Apr 142021
 


Edgar Degas Leaving the paddock1866
Stolen from Gardner Museum March 18 1990, the single largest art theft in the world. Never recovered

 

Nearly A Quarter Of Registered Covid Deaths Are Not Caused By The Virus (DM)
More Brands Are Putting Money And Clout Behind Covid-19 Vaccine Ads (F.)
Big Pharma Uses Big Tobacco’s Strategy To Defeat Ivermectin (DR)
How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines (TNR)
Russia Accuses US, NATO Of Moving Troops To Its Border (AA)
Biden Urges Russia To De-Escalate Ukraine Tensions In Call With Putin (G.)
Russia Warns US Warships To Stay Far Away From Crimea “For Their Own Good” (ZH)
Biden To Withdraw US Troops From Afghanistan By September 11 (G.)
Joe Biden Is Proceeding With Donald Trump’s Biggest Arms Deal (HuffPo)
The Absentee Vote Logic of the New York Times (RCI)
CNN Staffer Admits Network’s Focus Was To ‘Get Trump Out Of Office’ (Fox)
Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies May Be Coming, Warns Kraken CEO (RT)
Republican Antitrust Bill Would Block All Big Tech Acquisitions (TC)
Mexico’s War on Obesity Sends Junk-Food & Sugary-Drink Giants Scrambling (WS)
Airborne Plastic Pollution ‘Spiralling Around The Globe’ (G.)

 

 

 

 

The indoctrination is so deep that educated people think they’re being objective.
– Noam Chomsky

 

 

We will never ever know the real numbers.

But 50% of under 25s having antibodies doesn’t seem to point to lockdowns as the main “success” factor.

Nearly A Quarter Of Registered Covid Deaths Are Not Caused By The Virus (DM)

Nearly a quarter of registered Covid-19 deaths are now people who are not being killed by the virus, new official figures show as Boris Johnson comes under renewed pressure from Tory backbenchers to end the third lockdown sooner than planned. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that 23 per cent of coronavirus deaths which are registered are now people who have died ‘with’ the disease rather than ‘from’ an infection. This means that the person who has died will have tested positive for Covid-19 at some point, but that the disease was not recorded as the victim’s primary cause of death on their death certificate. Even though just 23 deaths were announced yesterday, the Prime Minister is continuing to resist calls from his own party to lift all coronavirus curbs ahead of schedule as he warned that cases will rise in the coming weeks as people meet with friends and family in pubs and parks.

Outdoor hospitality and non-essential retail reopened on Monday under the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Thousands of people rushed to high streets to splurge their cash on drinks, haircuts and clothes as economists predict a mini-boom fuelled by pent-up demand. However, in his downcast interview with Sky News, Mr Johnson even appeared to dismiss the efficacy of the vaccines his government has been busily rolling out this winter, as he claimed the shutdown – not jabs – had reduced the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths. ‘It is very, very important for everybody to understand that the reduction in these numbers – in hospitalisations and in deaths and in infections – has not been achieved by the vaccination programme,’ he said.

‘People don’t, I think, appreciate that it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic and in the figures that we’re seeing. So yes of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.’ Conservative backbenchers led by Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Research Group of Tory MPs, have mounted a campaign to get the country opened up sooner than planned.

Boris

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A giant PR campaign for Pfizer, that’s all it is, paid for by the state.

More Brands Are Putting Money And Clout Behind Covid-19 Vaccine Ads (F.)

As the Covid-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, well known companies ranging from tech giants to beer brands are rolling out public service announcements to encourage people to get their shot. This past week, The Boston Beer Company debuted a new Sam Adams campaign promoting the vaccine featuring the brand’s “Cousin From Boston” character. The ad—created by the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners—shows the “Cousin” getting vaccinated by a real healthcare worker at Fenway Park’s mega site. But right before getting his jab, he passes out from his fear of needles and dreams of the day he can once again meet up with friends at a bar. (Sam Adams is also offering $7 toward a celebratory beer to the first 10,000 people to share proof of vaccination with the hashtag #ShotForSam on social media.)

According to GS&P cofounder Jeff Goodby—the legendary creative behind the iconic “Got Milk” campaign and countless Super Bowl ads—humor is a good way to reach younger audiences, especially after a year as emotionally draining as 2020. “You know what humor did for me is it puts this in perspective,’ Goodby says. “It’s just an inoculation. We’ve had a million of them in our lifetime, and this one is actually for the good of the community around you as well as for yourself and I think we tried to get that across. And it leads to a certain liberation and togetherness. And beer of course, is central to togetherness. One of the great things about getting inoculated is you can drink beer with people.” While Sam Adams went with humor, it wasn’t without first testing the ad to make sure it would be well-received, despite the serious nature of the topic, says Boston Beer Company CMO Lesya Lysyj.

Before introducing the “Cousin” last year, Sam Adams had been taking a more serious tone, even before the pandemic began. “We felt like it was important to show him showing it since he’s so relatable,” Lysyj says. “And if that guy can do it, anybody can do it . . . We did feel like you could put yourself in the shoes of this guy.” Sam Adams isn’t alone in its messaging. In fact The Ad Council—a nonprofit with a long history of collaborating with marketers to create PSAs for a variety of causes—has raised more than $50 million to fund Covid-19 PSAs and other related initiatives with a goal of appealing to a wide audience. To promote mask-wearing, it teamed up with Warner Media and the CDC in February for “Mask Up America,” a PSA featuring characters—from Harry Potter to the Joker to hobbits from Lord of the Rings—all wearing face masks in iconic scenes.

And in March, it released a vaccine PSA featuring former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush. Heidi Arthur, the Ad Council’s chief campaign officer, says the Covid-19 vaccine effort is the most complicated initiative undertaken by the organization, which also led polio vaccine efforts in the 1950s. “The amount of change can happen so quickly as the medical community learns more about the efficacy of vaccines and making sure that all of our messages and the content we’re creating is really where the science is because it can get very confusing for people with the flip of a switch,” she says.

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It’s about your money, not your health.

Big Pharma Uses Big Tobacco’s Strategy To Defeat Ivermectin (DR)

The Marlboro Man, as Dr. Mukherjee wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies, was the most successful smoking icon by 1955. Dr. Mukherjee describes how the Tobacco Industry fought back by twisting science against the public, first by arguing that an association does not prove cause and effect, and later by offering to perform the studies. The tobacco scientists argued that lung cancer was caused by genetics: if you were born with cancer genes, you developed cancer, and if you weren’t, you didn’t get it. Cigarettes might be associated with cancer, but they argued that more studies were needed if one were to actually “prove a causal link” between cigarettes and cancer. The actual cause of lung cancer, the tobacco scientists concluded, was faulty genetics and not cigarettes.

To assist with these studies, the generous Big Tobacco even offered to fund the research by founding the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. The TIRC is described further in The Emperor of All Maladies, a book I strongly recommend everyone read. The author writes how this ingenious strategy kept the tobacco companies in business and record-breaking profits for the next 50 years despite causing many millions of lung cancer deaths. Blurring or confusing the facts as a tactic proved remarkably effective. But by far, the craftiest ruse was for the Tobacco Industry to pretend to embrace the research and set up their own studies. Because by controlling the study design, they could control the outcome. The same strategy is now used against the public in this pandemic.

Their first victim was Hydroxychloroquine, which proved easy to discredit given that Donald Trump sounded unhinged in his praise for the drug. Later studies seemed to reinforce the belief that HCQ was ineffective; however when academic misconduct was found, it threatened to expose the effort. Big Pharma successfully distanced itself when the fraudulent articles were retracted and blamed on lone scientists acting by themselves. Dr. Tess Lawrie is a highly-respected and independent research consultant to the World Health Organization and NHS. Her work is routinely relied upon in the formation of International Practice Guidelines. She has found HCQ to have an effect against the coronavirus. Most tellingly, when Dr. Tess Lawrie performed her independent review of the data on Ivermectin, she removed the Fonseca study, which purported to show no benefit against COVID with Ivermectin use.

Dr. Lawrie explained, “They (The Fonseca Group) didn’t find that much of a difference between Ivermectin and the control arm. But the control arm received HCQ. So basically, there’s a comparison between two fairly active treatments.” Dr. Lawrie explained that there were many reasons to consider HCQ active against the virus. Thus, two patient groups were compared in Fonseca, both of which received effective drugs against COVID-19, and this was not considered a valid controlled trial of Ivermectin. Therefore the study was eliminated from the meta-analysis.

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Stay away from Bill.

How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines (TNR)

In April [2020], Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world’s scientific response to the pandemic. Gates’s Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates’s long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won’t present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates’s reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader.


How he’s developed and wielded this influence over two decades is one of the more consequential and underappreciated shapers of the failed global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering year two, this response has been defined by a zero-sum vaccination battle that has left much of the world on the losing side. Gates’s marquee Covid-19 initiative started relatively small. Two days before the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced something called the Therapeutics Accelerator, a joint initiative with Mastercard and the charity group the Wellcome Trust to identify and develop potential treatments for the novel coronavirus. Doubling as a social branding exercise for a giant of global finance, the Accelerator reflected Gates’s familiar formula of corporate philanthropy, which he has applied to everything from malaria to malnutrition.

In retrospect, it was a strong indicator that Gates’s dedication to monopoly medicine would survive the pandemic, even before he and his foundation’s officers began to say so publicly. This was confirmed when a bigger version of the Accelerator was unveiled the following month at the WHO. The Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, or ACT-Accelerator, was Gates’s bid to organize the development and distribution of everything from therapeutics to testing. The biggest and most consequential arm, COVAX, proposed to subsidize vaccine deals with poor countries through donations by, and sales to, richer ones. The goal was always limited: It aimed to provide vaccines for up to 20 percent of the population in low-to-middle-income countries. After that, governments would largely have to compete on the global market like everyone else. It was a partial demand-side solution to what the movement coalescing around a call for a “people’s vaccine” warned would be a dual crisis of supply and access, with intellectual property at the center of both.

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“Over 40,000 people and 15,000 units of military equipment and weapons will be deployed on Russia’s western border in the near future..”

“In the spring of this year, the joint armed forces of NATO began the largest exercise in the last 30 years, Defender Europe 2021..”

Russia Accuses US, NATO Of Moving Troops To Its Border (AA)

The US is moving its troops to Russia’s borders, a top Russian official said on Tuesday. Over 40,000 people and 15,000 units of military equipment and weapons will be deployed on Russia’s western border in the near future, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said in a video conference with other military chiefs in the northern city of Severodvinsk. “In Poland and the Baltic states, US forces are being reinforced … the intensity of aerial reconnaissance has been doubled compared to last year, and the intensity of naval reconnaissance has increased by one-and-a-half times,” he said.


The minister accused the US and its allies of carrying out active military activities “with a clear anti-Russian orientation,” including up to 40 major military training events in Europe every year. “In the spring of this year, the joint armed forces of NATO began the largest exercise in the last 30 years, Defender Europe 2021,” he said. According to Shoygu, Russia redeployed two army and three airborne units to its western border “to counter the threat.”

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This is propaganda theater. It’s very obviously NATO that’s escalating tensions.

Biden Urges Russia To De-Escalate Ukraine Tensions In Call With Putin (G.)

In a phone call with Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden has called on Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine and proposed a summit between the two leaders amid growing concern over a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border. The president emphasized the United States’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup, the White House said. “President Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with US interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.” Biden expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup in the Crimea region of Ukraine and on Ukraine’s border, the White House said in a statement.


It said Biden also made clear that the United States will act “firmly” to defend its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference. Biden also proposed holding a summit with Putin in a third country in coming months. The phone call came hours after Nato’s secretary general called on Russia to halt its military buildup around Ukraine, describing it as “unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning”. Flanked by Ukraine’s foreign minister at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Nato’s Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders in “the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014”.

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“The trend in the behavior of the Ukrainian side creates the risk of a resumption of full-scale military action.”

Russia Warns US Warships To Stay Far Away From Crimea “For Their Own Good” (ZH)

At a moment the United States appears poised to send its warships near Ukraine as a strong ‘deterrent message’ against Russian forces built up near the east Ukrainian border, Russia on Tuesday warned that US vessels better stay away from Crimea “for their own good”. A Kremlin statement further called the new US deployment into the Black Sea a serious “provocation” which serves no other purpose but to test Russia’s “strength” and “nerves”. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued the Tuesday warning as follows: “There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action. Provocative in the direct sense of the word: they are testing our strength, playing on our nerves. They will not succeed.”

“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good,” he added. It was late last week that Turkey’s foreign ministry confirmed that it’s granted permission for US warships to use the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to enter the Black Sea. The Pentagon has downplayed the deployment by keeping mostly mum about it, only saying that it’s “routine” for US warships to patrol the Black Sea. The Kremlin has warned that it’s Kiev’s own actions and initial troop build-up in and near Donbass that is risking “broader war” in the region. Days ago Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “The trend in the behavior of the Ukrainian side creates the risk of a resumption of full-scale military action.”

Russia’s newest warning that US ships better not come near Crimea likely also have in mind Joe Biden’s first words addressing the long-simmering Ukraine crisis issued early in his presidency. He said in a February 26 statement that the US “will never” recognize Russia’s claims over Crimea: The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts. We will continue to work to hold Russia accountable for its abuses and aggression in Ukraine.

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Trump wanted to do it but got obstructed by the Pentagon. So Biden can get all the glory. On 9/11, no less. Oh boy.

“The president has judged that a conditions based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

No, seriously, that’s not about Trump, it’s about Biden. Don’t try to make this up at home, they have professionals to do it for you.

Biden To Withdraw US Troops From Afghanistan By September 11 (G.)

Joe Biden will withdraw all the remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a senior administration official has confirmed. The president is expected to make a formal announcement on Wednesday. There are currently about 2,500 US troops in the country, serving alongside 7,000 other foreign troops as part of a Nato coalition. Most, if not all, Nato allies are likely to withdraw in coordination with the US. “We will remain in lockstep with them as we undergo this operation. We went in together, adjusted together and now we will prepare to leave together,” a US official said. The drawdown of US troops will begin by 1 May, the withdrawal deadline the Trump administration agreed with the Taliban last year, and will be completed by the 9/11 anniversary.

“We went to Afghanistan to deliver justice to those who attacked us on September 11th and to disrupt terrorists seeking to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to attack,” a senior administration official said. “We believe we achieved that objective some years ago. We judge the threat against the homeland now emanating from Afghanistan to be at a level that we can address it, without a persistent military footprint in the country and without remaining at war with the Taliban.” The only remaining US military presence after September 11 this year will be security for the US embassy, a task normally carried out by marines. The Biden administration has said it will negotiate with the Afghan government over the precise security arrangements for the diplomatic mission in Kabul.

About 800,000 US soldiers and other military personnel have served at least once in Afghanistan since the US invasion in 2001, launched in the wake of the September 11 attacks. More than 2,300 have been killed, and 20,000 wounded. The US military orthodoxy until recently has been that any withdrawal from Afghanistan would have to be “conditions based”, meaning it was dependent on the security situation and the threat posed by the Taliban to the democratic and social gains of the past 20 years. The senior US official briefing reporters on the decision said: “The president has judged that a conditions based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

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“$23.4 billion in sophisticated weaponry”, but only after commitments to human rights.

Joe Biden Is Proceeding With Donald Trump’s Biggest Arms Deal (HuffPo)

President Joe Biden is advancing controversial Trump-era plans to transfer $23.4 billion in sophisticated weaponry to the United Arab Emirates, a State Department spokesperson told HuffPost on Tuesday – despite concerns from influential lawmakers and progressive activists, as well as the Biden administration’s promise to review the package. The news came amid an ongoing lawsuit by a nonprofit group called the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, which echoed criticism of the deal as potentially destabilizing for the Middle East. “While we will not comment on ongoing litigation, we can confirm that that the Administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during, and after delivery,” the spokesperson said.

Last December, nearly all Senate Democrats voted to try and block the sale, citing President Donald Trump’s rushed attempt to push it through and the UAE’s alarming violations of human rights at home and around the region. Biden put the deal – which would give the UAE the F-35 fighter jet, armed drones and associated bombs and missiles — under review shortly after becoming president. The administration has since been vague about that process. The transfers are incredibly complex and will take years to complete, so it was clear that they were not occurring yet. In January, an official told the Wall Street Journal that the UAE sales “were not frozen while they are being examined” – in contrast to Trump-era arms deals for Saudi Arabia, a UAE ally which has also faced growing criticism in Washington.

Still, many observers believed there was an effective pause on the deal and that at some point the administration would offer a public explanation of how it would handle the agreement. Democratic lawmakers and activists, who opposed to the deal because of the UAE’s aggressive activities across the Middle East, wanted to ensure the Biden administration was serious about the review, to the extent of possibly shrinking the package to pressure the Emiratis to respect human rights standards. U.S. officials will continue raising rights and geopolitical concerns with the Emiratis, the State Department spokesperson told HuffPost. “The estimated delivery dates on these sales, if implemented, are scheduled for after 2025 or later. Thus, we anticipate a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE to [ensure] any defense transfers meet our mutual strategic objectives to build a stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partnership,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

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“..what of the Times’s cautions over decades that the most common sort of election fraud involves absentee voting?”

The Absentee Vote Logic of the New York Times (RCI)

To pass a law limiting the use of absentee ballots, as Georgia recently did, is no longer to choose a side in a legitimate debate over how to balance ballot integrity and ease of voting. Instead, to express concern about the risk of election fraud is seen as being engaged in a different sort of fraud — an illegitimate effort to disenfranchise the poor and minorities. The New York Times has aggressively insisted the last several months that worries over absentee and mail-in ballots, in particular, are dishonest violations of voting rights. Times staff opinion editor Spencer Bokat-Lindell wrote late in October that “[t]he effort to discredit and discourage mail-in voting” was the “culmination of a decades-long disinformation campaign by the Republican Party and others to suppress votes, especially those cast by Black and Latino Americans.”

Spencer Bokat-Lindell: Times opinion editor: Efforts to discredit mail voting are aimed at suppressing votes, “especially those cast by Black and Latino Americans.” Then what of the Times’s cautions over decades that the most common sort of election fraud involves absentee voting? But what of the Times itself, which for over two decades has warned readers that the most common sort of election fraud involves absentee voting? As recently as September, Times reporters Stephanie Saul and Reid Epstein quoted Richard Hasen, who teaches election law at the University of California, Irvine, saying that “[e]lection fraud in the United States is very rare, but the most common type of such fraud in the United States involves absentee ballots.”

In 2018 operatives working for the Republican candidate for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District seat, falsified absentee ballots. Times reporters Alan Blinder and Michael Wines told readers that the state’s long history of election fraud was “under a spotlight.” They quoted lawyer Bill Gilkeson saying that “absentee ballots” were “where the fraud really happens.” In 2019 Blinder wrote, “The Ninth District controversy ranks among the highest-profile examples of modern election fraud,” one that “underscores how absentee ballots remain susceptible to abuse.”

