Jan 172021
 


Salvador Dalí Cadaques 1923

 

Further Year Of Covid Curbs Needed – Irish Official (IT)
55 Americans Died Following COVID Vaccination, Norway Deaths Rise To 29 (ZH)
Second COVID Variant From Brazil ‘Likely’ Already In The UK (Sky)
UK Children’s Welfare Becoming A National Emergency (G.)
A Year Of Lockdowns Can’t Take The Shine Off Goldmans Sachs Profits (G.)
Trump Trial Pending, McConnell Calls It ‘Vote Of Conscience’ (AP)
Should Donald Trump Skip Out On The Senate Impeachment Trial? (Turley)
Biden Fills Out State Department Team With Obama Veterans (AP)
Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power (Ferguson)
Massive Inflation in Shipping Costs. And the Reasons (WS)
FBI, State Officials Aware Early Of Major Steele Mistake, Ignored It (JTN)
Democrats Still Serve Militarism And Corporatism – Glenn Greenwald (RT)

 

 

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
– Confucius

 

 

 

 

No efforts to prevent infection, other than lockdowns and masks. But an entire year of it. Based on the illusion that mass mRNA vaccination can achieve herd immunity.

The “science” has stood still for a year.

Further Year Of Covid Curbs Needed – Irish Official (IT)

Another year of restrictions related to Covid-19 would be necessary before the number of people vaccinated would be sufficient to protect the public in general from the disease, a top health official has said. Meanwhile, close to 6,500 HSE staff are currently out sick with Covid-19, the HSE chief Paul Reid has stated. Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer at the HSE, said in radio comments that social distancing and restrictions in some form were likely for the rest of 2021 at least, until enough of the population could be vaccinated to grant general or herd immunity. “The answer, and not everyone likes it but it’s the truth… is that the public in general won’t have protection from Covid-19 for at least a year… In the meantime, it’s more important than ever to abide by the public health guidance so that we can stop the spread of the virus,” he told Máirín Ní Ghadhra on Raidió na Gaeltachta.


“We’re in the middle of the main wave now… and we can see the damage that has been wrought. The vaccine is coming, and we’ll come out of this if we can stick to the public health guidelines until everyone has been vaccinated.” Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the hospital system is “completely tightening up” and has “formally gone into surge capacity”. The national critical care surge group had been mobilised and close to 6,500 HSE staff are currently out sick with Covid-19, with about 4,000 of those having been working in hospitals, he said.

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Not from the Pfizer PR squad.

55 Americans Died Following COVID Vaccination, Norway Deaths Rise To 29 (ZH)

Amid increasing calls for suspension of the use of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines produced by companies such as Pfizer, especially among elderly people, the situation in Norway has escalated significantly as the Scandi nation has now registered a total of 29 deaths among people over the age of 75 who’ve had their first COVID-19 vaccination shot. As Bloomberg reports, this adds six to the number of known fatalities in Norway, and also lowers the age group thought to be affected from 80. “Until Friday, Pfizer/BioNTech was the only vaccine available in Norway, and “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” the Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a written response to Bloomberg on Saturday. “There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed,” the agency said. All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” it said.

[..] Norway’s experience has prompted the country to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill… the exact group that ‘the science’ shows are actually at risk from this virus. Pfizer and BioNTech are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths in Norway, Pfizer said in an e-mailed statement. The agency found that “the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations,” Pfizer said. However, it’s not just Norway as The Epoch Times’ Zachary Stieber reports that fifty-five people in the United States have died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, according to reports submitted to a federal system. Deaths have occurred among people receiving both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, according to the reports. In some cases, patients died within days of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“One man, a 66-year-old senior home resident in Colorado, was sleepy and stayed in bed a day after getting Moderna’s vaccine. Early the next morning, on Christmas Day, the resident “was observed in bed lying still, pale, eyes half open and foam coming from mouth and unresponsive,” the VAERS report states. “He was not breathing and with no pulse.” In another case, a 93-year-old South Dakota man was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 4 around 11 a.m. About two hours later, he said he was tired and couldn’t continue with the physical therapy he was doing any longer. He was taken back to his room, where he said his legs felt heavy. Soon after, he stopped breathing. A nurse declared a do-not-resuscitate order.

In addition to the deaths, people have reported 96 life-threatening events following COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as 24 permanent disabilities, 225 hospitalizations, and 1,388 emergency room visits. It’s not just the old and frail, in Israel, which proudly lays claim to the greatest vaccination effort in the world (largest percentage of the population inoculated), As RT reports, at least 13 Israelis have experienced facial paralysis after being administered the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, a month after the US Food and Drug Administration reported similar issues but said they weren’t linked to the jab. Israeli outlet Ynet reported, citing the Health Ministry, that officials believe the number of such cases could be higher.

“For at least 28 hours I walked around with it [facial paralysis],” one person who had the side effect told Ynet. “I can’t say it was completely gone afterwards, but other than that I had no other pains, except a minor pain where the injection was, but there was nothing beyond that.” Ynet quoted Prof. Galia Rahav, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba Medical Center, who said she did not feel “comfortable” with administering the second dose to someone who had received the first jab and subsequently suffered from paralysis. “No one knows if this is connected to the vaccine or not. That’s why I would refrain from giving a second dose to someone who suffered from paralysis after the first dose,” she told the outlet.

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Ever more variants popping up.

Second COVID Variant From Brazil ‘Likely’ Already In The UK (Sky)

The second of two new coronavirus variants from Brazil is likely to already be in the UK despite the government imposing a travel ban, a leading epidemiologist has warned. Eight cases of the first variant, which has a small number of mutations, have been identified in the UK. The second, which has been detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus and in travellers arriving in Japan, has not been detected in the UK so far. There are concerns that this variant could be more transmissible and reinfect those who have recovered from COVID, although such possibilities remain unproven. Professor John Edmunds has said he would it “unusual” if the second variant was not present here.

Professor Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers. “For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly. “We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.” The government banned flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde on Thursday after the emergence of the new variants, having previously banned travel from South Africa because of a new coronavirus mutation.

In addition, all quarantine-free travel into the UK will be suspended on Monday in a bid to keep out other variants. The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK. Labour accused the government of “closing the door after the horse has bolted”, saying the announcement was too late to have stopped the arrival of “worrying” strains.

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Mental health.

UK Children’s Welfare Becoming A National Emergency (G.)

Boris Johnson is facing demands from doctors, senior politicians and charities for a wide-ranging commission to examine the pandemic’s “devastating effect” on children, amid growing concerns about its impact on their education, development and mental health. A major coalition of child health experts warns that many families are being “swept into poverty” by the pandemic, which is set to significantly add to the 4 million children living in deprivation before the Covid crisis. In a letter to the Observer, they also warn of a “yawning gap” in attainment between rich and poor due to school closures, while the number of children facing mental health issues and distress will rise “with every day that lockdown keeps them isolated and uncertain about their futures”.

“Children’s welfare has become a national emergency,” says the letter, whose signatories include the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the National Children’s Bureau and some of the country’s leading child health academics. “An independent commission, to inform a cross-government strategy to steer children and young people clear from the lingering effects of Covid-19, could avert this deepening crisis. At present we have piecemeal solutions and stop-gap measures. The next generation deserves better.” It warns that the challenges have been made harder by a decade of cuts to services families rely on. Some 1.5 million children under 18 will either need new or additional mental health support as a result of the pandemic.

A third of those are new cases, according to the Centre for Mental Health. Lee Hudson, a consultant paediatrician and chief of mental health at Great Ormond Street hospital, said: “We know from the data that children and young people’s mental health has been deteriorating in this pandemic. Clinicians are seeing the effects of that every day: for example, the numbers of children presenting with eating disorders have dramatically increased. For children living in poverty, the risks are even greater. We’ve never needed a long-term strategy for child mental health more.”

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Remember the $10 trillion stimulus in a $21 trillion economy.

A Year Of Lockdowns Can’t Take The Shine Off Goldmans Sachs Profits (G.)

What is $900m to a Wall Street giant like Goldman Sachs? Relatively little, when it counts the drop in profits for a year of record-setting market swings and economic turmoil, all sparked by a pandemic. The firm should regard itself as lucky to be poised for profits of about $7bn (£5bn) for the whole of 2020. That average analyst forecast, compiled by Refinitiv, is a mere 11% drop from the $7.9bn it made in 2019, a year when the phrase “Covid lockdown” had never been uttered. The projected decline is smaller than the $2.8bn it put aside to cover a potential jump in defaults within the first nine months of the year alone, a number estimates suggest could rise to $3.1bn for the 12 months to December.


Those provisions pale in comparison with those of European peers such as HSBC, which already put by $7.6bn to cover Covid-linked loan losses by the third quarter. The bank’s results will emerge unscathed from the $2.9bn settlement it reached in October with global regulators and the US Department of Justice, over its alleged role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. The announcement came just months after Goldman agreed to pay $3.9bn to the Malaysian government, amid claims it allegedly turned a blind eye while $4.5bn was looted from the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Goldman bosses, including chairman and chief executive David Solomon, will feel the pinch of a $31m cut to their combined 2020 pay over the scandal, but hefty provisions previously put aside for the 1MDB case will largely cover the settlements.

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The GOP is tempted to turn on Trump. Opportunism pur sang.

Trump Trial Pending, McConnell Calls It ‘Vote Of Conscience’ (AP)

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe Biden’s inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is telling senators their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president over the Capitol riot will be a “vote of conscience.” The timing for the trial, the first of a president no longer in office, has not yet been set. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear Friday that Democrats intend to move swiftly on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office Wednesday. Pelosi called the recovery package a “matter of complete urgency.”

The uncertainty of the scheduling, despite the House’s swift impeachment of Trump just a week after the deadly Jan. 6 siege, reflects the fact that Democrats do not want the Senate trial to dominate the opening days of the Biden administration. With security forces on alert over the threat of more potential violence heading into the inauguration, the Senate is also moving quickly to prepare for confirming Biden’s nominee for national intelligence director, Avril Haines. A committee hearing is set for the day before the inauguration, signaling a confirmation vote could come swiftly once the new president is in office.

Many Democrats have pushed for an immediate impeachment trial to hold Trump accountable and prevent him from holding future office, and the proceedings could still begin by Inauguration Day. But others have urged a slower pace as the Senate considers Biden’s Cabinet nominees and the newly Democratic-led Congress considers priorities like the coronavirus plan. Biden’s incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Friday the Senate can do both. “The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the people,” she said. Psaki noted that during Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, the Senate continued to hold hearings each day. “There is some precedent,” she said.

