Mar 012021
 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Dance at Bougival 1883

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

From a live blog.

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

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


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

Read more …

As we know.

Why “New Cases” Are Plummeting (OffG.)

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Cuomo Cedes Control Of Harassment Probe (JTN)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Democrats Demand The Firing Of The Senate Parliamentarian (Turley)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Nice story. Wolf will make some enemies with this.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 012021
 
 February 1, 2021  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  30 Responses »


Balthus Therèse dreaming 1938

 

The Store of Value Generation is Kicking Your Ass (Mark Cuban)
Is Robinhood On The Brink Of Collapse? (GIH)
Silver Prices, Miners Surge As Retail Buyers Pile In (R.)
To The Brink And Back On GameStop (R.)
Melvin Capital Loses 53% In January Over Bet Against GameStop (RT)
Bill Gates, Big Pharma and Entrenching The Vaccine Apartheid (M&G)
France & Germany Threaten AstraZeneca With Legal Action (RT)
GOP Tries To Gut Survival Checks (DP)
Trump Announces New Lawyers To Lead Impeachment Defense Team (JTN)
ExxonMobil and Chevron Held Merger Talks In 2020 (G.)
China Building Digital Silk Road From Asia Through Africa To Europe (RT)
Vitamin B1 Deficiencies Are Plaguing Fish and Birds (Atl.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Wall Street and the agency that governs it, the SEC have become fat and happy. Fat and Happy makes old school slow and resistant to change.”

The Store of Value Generation is Kicking Your Ass (Mark Cuban)

[..] there are a growing number of investors and traders who think that the digital goods and CryptoAsset marketplaces are better than old school physical markets and the stock market and most of them are young. They love the fact that NO ONE has power over them. That there is no central authority and they get the results of their own efforts without some government agency or big company fucking with them. Every negative , consequential financial moment in their collective lives has been the result of some massive entity getting greedy and fucking things up for them. On the flipside, they have also been watching some of their peers gain wealth with Crypto and Digital Assets, most starting with not much capital.

Those peers have also been very vocal about the lack of interference by Old Schoolers with Crpto and Digital Assests and much of those gains have come from all of them doing the same thing, buying and Holding On for Dear Life. They have learned that with digital assets, acting in unison can bring wealth to those who otherwise would not have access to it. That is power and they know it and they are learning how to use it. So what does this have to do with Wall Street Bets (WSB) and $GME and the other stocks they are trading ? Well, it’s pretty obvious that the WSB traders are applying the same principles of the digital/CryptoAsset world to the stock market and they are loving the fact that the old schoolers are hating it.

They know that Wall Street hasn’t changed much in generations. Sure it has gone digital in many respects, but the way the game has been played has not changed. Wall Street is 100pct top down controlled and regulated. Which stock is next in the S&P 500 ? Which is removed ? No one knows, but it is provocative and can change fortunes for investors. SEC decides to use their own in-house Administrative Law Judges and prevent defendants from having their constitutional right to a jury trial ? Yup. You can’t afford to fight them. Tough shit. Big brokerages get to have calls and put out notes to their millions of clients with price targets in hopes of moving markets, but think its wrong for Sub Reddits to do the same ? Yup. The ultimate in stock manipulations, corporate stock buy backs were illegal prior to 1982, till the SEC put a former Broker CEO in charge. Wanna guess what has happened to CEO compensation since then ?

Wall Street and the agency that governs it, the SEC have become fat and happy. Fat and Happy makes old school slow and resistant to change. Very resistant. And obviously very unaware of the change that is happening around them.

Read more …

What hat does Robinhood have on?

“For equity brokers who clear their orders properly, there is no reason to limit $GME purchases to one. There is no reason to limit withdrawals..”

Is Robinhood On The Brink Of Collapse? (GIH)

The question remains – is Robinhood running a b-book. For those who are not familiar with OTC brokerage, a b-book is where the losers trade. When you open an account, you get flagged either as a winner or a loser, if you are on the A-Server then your trades flow through to the market, this is known in OTC as “Straight Through Processing” minus a small fee, or the “A-Book.” The “B-Book” or “Broker Book” or “Bad Book” depending on who you ask, is where your trades are placed directly against the broker itself – like spread betting. In this case, the customer losses become the brokers profits, and the reverse. This typically works well for brokers as most retail traders lose. But is Robinhood running a b-book? The answer is we don’t know and would not know, because a b-book broker would never disclose it.

According to public data, this may be a complex convoluted b-book. Citadel not only pays Robinhood for order flow data, Citadel Securities also clears orders for Robinhood. Not only that, Robinhood gets 35% of it’s revenue from Citadel: According to a June report from the Financial Times, $39 million of Robinhood’s revenues from equities and options order flow came from Citadel Securities, a market maker sister firm of Citadel. At the time, this represented more than 35% of the trading platform’s revenues. Which looks like the FXCM trick; Robinhood is not operating a b-book. They clear through Citadel Securities, a market maker, who b-books the trades (goes short basically) by not clearing them. In addition to that, Citadel is heavily invested in Melvin Capital, the hedge fund with a massive short position in $GME.

NOTE: It is not possible to short private equity stock. Robinhood is currently a private company, available on private markets. They claim to have plans for an IPO but so did Refco. If Robinhood’s book is as toxic as it seems, there is no way out for the firm other than to drive the prices of these stocks back down, or to simply reverse the positions which never really existed in the first place. They might want to call b-book mastermind Dror “Drew” Niv who was able to mask his b-booking operation by creating an offshore entity who was the sole counterparty of transactions below a certain size. He’s currently chumming it up with his bros in Greenwich, CT since his firm FXCM has been permanently banned by the NFA.

We aren’t saying that Robinhood is a fraud, we are saying that all the signs are there. For equity brokers who clear their orders properly, there is no reason to limit $GME purchases to one. There is no reason to limit withdrawals, or need ‘liquidity’ for net cap requirements. Running a broker-dealer is not so complicated like an OTC desk, orders match up and it’s all exchange traded. Broker dealers don’t take any risk, at least any meaningful risk. Market makers do. This is the question that we should be asking Vladimir – are you acting as an agent or a principal?

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WallStreetBets is now setting prices?

Silver Prices, Miners Surge As Retail Buyers Pile In (R.)

Silver prices leapt to a five-month high on Monday and small silver miners listed in Australia surged after social media calls to buy the metal and emulate the frenzy that has driven GameStop shares up 1,500% in two weeks. Spot silver rose as much as 7.4% to $28.99 an ounce, the highest since mid-August. Shares in a handful of mining firms such as Argent Minerals, Boab Metals and Investigator Resources leapt more than 15%. Coin-selling websites also reported unprecedented demand and flagged delays in delivering bullion. The moves are the latest example of small-time traders buying en masse, particularly of stocks and other assets that were heavily bet against, resulting in large losses for major investors.


“There is this curious situation now where the Reddit crowd has turned its sights on a bigger whale in terms of trying to catalyse something of a short squeeze in the silver market,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at brokerage IG Markets in Melbourne. “The most important factor here is that silver is heavily shorted, the paper market is much, much larger than the underlying commodity can justify,” he said. “There’s a lot of commentary on these platforms to pile in to the miners.” Silver prices are up 15% since Wednesday’s close, around when messages began circulating on forums such as Reddit encouraging users to buy the metal and drive up prices.

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“..the idea to short GameStop had long been a favorite at exclusive “idea dinners”, where fund managers swap their best trades.”

To The Brink And Back On GameStop (R.)

The extent of losses has exposed a big weakness on Wall Street. Analytics firm S3 said GameStop short sellers had mark-to-market losses of nearly $20 billion so far this year. Several hedge fund managers said the idea to short GameStop had long been a favorite at exclusive “idea dinners”, where fund managers swap their best trades. Managers also noted traders, many of whom who work at multi-strategy funds that employ pods of portfolio managers, traders and analysts, often know each other well and may compare notes. Gabe Plotkin’s Melvin Capital, one of the funds gored most by GameStop’s gains, took a $2.75 billion bailout from his one-time mentor Steve Cohen and Citadel’s Ken Griffin. The funds involved have taken a dent: Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management lost roughly 15% in January partly because of its investment in Melvin.


Melvin’s assets slid during the month from around $12.5 billion to $8 billion, a source familiar with the situation said. Maplelane Capital, another fund that bet against GameStop, had lost roughly 45% in January, a person familiar with the fund’s returns said. Even Viking Global Investors, one of the world’s best-performing hedge funds, was off some 7%, people familiar with the returns said. “Being short consensus stocks is just bad business,” said Dinakar Singh, a former Goldman Sachs trader who now runs hedge fund Axon Capital and was not short the stock. “It is great while it is working but when it isn’t anymore one guy’s problem triggers everyone’s headache. It becomes a circular disaster.”

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This is not over.

Melvin Capital Loses 53% In January Over Bet Against GameStop (RT)

Hedge fund Melvin Capital felt the effects of the buying spree spurred by individual buyers from the r/WallStreetBets subreddit account, with the group losing 53 percent in January. Despite the loss, Melvin Capital received fresh cash from investors by the end of January after taking heavy losses due to the unexpected and record stock gains for companies like GameStop, according to a source cited by Reuters. Melvin started January with $12.5 billion in assets, but is closing out the month with $8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report on the losses. It closed out its short position on GameStop in the wake of the massive surge. Other groups like Citron have also felt the squeeze by betting against GameStop and have closed their short positions with heavy losses.


GameStop became the center of controversy after motivated buyers sought to flood the market and increase its stock price aiming to upset Wall Street hedge funds. Trading at a mere $10 a share in October, GameStop closed out Friday at $325 a share. It has seen a total gain of over 1000 percent this year. Redditors also invested into other surprising companies like AMC leading to a frenzy on Wall Street as longtime investors found themselves trading in a quickly fluctuating and unpredictable market. Traders who bought into GameStop mainly did so through the app Robinhood, which controversially stepped in and halted trading on certain companies and then limited it, claiming this was a move to prevent market manipulation.

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Rania Khalek: “Too bad there’s so much hatred for bill gates over a conspiracy theory that he wants to micro chip us when actually he’s just a billionaire monster trying to cash in on vaccine profits.”

Bill Gates, Big Pharma and Entrenching The Vaccine Apartheid (M&G)

In October 2020, diplomats from South Africa and India approached the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with a revolutionary proposal. Together, the two countries argued that countries should be allowed to ignore any patents related to Covid-19 vaccines, for the duration of the pandemic. In other words: everyone should be allowed to manufacture the vaccine, without penalty. In their official communication, the countries said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.” Just a few weeks later, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the first successful phase three trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, followed swiftly by Moderna and AstraZeneca.

In developing countries, jubilation at the prospect of a swift end to the devastating pandemic turned quickly into fear and anger, as it became clear that vaccines would only be made available to the rich, with little thought to equitable distribution. Canada, the worst offender, has pre-ordered so many vaccines that it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia. The vaccines that have been made available to the developing world are either untested — such as the Chinese and Russian vaccines, for which insufficient clinical trial data has been released — or expensive. South Africa has ordered 1.5-million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but will pay more than double what the EU is paying per dose.

The EU says that it is entitled to a lower price because it invested in the vaccine’s development — nevermind that the AstraZeneca vaccine was literally tested on the bodies of South Africans who volunteered to be part of the clinical trial in Johannesburg. In lower income countries, the situation is even worse. As of 18 January, 39-million vaccine doses had been administered in the world’s 50 richest countries, compared to just 25 individual doses in low-income countries. It appears that South Africa and India were right. Under the current rules, the vaccine cannot be made quickly or cheaply enough to meet global demand, which vaccines are only going to those countries that can afford it. This is a “catastrophic moral failure”, said the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Some activists have described the situation as a “vaccine apartheid”. Nonetheless, the proposal for a patent waiver has been repeatedly rejected at the WTO by wealthier countries including the European Union, the United Kingdom, US and Switzerland; countries which, as Reuters wryly noted, are “all home to major pharmaceutical companies”. They also all enjoy early access to the vaccine. Nor has South Africa and India’s proposal received support from the most influential non-state actor in global public health: Bill Gates. The pandemic has been good to Gates. In 2020, the Microsoft cofounder added $18-billion to his fortune, which now stands at a cool $131-billion (the annual GDP of Ethiopia, a country of 112-million people, is $96-billion). He is the fourth-richest person in the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has since its inception in 2000 spent more than $54-billion combating diseases such as polio and malaria and bolstering the health systems of developing countries. It funds everything from governments to civil society organisations to health journalism outlets, which means it has an enormous say in how health policy is shaped and communicated. It also contributes 12% of the WHO’s total budget. But despite Gates’ stated commitment to an equitable distribution of the Covid vaccine, he is refusing to back South Africa and India’s calls for a waiver on patents.

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The wrong fight.

France & Germany Threaten AstraZeneca With Legal Action (RT)

Tensions in a row between AstraZeneca and the EU over vaccine shortages have heightened further as Paris and Berlin said the company should face penalties or even legal action if it turns out it preferred Britons to Europeans. “I am not saying that there is a problem but if there is a problem and that [they] have favored other destinations, other countries – for example the UK – over us then we will defend our interests,” France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune told the French Radio J on Sunday, adding that the company is now facing “serious accusations” and that is not something that Brussels treats “lightly.” The official then said that the British-Swedish vaccine manufacturer could face “penalties or sanctions” if found to have prioritized its British clients over the European ones.


Beaune added that Brussels could punish the company by refusing to order any supplementary doses or imposing penalties “foreseen by the contract.” The EU has struck an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca worth €336 million ($407.8 million) but not all of the money has been paid to the company. Beaune admitted that there is an investigation into AstraZeneca that is still ongoing and the Europeans first need “clarity and transparency.” Still, he said, “if there has been a preference granted to the British, then that’s a problem.” A similarly stark rebuke came from Germany, where the Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Die Welt daily that “if it turns out that individual companies are not complying with their obligations, a decision must be made about legal consequences.”

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Biden promised the $2,000 checks “immediately”. Where are they? Why try and blame this on the GOP instead?

GOP Tries To Gut Survival Checks (DP)

A group of Republican senators is pushing to cut the size of the next round of COVID-19 relief checks and significantly limit who’s eligible to receive the payments, as the Biden administration continues to indicate that it would be open to further restricting who’s eligible for survival checks. Last month, President Joe Biden promised that $2,000 checks would “go out the door immediately” if Democrats managed to win the two Georgia senate runoff races and claim control of the Senate. After Democrats pulled off two miracle victories in Georgia, Biden quickly narrowed his pledge to new $1,400 checks, asserting that the $600 checks authorized by Congress in December were a down payment on his plan.


On Sunday, ten moderate Republicans proposed new $1,000 checks instead as part of their own scaled-down coronavirus relief package. Under their proposal, survival checks would go to far fewer Americans than in previous relief bills — only to “families who need assistance the most,” according to a letter they sent to the White House. While the details haven’t been released yet, one Republican involved in the effort, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, told CNN on Sunday that direct payments should only go to individuals earning less than $50,000 and families earning less than $100,000. In previous COVID relief bills, full rounds of survival checks have gone to individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000. Limiting assistance the way Portman described would cut off relief to millions of Americans who have previously received economic impact payments.

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Like the spotlight?

Trump Announces New Lawyers To Lead Impeachment Defense Team (JTN)

Lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr. will lead former President Trump’s impeachment trial defense team, according to an announcement on Sunday from the Office of Donald J. Trump. The announcement notes that the two attorneys consider the impeachment unconstitutional and that Schoen had already been working with Trump and other advisors to get ready for the approaching Senate trial. “It is an honor to represent the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, and the United States Constitution,” Schoen said in a statement included in the announcement. “I consider it a privilege to represent the 45th President,” Castor said. “The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always.” The House of Representatives voted in favor of impeaching Trump earlier this month during the waning days of his term in office.

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110 years after Standard Oil.

ExxonMobil and Chevron Held Merger Talks In 2020 (G.)

The chief executives of American oil companies ExxonMobil and Chevron held preliminary talks in early 2020 to explore combining the two largest US oil producers in what would have been the biggest merger of all time, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions, which are no longer ongoing, are being seen as having tested the waters for the huge corporate marriage after the coronavirus pandemic shook the world last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. Such consequential discussions are indicative of the pressure the energy sector’s most dominant companies faced as Covid-19 took hold and crude prices plunged. The talks between Exxon chief executive, Darren Woods, and Chevron CEO, Mike Wirth, were serious enough for legal documents involving certain aspects of the merger discussions to be drafted, one of the sources told Reuters.

