scene up close while 30,000 people watched the live feed. Farina’s footage rocketed around the world, and major press outlets celebrated his work as an example of hard-hitting reporting. CNN did a laudatory story about the freelance photojournalist, with Pamela Brown asking Farina to “bring us inside the mayhem.”

Other outlets like USA Today quoted his recollections of that day, and the likes of Steven Colbert on CBS, as well as ABC News, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, and others used it as fodder for outraged coverage of the riot: For a week or so, Status Coup was feted for service on the front lines of responsible journalism. Nearly two weeks later, on January 18th, another Farina live stream was shut down by YouTube, thanks to policies that will make it very difficult for non-corporate media going forward to do live reporting. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that if the incident from the 18th happened earlier, we may never have gotten the Capitol pictures.

On the 18th, Farina was in Richmond, Virginia, where a significant rally of pro-gun protesters was expected. There had been widespread reports warning of unrest. CBS relayed FBI fears of “credible threats of violence,” while the Washington Post said officials were “on edge” ahead of the Martin Luther King Day protest, gearing up for a full-scale assault: Members of the National Guard are on standby. Plywood covers the windows of the State Capitol. Tall metal barricades surround Capitol Square, with police vehicles idling on pathways just inside locked pedestrian gates. Downtown streets will be closed; signs warning against carrying guns have gone up around the city. “The violent, lawless insurrection and assault on democracy and its institutions that unfolded last week in Washington, D.C., will not be tolerated in the city of Richmond,” Mayor Levar Stoney warned on Thursday.

The threats may have been credible, but when Farina began live-streaming to an audience of 6,000, the event turned out to be peaceful and unremarkable, though not without interest from a news perspective. “Frankly, there might have been more press than protesters,” Status Coup’s Chariton said later. “And while it was live, it was pretty informative. Jon talked to 4-5 people, and they pretty much all made it clear that they weren’t Trump supporters, that they didn’t support what happened in the Capitol. They were pretty relaxed compared to the propaganda ahead of time.” Despite the seeming unremarkableness of the event, it shut down abruptly mid-feed. Chariton assumed something happened on Farina’s end. “Then I got an email from YouTube, telling me we’d violated their ‘Firearms Policy.’ I wasn’t aware they had a firearms policy.”

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And that’s just the 660 richest.

US Billionaires ‘Have Received $1.1tn Windfall In Covid Pandemic’ (G.)

The richest 660 people in the US have collected a $1.1tn (£800bn) “windfall of wealth” since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a report by a US progressive thinktank, the Institute for Policy Studies. The report found that the collective wealth of America’s 660 billionaires has risen by 39% since the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 was a pandemic virus in March 2020. The billionaires combined wealth has increased from just under $3tn on 18 March 2020 to $4.1tn, according to Forbes magazine data. The report noted that there had also been “46 newly minted billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic”, when there were 614.

Chuck Collins, the director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality and co-author of the Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report, said: “Billionaires are reaping unseemly windfalls of wealth during the pandemic. They benefit from having their competitors shut down or controlling technologies and services we are all dependent on in this unprecedented time. We should tax these windfall gains to pay for recovery.” Collins said the gains the billions have made since the crisis began could “pay for all the relief for working families contained in the $1.9tn coronavirus relief package proposed by President Biden, while leaving the nation’s richest households no worse off than they were before Covid-19 hit”.

Frank Clemente, the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said: “While we can all rejoice that our nation’s response to the terrible pandemic is now in steadier and more caring hands, we can only lament that America’s billionaires are not making a meaningful contribution to that national effort, even as their wealth continues to soar. “The Covid crisis is crushing people of colour and low-income workers while billionaires who are nearly all white have seen fortunes skyrocket. This is why we need the fair-share taxes programme Joe Biden ran on, won on and is now ready to pursue.”

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Fat chance.

Ted Cruz Attempts To Impose Term Limits On Members Of Congress (JTN)

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday reintroduced an amendment that would put term limits on members of Congress, saying the rise in “political careerism” is not what the country’s founders intended. “Today my colleagues and I reintroduced a constitutional amendment to impose #TermLimits on Members of Congress,” the Texas lawmaker tweeted. “The amendment would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms.” Cruz gained the support of fellow Republican Sens. Mike Braun and Todd Young of Indiana, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania for the proposed constitutional amendment.


This marks the third time Cruz has introduced legislation to impose term limits on Congress, having also done so in 2017 and 2019. His previous attempts never made it to the Senate floor. “Every year, Congress spends billions of dollars on giveaways for the well-connected: Washington insiders get taxpayer money and members of Congress get re-elected, all while the system fails the American people,” Cruz said in a statement. “The rise of political careerism in today’s Congress is a sharp departure from what the Founders intended for our federal governing bodies. I have long called for this solution for the brokenness of Washington, D.C., and I will continue fighting to hold career politicians accountable.”