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“It was a reckless speech — but, in a court of law, it would constitute protected speech.”

Should Donald Trump Skip Out On The Senate Impeachment Trial? (Turley)

In a matter of days, this country will face an unprecedented Senate trial. The Senate not only will try a president for a second time but will do so after he has left office. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris assures us the Senate can politically “multitask” to deal with an impeachment, an incoming Biden administration and a pandemic. However, the threshold question is whether this is constitutionally one of those tasks — and for soon-to-be citizen Donald Trump, the best defense may be no defense at all. In fairness, people on both sides are struggling to deal with this novel impeachment. While I have stated that I do not wish to serve as the president’s counsel, I have spoken to members of Congress and the White House on the historical and constitutional backgrounds for a trial.

From a purely strategic perspective, I believe Trump may be wise to skip any trial. For a notorious counterpuncher, avoiding a fight might be the most difficult decision of all, particularly because he has obvious defenses. First, he was denied due process when the House held an unprecedented “snap impeachment” without a hearing or inquiry even though a trial likely would not occur immediately. Even a one-day hearing would have allowed evidence to be discussed as well as a formal request for a response. Second, the impeachment article is poorly crafted and poorly conceived, built around assertions that Trump’s Jan. 6 speech to supporters was an “incitement to insurrection.” His speech raised potentially impeachable grounds; I condemned it as he gave it and opposed his challenge of electoral votes from the outset.

But as I wrote previously, it would have been far better to censure him for it in a bipartisan, bicameral resolution. While impeachment can be based on noncriminal grounds, Trump’s speech alone did not amount to criminal incitement. Absent direct evidence of intent, a criminal charge would likely collapse in an actual trial or on appeal on First Amendment grounds. Trump expressly called for his supporters “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” He told them to go to the Capitol “to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” to “fight like hell” to challenge the election, and to remind unsupportive Republicans that their actions would not be forgotten. It was a reckless speech — but, in a court of law, it would constitute protected speech.

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Globalism wins.

Biden Fills Out State Department Team With Obama Veterans (AP)

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday filled out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signaling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump. Biden will nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively. They were among the 11 officials announced to serve under the incoming secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The team “embodies my core belief that America is strongest when it works with our allies,” Biden said in a statement. He said he was confident “they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back.”


Among the others are: —longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management. That deputy position has been vacant for some time and McKeon and Sherman are expected to share duties as the department’s No. 3 official. —former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively. —Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counselor. —former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, who also served as head of strategic planning in the Obama National Security Council, as director of policy planning. —Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken’s chief of staff. —Ned Price, a former Obama NSC staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman.

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I’m not a fan of Niall Ferguson at all, but the topic demands attention.

Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power (Ferguson)

‘To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,’ George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is ‘quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously’. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that ‘for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective’. Last week provided a near-perfect analogy. For years before the 2020 election, nearly all American conservatives were in favour of standing up to big tech: the majority of them were also against changing the laws and regulations enough to make such a stand effective.

The difference is that, unlike the German threat, which was geographically remote, the threat from Silicon Valley was literally in front of our noses, day and night: on our mobile phones, our tablets and our laptops. Writing in this magazine more than three years ago, I warned of a coming collision between Donald Trump and Silicon Valley. ‘Social media helped Donald Trump take the White House,’ I wrote. ‘Silicon Valley won’t let it happen again.’ The conclusion of my book The Square and the Tower was that the new online network platforms represented a new kind of power that posed a fundamental challenge to the traditional hierarchical power of the state. By the network platforms, I mean Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google and Apple, or FATGA for short — companies that have established a dominance over the public sphere not seen since the heyday of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church.

FATGA had humble enough origins in garages and dorm rooms. As recently as 2008, not one of them could be found among the world’s largest companies by market capitalisation. Today, they occupy first, third, fourth and fifth places in the market cap league table, just above their Chinese counterparts, Tencent and Alibaba. What happened was that the network platforms turned the originally decentralised worldwide web into an oligarchically organised and hierarchical public sphere from which they made money and to which they controlled access. That the original, superficially libertarian inclinations of these companies’ founders would rapidly crumble under political pressure from the left was also perfectly obvious, if one bothered to look a little beyond one’s proboscis.

Following the violent far-right rally at Charlottesville in August 2017, Matthew Prince, chief executive of the internet service provider Cloudflare, described how he had responded: ‘Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.’ On the basis that ‘the people behind the [white supremacist magazine] Daily Stormer are assholes’, he denied their website access to the internet. ‘No one should have that power,’ he admitted. ‘We need to have a discussion around this with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and … Mark [Zuckerberg] shouldn’t be what determines what should be online.’

How the news works

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No, sorry, that is not inflation.

Massive Inflation in Shipping Costs. And the Reasons (WS)

The dollar-amount spent by shippers, such as manufacturers or retailers, on shipping their goods jumped by 13% in December from a year earlier, driving the Cass Freight Index of Expenditures to a new record (red line). The amount spent on freight is a function of shipment volume and freight rates:

The Cass Freight Index covers shipments by all modes of transportation, but is heavily concentrated on shipments by truck, with truckload accounting for over half of the expenditures, followed by less-than-truckload (LTL), rail, parcel services, etc. It does not cover commodities. The freight rates embedded in the index jumped by 6.0% in December compared to a year earlier. “Based in part on spot trends, the acceleration in freight rates is likely to persist in the coming months,” Cass said in the report. Shipment volume surged 6.7% year-over-year, given the Pandemic shift in consumer spending to goods that need to be shipped, from services that are not shipped. But shipment volume in December (red line in the chart below) remained below the levels of 2018 (black) and 2017 (brown) at this time of the year:

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To understand why, look no further than who organized and paid for the Steele dossier.

FBI, State Officials Aware Early Of Major Steele Mistake, Ignored It (JTN)

Shortly before the FBI used his dossier to secure a surveillance warrant targeting the Trump campaign, Christopher Steele met with State Department officials and relayed information suggesting Moscow was running an operation out of the Russian consulate in Miami. There was just one problem with his intelligence: The Russians didn’t have a consulate in Florida’s largest city. The anecdote, captured in contemporaneous memos and newly released testimony, illustrates just how bad some of Steele’s intelligence reporting was and how widely that was known inside the FBI, even as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was being assured by the bureau that Steele was deemed credible and there was no derogatory information about his work.

Kenneth Laycock, the FBI’s current Executive Assistant Director, was a section chief for Eurasian intelligence in fall 2016 when Steele made a visit to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec at the State Department. During the October 2016 meeting, Steele admitted he was leaking to the news media while working as an FBI informant, a violation of his confidential human source agreement. (He later was terminated for it.) And he also relayed the anecdote about the Russian operation out of the Miami consulate, which officials immediately flagged as false, according to Kavalec’s own notes of the meeting. “It is important to note that there is no Russian Consulate in Miami,” Kavalec wrote.

Laycock said Kavalec relayed her concerns to the FBI and that others working on the now-discredited Russia collusion investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane were also aware of Steele’s mistake. “Do you recall — just trying to jog your memory here in case you do recall — Ms. Kavalec conveying information to you that Steele conveyed to her information about a Russian consulate being located in Miami and that was an inaccurate assessment on Steele’s part?” a Senate investigator asked Laycock in testimony taken last year but made public on Friday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I recall a conversation about a consulate in Miami independent of what she had mentioned regarding what Mr. Steele said to her,” Laycock answered.

He added: “It came up in some other discussion regarding if there was a consulate in Miami, which we both knew is not true because we know where all the consulates and embassies are around the country. That’s where I would handle normally in my purview as the section chief of the Eurasia program. So when it came up in a discussion, it was like, we don’t have a consulate in Miami.” He said FBI headquarters was aware of Steele’s mistaken claim outside of Kavalec’s report as well. “Yes, independent of the Mr. Steele piece in here, it came up through other discussions,” he testified.

Read more …

“The Democrats are very good at creating a brand that is radically different from their reality.”

Democrats Still Serve Militarism And Corporatism – Glenn Greenwald (RT)

Democrats are cheering for censorship as a means to root out “fascism,” even as they serve corporate interests that continue to exacerbate the social and economic issues that gave rise to Donald Trump, Glenn Greenwald told RT. The acclaimed American journalist issued a scathing critique of the American Left during a conversation with Chris Hedges, host of RT’s On Contact. The interview will air in full on Sunday. Pointing to Donald Trump’s indefinite Twitter suspension, Greenwald accused Democrats of appealing to Big Tech to police speech that could undermine their hold on power, using the pretext of fighting far-right extremism to quash dissent. “They’re on their knees pleading with billionaires and oligarchs and monopolists and Silicon Valley to censor in a way that they believe is politically advantageous.”

He added that the crackdown on free speech was particularly egregious because it was being carried out by a “tiny number of Silicon Valley oligarchs” who operate outside of the realm of democratic accountability. Greenwald argued that the profoundly illiberal cheerleading for corporate speech-policing should come as no surprise to anyone, noting that the Democratic Party is funded by and “believes in” corporate power, despite whatever claims it makes to the contrary. “The Democrats are very good at creating a brand that is radically different from their reality. But essentially the Democratic Party serves militarism, imperialism, and corporatism.”

There should also be no illusions about whether the incoming Biden administration will be able to mend the deep political divide in the country, the American journalist warned. He agreed with Hedges’ premise that Trump won the White House in 2016 by capitalizing on widespread frustration over Barack Obama, and his VP Joe Biden’s, ineffectual eight years in office.

Read more …

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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Jan 142021
 
 January 14, 2021  Posted by at 10:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


Jackson Pollock Male and female 1942

 

House Votes To Impeach Trump For ‘Insurrection’ (RT)
Twitter CEO Defends Banning Trump But Says It Was A “Dangerous” “Failure” (JTN)
Putin Orders Mass Vaccination Against COVID19 With Sputnik V Jab (RT)
Moderna CEO Says The World Will Have To Live With Covid ‘Forever’ (CNBC)
WHO Team Arrives In Wuhan To Investigate Pandemic Origins (AP)
Two NYC Residents Reported To Have UK COVID-19 Variant (AMNY)
EU Leaders Demand “Standardised” Vaccine Passport For Travel (SN)
Polarization, Then a Crash – Michael Hudson (AN)
Biden To Propose Massive $2 Trillion Stimulus (ZH)
Biden Taps Veteran Interventionist Samantha Power to Head USAID (Antiwar)
As Biden Vows To ‘Defeat The NRA,’ Gun Sales Continue To Soar (JTN)
Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged For Flint Water Crisis (JTN)
Unemployment Rate Above 20% For Lowest-Paid Workers – Fed’s Brainard (CNBC)
Cancel Yourself (Michael Krieger)
New Zealand City Closes Busy Road For Weeks To Protect Sea Lions (G.)