[..] The discussions were described as preliminary and although were not ongoing could come back in the future. Such a deal would reunite the two largest descendants of John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly, which was broken up by US regulators in 1911, and reshaped the oil industry, the Journal reported. A combined company’s market value could top $350bn, creating the world’s second largest oil company by market capitalization and production, second only to Saudi Arabia’s state oil producer, Aramco. Such a big American oil merger could run into regulatory and antitrust hurdles in the new Biden [presidency], which has taken the US back into the Paris climate accords.

Last week Biden signed new environmental orders, saying the climate crisis was an existential threat demanding urgent remedies and introduced his team, including former secretary of state John Kerry as the new US climate global envoy. During the election campaign last October, Biden said he would push the US to “transition away from the oil industry”.

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Huawei.

China Building Digital Silk Road From Asia Through Africa To Europe (RT)

The final stretch of a cross-border fiber optic cable is set to be laid by China in Pakistan to create the Digital Silk Road (DSR), Nikkei Asia reports. The DSR is part of the broader Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The fiber cable will link to the Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable in the Arabian Sea, to service countries participating in BRI, and Europe. It is currently being laid between Pakistan’s Rawalpindi city and the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar. The $240-million project, which is in partnership with China’s Huawei Technologies, was approved by the government last week.

The laying of sea cable in Pakistan’s territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi. The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year. The PEACE cable will provide the shortest direct internet route between participating countries, and will drastically reduce internet data transfer speeds.

It is expected to help reduce Pakistan’s exposure to internet outages from damaged submarine cables by providing an additional route for internet connectivity. According to Eyck Freymann, author of ‘One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World,’ the BRI is evolving to place less emphasis on traditional heavy infrastructure, and more on high-tech cooperation and digital services. He told Nikkei Asia that “Beijing wants to dominate the physical infrastructure underlying global communications, particularly the internet,” adding: “This will give it an advantage in internationalizing its tech sector and pursuing future tech-related deals with partner countries.”

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“..some unexplained process is compromising the foundation of the Earth’s food web by depleting ecosystems of this critical nutrient.”

Vitamin B1 Deficiencies Are Plaguing Fish and Birds (Atl.)

Disoriented little fish caught the attention of staff members at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Red Bluff, California, in early January 2020. Looking down into the outdoor tanks—called raceways—the facility’s employees noticed that among the dark, olive-colored clouds of live fish, there were occasional slivers of silver from the undersides of tiny fry that were struggling to swim. These small fish would roll onto their sides, sink to the bottom for a moment, spring back upright, swim a few strokes, and then roll over again. Many were dying, too. While a few hundred mortalities daily in a facility containing millions of fish is normal, something was definitely amiss. Daily mortality “was in the thousands, and it didn’t go down,” says Brett Galyean, complex manager at the hatchery.

Galyean and his team had already hatched and released into the raceways between six and seven million fish—about half of Coleman’s annual production—and the prospect of losing many or most of them began to seem very real. Biologists at the California-Nevada Fish Health Center, an on-site lab at the hatchery, which is located on a tributary of the Sacramento River, inspected the fish but couldn’t make a diagnosis. A few samples were sent to the University of California, Davis, for more testing. Around that time, Galyean recalls, other salmon hatcheries in the state began reporting unusually high mortality rates in their fish. Whatever was afflicting Coleman’s salmon was evidently impacting fish across Northern California. Short of better explanations, Galyean and his colleagues grew concerned that a virus was sweeping through their brood.

Grasping for ideas as thousands of fish expired each day, they turned to the internet, where they dug up research on nutritional deficiencies in trout from the Great Lakes, as well as Atlantic salmon on the East Coast. Several decades ago, sick and dying fish in these regions had been found to be deficient in thiamine, or vitamin B1—a basic building block of life, critical to the functioning of cells and in converting food into energy. Encouraged by this finding, biologists at the Fish Health Center ran a trial, submerging about half of the fry in a bath of water and dissolved thiamine powder. It worked like a charm, Galyean says. After several hours, nearly all of the treated fish were behaving normally, while symptoms continued in an untreated control group.

Coleman, as well as the other hatcheries, scaled up the treatment and applied it to more than a million fry. It did the job in the short term, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem. Because the fish acquire thiamine by ingesting it through their food, and females pass nutrients to their eggs, the troubling new condition indicated that something was amiss in the Pacific Ocean—the last place the fish eat before entering fresh water to spawn. Now, California researchers investigating the source of the salmon’s nutritional problems find themselves contributing to an international effort to understand thiamine deficiency, a disorder that seems to be on the rise in marine ecosystems across much of the planet. It’s causing illness and death in birds, fish, invertebrates, and possibly mammals, leading scientists to suspect that some unexplained process is compromising the foundation of the Earth’s food web by depleting ecosystems of this critical nutrient.

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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.

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How memes are born…

 

 

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Jan 162021
 


Pablo Picasso Blue nude 1902

 

Dems Reject Bigger Survival Checks, Float Tax Breaks For The Rich (DP)
79% of Americans Think The US Is Falling Apart (RT)
Americans Are Being Divided As The War On Domestic Terror Expands (TLAV)
Prosecutors Walk Back Story Of Plot To Kill Lawmakers In Capitol Riot (JTN)
Signs and Wonders (Kunstler)
At Least 23 Die After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine In Norway (DS)
Silicon Valley and WEF Announce Vaccination Credential Initiative (Webb)
Twitter Suspends Account of Russian COVID Vaccine Citing Attempted US Hack (MPN)
Signal Is A Government Op (Levine)
When Will The Window Of Euphoria Close? (O’Rourke)
America’s Biggest Owner Of Farmland Is Now Bill Gates (F.)

 

 

America is united by the spread of the media clickbait used to divide it.

 

 

 

 

People are saying: Jimmy Dore goes on Tucker! He’s a traitor! As if this is not the way things should be, people with different views talking to each other to see what they might have in common.

But that’s not what clickbait feeds on.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1350270466397597698

 

 

New morning in America.

Or: among the growing divide in America, both sides still agree on one thing: stiff the poor.

Dems Reject Bigger Survival Checks, Float Tax Breaks For The Rich (DP)

Just two weeks after Democrats won the U.S. Senate on a promise to immediately pass $2,000 survival checks, party leaders are now proposing $1,400 checks — a lesser amount than many expected, which would save the federal government money and could address conservatives’ concerns that too much money is going to people who supposedly do not need it. And yet, Democratic lawmakers are also considering a new tax break that could cost nearly as much or more as the savings gleaned from reducing the survival checks — and the tax break’s benefits would primarily go to the rich. If passed, the new stimulus proposal released this week by president-elect Joe Biden would significantly boost the minimum wage and funding for unemployment benefits and rental assistance.

But the Biden initiative recommends sending $1,400 checks instead of $2,000 checks — a reduction that would save the federal government somewhere between $164 billion and $200 billion, based on estimates from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. At the same time, Democratic lawmakers are reportedly considering resurrecting their past proposal to temporary repeal a cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that high earners can deduct on their federal taxes. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, temporarily repealing the current $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction would cost $136 billion over the next two years, which was the timeframe proposed for such a repeal in legislation pushed by House Democrats last year.

California Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is touting new legislation to repeal the limits on SALT deductions. Bloomberg News reported that “Democrats have been trying to restore unlimited SALT deductions since the 2017 tax law capped the benefit at $10,000.” If Democrats choose to permanently repeal the cap, it would cost almost $600 billion — or three times the amount it would cost to boost the $1,400 checks to $2,000. The survival checks and the SALT tax breaks are mirror opposites when it comes to distributing benefits. $2,000 checks would target help to the bottom 60 percent of income earners, who would see an average increase of 11 percent in their annual income, and it would be a particularly big income boost for the poorest Americans.

By contrast, the SALT deduction would mostly benefit wealthy households, with the top 5 percent of households receiving over 80 percent of the benefit. The top 1 percent of households would get roughly 60 percent of all the benefits of a SALT cap repeal, which translates to “an average tax cut of more than $33,000,” wrote Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center.

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“The objective is to separate Trump and his supporters, to purge both from the public square, and likewise to leave no alternative to the ruling Democratic-RINO, Big Tech, mainstream media, corporate-state hegemon that threatens to impose its technologically enforced totalitarian rule.”

79% of Americans Think The US Is Falling Apart (RT)

Both Democrats and Republicans think America is disintegrating. But the newspeak narrative says that Trump and his supporters must be cleansed from the nation before it can heal. This totalitarian mindset could be the US’ undoing. A recent Axios-Ipsos poll suggests that 79 percent of Americans believe that the nation is disintegrating. “The question, asked Tuesday and Wednesday, reflects the collision of crises besetting the country — the backdrop of a pandemic, recession, decoupling of red/blue America, and racial injustice and the immediacy of the Capitol insurrection, followed by Impeachment II,” writes Axios AM reporter, Mike Allen. But the question of whether the US is now a failed national project is meant to put a stake into the heart of the Donald Trump presidency and to destroy, entirely, the movement he mobilized.

The purpose of the poll is to leave no doubt in the minds of readers that Trump is responsible for these national crises and must be removed from office, and never allowed to run again. The objective is to separate Trump and his supporters, to purge both from the public square, and likewise to leave no alternative to the ruling Democratic-RINO, Big Tech, mainstream media, corporate-state hegemon that threatens to impose its technologically enforced totalitarian rule. Twitter has banned the sitting president from its platform indefinitely. Facebook and Instagram have banished Trump until at least after Joe Biden’s inauguration. After Twitter began cancelling Trump followers, Amazon Web Services, Apple Store, and Google Play cancelled an entire corporation, Twitter competitor Parler. Other social media platforms could face a similar fate at the hands of the leftist authoritarian Big Tech cartel.

Tens of thousands, if not millions, of Trump supporters have either been purged from mainstream social media platforms or have fled in protest. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has recently promised more censorship and purges. Even the libertarian leader of an earlier populist movement, Ron Paul, has faced a Facebook ban (although this was subsequently claimed to be “an error”). Guilt by association seems to the rule, no matter how distant or strained the association. The purges extend well beyond social media. Trump has been cancelled by former business associates, including by one of his former financiers, Deutsche Bank. Blacklists of Trump supporters are being compiled. Congress members have called for the resignation of senators and House members who questioned the election results. If they refuse to resign, say the totalitarian wannabes about to seize complete control, they should be removed from office. ABC News contributor Rick Klein called for the “cleansing” of Trump supporters from the political landscape in a now-deleted tweet.

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“..the US has moved from the “War on [foreign] terror” to the “War on domestic terror”

Americans Are Being Divided As The War On Domestic Terror Expands (TLAV)

The first week of 2021 kicked off with chaos at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Was it a protest, a riot or an insurrection? Were there provocateurs, and if so, were they Antifa, the cops, and/or the Feds? As usual, everyone on the internet thinks they know the answer within ten minutes. Unfortunately, this genuinely leads to the spreading of unfounded theories – many based on nothing but speculation and emotion. But while the public is debating over theories and arguing amongst themselves, the newly emboldened Military Industrial Complex is eagerly anticipating the incoming Biden Administration as an opportunity to expand the War on Domestic Terror. In the immediate aftermath of the “storming of the Capitol”, the media pundits, intelligence community, and politicians began foaming at the mouth in excitement over the chance to push through Domestic Terror legislation.

Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin, also former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense and CIA analyst, said, “the post 9/11 era is over. The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. The threat of domestic terrorism.” Slotkin went on to say that she urges the Biden administration to “understand that the greatest threat now is internal.” TLAV writer Whitney Webb responded to Slotkin’s comment by reminding the audience that, “before Congress, Elissa worked for the CIA and the Pentagon and helped destabilize the Middle East during the Bush and Obama admins. What she says here is essentially an open announcement that the US has moved from the “War on [foreign] terror” to the “War on domestic terror”.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) also reportedly released a bulletin warning that “domestic extremists” are planning a nationwide protest to stop Joe Biden from being sworn in as President. According to ABC News, “The FBI has also received information in recent days on a group calling for “storming” state, local and federal government courthouses and administrative buildings in the event President Donald Trump is removed from office prior to Inauguration Day. The group is also planning to “storm” government offices in every state the day President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated, regardless of whether the states certified electoral votes for Biden or Trump.”

Since the bulletin has not been publicly released the report should be viewed skeptically. However, it’s only one of many emerging reports and articles stoking the flames of civil war and internal chaos. The fact of the matter is that this is not a new attempt to demonize the American people. This current effort is simply a continuation of the effort to label Americans as terrorists that has been taking place since at least the mid-1990’s following the Oklahoma City bombing false flag. These efforts were expanded further after the attacks of 9/11. In fact, as most readers know by now, it was Joe Biden who wrote the anti-terror legislation in the 90’s which became the basis for the Patriot ACT after 9/11.

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The “Qanon shaman” story was always just obvious bogus. But the seed has been planted, so it’s now safe to walk it back.

Prosecutors Walk Back Story Of Plot To Kill Lawmakers In Capitol Riot (JTN)

The acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin announced on Friday that there is no “direct evidence” indicating that the crowd of people who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 had any intention of killing or kidnapping members of Congress. He told reporters, “We don’t have any direct evidence of kill-capture teams,” which seemed to contradict federal prosecutors in Arizona who had alleged on Thursday in a court filing that there was evidence rioters wanted “to capture and assassinate elected officials.” Reuters reported that Sherwin was attempting to “walk back” the claims filed in Arizona, which were about Jacob Chansey, the so-called “Qanon shaman” who was shirtless and wearing horns in the Senate chamber. He allegedly left a note saying, “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”


Sherwin said that his office in D.C. is taking the lead on prosecuting crimes related to the breach of the Capitol, adding that there may have been a “disconnect” with other offices on some of the evidence. “The cases are all being charged here in D.C., and with our law enforcement partners, and what makes this case in particular unprecedented and unusual and extremely complex is the fact that, after the event, obviously thousands of people went back to their home districts,” said Sherwin. “And that has complicated things.”

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“..The poor schlemiel is headed straight into history’s discontinued merchandise bin…”

Signs and Wonders (Kunstler)

It’s late in the game but something appears to still be in play, and the Resistance is keenly aware of it: a trove of declassified documents laying out their crimes against their own countrymen. Nothing has stuck to the Resistance because they controlled the levers of adjudication. What if, under the extraordinary conditions of the moment, those levers are transferred to one arm of the government that has not disgraced itself: the military? I wrote in this blog more than once in recent years that political disorder could lead to this. Has that moment come? Thousands of troops are billeted in and around Washington DC now. Why is that? The figment of more white supremacists coming to reenact last week’s incident at the Capitol? I don’t think so. A BLM / Antifa riot, like the ones staged in cities (including Washington DC) all through the summer and fall? (Weren’t they mostly peaceful?)


Or is something else up, something that will mark an epochal shift in the fortunes of the USA? Did you catch Joe Biden on TV last night? Did his appearance fill you with the sweet, warm unction of reassurance? Or did you get the impression that I got: of a near-mummy in a state of panicky confusion, sent from his hidey-hole out to a podium to give an impersonation of someone in authority? I didn’t believe the performance for a minute. The poor schlemiel is headed straight into history’s discontinued merchandise bin. He will probably wonder what awful vanity propelled him down the memory hole as he descends into the darkness… but his memory preceded him down the memory hole and he will have forgotten how the whole thing started. His exit will be a merciful one compared to the people who trussed him up and shoved him onstage to flesh out their lame narrative.

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Increasing calls to refuse the Pfizer vaccine for people over 80.

At Least 23 Die After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine In Norway (DS)

At least 23 people who received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech have died in Norway, with 13 of the fatalities linked to the vaccine’s side effects, authorities said Thursday. All 13 individuals were above the age of 80, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency. It noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s common side effects, such as fever and nausea, could have contributed to the death of some elderly recipients of the shot. Along with the 13 deaths, nine cases of serious side effects and seven instances of less serious side effects have been recorded, the agency’s medical director, Steinar Madsen, told national broadcaster NRK.