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What comes below fake news on the scale?

CNN Staffer Admits Network’s Focus Was To ‘Get Trump Out Of Office’ (Fox)

A staffer for CNN spoke candidly to an undercover journalist about the political motivations the network had during the 2020 presidential election, boasting the left-leaning outlet helped defeat former President Donald Trump and even calling his own employer “propaganda.” In the first installment of what’s billed as a three-part #ExposeCNN campaign from the right-wing guerilla news outlet Project Veritas, network technical director Charles Chester shed light on how the network wanted to remove its nemesis from the White House and help now-President Biden. “Look at what we did, we got Trump out,” Chester said in a celebratory tone. “I am 100% going to say it. And I 100% believe it that if it wasn’t for CNN, I don’t know that Trump would have got voted out.”

While similar videos are sometimes deceptively edited and taken out of context, many comments made by Chester throughout the video are longer clips that feature him speaking in clear, complete sentences. In a series of sitdowns with an undercover journalist over the past month, Chester — who bragged he was “one step down” from a director — claimed CNN was “creating a story” that questioned Trump’s health that “we didn’t know anything about,” calling it “propaganda” to help remove Trump from office. “Trump was, I don’t know, like shaking his hand or whatever… we brought in like so many medical people to like all tell a story that, like, it was all speculation that he was like neurologically damaged, that he was losing it, he’s unfit to, you know, whatever,” Chester said. “We were creating a story that we didn’t know anything about.”

While Chester claimed CNN wanted to help remove Trump from office, he also said the network wanted to promote the health and fitness of Biden. “We would always show shots of him jogging… him in his aviator shades and like you paint him as a young geriatric,” Chester said of Biden, before dismissing concerns that he wouldn’t make it a full term because he’s a fan of Vice President Kamala Harris. “I think we got him through this term,” Chester said “He’s not going to f—–g die, but I’m OK with that. [Harris] probably could be like a b—-h in like a board meeting and you’d hate her as a boss, but she’s f—–g real and better than what we got regardless.”

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“It would certainly send a message that the government sees this as a superior alternative to their own currency.”

Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies May Be Coming, Warns Kraken CEO (RT)

Governments around the world could start clamping down on the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, according to Jesse Powell, the chief executive of the Kraken exchange. “I think there could be some crackdown,” the CEO told CNBC, adding that regulatory uncertainty around crypto isn’t going away anytime soon. Powell’s words follow a recent anti-money laundering rule proposed by the US government that would require people who hold their cryptocurrencies in a private digital wallet to undergo identity checks if they make transactions of $3,000 or more. “Something like that could really hurt crypto and kind of kill the original use case, which was to just make financial services accessible to everyone,” Powell said.


He expressed hopes that “the US and international regulators don’t take too much of a narrow view on this,” noting that “Some other countries, China especially, are taking crypto very seriously and taking a very long-term view.” The chief executive said he feels the US is more “shortsighted” than other nations and is “susceptible” to the pressures of incumbent legacy businesses – in other words, the banks – that “stand to lose from crypto becoming a big deal.” “I also think it might be too late,” Powell added. “Maybe the genie’s out of the bottle and just trying to ban it at this point would make it more attractive. It would certainly send a message that the government sees this as a superior alternative to their own currency.

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The CIA will stop it. Big Tech=Big Intel.

Republican Antitrust Bill Would Block All Big Tech Acquisitions (TC)

There are about to be a lot of antitrust bills taking aim at Big Tech, and here’s one more. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) rolled out a new bill this week that would take some severe measures to rein in Big Tech’s power, blocking mergers and acquisitions outright. The “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” would ban any acquisitions by companies with a market cap of more than $100 billion, including vertical mergers. The bill also proposes changes that would dramatically heighten the financial pain for companies caught engaging in anti-competitive behavior, forcing any company that loses an antirust suit to forfeit profits made through those business practices.

At its core, Hawley’s legislation would snip some of the red tape around antitrust enforcement by amending the Sherman Act, which made monopolies illegal, and the Clayton Act, which expanded the scope of illegal anti-competitive behavior. The idea is to make it easier for the FTC and other regulators to deem a company’s behavior anti-competitive — a key criticism of the outdated antitrust rules that haven’t kept pace with the realities of the tech industry. The bill isn’t likely to get too far in a Democratic Senate, but it’s not insignificant. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, proposed legislation earlier this year that would also create barriers for dominant companies with a habit of scooping up their competitors. Klobuchar’s own ideas for curtailing Big Tech’s power similarly focus on reforming the antitrust laws that have shaped U.S. business for more than a century.

The Republican bill may have some overlap with Democratic proposals, but it still hits some familiar notes from the Trump era of hyperpartisan Big Tech criticism. Hawley slams “woke mega-corporations” in Silicon Valley for exercising too much power over the information and products that Americans consume. While Democrats naturally don’t share that critique, Hawley’s bill makes it clear that antitrust reform targeting Big Tech is one policy area where both political parties could align on the ends, even if they don’t see eye to eye on the why.

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“In Mexico City, the local government has proposed a law that would ban the sale, delivery and distribution of packaged foods with a high caloric and energy content and sugary drinks to children..”

Mexico’s War on Obesity Sends Junk-Food & Sugary-Drink Giants Scrambling (WS)

Since Mexico’s government has passed one of the strictest food labeling laws on the planet in October last year, all soft drinks cans and bottles, bags of chips and other processed food packages must bear black octagonal labels warning of “EXCESS SUGAR”, “EXCESS CALORIES”, “EXCESS SODIUM” or “EXCESS TRANS FATS” — all in big bold letters that are impossible to miss. Many states have also introduced legislation making it much more difficult for retailers to sell junk food and sugary drinks to children. Evidence from other countries suggests that warning labels can be effective. Chile started requiring them in 2016. It also limited cartoon food packaging, prevented schools from selling unhealthy foods, restricted TV adverts, and banned promotional toys.

Over the next two years, sugary drink sales in Chile plunged by 23%. According to one study, the labels reduced the likelihood of people choosing sugary breakfast cereals by 11% and sugary juices by almost 24%. A nightmare for the companies affected. The prospect of something similar transpiring in Mexico, a country almost seven times larger than Chile and that consumes more processed food than any other country in Latin America, unnerved global food and beverage companies. The United States, EU, Canada and Switzerland, home to some of the world’s biggest food companies, tried to derail the new legislation. But to no avail. The arrival of Covid-19, which has proven to be particularly lethal to people with three comorbidities — obesity, diabetes, and hypertension — has strengthened the government’s case and resolve.

Over a dozen of Mexico’s 36 state governments have banned or are in the process of banning the sales of soft drinks and junk food to children. In Mexico City, the local government has proposed a law that would ban the sale, delivery and distribution of packaged foods with a high caloric and energy content and sugary drinks to children. The law will also ban the presence of soft drink vending machines in schools. Mexico’s Senate also recently passed a law that will compel educational authorities to prohibit the sale of foods with low nutritional value and high caloric content in the vicinity of school facilities while promoting the establishment of healthy food outlets. There are also moves afoot to restrict the advertising of foods high in fat, salt, sugar and saturated fats on children’s television channels.

These moves have raised concerns that the government is overstepping its bounds. The business lobby group Coparmex said that banning the sale of junk food and sugary drinks to minors represents a frontal attack on commercial freedom and freedom of choice. It will also have serious economic consequences for businesses in the retail sector. But those consequences are dwarfed by the economic and health impact of widespread obesity. This is particularly true in the time of Covid when the risk of death from the virus is about 10 times higher in countries where more than half of the population is overweight, according to a report released in March by the World Obesity Federation.

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Either our bodies find a way to incorporate plastics, or we’re doomed.

Airborne Plastic Pollution ‘Spiralling Around The Globe’ (G.)

Microplastic pollution is now “spiralling around the globe”, according to a study of airborne plastic particles. The researchers said human pollution has led to a global plastic cycle, akin to natural processes such as the carbon cycle, with plastic moving through the atmosphere, oceans and land. The result is the “plastification” of the planet, said one scientist. The analysis calls plastic pollution one of the most pressing environmental issues of the 21st century. It indicates that the billions of tonnes of plastic discarded into the oceans and land and being broken down into tiny pieces are being thrown back into the air by road traffic and winds over seas and farmland. People are already known to breathe, drink and eat microplastics and the other research suggests levels of pollution will continue to rise rapidly.

The scientists said this “raises questions on the impact of accumulating plastics in the atmosphere on human health. The inhalation of particles can be irritating to lung tissue and lead to serious diseases.” Prof Natalie Mahowald, at Cornell University in the US and part of the research team, said: “What we’re seeing right now is the accumulation of mismanaged plastics just going up. Some people think it’s going to increase by tenfold [per decade]. “But maybe we could solve this before it becomes a huge problem, if we manage our plastics better, before they accumulate in the environment and swirl around everywhere.” She said clearing up ocean plastic could help reduce the amount that gets thrown back up into the atmosphere, and that more biodegradable plastics could be part of the solution.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined airborne microplastics, which have been far less studied than plastic in oceans and rivers. The team had more than 300 samples of airborne microplastics from 11 sites across the western US, the best dataset available globally. These were the basis for atmospheric modelling that estimated the contribution from different sources, the first such study to do so. Virtually none of the airborne microplastics came directly from plastic being discarded in cities and towns, the scientists found, but were the result of road traffic and winds across oceans and farmland whipping up plastic particles already in the environment. “We thought population centres would be a much better source, obviously, but it just didn’t work out that way,” Mahowald said. “Resuspension [of microplastics] makes the most sense with this set of data.”

[..] Microplastic pollution has been detected across the planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. The revelation in December of small plastic particles in human placentas was described by scientists as “a matter of great concern”.

Read more …

 

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Mick Jagger’s take on Covid. Easy Sleazy. With Dave Grohl.

 

 

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Mar 292021
 


William Eggleston Coupe de Ville, Los Angeles 1964

 

Cargo Ship Blocking The Suez Is Partially Floated – Suez Canal Authority (CNBC)
The Great Unvaxxed (TE Creus)
Pandemic Upsurge Hits Europe Recovery Hopes (Y!)
First Covid Jab Cuts Infection Risk By 62% In England Care Home Residents (G.)
Fauci and Chinese Counterpart Envision Lengthy Covid Restrictions (JTN)
Self-Isolation After Covid Contact Will Be Necessary For ‘Years’ (Ind.)
Madeira Lets In Tourists Who Can Show Covid ‘Vaccine Passport’ (G.)
Congress Demands Tech CEOs Censor Internet Even More Aggressively (Greenwald)
Ray Dalio Warns Bitcoin Ban ‘Likely’ (F.)
One Man Stands In The Way Of Cuomo Nursing Home Scandal Investigation (IC)
In Quest Of A Multipolar Economic World Order (Saker)
Stoltenberg Comes Clean On China “Opportunity” For NATO (SCF)
The Lawyer Who Took On Chevron Marks His 600th Day Under House Arrest (G.)

 

 

Vaccine job interview

 

 

 

 

Full Moon.

Cargo Ship Blocking The Suez Is Partially Floated – Suez Canal Authority (CNBC)

The giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal was partially refloated early Monday, days after the vessel got stuck and brought a vital global trade route to a standstill. A statement by the Suez Canal Authority said the ship, known as the Ever Given, “responded to the pulling and towing maneuvers.” It added that the ship’s course has been corrected by 80% and further maneuvers will resume when the water level rises later in the day. The statement followed an earlier tweet by maritime services company Inchcape, which said the Ever Given was refloated and being secured.

It remains unclear what the condition of the stranded ship is and when the canal would be open to traffic, with Inchcape saying that “more information will follow once they are known.” Efforts to free the mega vessel have lasted for nearly a week. The ship became stuck last Tuesday after running aground while entering the Suez Canal from the Red Sea. Ever Given is one of the largest container ships in the world. It is a 220,000-ton mega ship nearly a quarter-mile long with a 20,000 container capacity. The ship completely blocked the canal that’s home to as much as 12% of the world’s seaborne trade, and caused a traffic jam with hundreds of ships waiting to enter the Suez.

[..] Experts told CNBC that problems caused by the Suez blockage will not immediately ease when the Ever Given is freed. Tim Huxley, director of Mandarin Shipping, said it will take “some time” for traffic that has built up to cross the narrow canal. And when those ships and tankers arrive at their destinations, ports will likely face congestion that will also take time to clear, he added. “You normally have about 50 or so ships a day going through the canal, obviously at the moment it’s about 300 ships backed up … this is an enormous traffic jam, which is at both ends of the canal,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “This will take quite awhile for the whole supply chain to get back to normal and that’s gonna have an impact on manufacturers, retailers right across the board,” said Huxley.

Ever Given

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A fantasy.

The Great Unvaxxed (TE Creus)

The vaccine was a resounding success. Yes, there had been a final death rate of 10% among the vaccinated, but this was mostly among the elderly or the already ill, so it was probably not the vaccine’s fault, and if it was, no one could prove it one way or another, and even if they could, well, the vaccine manufacturers were not liable to lawsuits due to the agreements they had made with the various governments. In any case, the pandemic had ended, that was for sure. Of course the masks and the lockdown mandates continued to be enforced; the reason was that while the pandemic had most certainly been defeated, the virus still existed in its natural form somewhere out there, and so it was vital to continue with the safety procedures to avoid any possible resurgence of the disease. So what? People got used to it, as they had gotten used to so many other things before that.

And was wearing a mask in the end much worse than wearing a helmet or a safety belt? Was being forced to stay at home for a few months every year much different than being forced to be at the office working for five days out of the seven in the week? Rules are rules, and those were not as bad as others that had been instituted in the past. But there was something that worried the authorities. While most people had predictably complied with the mandatory vaccination campaign, there were a few groups that had refused them, alleging religious or health reasons, and found refuge in rural communities living off the grid. They had abandoned the use of mobile and network technology and so could not be traced so easily, and, since non-digital cash had been abolished, they appeared to have returned to a form of commerce based in the exchange of physical goods.

At first, the authorities ignored them; most people saw them as a minority of loser hicks, “anti-vaxxers” as they had been called in earlier pre-scientific times, and since it was unlikely that too many among the masses would opt for such a harsh lifestyle away from the comforts of modern urban life, they were not seen as a menace. But what happened, in the end, was that rumours started to appear, even in the cities, about small communities where no one needed to wear masks, and people were dancing and smiling, and food was delicious and natural and people were even – gasp! – falling in love and procreating in natural ways.

Of course this was an obvious and mendacious falsity, but the authorities could not permit such fairy tales to gain acceptance among the people at large. So they started to persecute “the great unvaxxed”, as they called them, or the “free renegades” as they preferred to call themselves. Their communities were dispersed. Their leaders were arrested. Planting organic, unmodified seeds became illegal.

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After a 6-month lockdown, Greece now has higher case numbers than ever.

Pandemic Upsurge Hits Europe Recovery Hopes (Y!)

An upsurge in new coronavirus cases is forcing governments across Europe into new, damaging lockdowns that threaten to delay a much hoped-for return to growth, economists say. The plan was that mass vaccination programmes would turn the tide on the pandemic, allowing locked-down consumers free rein after months penned up at home. Instead the virus has embarked on a third wave which is proving more difficult to bring under control. French President Emmanuel Macron warned Thursday that the European Union would have to do more and beef up its already massive 750 billion euro ($885 billion) virus recovery fund as a result. The EU had made a major effort after the first wave last year, Macron said, but “following the second and third waves… we will no doubt have to add to our response”.

In September, as the economy picked up sharply after a rapid reverse in the first wave, expectations were high that by the middle of this year it would be solidly back on track, thanks especially to the vaccine rollout. Just a couple of weeks ago, European Central Bank head Christine Lagarde was even talking about a “firm rebound in activity in the second half of the year”. Now the EU’s strongest economies — Germany, France and Italy — have reimposed restrictions and the vaccine programme in Europe is mired in a blame game over supplies. Credit insurer Euler Hermes estimates that the EU is now seven weeks adrift of its target to have 70 percent of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, compared with five weeks in February.

It estimates the delay will cost the bloc’s 27 member states some 123 billion euros this year. “If you compare us with the US, where the outlook is so much more positive, we are falling further behind on the recovery because of this third wave,” said Charlotte de Montpellier, economist with Dutch bank ING. ING now expects eurozone growth of 3.0 percent this year, down more than half a percentage point from its previous estimate. Most of the growth will also come from the third quarter, slightly later too, ING added. Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist at Capital Economics, said he does not expect the bloc to return to pre-pandemic activity levels before the second half of 2022, a year behind the US.


As of March 28, covid19 cases in Greece per million people are higher than Germany, the UK and US. Chart shows 7 day rolling average

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“..what you want to do is reduce the total number of people who’ve been infected..”

Is that so? Isn’t it about the number of vulnerable people?

First Covid Jab Cuts Infection Risk By 62% In England Care Home Residents (G.)

A government-funded study of care home residents in England has found that their risk of infection with Covid-19 – either symptomatic or asymptomatic – fell by 62% five weeks after they received their first Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine dose. Those who were infected after having the vaccine may also be less likely to transmit Covid-19, initial findings showed. The study, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, is key, given that most clinical trials and observational studies evaluated the impact of the vaccines on symptomatic infections, but whether the vaccines can reduce asymptomatic infections – which play a crucial role in the spread of the virus – is still unclear. “It’s helpful to look at people who don’t have symptoms because what you want to do is reduce the total number of people who’ve been infected,” noted UCL’s Dr Laura Shallcross, an author of the analysis.

Researchers tracked more than 10,400 care home residents in England (with an average age of 86) between December and March, comparing the number of infections occurring in vaccinated and unvaccinated groups – using data retrieved from routine monthly PCR testing. Both vaccines reduced the risk of infection by about 56% at 28-34 days after the first dose, and 62% at 35-48 days. The effect is maintained for at least seven weeks, the authors concluded in their analysis, which has not yet been peer-reviewed. This data is notable, given older adults with underlying illnesses have largely been excluded from vaccine trials. It also supports the UK’s decision to extend dose intervals beyond what was studied in clinical trials.

[..] In clinical trials, both vaccines were found to be very effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and death. But understanding whether these interventions can thwart the spread of the disease is imperative to public health policy, given vaccinating the world will take a long time, the risk of vaccine-resistant virus variants emerging and percolating, and that vaccines have not yet been proved safe and effective in children.

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“to do that … will take about two or three years time with global collaboration.”

Fauci and Chinese Counterpart Envision Lengthy Covid Restrictions (JTN)

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on a recent public health panel signaled common ground with a renowned Chinese doctor and public health administrator on the matter of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, with both Fauci and his Chinese counterpart suggesting that those restrictions could continue for many months or even years. Fauci in early March appeared on the virtual panel, titled “The Future of Health,” hosted by the University of Edinburgh. Also present in the meeting was Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan, who has been at the forefront of China’s response to the pandemic and who has been referred to by national spokeswoman Hua Chunying as “China’s Fauci.”