 

 

 

 

What would need to be proven in a courtroom, does not in Congress.

House Votes To Impeach Trump For ‘Insurrection’ (RT)

Arguing he incited an “armed rebellion” against the US, the Democrat-dominated House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump again. But with his term expiring in a week, it is unclear when the trial will proceed. After several hours of debate on Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to formally impeach the president over the January 6 unrest at the US Capitol, when a group of Trump supporters broke into the building and interrupted the joint session of Congress meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 US presidential election. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Senate will reconvene on an emergency schedule to conduct the trial, however.

Reports in mainstream US media were conflicted, with some outlets citing anonymous sources to claim that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was eager to do so and help the Democrats get rid of Trump. However, McConnell’s spokesman said on Wednesday he would “not consent” to doing so before January 19, putting the trial into Biden’s term as president. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) told CNN on Sunday that the Democrats might even give Biden a hundred days “to get his agenda off and running” before they send the articles to the Senate. The delays and calculations are at odds with rhetoric coming from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and her impeachment managers, who called Trump a danger to the country and urged his immediate removal.

Democrats have even argued that Trump and anyone supporting him ought to be barred from holding any office under the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War to punish leaders of the Confederacy. “We know that we face the enemies of the Constitution,” Pelosi said on the House floor on Wednesday. “We know we experienced the insurrection that violated the sanctity of the people’s capital – an attempt to overturn the duly recorded will of the American people. And we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go.”

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“..those moves “over the long term … will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.”

Twitter CEO Defends Banning Trump But Says It Was A “Dangerous” “Failure” (JTN)

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday evening composed a 13-tweet-long thread on the social media platform he leads in which he defended the company’s recent permanent ban of President Donald Trump while still claiming that the ban constituted a “dangerous” “failure.” Dorsey, who helped found the microblogging platform in early 2006, said in the thread that, though banning Trump out of fears that he was promoting violence was “the right decision for Twitter,” an account ban nevertheless “has real and significant ramifications.” “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation,” Dorsey said. “And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”


In addition to fragmenting the public conversation, Dorsey said, such a ban “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.” Referring to the recent purge of the social media app Parler from multiple digital platforms, Dorsey argued that those moves “over the long term … will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.” “Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together,” Dorsey said in the thread.

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“move from large-scale vaccination to mass vaccination.”

Putin Orders Mass Vaccination Against COVID19 With Sputnik V Jab (RT)

President Vladimir Putin has instructed the Russian government to begin rolling out a coronavirus vaccine for the entire population from next week, with more than 1.5 million people having already received the jab.
In a meeting with ministers on Wednesday, Putin said that the time had come to “move from large-scale vaccination to mass vaccination.” He added that the Sputnik V formula, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, was “the best in the world.” While comparisons between different vaccines are hard to draw, given the unique circumstances under which they have been developed, he insisted that “no others demonstrate this level of protection and such a degree of safety.”

However, the president expressed concern over the global fight against Covid-19, saying that “we see across the world, unfortunately, that it is not yet possible to strangle this disease, and we cannot prevent all the negative consequences associated with it.” Responding to the new directive, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova reported that the mass immunization program will begin next week, from 18 January. While 1.5 million people in the country have already received their first jab, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which financed Sputnik V, the list of those eligible was still subject to a number of restrictions.

Doctors, teachers, factory workers, municipal officials and those working in finance and the media were initially offered appointments first. However, there was speculation that, in practice, few checks were put in place before people were given their injection. It is still unclear how the mass-immunization program will be administered, and whether all Russians will be offered shots at once, or staggered based on their age group. Putin added that Sputnik V was particularly well-suited to being made available across the entirety of the world’s largest country because “thank God, our vaccine does not require any unusual conditions for transportation,” and can be stored at ordinary refrigerator temperatures.

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A good thing if you’re a vaccine maker?!

Moderna CEO Says The World Will Have To Live With Covid ‘Forever’ (CNBC)

The CEO of Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna warned Wednesday that the coronavirus that has brought world economies to a standstill and overwhelmed hospitals will be around “forever.” Public health officials and infectious disease experts have said there is a high likelihood that Covid-19 will become an endemic disease, meaning it will become present in communities at all times, though likely at lower levels than it is now. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel appeared to agree Wednesday that Covid-19 will become endemic, saying “SARS-CoV-2 is not going away.” “We are going to live with this virus, we think, forever,” he said during a panel discussion at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.


Health officials will have to continuously watch for new variants of the virus, so scientists can produce vaccines to fight them, he said. Researchers in Ohio said Wednesday they’ve discovered two new variants likely originating in the U.S. and that one of them quickly became the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio, over a three-week period in late December and early January. Pfizer researchers said its vaccine developed with BioNTech appeared to be effective against a key mutation in the U.K. strain as well as a variant found in South Africa. Moderna’s vaccine has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use in Americans who are 18 years old and older. Additional studies still needed to be completed in children, whose immune systems can respond differently to vaccines than those of adults.

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Two have already been refused entry because of positive PCR tests.

WHO Team Arrives In Wuhan To Investigate Pandemic Origins (AP)

A global team of researchers arrived Thursday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries. The 10-member team sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO. Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, says the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but scientists reject that.


CGTN, the English-language channel of state broadcaster CCTV, reported the WHO team’s arrival. The members include virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam. A government spokesman said this week they will “exchange views” with Chinese scientists but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence. They will undergo a two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for COVID-19, according to a post on CGTN’s official Weibo account. They are to start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine. China rejected demands for an international investigation after the Trump administration blamed Beijing for the virus’s spread, which plunged the global economy into its deepest slump since the 1930s.

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In Holland, with 5,000 new cases on Tuesday, a warning yesterday that in February B.1.1.7 could cause 150,000 new cases per day.

Two NYC Residents Reported To Have UK COVID-19 Variant (AMNY)

Two New York City residents, one from Manhattan and the other from Queens, have contracted the mutated COVID-19 strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom—leading to a second nationwide lockdown of the country—Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. Both people were originally diagnosed in late-December using genetic sequencing — a method used to identify the new strain — which returned results “within the last few hours,” according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. Over 30 countries have reported cases of a new COVID variant, known as B.1.1.7, first identified in the UK last fall. In response, several countries have shut their doors to travelers from the United Kingdom in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.


Earlier this week, Washington announced that all international travelers will be required show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight starting Jan. 26 in response to the variant’s spread. But on Wednesday, de Blasio said that the measure fell short of what is needed to control the virus and again called for the federal government to issue a travel ban from Britain. “That’s not good enough,” de Blasio told reporters. “Here is proof positive that someone who was in the UK has brought the variant back here. We need that stopped. All flights from the United Kingdom should be canceled immediately by the federal government.” State officials reported the first case of the new variant on Jan. 4. Since then, officials have reported a total of 12 people in New York state have contracted the B.1.1.7.

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“..so called ‘immunity’ passports “pose extremely high risks in terms of social cohesion, discrimination, exclusion and vulnerability.”

EU Leaders Demand “Standardised” Vaccine Passport For Travel (SN)

EU leaders are demanding that the Commission should ‘standardise’ a vaccine passport across all member countries, and that it should be required for people to travel throughout the area. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has penned a letter to EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, outlining that “Persons who have been vaccinated should be free to travel.” The letter calls for a “standardised certificate, which will prove that a person has been successfully vaccinated.” While it stops short at advocating mandatory vaccination, the letter further urges that “It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states.”

Mitsotakis has pledged to raise the issue during an upcoming EU summit on January 21, declaring that “there is an urgent need for a high-level EU-wide mobilization to move things forward.” Vaccine passports have previously been touted by the EU, with officials suggesting back in April that visa applicants would also be required to be vaccinated. EU countries including Spain, Estonia, Iceland, and Belgium have all indicated that they are open to some form of vaccine passports, as well as sharing the data across borders. This week, it was also revealed that Denmark is the latest country to announce that it is rolling out a ‘Covid passport’, to allow those who have taken the vaccine to engage in society without any restrictions.

However, the EU’s data protection chief Wojciech Wiewiorowski recently labeled the idea of an immunity passport “extreme” and has repeatedly said it is alarming, and ‘disgusting’. The spectre of so called ‘immunity passports’ is looming globally. Having left the EU, Britain would not be part of any standardised European scheme, however it has now confirmed that it is rolling out vaccine passports, despite previous denials that it would do so. Recently, the government in Ontario, Canada admitted that it is exploring ‘immunity passports’ in conjunction with restrictions on travel and access to social venues for the unvaccinated. Last month, Israel announced that citizens who get the COVID-19 vaccine will be given ‘green passports’ that will enable them to attend venues and eat at restaurants.

A litany of other government and travel industry figures in both the US, Britain and beyond have suggested that ‘COVID passports’ are coming in order for ‘life to get back to normal’. Anna Beduschi, an academic from Exeter University, commented on the potential move toward vaccine passports by EU, noting that it “poses essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights.” Beduschi added that the vaccine passports may “create a new distinction between individuals based on their health status, which can then be used to determine the degree of freedoms and rights they may enjoy.” A report compiled last year by AI research body the Ada Lovelace Institute said so called ‘immunity’ passports “pose extremely high risks in terms of social cohesion, discrimination, exclusion and vulnerability.” Sam Grant, campaign manager at the civili liberties advocacy group Liberty has warned that “any form of immunity passport risks creating a two-tier system in which some of us have access to freedoms and support while others are shut out.”

Read more …

“..the city let the landlords keep all of the gains in land value. And they just raised the income taxes and went into debt to pay for the subway.”