Norway launched its vaccination campaign last month, right after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Nearly 33,000 people have received a dose in the country, according to data by U.K.-based tracker OurWorldInData. The latest figures show Norway’s virus caseload currently stands at 57,736, including 511 fatalities.

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There’s not one single word here that is not scary as all hell.

Silicon Valley and WEF Announce Vaccination Credential Initiative (Webb)

On Thursday, tech giants with deep ties to the US national-security state—Microsoft, Oracle, and the MITRE Corporation—announced that they had partnered with several health-care companies to create the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) to advance the implementation of digital COVID-19 vaccination records. According to a Reuters report, the VCI “aims to help people get encrypted digital copies of their immunization records stored in a digital wallet of their choice” because the “current system [of vaccination records] does not readily support convenient access and sharing of verifiable vaccination records.” The initiative, on its website, notes that the VCI is a public-private partnership “committed to empowering individuals with digital vaccination records” so that participants can “protect and improve their health” and “demonstrate their health status to safely return to travel, work, school and life while protecting their data privacy.”

The initiative is essentially built on a common framework of digital vaccination “wallets” called SMART Health Cards that are meant to “work across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries” as part of a new global vaccination-record infrastructure. The host of the VCI website and one the initiative’s key backers is the Commons Project Foundation. That foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF), runs the Common Trust Network, which has three goals that are analogous to those of VCI. As listed on the WEF website, the network’s goals are (1) to empower individuals by providing digital access to their health information; (2) to make it easier for individuals to understand and comply with each destination’s requirements; and (3) to help ensure that only verifiable lab results and vaccination records from trusted sources are presented for the purposes of cross-border travel and commerce.

[..] The SMART Health Cards framework was developed by a team led by the chief architect of Microsoft Healthcare, Josh Mandel, who was previously the Health IT Ecosystem lead for Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences. Verily is currently heavily involved in COVID-19 testing throughout the United States, particularly in California, and links test recipients’ results to their Google accounts. Their other COVID-19 initiatives have been criticized due to still-unresolved privacy concerns, something that has also plagued several of Verily’s other efforts pre-COVID-19, including those involving Mandel.

Of particular concern is that Verily, and by extension Google, created Project Baseline, which has been collecting “actionable genetic information” with a focus on “population health” from participants since 2017. Yet, during the COVID-19 process, Project Baseline has become an important component of Verily’s COVID-19 testing efforts, raising the unsettling possibility that Verily has been obtaining Americans’ DNA data through its COVID-19 testing activities. While Verily has not addressed this possibility directly, it is worth noting that Google has been heavily involved in amassing genomic data for several years. For instance, in 2013, Google Genomics was founded with the goal of storing and analyzing DNA data on Google Cloud servers. Now known as Cloud Life Sciences, the Google subsidiary has since developed AI algorithms that can “build your genome sequence” and “identify all the mutations that an individual inherits from their parents.”

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The CIA is hacking Russian Twitter accounts?!

Twitter Suspends Account of Russian COVID Vaccine Citing Attempted US Hack (MPN)

The Twitter account of the Russian COVID-19 “Sputnik V” vaccine was suspended yesterday after the Silicon Valley-based platform detected suspicious attempts to log into it. Raising more eyebrows was the stated location of the attempted hack: not Russia, but Virginia, U.S.A. The news immediately prompted Internet sleuths to question who was behind the hack. “Now who in Virginia might want to sabotage a global health initiative by one of Washington’s “official enemies?” wrote former MintPress contributor Morgan Artyukhina. Virginia is, of course, home to many of the three-letter national security agencies engaged in online warfare, including the CIA. Many social media users suggested this was evidence of a failed nefarious action. Sputnik’s Twitter account has since been reinstated.

Named after the first manmade satellite to orbit the Earth, the vaccine is among the first to be developed and brought to market. With rich nations buying up huge quantities of Western vaccines before they were even approved, leaving little for poorer states, Sputnik is primarily being used in Russia, Asia, and Latin America. Already, 727 million doses have been ordered by 50 countries, including 200 million from India and 160 million from Russia. Meanwhile, Brazil has ordered 100 million and Mexico 24 million. Bolivia, Argentina, and Venezuela are also major customers. In December, Hungary became the first EU nation to purchase the shots, and there is a possibility that the vaccine could be rolled out across the continent soon. Testing occurred in a number of nations in the Global South and the vaccine will be produced in nine countries.

Like Western variants, Sputnik must be delivered in two shots weeks apart and must also be stored in deep freezer conditions (-18°C/-0.4°F). Developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute, it is a viral vector vaccine, meaning that it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the desired immune response into cells. Protein coding genes from the coronavirus are inserted into two common cold-like viruses that have been genetically modified so they cannot replicate inside the human body. Trial results suggest that the injections are between 91-95% effective, similar to the Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines. However, Western politicians and press have been casting doubts and fears on the safety and effectiveness of the product for months, describing it as “controversial” (The Guardian) or “rushed” (BBC). Others, such as CNN and CNBC have characterized it as unsafe and ineffective.

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Interesting.

Signal Is A Government Op (Levine)

Signal — the privacy chat app favored by the world’s leading crypto experts — is trending again. In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s MAGA Maidan Internet purge (which was followed by Facebook’s announcement that it was gonna start siphoning data off its WhatsApp property), Signal shot up to being the top downloaded messenger app on the planet. The New York Times is writing about it. Edward Snowden is tweeting about it, telling his fans that Signal is the only reason he’s able to stay alive (and not the fact that he’s being protected round-the-clock by Russia’s security apparatus.) Hell, Even Elon Musk is out there telling people to go Signal. So many people are flooding the app that it’s been crashing.

Given that the app is blowing up, I figure it’s a good time to roll out my periodic public service announcement: Signal was created and funded by a CIA spinoff. Yes, a CIA spinoff. Signal is not your friend. Here are the cold hard facts. Signal was developed by Open Whisper Systems, a for-profit corporation run by “Moxie Marlinspike,” a tall, lanky cryptographer who has a head full of dreadlocks and likes to surf and sail his boat. Moxie was an old friend of Tor’s now-banished chief radical promotor Jacob Appelbaum, and he’s played a similar fake-radical game — although he’s never been able to match Jake’s raw talent and dedication to the art of the con. Still, Moxie wraps himself in air of danger and mystery and hassles reporters about not divulging any personal information, not even his age. He constantly talks up his fear of Big Brother and tells stories about his FBI file.

So how big a threat is Moxie to the federal government? This big: After selling his encryption start-up to Twitter in 2011, Moxie began partnering with America’s soft-power regime change apparatus — including the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media) — on developing tech to fight Internet censorship abroad. That relationship led to his next venture: a suite of government-funded encrypted chat and voice mobile apps. Say hello to Signal. If you look at Signal’s website today, you’ll find all sorts of celebrity endorsements — Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and even Jack Dorsey. You’ll also find a “donate” button — which, by the way, you shouldn’t press because Signal has plenty of tech oligarch cash on hand these days. What you won’t find is an “about” section that explains Signal’s origin story — a story that involves several million dollars in seed and development capital from Radio Free Asia, a CIA spinoff whose history goes back to 1951 and involves all sorts of weird shit, including its association in the 1970s with the Moonies, the hardcore anti-communist Korean cult.

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“A window of euphoria as a $21 Trillion economy digests $10 Trillion of stimulus. What happens after that?”

When Will The Window Of Euphoria Close? (O’Rourke)

These certainly are interesting times. Despite a global pandemic, the S&P 500 is 5 days removed from all-time highs. Additionally, there are 20,000 members of the National Guard protecting Washington DC, notably Capitol Hill. That is 4x the amount of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their purpose is obvious – to protect the nation’s “peaceful” transfer of power from supporters of the outgoing President. Violence is expected throughout the nation next week. While those events are uncomfortable for Americans to contemplate, they have had no effect on the financial markets. Equities remain elevated and bonds have sold off, no haven bid necessary.

[..] There is little doubt as to what is fueling this insanity. In 2020, there was nearly $5 Trillion of fiscal stimulus pumped into the United States economy. There was an additional $3.25 Trillion of monetary stimulus and zero interest rate policy added as well. President elect Biden is seeking an additional $1.9 Trillion in fiscal stimulus in the coming month, and the Federal Reserve will add another $1.4 Trillion in monetary stimulus this year. This is a massive stimulus driven bubble. Market participants frequently talk about generational buying opportunities like Q1 2009, or maybe even March of 2020. Take note, 2021 is setting up to be a generational selling opportunity.

In the span of 12 months’ time, we are setting up to witness approximately $6.5 Trillion of fiscal stimulus and $3.5 Trillion of monetary stimulus for a $21 Trillion economy. $10 Trillion of stimulus is a tremendous amount of stimulus to digest. In his futile quest for consumer price inflation, Fed Chairman Jay Powell has created a historic asset bubble that will be the downfall of the US economy. [..] The charts below of call option activity and total equity volumes reinforce that this is simply a speculative snapshot in time. A window of euphoria as a $21 Trillion economy digests $10 Trillion of stimulus. What happens after that? The window should be used for tactical exits and certainly not as entry. The day will come when this window slams shut, and it is likely to be in the coming months.

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“While Gates may be the country’s biggest farmland owner, he by no means is the largest individual landowner.”

America’s Biggest Owner Of Farmland Is Now Bill Gates (F.)

Bill Gates, the fourth richest person in the world and a self-described nerd who is known for his early programming skills rather than his love of the outdoors, has been quietly snatching up 242,000 acres of farmland across the U.S. — enough to make him the top private farmland owner in America. After years of reports that he was purchasing agricultural land in places like Florida and Washington, The Land Report revealed that Gates, who has a net worth of nearly $121 billion according to Forbes, has built up a massive farmland portfolio spanning 18 states. His largest holdings are in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Nebraska (20,588 acres). Additionally, he has a stake in 25,750 acres of transitional land on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, which is being developed as a new suburb.

According to The Land Report’s research, the land is held directly and through third-party entities by Cascade Investments, Gates’ personal investment vehicle. Cascade’s other investments include food-safety company Ecolab, used-car retailer Vroom and Canadian National Railway. While it may be surprising that a tech billionaire would also be the biggest farmland owner in the country, this is not Gates’ only foray into agriculture. In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced $306 million in grants to promote high-yield, sustainable agriculture among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The foundation has further invested in the development and proliferation of “super crops” resistant to climate change and higher-yield dairy cows. Last year, the organization announced Gates Ag One, a nonprofit to advance those efforts.

It is not entirely clear how Gates’ farmland is being used, or whether any of the land is being set aside for conservation. However, there is some indication that the land could be used in a way that aligns with the foundation’s values. Cottonwood Ag Management, a subsidiary of Cascade, is a member of Leading Harvest, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture standards that prioritize protections of crops, soil and water resources. [..] While Gates may be the country’s biggest farmland owner, he by no means is the largest individual landowner. In its list of 100 top American landowners, The Land Report gives the top spot to Liberty Media Chair John Malone, who owns 2.2 million acres of ranches and forests. CNN founder Ted Turner ranked number three with 2 million acres of ranch land across eight states. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is investing in land on a large scale, landing the 25th spot with his ownership of 420,000 acres, mainly in west Texas.

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“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

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Aug 152020
 


Henri Cartier Bresson Boucher, Les Halles de Paris 1952

 

Former FBI Lawyer To Plead Guilty In Durham’s Trump-Russia Probe (ZH)
In Bringing First Russiagate Charge, Durham Hints At Other Crimes (JTN)
Bill Gates Says Hydroxychloroquine Has ‘Severe Side Effects’ (JTN)
Joe Biden Calls For Nationwide Facemask Mandate (KABC)
The President Was Not Encouraging: What Obama Really Thought About Biden (Pol.)
Appeals Court Spares Hillary Clinton From Deposition In Email Scandal (JTN)
Yes, Kamala Harris Is Eligible For Vice President (Turley)
UPS, FedEx Reject Calls To Handle Mail-In Ballots: Significant Problems (Hill)
California Judge Sides With Church, Allows Indoor Services (WT)
Warren Buffett Sheds Big Stakes In Banks And Goes For The Gold (Fox)
Trump: ‘A Lot Of People’ Think Edward Snowden ‘Not Being Treated Fairly’ (NYP)
Chaos In Assange Case Management Hearing (DEAssange)

 

 

As for US politics, I already wrote the core of it for a few articles below.

The “Russia Investigation Investigation”. Yes, it’s come to this.

Briefing for a descent into complete chaos post-Nov 4.

Doris Lessing’s original book title is “Briefing for a Descent into Hell”. Could use that one too. Take your pick.

 

 

Well, there’s one bright spot, perhaps: US new deaths are getting lower. And now it’s weekend again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Russia Investigation Investigation”. Yes, it’s come to this.

The MSM has also picked it up, trying to claim Clinesmith was some kind of lone cowboy.

Former FBI Lawyer To Plead Guilty In Durham’s Trump-Russia Probe (ZH)

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith will plead guilty to one count of making a false statement regarding his involvement in the agency’s actions against the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election, according to the Associated Press. In November, the New York Times revealed that Clinesmith was under criminal investigation for allegedly doctoring materials used to obtain renewals of the Carter Page surveillance warrant. Clinesmith -who worked on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russia probe, was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and interviewed Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Clinesmith, a 37-year-old graduate of Georgetown Law, “took an email from an official at another federal agency that contained several factual assertions, then added material to the bottom that looked like another assertion from the email’s author, when it was instead his own understanding,” according to the report. “Mr. Clinesmith included this altered email in a package that he compiled for another F.B.I. official to read in preparation for signing an affidavit that would be submitted to the court attesting to the facts and analysis in the wiretap application. The details of the email are apparently classified and may not be made public even when the report is unveiled.” -New York Times

Clinesmith was identified by Inspector General Michael Horowitz as one of several FBI officials who harbored animus towards President Trump, after which he was kicked off the Mueller Russia investigation in February 2018. Two other FBI officials removed for similar reasons were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom also worked on the Clinton and Trump investigations, and both of whom have similarly left the bureau. On November 9, 2016 – the day after Trump won the election, Clinesmith texted another FBI employee “My god damned name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff,” adding “So, who knows if that breaks to him what he is going to do.”

A former attorney with the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch while working under FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, Clinesmith resigned in September 2019 after he was interviewed by Horrowitz’s office. Horrowitz in turn sent a criminal referral to US Attorney John Durham, who was tasked with investigating the Obama DOJ’s conduct surrounding the 2016 US election. Durham was appointed by Barr last May to examine the FBI’s actions against the Trump campaign during and after the 2016 US election, code named “Crossfire Hurricane.” Specifically, Durham has been probing whether Obama administration officials illegally collected intelligence on the Trump campaign, and whether the agency’s surveillance of campaign aides was free of improper motive.

“They spied on my campaign, which is treason. They spied both before and after I won. Think of that. Using the intelligence apparatus of the United States to take down a president,” Trump said recently during a live phone interview with Fox Business, adding “It’s the single biggest political crime in the history of our country.”

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They all knew Page was a CIA asset since August 2016 at the latest, but failed to tell the FISA court, because none of the warrants would have been approved. How obvious do we have to make it?

In Bringing First Russiagate Charge, Durham Hints At Other Crimes (JTN)

Spygate, once derided by media and political elites as a fringe conspiracy theory, is now fact thanks to a court filing that confirms an ex-FBI lawyer who disliked President Trump falsified evidence that was used to keep surveillance against Trump associates going. U.S. Attorney John Durham filed the felony charge Friday against Kevin Clinesmith, and the ex-FBI assistant general counsel is expected to plead guilty soon and cooperate with the ongoing investigation of the Russia investigators. That alone is significant, since Clinesmith was witness to other controversial moments in the failed Trump-Russia collusion probe, including an operation to spy on the future president during a counterintelligence briefing in summer 2016.

But within the four-plus page criminal information filed in U.S. District Court, Durham also laid out evidence of an additional crime that could be prosecuted in the coming weeks. The court filing notes that Clinesmith “willfully and knowingly” altered a document in June 2017 to falsely claim that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — one of the main targets of the Russia collusion probe and identified in the court document as “Individual #1” — was not a source for the CIA, identified in the court documents as “Other Government Agency” or “OGA.” In reality, Page was a CIA asset. The filing says Clinesmith’s misdeed caused the FBI to mislead the Justice Department and the FISA court when filing an application for the last of four surveillance warrants that targeted Page for over a year.