Zhong has a long career in the Chinese Communist Party hierarchy, having served for years in delegatory positions in both the CCP’s National Congress and its National People’s Congress. He has also served on numerous state research initiatives and is the founder of the state-funded Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases. On the panel, Fauci and Zhong both expressed hopes that COVID-19 restrictions worldwide would continue well into the future. Zhong himself claimed that efforts to develop natural immunity to COVID-19 are inadvisable from a national policy standpoint. “It doesn’t work this way,” he said. “And it’s not realistic, and less scientific, and … inhumane.” Zhong argued that “mass vaccinations” are the “commonsense” approach to engendering herd immunity in the population, but “to do that … will take about two or three years time with global collaboration.”

“I have noticed in other countries,” the doctor said elsewhere, “that actions [are] not so strict enough. So that will be not enough to stop the spreading of [the virus].” Fauci himself echoed those concerns, warning against the danger of what he said was “jump[ing] the gun or do[ing] it too quickly” and seeming to imply that countries should keep COVID-19 measures in place even if they appear to have suppressed the virus within their borders. “It is important to realize,” Fauci claimed, “that variants arise, and if you suppress the virus in one country, but it is allowed to spread uninhibited in other areas of the world, sooner or later, the variants, the new lineages, the mutants, will come back and rekindle the outbreak, even in countries that seem to have it under control. So we still have a considerable amount of task in front of us.”

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Still no mention whatsoever of prophylactics.

Self-Isolation After Covid Contact Will Be Necessary For ‘Years’ (Ind.)

People will have to self-isolate after coming into contact with Covid-19 for many years as the UK learns how to “live with this virus”, a government adviser has warned. Mark Woolhouse, a professor of epidemiology, said the test-and-trace system is here to stay – as are some social distancing measures. He also admitted to being “nervous about a full relaxation in June”, calling the idea of emerging from the lockdown “in one great bound” wide of the mark. “I still suspect that looking forward – and I am talking now right through 2021 and into the years ahead – that we are still going to have to be alert to coronavirus,” Prof Woolhouse said. “There are still going to be situations where we might need to use personal protective equipment, we might well need to do some kind of social distancing, put some kind of biosecurity measures in place.”


It would also be necessary to “maintain our capacity to test and trace, and particularly to isolate people who are infected,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “That final thing is going to remain important for the entire future – that, when we get cases of novel coronavirus, that those people are then going to have to be asked to self-isolate and their contacts.” Prof Woolhouse, who sits on the SPI-M modelling group, which feeds advice into the main Sage body, also said vaccine certificates to enter nightclubs and other venues might be necessary. It’s certainly something we have to consider seriously as part of a wider package of measures that are designed to make our activities safe, he warned. And, on another lockdown, he said: We should regard that as a failure of public health policy if we have to go that route again.

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“..visitors who can show either a vaccination certificate or proof they have recently recovered from the virus…”

Being healthy and strong and having natural immunity has been rendered fully meaningless.

Madeira Lets In Tourists Who Can Show Covid ‘Vaccine Passport’ (G.)

Sara Pedro is sat at a beach-side restaurant with friends. It is her first time dining out in three months. She is in Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, having left her home city of Lisbon’s strict coronavirus restrictions to take advantage of the more relaxed atmosphere on the Atlantic island and its “green corridor” for visitors who can show either a vaccination certificate or proof they have recently recovered from the virus. “I came to Madeira because in continental Portugal we are under absolute lockdown, so there was a certain fatigue about it,” she says. Sara, who has recovered from Covid-19, entered Madeira without having to take a PCR test, as would typically be required. Instead, she presented a medical certificate proving she has been in contact with the virus.

The island has a 7pm curfew, but in its capital of Funchal the esplanades are full of people having coffee in the sun as customers go in and out of the shops. It’s in stark contrast with the empty streets and closed shopfronts across mainland Portugal, which is still under tough restrictions imposed on 15 January to tackle what was then the world’s worst coronavirus surge. “Obviously, border closures are necessary for extreme situations, but I think it’s time to bet on safe tourism. Why can’t this be done in other European countries?” Sara asks, as a waiter arrives with drinks.

Located off the coast of Morocco and more than 800km from mainland Portugal, Madeira is one of the few places in Europe accepting tourists – and since 18 February it has been operating a green corridor for tourists who have recovered from Covid-19 in the previous 90 days or who have been fully vaccinated against it, in a foretaste of what may be a future of vaccine passports for EU travel. Vaccinated travellers must present an immunisation certificate in English, validated in their home country, that includes their name, date of birth, type of vaccine, and the date (or dates) it was administered. Tourists must also respect the activation period set out in the vaccine’s summary of product characteristics.

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Orwell.

Congress Demands Tech CEOs Censor Internet Even More Aggressively (Greenwald)

Over the course of five-plus hours on Thursday, a House Committee along with two subcommittees badgered three tech CEOs, repeatedly demanding that they censor more political content from their platforms and vowing legislative retaliation if they fail to comply. The hearing — convened by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of its Subcommittees, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) — was one of the most stunning displays of the growing authoritarian effort in Congress to commandeer the control which these companies wield over political discourse for their own political interests and purposes.

As I noted when I reported last month on the scheduling of this hearing, this was “the third time in less than five months that the U.S. Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content from their platforms.” The bulk of Thursday’s lengthy hearing consisted of one Democratic member after the next complaining that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have failed in their duties to censor political voices and ideological content that these elected officials regard as adversarial or harmful, accompanied by threats that legislative punishment (including possible revocation of Section 230 immunity) is imminent in order to force compliance (Section 230 is the provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields internet companies from liability for content posted by their users).

Republican members largely confined their grievances to the opposite concern: that these social media giants were excessively silencing conservative voices in order to promote a liberal political agenda (that complaint is only partially true: a good amount of online censorship, like growing law enforcement domestic monitoring generally, focuses on all anti-establishment ideologies, not just the right-wing variant). This editorial censoring, many Republicans insisted, rendered the tech companies’ Section 230 immunity obsolete, since they are now acting as publishers rather than mere neutral transmitters of information. Some Republicans did join with Democrats in demanding greater censorship, though typically in the name of protecting children from mental health disorders and predators rather than ideological conformity.

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“My understanding from people who are sort of in government surveillance is yes, they can understand, they can track it.”

Ray Dalio Warns Bitcoin Ban ‘Likely’ (F.)

Bitcoin has soared back after losing ground earlier this week, climbing toward its all-time high price of over $60,000. The bitcoin price hit an all-time high of around $62,000 per bitcoin earlier this month—more than double where it began the year—but has since fallen back, despite Elon Musk’s Tesla bombshell this week. Now, the billionaire founder of the world’s largest hedge fund and legendary investor Ray Dalio has warned he thinks there’s a “good probability” bitcoin will be banned by the U.S. government—comparing it to the 1930’s U.S. gold ban. “Every country treasures its monopoly on controlling the supply and demand,” Bridgewater Associates’s Dalio told Yahoo Finance this week.


“They don’t want other monies to be operating or competing, because things can get out of control. So I think that it would be very likely that you will have it under a certain set of circumstances outlawed the way gold was outlawed.” In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made gold ownership illegal in the U.S. in an attempt to shore up the Federal Reserve’s gold supplies so the Fed could justify printing more dollars. Dalio pointed to reports of a proposed bitcoin ban in India as potentially laying the groundwork for a more widespread crackdown on bitcoin. “[We] have to see what [reports of a proposed bitcoin ban in India] means,” Dalio said. “Now, can they do it? Yeah. Now we get into the particulars. My understanding from people who are sort of in government surveillance is yes, they can understand, they can track it. They can know who’s dealing with it … I would suspect it would be very hard to hold up against that kind of action.”

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Clique.

One Man Stands In The Way Of Cuomo Nursing Home Scandal Investigation (IC)

Over the past two months, two scandals have subsumed the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: the state’s gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the state’s nursing homes, and the governor’s reported harassment of several women around him. But the state attorney general has launched a formal investigation into only one of those scandals. In January, New Yorkers were shocked to learn that the actual Covid-19 death tolls in the state’s nursing homes were as much as 50 percent higher than what had previously been disclosed. The misreporting, which was revealed in a report released by New York Attorney General Tish James on January 28, meant that thousands of deaths may have gone uncounted. And many of these deaths occurred in the early days of the pandemic, as Cuomo told hospitals to send coronavirus-positive patients back to the facilities, leading to rapid spread of the virus.

That scandal gained legs in February when the top aide to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, said that the misreporting was deliberate; Cuomo’s office wanted to throw off an investigation into the state’s handling of nursing homes. “We were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, and what we start saying, was going to be used against us and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” she said on a conference call with Democratic legislators. But the spotlight quickly turned to a second scandal, as eight women reported inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment by the governor. The sexual harassment allegations, which have attracted the bulk of media coverage, prompted an investigation into Cuomo by James, by referral from Cuomo himself.

And many of the top Democrats in the state have called for Cuomo’s resignation. James has not, however, begun an investigation into the Cuomo administration on its actions last spring, for a bureaucratic reason: She needs a referral from either Cuomo himself or Tom DiNapoli, the state’s low-profile comptroller, who has served since 2007. James has the statutory authority to investigate nursing homes, hence the January 28 report. She does not have the statutory authority to launch an investigation with subpoena power into the Cuomo administration without DiNapoli’s referral. (Theoretically, James could decline to investigate Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home crisis even if she received the referral from DiNapoli, though that seems very unlikely given her willingness to investigate the issue so far.)

A nursing home investigation has the potential to be explosive for a much broader range of actors than just Cuomo, and DiNapoli is himself considering a run for governor. While DiNapoli, a mainstream Democrat who nonetheless has occasionally clashed with Cuomo, is among the Democratic politicians calling for Cuomo’s resignation over sexual harassment claims, so far his office has declined to make a referral.

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Professor Michael Hudson and Pepe Escobar discuss the emerging economic world order..

In Quest Of A Multipolar Economic World Order (Saker)

Hudson: 50 years ago, I wrote Super Imperialism about how America dominates the world financially, and gets a free ride. I wrote it, right after America went off gold in 1971, when the Vietnam war – which was responsible for the entire balance-of-payments deficit – forced the country to go off gold. And everybody at that time worried the dollar was going to go down. There’d be hyperinflation. But what happened was something entirely different. Once there was no gold to settle U.S. balance-of-payments deficits, America strong armed its allies to invest in US Treasury bonds, because central banks don’t buy companies. They don’t buy raw materials. All they could buy is other government bonds. So, all of a sudden, the only thing that other people could buy with all the dollars coming in were US Treasury securities.

The securities they bought essentially were to finance yet more war making and the balance-of-payments deficit from war and the 800 military bases America has around the world. The largest customer – I think we discussed this before – was the Defense Department and the CIA. They looked at it as a how-to-do-it book. That was 50 years ago. What I’ve done is not only re-edit the book and add more information that’s come out, but I’ve summarized how the last 50 years has transformed the world. It’s a new kind of imperialism. There was still a view, 50 years ago, that imperialism was purely economic, in the sense that there’s still a rivalry, for instance, between America and China, or America and Europe and other countries.

But I think the world has changed so much in the last 50 years that what we have now is not really so much a conflict between America and China, or America and Russia, but between a financialized economy, run by financial planners allocating resources and government spending and money creation, and an economy run by governments democratic or less democratic, but certainly a mixed economy. Everything that made industrial capitalism rich, everything that made America so strong on the 19th century, through its protective tariffs, through its public infrastructure investment all the way down through world war two and the aftermath, was that we had a mixed economy in America. Europe also had a mixed economy, and in fact, every economy since Babylon has had a mixed economy.

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One small step from “Multipolar Economic World Order” to “Multipolar Global Political Economy”.

Stoltenberg Comes Clean On China “Opportunity” For NATO (SCF)

Jens Stoltenberg and other European leaders have been swooning over the “new chapter” in transatlantic relations under the Biden administration. After four years of dealing with vulgar-mouth Donald Trump and his relentless hectoring over military budgets, some European leaders are sighing with relief at Biden’s seemingly dulcet assurances that “America is back”. Of course people like Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who has been the civilian head of NATO since 2014, are reliant on pushing a stronger alliance for their comfy livelihoods and no doubt for future sinecures at corporate-funded think-tanks. Stoltenberg is constantly striving to find a new vision and mission for NATO, an organization founded over 70 years ago at the start of the Cold War, and which has been expanding ever since despite the official end of the Cold War three decades ago.

The buzz phrase he uses is to make the alliance “future-proof” – that is to find a permanent pretext for the U.S.-led military organization to continue its existence regardless of real-world security needs. In his interview with Deutsche Welle this week, Stoltenberg commented on the rise of China. He said, inferring something menacing: “China is coming closer to us, investing in our critical infrastructure.” Well maybe that’s because China is the world’s biggest trading partner with the European Union and a major foreign direct investor in European nations which have become bankrupt from decades of neoliberal capitalism and austerity. Stoltenberg went on: “There’s no way we can avoid addressing the security consequences for our regional alliance of the rise of China and the shift in the global balance of power.”

And then the usually cautious, wooden Stoltenberg let it slip: China, he said, provided “a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the relationship between North America — the United States — and Europe.” Voila! So the real strategic value of China being presented as a “threat” or an “adversary” is to give a new purpose to the U.S.-led NATO bloc which subordinates Europe to Washington’s geopolitical objective of hegemony. The emphasis here is on China “being presented as a threat” and not what the real relationship actually is, that is, one of a vital economic partner. (Same for Russia and its vast energy partnership with Europe.)

The United States in pursuit of global dominance by its corporations and its capitalist order must, by definition, thwart a multipolar global political economy which the rise of China and Russia embody. The fiendish political problem, however, is that Washington and its European surrogates cannot justify such a stance based on the normal and natural relations that exist. For in doing that, they would be seen as obnoxious, unwarranted aggressors. It is imperative therefore to conflate China and Russia as “security threats” to the presumed Western “rules-based order”.

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The Donziger story is almost as crazy as Julian Assange’s.

The Lawyer Who Took On Chevron Marks His 600th Day Under House Arrest (G.)

Many of us will have felt the grip of claustrophobic isolation over the past year, but the lawyer Steven Donziger has experienced an extreme, very personal confinement as a pandemic arrived and then raged around him in New York City. On Sunday, Donziger reached his 600th day of an unprecedented house arrest that has resulted from a sprawling, Kafkaesque legal battle with the oil giant Chevron. Donziger spearheaded a lengthy crusade against the company on behalf of tens of thousands of Indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest whose homes and health were devastated by oil pollution, only to himself become, as he describes it, the victim of a “planned targeting by a corporation to destroy my life”.

Since August 2019, Donziger has been restricted to his elegant Manhattan apartment, a clunky court-mandated monitoring bracelet he calls “the black claw” continuously strapped to his left ankle. He cannot even venture into the hallway, or to pick up his mail. Exempted excursions for medical appointments or major school events for his 14-year-old son require permission days in advance. An indoor bike sits by the front door in lieu of alternative exercise options. “There’s no comparison to quarantine because I can’t even go outside for a walk. If my kid is sick I can’t go to the drug store to get a prescription,” Donziger said. “I never truly understood freedom until I was put in this situation.”

The nights are hardest for Donziger, when he has to struggle to get his jeans off over the boxy tag and lie in bed next to his wife “with the government still there on my ankle”. Each morning he wakes up in angst. A flag reading “SOS Free Steven” sometimes flutters defiantly from the window, but efforts to end the unusually long detention have yet to be granted. “It’s been brutally difficult for him,” said Paul Paz y Miño, associate director of Amazon Watch, a conservation group allied to Donziger. “It’s taken a huge toll on him and his family. Chevron wants the narrative to be that he’s a criminal. The implications of that for the entire environmental movement against oil companies is terrifying.”

[..] The dispute with Chevron centres upon a landmark 2011 decision by the Ecuador courts to order the company pay $9.5bn in damages to people blighted by decades of polluted air and water. Chevron has never paid up, claiming “shocking levels of misconduct” and fraud by Donziger and the Ecuadorian judiciary. But the subsequent web of events that has led to Donziger being detained and stripped of his law license is befuddling even to legal scholars. “Frankly, I scratch my head when I look at this case,” said Larry Catá Backer, a professor of international law at Penn State University. “It is this strange multi-front battle with one extraordinary explosive development after another. It has had this magical quality to enrage everyone involved in it.”

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 212021
 
 February 21, 2021  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  26 Responses »


Ceiling painting from the palace of Amenhotep III, New Kingdom ca. 1390–1353 B.C.

 

46 Die in Spain Nursing Home After First Pfizer Shot, Second Shots Halted (CB)
Public Health Authorities Blocking Effective Treatment (PCR)
Newsweek ‘Fact Check’ Claims India Vaccine Ban “Mostly False” (SN)
Russia Registers Third Domestically-Created Vaccine Against Covid-19 (RT)
White House ‘Working Directly’ With Big Tech To Censor ‘Vaccine Hesitancy’ (RT)
Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More (Greenwald)
Nursing Home Industry Avoids Scrutiny For Covid-19 Deaths With Lobbying (IC)
For Albany’s Biggest Bully, The Hits Keep Coming (TU)
Lincoln Project Implosion Has Derailed Plan For A Media Empire (VF)
Reuters, BBC, Bellingcat Part Of Covert UK Programs To “Weaken Russia” (GZ)
Texas Blackouts Spark First Lawsuit; AG Vows Probe (ZH)
The Future Of Money Is Gold (Macleod)
Assange’s Lawyers Consider a Cross Appeal (Mercouris)

 

 

 

 

Picked this up. Can’t seem to be able to double check it.

46 Die in Spain Nursing Home After First Pfizer Shot, Second Shots Halted (CB)

The Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) nursing home is reeling due to mass deaths after mRNA inoculations. All residents and workers at the facility received the first dose of Pfizer mRNA in early January, according to Spain mainstream media outlet ABC de Sevilla. Most residents became extremely ill shortly after the shots. It is believed many came down with COVID-19, despite being “vaccinated against it.” The Andalusian Health Service reported that at least 46 residents have died since January. For perspective, Our Lady has a maximum capacity of 145 residents. The Junta de Andalucía (regional government) intervened in early February to curtail the death count. But people continued dying. Spain’s Ministry of Health is now in charge of mitigation.


The Ministry said in a statement: “In view of the imminent risk to public health, and in particular for the [residents] and workers of this center, as the current protocol for disinfection and isolation of positive cases cannot be guaranteed.” The situation remains dire, as at least 28 residents and 12 staff members were COVID-19 positive last week. Health officials halted all further mRNA shots as a result. The Federation of Public Services criticized Our Lady for not taking action sooner. The workers’ union said the response was inadequate after eight people died by January 18. The death count grew to 30 by January 28. Spain is continually in the news related to mRNA shots. Health Minister Salvador Illa said in December that his agency is keeping a database of all citizens who refuse the mRNA. He said the list will be shared with all EU members.

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“What reason is there for people in any country to have confidence in their government and public health authorities?”