Polarization, Then a Crash – Michael Hudson (AN)

[..] ever since the Bronze Age you had the temples and the palaces providing basic needs. Because if you leave this to the private sector, then you’re going to have a situation where the private supplier has a chokehold on the economy and can say: your money or your life. There are certain things that governments are supposed to supply and which industrial capitalism wanted government to supply. Because they didn’t want employers or their employees to have to pay for them. These are a number of things. Governments obviously have to supply military defense. You can’t leave that private people but also healthcare, for instance. The conservative party in England, Benjamin Disraeli said: health is everything; we have to spend on health.

And you don’t want to, in principle, make money off crime. But in America we’re privatizing the penal system, the jail system. So you have increasing pressure on government, on governors, to arrest people, put them in jail especially on drug use, where you can employ them at 10 cents an hour. And lease them out to companies as low priced labor. But most of all, government is supposed to provide the infrastructure: the transportation, the communication, the telephone system. And the idea is that if you leave like cable TV to private suppliers, they are natural monopolies. The idea throughout history from classical Greece and Rome, medieval times in Europe is that natural monopolies should be in the public domain.

Because you don’t want to provide opportunities for monopoly rent. Because monopoly rent, like land rent and natural resource rent, is not a necessary cost to production. You want the necessary cost of production to be the material costs and normal profit. Because obviously you need people to have some incentive to do things. But the incentive is supposed to be normal profit, not super profits, not just a free lunch. And so if you let transportation become privatized, then it is going to cost the workforce much more money to get to work and to get to a job. If you let the oil industry be privatized and the profits from the natural resource, and that’s the patrimony of mineral rights, oil and gas is all going to go to the private financial sector not to be used as the tax base.

And if you have the land rent, essentially if the government, for instance, in New York City, they spent let’s say a billion dollars on extending the second Avenue subway line up along the wealthy Upper East Side. That increased land values for landlords all by about twice the amount by about $2 billion. Because people now were closer to the subway station, they didn’t have to walk. They had better transport. All of this increase in land prices could have financed the extension of the subway and still been able to lower the subway fares for the rest of new Yorkers. Instead, the city let the landlords keep all of the gains in land value. And they just raised the income taxes and went into debt to pay for the subway.

So, you have a privatization of wealth that is not created by landlords, not created by individuals. Certainly the oil companies don’t create the oil in the ground. And the mining companies don’t create the mineral resources. All of these things are given away freely. The United States lets forestry logging companies and mining companies get whatever they can take from the public domain for free instead of getting the results of this publicly owned land to finance the public budget. Taxes in the United States could be drastically reduced on wages and on profits, if you would just tax the unearned monopoly rent, the economic rent that is not necessary for production.

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How to spook markets.

Biden To Propose Massive $2 Trillion Stimulus (ZH)

Last week, Goldman sparked a buying frenzy in the market (and selling in treasuries) when the bank said it expects the Biden admin would unveil a “modest” $750 billion fiscal stimulus plan, including some $300 billion in “stimmy” checks to Americans. However, as bank after bank tried to upstage Goldman and threw around stimulus estimates as high as $1 trillion or even more, the market barely noticed when late this afternoon, incoming Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer reportedly “pressed” (in Bloomberg’s words) Joe Biden to propose more than $1.3 trillion in spending for his initial round of Covid-19 relief.

According to Bloomberg, “the two have discussed Biden’s plans ahead of the president-elect’s announcement on his economic-rebuilding proposals… Biden is set to speak at 7:15 p.m. Thursday to outline “his vaccination and economic rescue legislative package,” his transition team said in a statement.” But if markets ignored the Schumer report, they sure as hell noticed the CNN report which hit just after 9pmET, which prompted traders to take a double take because apparently Schumer “pressed” Biden so hard to expand the next stimulus round, he literally squashed the president-elect, who is now “expected to unveil a major Covid-19 relief package on Thursday and his advisers have recently told allies in Congress to expect a price tag in the ballpark of $2 trillion,” CNN reported citing two people briefed on the deliberations.

The Biden team is taking a “shoot for the moon” approach with the package, one lawmaker in close contact with them told CNN, though they added that the price tag could still change. The proposal, which is just shy of the Democrats’ demand late last year when they sought a $2.2 trillion stimulus, only to agree on a $900 billion enacted last December, “will include sizable direct payments to American families, significant state and local funding – including for coronavirus vaccine distribution and other emergency spending measures – to help those struggling during the pandemic.”

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Why does the US have so many neocon women in high places?

Biden Taps Veteran Interventionist Samantha Power to Head USAID (Antiwar)

On Wednesday, Joe Biden announced that he will nominate Samantha Power to head the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Power served as ambassador to the UN for President Obama from 2013 to 2017. Before that, she worked on Obama’s National Security Council, where she played an instrumental role in pushing for US intervention in Libya in 2011. Power argued in favor of US intervention in Libya under the guise of protecting human rights and preventing genocide. She was joined in her crusade by then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Susan Rice, who served as the UN ambassador at the time. Reports from 2011 say the pressure from Power, Rice, and Clinton is what led Obama to intervene militarily in Libya, even though his other top advisors were against it.

Then-Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates would later say that in a “51 to 49” decision, Obama decided to bomb Libya. The US-NATO intervention in Libya that led to the brutal murder of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi was an absolute disaster. Destabilizing Libya turned the country into a haven for al-Qaeda-linked militants, resulted in targeted killings of black Africans, sparked a refugee crisis in North Africa, and even led to the creation of slave markets. For her efforts in convincing Obama to destroy Libya, Power was promoted. As the US ambassador to the UN, Power advocated for US intervention in Syria and stood by as the Obama administration backed the Saudis in their brutal war against Yemen’s Houthis.

While Powers has since taken a public stance against the war in Yemen, she omitted her early role in supporting the vicious war from her memoir that was published in 2019. In the book, Power defended her decision to intervene in Libya and argued that more intervention in Syria could have prevented some of the war’s atrocities. While it’s not exactly a national security position, Power will have a lot of influence on foreign policy from her future role as the head of USAID. The agency is often used to fund US regime change efforts. For example, in September 2019, USAID announced it would be providing $52 million to Juan Guaido, who the US recognizes as president of Venezuela, despite the fact that Nicolas Maduro holds the office. Earlier in 2019, the US supported Guaido in a failed coup attempt.

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Peaceful protests coming.

As Biden Vows To ‘Defeat The NRA,’ Gun Sales Continue To Soar (JTN)

The FBI’s firearm statistics show that 2020 was a record-breaking year in the firearm industry with a 39.9% increase in FBI firearm background checks. With a worldwide pandemic, a summer of violence in cities across the country, the U.S. presidential election and now the transitioning of administrations, 2020 was no ordinary year. With a total of 39,695,315 completed background checks – up from 28,369,750 in 2019 – the year marked the most firearm checks in history, based on FBI data as far back as 1998. Since 1998, nine out of the top ten highest firearm-check weeks occurred in 2020, with the highest check weeks being in the middle of March and the beginning of June.


December, in the midst of election irregularity claims by Trump, saw the highest month of background checks. At over 7.4 million, Illinois saw the most background checks in the country. The fear of the unknown and what’s to come continue to drive sales through the roof. Since the breaching of the Capitol on Jan. 6, gun stores have seen an increase in sales from a fairly even mix of Republicans and Democrats, according to research from TMZ. Gun shops reported increased sales up 400% this past week compared to the week before, with many stores being sold out of guns and ammunition. As Inauguration Day draws closer, sales could continue to stay high with Biden recently saying he will “defeat the NRA.”

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Abominable.

Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged For Flint Water Crisis (JTN)

Former Republican governor of Michigan Rick Snyder has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with an investigation pertaining to the Flint, Michigan water crisis, which received much national attention at the time. The Associated Press reported that, according to the state archivist, there has never before been a sitting or former governor charged with wrongdoing connected to their tenure as Michigan governor. “Flint was in chronic financial trouble in 2014 when a Snyder-appointed manager who was running the majority Black city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction,” the outlet noted.


“The corrosive water, however, wasn’t treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in U.S. history,” the wire service reported. As reports have shown, such as from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, there was plenty of blame to go around. CNN reported that the IG report “strongly criticizes the local, state and federal government’s response to the Flint water crisis in 2015 and 2016.”

Read more …

So what has the Fed done to help?

Unemployment Rate Above 20% For Lowest-Paid Workers – Fed’s Brainard (CNBC)

Unemployment for the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. is above 20%, a figure that Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said underscores the importance of policy help for the economy. The figure indicates how uneven the recovery has seen since efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the biggest quarterly GDP drop since the Great Depression. “The damage from COVID-19 is concentrated among already challenged groups,” Brainard said in a speech Wednesday. “The K-shaped recovery remains highly uneven, with certain sectors and groups experiencing substantial hardship.”


At a time when the national unemployment rate has come down from the pandemic peak of 14.7% to the current 6.7%, Fed economists estimate the jobless rate for the lowest quartile of earners is “likely above 20%,” Brainard said. That comes as the Black unemployment rate is 9.9% and the Hispanic rate is at 9.3% while the rate for Whites is 6%. Fed officials have made “inclusive” employment gains a priority and have adjusted policy to try to make that happen. A new approach will allow inflation to run higher than the central bank’s 2% goal and the unemployment rate to fall beneath what had traditionally been an indicator of higher inflation before the Fed will raise interest rates.

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“We can’t run and hide hoping to be the last one hauled off to the abattoir. It’s time to step up.”

Cancel Yourself (Michael Krieger)

There’s no reason to rehash what happened over the last several days, but the gist of it is that significant components of internet infrastructure were weaponized for ideological and political purposes. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all knew this day was coming. We just didn’t want to admit it or confront it, because it’s not a comforting or easy thing to admit or confront. But the day has arrived and we’re no longer in a position to ignore it. The most concerning aspect isn’t that it happened, but that it could happen at all. The internet is clearly broken, possibly dying, and if we want to digitally associate freely again at some point in the future, we have no choice but to fix it.

Although I have no team in the parochial political fight, I’ve chosen one in the broader ideological battle. The wielding of such concentrated and unaccountable power over human communication has crossed a very serious line and sets us up for a future world I’m uninterested in participating in. As such, we have no choice but to confront the issue head on. People who think this is about Trump for me are the most ridiculous people. I never voted for him, supported him or took him seriously. While I recognize the role he played in the greater scheme of this massive historical cycle, the best thing that can happen is for him to disappear as a political force and be understood as the spectacle and distraction he was. I’m not here to lecture anyone about who they voted for, but I’m here to connect with people of all political persuasions ready to become serious and admit that a real strategy is needed to address the unaccountable power of the national security state oligarchy. Conventional political avenues are a dead end at this point.