But Durham also reveals in the filing that the FBI Crossfire Hurricane team — led by since-fired Agent Peter Strzok — had already been told of Page’s relationship with the CIA all the way back in August 2016 and failed to tell the FISA court that essential information about Page before the three prior FISA warrants were approved. Such a failure is known as a material omission because the FBI was claiming they believed Page was an agent of Russia when in fact he was an asset of the U.S. government helping to inform on Russian intelligence targets. In other words, had the FBI not omitted the truth, the judges would have known before they approved even the first FISA warrant that Page was a CIA-handled source, not a Russian stooge.

Here’s how Durham worded the account: “On Aug 17, 2016, prior to the approval of FISA #1, the OGA (CIA) provided certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memorandum indicating that Individual #1 (Page) had been approved as an operational contact for the OGA (CIA) from 2008 to 2013 and detailing information that Individual #1 (Page) had provided to the OGA (CIA) concerning Individual #1’s prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers. The first three FISA applications did not include Individual #1’s history or status with the OGA (CIA).” Several experts said Durham’s inclusion of the earlier notification signals he has concerns others may also have been involved in deceiving the court.

“It’s more than an oversight. Whether the omission was purposeful or not, it is a fraud on the court,” said Kevin Brock, the FBI’s former assistant director for intelligence and the man who created many of the procedures the bureau still uses to investigate intelligence threats. “At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I think it is clear that Durham is positioning a deeper dive into this issue of FISA application abuse,” Brock added. [..] In one instance the day after Trump won, Clinesmith texted this anti-Trump, anti-Mike Pence screed: “The crazies won finally. This is the tea party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost, they have to deal with an incumbent in 4 years. We have to fight this again. Also Pence is stupid,” he wrote in a text quoted by the inspector general.

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Why would anyone care what he thinks?

Bill Gates Says Hydroxychloroquine Has ‘Severe Side Effects’ (JTN)

Bill Gates this week added more flame to the fire in the ongoing debate over the usage of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, claiming that using the drug to treat the coronavirus carries with it the risk of “severe side effects” and arguing that medical officials should instead pursue the numerous “good therapeutic drugs” currently in development. Yet there is at present little evidence that “severe side effects” are common in COVID-19 patients who take hydroxychloroquine, with the majority of reported adverse events being relatively mild and only a small fraction of reported effects so far being dangerous and/or fatal.

The drug, which has been used for years to treat malaria and other conditions like lupus, has been at the center of a medical and political firestorm since March when President Trump touted the medicine as a possible effective treatment for coronavirus. Numerous medical officials have claimed that it offers no benefit to COVID-19 patients, while others have insisted that it is highly effective when used in certain circumstances, specifically on high-risk patients early in the course of the disease. Asked by Bloomberg magazine about the controversy on Thursday, Gates—who has been at the forefront of funding and advocacy efforts to find both a cure and a vaccine for COVID-19—said that though we live “in age of science … sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”

“In the test tube, hydroxychloroquine looked good,” he said. “On the other hand, there are lots of good therapeutic drugs coming that are proven to work without the severe side effects.” Numerous studies across the world over the past several months have produced mixed results on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19, with some showing marked benefits and others indicating that it does not help patients recover from the disease. Yet regardless of study outcomes, severe adverse health events associated with the drug appear to be comparatively rare. One randomized trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month stated that, while the study’s treatment with hydroxychloroquine “did not prevent illness compatible with Covid-19 or confirmed infection,” there were nevertheless “no serious intervention-related adverse reactions or cardiac arrhythmias” reported by study participants.

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Biden’s handlers know that many Trump supporters are against masks, so they make him call for masks everywhere in order to create conflict.

Joe Biden Calls For Nationwide Facemask Mandate (KABC)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling for a nationwide mask mandate. After getting a briefing from some healthcare professionals in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said all Americans should be wearing facemasks outside their homes for the next three months. He did not give any details on enforcement, legality or science. The former VP stressed – without citing any evidence–that it will save up to 40-thousand lives. Biden said it’s not an issue of personal rights. He insisted that it’s about personal responsibility and patriotic duty. Biden’s new running mate Kamala Harris said — “That’s what real leadership looks like.” They spoke for a total of about 8 minutes and refused to take questions.

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Power games amongst so-called friends. Meanwhile, Hillary apparently said she might “serve” in a Biden cabinet.

The President Was Not Encouraging: What Obama Really Thought About Biden (Pol.)

Biden’s own academic career was unimpressive—he repeated the third grade, earned all Cs and Ds in his first three semesters at the University of Delaware except for As in P.E., a B in “Great English Writers” and an F in ROTC, and graduated 76th in his Syracuse Law School class of ’85. He’s the first Democratic nominee since Walter Mondale in 1984 not to have an Ivy League degree. He was not a binder person, Clinton and Obama aides said. Biden admitted as much in his 2007 memoir Promises to Keep, writing “It’s important to read reports and listen to the experts; more important is being able to read people in power.” Biden’s tendency to blurt out whatever was on his mind rankled Obama, who wasn’t afraid to needle him for it.

In his first press conference in 2009, the young president quipped “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to—not surprisingly,” when asked about Biden’s assessment that there was a 30 percent chance they could get the economic stimulus package wrong. The gaffes were only one side of the story, though. Obama warmed both to Biden’s effusive personality and his skill in implementing the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, which the president had delegated to him. Aides recall that Obama and Biden took almost polar-opposite approaches to policymaking, Obama always seeking data for the most logical or efficient outcome, while Biden told stories about how a bill would affect the working-class guy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born.

[..] Panetta, who had known Clinton from his days as her husband’s White House chief of staff, recalled that “Both she and her staff worked at that a great deal in trying to build that support.” Among Obama and his aides, Panetta said, “I think there was a certain attraction to someone that would certainly break ceilings and kind of create the same kind of precedent that he created when he became president … as opposed to supporting somebody who’s kind of your more traditional politician and, you know, a white Irish Catholic guy.” There was also dismissiveness of Biden in Clinton’s orbit that echoed Obama aides.

“The good thing about a Biden run,” Neera Tanden, Clinton’s close aide who also advised the Obama administration on health policy, wrote to Podesta in 2015, in an email later exposed by WikiLeaks, “is that he would make Hillary look so much better.” Obama tried to remain above the fray, even as his closest staffers largely rallied around Clinton—which they likely would not have done if there was a chance he would support Biden. “I knew a number of the president’s former staffers, and even a few current ones, were putting a finger on the scale for Clinton,” Biden wrote. Pressed on whether Obama ever expressed a preference between Clinton and Biden, Jarrett demurred, saying, “that’s a conversation you’ll have to have with him.” Obama declined to be interviewed through his spokesperson.

“President Obama has been unequivocal in his respect for Joe’s wisdom, experience, empathy and integrity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. Even if he did express preference for Clinton, some Obama officials characterized it more as an acknowledgment of her strength than an attempt to undercut Biden. “There was a feeling of inevitability about Hillary Clinton in every aspect,” recalled Psaki. “So it never felt to me like it was Obama choosing Hillary Clinton over Joe Biden. It was a feeling like it’s inevitable after Hillary Clinton left the State Department that she will be the Democratic nominee, and she will become the next president. So Obama … was trying to play a part in being helpful.” Reines said Obama “was always very encouraging” of Clinton and that after serving as president, “he believed there was no one better prepared to do it.”

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The doors shut tight behind Hillary.

Appeals Court Spares Hillary Clinton From Deposition In Email Scandal (JTN)

Four-plus years after the James Comey-led FBI chose not to file charges against Hillary Clinton, despite evidence she transmitted classified information on an insecure email server, a federal appeals court Friday gave the former secretary of state another legal pass in the case. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a writ of mandamus requested by Clinton’s lawyers overturning a judge’s order that she submit to a sworn deposition in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. The court ruled that U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth erred in ordering the deposition in the first place.

“Discovery in FOIA cases is not a punishment, and the district court has no basis to order further inquiry into Secretary Clinton’s state of mind,” the appeals court ruled. Judicial Watch had sought to secure the deposition to explore whether Clinton’s use of the private server to transmit government documents was an effort to evade the legal requirements of the FOIA law. The group said Friday afternoon it is reviewing whether to appeal. “We’re disappointed and considering our options,” Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton told Just the News. The court ruling comes four years and one month after Comey announced on July 5, 2016 that he had unilaterally decided not to seek criminal charges against Clinton for transmitting highly classified information on her private email server.

Comey was later fired from his post and an inspector general ruled the FBI director had wrongly “usurped” the Justice Department’s authority to decide whether charges should have been filed. It was that very same day that former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele — working on behalf of Clinton’s opposition research efforts — walked the first piece of information of his now infamous anti-Trump dossier into the FBI office in London.

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“..Congress inserted the words “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Those six words have perplexed scholars for 150 years.”

But being perplexed by them today is racist.

Yes, Kamala Harris Is Eligible For Vice President (Turley)

Birthright citizenship has been a subject of debate from the time that the 14th Amendment was adopted. There are arguments on both sides of the currently accepted broad interpretation of the language. Many of our closest allies reject the concept of birthright citizenship. However, the case law strongly supports Harris. In 1898, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the court found that the child of Chinese immigrants was still a citizen under the 14th Amendment because he was born on U.S. territory. His parents were here legally as permanent residents. Moreover, the language of the 14th Amendment does not clearly support the exclusions raised by Eastman. It states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Most reading that language have concluded that it allows for birthright citizenship for anyone “born … in the United States.” The 14th Amendment starts and ends as a model of clarity, stating that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are “citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” But between those two phrases, Congress inserted the words “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Those six words have perplexed scholars for 150 years. The dominant view of law professors is the line as a whole guarantees that anyone born within the United States becomes an American citizen. But some believe that the caveat means you must be here in a legal status, that if you are not a American citizen, then you are a legal resident.

I do not believe that there is a credible question of Harris’ eligibility. However, I am concerned with the attacks on Newsweek and the author from a free speech standpoint. This issue has been raised for decades and the Supreme Court cases are few and are not dispositive on all aspects of the question. In prior coverage of candidates like McCain, there was not a demand for newspapers to denounce their own publications. Eastman is a professor who raised a commonly discussed constitutional and political issue. There is no reason to denounce him as a racist or Newsweek as an enabler of racism. Media often publish controversial theories.

There were not demands for retractions when a Harvard professor said Trump was not actually impeached when he was impeached, a North Carolina professor saying the entire Trump defense team would face bar charges, or any number of the controversial theories of criminality against Trump. Instead we simply debated the issues, which actually raised interesting historical or ethical questions. LA Times’ Michael McGough called Newsweek’s explanation “feeble” when it insisted that it was merely sharing a constitutional viewpoint and not attempting “to ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris’ candidacy.” Yet, this “feeble” reason has been the basis for past articles on the debate over the 14th Amendment in major publications for decades.

Read more …

Briefing for a descent into complete chaos post-Nov 4.

UPS, FedEx Reject Calls To Handle Mail-In Ballots: Significant Problems (Hill)

As concern mounts that the United States Postal Service (USPS) will not be able to handle an influx of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, many on social media have called for delivery services FedEx and UPS to step up, which the companies have dismissed. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, UPS and FedEx said they legally can’t do the work and warned there would likely be “significant” delays. “State ballots must be postmarked to be considered valid and only the USPS has lawful postmarking status. Therefore UPS, FedEx and other private parties cannot technically be involved in shipping ballots,” UPS told Reuters in a statement.


Meanwhile, FedEx says it does accept individual ballots, but encouraged customers using FedEx to “closely review their state’s guidelines on absentee voting and deadlines for ballots or related election documents.” According to Reuters, various laws prevent private delivery companies from handling mail-in and absentee ballots, and in some states it would be considered ballot harvesting. On top of legal issues, the USPS is equipped to deliver to every mailbox in the U.S. daily, while private delivery companies only deliver when someone has a package or a pickup, and don’t have blanket coverage of more hard-to-reach places, such as rural communities. Many delivery companies are also already struggling with a surge of deliveries brought on by people staying at home during the pandemic and increasingly relying on online shopping.

Read more …

How can you open Target to huge crowds but keep churches closed? What is the reasoning?

California Judge Sides With Church, Allows Indoor Services (WT)

A California court rejected Friday efforts by Los Angeles County to require a popular megachurch to comply with pandemic orders, allowing the church to hold indoor services with singing and without attendance limits pending a resolution of the case. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church after the church began holding indoor services July 26 in defiance of state and county rules aimed at combating the novel coronavirus, according to a press release from the Thomas More Society.


Attorney Jenna Ellis called it a “historic win,” tweeting that the court was the first in California “to recognize #churchisessential.” The Thomas More Society, which represented the church, said the judge ruled “it is the County’s burden to show why it should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion, but also expressing safety concerns.” At the same time, the church agreed to comply with mask-wearing and social-distancing rules before the full hearing scheduled for Sept. 4.

Read more …

Is he still getting the $600 checks?

Warren Buffett Sheds Big Stakes In Banks And Goes For The Gold (Fox)

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. unloaded a more than a quarter of its stake in Wells Fargo & Co. and about 61% of its position in JPMorgan Chase, while acquiring a new position in Barrick Gold Corp., according to 13-F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the period ended Jun 30, that were released Friday afternoon. Berkshire sold 85.6 million shares of Wells Fargo, representing about 26% of its stake and putting its ownership to about 3% from 5.3%. The insurance conglomerate also shed 35.5 million shares of JPMorgan, 61% of its position, which now represents 1% of Berkshire’s overall portfolio from 3% in the prior period.


Meanwhile, the investment firm acquired nearly 21 million shares of Barrick Gold worth $563 million, representing 0.3% of Berkshire’s holding. Berkshire also reduced its holding in PNC Financial Services (PNC), selling 3.85 million shares to cut its position to 0.3% from 0.5%. Berkshire didn’t change its holdings in Apple Inc. where the firm owns 245 million shares. Large investors must disclose long stock positions held at the end of a quarter 45 days later in a 13-F filing with the SEC, which means such filings are merely a snapshot of an investor’s holdings at a given point.

Read more …

Opening doors for Assange?

Trump: ‘A Lot Of People’ Think Edward Snowden ‘Not Being Treated Fairly’ (NYP)

President Trump polled his aides on Thursday about whether he should let anti-surveillance whistleblower and leaker Edward Snowden return to the US from Russia without going to prison, saying he was open to it. “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump told The Post in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office, before soliciting views from his staff. Trump commented on Snowden for the first time as president after accusing former President Barack Obama of spying on his 2016 campaign. “When you look at [former FBI Director James] Comey and [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, and [former CIA Director John] Brennan — and, excuse me, the man that sat at this desk, President Obama, got caught spying on my campaign with Biden. Biden and Obama, and they got caught spying on the campaign,” Trump said.


Trump’s comments reflect a remarkable softening in his views about the man he once deemed a “traitor” worthy of execution. Republican lawmakers and the Justice Department’s inspector general recently highlighted misuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the secret FISA court to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page. “Snowden is one of the people they talk about. They talk about numerous people, but he is certainly one of the people that they do talk about,” Trump said on Thursday, before turning to his aides. “I guess the DOJ is looking to extradite him right now? … It’s certainly something I could look at. Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side.”

Read more …

How does one define “lawful” in the UK these days? Who would do the defining?

Chaos In Assange Case Management Hearing (DEAssange)

Attorney General William Barr issued a replacement extradition request just two days after Julian Assange’s defence team submitted their full and final evidence for the extradition hearing due in September, Westminster Magistrates court heard today (Friday 14th August). The clear attempt to blindside the defence by US Attorney General William Barr emerged as the court heard Julian Assange has not even seen the warmed-over extradition request, which contains no new charges but introduces new narrative content that the defence argued should be excluded from the proceedings. The defence argued the replacement indictment introduced alleged conduct from 2010 and 2011 which the US had investigated almost a decade ago, and could therefore not plausibly be argued to be new information to the US investigation.

The defence considered the move by the prosecution to bring in the replacement extradition request at the eleventh hour “astonishing”, given the case had been prepared over the course of one year and was well into substantive hearings which began in February. The defence was given a week to decide whether to ask for the September hearing to be adjourned, or to proceed as planned on 7 September. And that was only part of the chaotic hearing in which Belmarsh prison did not initially bring Assange to the video room to join proceedings, the US prosecution failed to turn up (having got the time of the hearing wrong), and every journalist and NGO observer that tried to dial-in was directed to another trial entirely and never made it into the Assange hearing.