Public Health Authorities Blocking Effective Treatment (PCR)

[..] the vaccines themselves have not undergone long-run testing, and many serious reactions and more than 1,000 deaths are associated with the vaccinations. Some scientists are concerned that the untested technology in some of the vaccines will have adverse effects on the immune system and result in a jump in the overall death rate. However, we look at it, we are flying at least partly blind. Why as there is a far superior way to proceed? First, begin with prevention. Vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and NAC are effective and inexpensive immune boosters that ward off infection and reduce the severity of infection. Then turn to cures. Both the HCQ/zinc/antibiotic treatment and the Ivermectin/zinc/antibiotic treatment are proven, safe, and inexpensive.

Yet the evidence has been kept from the public. Even the most knowledgeable experts are deplatformed when they say anything that is in conflict with the vaccination/lockdown agenda. The media are complicit in keeping the public uninformed. Why is this? How does information suppression help deal with an alleged world pandemic? Clearly, it does not help. I have reported many times on the effectiveness of HCQ/zinc. You can use the search feature on this website to locate my reports. Ivermectin has proven to be even more effective than HCQ. Dr. Marc Wathelet, a leading virologist, has brought the evidence for Ivermectin before the government of Belgium. There is no justifiable reason for not using these cures, and there is no justifiable reason for not initiating a prevention program based on supplements, diet, and a more healthy life style.

The failure of governments and health authorities to employ these proven means amounts to premeditated mass murder. The reason people have died from Covid is the refusal to treat and to prevent with known effective means. Instead, governments and health authorities have interfered with doctors and prevented treatment with HCQ and Ivermectin, while using the presstitutes to brainwash the public that these effective and safe treatments are dangerous. The massive disinformation campaign waged against effective prevention and treatment does not come from ignorance and incompetence of public authorities. It comes from the agendas that Covid is being used to advance, agendas whose toll in human life and suffering is unimportant to those whose agendas are being served. What reason is there for people in any country to have confidence in their government and public health authorities?

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“The Newsweek fact check itself is “mostly false.” The fact checkers have been fact checked.”

Newsweek ‘Fact Check’ Claims India Vaccine Ban “Mostly False” (SN)

Newsweek published a “fact check” which labeled claims that India had banned the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as “mostly false” despite admitting in the article that India has in fact temporarily banned the vaccine. Last week, discussion around the issue intensified after it was revealed that Indian health authorities had refused to give permission for the vaccine to be distributed. “On February 3, 2021, India’s Subject Expert Committee (SEC), a panel that advises the nation’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), a national regulatory body focused on pharmaceuticals and devices, ruled that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should not be recommended for an EUA in the country “at this stage,” reports Newsweek.

The report quotes India’s Subject Expert Committee (SEC), which ruled, “The committee noted that incidents of palsy, anaphylaxis and other SAE’s have been reported during post marketing and the causality of the events with the vaccine is being investigated. Further, the firm has not proposed any plan to generate safety and immunogenicity data in Indian population.” In response, after the meeting with the regulator, Pfizer Inc. withdrew its application for the vaccine’s use in India. The Newsweek report admits all this, including but then asserts that that the claim India banned the vaccine is “mostly false.”Indian authorities refused to allow the vaccine to be distributed in India. That’s also known as a “ban”. The ban might be lifted at a future date, but it’s a ban nonetheless.

For Newsweek to claim that this is “mostly false” is completely erroneous. The Newsweek fact check itself is “mostly false.” The fact checkers have been fact checked.

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Three different techniques.

Russia Registers Third Domestically-Created Vaccine Against Covid-19 (RT)

A third Covid-19 vaccine has been registered in Russia, the country’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced on Saturday morning. The drug, dubbed CoviVac, has been developed by the Chumakov Scientific Center in Moscow. The new formula, which has yet to complete phase three trials, uses the most traditional technology out of all of the Russian-made anti-coronavirus solutions. CoviVac is a whole virus vaccine that contains either weakened or deactivated strains of the infection, cultivated specifically for its production. Its developers have previously said that the vast majority of vaccines worldwide have been built on this technology and using it against the Covid-19 pandemic was a viable option.

The pilot batch of 120,000 doses is expected to become available for Russia’s public in mid-March, Mishustin stated. The developers are also seeking to export the vaccine to other countries, following in the footsteps of the Gamaleya Center’s pioneering Sputnik V. The virus sample used to create the vaccine was collected from a Covid-19 patient hospitalized in the Moscow region, the head of Chumakov Center, Aidar Ishmukhametov, revealed back in December. The sample turned out to be both bold and ‘cooperative’ enough to thrive in the laboratory, providing scientists with the material needed to produce the vaccine.

The first coronavirus vaccine registered by Russia, Sputnik V, relies on a unique two-vector human adenovirus technology. Basically, coronavirus particles are inserted into a weakened adenovirus, which is a genetically modified flu virus that cannot reproduce in the human body. It then triggers the required immunity reaction. Sputnik V uses two different adenoviral vectors for the first and second dose and is more effective defense compared to other vaccines that use the same vector for both shots. The second jab, the EpiVacCorona developed by the Siberia-based Vector Institute, uses synthesized particles of the virus instead. They are put into the human body by carrier proteins. Unlike some foreign competitors, all the Russian-made vaccines, including the brand new CoviVac, can be stored in regular refrigerators, which greatly facilitates the logistics and distribution of the shots.

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There is only one religion.

White House ‘Working Directly’ With Big Tech To Censor ‘Vaccine Hesitancy’ (RT)

Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly working directly with Silicon Valley giants to root out ‘misinformation and disinformation’ that hampers US vaccination efforts, indicating hands-on involvement in Big Tech censorship. “Disinformation that causes vaccine hesitancy is going to be a huge obstacle to getting everyone vaccinated and there are no larger players in that than the social media platforms,” a source with direct knowledge about the cooperation told Reuters. “We are talking to them… so they understand the importance of misinformation and disinformation and how they can get rid of it quickly.” The White House previously acknowledged working with tech giants like Facebook and Google on the issue, but direct engagement was not confirmed, Reuters said.


The Biden administration wants digital platforms to suppress content that can result in events like the anti-vaccination protest at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in late January, the source said. The arena has been repurposed as a drive-in mass vaccination site, one of the largest in the US, after being used for Covid-19 testing since May. Police shut it down for about an hour on January 30, after around 50 protesters gathered at the entrance, decrying a “Covid scam” and demanding an end to lockdown in California. The event went off peacefully and was rebuked by state officials, including Governor Gavin Newsom – whom the protesters wanted to be recalled, according to one of the signs they carried.

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“..Congress violates the First Amendment when it attempts to require private companies to impose viewpoint-based speech restrictions which the government itself would be constitutionally barred from imposing.”

Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More (Greenwald)

For the third time in less than five months, the U.S. Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them, with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content from their platforms. On March 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will interrogate Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebooks’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai at a hearing which the Committee announced will focus “on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.” The Committee’s Chair, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of the Subcommittees holding the hearings, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), said in a joint statement that the impetus was “falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine” and “debunked claims of election fraud.”

They argued that “these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” adding: “This hearing will continue the Committee’s work of holding online platforms accountable for the growing rise of misinformation and disinformation.” House Democrats have made no secret of their ultimate goal with this hearing: to exert control over the content on these online platforms. “Industry self-regulation has failed,” they said, and therefore “we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.” In other words, they intend to use state power to influence and coerce these companies to change which content they do and do not allow to be published.

I’ve written and spoken at length over the past several years about the dangers of vesting the power in the state, or in tech monopolies, to determine what is true and false, or what constitutes permissible opinion and what does not. I will not repeat those points here. Instead, the key point raised by these last threats from House Democrats is an often-overlooked one: while the First Amendment does not apply to voluntary choices made by a private company about what speech to allow or prohibit, it does bar the U.S. Government from coercing or threatening such companies to censor. In other words, Congress violates the First Amendment when it attempts to require private companies to impose viewpoint-based speech restrictions which the government itself would be constitutionally barred from imposing.

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Who thinks there will be a thorough probe?

Nursing Home Industry Avoids Scrutiny For Covid-19 Deaths With Lobbying (IC)

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, as the country was being hit by the first wave of the deadly outbreak, New York state, under the leadership Gov. Andrew Cuomo, issued an order directing over 9,000 coronavirus-positive patients be discharged from hospitals into nursing homes. The Cuomo administration claimed that the order was necessary due to the risk of hospitals becoming overwhelmed by Covid-19. In fact, nursing homes tend to have much less effective infection control policies than hospitals, and the order, which likely contributed enormously to the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes, was reversed in May.

In the meantime, though, the Cuomo administration moved to further protect nursing homes. In April, New York became one of the first states to implement liability relief for nursing home operators, after aggressive lobbying and years of donations from the hospital and nursing home industries. Besides New York, at least 27 other states have implemented liability protections for nursing homes.

Across the country, 161,000 nursing home and other long-term care residents have died from Covid-19, an astonishing 36 percent of the total coronavirus deaths in the U.S., and there have been over 1.2 million cases in nursing homes, meaning about half of all nursing home residents contracted the virus. The Government Accountability Office released a report in May 2020 titled “Infection Control Deficiencies Were Widespread and Persistent in Nursing Homes Prior to COVID-19 Pandemic.” And study after study has shown a connection between nursing home staffing and Covid-19 deaths, from the New York Attorney General’s office to researchers at the University of Chicago to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

[..[ The industry, with its powerful lobby, has escaped significant scrutiny, however. Just two nursing home executives have been indicted for Covid-19 deaths, while the industry showered over $10 million on candidates and political action committees in 2020, according to data collected by the National Institute on Money in Politics. Congress has held just one hearing on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, in the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, chaired by progressive Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

And in the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, Congress gave the industry $10 billion through the Provider Relief Fund — with no strings attached for quality or staffing — as the Trump administration reduced nursing home inspections and fines. As a result, “there are some nursing home chains where the chain had more profits in 2020 than in 2019,” said Toby Edelman, an attorney and nursing home resident advocate with the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

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“You haven’t seen my wrath.” Who, other than raging megalomaniacs, talks that way? Why do we insist on electing such miserable people to positions of power?”

For Albany’s Biggest Bully, The Hits Keep Coming (TU)

Andrew Cuomo’s team insists the governor didn’t threaten Ron Kim, the Queens assemblyman who has been a persistent and effective critic of the governor’s nursing home policies. But nobody who follows state government heard Kim’s story and said, “Gee, that doesn’t sound like Andrew Cuomo.” The alleged threat to “destroy” Kim sounds exactly like the governor. It’s who he is. For a decade, until the pandemic temporarily elevated his reputation, Cuomo was Albany’s leading bully, the secretive, scheming, petty narcissist who used fear and threats to subdue friends and opponents alike. Some perhaps believed such distasteful pugilism was needed to wrestle New York’s anarchic government under control. If nothing else, Cuomo seemed competent. He was reelected, twice, without breaking a sweat.

But now, suddenly, everything is crashing down around him. The searing report released at the end of January by Attorney General Letitia James, the one that castigated the governor for dramatically undercounting nursing home deaths, was a watershed, perhaps because James had been considered a Cuomo ally. It’s been a drumbeat of bad news for the governor ever since. The blows keep coming. You probably know that a state judge said the Cuomo administration illegally ignored Freedom of Information Law requests for truthful nursing home information. You’re aware of the firestorm that erupted when a top Cuomo aide blamed a federal inquiry for the administration’s stonewall.

This week, we learned the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn have launched a new probe into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. Lawmakers, increasingly frustrated by the administration’s intense gaslighting, are calling for investigations and threatening to strip the governor’s pandemic power. There’s even impeachment talk. So, Cuomo was in real trouble even before he spent 20 minutes angrily assailing Kim at a press conference Wednesday, an assault that led the assemblyman to talk publicly about frightening threats from a raging governor. I will destroy you!” Cuomo screamed, according to Kim. “You haven’t seen my wrath.” Who, other than raging megalomaniacs, talks that way? Why do we insist on electing such miserable people to positions of power? Why do they get away with behavior that would get anyone else fired?

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Why does this make me think of Epstein?

Lincoln Project Implosion Has Derailed Plan For A Media Empire (VF)

That executives at the organization—including Steve Schmidt—may have known about allegations against Weaver before they were made public. (Schmidt has denied prior knowledge of the allegations. In a statement, the Lincoln Project said it had been “betrayed and deceived” by Weaver.) If true, the stories, which have blasted through the group with bombshell force, represent a spectacular and horrific denouement. In response, many of the Lincoln Project’s members have fallen back on their favorite mantra: Donald Trump is worse. “You know who would be the happiest man in the world if he knew he’d never have to deal with [Lincoln Project] again? Donald Trump,” tweeted cofounder Stuart Stevens last week. “Pick a side. I’m with [Lincoln Project].” He then urged readers to stand with the group.

“Most effective Super PAC in US history,” Stevens wrote. (In fact, though the Lincoln Project’s viral attack ads racked up millions of views, the videos seemingly didn’t do much to accomplish their stated goal of swaying the GOP electorate. Trump received a larger share of the Republican vote nationally in 2020 than he did in 2016.) Others appeared resigned. “Just shut it down already,” wrote Kurt Bardella, who departed from his position as a senior adviser amid the whirlwind of bad press. George Conway, another since-departed cofounder, likewise tweeted that, at this point, shuttering the PAC is the “right” move. On Thursday, the Lincoln Project announced the formation of a “transition advisory committee” that will support the internal investigation of Weaver, as well as a “Stewardship Report” to outline its finances.

As the organization flounders, its plans for the future have been thrown into doubt. The group’s stars had planned to work for Israeli prime minister hopeful Gideon Sa’ar in his bid against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an election that will be held in March. Sa’ar’s campaign had brought on the Lincoln Project’s Schmidt, Reed Galen, Stevens, and Rick Wilson a few weeks ago in the hopes that the group’s aggressive attack ads would work against Netanyahu, but their relationship has since been dissolved, according to a Tuesday report in the Jerusalem Post. Just before the 2020 election, Axios reported that the Lincoln Project had potential plans for a sprawling media organization—Lincoln Media—and had been approached by “several media and entertainment companies and podcast platforms looking to launch franchises from its brand.”

Those talks reportedly included interest from a TV studio in developing a fiction series; queries from networks about streaming the Lincoln Project’s proprietary show, LPTV; and potentially creating a nonfiction film. The organization had planned to launch a revamped version of its podcast, telling Axios it would be “unveiling new episodes imminently” and expanding its LPTV programming “in the coming weeks.” Those plans are now, presumably, in limbo.

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The incompetence is baffling.

Reuters, BBC, Bellingcat Part Of Covert UK Programs To “Weaken Russia” (GZ)

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have sponsored Reuters and the BBC to conduct a series of covert programs aimed at promoting regime change inside Russia and undermining its government across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a series of leaked documents. The leaked materials show the Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action participating in a covert information warfare campaign aimed at countering Russia. Working through a shadowy department within the UK FCO known as the Counter Disinformation & Media Development (CDMD), the media organizations operated alongside a collection of intelligence contractors in a secret entity known simply as “the Consortium.”

Through training programs of Russian journalists overseen by Reuters, the British Foreign Office sought to produce an “attitudinal change in the participants,” promoting a “positive impact” on their “perception of the UK.” “These revelations show that when MPs were railing about Russia, British agents were using the BBC and Reuters to deploy precisely the same tactics that politicians and media commentators were accusing Russia of using,” Chris Williamson, a former UK Labour MP who attempted to apply public scrutiny to the CDMD’s covert activities and was stonewalled on national security grounds, told The Grayzone. “The BBC and Reuters portray themselves as an unimpeachable, impartial, and authoritative source of world news,” Williamson continued, “but both are now hugely compromised by these disclosures. Double standards like this just bring establishment politicians and corporate media hacks into further disrepute.”

[..] The Grayzone reported in October 2020 on leaked materials released by Anonymous which exposed a massive propaganda campaign funded by the UK FCO to cultivate support for regime change in Syria. Soon after, the Foreign Office claimed its computer systems had been penetrated by hackers, thus confirming their authenticity. The new leaks illustrate in alarming detail how Reuters and the BBC – two of the largest and most distinguished news organizations in the world – attempted to answer the British foreign ministry’s call for help in improving its “ability to respond and to promote our message across Russia,” and to “counter the Russian government’s narrative.” Among the UK FCO’s stated goals, according to the director of the CDMD, was to “weaken the Russian State’s influence on its near neighbours.”

[..] The UK FCO projects were carried out covertly, and in partnership with purportedly independent, high-profile online media outfits including Bellingcat, Meduza, and the Pussy Riot-founded Mediazona. Bellingcat’s participation apparently included a UK FCO intervention in North Macedonia’s 2019 elections on behalf of the pro-NATO candidate.

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Who will be sued?

Texas Blackouts Spark First Lawsuit; AG Vows Probe (ZH)

A Corpus Christi man has accused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s primary electric grid, of ignoring repeated warnings that the state’s electric power infrastructure had weaknesses, according to a new lawsuit. In a statement by the Dallas law firm which filed the suit, ERCOT and American Electric Power utility are also accused of causing property damage and business interruptions as last week’s cold snap shattered water pipes and caused widespread power outages to millions of Texans, according to NBCDFW. “This cold weather event and its effects on the Texas energy grid were neither unprecedented, nor unexpected, nor unforeseen,” states the lawsuit, filed by Donald McCarley.

“In fact, similar cold weather events in 1989 and 2011 led to exactly the same type of rolling blackouts that have affected and continue to affect Texas residents and businesses.” The lawsuit also cites a clause in the Texas Constitution which holds that “no person’s property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made.” “The rolling blackouts ordered by Defendant ERCOT took, damaged, or destroyed Plaintiff’s property without adequate compensation,” the suit claims. “The lawsuit filed Friday in a Nueces County court at law in Corpus Christi alleges the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manager of the state’s main electric grid, ignored repeated warnings of weaknesses in the state’s electric power infrastructure.” -NBCDFW

“The resulting widespread property damage from blackouts was caused by their negligence and gross negligence. In addition, the disruptions rendered private property unusable and amounted to an illegal `taking’ of private property by the government,” the law firm said in a statement. The lawsuit also claims that utility companies should have winterized their plants and increased generation to meet skyrocketing demand, “but consciously chose not to do so.”

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Not everyone will agree, but this is intriguing: “.. when gold is the basis of all transaction settlements, economies become self-regulating and self-correcting..”

The Future Of Money Is Gold (Macleod)

As a circulating medium, gold and its properly established and exchangeable substitutes have proved to be the most effective lubricant for economic progress. It behoves us to take a moment to understand why this is the case, and why its circulation as money was central to the rapid and unprecedented improvement in living standards in the nineteenth century. People in a community, town, city or even a nation set their own monetary requirements and the level of their trade. Let us assume that in doing so, the general price level differs from that of a neighbouring population. The conditions then exist for an arbitrage to take place, whereby gold payments will flow to the community with the lower prices when economic actors in the community with higher prices take advantage of them.