I recognize that tens of millions of frustrated, angry and concerned minds are trying to make sense of it all and reorient themselves. This presents a giant opportunity, but also very real danger. All the emotion being felt currently can be channeled into negative avenues such as violence, aimless spectacles, Trump martyrdom or a futile search for the next political savior guaranteed to disappoint, or it can be channeled in productive ways. That’s why I’m here writing this post at this moment. Enough people are finally motivated to respond, but what really matters is the nature of this response. The dominant aggregate reaction is what will determine the future.

Most of us eagerly, or more likely lazily, embraced the current insipid and dull paradigm in the name of convenience, low prices, and free shipping, but we never stopped to consider the sacrifices made along the way. We swallowed it whole, became comfortable fat and happy, and now the facade’s about to be slowly stripped away unless we bend the knee to an ever narrowing Overton Window of speech and behavior parameters. It begins with social media purges, but it won’t end there. All the special things we sacrificed from the prior era are gone, yet the consequences are here to stay. We can’t run and hide hoping to be the last one hauled off to the abattoir. It’s time to step up.

Read more …

This should be the most normal thing in the world. Instead, it’s news.

New Zealand City Closes Busy Road For Weeks To Protect Sea Lions (G.)

The second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island has closed a popular road for an entire month in order for a sea lion to nest safely with its pup. Dunedin City council said in a Facebook post it would close John Wilson Drive above the city’s St Claire beach for a month to allow “some special residents to use the road safely”. “A New Zealand sea lion and her pup have taken up residence at the golf course next door and are regularly crossing the road to get to the beach,” the council said. “You can still visit the area by foot or bicycle, but please give the sea lions lots of space (at least 20m) … New Zealand sea lions are endangered and one of the rarest sea lion species in the world.”


The harbour city, home to 120,000 people, regularly shuts roads during the summer months to allow wildlife to cross safely, but typically only for a day or two at most. The month-long closure has been applauded by locals, many of whom urged the council the make it permanent to protect vulnerable wildlife. Sea lions are threatened in New Zealand and are often attacked by dogs or chase humans if they get too close. The animals, which can weigh up to 200kg, have been giving birth in and around Dunedin since 1993, and since protection efforts have ramped up – both official and otherwise – the sea lion breeding season has become a fixture of the summer months, with at least 20 pups expected in the city this year.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 132021
 
 January 13, 2021  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  61 Responses »


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis entering the Warwick 1956

 

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)
Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)
China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)
Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)
How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)
Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)
Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)
Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)
Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)
Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)
Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

 

 

“There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right: It is the ideal American who is all wrong.”
– G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

“..a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December..”

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)

And when I say “insane infection numbers” I mean a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December, where the R number – the basic reproductive rate of the disease – went from something around 1.2 to something around 3. Where you suddenly went from a few hundred new Covid cases every day to more than six thousand cases every day. All in a country the size of Alabama (which, btw, currently has about 4 thousand cases every day). [..] I believe there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will experience a rolling series of “Ireland events” over the next 30-45 days, where the Covid effective reproductive number (Re not R0) reaches a value between 2.4 and 3.0 in states and regions where a) the more infectious UK-variant (or similar) Covid strain has been introduced, and b) Covid fatigue has led to deterioration in social distancing behaviors.

A single Ireland event is a disaster. A series of Ireland events on the scale of the United States is catastrophic. If this were to occur, I’d expect to see a doubling of new Covid cases/day from current levels in the aggregate (today’s 7-day average is 240k/day), peaking somewhere around 500,000 new daily cases before draconian economic shutdowns (more severe than anything we’ve seen to date) would occur in every impacted major metro area. Hospital systems across the country would be placed under enormous additional strain, leading to meaningfully higher case fatality ratios (CFRs) as medical care was rationed. Most critically, this new infection rate would far outpace our current vaccine distribution capacity and policy. Assuming that vaccines are preferentially administered to the elderly, aggregate infection fatality ratios (IFRs) should decrease, but the overall burden of severe outcomes (death, long-term health consequences) would shift to younger demographics.

Current US government policy rejects the possibility of an Ireland event, largely because of what I believe is a politically-motivated analysis by the CDC that models more than 100 million Americans already possessing Covid antibodies, prior to any vaccination effort. Using data from flu monitoring programs in prior years, the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up. Add in another 10 million or so Americans who the CDC models as having already had asymptomatic Covid, add in the 23 million Americans who we know have had Covid, and voila! – per the CDC, one-third of the American population is already effectively immunized against getting Covid in the future. And obviously enough, if >30% of Americans are already effectively immunized against Covid because they’ve already gotten sick, then it’s very difficult to hit the Re numbers of 2.4 – 3.0 that Ireland is currently experiencing.

I think this model is wrong, and I think the CDC knows that it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong because the 2021 behavior of someone who thinks they might have Covid is very different from the 2015 behavior of someone who thought they might have had the flu, but the CDC assumes it is the same in their models. You don’t ignore Covid. You don’t just brush it off. I’d say that no one just brushes off Covid symptoms the way they might have brushed off flu symptoms in the past, but of course that’s not true. I’m sure there are millions of Americans who have, in fact, had symptomatic Covid and ignored it, particularly in spring and early summer when our national testing capability was pathetic. But 70 MILLION Americans? Twenty percent of ALL Americans? More than three times the number of known Covid cases? C’mon, man.

I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true – if they actually thought that one-third of Americans were already effectively immunized by having Covid antibodies – this would be an ENORMOUS factor in determining vaccination policy. Otherwise, you are going to be wasting one-third of your precious supply of vaccines on people who don’t need it. I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true, how do you make sense of Covid hospitalization rates?

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Soon to come in a country near you.

Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)

The Japanese government plans to suspend the entry of all foreigners as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world. Japan halted all new arrivals of non-nationals last month after new strains of the coronavirus that are believed to be highly transmissible were confirmed in the UK and elsewhere. But it continued to allow entry by businesspeople from 10 Asian countries and Taiwan. The government plans to suspend the entry of travelers, regardless of whether a coronavirus variant has been detected in their country, as part of its tighter entry restrictions following the declaration of a state of emergency.


No foreigners will be allowed to enter Japan, except for special reasons, such as a relative’s funeral or childbirth. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said last week he plans to ban travel to and from countries and territories where a new strain of the coronavirus has been confirmed. But members of his party and others described the measure as confusing.

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China’s nervous.

China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)

China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second biggest economy. Most of the new patients were reported near the capital Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed on Wednesday, amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine. The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the mainland compared with 55 a day earlier. This was the highest daily increase since July 30.

The commission said 107 of the new cases were local infections. Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases. [..] Hebei has put three cities – Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang – into lockdown as part of the efforts to keep the virus from spreading further, while Beijing city authorities have stepped up screening and prevention measures to prevent another cluster from developing there. Heilongjiang province on Wednesday declared a COVID-19 emergency. The city of Suihua, which borders the provincial capital Harbin, put its 5.2 million people under lockdown.

Most of the cases in Heilongjiang have been found in Wangkui county, under Suihua’s jurisdiction, which had already been put into a lockdown earlier this week. Tieli, a city of about 300,000 people that borders Suihua, said on Wednesday it will not allow any people or vehicles to leave for three days as part of new COVID-19 prevention measurs.

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An 85-year old apostle for peace. Boy, you guys screwed up.

Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)

We have been discussing the chilling crackdown on free speech that has been building for years in the United States. This effort has accelerated in the aftermath of the Capitol riot including the shutdown sites like Parler. Now former Texas congressman Ron Paul, 85, has been blocked from using his Facebook page for unspecified violations of “community standards.” Paul’s last posting was linked to an article on the “shocking” increase of censorship on social media. Facebook then proceeded to block him under the same undefined “community standards” policy. Paul, a libertarian leader and former presidential candidate, has been an outspoken critics of foreign wars and an advocate for civil liberties for decades. He wrote: “With no explanation other than ‘repeatedly going against our community standards,’ @Facebook has blocked me from managing my page. Never have we received notice of violating community standards in the past and nowhere is the offending post identified.”

His son is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted, “Facebook now considers advocating for liberty to be sedition. Where will it end?” Even before the riot, Democrats were calling for blacklists and retaliation against anyone deemed to be “complicit” with the Trump Administration. We have been discussing the rising threats against Trump supporters, lawyers, and officials in recent weeks from Democratic members are calling for blacklists to the Lincoln Project leading a a national effort to harass and abuse any lawyers representing the Republican party or President Trump. Others are calling for banning those “complicit” from college campuses while still others are demanding a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to “hold Trump and his enablers accountable for the crimes they have committed.” Daily Beast editor-at-large Rick Wilson has added his own call for “humiliation,” “incarceration” and even ritualistic suicides for Trump supporters in an unhinged, vulgar column.

After the riots, the big tech companies moved to ban and block sites and individuals, including Parler which is the primary alternative to Twitter. Also, a top Forbes editor Randall Lane warned any company that they will be investigated if they hire any former Trump officials. The riots are being used as a license to rollback on free speech and retaliate against conservatives. In the meantime, the silence of academics and many in the media is deafening. Many of those who have spoken for years about the dark period of McCarthyism and blacklisting are either supporting this censorship or remaining silent in the face of it. Now that conservatives are the targets, speech controls and blacklists appear understandable or even commendable. The move against Paul, a long champion of free speech, shows how raw and comprehensive this crackdown has become. It shows how the threat to free speech has changed. It is like having a state media without state control. These companies are moving in unison but not necessarily with direct collusion.

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“..exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country…”

How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)

Critics of Silicon Valley censorship for years heard the same refrain: tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are private corporations and can host or ban whoever they want. If you don’t like what they are doing, the solution is not to complain or to regulate them. Instead, go create your own social media platform that operates the way you think it should. The founders of Parler heard that suggestion and tried. In August, 2018, they created a social media platform similar to Twitter but which promised far greater privacy protections, including a refusal to aggregate user data in order to monetize them to advertisers or algorithmically evaluate their interests in order to promote content or products to them. They also promised far greater free speech rights, rejecting the increasingly repressive content policing of Silicon Valley giants.

Over the last year, Parler encountered immense success. Millions of people who objected to increasing repression of speech on the largest platforms or who had themselves been banned signed up for the new social media company. As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.