That left a mere of handful of journalists that could gain access to the court to report proceedings. ‘This was the worst hearing so far’, said Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-chief . ‘The US government seem to want to change the indictment every time the court meet, but without the defence or Julian himself seeing the relevant documents’. Even now Julian Assange has not been re-arrested under the replacement extradition request. Instead the re-arrest will take place on the first day of the hearings. The reissued request appears to serve a PR purpose since it contains no new charges though still threatens Assange with 175 years in jail.

Julian Assange’s legal team have been denied in-person access to their client since March. Today was the first day Julian Assange was able to have a short video link meeting with his lawyers, prior to the hearing. Belmarsh prison denied Assange any facilities to talk to his lawyers after the hearing ended. Julian Assange has not seen his family and young children since March.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you for your kind support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 062020
 


F.A. Loumis Independence Day 1906

 

Just 20% Of Coronavirus Cases Responsible For 80% Of Transmissions (RT)
Hydroxychloroquine Does Not Cure COVID19, Say Drug Trial Chiefs (G.)
A Second Major COVID Study Is Retracted (Newser)
UK Care Home Residents Face Steep Hike In Fees (BBC)
Bill Gates Dismisses ‘Bizarre’ COVID19 Conspiracy Theories (RT)
Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms (NPR)
Surprise: The BLS Admits Another Phony Jobs Report (Mish)
Biden Clinches Nomination, Readies For Fall Showdown With Trump (JTN)
Biden: 10-15% of Americans Are ‘Not Very Good People’ (JTN)
Lisa Page Is The New National Security And Legal Analyst At NBC News
Senate Approves 35 Subpoenas for Obama Administration Officials (NBC)
Letter From Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, ‘I Am Not Done’ (SAC)

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases for June 5 at + 130,529. Another record.

 

Note: I count not from midnight GMT to midnight GMT, as they do, but from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT.

My count over the past 24 hours is over + 147,000 cases.

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 25,393
• Brazil + 30,136
• Russia + 8,855
• India + 9,944
• Pakistan + 8,719
• Mexico + 4,346

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 6,871,728 (+ 147,632 from yesterday’s 6,724,096)

Deaths 398,663 (+ 5,110 from yesterday’s 393,553)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute

 

 

Superspreaders are simply people stupid enough to socialize a lot in long lasting events in closed spaces. That’s why “..roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.”

Just 20% Of Coronavirus Cases Responsible For 80% Of Transmissions (RT)

The latest research into so-called “superspreader events” could inform public policy across the world, to help fight the widely feared “second wave” of coronavirus infections, but without the need for strict lockdowns. A “superspreader” is an infected person who transmits a virus to a large number of people. A growing body of evidence has found that superspreaders account for the vast majority of coronavirus transmissions. In the latest study on superspreaders, epidemiologists in Hong Kong analyzed over 1,000 coronavirus cases between January 23 and April 28, and found that just 20 percent of cases were responsible for 80 percent of total transmissions, data which could impact policy around the world. About 350 of the cases were community transmissions, while the rest were imported cases.

More than 50 percent of the community transmission cases were traced back to just six superspreader events, all of which involved indoor social gatherings that lasted several hours. “Superspreading events are happening more than we expected, more than what could be explained by chance. The frequency of superspreading is beyond what we could have imagined,” Ben Cowling, one of the study’s co-authors said. The study also found that 70 percent of infected people did not pass the virus to anyone else, further highlighting the need for a highly targeted response to defeating the pandemic. The work has yet to undergo peer review, but joins a growing body of work indicating the particular method of transmission which has spread the coronavirus to every corner of the globe, with disastrous consequences. If corroborated, however, this research could inform future public policy across the world.

Among the Hong Kong superspreading events studied, each ‘superspreader’ coronavirus carrier infected three times the average infection rate. The majority of the superspreader cases were traced back to a wedding, an event at a temple, and several bars in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong district. “You might be wondering if our study, or the experience of Hong Kong, with its small number of total infections, is more broadly representative. We think so,” Cowling wrote, referring to a widely studied phenomenon known as the “80-20 rule” or the “Pareto principle,” in which, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.

[..] One model from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine took it one step further and suggested just 10 percent of coronavirus cases may have accounted for at least 80 percent of transmissions worldwide. Similar results were found in coronavirus research conducted in Israel and China.

Read more …

Two “studies” embarrassingly flattened but they just keep on coming.

Again, nobody of any importance to the discussion has ever claimed HCQ cures COVID19. Why keep referring to that? It is not a vaccine, there is no claim to that. Remember, meanwhile remdesivir is being touted because it MIGHT shorten hospital stays by a few days.

As for this trial: there is no data in this piece on the stage at which patients wre given HCQ. If they were already severely sick, it would have been too late. Also, no mention of zinc.

Why do all these medical professionals volunteer to look ridiculous?

Hydroxychloroquine Does Not Cure COVID19, Say Drug Trial Chiefs (G.)

Hydroxychloroquine does not work against Covid-19 and should not be given to any more hospital patients around the world, say the leaders of the biggest and best-designed trial of the drug, which experts will hope finally settle the question. “If you are admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine,” said Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the Recovery trial and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University. “It doesn’t work.” Many countries have permitted emergency use of the drug for Covid-19 patients in hospitals, following claims from a few doctors, including Didier Raoult in France, that it was a cure, and the ensuing clamour from the public. President Donald Trump backed the drug, saying it should be given to patients, and later said he was personally taking it to protect himself from the virus.

Landray said the hype should now stop. “It is being touted as a game-changer, a wonderful drug, a breakthrough. This is an incredibly important result, because worldwide we can stop using a drug that is useless.” The first results from the Recovery trial, which has been testing seven therapies for Covid-19, swiftly followed the retraction of a paper in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday night claiming that hydroxychloroquine was linked to an increased risk of death in Covid-19 patients. The authors of the paper withdrew it after the US company Surgisphere refused to cooperate with an independent audit of the data it had supplied for the study.

Supporters of the drug hailed the paper’s retraction, but the World Health Organization and countries that have authorised use of the drug are now likely to change their position. The Recovery trial is a “gold standard” randomised controlled trial, designed to find an answer to a question by recruiting patients in similar circumstances either to take the drug or to take a placebo. Their doctors and the researchers do not know which ones are taking the genuine trial drug.

[..] Since March, when the trial began, a total of 1,542 patients had been randomised to receive hydroxychloroquine, while 3,132 patients were randomised to receive only normal care. Over 28 days, 25.7% of patients on hydroxychloroquine died, compared with 23.5% of the others. The difference is not statistically significant – it could have arisen by chance. But the clear conclusion was that hydroxychloroquine did not work, said the researchers.

Read more …

“.. I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use..”

Fire the man, defund him. He never saw the data or the sources, he simply believed what he was fed because it served his purposes and those of his funders.

A Second Major COVID Study Is Retracted (Newser)

First, the esteemed Lancet medical journal retracted a major study on Thursday about hydroxychloroquine. Then, the New England Journal of Medicine did the same with another big study related to COVID-19 and blood pressure drugs. Both retractions have a common denominator: They relied on data supplied by a US analytics company called Surgisphere, which is coming under increasing scrutiny over the credibility of its international database. The Lancet study had cast doubt on the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, reports the Wall Street Journal. The retraction is now renewing the hope that the drugs (highly touted by President Trump) can work safely after all, and the World Health Organization already has said it would resume trials, notes the New York Times.


“It is now clear to me that in my hope to contribute to this research during a time of great need, I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” says Harvard’s Mandeep Mehra, who was the lead author of both studies. “For that, and for all the disruptions—both directly and indirectly—I am truly sorry.” Both studies listed as a co-author Surgisphere founder/CEO Sapan Desai, whose name appears only on the NEMJ retraction. His company claims to have collected patient data from hospitals all over the world, but now red flags are going up. The Journal, for instance, got in touch with a dozen big US hospitals, and none shared patient data with the company. Surgisphere previously said it couldn’t name the 671 hospitals in the Lancet study out of privacy concerns. The controversy illustrates the rushed state of research amid the pandemic, notes the Times.

Read more …

It’s cheaper to die, gramps.

UK Care Home Residents Face Steep Hike In Fees (BBC)

Some older people in care homes are being asked to pay more than £100 a week extra in fees to cover the costs of coronavirus. Age UK said residents who pay their own fees are facing the bills to pay for protective gear and rising staff costs. It adds “insult to injury” for people who have “been through the mill” during the pandemic, the charity said. The government said it provided £600m for infection control in care homes and £3.2bn for wider council services. Care home residents who fund themselves have effectively subsidised the care system for many years, paying far more for their support than those funded by their local authority.


Age UK says on average these residents are charged just over £850 pounds a week, and some are now seeing their fees rise by 15%. It is not clear how many care homes have asked self-funding residents to pay more. There are 400,000 people estimated to be living in care homes in England, with 167,000 believed to be self-funders and 45,000 part self-funders. Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said older people and their families have “been through the mill” in recent months as outbreaks occurred in one in three care homes. “It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.”

Read more …

The bogeyman speaketh. Extreme fear ensues.

Bill Gates Dismisses ‘Bizarre’ COVID19 Conspiracy Theories (RT)

“It’s almost hard to deny this stuff because it’s so stupid or strange that even to repeat it gives it credibility,” Gates said on numerous conspiracy theories swirling around him since the coronavirus crisis began and he became an outspoken champion for a vaccine. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has just recently pledged $1.6 billion to vaccine alliance group Gavi, which will use the money to immunize children in poorer nations. Conspiracy theories linking Gates to the origins of Covid-19 or arguing he wants to track citizens through microchips under the guise of ensuring they are vaccinated against the virus were mentioned over a million times before May, according to Zignal Labs, a media analytics company.

The theories continue to swirl around social media and a poll from Yahoo News/YouGov from late last month even found 28 percent of respondents believed Gates wanted to use the coronavirus as an excuse to track and store their information. Among Republican respondents, that percentage was even higher. “I’ve never been involved in any microchip type thing,” Gates said, calling the poll results “concerning.” He did admit “data systems” would be a good idea to track a Covid-19 vaccine, but “there’s no chips or anything like that.” Gates has thrown his support behind a “national tracking system.” Concerns and theories about Gates’ influence have only intensified as his standing in the world has increased.

Already the second richest man on the planet with a net worth of about $100 billion, he is about to become the largest donor to the WHO, a position previously held by the US before President Donald Trump cut ties with the international group over their handling of the pandemic. In the last two years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has accounted for over 12 percent of the WHO’s budget, which equates to approximately $530 million, according to Devex. It is followed by Gavi alliance (8.18 percent) that the foundation also sponsors. The US gave slightly more in that time frame with payments equalling around $890 million. Lawrence Gostin the director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex the potential of a private foundation becoming the largest donor to the organization could be “transformational.” “It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda,” he said.

Read more …

Storm warning.

Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms (NPR)

Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people’s credit getting destroyed. But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long. The problem is that these efforts aim to create a financial bridge to the future for people who’ve lost their income in the pandemic — but the bridge is only half-built.

[..] millions of people are getting help from all kinds of lenders. According to the latest available numbers from the credit bureau TransUnion, about 3 million auto loans and 15 million credit card accounts are in some kind of program to let people skip or make partial payments. Those are probably low estimates. According to the analytics company Black Knight, 4.75 million homeowners — or 9% of all mortgages — have entered into forbearance plans. Lawmakers don’t want these delayed payments to hurt credit scores. Congress mandated that people who were current on their payments before the outbreak should still be reported as current on their payments while in a hardship program. And that appears to working for now.

“What we’re seeing consistently across the board is actually credit scores are moving upward,” says Matthew Komos, a vice president at TransUnion. He says that’s both on a month-to-month and year-over-year basis. But looking ahead, advocates say people could run into big trouble because the terms of these hardship programs can be all over the map. “Credit cards, auto loans, installment loans, there are no federal guidelines,” says Aracely Panameño, a director at the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. She says when it comes time to make up for all those skipped payments, there are federal rules for repayment plans for home mortgages but not for many other types of loans. So she says lawmakers need to protect people. Otherwise, she says, lenders could make demands beyond what people can afford. “You must have a capacity to catch up with your payments in an affordable way,” Panameño says.

Read more …

Hard to believe the BLS is still paid for their reports.

Surprise: The BLS Admits Another Phony Jobs Report (Mish)

BLS Admits Another Error “In the household survey, individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force based on their answers to a series of questions about their activities during the survey reference week (May 10th through May 16th). Workers who indicate they were not working during the entire survey reference week and expect to be recalled to their jobs should be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. In May, a large number of persons were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. However, there was also a large number of workers who were classified as employed but absent from work. As was the case in March and April, household survey interviewers were instructed to classify employed persons absent from work due to coronavirus-related business closures as unemployed on temporary layoff.”

“However, it is apparent that not all such workers were so classified. BLS and the Census Bureau are investigating why this misclassification error continues to occur and are taking additional steps to address the issue. If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to “other reasons” (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical May) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally adjusted basis). However, according to usual practice, the data from the household survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are taken to reclassify survey responses.”


Job Revisions The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for March was revised down by 492,000, from -881,000 to -1.4 million, and the change for April was revised down by 150,000, from -20.5 million to -20.7 million. With these revisions, employment in March and April combined was 642,000 lower than previously reported. [..] Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

The official unemployment rate is 13.3%. However, if you start counting all the people who want a job but gave up, all the people with part-time jobs that want a full-time job, all the people who dropped off the unemployment rolls because their unemployment benefits ran out, etc., you get a closer picture of what the unemployment rate is. That number is in the last row labeled U-6. U-6 is much higher at 21.2%. Both numbers would be way higher still, were it not for millions dropping out of the labor force over the past few years.

It’s important to put the jobs numbers into proper perspective. In the household survey, if you work as little as 1 hour a week, even selling trinkets on eBay, you are considered employed. In the household survey, if you work three part-time jobs, 12 hours each, the BLS considers you a full-time employee. In the payroll survey, three part-time jobs count as three jobs. The BLS attempts to factor this in, but they do not weed out duplicate Social Security numbers. The potential for double-counting jobs in the payroll survey is large.


The payroll survey (sometimes called the establishment survey) is the headline jobs number, generally released the first Friday of every month. It is based on employer reporting. The household survey is a phone survey conducted by the BLS. It measures unemployment and many other factors. If you work one hour, you are employed. If you don’t have a job and fail to look for one, you are not considered unemployed, rather, you drop out of the labor force. Looking for jobs on Monster does not count as “looking for a job”. You need an actual interview or send out a resume. These distortions artificially lower the unemployment rate, artificially boost full-time employment, and artificially increase the payroll jobs report every month.

Read more …

The article says “Biden said”. But we have seen 1000 times now that Biden is incapable of stringing more than 3 words together (one more time below).

So it’s not “Biden said”, but “Biden’s handlers said”.

Biden Clinches Nomination, Readies For Fall Showdown With Trump (JTN)

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday night officially clinched the Democratic nomination for president, setting up a fall showdown with President Trump. Biden secured enough delegates in Tuesday’s round of primaries to finish with 1,993, two more than needed to secure the nomination at the party’s convention in Milwaukee in August, The Associated Press announced. The former vice president and senator immediately issued a statement laying out his vision for the fall campaign.


“It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded — and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party,” Biden said. “I am going to spend every day between now and November 3rd fighting to earn the votes of Americans all across this great country so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation, and make sure that as we rebuild our economy, everyone comes along.”

Read more …

A comment made after calling Trump a “divisive leader”. Biden trying for Hillary 2.0.

Biden: 10-15% of Americans Are ‘Not Very Good People’ (JTN)

Presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says that 10-15% of Americans are “not very good people.”Biden made the comment late Thursday during an online campaign event that he was having with black supporters, moderated by actor Don Cheadle. The conversation centered on race relations in America in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.


The former vice president was explaining his belief that President Trump has been a divisive leader and that while “the vast majority” of Americans are honorable people, “there are probably anywhere from 10 to 15% of the people out there that are just not very good people.” Biden has been criticized for his tendency to make gaffes during public appearances. This comment, in particular, is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s widely panned statement on half of Trump supporters being a “basket of deplorables,” whose ideas and actions were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic”.