Price differentials will tend to close to a level that reflects transaction and transport costs, so the purchasing power of gold in the two communities converge. This understanding in classical economics is the basis behind purchasing power parity theory. Additionally, savings in gold will seek out the higher investment returns between the two centres. It is likely that the centre with lower costs will offer the greater attraction to capital flows, but this is less certain. However, the quantities of gold held as savings are always significantly less than the quantities spent in consumption in an economy that uses monetary capital efficiently. The arbitrage takes place both through the trade of goods and also by the deployment of capital exploiting interest rate and opportunity differentials, so that a convergence in both prices and interest rates is achieved.

And what applies between two communities using gold as money applies between them all, so that across all unfettered, free market economies which maximise the benefits of the division of labour, the benefits of gold as money are enjoyed by all. It is therefore easy to see that in a commercial world with effective transport and communications, whatever the local preferences for holding money relative to goods may be, multi-centre arbitrage tends to produce a common price level and a common level for interest rates. These adjustment factors are conducive to trade, not only between communities but between nations. And trade priced and settled in gold is, all else being equal, far more efficient than when individual fiat currencies are involved, because with gold as the common money national boundaries are no longer barriers to payments and trade is truly global.

Given gold’s ubiquity as money, the effect of localised changes in general preferences for holding gold relative to goods can be regarded as minimised. An additional but unrelated factor is the inflation of above-ground stocks of gold through mine supply, but this is broadly offset by population growth. And a substantial element of gold usage is non-monetary, mainly for jewellery, which becomes a flexible source of monetary gold if markets demand it. Technological innovation and improvement in production methods as well as competition all tend in the long run to reduce the general price level of goods and services measured in gold. So, while there is little change in the general level of prices from the money side, there can be a significant reduction in prices over long periods of time from the goods side.

The effect is to enhance the purchasing power of savings, leading to stable, low interest rates and improved living standards for all but the indolent. In summary, when gold is the basis of all transaction settlements, economies become self-regulating and self-correcting. Successful economic activity is rewarded with profits and the opportunity to accumulate wealth. In every respect, government intervention and regulation results in the opposite.

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“If Assange’s lawyers do decide to bring a cross appeal, then the High Court hearing of that and the U.S. appeal will acquire epochal importance.”

Assange’s Lawyers Consider a Cross Appeal (Mercouris)

Julian Assange’s lawyers are considering bringing a cross appeal to the High Court in London disputing parts of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s Jan. 4 judgment not to extradite Assange to the United States, according to a report by journalist Tareq Haddad. Baraitser refused the U.S. request on narrow grounds, saying Assange’s extradition would put his life and health at risk. But Baraitser sided with the U.S. on every other point of law and fact, making it clear that in the absence of the life and health issues she would have granted the U.S. request. That opens the way for the U.S. government to seek the extradition of other persons, including journalists, who do the same things as Assange did, but who cannot rely on the same life and health issues.

It also means that if the U.S. wins the appeal it filed last Friday in High Court it can try Assange in the U.S. on the Espionage Act charges that went unchallenged by Baraitser. If Assange’s lawyers counter the U.S. appeal with one of their own in the High Court against Baraitser’s upholding of the espionage charges, it would be heard simultaneously with the U.S. appeal. Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, has written that Assange’s lawyers are indeed considering a cross appeal: “The next step in the legal case is that Julian’s legal team will respond to the US grounds for appeal. Julian’s lawyers are hard at work. Julian’s team has asked the High Court to give them more time to consider whether to lodge a cross appeal in order to challenge parts of the ruling where the magistrate did not side with Julian and the press freedom arguments. A cross appeal would provide an opportunity to clear Julian’s name properly.

Although Julian won at the Magistrates’ Court, the magistrate did not side with him on the wider public interest arguments. We wanted a U.K. court to properly quash the extradition and refute the other grounds too. We wanted a finding that the extradition is an attempt to criminalise journalism, not just in the U.S. but in the U.K. and the rest of the world as well; and that the decision to indict Julian was a political act, a violation of the treaty, a violation of his human rights and an abuse of process. Julian’s extradition team is considering all these issues, and whether they can be cross-appealed.”

[..] One should be cautious about the idea of a cross appeal to the High Court on Assange’s behalf. Despite the fact that Baraitser sided with the U.S. government on most of the contentious issues of law and fact in the case, she did in the end refuse the U.S. government’s request for Assange’s extradition. The normal practice in an appeal is to uphold a judgment made in one’s favour, not to challenge it by bringing a cross appeal, which could serve to undermine it. That often means going along with things in the judgment with which one is unhappy.

There is however nothing normal about Assange’s case. As Moris’ comments show, one has to be aware, perhaps more than in almost any other case, of the overriding and even transcendent issues of media freedom and human rights that arise. It may be that Assange’s lawyers will decide that Ainsworth’s comments to the House of Commons in 2003; Davis’s recent comments about parliament’s intentions at the time when the 2003 Extradition Act was passed into law; and any other points of law or fact that carry sufficient weight, justify bringing a cross appeal, despite the attendant risks. If Assange’s lawyers do decide to bring a cross appeal, then the High Court hearing of that and the U.S. appeal will acquire epochal importance.

Assange Facebook
https://twitter.com/i/status/1362662696739500037

Read more …

 

 

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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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March 2, 2020:

 

 

 

 

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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.

Read more …

 

 

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How memes are born…

 

 

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Jan 232021
 


Zao Wu-Ki Le soleil rouge 1950

 

Here Are the Superheroes To Come and Save Us (MPN)
Dems Demand Social Media Stop ‘Polluting Minds Of American People’ (RT)
New McCarthyism Will Prove An Orwellian Mistake – Hanson (K.)
Big Tech, Big Brother, & The End Of Free Speech (RCP)
The Echo Chamber Era (Matt Taibbi)
500,000 More British Kids Face Mental Health Issues (Wilson)
Israel Analysis Of COVID Vaccine Raises Questions About UK Strategy (Sky)
Are COVID Vaccination Programmes Working? (Nature)
One Dose Of Pfizer Vaccine Could Be Less Effective Than Expected (BMJ)
Hungary First EU Country To Get Russia’s Sputnik V Covid19 Vaccine (RT)
Overall Mortality Is Around Normal For This Time Of Year (RT)
How US CDC Missed Chances To Spot COVID’s Silent Spread (R.)
McConnell Lays Out Trump Impeachment Trial Timeline (ZH)
Rough Ridin’ with Biden (Kunstler)
Home Run King Hank Aaron Dead At 86 (F.)

 

 


Cavafy – Monotony

 

 

 

 

“The few who ventured near the Capitol were mostly somber, as if they were attending a vigil.” “It feels a little postapocalyptic..”

Here Are the Superheroes To Come and Save Us (MPN)

We rely on the media to hold the powerful to account. But in its first hours in office, the corporate press has celebrated, rather than challenged, the new Biden administration. It began immediately during the 78-year-old Delawarean’s inauguration, with senior figures in the media barely able to contain their emotions watching what they saw. “As Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, the sky opened up and sunlight reflected off of the Capitol, illuminating the flag,” wrote Olivia Nuzzi, the New Yorker’s Washington correspondent. The New York Times was in a similarly poetic mood. “Whether or not related to the former president’s absence, a bipartisan lightness seemed to prevail across the stage at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Snow flurries gave way to sun,” ran its subheadline.


If it were not clear enough that corporate media intends to spend the next four years propping up, rather than scrutinizing President Biden, then senior CNN figures spelled it out. “Trump—>Biden. Lies—>truth. Ignorance—>knowledge. Amorality—>decency. Cruelty—> empathy. Corruption—>public service” wrote CNN’s White House correspondent John J. Harwood on Twitter, attributing several extremely positive (and questionable) qualities to the incoming president. Meanwhile, the company’s head of strategic communications, Matt Dornic, was in an even more bombastic mood. Sharing a picture of fireworks exploding over the Washington Monument, he remarked that, “This team truly understands optics. These images will inspire our friends and shake our foes.”

Leaving aside why some colorful pyrotechnics would terrify Russia, China or any nation, Dornic’s rhetoric worried many who felt the nation’s top journalists should see themselves as the government’s adversaries, rather than their allies. “Note how this CNN imperial stenographer fearmongers about foreign bogeymen with his “foe” rhetoric. The real foe of average working-class Americans isn’t any foreign nation; it’s the parasitic capitalist oligarchs who control everything and their lackeys in politics and the media,” replied Ben Norton of The Grayzone. Perhaps the most adulatory coverage of the inauguration came from MSNBC, however, with analyst John Heilemann depicting the senior politicians present as almost mythical ubermensch. “What was to me so striking about today was that comforting sense,” he said.


“The sight of the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas — The Avengers, the Marvel superheroes back up there together all in one place with their friend Joe Biden.” He later went on to compare Biden’s speech to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address of 1865 after the union victory in the American Civil War and claimed there was a deep sense of relief washing over the nation’s capital.. This sentiment was apparently not shared by ordinary people on the street. Even as it was praising Biden, the New York Times reported that “The few who ventured near the Capitol were mostly somber, as if they were attending a vigil.” “It feels a little postapocalyptic, to be honest,” one told them.

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How is this not the thought police?

”..algorithms and recommendations that breed extremism and undermine the sense of “objective reality.”

Dems Demand Social Media Stop ‘Polluting Minds Of American People’ (RT)

Democrats in the US Congress have urged major social media platforms to eliminate algorithms and recommendations that breed extremism and undermine the sense of “objective reality.” Representatives Anna Eshoo and Tom Malinowski wrote letters demanding change to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. A similar letter was sent to the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, and Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google. “For years, social media companies have allowed harmful disinformation to spread through their platforms, polluting the minds of the American people,” Eshoo tweeted. The lawmakers argued that social media platforms allow content which reinforces “existing political biases, especially those rooted in anger, anxiety, and fear.”


They said the algorithms used by Big Tech “undermine our shared sense of objective reality” and “facilitate connections between extremist users,” which lead to violence in real life, like the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6. Twitter was urged to “immediately make permanent changes to limit the spread of misinformation and other forms of harmful content.” Facebook and YouTube were similarly asked to tweak their recommendation systems in order not to promote “dangerous conspiracy theories” among users. The Democrats and many in the media accused former President Donald Trump of inciting the crowd of his supporters to seize the Capitol in hopes of overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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“We are in a sort of left-wing version of the Corleone “Godfather” cinema family “taking care of business” all at once.”

New McCarthyism Will Prove An Orwellian Mistake – Hanson (K.)

The efforts of “Big Tech” to ban Trump and many of his supporters, while Apple, Google etc in concert made it almost impossible for a conservative site like Parler to exist, are reflections of a Salem Witch trial madness sparked by the trifecta of Trump’s loss, the Capitol violence, and the Republican loss of the Senate. Hysteria reigns as books by conservatives are now canceled, thousands kicked off social media, radio hosts fired etc. We are in a sort of left-wing version of the Corleone “Godfather” cinema family “taking care of business” all at once. Yet this new McCarthyism will prove an Orwellian mistake, and constitute one of the greatest political blunders in modern US history.

Think of the Ayatollah Khamenei calling for the destruction of Israel on Twitter with impunity or Antifa announcing planning sessions for their next riot, on Facebook with impunity – juxtaposed to social media banning those who merely showed up in Washington at a peaceful rally and did not join the violent splinter group who stormed the halls of Congress. In contrast, again, the current Vice President Harris earlier had called for the more protests this summer. Many were violent and occasionally lethal, resulting in mass looting, death and arson by Antifa and BLM. She worked to bail out those arrested for street violence. The public is tiring of such asymmetries. US publishers all the time publish books like “In Defense of Looting” – a manifesto supporting the mass theft from stores this summer. So there is no consistency in the current violations of free speech.

And the effort to remove Trump before his tenure not only failed, but showed his opponents as small-minded and vindictive and further divided a 50/50 divided country. The attempt to coordinate Big Tech to destroy the conservative opposition’s means of communicating with the public came by design on the eve of the most revolutionary moments in modern history to come: Very soon the Left plans to end the 180-year Senate filibuster, the 234-year Electoral College, the 60-year 50-state union (by adding Puerto Rico and Washington DC), and the 150-year-old nine-person Supreme Court – and now will have its critics de-platformed from social media or afraid to express objections in fear of being banned.

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“..When 13-year-olds are entrusted with cellphones and Snapchat accounts, they can use them to bring shame on innocent children and even destroy their lives. Often, this involves spreading false rumors about the person or discrediting them for something they espouse, like their religion, their political beliefs or their sexual identity. Tell me how this is different from what Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have done to Donald Trump..”

Big Tech, Big Brother, & The End Of Free Speech (RCP)

In George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” members of the Outer Party of Oceania engage in the Two Minutes Hate ritual against Emmanuel Goldstein, who is supposed to be the enemy of the people but may actually just be a fabricated symbol to distract the people from their real enemy — Big Brother. In Nancy Pelosi’s “Twenty Twenty-One,” members of the Democratic Party engage in the Two Hours Hate against Donald Trump, who is supposed to be the enemy of the people, but may actually just be a fabricated symbol to distract the people from their real enemy — Big Tech. Two hours of hate — er, debate — was held in the House of Representatives last Wednesday for the avowed purpose of removing a president of the United States. That’s all it took. Two hours. That should tell you everything you need to know about the state of democracy in our country.

[..] In a sense, Big Tech has taken cyberbullying to its logical conclusion. When 13-year-olds are entrusted with cellphones and Snapchat accounts, they can use them to bring shame on innocent children and even destroy their lives. Often, this involves spreading false rumors about the person or discrediting them for something they espouse, like their religion, their political beliefs or their sexual identity. Tell me how this is different from what Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have done to Donald Trump and, by extension, the more than 74 million people who voted for him. This group of post-pubescent cyberbullies in Silicon Valley doesn’t like Donald Trump. They feel justified in calling him names like white supremacist and Nazi and racist. They don’t care whether it hurts him or not. They don’t care whether it is true or not. They are strangely enlivened by what they perceive as their ability to hurt him, to weaken him.

Like the mob that they have attempted to link the president to, these bullies act in mindless concert, emboldened by each other to see who can strike the deeper blow, who can make the victim hurt more. And over what? Differences of opinion, for the most part. Strong border or no border? Mask or no mask? Globalism or Americanism? Carbon credits or fracking? Abortion or no abortion? And then the last straw — fair election or fraudulent election? These should be legitimate subjects for debate in a free society. But not anymore. Big Tech has banned debate about government policy on the coronavirus, and any discussion of election fraud is treated as if it were a crime. But wait? It’s only a crime to question the government in a totalitarian system, like that in communist China or Orwell’s fictional Oceania, right?

In America, we have the right and obligation to question our government, don’t we? Because, if we don’t have that right any longer, then what are they afraid of? What are they hiding? Bottom line: At some point in some election, the allegations of election fraud have to be real. It can’t always just be the figment of some right-wing president’s imagination. And if we aren’t allowed to have free speech, then how do we fight back? If Big Tech and Big Government have their way, we don’t. Just keep your head down and your nose clean — and never ever question what you are told.

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“..not a bad or even a terrible plan, but literally a “nonexistent” plan, despite the fact that 36 million vaccines had already been delivered..”

The Echo Chamber Era (Matt Taibbi)

Blue-state audiences didn’t ask for accounting for those official warnings for the same reason Trump voters never asked what happened to those three million undocumented votes Hillary Clinton supposedly won in 2016: audiences don’t demand explanations for puffed-up claims about other groups. People like Sullivan would have you believe that “balance” is a mandate to give voice to clearly illegitimate points of view, but it’s really about not falling so completely in love with your “values” that you stop caring to avoid mistakes about those who don’t share them, or even just mistakes generally. By any standard, the press had a terrible four years, from the mangling of dozens of Russiagate tales to scandals like the New York Times “Caliphate” disaster and the underappreciated Covington High School story fiasco.

Still, many in the business can’t see how bad it’s been, because they’ve walled themselves off so completely from potential critics. Coupled with the enhanced aggressiveness of Silicon Valley in removing dissenting accounts across the spectrum — Facebook is taking down six Socialist Workers Party accounts in Britain as I write this, a day after zapping a series of Antifa accounts — reporters at places like the Post, the Times, and CNN every day have less and less to worry about in terms of audience blowback, and they know it. Just in the first few days of the Biden administration, we’ve seen editorial decisions that would never have been attempted once upon a time. The Post just tried to remove seven paragraphs of their own archived article about Vice President Kamala Harris, which contained a cringeworthy scene of Harris and her sister joking about prisoners begging for water, only to restore it after an outcry.

CNN meanwhile ran a story that incoming Biden officials had to “build everything from scratch” with regard to Covid-19 policy because the Trump administration had no plan for vaccine distribution at all — not a bad or even a terrible plan, but literally a “nonexistent” plan, despite the fact that 36 million vaccines had already been delivered. In this rare case, rival media organizations cried foul, with reporters from both Politico and the Washington Post blasting the report as untrue and a “gambit to lower expectations” by the incoming administration. In an atmosphere where editors really feared discontent from outside demographics or rival party politicians, a story like that, with an over-the-top-to-impossible premise, would never even be tried.

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COVID is not a one-dimensional issue, but it keeps being treated as such. “500,000 children under 18 in England, with no previous problems, will need mental health care..”

500,000 More British Kids Face Mental Health Issues (Wilson)

The gloom is infectious, as a study out today from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford confirmed. Formerly freewheeling, high-spirited online chats have morphed into muted complaints and low moods as the novelty of school in the kitchen wore off long ago. The wide, everchanging schoolyard social networks of our children have disappeared, replaced by social contact with whoever happens to be online at the same time they are. Boredom encourages bickering and the subtleties of personal relationships are forced to rely on broadband speed, What’s App chat emojis and access to a shared computer. It is not healthy in any way. We now risk destroying our children’s love of learning while creating a mental health crisis that has struck half a million previously healthy kids across the nation already, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

It says 500,000 children under 18 in England, with no previous problems, will need mental health care due to the devastating economic, health and family pressures caused by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. This has manifested itself in children as young as five reporting self-harm and suicidal thoughts to counsellors and a tripling in the number of eating disorders reported by adolescents. An Ofsted report in November discovered that more than two months of lost schooling last spring had resulted in children regressing in basic skills such as reading and writing. And –as always– it is the poor who suffer worst. It’s estimated 1.1m kids have no computer at home, making attending online lessons impossible. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that, in the last lockdown, better-off children spent 30 per cent more time on remote learning than disadvantaged ones. The attainment gap between rich and poor pupils will grow markedly.

A survey by England’s Mental Health of Children and Young People survey found that more than a quarter of children aged five to 16 reported disrupted sleep, one in five did not have somewhere quiet to work, and girls had the highest prevalence (27.2 per cent) of probable mental health issues. This is all shocking news. Our children are facing serious problems with their mental health in numbers never seen before and yet with no end date in sight they are expected to sit in front of a screen five hours a day, five days a week. It’s not helping, and it is clear that keeping schools shut is doing immense and lasting damage to our children.