It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules. But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country.

If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.

Tucker Greenwald

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They smell blood, this won’t stop them.

Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)

Dear Madam Speaker:

Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day. It was a moment that demonstrated to the American people the unity that is still possible in Congress when it is needed most. But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution. Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.

As you know full well, the 25th Amendment was designed to address Presidential incapacity or disability. Just a few months ago, when you introduced legislation to create a 25th Amendment Commission, you said, “[a] President’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts.” You said then that we must be “[v]ery respectful of not making a judgment on the basis of a comment or behavior that we don’t like, but based on a medical decision.” Madam Speaker, you were right. Under our Constitution, the 25th Amendment is not a means of punishment or usurpation. Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

After the horrific events of this last week, our Administration’s energy is directed to ensuring an orderly transition. The Bible says that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to heal, … and a time to build up.” That time is now. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship for millions of Americans, and the tragic events of January 6th, now is the time for us to come together, now is the time to heal. I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. I pledge to you that I will continue to do my part to work in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition of power. So help me God.

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Last chance for lots of things.

Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)

President Trump’s last days in office offer a final opportunity to declassify critical information on the Russia investigation that engulfed his lone term. Already voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal. Despite these disclosures, key questions remain about the origins and the spread of the conspiracy theory.


And with a Biden administration set to take office and Democrats taking control of both chambers of Congress, there are no guarantees that the ongoing probe of Special Counsel John Durham will fill in the remaining gaps. Both the CIA and FBI have been slow to produce much material that Trump reportedly wants declassified. They argue that disclosure would reveal sources and methods vital to national security. Such claims arouse skepticism because they have been used in the past to cover up malfeasance – as the public learned when deceptive FISA warrant applications used to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were finally released.

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What’s striking here is that it’s CNN covering it.

Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)

Israel is no longer a democracy but an “apartheid regime” devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, the country’s best-known human rights group said in a report published Tuesday. B’Tselem, which until now has confined its work to scrutiny of human rights issues in the Palestinian territories, has now also decided to look at what it calls Israel’s “regime” between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. “More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule,” B’Tselem said in a new analysis titled: “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”


The human rights group says that the traditional view of Israel as a democracy operating side-by-side with a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories “imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects … has grown divorced from reality.” “Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,” B’Tselem said in its controversial analysis. Years of injustice against Palestinians, culminating in laws that have entrenched discrimination, mean that “the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met,” B’Tselem said. The allegation that Israel is an “apartheid state” has often been dismissed by rightwing Israelis and their support groups as anti-Semitic. But this argument will be harder to make now that Israel has been labelled this way by such a well-respected Israeli institution, albeit one that enjoys only minority support in its home country.

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“..build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption…”

Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)

While the political gridlock and alarmist headlines out of Capitol Hill as well as a dramatic Democratic move to impeach look to define Trump’s final week in office, Bloomberg notes that China’s President Xi Jinping is sounding “unusually upbeat”. According to the publication he issued an unusually upbeat assessment about China’s future, noting that “time and the situation” were on the country’s side in a new year marked by domestic turmoil in the U.S. The purpose of the speech before a top-level meeting of government officials in Beijing on Monday was to lay out the Communist Party vision over the next three decades, which included the presence of the Politburo Standing Committee, Beijing’s highest decision-making body.

“The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century,” Xi said, striking a tone which many pundits observed stood in contrast to recent more dire sounding warnings. “But time and momentum are on our side. This is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence.” And further according to the Monday remarks in the closed-door meeting: “At the same time, we must see clearly that, for now and until this upcoming period of time, while our country is at an important period of strategic opportunity for development, there will always be changes to our opportunities and challenges,” Xi was quoted as saying. “The extensiveness of these opportunities and challenges is unprecedented but, all in all, the opportunities we face outweigh our challenges,” he added, calling for unity, diligence and flexibility to achieve the party’s goals.

The cautious optimism continued, as South China Morning Post writes, while he made vague or remote references to both the pandemic and political turmoil and uncertainty afflicting the United States: In his speech, Xi also again emphasised Beijing’s new “dual circulation” economic strategy first announced in May amid global challenges brought by the pandemic and China’s slowing growth. “Only by being self-reliant and developing the domestic market and smoothing out internal circulation can we achieve vibrant growth and development, regardless of the hostility in the outside world,” Xi said. Elsewhere in the speech he continued urged that self-reliance would in part come through rapid technological innovation in order to build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption.

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Scum.

Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)

An investigation has been launched in England after images shared online showed “woefully inadequate” free school meal parcels sent to families. One mum criticised the free school meals scheme after she claimed she was sent just a few pounds worth of food to feed her children for 10 days. It was claimed the image of a £30 parcel contained just over £5 worth of food. Posting the image on Twitter, user Roadside Mum said: “2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes. “Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad. “Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.”


Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: “3 days of food for 1 family… Just not good enough. “Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. “Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven’t eaten at all so their children can… We MUST do better.” England children’s Minister Vicky Ford said she would be “urgently” look into the matter. England’s Department for Education wrote on Twitter: “We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. “Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.” Chartwells, the company which the mum in England said provided the parcel, said it will investigate.


The hamper received in Caerphilly (left) compared to the hamper received by a mum in England

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Paul Ehrlich. Long time no see.

Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises. The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood. “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.


The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.” The report warns that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken. “Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds. Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

Read more …

 

 

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The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
– Albert Camus

 

 

 

 

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Jan 122021
 


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis 1956

 

New Covid “Super Strain” is a Game-Changer for Schools and More (Parramore)
WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants (F.)
An Epidemic of COVID Positive Tests (John Hunt)
Lockdown ‘Ineffective’ Against Spread Of Covid-19, May Even Increase Risk (RT)
French Government “Shocked” at Twitter Banning of Trump (SN)
Twitter Has Suspended More Than 70,000 Accounts Since Friday (ZH)
The Big Tech Backfire (Miller)
We Need a New Media System (Taibbi)
Insurrection Versus Insurrection (Kunstler)
The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’ (Maté)
Assange Is Still In Prison. And America’s Principles Are Still At Stake. (NBC)
50 Countries Commit To Protection Of 30% of Earth’s Land and Oceans (G.)
Economic Failures of the IPCC Process (Steve Keen)
Dutch Officials Seize Ham Sandwiches From British Drivers (G.)
‘Let’s All Remain Peaceful,’ Says Trump In Clear Incitement To Violence (BBee)

 

 

The B.1.1.7 COVID variant is starting to look as scary as the social media giant censorship.

 

 

A call on the US to close its borders to the UK. At present, dozens of flights arrive from London every day.

“I’ve never seen an epi curve like this. The B.1.1.7 variant is spreading like wildfire in the UK and Ireland. If it spreads here, it will make an already-bad situation even worse.”

 

 

Lynn Parramore taks to Phillip Alvelda, a former NASA & DARPA technologist.

New Covid “Super Strain” is a Game-Changer for Schools and More (Parramore)

LP: New, fast-spreading “super strains” are raising a lot of concerns, such as more infection among young people. You’ve been studying the U.K. variant, which has shown up in the United States. What do we need to know?

PA: We saw the U.K. strain coming for some time. All of a sudden there began to be dramatic upticks in infection rates, even without material changes in individual behavior en masse or the abatement measures enacted and observed. England has not been the most Johnny-on-the-spot responder to the coronavirus, and there has been a lot of confusion about what abatement measures should be observed, in which areas, etc. Of the developed nations, the U.S. and the U.K. have struggled the most as societies to communicate, plan and observe reasonable measures that other countries have more successfully applied. The U.K. variant, which has now spread across Europe and into several U.S. states, has what appear to be a couple of important mutations in the spike protein, which allows the virus to attach to the receptors in the lungs. Apparently, the new variant is stickier – better at binding to the receptors. That means that it takes less of the virus to get you sick, or the same viral load gets you sicker.

A big change is that the U.K. variant appears be somewhere between 40 and 70% more infectious. For a person who has this variant, they’re likely to infect 40% to 70% more people. If you think about what we have done to reduce the effectiveness of transmission, getting people to wear masks has been a successful campaign. But some masks are better at protecting people than others. A well-fitted N95 and KN95 masks will filter 95% of the virus particles from coming into your lungs, but there are also terrible masks that don’t protect people much at all. If you average mask-wearing over the population, it seems that the mask mandates reduce the infectiousness of the virus by about 40 to 50%. To put the U.K. variant in perspective, with its faster spread, we are effectively put back to where we once were without masks — even when we’re now wearing masks!

LP: The idea of young people under 20 getting infected at high rates is alarming, though there have been conflicting reports as to why those numbers are higher, such as behavior patterns. What’s your take?

PA: There is no doubt that the U.K. strain is infecting more young people than any prior variants. I think the conflicting reports may have more to do with where that variant is prevalent and where it is not. It would not be true to say that all of the hospitals in the U.K. are being overrun by younger patients. But in those regions where the new variant is prevalent, the hospitalization and case data now show that more than ever before, young people are having almost as many cases and hospitalizations as the older people. That is a substantial change. With older variants, symptoms were usually not bad enough to even bring the kids in to test — and we know there were a lot of asymptomatic carriers that were never tested or acknowledged.

With the new variant, symptoms are bad enough that kids need the testing and they’re being hospitalized. It’s probably premature to speculate on the lethality. There is some hope, for example, that the U.K. variant could be more infectious but less lethal. But we just don’t know. It’s likely going to be weeks before the case trend that is now beginning to translate into the hospitalization trend will translate into the mortality trend. Unfortunately, given what we’ve seen in the past from the virus, it’s our expectation that if the case data is showing more young people infected, and the hospitalization data is showing more of them hospitalized, in a matter of weeks we will see more deaths.

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They’re talking again about “immunity” provided by vaccines. But have we seen any proof of that?

WHO Warns Of ‘Highly Problematic’ New Covid-19 Variants (F.)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday issued a dire warning about the new variants of Covid-19 that are emerging across the globe, noting that because those variants can be more contagious, the surge in cases they’re likely to cause could further stress hospitals and health workers already stretched to the brink. During a press briefing Monday, Ghebreyesus said that more contagious variants of the coronavirus “can drive a surge of cases and hospitalizations, which is highly problematic for health workers and hospitals already close to the breaking point.” The added strain on hospitals puts other essential health services at risk, he added, meaning that critical surgeries or procedures may become more difficult because hospital resources are more limited.