Read more …

Life imitates Bizarro World.

Robert Mueller’s office deleted 19,000 text messages between Lisa Page and her lover Peter Strzok. Why?

Lisa Page Is The New National Security And Legal Analyst At NBC News (DC)

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page is the new national security and legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, the network announced Friday. “We’re very happy to welcome to our network Lisa Page, former FBI lawyer who worked as special counsel for Robert Mueller’s legal team,” Nicolle Wallace said. “She worked on the Russian government disinformation probe and on the Hillary Clinton email investigation.” Page was discovered in 2017 to be having an affair with former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation before he was removed for showing bias against President Donald Trump in text messages exchanged with Page.


Thousands of the lovers’ text messages, which were sent on agency-issued phones, were released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI in 2017. Page sued the DOJ and FBI for releasing her text messages, alleging that it was “illegal.” Page testified in July 2018 that the FBI did not see strong evidence of Russian collusion with President Donald Trump 10 months after beginning its investigation. She worked on the Mueller probe before evidence of her affair led to her dismissal from the team. Page spoke in an interview with The Daily Beast in December 2019, asserting that “there’s no fathomable way” she “committed any crime at all.”

Read more …

It’ll be a fun summer, but more bizarre than you’ve ever imagined.

Senate Approves 35 Subpoenas for Obama Administration Officials (NBC)

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday authorized the issuing of nearly three dozen subpoenas of Obama administration officials as part of Senate Republicans’ investigation into the origins of the FBI and special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. The Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, met to consider more than 50 additional subpoenas, but postponed action until next week. Republicans on the panels are looking into flaws in FISA application process, the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials, including ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign more broadly — actions that President Donald Trump has collectively dubbed “Obamagate” and dismissed as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”


[..] The Homeland Security and Judiciary committees are considering issuing subpoenas for former CIA Director John Brennan, ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former Obama chief of staff Dennis McDonough, former national security adviser Susan Rice and ex-FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The Judiciary panel is also considering subpoenas for current FBI Director Christopher Wray and former Justice Department officials, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Judiciary member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Democrats on the panel to consider how they would feel if the situation were reversed and the Trump administration were looking into the former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Read more …

“..if the United States wants to survive the onslaught of socialism..

Letter From Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, ‘I Am Not Done’ (SAC)

Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who has been fighting the courts to have his case thrown out, said “I am not done’ in an email to a journalist that was posted Friday on Twitter that “I am not done.” Flynn’s inference is important, as evidence discovered this year by the Justice Department has revealed that the three star general was allegedly set up by bureau agents investigating President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and their debunked theory that the campaign conspired with Russia. The Justice Department asked the court last month to drop the charges against Flynn and people from all across the country are fighting on his behalf. Flynn hasn’t spoken publicly in years. In fact, the first time people heard from the three star general was when he withdrew his guilty plea months ago, through his lawyer, Sidney Powell.


“This letter means that Lt. Gen. Flynn has not given up on the country and neither should you,” a very close friend of Flynn’s told me on Friday. The friend said it was in response to the growing unrest in the country and a warning that Americans need to be involved in the political process. He wrote the email to Scott Kesterson, a documentary filmmaker and journalist that spent 3 and half years in Afghanistan. Flynn warned ‘if the United States wants to survive the onslaught of socialism, if we are to continue to enjoy self-government, to secure the God-given individual blessings of liberty for ourselves, for our families, then good Americans must accept that each has a moral obligation to participate in the political life of our country.”

Read more …

 

 

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May 172020
 


Gerry Cranham They all fall in the round I call 1963

 

There was this comment at the Automatic Earth yesterday that got me thinking. It was sort of wrapped in a bit of -more- innuendo about health officials not getting the results they were looking for in COVID19 numbers, as if the whole virus event is some goal-seeked conspiracy. You’ll be familiar with it by now.

I said back in the day that measures like lockdowns can’t last long, because people are social animals. You would just have hoped that when they were finally, far too late, decided upon, that countries, states, communities, would have made the best of them. But it’s been, and more importantly will be, an awful mess, other than in a few places.

And I did say that too, that the so-called leadership in the world today is good at declaring a lockdown, albeit too late, but not at anything else, not at timing it, not at executing it, let alone at managing the way out of it in reopening societies. It is all so predictable.

But people have been solidly dug into their trenches now, after 2 months, and they’ve done so much reading, and watching pundits, that they’re no longer looking for news, they’re looking for opinions, ones that match their own darkest notions. We’ve come to the point that if there’s nothing suspicious going on, then that’s mighty suspicious.

 

And there’s plenty of such opinions, and plenty among them that lay the blame for freedoms and livelihoods lost somewhere, anywhere. So yeah, in that sense it’s time to reopen, the mental health sense. But not, unfortunately, in the physical health sense. The virus is still prevalent in most communities and many a community will pay a steep price.

But nobody is aware of it, it seems, because nobody really knows what will happen. They’ve only all heard the clamoring for a return to normal. That there will be no return to normal is something nobody wants to tell them. How many people do you think know there’s never been a vaccine for a coronavirus? How many people know that there is no need for a vaccine?

Everyone’s been told to wait for a vaccine, which suits Big Pharma, which gets billions for something they don’t even need to deliver, just try, and it suits the politicians who can all say there’s nothing they can do to prevent more suffering until the magic pill shows up. They can say they opened up because there was so much pressure on them.

But yes, that comment. It made me think that perhaps people don’t understand viruses very well, and also that it’s a very good lead for a description of how they “function”.

 

Is this a fiercely contagious pathogen or not? If it’s so contagious, then it isn’t particularly lethal. If it’s incredibly lethal, then it isn’t so contagious.

 

First of all, remember a virus doesn’t think or plan or have a strategy, none of that. If conditions are right a virus will multiply. And while doing so, it will mutate. These things happen in virustime, counted in time sequences as infinitesimal as the size of a virus itself. And one in a billion or so a mutation will stick for more than two nanoseconds, because it offers an advantage to the virus.

That’s how it gets to spread from, first, animal hosts within the same species, and then, in very rare circumstances, to other species, like humans. And even then it’s exceedingly rare that a virus could do harm to a human being. The odds of that happening are maybe one in a trillion or something, I doubt anyone could tell you, including virologists.

The virus “wants” one thing: to multiply. Just like any other being, including us. And being both very lethal and very contagious doesn’t help it do that (not that it’s trying). Earlier well-known coronaviruses like SARS and MERS got that balance wrong. Because that’s what it is: a trade off between lethality and contagiousness. Neither can be too high.

SARS is noted by the WHO for a case fatality rate (CFR) of 9.6%. At that percentage, with the lethality and contagiousness it had/has, the virus lacks the time to jump from old host to new host, especially when existing and potential hosts are being isolated. MERS had a 34% CFR, and obviously didn’t prevail long.

MERS never even really left Saudi Arabia (and appears to have never achieved human-to-human transmission). SARS did get to other countries, I remember especially Canada, but that whole epidemic was over in 7 months.

 

You need the right amount of contagiousness combined with the right amount of lethality in order to have a pandemic. Jump from host to host, but not too fast, because in no time every potential host would be infected and develop antibodies (herd immunity). And not too lethal, because not enough “old hosts” would be left to infect enough “new hosts”.

The present SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus appears to have struck a delicate balance. People may say it’s not all that contagious, and it’s not so lethal, but it’s those qualities that enabled it to be a pandemic. One thing it hasn’t achieved yet is becoming endemic, and we would be wise to keep it that way. But the odds that we will have a vaccine before we can do that are slim.

Where to go from here is very opaque. People shout out for the world to be opened, but all they will get is a small part of that world. Mass events, bars, restaurants, subways, planes, and so much more, can no longer function the way they did. As long as the virus is out there, it may be ‘only’ modestly contagious and lethal, but enough that people will be willing to avoid many things that were considered normal before 2020.

That will lead to huge changes in society, enormous amounts of jobs that will not return. If we fail to adapt to those things as badly as we failed in our lockdowns, the changes can only become even larger, even deeper, until there may be little left that we still readily recognize.

There are still very few, if any, countries where everyone is tested for SARS-CoV-2. We will need to test everyone at least once a week, and twice on Sundays. And isolate whoever tests positive. It didn’t need to come to this, but we all screwed up something awful, except for a very small number of countries and societies.

 

Get ready for the next round; there is no other way out. And if we let the virus become endemic, and it returns in waves of every year or so, the testing regimen will have to continue too. Until there is a vaccine, but that may never come. Or we reach herd immunity, but that is merely a fickle concept used mostly for cattle and may never come either. Or only at the cost of millions of lives.

We need to prevent the virus from “finding” new hosts. It is that easy. And there are ways to do it. But they don’t rhyme with “I won’t give up my freedom for your safety”. If that’s the route we take, we’re all going to live in very small and separated worlds. And what does “freedom” mean anymore then?

It’s obviously much easier to join the crowd and claim Bill Gates wants to force vaccinate us all, and the elites want to enslave us; and no doubt there’s a few psychos with crazy dreams. But maybe just maybe this is, or should be, more about us, about what we do, what powers we have, and what we do with those.

If the elites, or whoever else, wants to use the virus to make you their bitch, don’t let them. But do you really believe that letting a virus with just the right mix of lethal and contagious, run wild and undetected in your society, is the way to achieve that? Or might it be better to wear a face mask in public for a bit and get tested, or test yourself, until the virus is gone?

If you choose door number one, don’t you agree that you should blame yourself for that choice, not the so-called elites? Maybe you should take responsibility for your own lives, not blame whatever goes wrong on others. Maybe that’s a higher degree of freedom than saying we can’t do anything about it anyway, so let 50 million people die as long as I am free to go to McDonalds.

And you would be playing into Bill Gates’s hands to boot if you do that, provided you believe that he wants to depopulate the planet. How’s that work, he’s your bogeyman, him and the elites, and therefore you give them what they want? They want to depopulate, so you say sure, let the virus roam, while you could prevent it from doing that?

You might want to look up “freedom” in a dictionary.

 

 

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May 162020
 


John French Sloan Backyards, Greenwich Village 1926

 

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)
French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)
How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)
China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’
Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)
Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)
FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)
Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)
Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)
Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)
Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

 

 

• US in past 24 hours: 26,337 new cases, 1,680 new deaths. Total deaths 88,507.

• Russia dives below 10K new cases for the 2nd time in 14 days with 9,200. China reports 8.

 

 

• Sweden on May 15 had 625 new cases and 117 new deaths. Total 29,207 cases, 3,646 deaths.
• Denmark had zero new deaths and a total of 537.
• Deaths per million: Australia 3.92. Sweden: 346.5
• Finns and Danes are apprehensive about opening the border to Sweden because of Swedish coronavirus protocols

 

 

 

Note: total daily new cases are rising towards 100,000, while deaths are getting lower

Cases 4,645,386 (+ 99,316 from yesterday’s 4,546,070)

Deaths 308,980 (+ 5,117 from yesterday’s 303,863)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

You would think you’d want to preserve those at all cost, lest you lose a view of the virus’s history.

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)

China on Friday confirmed it had ordered unauthorised laboratories to destroy samples of the new coronavirus in the early stage of the outbreak, but said it was done for biosafety reasons. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly said that Beijing declined to provide virus samples taken from patients when the contagion began in China late last year, and that Chinese authorities had destroyed early samples. Liu Dengfeng, an official with the National Health Commission’s science and education department, said this was done at unauthorised labs to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens”. “The remarks made by some US officials were taken out of context and intended to confuse,” he said at a briefing in Beijing.

When the pneumonia-like illness was first reported in Wuhan, “national-level professional institutes” were working to identify the pathogen that was causing it, Liu said. “Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II – highly pathogenic – and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,” he said. Liu added that this was in line with China’s standard practice for handling highly pathogenic samples, which should not be done by labs that do not meet the requirements.

[..] According to a provincial health commission notice issued in February, those handling virus samples were ordered not to provide them to any institutions or labs without approval. Unauthorised labs that obtained samples in the early stage of the outbreak had to destroy them or send them to a municipal centre for disease control and prevention for storage. Chinese magazine Caixin reported in February that some hospitals had sent samples to private gene sequencing companies to identify the mystery virus early in the outbreak. Some of those results came back as early as December 27 and were identified as being from the same coronavirus family as Sars, the report said. One company had been told to destroy all virus samples, according to the report.

[..] The health commission also rejected claims by US officials that China denied a request by the WHO to visit the high-security Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of conspiracy theories that the virus was engineered or escaped from the lab. Li Mingzhu, a senior official with the health commission’s international cooperation department, said the WHO did not make any request to visit the lab during two trips to Wuhan, in January and February. “The WHO has never made a request to visit a certain laboratory, so the statement that the WHO was denied a visit to the Wuhan laboratory is untrue,” Li said.

Read more …

One reason why you would want to preserve samples.

French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)

In what would mark a massive shift in the timeline of coronavirus spread, French researchers believe there is evidence coronavirus may have been in Europe as early as November 2019. X-rays obtained exclusively by NBC News show two patients with symptoms in their lungs consistent with the novel coronavirus dated Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, months before COVID-19 was believed to be spreading in the country. Researchers from Colmar, France, announced the X-rays last week and are working to confirm whether the patients had coronavirus. France had originally believed its first case to have been Jan. 24.


The study comes in conjunction with a study by other French scientists who discovered last week that a coronavirus patient had been treated in the country in December. The doctors from the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis said a sample taken from a 42-year-old fishmonger admitted to the emergency room on Dec. 27 had tested positive for the coronavirus. Similarly, the U.S. recently discovered coronavirus had spread among citizens earlier than previously expected when a medical examiner’s report reclassified a California woman’s death in February as being due to COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — three weeks prior to what was originally believed to be the first U.S. coronavirus death.

Read more …

All winning countries have been told at some stage that they were overreacting.

How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)

Despite a long border with China and a population of 97 million people, Vietnam has recorded only just over 300 cases of Covid-19 on its soil and not a single death. Nearly a month has passed since its last community transmission and the country is already starting to open up. Experts say that unlike other countries now seeing infections and deaths on a huge scale, Vietnam saw a small window to act early on and used it fully. But though cost-effective, its intrusive and labour intensive approach has its drawbacks and experts say it may be too late for most other countries to learn from its success. “When you’re dealing with these kinds of unknown novel potentially dangerous pathogens, it’s better to overreact,” says Dr Todd Pollack of Harvard’s Partnership for Health Advancement in Vietnam in Hanoi.

Recognising that its medical system would soon become overwhelmed by even mild spread of the virus, Vietnam instead chose prevention early, and on a massive scale. By early January, before it had any confirmed cases, Vietnam’s government was initiating “drastic action” to prepare for this mysterious new pneumonia which had at that point killed two people in Wuhan. When the first virus case was confirmed on 23 January – a man who had travelled from Wuhan to visit his son in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s emergency plan was in action. “It very, very quickly acted in ways which seemed to be quite extreme at the time but were subsequently shown to be rather sensible,” says Prof Guy Thwaites, director of Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, which works with the government on its infectious disease programmes.

Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places. Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way. “This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past,” says Prof Thwaites, from Sars in 2003 to avian influenza in 2010 and large outbreaks of measles and dengue.

Read more …

The Global Times piece itself is too over the top.

China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’

China is ready to put U.S. companies in an “unreliable entity list,” as part of countermeasures against Washington’s move to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies, the Global Times reported on Friday. The measures include launching investigations and imposing restrictions on U.S. companies such as Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Qualcomm Inc as well as suspending purchase of Boeing Co airplanes, the report said here citing a source. The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. While the Global Times is not an official mouthpiece of the party, its views are believed to reflect those of its leaders. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Commerce Department said it was amending an export rule to “strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.”

Read more …

But no M4A.

Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, progressives have argued that a single-payer health care system would prevent people who lose their jobs from going without health care and further exacerbating the public health crisis. “Medicare for All means never losing your health insurance if you lose your job,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on March 26, the day the Labor Department announced that a record 3.3 million people had filed for unemployment insurance. (The unemployment figure has since risen to 17 million, and it is expected to keep increasing.) But the Democratic leadership in Congress, none of whom are among the 118 cosponsors of the Medicare for All Act, have embraced a different approach.