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We had a discussion in yesterday’s Debt Rattle thread about the first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Which answers some questions, and leaves new ones. The 33% efficacy after two weeks raises alarms. Even if it rises afterwards.

I still have many questions about what exactly constitutes the efficacy. If all it does is keep people from getting more severely ill, that is fine, but at least be open about it.

Israel Analysis Of COVID Vaccine Raises Questions About UK Strategy (Sky)

The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine suggests it is matching its performance in clinical trials, but raises serious questions about the UK’s decision to delay the second dose. Scientists in Israel – which is leading the COVID-19 vaccination race – have told Sky News that they are “very hopeful” having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people. But crucially they say their results do not show efficacy at a level close to that used by the UK to justify delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab. Professor Ran Balicer is a physician, epidemiologist and chief innovation officer for Clalit, the largest health care provider in Israel. He is also an adviser to the WHO. “We compared 200,000 people above the age of 60 that were vaccinated. We took a comparison group of 200,000 people, same age, not vaccinated, that were matched to this group on various variables…” Prof Balicer said.

“Then we looked to see what is the daily positivity rate… And we saw that there was no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated until day 14 post-vaccination. “But on day 14 post-vaccination, a drop of 33% in positivity was witnessed in the vaccinated group and not in the unvaccinated… this is really good news.” However, UK scientists said in December that trial data had suggested it would be 89% effective after one dose. A document issued by the UK government’s vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, to justify delaying the second dose for up to 12 weeks said: “Using data for those cases observed between day 15 and 21, efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 was estimated at 89%, suggesting that short term protection from dose 1 is very high from day 14 after vaccination.”

This is much more optimistic than the new real-world Israeli data suggests. Responding to the UK government strategy, Prof Balicer said: “The data and estimates I gave are what we have. “We could not see 89% reduction in the data we reported. Further data and analyses will be released in peer reviewer scientific format.” He added: “The practice in Israel is to provide the second vaccine at three weeks. “And so it is impossible for us to tell what would be the impact of not providing the second dose…” Israel is following Pfizer/BioNtech protocol in giving the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine three weeks after the first. It has a smaller population and a regular supply from Pfizer/BioNtech. In return it’s providing detailed data to Pfizer.

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And this is just incredibly weak: “If vaccines are effective at preventing infections, then their indirect benefit — protecting unvaccinated people — will be visible only once enough people have been immunized..”

Are COVID Vaccination Programmes Working? (Nature)

The results from Israel are among the first to report the impact of vaccines administered to people outside clinical trials. They provide an early indication that the two-dose RNA-based vaccine developed by Pfizer–BioNTech can prevent infection or limit its duration in some vaccinated people. In a preliminary analysis of 200,000 people older than 60 who received the vaccine, compared with a matched group of 200,000 who did not, researchers found that the chances of testing positive for the virus were 33% lower two weeks after the first injection. “We were happy to see this preliminary result that suggests a real-world impact in the approximate timing and direction we would have expected,” says Ran Balicer, an epidemiologist at Israel’s largest health-care provider, Clalit Health Services, in Tel Aviv.

He expects to get more conclusive results several weeks after people receive their second shot. Another analysis, by Maccabi Healthcare Services, found a similar trend, although neither study has been peer-reviewed. Clinical trials of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine show it to be around 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, and the preliminary data suggest it can also provide some protection from infection. But it will take longer to establish whether vaccinated people no longer spread the virus to unvaccinated people, says Balicer. As more than 75% of older people in Israel have been vaccinated, Balicer says he expects to see a drop in hospitalizations among vaccinated older people over the coming weeks.

Most countries are prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for people who have a high risk of getting severe disease and dying. So, the first evidence that shots are working in those countries will probably be reductions in hospitalizations, and then in deaths, says Alexandra Hogan, an infectious-disease modeller at Imperial College London. If vaccines are effective at preventing infections, then their indirect benefit — protecting unvaccinated people — will be visible only once enough people have been immunized, says Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Israel will probably be the first country to see this kind of population-wide impact, say researchers. This is because it is using a high-efficacy vaccine and aiming for wide coverage with the explicit goal of achieving herd immunity, when enough people are immune to a virus for its spread to be controlled.

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Yeah, but effective at what? Not at protecting others, that much is clear now.

One Dose Of Pfizer Vaccine Could Be Less Effective Than Expected (BMJ)

Concerns have been raised over how much protection a single dose of the Pfizer BioNTech covid-19 vaccine provides, following reports from Israel that it is much lower than expected. Israel, which, like the UK, is currently in its third national lockdown, has so far vaccinated more than 75% of its older people with at least one dose. Early reports from the vaccine rollout have suggested that the first dose led to a 33% reduction in cases of coronavirus compared with efficacy of at least 52% reported in clinical trials. A preliminary report from the Clalit Research Institute compared the infection data of 200.000 people aged 60 and over who were not vaccinated with the infection data of 200.000 people of the same age group who received one vaccine dose and were monitored for at least 11 days from the date of vaccination.

On day 14 there was a significant decrease of about 33% in the rate of positive tests for the coronavirus among those who had been vaccinated. This decrease remained the same between days 15 and 17. The report has raised concerns, as published results have suggested that the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine was 52.4% between the first and second dose (spaced 21 days apart), and data assessed by Public Health England indicated it could be as much as 89% protective from day 15 to 21. The Clalit Research Institute stressed, however, that its results included only people aged 60 and over whereas Pfizer trials also included younger people and that the findings have not yet been peer reviewed. Additionally, the Clalit study identified those infected according to laboratory tests of those who chose to be tested, while Pfizer’s studies only referred to the appearance of symptomatic disease.

In the UK, the vaccine policy prioritises getting as many at risk people vaccinated with one dose over ensuring people get two doses within the time specified in clinical trials. While there are data to suggest the chosen 12 week interval between the two doses is effective for the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, there are no data to support this interval for the Pfizer vaccine. As such, a leading statistician has written to UK health secretary Matt Hancock urging him to investigate the effects of the decision to extend the gap between the first and second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

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“Unfortunately, the EU purchases vaccines very slowly, so Hungary continues negotiations with Israel, Russia, and China,” Orban said.”

Hungary First EU Country To Get Russia’s Sputnik V Covid19 Vaccine (RT)

Shortly after becoming the first EU country to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Hungary has agreed on a three-stage supply deal with Moscow. Budapest will receive its first delivery of doses in February. The contract between the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the government in Budapest was made on Friday, in a meeting between Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó. According to Murashko, Hungarian experts visited the Gamaleya Institute, where the formula was invented, and conducted a thorough examination of vaccine production sites. The scientists also had the opportunity to review clinical trial results. “Many countries today approve the use of the Russian Sputnik V, and we are actively cooperating with the World Health Organization,” Murashko told the press.


In response, Szijjártó called the announcement of the agreement “a great honor,” assuring Hungary’s citizens that experts from the country’s own National Institute of Pharmacology and Food Safety reviewed the entire process themselves. On Thursday, it was revealed that Budapest had approved Sputnik V for emergency use, despite it not yet being deemed safe by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). On January 8, Hungarian President Victor Orban complained that the European Union was being too slow to make any decisions, putting citizens’ lives at risk. “Unfortunately, the EU purchases vaccines very slowly, so Hungary continues negotiations with Israel, Russia, and China,” Orban said. Two weeks later, his country approved Sputnik V for use.

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Branch Covidians.

Overall Mortality Is Around Normal For This Time Of Year (RT)

Although the numbers of deaths attributed to the virus in the UK are higher than they’ve ever been, in total, not many more people are dying than in any other cold season. Is the mainstream media finally waking up to this?
A recent article in the Telegraph is one of the first in a mainstream outlet to even suggest a challenge to the official coronavirus narrative. These days, that narrative claims that the ‘second wave’ is actually deadlier than the first. (Recently, some Branch Covidians have been claiming a ‘third wave’, but there is not yet a united front on that.) The basic reasoning of the article is sound, even if it is long overdue. It laments how every day, the media solemnly reports the latest figures on Covid deaths. Presenting this figure in isolation results in graphs such as this one, which does indeed seem to show that we are at the height of a second, worse phase of a pandemic.

But, like any statistics, daily death numbers are meaningless without context, which the media rarely provides. They do not provide context because, if they did, the public might see a graph such as this one, from the Telegraph article.

It quite clearly shows the spring spike in overall mortality, which was caused by Covid (plus lockdowns). After that ends in summer, we see… nothing. Overall mortality ever since, even through this winter, hovers at around the five-year average. And overall mortality, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is the only true way to know whether you are in a pandemic or not – all other figures can easily be fiddled. So, why are the excess death data and the Covid deaths data so out of whack? And why isn’t Covid killing lots and lots of people this winter, as it did in spring? Even if you ascribe all excess deaths to Covid and none to lockdown, there really does not seem to be anything out of the normal variation in total deaths from year to year. And surely, by now, the toll of unnecessary deaths caused by untreated cancer, heart disease, depression and so on, has at least begun to register.

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You mean it was’t all Trump’s fault?

How US CDC Missed Chances To Spot COVID’s Silent Spread (R.)

Critics have widely asserted that the CDC fumbled key decisions during the coronavirus scourge because then-President Donald Trump and his administration meddled in the agency’s operations and muzzled internal experts. The matter is now the subject of a congressional inquiry. Yet Reuters has found new evidence that the CDC’s response to the pandemic also was marred by actions – or inaction – by the agency’s career scientists and frontline staff. At a crucial moment in the pandemic when Americans were quarantined after possible exposure to the virus abroad, the agency declined or resisted potentially valuable opportunities to study whether the disease could be spread by those without symptoms, according to previously undisclosed internal emails, other documents and interviews with key players.

Soon after balking at testing the returnees from Wuhan, the agency delayed testing asymptomatic passengers among 318 evacuees from the Diamond Princess, a contaminated cruise ship in Japan. In addition, the agency failed at that time to make effective use of outside experts and appeared at times unprepared for the crisis on the ground, lacking adequate personal protective gear and ignoring established protocols, Reuters found. “Yes, they were interfered with politically,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, referring to alleged meddling by the Trump administration. “But that’s not the only reason CDC didn’t perform optimally during COVID-19. There are a lot of things that went wrong.”

Four top public health experts or ethicists told Reuters that the question of whether to test or engage in research on detained people has always been a sensitive topic. But all said the CDC should have proceeded given the fast-moving public health emergency. Moreover, the CDC finalized rules in 2017 providing that medical testing was expressly allowed in quarantine, as long as participants were given the opportunity to give “informed consent” or opt out. Informed consent means giving people adequate information to understand the risks and benefits of a test or procedure. Gostin said the CDC’s argument against testing was “unreasonable” under the circumstances. “You are asking for consent and not imposing any harm,” he said. “There is a good reason to do it.”

It’s difficult to know whether more aggressive early testing among asymptomatic people would have significantly altered the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States, which has infected 24 million people and killed more than 400,000. The CDC was not the only agency that struggled with this issue. Notably, an official with the World Health Organization called asymptomatic spread “very rare” in June, only to say a day later “we don’t actually have that answer yet.” In recent months, the WHO has said infected people without symptoms can be contagious, but “it is still not clear how frequently this occurs.”

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The circus is in town.

McConnell Lays Out Trump Impeachment Trial Timeline (ZH)

While the left is split between wanting to hammer the final nail in Trump’s coffin (through the Senate impeachment trial) and tending to its aggressive agenda of new laws, spending, and government control, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement today regarding his proposed timeline for the first phases of an impeachment trial of former president Trump. “I have sent a proposed timeline for the first phases of the upcoming impeachment trial to Leader Schumer and look forward to continuing to discuss it with him. “Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.

“Given the unprecedented speed of the House’s process, our proposed timeline for the initial phases includes a modest and reasonable amount of additional time for both sides to assemble their arguments before the Senate would begin to hear them. “At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency.” Specifically, Leader McConnell shared the following proposed pre-trial timeline with the Republican Conference today: “When the articles arrive, the House Managers would exhibit (read) the articles to the Senate, Senators would be sworn in the Members as the Court of Impeachment, and would issue a summons to former President Trump.

“While we do not know what day the Managers will choose, Leader McConnell has asked for this to occur on Thursday, January 28. Former President Trump would have one week from that day to answer the articles of impeachment (February 4). The House’s pre-trial brief would also be due then. The President would then have one week from the day he submits his answer to submit his pre-trial brief (February 11). That means former president Trump has fourteen total days from when we issue the summons to write his pre-trial brief. The House would also submit its replication on this date. The House would then have two days to submit their rebuttal pre-trial brief (February 13). This approach tracks the structure of the Clinton and Trump pre-trial processes. The periods between due dates are longer than in 1999 or 2020, but this is necessary because of the House’s unprecedented timeline.

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“Who will step forward in his absence? Probably someone we haven’t heard from yet. That’s how these things work.”

Rough Ridin’ with Biden (Kunstler)

As for Mr. Trump, he departed as he had arrived in 2016: stridently contemptuous toward the parasitical oligarchy that finally expelled him like a bladder-stone. The threatened impeachment trial will be a marvel of casuistry — a procedure for removing someone from office who is no longer in office — and also for the transparently flimsy charge of “inciting the insurrection” at the capitol. As if to underscore the absurdity of that, Antifa squads rioted in Portland and Seattle on inauguration night. Their banners expressed less-than-jubilant sentiment for the new regime. The Portland outfit broke windows and spray-painted the city’s Democratic headquarters, faking-out pols who had warned against an uprising of “white supremacists.”

Of course, all those arrested would be promptly released without charges — demonstrating just how serious the Wokester officials running those cities really are about criminal anarchy. The grannies swept into the capitol rotunda by Antifa incursionists January 6th won’t be so lucky. Neither did a much chattered-about military takeover happen during the tension-filled transition hours, though kibitzers on the web insist days later that it remains secretly underway. On his way out, Mr. Trump failed to pardon either Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, a disturbing failure, while he commuted the sentences of a couple of two-bit rap-stars, based on their contributions to advancing human dignity. And whatever Mr. Trump finally rooted out in the way of declassified FBI documents has already disappeared into the DC quicksand.

Much adored as he is for valiantly opposing everything swampish, it might be best now for Mr. Trump to just retire from the political scene and leave the battle to others. He made his point, colorfully and often bravely, considering the astounding bad faith of his adversaries, though he certainly could have articulated the stakes better and with more decorum. He leaves not merely a vacuum but a sucking chest wound of leadership opposing hysterical and tyrannical Wokery. Who will step forward in his absence? Probably someone we haven’t heard from yet. That’s how these things work.

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Muhammad Ali once called Aaron “The only man I idolize more than myself.”

Aaron received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Jan 5.

I don’t normally do eulogies for athletes, but this is about so much more. I was thinking about the hardship people like Aaron and Jackie Robinson went through in America’s great national pastime.

Only when Muhammad Ali arrived did that really change. And he paid a big price for that.

Home Run King Hank Aaron Dead At 86 (F.)

Aaron was born in Mobile, Ala., to Herbert Aaron, Sr. and Estella (Pritchett) Aaron in February of 1934. He and his seven siblings grew up poor, in a home without electricity or indoor bathrooms. Aaron didn’t have an opportunity to play organized baseball in high school because only white students had teams. He signed his first baseball contract, which paid him $10 a game, at the age of 17 with a local semi-pro team called the Mobile Black Bears. After a couple of seasons dominating the Negro Leagues, Aaron joined the Atlanta Braves in 1954. Over his incredible 22-year career, Hammerin’ Hank would tally 3,771 hits in 3,298 games played. Remarkably, Aaron still holds the all-time major league records for most RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra-base hits (1,477). Yet, Aaron was best known for the long ball.


Despite measuring only six feet and weighing in at around 180 pounds in his prime, Aaron would finish his epic career with 755 career home runs, a mark that survived until Barry Bonds (reportedly with the help of steroids) broke it in 2007. Aaron was a first-ballot inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. As he inched closer to passing Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs in the early 1970s, Aaron endured an avalanche of death threats from racists that did not want to see a Black man break Ruth’s revered record. In his 1991 autobiography, Aaron described how “when people finally realized I was climbing up Ruth’s back, the “Dear N——r” letters started showing up with alarming regularity. They told me no n——-r had any right to go where I was going.” In a 1992 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Aaron revealed he held onto all the hate letters he’d received. “I’m always going to keep them,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says. It’s just like telling a Jewish family to forget about the Holocaust. If you’re not part of something, it’s easy to tell somebody to forget about it.”

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Jan 192021
 
 January 19, 2021  Posted by at 10:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  32 Responses »


Claude Monet The house at Yerres 1876

 

The Zeitgeist Wants What the Zeitgeist Wants (Kustler)
Can Joe Biden Succeed Where Barack Obama Failed? (Sirota)
McConnell, Schumer Close In On Power-Sharing Agreement (CNN)
Critics Reject $1.9 Trillion Biden COVID Plan As ‘Liberal Wishlist’ (JTN)
Hillary, Pelosi Wonder if Trump Spoke to Putin on Day of Capitol Riot (BB)
Kremlin Joins EU Officials In Denouncing Big Tech Censorship (JTN)
Germany Weighs Up Mandatory FFP2 Masks In Shops And On Transport (G.)
Evolution of Antibody Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (Nature)
Washington State Partners With Starbucks For Vaccine Distribution (F.)
EU-US Relations Under Biden Won’t Be The Same As Before Trump (EN)
Trump Announces 200 Statues To Be Built For ‘American Heroes’ (JTN)
My Letter to President Trump (Joe Lauria)

 

 

The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.
– Julian Assange

 

 

 

 

“He’ll be great in the war room, I’m sure.”

The Zeitgeist Wants What the Zeitgeist Wants (Kustler)

The hypothetical Biden Administration is shaping up to be something like a four-year-long séance, a conjuring of apparitions wailing out talking points in a darkened room. The actual location of the inaugural event remains a mystery, or even if it will be an event, maybe just a pre-recorded video concoction of Mr. Biden’s greatest hits of 2020. Check and see if he’s wearing the same necktie from beginning to end. If a hologram is inaugurated, does that make the land-mass between Montauk and Santa Barbara a post-structural figment? The “president-elect,” made an ectoplasmic appearance Sunday talking up “science,” the Democrat’s mental life-preserver, and then shuffled offstage in an apparent fog of confusion as the Ritalin wore off. He’ll be great in the war room, I’m sure.

The mystery surrounding DNI John Ratcliffe’s long overdue report on foreign interference in the election cleared up only a little with the release of a letter sent January 8th to the Senate Intelligence Committee. In it, citing a side report from Intel Community Ombudsman Barry Zulauf, Mr. Ratcliffe refers to “undue pressure being brought to bear” on analysts by CIA management to craft their conclusions according to political loyalties. In other words, once again the CIA appears to be playing games with the American people and can’t be trusted. Isn’t that reassuring?