While these variants have been found to be more contagious, experts say they don’t appear to cause more severe sickness or increase the risk of death. Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned last week that the U.S. is “close to a worst-case scenario” because of the rapid spread of a new, highly contagious strain of Covid-19. New variants of Covid-19 have been found in the United Kingdom, the United States (where 63 cases have been detected), Canada, South Africa, and Nigeria, among other countries, the CDC says. Japan’s health authorities announced over the weekend that they had detected a new variant of the virus in four travelers from Brazil, Reuters reported.

Scientists are keeping track of new mutations as they emerge and studying how they will impact the effectiveness of vaccines. “I’m quite optimistic that even with these mutations, immunity is not going to suddenly fail on us,” Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the healthcare publication STAT. “It might be gradually eroded, but it’s not going to fail on us, at least in the short term.” A recent study from the University of Texas and pharma giant Pfizer found that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is still effective in protecting against new variants of the virus.

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Excellent analysis: “The more it is used wrongly, the more misinformation ensues.”

An Epidemic of COVID Positive Tests (John Hunt)

How does this same 95% sensitive/95% specific test work in this screening setting? The good news is that this test will likely identify the 5 people out of every 1000 with Relevant Infectious COVID! Yay! The bad news is that, out of every 1000 people, it will also falsely label 50 people as COVID-positive who don’t have Relevant Infectious COVID. Out of 55 people with positive tests in each group of 1000 people, 5 actually have the disease. 50 of the tests are false positives. With a Positive Predictive Value of only 9%, one could say that’s a pretty lousy test. It’s far lousier if you test only people with no symptoms (such as screening a school, jobsite, or college), in whom the up-front likelihood of having Relevant Infectious COVID Disease is substantially lower.

The very same test that is pretty good when testing people who are actually ill or at risk is lousy when screening people who aren’t. In the first scenario (with symptoms), the test is being used correctly for diagnosis. In the second scenario (no symptoms), the test is being used wrongly for screening. A diagnostic test is used to diagnose a patient the doctor thinks has a reasonable chance of having the disease (having symptoms like fever, cough, a snotty nose, and shortness of breath during a viral season). A screening test is used to check for the presence of a disease in a person without symptoms and no heightened risk of having the disease.

A screening test may be appropriate to use when it has very high specificity (99% or more), when the prevalence of the disease in the population is pretty high, and when there is something we can do about the disease if we identify it. However, if the prevalence of a disease is low (as is the case for Relevant Infectious COVID) and the test isn’t adequately specific (as is the case with PCR and rapid antigen tests for the COVID virus), then using such a test as a screening measure in healthy people is forcing the test to be lousy. The more it is used wrongly, the more misinformation ensues. Our health authorities are recommending more testing of asymptomatic people. In other words, they are encouraging the wrong and lousy application of these tests.

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“The proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher” under tough restrictions “rather than under less restrictive measures.”

Lockdown ‘Ineffective’ Against Spread Of Covid-19, May Even Increase Risk (RT)

A Stanford University study claims mandatory stay-at-home orders and business closures have “no clear, significant beneficial effect” on Covid-19 case growth and may even lead to more frequent infections in nursing homes. Researchers at Stanford University in California aimed to assess how tough lockdowns influence the growth in infections as compared to less restrictive measures. They used data from England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US, collected during the initial stages of the pandemic in the spring 2020. They compared the data from Sweden and South Korea, two countries that did not introduce tough lockdowns at that time, with that from the other eight countries.

They found that introducing any restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions’ (NPIs) such as reduced working hours, working from home and social distancing helped curb the rise of infections in nine out of 10 study countries, except for Spain, where the effect was “non-significant.” However, when they compared epidemic spreads in places that implemented less restrictive measures with those opting for a full-blown lockdown they found “no clear, significant beneficial effect” of the latter on the number of cases in any country. The research goes on to suggest that empirical data from the later wave of infections shows that restrictive measures fail to protect vulnerable populations. “The proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher” under tough restrictions “rather than under less restrictive measures.”

It also says that there’s evidence suggesting that “sometimes under more restrictive measures, infections may be more frequent in settings where vulnerable populations reside relative to the general population.” The research admits that lockdowns in early 2020 were justified because the disease was spreading rapidly and overwhelming health systems, and scientists or medics did not know what the mortality data of the virus was. However, it points at the potential harmful health effects of tough restrictions, such as hunger, health services becoming unavailable for non-Covid diseases, domestic abuse and mental health issues, and the effects of these on the economy mean that the benefits of the tough restrictions might be overrated and need to be studied carefully.

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“..social media giants shouldn’t have the power to decide who has the right to free speech…”

French Government “Shocked” at Twitter Banning of Trump (SN)

The French government has echoed Angela Merkel’s sentiment in saying it is “shocked” at Twitter’s banning of President Trump, asserting that Big Tech is a threat to democracy. Junior Minister for European Union Affairs Clement Beaune said the decision to silence Trump proved the need for Big Tech platforms to be tightly regulated. “This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” he told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said that “the digital oligarchy” was “one of the threats” to democracy and should be reigned in by the state. As we highlighted earlier, the German government also warned that Big Tech’s deplatforming of Trump set a very dangerous precedent.

Communicating via a spokesman, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the move “problematic,” adding that social media giants shouldn’t have the power to decide who has the right to free speech.

“This fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators — not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms,” said the statement. While Republicans were completely toothless in their efforts to control Big Tech during Trump’s administration, Poland could be set to pass a law that would fine social media companies $2.2 million a pop for censoring lawful free speech. “In the event of removal or blockage, a complaint can be sent to the platform, which will have 24 hours to consider it. Within 48 hours of the decision, the user will be able to file a petition to the court for the return of access. The court will consider complaints within seven days of receipt and the entire process is to be electronic,” reported Poland In.

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Anyone setting up a better alternative will be crushed.

Twitter Has Suspended More Than 70,000 Accounts Since Friday (ZH)

In a Monday night blog post, Twitter lays out all the latest details of a historic purge that started with the suspension of president Trump and has escalated into the ban of tens of thousands of conservative voices, or as Twitter puts it, “steps taken to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.” Odd how none of those considerations emerged during the summer when US cities were literally burning as a result of countless violent protests and frequent riots, but we digress. In any case, In twitter’s own delightfully ironic words, “It’s important to be transparent about all of this work as the US Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021, approaches.” Which is a probably a good idea in the aftermath of the biggest censorship purge in twitter history, one which sent Twitter stock tumbling. So this is what how twitter justifies “the purge”:


We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon. And with tens of thousands of accounts suspended (most of them permanently), banned, or merely disappeared, it will hardly be a surprise that according to Tiwtter, “more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended”. What is the justification? “These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.”

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“Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant as a way of fighting radicalization.”

The Big Tech Backfire (Miller)

Some are excusing Big Tech’s foray into massive censorship by arguing that these are private companies and can choose who they provide service to. Anyone who has a problem with their behavior, they reason, should just create their own platforms. But that is exactly what Parler did, and it was subsequently crushed. Unfortunately, because Big Tech companies have grown so large and monopolistic, the only real way to have a viable competitor is to create an entirely new internet. Amazon’s hypocritical justification for banning Parler shows that these companies will do basically anything in order to destroy the competition. Amazon claimed that Parler is responsible for the content that it allowed users to publish, which is the exact same argument made by people who wish to remove Section 230 protections for social media companies.

Amazon thus introduced a moral and legal standard for a potential competitor that it would resist tooth and nail if applied to itself. The company notably used Section 230 as a defense in a recent court case to try to avoid liability for selling defective products. It’s worth noting that many conservatives do not believe that social-media companies should do away with all content moderation. The problem is that platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and now Amazon, do not enforce their policies equally. After suspending Trump, Twitter was still hosting virulent anti-Semites, Chinese Communist party propaganda, vaccine conspiracists and antifa glorification accounts like the New York Times. If these companies only enforce policies against accounts with certain political leanings, it will radicalize a base of the population even more.

The people who are targeted online by Twitter and Facebook’s increasingly wide nets will simply find deeper and darker holes to communicate. Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant as a way of fighting radicalization. Deleting the account of someone with a radical opinion does not stop that person from holding that opinion; in fact, it may cause them to dig in even deeper in retaliation. Meanwhile, people who are unfairly targeted by social media platforms may start to sympathize with the radicals.

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“Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

We Need a New Media System (Taibbi)

The moment a group of people stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, news companies began the process of sorting and commoditizing information that long ago became standard in American media. Media firms work backward. They first ask, “How does our target demographic want to understand what’s just unfolded?” Then they pick both the words and the facts they want to emphasize. It’s why Fox News uses the term, “Pro-Trump protesters,” while New York and The Atlantic use “Insurrectionists.” It’s why conservative media today is stressing how Apple, Google, and Amazon shut down the “Free Speech” platform Parler over the weekend, while mainstream outlets are emphasizing a new round of potentially armed protests reportedly planned for January 19th or 20th.

What happened last Wednesday was the apotheosis of the Hate Inc. era, when this audience-first model became the primary means of communicating facts to the population. For a hundred reasons dating back to the mid-eighties, from the advent of the Internet to the development of the 24-hour news cycle to the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the Fox-led discovery that news can be sold as character-driven, episodic TV in the manner of soap operas, the concept of a “Just the facts” newscast designed to be consumed by everyone died out. News companies now clean world events like whalers, using every part of the animal, funneling different facts to different consumers based upon calculations about what will bring back the biggest engagement kick.

The Migrant Caravan? Fox slices off comments from a Homeland Security official describing most of the border-crossers as single adults coming for “economic reasons.” The New York Times counters by running a story about how the caravan was deployed as a political issue by a Trump White House staring at poor results in midterm elections. Repeat this info-sifting process a few billion times and this is how we became, as none other than Mitch McConnell put it last week, a country: “Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

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Jim holds on to the last straws.

Insurrection Versus Insurrection (Kunstler)

Mr. Trump is still president, and you’ve probably noticed he has been president for four years to date, which ought to suggest that he holds a great deal of accumulated information about the seditionists who have been playing games with him through all those years. So, two questions might be: how much of that information describes criminal acts by his adversaries — most recently, a deeply suspicious national election based on hackable vote-tabulation computers — and what’s within the president’s power to do something about it? I guess we’ll find out. Or, to state it a little differently, it is impossible that the president does not have barge-loads of information about the people who strove mightily to take him down for four years.