The leaders are planning to include a measure in the next coronavirus package to expand subsidies for the COBRA health insurance program, allowing people who lose their jobs to keep the same insurance plan that their employer had made available to them. Under the plan, which was viewed by Vox, the federal government would pay the full cost of the premiums to private health insurance companies to keep laid-off people on their plans. The COBRA expansion would not provide coverage to people who become unemployed but were not receiving coverage through their employers. It would also not cover people’s deductibles.

“The Democrats could push to simply expand Medicaid, but instead they are pushing new subsidies for private health insurance companies,” David Sirota, a journalist and former Sanders campaign staffer wrote on Twitter. [..] The Democrats’ proposal mirrors a recommendation put forward recently by the health insurance industry. Less than a week before the Democrats floated their plan, the presidents and CEOs of Blue Cross Blue Shield and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s top lobbying group, sent a list of policy proposals to Congress including a recommendation that it provide full federal subsidization of COBRA premiums.

Read more …

Yeah, let’s worry about NOT having access to a drug that does NOT work.

Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc’s two clinical studies of its potential coronavirus treatment remdesivir will wind down by the end of May, closing off a path of patient access to the antiviral medication, according to U.S. researchers involved in the studies. The drug was given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1, but hospitals are concerned about access. “We would like to see equitable and transparent distribution of this very precious resource,” Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told Reuters. Gilead’s studies – one in patients with severe COVID-19 and the other in moderate disease – have enrolled around 8,000 subjects, according to FDA statistics.

The trials are “open label” meaning they do not compare the treatment to a placebo and participants know they are getting the drug. Interest in Gilead’s drug has been high given some promising early data and the lack of approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 4 million people and killed more than 305,000 worldwide. Preliminary results from a trial conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that remdesivir cut hospital stays by 31% compared to a placebo. The NIH is now studying remdesivir alone compared to remdesivir in combination with Olumiant, an anti-inflammatory drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis and sold by Eli Lilly and Co.

Remdesivir is still available on a compassionate use basis for pregnant women or children under the age of 18, but most COVID-19 patients will soon have access only under the emergency use authorization. “We participate in the Gilead clinical trials here at Tufts,” Dr. Boucher said. “We were notified that they will wind down … no later than the end of May.” Gilead told Tufts it is transitioning to product distribution under the emergency use authorization.

Read more …

The tests used at the White House don’t appear very accurate, either. Can we shift some of the billions spent on elusive vaccines to better testing?

FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a coronavirus testing program promoted by billionaire Bill Gates and Seattle health officials pending reviews. The program sought to send test kits to the homes of people both healthy and sick to try to bring the country to the level of testing officials say is necessary before states can begin safely reopening. The program, which had already gone through thousands of tests, found dozens of cases that had been previously undiagnosed. The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) said on its website that the FDA had asked it to pause testing while it receives additional authorizations, but maintained its procedures are safe.

“[T]he Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently clarified its guidance for home-based, self-collected samples to test for COVID-19. We have been notified that a separate federal emergency use authorization (EUA) is required to return results for self-collected tests,” the program said. “The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization.” The pause is emblematic of the fractured national response to the coronavirus, with federal officials proposing guidelines but leaving much of the implementation and administering of tests to states and localities.

Concerns have recently arisen over the reliability of coronavirus antibody tests, which can gauge if someone previously had the illness. However, the SCAN tests do not test for antibodies, and the program said it is working to get back up and running. “We are actively working to address their questions and resume testing as soon as possible,” the program said. Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft who has dedicated much of his personal fortune to global health issues, said the program could be an effective tool in guiding public health responses. “Not only will it help improve our understanding of the outbreak in Seattle, it will also provide valuable information about the virus for other communities around the world,” Gates wrote in a blog post this week.

Read more …

This just about has it all: Bill Gates, forced vaccinations, nanochip implants. Only thing missing is a secret plan to depopulate the planet,

Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)

On Friday, Donald Trump announced his appointment of Moncef Slaoui, a former executive with vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, to lead “Operation Warp Speed”, Trump’s plan to fast track the development of vaccines for COVID-19. Slaoui will serve in a volunteer position, assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command. According to the Trump administration, Operation Warp Speed program is focusing on four vaccines, with the hopes of testing and producing 100 million doses by October 2020, 200 million by December, and 300 million doses by January. At Friday’s press conference, Slaoui said he believes the goal of vaccines by January 2021 is a “credible goal”.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was more adamant, stating that, “winning matters and we will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine”. Operation Warp Speed and the calls for public-private partnerships mimic the National Institutes of Health’s recent call for bringing together pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The NIH plan, Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, emphasizes “a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.”

The appointment of Slaoui follows previous statements regarding Trump’s desire to have vaccines available to Americans by the fall. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we’ve geared up the military,” Trump said Thursday afternoon. Trump also told the Fox Business Network that because of the “massive job to give this vaccine” the military is now being mobilized. “We’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” Trump concluded.

At Friday’s press conference Trump said his team has been working 24 hours a day to develop treatments for COVID-19. Despite the heavy focus on vaccines, Trump did state that his administration is working on other treatments, including “therapeutics”. “It’s not solely vaccine based, other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. I don’t people to think this is all dependent on a vaccine, but it would be tremendous,” Trump stated.

Read more …

Big Tech Rules.

Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)

The state of Ohio won’t deny unemployment benefits to people who refuse to work during the COVID-19 pandemic after people targeted the website it was using to track these workers, according to officials at the state’s Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state previously set up a “fraud” website encouraging employers to report those who refused to go back on the job, angering workers and labor rights advocates. State officials say they are now reconsidering the policy after Motherboard reported that a hacker created a script to flood the “COVID-19 Fraud” website with junk data, with the goal of making it impossible to process these claims.


“No benefits are being denied right now as a result of a person’s decision not to return to work while we continue to evaluate the policy,” ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall told Cleveland.com. “Because Ohio is still examining its policies in this area, no adjudications concerning a refusal to return to work have been initiated,” Bret Crow, a spokesperson for the department, told Motherboard in an email. The anonymous hacker previously told Motherboard they created the script as a form of direct action in support of working people. Ohio is among several states that have prematurely reopened against the advice of health experts, forcing many workers to return to their jobs and put themselves at risk of contracting the deadly virus.

Read more …

Or 88? Your guess is as good as theirs.

Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)

Coronavirus could cut global economic output by as much as $8.8 trillion, with the outlook having worsened significantly in the past month, the Asian Development Bank has said. The bank warned on Friday that Covid-19 would result in $5.8 trillion to $8.8 trillion of lost gross domestic product – or 6.4 per cent to 9.7 per cent of the world’s output. That’s more than twice as bad as the ADB forecast in April. However, government measures to mitigate the economic impact could reduce that figure by as much as 40 per cent, ADB’s chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said. As some countries, including the UK, lay out plans to ease lockdowns and get more people back to work, Mr Sawada cautioned that containing the pandemic is key to reducing the economic cost.


Testing, tracing, isolation, effective social distancing, and securing protective and medical equipment are all “essential elements” of containing Covid-19, he said. He also pointed to the importance of government support for struggling families and businesses to lessen the adverse effects of the pandemic and to avoid long-term consequences for growth and development. “Rapid and effective containment will allow for a faster recovery,” he said. [..] His words came as the UK government faced criticism from scientists over its easing of lockdown restrictions this week. The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned on Tuesday that the UK faces “inevitable” future lockdowns if the government implements its “potentially dangerous” coronavirus strategy.

Read more …

People who still see it as such will be badly surprised.

Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

Those sharing #Obamagate hashtags on Twitter would do best to avoid the hysterics we saw from Russian-collusion believers, but they have no reason to ignore the mounting evidence that suggests the Obama administration engaged in serious corruption. Democrats and their allies, who like to pretend that President Obama’s only scandalous act was wearing a tan suit, are going spend the next few months gaslighting the public by focusing on the most feverish accusations against Obama. But the fact is that we already have more compelling evidence that the Obama administration engaged in misconduct than we ever did for opening the Russian-collusion investigation.

It is not conspiracy-mongering to note that the investigation into Trump was predicated on an opposition-research document filled with fabulism and, most likely, Russian disinformation. We know the DOJ withheld contradictory evidence when it began spying on those in Trump’s orbit. We have proof that many of the relevant FISA-warrant applications — almost every one of them, actually — were based on “fabricated” evidence or riddled with errors. We know that members of the Obama administration, who had no genuine role in counterintelligence operations, repeatedly unmasked Trump’s allies. And we now know that, despite a dearth of evidence, the FBI railroaded Michael Flynn into a guilty plea so it could keep the investigation going.

What’s more, the larger context only makes all of these facts more damning. By 2016, the Obama administration’s intelligence community had normalized domestic spying. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, famously lied about snooping on American citizens to Congress. His CIA director, John Brennan, oversaw an agency that felt comfortable spying on the Senate, with at least five of his underlings breaking into congressional computer files. His attorney general, Eric Holder, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on a Fox News journalist, shopping his case to three judges until he found one who let him name the reporter as a co-conspirator. The Obama administration also spied on Associated Press reporters, which the news organization called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”

And though it’s been long forgotten, Obama officials were caught monitoring the conversations of members of Congress who opposed the Iran nuclear deal. What makes anyone believe these people wouldn’t create a pretext to spy on the opposition party? If anyone does, they shouldn’t, because on top of everything else, we know that Barack Obama was keenly interested in the Russian-collusion investigation’s progress.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1261378778464309249

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May 072020
 


Banksy – Sounthampton General Hospital – 2020

 

 

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)
Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)
Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)
Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)
Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)
California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)
UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)
All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)
COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)
New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)
Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased
China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)
Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)
OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)
Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

 

 

The US had +2,528 new coronavirus deaths yesterday, the highest number since April 21, bringing the national total to 74,799.

 

 

 

 

Cases 3,836,826 (+ 92,061 from yesterday’s 3,744,765)

Deaths 265,366 (+ 6,482 from yesterday’s 258,884)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The FT has a section, Coronavirus: free to read, with a few good graphs.

They look at excess deaths as the best way to gauge COVID19.

And some more graphs:

https://twitter.com/RemiGMI/status/1258021339362885634

 

 

Makes sense.

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)

The Covid-19 pandemic might have started as early as October, according to the latest research into the genetic make-up of the coronavirus. The pathogen, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to have made the jump from initial host to humans some time between October 6 and December 11 last year, according to an article released on Tuesday and set to be published in an upcoming edition of the scientific journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. The findings are based on analysis of more than 7,000 genome sequence assemblies collected from around the world since January. By examining the evolution of the mutations, researchers from University College London and the University of Reunion Island were able to rewind their molecular clocks to a common starting point.

They were also able to identify the major mutations to the coronavirus, which has continued to evolve since making the jump to humans. While retrospective studies have suggested various dates for the first Covid-19 patient, government data seen by the South China Morning Post put the first confirmed infection at November 17. Based on information from the first whole genome sequence of the coronavirus – published by a laboratory in Shanghai in January – and other genome analyses, scientists had earlier concluded that SARS-CoV-2 most likely came from a bat and made the jump to humans via an intermediate animal some time in November.

But by the time the latest study was conducted, late last month, the researchers had access to much more information via data-sharing platforms. They selected 7,710 assemblies, curated a data set of 7,666 and then analysed the emergence of genomic diversity over time. While there were variations in the mutations and evolutionary stages of the viruses they studied, the team was able to determine their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), which in turn gave them their new estimate for the start of the global health crisis. “These dates for the start of the epidemic are in broad agreement with previous estimates performed on smaller subsets of the Covid-19 genomic data using various computational methods, though they should still be taken with some caution,” the study said.

In most countries, including Britain, the United States and Ireland, the genetic diversity of the samples essentially reflects the global diversity, suggesting the local epidemics came from independent introductions of the virus. However, China, where the outbreak was first reported, is a main exception to this pattern, where only a fraction of the global diversity can be found. “The genomic diversity of the global SARS-CoV-2 population being recapitulated in multiple countries points to extensive worldwide transmission of Covid-19, likely from extremely early on in the pandemic,” the study said.

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2022 and onwards. Crushing the curve is much easier. And faster.

Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)

Italian researchers claim to have developed a vaccine that can neutralise the coronavirus in human cells. Tests carried out at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, generated antibodies in mice that work in human cells. “This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy,” said Luigi Aurisicchio, chief executive of Takis, the company working on the treatment. “According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralisation of the coronavirus by a vaccine,” he told the Italian news agency Ansa. “We expect this to happen in humans too.”

“Human tests are expected after this summer,” Mr Aurisicchio said. He added: “We are working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy and made available to everyone. “In order to reach this goal, we need the support of national and international institutions and partners who may help us speed up the process.” After a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies capable of blocking the virus from infecting human cells, Mr Aurisicchio claimed. He said researchers observed that five candidate vaccines generated a large number of antibodies and they then selected the two with the best results.

Last week, experts at the University of Oxford said the first results of their coronavirus vaccine trials could be ready by as early as mid-June. The institution also announced a new partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Human trials of the vaccine developed at the university’s Jenner Institute began last month, with hundreds volunteering to be part of the study.

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Some non-thinkers here: “Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain..”. Right, US generals only go into battle if and when they already know they will win. Must be a lesson learned in Vietnam.

Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)

Donald Trump has described himself as a “wartime president” during the coronavirus crisis, and now he seems to have found his army as he pushes the country to reopen despite the risks. In recent days, he’s begun describing citizens as “warriors” in the battle against the pandemic and suggested some of those fighters might have to die if that will help boost the economy.“Will some people be affected? Yes,” he said on a trip to Arizona this week, his first outside of the Washington area in nearly two months. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.” Trump previously described healthcare workers as “warriors” for risking their safety to treat coronavirus patients, wording he used again on Wednesday when signing a proclamation honoring nurses.

But his decision to expand the characterization to everyday Americans is a noticeable shift from his previous declarations that “one is too many” deaths. The toll from the illness surpassed 70,000 this week and seems on track to top 100,000 by the end of the month, numbers far larger than Trump recently predicted. Asked Wednesday if the nation needs to accept greater loss of life, Trump said “hopefully it won’t be the case, but it may very well be the case.” “We have to be warriors,” he said from his seat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. “We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” The new language shows Trump appears to view people as “collateral damage to salvage the economy,” said Jeffrey Levi, a public health expert at George Washington University.

“Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain,” Levi said. “And here we know reopening too soon will be a net loss, both in lives and the long-term stability of the economy.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied that Trump was suggesting that citizens must put themselves in harm’s way to fight the coronavirus — “not in the slightest,” she said. Although the president has repeatedly said that Americans must be “warriors” to reopen the economy, McEnany offered an alternative explanation for the description. “They’re warriors because they’ve stayed home,” she said at a White House briefing Wednesday. “They’re warriors because they’ve social distanced. They’re warriors because this mitigation effort is something that could only be done by the American people coming together and making really hard sacrifices.”

[..] Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said there’s no valor in sacrificing people’s lives to fight the pandemic. “People who are dying of this virus are not dying to protect the American way of life,” he said. “They’re dying because their government has had a completely ineffective response to this infectious disease.” If Americans are being considered warriors, Jha said, Trump is sending them onto the battlefield without the testing and contact tracing required for protection. “He has left Americans disarmed,” he said. “He’s not given the American people the tools they need to fight this virus.”

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See yesterday. Lots of people quoting the SCMP article today, but it’s just hot air.

Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)

[..] some longtime advocates of a “decoupling” from China say the pandemic offers the best opportunity since the 1970s for a robust national debate on the merits of a significant and policy-driven separation. Such a debate would span issues from technology transfer and U.S. economic sectors’ dependence on China trade to sharpening criticism of China’s violations of human rights. “Three months ago I would have said there was no chance of a serious decoupling from China, but the political environment has changed,” says Derek Scissors, an expert in U.S.-China economic relations at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “We’re still not near the serious – and what would be costly – steps necessary to separate [from them] and reduce our participation in the success of China’s economic model,” he adds.

“But all the outrage over the tremendous suffering and economic impact of [the pandemic] has opened a door to a reassessment of our relationship.” More likely than a new China strategy that sets out to reduce ties, say others, is an acceleration and intensification of actions that were already being pursued or promoted by some in Congress and some China analysts. “What this [rise in tensions] is really doing is exacerbating the geopolitical trends we’ve already been seeing in recent years,” says Michael Auslin, a distinguished research fellow in contemporary Asia at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. “The tensions were already growing.” Thus there is likely to be rising pressure for action on topics that have raged for years, from stemming the theft of intellectual property and repatriating supply chains critical to U.S. national security, to confronting China’s expansionist activities in the South China Sea.