Meanwhile, The New York Times, CNN, and MSNBC have turned into a nonstop gloat-fest anticipating the punishments to be dished out by progressive Wokesterdom against anyone who ever entertained a thought about or uttered the phrase “stolen election.” They can kiss their livelihoods goodbye. Their college degrees will be revoked by such bastions of free thinking as Harvard. Their websites will be liquidated. Senators and congresspersons must be thrown out of their seats. They’ll be reduced to squatting on filthy blankets at the entrance of the Walmart begging for spare change, or hauled off to re-education camps where NPR lawyers with riding crops preside over their therapeutic struggle sessions, beating the wrongthink out of their hides. For Democrats, vengeance is a dish to be served piping hot. Would you like flies with your shit sandwich?

Ha ha ha. CNN doesn’t like competition. “There are people on YouTube for example that have a larger audience than daytime CNN.” Note the link to ISIS ingested into the conversation. Dangerous people.

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Obama is very closely behind Biden.

Can Joe Biden Succeed Where Barack Obama Failed? (Sirota)

Twelve years after Joe Biden was sworn in as the vice president of hope and change, hope is in short supply and the need for change is even more acute. Progressives have a rare opportunity to enact their agenda—but they will need to play the kind of hardball they have backed away from in the past, because Biden continues to send conflicting messages. For every promise of transformational change, he signals a desire to appease a Republican Party intent on destroying his presidency. The stakes could hardly be higher: One out of every thousand Americans has died from a lethal pandemic, with no end yet in sight. The economy is officially still humming along, but millions face eviction, bankruptcy and hunger. Even U.S. democracy is under unprecedented siege by an insurrectionist movement encouraged by the outgoing president and his loyalists in Congress.


The path forward is difficult to envision amid the fog of culture war, political war and the threat of actual, real-life civil war. But it is clear that Biden is at a crossroad and still unsure which way to go. He can follow his boss, Barack Obama, who pursued bipartisanship, comity and compromise—accommodating corporate power. Or he can break toward the path of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did battle with oligarchy, stood down fascism and welcomed the hatred of the rich. One thing he cannot do is try to go in both directions. The lesson of the Obama administration is that you can have appeasement or transformative progress, but you almost certainly cannot have both.

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The boys are back in power.

McConnell, Schumer Close In On Power-Sharing Agreement (CNN)

The top two Senate leaders are nearing a power-sharing agreement to hash out how the evenly divided chamber will operate, with Democrats in charge of setting the schedule but both parties likely to hold an equal number of seats on Senate committees, according to sources familiar with the talks. The negotiations between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have been built largely around how the Senate operated the last time the body was split 50-50: When George W. Bush initially became president in 2001. Final details are still being sorted out between the two leaders, sources said.


Similar to those rules, set in January 2001, Schumer and McConnell aides are discussing allowing bills and nominations to advance to the Senate floor even if they are tied during committee votes, something that could become common given that each party is expected to have the same number of seats on committees. Democrats will hold the chairmanships of the committees, giving them power to set the agenda, and Schumer will be granted the title of majority leader since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes on the floor. The full chamber still has to ratify these procedures, but that is expected to occur once Schumer and McConnell have finalized their agreement.

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No DC without pork. Tons of it.

Critics Reject $1.9 Trillion Biden COVID Plan As ‘Liberal Wishlist’ (JTN)

Critics of President-Elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-related spending plan say the proposal goes far beyond coronavirus relief into subsidizing teachers’ unions and prioritizing taxpayer money to be spent on non-white, non-male-owned businesses rather than taking a color- and gender-blind approach. Biden’s proposal comes in addition to the $900 billion passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last month, and on top of the $2.9 trillion stimulus package passed in the spring of 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described “democratic socialist” called Biden’s plan just a “first installment.”


In an interview with the “Just the News AM” television program, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) called the plan “another multitrillion dollar liberal wishlist” that she opposed. “I just hope that President-Elect Biden looks to work with Republicans, rather than just really bowing to the far left, the AOC wing of the party where I think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure to do that,” Stefanik said, alluding to the bloc led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Though the Biden plan carves out $70 billion for COVID-related vaccines, therapies and testing (this is on top of the $42 billion passed last month), critics of the plan say that the vast majority of the rest of the funding is more focused on income redistribution to advance long-term Democratic social policies.

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It’s a disease. There’s no cure.

Hillary, Pelosi Wonder if Trump Spoke to Putin on Day of Capitol Riot (BB)

Failed Trump challenger Hillary Clinton said she would “love” to see President Donald Trump’s phone records to see “whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol” on January 6, making the remarks during a bonus episode of her podcast You and Me Both released Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared as the featured guest on the bonus episode and discussed the series of events that occurred on January 6 — the day protesters breached the U.S. Capitol as Congress gathered to certify the electoral vote. Clinton, one of the central champions of the debunked Trump-Russia collusion narrative that dominated the first years of Trump’s presidency, revealed her own suspicion that Trump could have been in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day of the protest.

“We learned a lot about our system of government over the last four years with a president who disdains democracy and, as you have said numerous times, has other agendas,” Clinton said. “What they all are, I don’t think we yet know. I hope historically we will find out who he’s beholden to, who pulls his strings. I would love to see his phone records to see whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol,” Clinton continued, also placing blame on Trump’s “enablers,” “accomplices,” and “cult members” — a likely reference to his supporters, whom she famously referred to as “deplorables” during her 2016 campaign. “Do you think we need a 9/11-type commission to investigate and report everything that they can pull together and explain what happened?” Clinton asked the speaker, who responded, “I do.”

“To your point of who is he beholden to, as I’ve said over and over, as I said to him in that picture with my blue suit as I was leaving, what I was saying to him as I was pointing, rudely, at him: ‘With you, Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin,’” Pelosi told Clinton, referring to the January 6 events as a “gift to Putin” as he “wants to undermine democracy in our country and throughout the world.” “And these people, unbeknownst to them, maybe, are Putin puppets. They were doing Putin’s business when they did that at the incitement of an insurrection by the president of the United States,” she added.

Hillary Pelosi Putin

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What does Hillary think?

Kremlin Joins EU Officials In Denouncing Big Tech Censorship (JTN)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday joined calls from European Union officials to reign in the censorship power of Big Tech. In a Moscow news conference, Lavrov characterized the tech giants as extra-governmental entities that impose their own rules on public discourse. “Let’s hope that American society will not let its elites use blatant censorship, flagrant infringement of the Constitution and international commitments in its struggle against one other,” Lavrov said in the Jan. 18 news conference. “If it fails to cope with this problem, we all should be ready to face the consequences of such a failure of the American state, and these consequences would be very serious for the global arena.”

Russia’s top diplomat made his comments in the wake of high-profile social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram abolishing accounts belonging to President Donald Trump. Although Facebook and Instagram have restored some elements of the president’s accounts, Twitter has not. The platform leader, Jack Dorsey, has disregarded public outcry against Twitter’s seemingly capricious enforcement of its terms of use, and has upheld the ban against Trump. The social media censorship moves against Trump and others last week brought cries of alarm from the European Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union. A commission official, Prabhat Agarwal, reportedly spoke out Jan. 11 in a meeting with fellow lawmakers.

“It is no longer acceptable in our view that platforms take some key decisions by themselves alone without any supervision, without any accountability, and without any sort of dialogue or transparency for the kind of decisions that they’re taking,” said Agarwal, who leads a commission e-commerce unit. “Freedom of expression is really a key value in this.” [..] “Recent events, including those in the United States, [pertain] to a situation when half a dozen people who have created their technological empires do not even want to know what rights they have in their countries,” Lavrov said. “They themselves define their rights on the basis of so-called corporate norms and they don’t care a bit about the constitutions of their nations. We have clearly seen this in the United States, and this, of course, causes serious concern.”

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Took just one year.

Germany Weighs Up Mandatory FFP2 Masks In Shops And On Transport (G.)

Germany is weighing up following Austria and Bavaria’s lead in making it compulsory to wear full protective filter masks on public transport and in shops, as the country remains on high alert about the impact of possible coronavirus mutations. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced on Sunday that wearing single-use filtering facepiece respirator, or FFP2, masks would become mandatory on public transport and in shops from 25 January, as the Alpine state moves to extend its national lockdown until 7 February.

In Germany’s largest and southernmost state, Bavaria, a similar requirement for trains, trams, buses and supermarkets came into force on Monday, though the new rule will not be policed until 24 January and allows for exemptions for bus drivers, ticket inspectors and children under the age of 15. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the heads of the country’s 16 federal states are expected to discuss following the Bavarian blueprint at a summit on Tuesday in spite of a recent reduction of infection rates. A night-time curfew and new remote-working requirements could also accompany an expected extension of the lockdown into February.

When fitted properly, FFP2 masks promise to filter out at least 94% of particles but are also more expensive, usually retailing at between €2 and €5 per mask. If FFP2 masks were made mandatory before suppliers are unable to meet the new demand, prices are expected to rise further. Some virologists warn a new compulsory mask rule could end up being counterproductive. “In theory, the move to more professional masks is welcome,” said Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a German virologist and Professor of Arbovirology at the University of Hamburg. “But I’d be wary of simply copying the Bavarian model without considering the possible downsides.

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Antibodies evolve along with virus mutations.

Evolution of Antibody Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (Nature)

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected 78 million individuals and is responsible for over 1.7 million deaths to date. Infection is associated with development of variable levels of antibodies with neutralizing activity that can protect against infection in animal models. Antibody levels decrease with time, but the nature and quality of the memory B cells that would be called upon to produce antibodies upon re-infection has not been examined. Here we report on the humoral memory response in a cohort of 87 individuals assessed at 1.3 and 6.2 months after infection. We find that IgM, and IgG anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody titres decrease significantly with IgA being less affected.


Concurrently, neutralizing activity in plasma decreases by fivefold in pseudotype virus assays. In contrast, the number of RBD-specific memory B cells is unchanged. Memory B cells display clonal turnover after 6.2 months, and the antibodies they express have greater somatic hypermutation, increased potency and resistance to RBD mutations, indicative of continued evolution of the humoral response. Analysis of intestinal biopsies obtained from asymptomatic individuals 4 months after the onset of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), using immunofluorescence, or polymerase chain reaction, revealed persistence of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids and immunoreactivity in the small bowel of 7 out of 14 volunteers. We conclude that the memory B cell response to SARS-CoV-2 evolves between 1.3 and 6.2 months after infection in a manner that is consistent with antigen persistence.

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Testimony to the lack of organization in the US? Or just Corporatism 2.0?

Washington State Partners With Starbucks For Vaccine Distribution (F.)

As states across the U.S. struggle to administer enough coronavirus vaccines, Washington has picked an unusual partner to help speed up the process: Starbucks. Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, will assign several employees to work on “operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support,” Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday. Starbucks locations will not serve as vaccination sites, but the company said it will use its technology and logistical “expertise” to help with site selection and “optimize vaccination sites with design principles and solutions focused on efficiency to thruput.” Starbucks is part of a larger public-private partnership announced Monday to help Washington’s vaccine distribution, which includes Microsoft for technology assistance, Costco pharmacies for vaccine delivery and local unions to help staff and train volunteer vaccinators.


The goal of the partnership is to boost its distribution efforts, which like many states has been moving slowly amid logistical and supply challenges. States are already partnering with private companies with pharmacies, such as Walmart, Kroger, CVS and Walgreens, for vaccine distribution, but the Starbucks partnership is unique to Washington, and it’s among the first to involve a company without a clear link to healthcare. “Starbucks is not a healthcare company, but we do operate 33,000 stores at scale, serving 100 million customers per week,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson at a press conference. “And we have a world-class team of human-centered design engineers who are working under the direction of the state and healthcare providers, like Swedish, Kaiser Permanente and others, with Microsoft and many other businesses to help support the creation of vaccination centers that can scale.”

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Ironically, the banning of Trump by the Silicon Valley Kings will play a large role in these relations.

EU-US Relations Under Biden Won’t Be The Same As Before Trump (EN)

EU-US relations will not return to how they were before Donald Trump came to power, according to the European Commission’s top trade official. Sabine Weyland, the EU’s director-general for trade, was speaking at a videoconference for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the US’ 46th president on Wednesday. “There will be no nostalgia. We are not going to go back to the global order of previous days. The world today is not the same as it was ten or even five years ago,” Weyland said. Weyland’s words suggest four years of hostility towards Europe from Donald Trump’s administration have left a mark.


Nevertheless, Brussels is looking for closer cooperation with the US. It wants to focus on core priorities, like fighting the pandemic and its economic fallout, tackling climate change, and finding common ground on digital and trade policies. Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said that even with Trump out of the picture, American interests are still what counts most in Washington. “The Biden administration somewhat disappointingly is not just going to reverse all the tariffs,” Posen explained. “They will certainly stop escalating them and they will stop some of the more ridiculous tariffs that were put on allies with national security excuses. But there will be some attempt by the Biden administration to extract things in return for reducing the tariffs.”

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Not the Onion.

Trump Announces 200 Statues To Be Built For ‘American Heroes’ (JTN)

President Donald Trump announced the names on Monday of more than 200 statues to be built as part of his plan for a new “National Garden of American Heroes.” He said the new garden will demolish the “reckless attempt to erase our heroes” that occurred during last year’s protests and riots that occurred following the death of George Floyd, according to the Washington Times. The list of names is headlined by author Harper Lee, actor Jimmy Stewart, abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, baseball star Roberto Clemente and explorer Christopher Columbus. “In the peace and harmony of this vast outdoor park, visitors will come and learn the amazing stories of some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived,” Trump said in a new executive order, which lists all of the names.

The announcement came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Both King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, made Trump’s list. Trump left himself off of the list despite being nominated by several people as part of the selection process, government officials said last year. He first announced the list of names to be honored last summer as Black Lives Matter protests were occurring across the nation and statues recalling American history, such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, were being torn down. Trump’s decision to implement this “National Garden of American Heroes” was a counter to the statues of “American heroes” being destroyed and removed last summer.

His original list of 31 names received criticism for being too short and lacking diversity, as it consisted mainly of white men. Trump’s new list is much longer and much more diverse, including Native Americans, women and other minority groups. Whether this idea will be moved forward rests in the hands of President-elect Joe Biden as he takes office this week. He could completely eliminate Trump’s proposed list, alter the list of names or push it forward as is.

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Please.

My Letter to President Trump (Joe Lauria)

Dear President Trump,

You are right in many ways that the news media have become the enemies of the people and the friends of the powerful who treat the people as enemies. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” The role of the press is to keep powerful officials accountable to the electorate. The one journalist who has achieved this above all in recent years is the Australian Julian Assange. He is languishing in a British prison for exposing the powerful in the interests of the people. It is within your power to set him free. Please pardon him, Mr. President.

Joe Lauria

Tucker Assange Kiriakou

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


Salvator Rosa Lucrezia as poetry c.1641

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Greenwald Tucker

 

 

 

 

India and ivermectin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spare a thought for the doctors making these decisions.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assange Saga – Real Journalism Is Criminally Insane (Escobar)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parler was at no. 1 in the AppStore.

Parler Kicked Off Amazon Servers And Apple Store (JTN)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Tears and fears.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

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“Some people have no idea what they’re doing, and a lot of them are really good at it.”
– George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Rembrandt Old man with a beard 1630

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 


William Copley Model for American Flag 1961

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yes, thorough.

Trump Campaign Banned From Emailing Supporters (GP)

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


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

Read more …

Julian Assange saw today’s developments coming years ago.

Wednesday’s Other Story (Taibbi)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Cookies.

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

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

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

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

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Not for long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Semantics rule.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

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Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Aug 032020
 


W. Eugene Smith Orson Welles 1941

 

Supporters Urge Joe Biden Not to Debate Trump (NW)
Kansas Should Go F— Itself (Matt Taibbi)
How Congress Maintains Endless War (Zuesse)
White House Says Not Optimistic On Near-Term Deal For COVID Relief Bill (R.)
The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In Next Crisis (ZH)
Fed’s Kashkari Suggests 4-6 Week Shutdown (R.)
Tech Stock Buybacks Are Surging (ZH)
America’s Monopoly Problem Goes Way Beyond the Tech Giants (Dayen)
White House Puts Chinese Apps On Notice (SCMP)
Humanity Likely Faces Rapid ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ – Study (NYP)
How The Guardian and New York Times ‘Set Up’ Julian Assange (M.)

 

 

Every single thing about the US will from now on in evolve around party politics. But not in any way that you’ve ever seen.

 

 

Sunday numbers were quite low. But not every state and country reports anymore in the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Hunt Sweden

 

 

They would like that, but debates are a solid tradition. So they’ll try for just the one debate, they’ll try for a format that includes a teleprompter, they’ll try for factcheckers that can interrupt Trump all the time in the same way the House did with Bill Barr.

This piece even implies that Trump beat Hillary only because he was telling lies all the time.

Supporters Urge Joe Biden Not to Debate Trump (NW)

Democratic strategists and supporters of Vice President Joe Biden are urging him not to debate President Donald Trump in the lead-up to Election Day, citing Trump’s publicity stunts and disregard for the rules in 2016. Meanwhile Biden backers, including some conservatives, applauded the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan for cancelling their scheduled debates over COVID-19 concerns. Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart joined several Democratic Party strategists in bluntly advising Biden, “whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.” Speaking on CNN Saturday, Lockhart said Trump shouldn’t be given another platform which will enable him to “repeat lies,” which he said occurred in the 2016 debates against Hillary Clinton.

The Trump campaign has pushed the other way and urged the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which officially oversees the events, to hold even more debates. “We saw in the debates in 2016 Hillary Clinton showed a mastery of the issues, every point she made was more honest and bested Trump,” Lockhart told CNN. “But Trump came out of the debates doing better I think because he just kept repeating the same old lies: ‘we’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,’ ‘we’re going to keep all those Mexican rapists out of the country,’ and ‘we’re going to make great trade deals’ — none of these things have come to pass.” “Giving him that national forum to continue to spout — get him to 21,000 or 22,000 lies — I think just isn’t worth it for the Democrats or for Biden,” Lockhart continued.

Several opinion columns published in recent months have called for an outright cancellation of the debates, describing them — alongside the party conventions — as outdated political rituals designed purely for TV ratings. Longtime Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Zac Petkanas agreed with calls for Biden to back out of any and all debates with Trump in the coming months. As it stands currently, there are three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate scheduled between September 29 and October 22. “Biden shouldn’t feel obligated to throw Trump a lifeline by granting him any debates at all. This is not a normal presidential election and Trump is not a legitimate candidate,” Petkanas tweeted last week, expressing his “opinion that no one asked for.”

Mussolini

Read more …

“The difference today is that enlightened liberals are the ones mouthing this age-old anti-populist catechism.”

Thomas Frank published What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004. His new book is The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism.

Kansas Should Go F— Itself (Matt Taibbi)

The new conception of populism, as popularized by historians like Richard Hofstadter, pitted the common run of voters against a growing class of elite-educated managerial professionals, philosopher-kings who set correct policy for the ignorant masses. The model of enlightened government for this new “technocratic” class of “consensus thinkers” was John Kennedy’s “Camelot” cabinet of Experts in Shirtsleeves, with Robert McNamara’s corporatized Pentagon their Shining Bureaucracy on a Hill. This vision of ideal democracy has dominated mainstream press discourse for almost seventy years.