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Immigration remains a touchy issue.

Judge Bars President Joe Biden From Enforcing 100-Day Deportation Ban (AP)

A federal judge on Tuesday barred the U.S. government from enforcing a 100-day deportation moratorium that is a key immigration priority of President Joe Biden. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order sought by Texas, which sued on Friday against a Department of Homeland Security memo that instructed immigration agencies to pause most deportations. Tipton said the Biden administration had failed “to provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations.” Tipton’s order is an early blow to the Biden administration, which has proposed far-reaching changes sought by immigration advocates, including a plan to legalize an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Biden promised during his campaign to pause most deportations for 100 days. The order represents a victory for Texas’ Republican leaders, who often sued to stop programs enacted by Biden’s Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama. It also showed that just as Democratic-led states and immigration groups fought former President Donald Trump over immigration in court, often successfully, so too will Republicans with Biden in office. David Pekoske, the acting Homeland Security secretary, signed a memo on Biden’s first day directing immigration authorities to focus on national security and public safety threats as well as anyone apprehended entering the U.S. illegally after Nov. 1. That was a reversal from Trump administration policy that made anyone in the U.S. illegally a priority for deportation.

The 100-day moratorium went into effect Friday and applied to almost anyone who entered the U.S. without authorization before November. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the moratorium violated federal law as well as an agreement Texas signed with the Department of Homeland Security late in the Trump administration. That agreement required Homeland Security to consult with Texas and other states before taking any action to “reduce, redirect, reprioritize, relax, or in any way modify immigration enforcement.”

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Touchy.

Migrants Increasing At “Concerning Rate” On Southern Border – CBP Agent (ZH)

As caravans build up in Honduras, migrants are increasing at a “concerning rate” at the United States southern border, according to Matthew Hudak, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chief patrol agent of the Laredo sector in Texas. He warns that immigration is just a piece of the threat coupled with the pandemic health risk and other crimes along the border. “Like everybody, we’re tracking the formation of these caravans in Central America,” said Hudak. The Laredo Sector is one of nine CBP sectors along the southern border. It contains about 135 miles of the international border with Mexico. On Jan. 8, CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan issued a statement on potential migrant caravans: “Do not waste your time and money, and do not risk your safety and health.”

According to Hudak, the Laredo Sector hasn’t seen a reduction of migrants in response to the statement. It has made over 30,000 arrests in this fiscal year, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year. Hudak added that similar trends are identified by other sectors on the southern border. The U.S. government fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. Hudak called the 50 percent increase “a pretty concerning rate.” He told The Epoch Times that some portions of the caravan of 9,000 migrants will make their way to the southern border. Part of the group was stopped in Guatemala on Jan. 16. Depending on the pace and the means with which these migrants travel, the arrival time at the U.S.-Mexico border may be between a few days and a few weeks. As of Jan. 21, he hasn’t yet seen a dramatic increase of migrants indicative of caravans arriving at the southern border.

Hudak said that human smuggling is usually achieved with systems shared with drug and firearm smuggling, and the fees migrants are charged feed larger criminal organizations. Therefore, he sees a more significant threat: “We may be talking about one piece of it, which is immigration, but it’s part of a much larger criminal enterprise.”

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And the jury was too white.

Ghislaine Maxwell Asks To Throw Out Case Over Epstein Plea Deal (G.)

Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell complained on Monday that the pool of grand jurors who indicted her was not diverse enough, according to new court documents. “The fact that Ms Maxwell herself is neither Black nor Hispanic does not deprive of her of standing to raise this challenge,” the attorneys wrote in court papers, arguing that the US constitution “entitles every defendant to object to a [pool] that is not designed to represent a fair cross section of the community, whether or not the systematically excluded groups are groups to which he himself belongs”. Maxwell’s purported concerns about diversity stem from the geographical circumstances surrounding her indictment.

Maxwell is facing charges in the southern district of New York’s Manhattan division relating to her alleged involvement in her late friend Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor girls. However, she was indicted by a grand jury in the SDNY’s White Plains division before her 2 July arrest, as Covid-19 had limited grand jury proceedings in Manhattan. White Plains grand jurors hail from counties outside of New York City. Maxwell’s attorneys said they were therefore “drawn from a community in which Black and Hispanic residents are significantly underrepresented by comparison. “The sixth amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a grand jury selected from a fair cross-section of the community.