A change that the U.S. and other Western countries should capitalize on in the post-pandemic period, some experts say, is that China is now going to be marked by many countries as an untrustworthy partner. That is not just because of how China handled the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, they say, but because its heavy-handed actions in its pandemic-related foreign assistance has left a bad taste from Europe to Africa. “The world has put an asterisk next to China,” says Mr. Auslin, who notes for example that the White House now puts an asterisk next to coronavirus statistics out of China. And the theme running through much of the European press last week, he says, was “The Week China Lost Europe.”

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No, not just survivors, but anyone who’s ever tested positive.

If that herd immunity idea ever goes anywhere, that would mean 60%+ can’t join anymore. Who said Americans have no sense of humor?

Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)

The military will stop recruiting applicants who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a proposal in a memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM). The contents of the memo, which has been circulating on the internet, were confirmed to Newsweek by the Pentagon, which described them as “interim guidance.” The story was first reported by the Military Times. “During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads. Additionally, the memo lays out guidelines for handling possible and confirmed coronavirus cases in applicants.


It says any applicants at any of the 65 nationwide Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) should be evaluated for possible coronavirus infection, most likely through a temperature check and questions about their symptoms and possible contact with infected individuals. If an applicant seems likely positive for the coronavirus, they can return to the MEPS if they’re symptom-free after 14 days. Anyone who tests positive through a lab test or clinical diagnosis can return to MEPS 28 days after their diagnosis. However, their application will be marked as “permanently disqualifying,” and while applicants can request a waiver the memo offers no further guidance for possible COVID-19 exceptions, meaning that “a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver,” says the Military Times.

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A lot of support for opening up also involves halting financial support plans. Worst idea ever, because:

California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom forewarned of “jaw-dropping” unemployment at his daily press conference on Wednesday. After stating the state is experiencing an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims, he said, “You’ll see these numbers translating into unemployment rates that will be rather jaw-dropping.” Newsom called the rise in unemployment claims “Without precedent in our state’s history,” noting that 4.2 million people have now applied for Public Unemployment Assistance and $10.6 billion in aid has already been distributed.


He also announced his signing an executive order extending worker’s compensation to essential workers who test positive for COVID-19, adding that benefits could only be rebutted by an employer “under strict criteria.” Newsom is facing mounting criticism over a plan he announced on April 16 that would create a $125 million fund for undocumented immigrants affected by the coronavirus. Non-profits will distribute the money, but it’s still unclear when people will see a check.

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Link on the page to another Giurdian article: Q&A – Coronavirus tests in the UK – who qualifies for one?

That would have been a reasonable question in January, perhaps into February. It’s idiotic in May.

UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)

The results of hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests carried out at privately run drive-through centres in England have not yet been shared with GPs or local authorities, who complain they have “no idea” where local disease clusters are. GPs told the Guardian they had been “totally left out of the conversation” after the government said it was still “working on a technical solution” to get Covid-19 test results into individual GP records in England, having promised to do so weeks ago. Meanwhile, the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, apologised to local health leaders who have not yet received any detailed data from “pillar two” tests conducted by the private firm Deloitte over the past month.


These now form the majority of tests being carried out each day, either at drive-through testing centres or via the post. During a conference call on Wednesday with directors of public health at local authorities across England, the government’s national coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, Prof John Newton, also apologised for not yet sharing the detailed data. He said there had been “data quality issues”. Newton admitted that the Deloitte tests did not yet ask people for their ethnicity or whether they worked in health or social care – an oversight described by one director of public health on the call as “really disappointing”. People of colour and healthcare workers and those working in care homes are known to have much higher incidences of the disease.

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• UK unemployment to double and economy to shrink by 25%, warns Bank of England

• British economic output is set to crash 14% this year owing to the coronavirus, the Bank of England said as it left its interest rate at 0.1%.

• UK gross domestic product would rebound by 15% in 2021 however, the BoE said

• Buy some more gowns, unseen preferably

All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)

Last month, amid dire warnings of shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers, ministers publicised the imminent arrival from Turkey of a fleet of RAF cargo planes bringing in a “very significant” shipment of PPE for the NHS. More than a fortnight later, it has emerged that every one of the 400,000 protective gowns that eventually arrived has been impounded after being found not to conform to UK standards. The Department for Health and Social Care confirmed on Wednesday evening that the items were being held in a facility near Heathrow airport. It is understood that they are due to be sent back and that the DHSC intends to seek a refund, as it has done in similar situations in the past.

The announcement of the shipment by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, on 18 April came as unions and professional bodies warned that NHS staff may refuse to work without PPE. Jenrick told the daily Downing Street press briefing that healthcare workers should be “assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue”, saying they would have the equipment they “need and deserve”. Sources later told the Guardian that the DHSC had advised No 10 not to allow Jenrick to publicise the shipment in case it backfired, but was overruled. The necessary clearances, it turned out, had not been sought. When the consignment did not arrive on time as promised, the delay prompted hospital leaders to directly attack the government for the first time during the pandemic.

Ministers responded by saying they thought it may only a one-day delay. Two days later, with the shipment only then beginning to clear Turkish customs checks, they were only able to give an estimate of arrival “in the next few days”. The first planeload of gowns eventually arrived on 22 April, but the next day it was reported that “less than a 10th” of the order had arrived. Now all are expected to be returned. The saga, first reported by the Telegraph, is one of a series of highly publicised government coronavirus initiatives that have failed to deliver the promised results. Its much-trumpeted “ventilator challenge” asked companies such as Rolls-Royce and Dyson to begin producing the machines, but none have reached the final stages of testing and the majority have proved surplus to requirements.

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David Spiegelhalter was quoted by the PM yesterday to prove Britain can’t be compared to opther countries, and didn’t like that. He tweeted: “Polite request to PM and others: please stop using my Guardian article to claim we cannot make any international comparisons yet. I refer only to detailed league tables-of course we should now use other countries to try and learn why our numbers are high..”

BTW, Spiegelhalter translate as “someone who holds (up) a mirror”. Fitting.

COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)

You would think it would be easy for a bean-counting statistician to count deaths – the one certain thing (apart from taxes). But it is remarkably difficult. I have stopped taking much notice of the number given out at the daily press conferences, as it is only based on reports from hospitals, oscillates wildly around weekends, and recently included deaths that occurred a month ago. And this week the number of UK deaths jumped up by nearly 5,000 to 26,097 in one day – rather close to Starmer’s count – by retrospectively including non-hospital deaths that had tested positive for the virus. But even this is too low, as it does not include the many deaths of people who were not tested.

The Office for National Statistics data on death registrations is the last word, although inevitably delayed by around 10 days, and these figures would be expected to take the current total to significantly more than 30,000. But we should be very cautious in comparing even this uncertain total with those of other countries. Every country has different ways of recording Covid-19 deaths: the large number of deaths in care homes have not featured in Spain’s statistics – which, like the UK’s require a positive test result. The numbers may be useful for looking at trends, but they are not reliable indicators for comparing the absolute levels. If we were naive enough to take the counts at face value, the new figures propelled the UK past France and Spain into second place in Europe behind Italy, which is not encouraging because we are behind Italy in terms of what stage of the epidemic we are at.

A more equitable metric might be Covid-19 deaths per million. Ignoring tiny countries, our current score of 388 puts us fourth, behind Belgium (632), Spain (509) and Italy (452). But these are still deeply unreliable numbers, as it is not clear if we should just be looking at Covid-19-labelled deaths anyway. The effects of seasonal flu are not based on tests or death certificates, but at looking at the total number of deaths over the winter, seeing how many extra there are than a baseline, allowing for climate, and assuming these excess deaths were linked to flu. On average, over the last 10 years this has come to about 8,000 flu-related deaths, rising to 26,400 in 2017-2018 and 28,300 in 2014-15.

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Being an island helps. And so does a real lockdown.

New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)

Hairdressers, bars and competitive sport could be back on the agenda for New Zealanders from next week as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country was “halfway down Everest” in its fight against Covid-19. New Zealand has been under strict lockdown restrictions for more than five weeks, but the low number of cases this week – zero for two consecutive days – means restrictions will soon be lifted. Ardern and her cabinet will make a decision on downgrading the country’s alert level from three to two on Monday, and by Wednesday, life could begin to look much more normal – and fun – for millions of cooped-up Kiwis. The relaxation of restrictions, which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, was greeted with jubilation across the country.

Public spaces such as playgrounds and libraries would be reopened, bars and restaurants would be able to accept patrons, and domestic travel and competitive sport allowed to resume, including the professional leagues, but there will be no stadium crowds for now. Most workers would be allowed to head back to the office, though Ardern urged any who could stay home – or found it more productive – to do so. Widespread social-distancing rules would continue to apply, including patrons being seated two metres apart in public spaces, strangers keeping their distance from one another, and hairdressers, barbers and beauticians being required to wear PPE.

New Zealanders have been living in tight “bubbles” for more than a month, only allowed to socialise with those in their own home. Under the plans outlined by Ardern on Thursday, they would be permitted to see friends, family and even online dates – so long as they keep a log of their movements, and did not participate in indoor or outdoor gatherings of any more than 100. Weddings, funerals and anniversary celebrations would also be permitted. [..] the measures appear to have been effective, with just 21 deaths – all older people with pre-existing health conditions – and global praise has been heaped on the small island nation of 5 million by the World Health Organization, among others.

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Eastern Europe is a success story.

Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers said on Wednesday. “It’s a big step towards life as normal”, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas wrote on Twitter. The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travellers as the coronavirus spread across the continent. Citizens of the three countries will be free to travel within the region, but anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.


“We showed a good example by stating, very clearly, that only countries which successfully dealt with the situation can open themselves up,” he added. “I think we will keep to this principle when dealing with countries where the situation is very bad, which did not take measures to control the virus spread.” Poland and Finland could be the next countries to join the free travel bloc, said Skvernelis. The European Commission has recommended that internal border controls between all member states should be lifted in a coordinated manner, once their virus situation converges sufficiently, the commission’s office in Lithuania said.

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No buyers left.

China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)

China’s services firms wallowed in contraction in April as layoffs hit a record and export orders plunged after signs of improvement in March, a private survey showed, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the coronavirus blow. The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) did manage to pull up to 44.4 in April from 43 in March, but remained in a deep slump and far below historic averages. The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. The third straight month of contraction for China’s services sector, an important generator of jobs and which accounts for about 60% of the economy, suggests a still turbulent period ahead after the collapse in economic activity in the first quarter, when GDP shrank 6.8%.


It also raised worries about the outlook even though the pandemic has been largely brought under control domestically, as a sharp global downturn dampens demand for Chinese goods and services. “The second shockwave for China’s economy brought about by shrinking overseas demand should not be underestimated in the second quarter,” said Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group. Major economies, including the United States and Europe, remain in the grip of the pandemic amid rapidly rising infections and deaths. The sweeping impact of the coronavirus, with the global death toll at well over 250,000, has many worried that a worldwide recession could be far more damaging than first thought. In April, new export orders shrank further after their pace of contraction slowed in March, declining at the second-fastest rate on record, just marginally better than February’s collapse.

Read more …

You mean, you don’t do such reviews normally? High time then. Still, “..a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.” sounds nuts. They’re supposed to serve global interests. If not, they would start serving US interests at the cost of other countries. Oh wait…

Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)

Five U.S. Senate Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking a review of U.S. participation in the World Health Organization and other international institutions, after President Donald Trump’s administration suspended U.S. contributions to the U.N. health agency and accused it of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. Introduced by Chairman Jim Risch and four other Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the “Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020” would establish a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.

The bill requires a report on 38 institutions. Besides the WHO, they include the World Bank; Asian, African, Inter-American and North American Development Banks, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, several U.N. organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak and saying his administration would launch a review of the organization. WHO officials have denied the claims and China insists it has been transparent and open. The United States is the WHO’s biggest donor.

“As we have seen most recently with questionable actions taken by the World Health Organization in response to the spread of COVID-19, it is critically important to have accountability and oversight of our assistance,” Risch said in a statement announcing the bill. [..] Critics of the aid review bill said they were concerned the task force would be too partisan because Pompeo would be its chairman and members would be appointed by Trump.

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Why are we still discussing the OPCW? Why does it still exist? They’re a bunch of liars who were found out.

OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has made false and misleading statements about two veteran inspectors who challenged a cover-up of their investigation in Syria, leaked documents show. The inspectors probed an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma in April 2018, and later objected when their evidence was suppressed. Documents obtained by The Grayzone reveal that OPCW leaders have engaged in a pattern of deception that minimized the inspectors’ senior roles in the Douma mission and diminished the prestige they enjoyed within the world’s top chemical weapons watchdog.

OPCW Director General Fernando Arias has claimed that the first inspector, South African chemical engineering and ballistics expert Ian Henderson, “was not a member” of the Douma investigative team and only played a “minor supporting role.” However, contemporaneous communications from the OPCW’s Douma Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) directly contradict Arias. They show that Henderson was indeed a Douma team member, and that OPCW leadership directed him to lead its most critical inspections. They also show that Arias, rather than acknowledge that Henderson was an FFM member, offered up a false explanation for why Henderson was in Syria at the time of the probe.

Arias has also disingenuously minimized the role of the second inspector, known only to the public as “Inspector B.” This will be examined in part two of this article. The OPCW’s investigation was triggered when extremist anti-Syrian government militants and Western states accused the Syrian army of dropping gas cylinders on two buildings in Douma, killing dozens of civilians. The U.S., France, and Britain bombed Syrian government targets days later, asserting their right to enforce the chemical weapons “red line.” After a nearly year-long investigation, the OPCW issued a final report in March 2019 that claimed “reasonable grounds” existed to believe that a chlorine attack occurred.

However, a trove of leaked documents has shown that the OPCW leadership suppressed and manipulated evidence that undermined the allegation against the Syrian military. The first of such leaks was an engineering assessment authored by Henderson that concluded that the gas cylinders in Douma were likely “manually placed.” That conclusion suggested the incident was staged on the ground by the armed militants who controlled Douma at the time. Additional leaks later revealed that Inspector B protested the censorship of critical evidence and toxicology reports, as well as the manipulation of chemical samples and witness statements. Henderson and B also complained that OPCW leaders excluded all of the Douma investigators except for one paramedic from a so-called “core” team that wrote the organization’s final report.

Read more …

In case you needed any confirmation that Andrew Cuomo is not exactly your hero.

As for Bill Gates, he’s just a fool with too much money, and should be kept far from schools. We don’t need another generation using his crappy software.

I had a text talk with a friend in Greece Tuesday, who tried to convince me that Bill Gates wanted to force-vaccinate everyone and force implant them with nano-chips to prove vaccination. I think maybe because of the language barrier he may not have grasped the nuances whenn I said: “You have nothing to worry about then, because there is no vaccine”.

Someone else sent me a video from the Alex Jones studios that claimed Bill Gates is the mastermind behind a grand secret global conspiracy to depopulate the planet -hence COVID19-. I’m sorry, but I cannot post that here.

Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine” schools when they reopen after the coronavirus pandemic. “Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways, and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education he’s spoken about for years,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “But I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas. Cuomo said the state is exploring the possibility that K-12 schools will utilize distancing learning in the future and wondered aloud if the “old model” of in-person learning was obsolete.

He said Gates would help evaluate possible changes to the education system, including providing more opportunities to students, using technology to reduce educational inequality, and recreating larger class or lecture hall environments with virtual classrooms. The Gates Foundation has experimented with education before with some mixed results. Business Insider reports that Gates spent $1 billion and seven years working on an initiative to improve test performance for students in low-income schools by closely monitoring teacher effectiveness. The program reportedly didn’t improve test scores or drop-out rates in the long-term, and even “did more harm than good.”

The Gothamist reports at least five organizations have already spoken out against the partnership, citing concerns about the Microsoft founder’s support of standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy — have already written to Cuomo and state education officials to voice their objections. “We were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on ‘reimagining’ our schools following the Covid crisis,” the coalition wrote. “Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state.

Read more …

 

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