Since the establishment of this template, Frank notes, “virtually everyone who writes on the subject agrees that populism is ‘anti-pluralist,’ by which they mean that it is racist or sexist or discriminatory in some way… Populism’s hatred for ‘the elite,’ meanwhile, is thought to be merely a fig leaf for this ugly intolerance.” Trump and Bernie Sanders both got hit with every cliché described in Frank’s book. Both were depicted as xenophobic, bigoted, emotion-laden, resistant to modernity, susceptible to foreign influence, and captured by “unrealistic” ideas they lacked the expertise to implement. At the conclusion of The People, No, Frank sums up the book’s obvious subtext, seeming almost to apologize for its implications:

“My point here is not to suggest that Trump is a “very stable genius,” as he likes to say, or that he led a genuine populist insurgency; in my opinion, he isn’t and he didn’t. What I mean to show is that the message of anti-populism is the same as ever: the lower orders, it insists, are driven by irrationality, bigotry, authoritarianism, and hate; democracy is a problem because it gives such people a voice. The difference today is that enlightened liberals are the ones mouthing this age-old anti-populist catechism.”

[..] The book’s concept also reflects the Sovietish reality of post-Trump media, which is now dotted with so many perilous taboos that it sometimes seems there’s no way to get audiences to see certain truths except indirectly, or via metaphor. The average blue-state media consumer by 2020 has ingested so much propaganda about Trump (and Sanders, for that matter) that he or she will be almost immune to the damning narratives in this book. Protesting, “But Trump is a racist,” they won’t see the real point – that these furious propaganda campaigns that have been repeated almost word for word dating back to the 1890s are aimed at voters, not politicians.

In the eighties and nineties, TV producers and newspaper editors established the ironclad rule of never showing audiences pictures of urban poverty, unless it was being chased by cops. In the 2010s the press began to cartoonize the “white working class” in a distantly similar way. This began before Trump. As Bernie Sanders told Rolling Stone after the 2016 election, when the small-town American saw himself or herself on TV, it was always “a caricature. Some idiot. Or maybe some criminal, some white working-class guy who has just stabbed three people.”

Read more …

But there’s still only one war party, which sits its fat ass across the aisles.

“Glenn Greenwald gave an hour-long lecture on how America’s billionaires control the U.S. Government..”

How Congress Maintains Endless War (Zuesse)

The Intercept, 9 July 2020 – 2:45: There is “this huge cleavage between how members of Congress present themselves, their imagery and rhetoric and branding, what they present to the voters, on the one hand, and the reality of what they do in the bowels of Congress and the underbelly of Congressional proceedings, on the other. Most of the constituents back in their home districts have no idea what it is that the people they’ve voted for have been doing, and this gap between belief and reality is enormous.” Four crucial military-budget amendments were debated in the House just now, as follows: • to block Trump from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. • to block Trump from withdrawing 10,000 troops from Germany • to limit U.S. assistance to the Sauds’ bombing of Yemen • to require Trump to explain why he wants to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty

On all four issues, the pro-imperialist position prevailed in nearly unanimous votes — overwhelming in both Parties. Dick Cheney’s daughter, Republican Liz Cheney, dominated the debates, though the House of Representatives is now led by Democrats, not Republicans. Greenwald (citing other investigators) documents that the U.S. news-media are in the business of deceiving the voters to believe that there are fundamental differences between the Parties. “The extent to which they clash is wildly exaggerated” by the press (in order to pump up the percentages of Americans who vote, so as to maintain, both domestically and internationally, the lie that America is a democracy — actually represents the interests of the voters).

16:00: The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — which writes the nearly $750B annual Pentagon budget — is the veteran (23 years) House Democrat Adam Smith of Boeing’s Washington State. “The majority of his district are people of color.” He’s “clearly a pro-war hawk” a consistent neoconservative, voted to invade Iraq and all the rest. “This is whom Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have chosen to head the House Armed Services Committee — someone with this record.” He is “the single most influential member of Congress when it comes to shaping military spending.” He was primaried by a progressive Democrat, and the “defense industry opened up their coffers” and enabled Adam Smith to defeat the challenger.

That’s the opening. Greenwald went on, after that, to discuss other key appointees by Nancy Pelosi who are almost as important as Adam Smith is, in shaping the Government’s military budget. They’re all corrupt. And then he went, at further length, to describe the methods of deceiving the voters, such as how these very same Democrats who are actually agents of the billionaires who own the ‘defense’ contractors and the ‘news’ media etc., campaign for Democrats’ votes by emphasizing how evil the Republican Party is on the issues that Democratic Party voters care far more about than they do about America’s destructions of Iraq and Syria and Libya and Honduras and Ukraine, and imposing crushing economic blockades (sanctions) against the residents in Iran, Venezuela and many other lands.

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We saw this coming from miles away: no better opportunity for both sides to blame the other. Screw the people, it’s about power.

White House Says Not Optimistic On Near-Term Deal For COVID Relief Bill (R.)

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday he was not optimistic on reaching agreement soon on a deal for the next round of legislation to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” Meadows said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as staff members from both sides were meeting to try to iron out differences over the bill. Democrats were standing in the way of a separate agreement to extend some federal unemployment benefits in the short-term while negotiations continue on an overall relief package, he said. “We continue to see really a stonewalling of any piecemeal type of legislation that happens on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said. “Hopefully that will change in the coming days.”


Lawmakers and the White House have been unable to reach an accord for a next round of economic relief from a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans and triggered the sharpest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Both sides said on Saturday they had their most positive talks yet. But there was no sign of movement on the biggest sticking point – $600 per week in extra federal unemployment benefits for Americans that has been a lifeline for millions of jobless Americans and expired on Friday. Asked about efforts to renew the expired emergency federal jobless benefits, Pelosi said, referring to Trump: “He’s the one standing in the way of that.”

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Because we badly need central bakers to interfere in politics. How far away are we from MMT here?

The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In Next Crisis (ZH)

Over the past decade, the one common theme despite the political upheaval and growing social and geopolitical instability, was that the market would keep marching higher and the Fed would continue injecting liquidity into the system. The second common theme is that despite sparking unprecedented asset price inflation, price as measured across the broader economy (at least using the flawed CPI metric) would remain subdued (as a reminder, the Fed is desperate to ignite broad inflation as that is the only way the countless trillions of excess debt can be eliminated and yet it has so far failed to do so).

The Fed’s failure to reach its inflation target has sparked broad criticism from the economic establishment, even though as we showed in June, deflation is now a direct function of the Fed’s unconventional monetary policies as the lower yields slide, the lower the propensity to spend. In other words, the harder the Fed fights to stimulate inflation, the more deflation and more saving it spurs as a result (incidentally this is not the first time this “discovery” was made, in December we wrote “One Bank Makes A Stunning Discovery – The Fed’s Rate Cuts Are Now Deflationary”). In short, ever since the Fed launched QE and NIRP, it has been making the situation it has been trying to “fix” even worse, all the while blowing a massive asset price bubble.


And having recently accepted that its preferred stimulus pathway has failed to boost the broader economy, the blame has fallen on how monetary policy is intermediated, specifically the way the Fed creates excess reserves which end up at commercial banks instead of “tricking down” all the way to the consumer level. To be in the aftermath of the covid pandemic shutdowns the Fed has tried to short-circuit this process, and in conjunction with the Treasury it has launched “helicopter money” which has resulted in a direct transfer of funds to US corporations via PPP loans, as well as to end consumers via the emergency $600 weekly unemployment benefits which however are set to expire unless renewed by Congress as explained last week, as Democrats and Republicans feud over which fiscal stimulus will be implemented next.

And yet, the lament is that even as the economy was desperately in need of a massive liquidity tsunami, the funds created by the Fed and Treasury (now that the US operates under a quasi-MMT regime) did not make their way to those who need them the most: end consumers. Which is why we read with great interest a Bloomberg interview published on Saturday with two former central bank officials: Simon Potter, who led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s markets group i.e., he was the head of the Fed’s Plunge Protection Team for years, and Julia Coronado, who spent eight years as an economist for the Fed’s Board of Governors, who are among the innovators brainstorming solutions to what has emerged as the most crucial and difficult problem facing the Fed: get money swiftly to people who need it most in a crisis.


The response was striking: they two propose creating a monetary tool that they call recession insurance bonds, which draw on some of the advances in digital payments, which will be wired instantly to Americans. As Coronado explains the details, Congress would grant the Federal Reserve an additional tool for providing support—say, a percent of GDP [in a lump sum that would be divided equally and distributed] to households in a recession.

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And while we’re at it, let the Fed regulate the lockdowns too. Such monetary wizards must be good at everything.

Fed’s Kashkari Suggests 4-6 Week Shutdown (R.)

The U.S. economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for four to six weeks, a top Federal Reserve official said on Sunday, adding that Congress can well afford large sums for coronavirus relief efforts. The economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control, Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If we don’t do that and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.


“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.” He said Congress is positioned to spend big on coronavirus relief efforts because the nation’s budget gap can be financed without relying on foreign borrowing, given how much Americans are saving. “Those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our jobs, we’re saving a lot more money because we’re not going to restaurants or movie theaters or vacations,” Kashkari said. “That actually means that we have a lot more resources as a country to support those who have been laid off,” he said.

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When you let this continue, you’re not trying to let the economy recover.

Tech Stock Buybacks Are Surging (ZH)

Two months ago, we showed that contrary to conventional wisdom and corporate reps and warrants that buybacks had effectively been put on hold for the duration of the covid pandemic, not only were companies still repurchasing their shares but it was the tech names – those who have stormed higher since the March lows – that were the biggest culprits. Now, two months after we first revealed Wall Street’s worst kept secret, the Financial Times has also noticed that Corporate America is finding it hard to kick the share buyback habit, even after the US slipped into its worst recession in decades.

While total buybacks are indeed expected to drop this year as the downturn caused by coronavirus saps corporate profits, companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter earnings so far have reduced the number of their outstanding shares by an average of 0.3 per cent from the previous quarter, according to calculations from Credit Suisse. Furthermore, updates showed that some of the largest US multinationals continued to buy back their own stock or even accelerated stock repurchases and nowhere more so than the tech names we first highlighted at the end of May. Take Google’s parent company Alphabet, which spent $6.9bn on buybacks for the quarter, up 92% from a year prior, the company revealed in its earnings results last Thursday.

Microsoft, the second-largest listed US company, purchased $5.8bn of its own stock in the period, up 25% from a year earlier, and likely among the chief reasons for the stock’s amazing surge. Elsewhere, Biogen spent $2.8bn on buybacks for the period, up 17% from last year, WR Berkley, an insurer, did not buy any of its shares in the second quarter last year, but spent $97m on its stock in the period this year, and Celanese increased its planned buybacks for the year by $500m to $1.5bn in July, after selling its stake in a Japanese joint venture. Of course, the biggest source of buybacks was once again Apple, which repurchased $16BN in the second quarter, down 6% on the period last year, though by far the biggest stock repurchaser among S&P 500 companies in recent years.

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Preventing monopolies was once one of Washington’s main preoccupations.

America’s Monopoly Problem Goes Way Beyond the Tech Giants (Dayen)

The truth is that, even if Congress somehow decreed the breakup of all four tech giants, the U.S. would still have an astounding number of industries controlled by a tiny number of firms. That’s because the structure of modern capitalism favors companies that operate at once-unimaginable scale, in the absence of a government will to prevent monopolies from forming. Lawmakers and the public should be concerned about the surveillance networks by which Facebook and Google—which dominate the digital-advertising market—track users, build data profiles on them, and serve them customized ads. But millions of rural Americans cannot access the internet to begin with, in part because telecom companies harass, fight, and induce state legislatures to pass laws restricting municipal broadband.

Across America, people send their kids to Starbucks parking lots to piggyback on the wifi and complete their homework. Amazon’s rapidly expanding e-commerce empire—and the potential consequences for Main Streets and municipal tax bases across the country—is definitely worth worrying about. But among the other forces squeezing out small retailers are dollar stores, a market segment dominated by two firms that together have about six times more outlets in America than Walmart. Last summer in Marlinton, West Virginia, I saw a Dollar General right next door to a Family Dollar. Despite the pandemic, Dollar General still plans to open 1,000 new stores in 2020. Software developers who want to sell apps to iPhone users must do so through Apple’s App Store, which spells out rules that they must follow and collects up to 30 percent of sales.

This is little different from the situation of small farmers, who must raise livestock to the exacting specifications of the meatpacking giants and can lose their livelihoods on those companies’ whims. And just as Amazon sometimes undercuts the smaller third-party sellers that use its platform, Big Agriculture competes directly with smaller suppliers; the top four hog firms, which control around two-thirds of the market, typically own farms, slaughterhouses, warehouses, and distribution trucks, every step from the pig trough to the dinner table. Whether you are shopping for pacemakers, sanitary napkins, or wholesale office supplies, you will find very few sellers. You think you have choices in grocery aisles or at car-rental counters, but the majority of consumer products come from a handful of companies.

Competition is hardly stiff when even many store brands are just renamed versions of market-leading products; at Costco, the batteries come from Duracell and the coffee from Starbucks. To focus the discussion of monopoly on the tech sector is to minimize the scope of a problem long in the making. Forty years ago, the government essentially stopped policing industry concentration. The conservative legal theorist Robert Bork—later a failed Supreme Court nominee—and his allies in the law-and-economics movement argued that any merger making businesses more efficient must be approved, and that a larger scale generally increases efficiency. Bork’s analysis gained enormous power in the courts and the Reagan administration. The lawyers and the bankers who handled mergers and acquisitions loved it.

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Pelosi and Schumer agree.

White House Puts Chinese Apps On Notice (SCMP)

US President Donald Trump will take action against TikTok, WeChat and “countless” Chinese software companies that pose a national security threat to America, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, apparently widening the scope of attention the US government is paying to online tech platforms developed in China. “These Chinese software companies doing business with the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat, there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party their national security apparatus,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview. “It could be their facial recognition pattern, it could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends who they’re connected to.”

“Those are the issues President Trump’s made clear we’re going to take care of,” Pompeo said. “He will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.” Focusing on TikTok specifically, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department is overseeing a national security review of the company, said on Sunday that the company will need to be blocked in the US or sold to another company. Pompeo’s warning to Chinese software companies came as Trump agreed to give the Chinese internet giant ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of the popular short-video app to Microsoft, according three people familiar with matter, Reuters reported.

[..] The mobile platform, which lets users create and share 15 second videos with custom music clips, has built a huge user base in the US, particularly within younger age brackets. Mnuchin added that he had spoken with Chuck Schumer, the most senior Democrat in the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat, about the issue and that they all agree that a sale or a block on the site would be necessary, using the authority of International Emergency Economic Powers Act, if needed. Responding to the drumbeat of comments about TikTok over the past week, the company’s general manager for US operations, Vanessa Pappas, told users on Saturday that the company was working to give them “the safest app” and that “We’re not planning on going anywhere”.

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Too much repetition makes people look away.

Humanity Likely Faces Rapid ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ – Study (NYP)

It’s not the news you want to hear during a global health crisis. In a new theoretical study appearing in Nature Scientific Reports, a pair of statistical researchers have warned that rampant human consumption has sent us on a tailspin towards a rapid “catastrophic collapse” — which could happen in the next two to four decades. Forest density, or the current lack thereof, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine, according to the report. By comparing the rate of deforestation against humanity’s rate of consumption, study authors Mauro Bologna and Gerardo Aquino have determined there’s a 90% chance our species will collapse within decades — calling this estimate an “optimistic” measure.

“Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10% in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse,” they wrote. While much attention has been paid to the ways in which greenhouse gases have contributed to the demise of our species, Aquino focused mathematical models on the “undeniable fact” of human-driven deforestation. “Before the development of human civilizations, our planet was covered by 60 million square kilometers [37 million square miles] of forest,” according to the article. “As a result of deforestation, less than 40 million square kilometers [25 million square miles] currently remain.”

The researchers set out to “evaluate the probability of avoiding the self-destruction of our civilization” based on numerical simulations — charts and graphs that don’t look like much to us laymen, but for two theoretical physicists, they amount to disaster. They also call into play “Fermi’s paradox,” which refers to the theoretical discussion of extraterrestrial life from Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who once asked, “Where is everybody?” One aspect of the discourse is the idea that self-destruction caused by unsustainable environmental exploitation may be an inevitability of intelligent life — and thus a potential reason why we have not yet had the opportunity to meet our galactic neighbors.

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From February, but highly relevant today.

How The Guardian and New York Times ‘Set Up’ Julian Assange (M.)

[..] as the War Logs’ mutually-agreed publication deadline loomed, both the Times and Guardian grew increasingly anxious about being associated with the material. His film, shot just prior to the release, documents this transformation in real-time — in one highly illuminating segment, Assange informs Gavin MacFayden, then-director of the University of London’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, the New York Times has requested WikiLeaks ‘scoop’ them by publishing analysis of the Afghan War Logs first. The ‘naivety’ Davis referenced is palpably on display — “they want to report on our reporting, so they can claim they’re not involved!” Assange splutters bemusedly, in evident disbelief a newspaper would be actively resistant to publishing a seismic exclusive.

As Davis attested, the footage makes for thoroughly “chilling” viewing in the present day, given Assange is “now in jail as a result of that subterfuge”. Simultaneously, Assange himself was also growing increasingly anxious, in his case about the identities of informants and other individuals featured in the logs being revealed — no effort had been made by Guardian journalists to remove a single one, and despite repeated requests he wasn’t provided with staff or technical support to redact them. As a result, the WikiLeaks chief took up the “moral responsibility” for the files — his requests for publication to be delayed in order to give him enough time to adequately “cleanse” the documents were ignored, so he was compelled to “literally work all night” to redact around 10,000 names, Davis said.

In a perverse irony, the documentarian also exposed how despite Assange ultimately acquiescing to publishing the Logs Sunday 25th July 2010 in order to allow The Guardian and Times to ‘report’ on the story the next day, the plan was disrupted by technical issues with the WikiLeaks website. As Assange struggled to get the content online, Davis said he was inundated with “panicked, hysterical calls” from The Times and Guardian, which grew more frenzied as the day wore on — the two outlets were literally on the verge of ‘stopping the presses’, as the front-page splashes on the Afghan War Logs were entirely predicated on the notion WikiLeaks had published the documents the day prior.

It would take several days for WikiLeaks to publish the War Logs — The Guardian and Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories on 26th July 2010, reporting on the release of the logs, despite the fact they hadn’t actually appeared on the WikiLeaks website. “Julian was their fall guy. They printed a lie. These two high priests of journalistic integrity very happily colluded, reporting on something that hadn’t happened. The entire searchable Afghan War Logs interface was the sole creation of The Guardian, they promoted it on their website and in the paper, but then they turned round and said ‘we didn’t publish this, Julian did’. They set him up from the start. They should be in jail too,” Davis concluded.

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