“Ms Maxwell’s right under the sixth amendment to a grand jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community applies to the grand jury that indicted her. “Here, the use of a White Plains jury resulted in the systematic underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic persons from the jury selection process, in violation of Ms Maxwell’s sixth amendment right.” Maxwell’s lawyers also argued that prosecutors could have waited to convene a grand jury in Manhattan, claiming that one such panel met “as early as” 25 June. “There appears to have been no reason, other than a publicity-driven desire to arrest Ms Maxwell on the anniversary of the Epstein indictment, why the government could not have waited until that time,” they said.

Maxwell’s attorneys made the claims as part of their push to dismiss her case. Among 12 arguments attacking the indictment, they said a non-prosecution deal Epstein reached with the federal government in 2008 should shield Maxwell too. The agreement sought to protect Epstein and those around him, but Maxwell was not identified by name in a document signed when Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges in Florida that forced him to register as a sex offender. Lawyers for Epstein planned to argue that the deal protected him against sex-trafficking charges in New York City.

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Insane.

UK Sells Arms To Nearly 80% Of Countries Under Restrictions (G.)

British ministers and officials have approved the sale of arms to nearly four-fifths of countries subject to arms embargos, trade sanctions or other restrictions over the past five years, according to analysis. The UK has exported military hardware to 58 countries of the 73 listed as subject to restrictions by the Department for International Trade (DIT), including sniper rifles to Pakistan, assault rifles to Kenya and naval equipment to China. The exports are legal but researchers with the group that compiled the report, Action on Armed Violence, said they represented “a systemic failure to consider the human rights record of states before exporting weapons to them”.

Countries covered by sanctions range from a handful where all arms sales are banned to a larger group covered by transit controls, where a special licence is required, for political, security or human rights reasons. Five countries listed by the trade department as key export markets for British arms makers: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, also feature on the Foreign Office’s latest list of 30 “human rights priority countries”, although not all are subject to sanctions. The report’s author, Murray Jones, of Action on Armed Violence, said his research – which reviewed UK export records between January 2015 and June 2020 – “demonstrates the frailty of the UK’s commitment to human rights abroad”.

Licences have been granted to export aircraft parts, riot shields and hundreds of sniper rifles to Pakistan, including 630 in 2016 and a further 20 in 2019, despite the Foreign Office warning in November of “increased pressure on civic space and freedom of expression” in the country, including threats to minorities. The sale of 3,000 assault rifles to Kenya for £9.45m was authorised in 2017, although security forces in the African country were accused by Amnesty International the year before of carrying out “enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture with impunity, killing at least 122 people”.

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Even more insane.

Humans Are Estimated To Eat A Credit Card Worth Of Plastic Every Week (USPIRG)

For years, we have known that the harmful effects of plastic are found everywhere in our natural environment. We’ve seen images of birds and sea turtles choking and entangling themselves to death on plastic waste. But beyond its impact on wildlife, microplastics are now concealed in the air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat; humans are estimated to eat a credit card worth of plastic every week. We also know that plastic isn’t just harmful as physical waste; plastic products often contain harmful chemicals. A recent report compiled a summary of international research on endocrine-disrupting chemicals used to make plastic — including 144 chemicals/chemical groups known to be hazardous to human health — intended to give plastics attributes like antimicrobial properties, colorants, flame retardants, solvents, UV-stabilizers, and plasticizers.

The aforementioned report focuses on a specific kind of health effect seen in plastics and the chemicals they can leach, called endocrine or hormone disruption. Our hormones play crucial roles in many of our bodily systems and are vital to our reproductive development and growth. This means children are especially susceptible to the health risks of harmful chemicals found in plastic. The chemicals found in plastic products can linger in our environment even after the plastic has been cleaned up. A recent study found that when scientists introduced and then removed plastic from an aquatic environment, sea urchins still developed abnormal skeletons and nervous systems because of the chemicals left behind. To make matters worse, plastics have the unique ability to bind together chemicals that are otherwise more diluted in the environment, meaning they become carriers of all sorts of concentrated toxins.

Hazardous chemicals can be found in single-use plastic food wrapping and containers, which have direct contact with the food we eat and may introduce these chemicals into our bodies. One familiar example is BPA, which is well known due to “BPA-free” marketing and the European Union listing BPA as a substance of high concern. Exposure to BPA can affect brain development and behavior. BPA has also been linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems in men and women and other harmful health impacts. There is a solution. Many of the most common single-use plastics polluting our environment contain toxic chemicals that harm human health. By banning unnecessary single-use materials — like plastic film used in plastic bags and polystyrene used in Styrofoam packaging — we could prevent a lot of these chemicals from seeping into the environment.

To reduce our risk of exposure to these toxic chemicals and maintain a cleaner environment, we must start by calling on our legislators to ban unnecessary single-use plastic and transition to non-toxic, reusable alternatives. Nothing we use for a few minutes should persist in our environments and threaten our health for generations.

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