At least two pillars of the Intel Community — the CIA and the FBI — have been actively and visibly working to undermine and gaslight him, but you can be sure that the president knows where the gas has been coming from, and these agencies are not the only sources of dark information in this world. Also consider that not all the employees at these agencies are on the side of sedition. By its work this weekend, starring Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Zuck (Facebook), Tim Cook (Apple), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon and The WashPo), you know exactly what you would be getting with The Resistance taking power in the White House and Congress: unvarnished tyranny. No free speech for you!

They will not permit opposing voices to be heard, especially about the janky election that elevated America’s booby-prize, Joe Biden, to the highest office in the land. Now there’s a charismatic, charming, dynamic, in-charge guy! He’s already doing such a swell job “healing America.” For instance, his declaration Tuesday to give $30-billion to businesses run by “black, brown, and Native American entrepreneurs” (WashPo). Uh, white folks need not apply? Since when are federal disbursements explicitly race-based? What and who, exactly, comprise the committee set up to operate Joe Biden, the hypothetical, holographic President?

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If anything calls for a Special Counsel, it’s Russiagate. But with the Dems back in power, the chances are zero.

The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’ (Maté)

On January 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News published the “Steele dossier,” the collection of DNC-funded reports alleging a high-level conspiracy between Trump and Moscow. The catalyst had come four days earlier, when then–FBI Director Jim Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier’s existence. Their meeting was then promptly leaked to the media, giving BuzzFeed the news hook to publish the Steele material in full. Despite its outlandish assertions and partisan provenance, Steele’s work product somehow became a road map for Democratic leaders, media outlets, and, most egregiously, intelligence officials carrying out the Russia investigation.

According to Steele, Trump and the Kremlin engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation.” Russia had, Steele alleged, been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years,” dating back to the time when Trump was merely the host of The Apprentice. Russia, Steele claimed, handed Trump “a regular flow of intelligence,” including on “political rivals.” The conspiracy supposedly escalated during the 2016 campaign, when then–Trump lawyer Michael Cohen slipped into Prague for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.”

This purported plot was not just based on mutual nefarious interests but, worse, outright coercion. To keep their asset in line, Steele alleged, the Russians had videotaped Trump hiring and watching prostitutes “perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show,” in a Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel room. This “kompromat” meant that the leader of the free world was not only a traitor but also a blackmail victim of his Kremlin handlers. If the Steele dossier’s far-fetched claims were not enough reason to dismiss it with ridicule, another obvious marker should have set off alarms. Reading the Steele dossier chronologically, a glaring pattern emerges: Steele has no advance knowledge of anything that later proved to be true, and, just as tellingly, many of his most explosive claims appear only after some approximate prediction has come out in public form.

Despite his supposed high-level sources inside the Kremlin, it was only after Wikileaks published the DNC e-mails in July 2016 that Steele first mentioned them. When Steele made the headline-consuming claim that “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” in exchange for Russian help, he did so only after a meaningless Ukraine-related platform change at the RNC was reported (and mischaracterized) in The Washington Post. When Steele claimed that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was offered up to a 19 percent stake in the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft if he could get Trump to lift Western sanctions, it was only after the media had reported Page’s visit to Moscow.

In short, far from having access to high-level intelligence, Steele and his “sources” only had access to news outlets and their own imaginations.

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Support that comes way too late.

Assange Is Still In Prison. And America’s Principles Are Still At Stake. (NBC)

The Justice Department’s case against Assange raised serious press freedom concerns from the outset. This is partly because so much of the indictment is devoted to describing activity that journalists engage in routinely — like cultivating government sources, communicating with them confidentially, protecting their identities and publishing classified secrets. In defending the indictment, Justice Department spokespeople have insisted that the case does not implicate press freedom because Assange himself is not a journalist and because WikiLeaks, which Assange founded, is not a media organization. But this defense misses the point. The point is that Assange is being prosecuted for activities that national security journalists engage in every day — and that they need to engage in if they are to serve as a meaningful check on government power.

Of particular concern are three counts in the indictment that charge Assange with having violated the Espionage Act merely by publishing classified information. As the Justice Department knows, publishing government secrets is an important part of what American news organizations do. The Washington Post disclosed classified information when it revealed the CIA’s network of black sites. The New York Times disclosed classified information when it exposed the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The truth is that there is no way that American news organizations could report responsibly about war, foreign relations or national security without sometimes disclosing classified information. Max Frankel of The New York Times famously made this point in an affidavit filed 50 years ago in the Pentagon Papers case, and the point is even more true today.

The ruling issued in London on Monday by Judge Vanessa Baraitser will forestall the Justice Department, at least for now, from pursuing Assange’s prosecution in U.S. courts. This is a significant thing. While the indictment certainly has a chilling effect on national security journalism, a successful prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act would be even more oppressive — indeed, it would likely compel U.S. news organizations to radically curtail some of the most important work they do. The problem with Baraitser’s ruling, from the perspective of press freedom, is that it rejected the extradition request only because of concerns relating to Assange’s mental health and the conditions in which he would be imprisoned were he handed over to the United States. This aspect of Baraitser’s ruling appears to be well supported by the evidence, but, significantly, its protection does not extend beyond Assange.

Read more …

Really? The UK goverment will protect the planet? And Prince Charles makes a cameo? Fool me once, shame on you.

50 Countries Commit To Protection Of 30% of Earth’s Land and Oceans (G.)

A coalition of 50 countries has committed to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday, hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Scientists have said human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, and agricultural production, mining and pollution are threatening the healthy functioning of life-sustaining ecosystems crucial to human civilisation.

In the announcement, the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water. The commitment is likely to be the headline target of the “Paris agreement for nature” that will be negotiated at Cop15 in Kunming, China later this year. The HAC said it hoped early commitments from countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan and Canada would ensure it formed the basis of the UN agreement. The UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith said: “We know there is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve a massive increase in our efforts to protect and restore nature.

“So as co-host of the next Climate Cop, the UK is absolutely committed to leading the global fight against biodiversity loss and we are proud to act as co-chair of the High Ambition Coalition. “We have an enormous opportunity at this year’s biodiversity conference in China to forge an agreement to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. I am hopeful our joint ambition will curb the global decline of the natural environment, so vital to the survival of our planet.”

Read more …

A feature not a bug?!

Economic Failures of the IPCC Process (Steve Keen)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the premier international body collating the scientific assessment of climate change, and proposals for mitigation. A joint creation of the United Nations agencies the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it brings together scientists from myriad disciplines to assess and summarize the current research on climate change, collating knowledge that is then used to inform governments and politicians. The scientists work on a volunteer basis. The IPCC relies upon its member governments and “Observers Organizations” to nominate its volunteer authors. This means that, subject to their willingness to volunteer, the most prestigious individuals specialising in climate change in each discipline become the authors of the relevant IPCC chapter for their discipline.


They then undertake a review of the peer-reviewed literature in their field (and some non-peer-reviewed work, such as government reports) to distil the current state of knowledge about climate change in their discipline. A laborious review process is also followed, so the draft reports of the volunteer experts is reviewed by other experts in each field, to ensure conformity of the report with the discipline’s current perception of climate change. The emphasis upon producing reports which reflect the consensus within a discipline has resulted in numerous charges that the IPCC’s warnings are inherently too conservative. But the main weaknesses with the IPCC’s methodology are firstly that, in economics, it exclusively selects Neoclassical economists, and secondly, because there is no built-in review of one discipline’s findings by another, the conclusions of these Neoclassical economists about the dangers of climate change are reviewed only by other Neoclassical economists. The economic sections of IPCC reports are therefore unchallenged by other disciplines who also contribute to the IPCC’s reports.

Given the extent to which economists dominate the formation of most government policies in almost all fields, and not just strictly economic policy, the otherwise acceptable process by which the IPCC collates human knowledge on climate change has critically weakened, rather than strengthened, human society’s response to climate change. This is because, commencing with “Nobel Laureate” William Nordhaus, the economists who specialise on climate change have falsely trivialized the dangers that climate change poses to human civilization. In his 2018 Nobel Prize lecture, William Nordhaus described a trajectory that would lead to global temperatures peaking at 4°C above pre-industrial levels in 2145 as “optimal” because, according to his calculations, the damages from climate change over time, plus the abatement costs over time, are minimised on this trajectory.


He estimated the discounted cost of the economic damages from unabated climate change — which would see temperatures approach 6°C above pre-industrial levels by 2150 — at $24 trillion, whereas the 4°C trajectory had damages of about $15 trillion and abatement costs of about $3 trillion. Trajectories with lower peak temperatures had higher abatement costs that overwhelmed the benefits. In a subsequent paper, Nordhaus claimed that even a 6°C increase would only reduce global income by only 7.9%, compared to what it would be in the complete absence of global warming.

Read more …

“Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

Dutch Officials Seize Ham Sandwiches From British Drivers (G.)

Dutch TV news has aired footage of customs officers confiscating ham sandwiches from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU. Officials wearing high-visibility jackets are shown explaining to startled car and lorry drivers at the Hook of Holland ferry terminal that since Brexit, “you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff.” To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

The ban came into force on New Year’s Day as the Brexit transition period came to an end, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) saying travellers should “use, consume, or dispose of” prohibited items at or before the border. “From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the Defra guidance for commercial drivers states. The European commission says the ban is necessary because meat and dairy products can contain pathogens causing animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth or swine fever and “continue to present a real threat to animal health throughout the union”.

Dutch customs also posted a photograph of foodstuffs ranging from breakfast cereals to oranges that officials had confiscated in the ferry terminal, adding: “Since 1 January, you can’t just bring more food from the UK.” The customs service added: “So prepare yourself if you travel to the Netherlands from the UK and spread the word. This is how we prevent food waste and together ensure that the controls are speeded up.”

Read more …

“Let’s all remain peaceful,” he said, which clearly meant, “Go burn down the Capitol Building.”

‘Let’s All Remain Peaceful,’ Says Trump In Clear Incitement To Violence (BBee)

A review of Trump’s statements last week made it clear that he was inciting violence, as he very clearly told people to “remain peaceful” and not carry out any violence. The dangerous cult leader encouraged his followers to protest at the Capitol, but to remain peaceful, which is an obvious instance of inciting violence, according to leading language experts and journalists. “Let’s all remain peaceful,” he said, which clearly meant, “Go burn down the Capitol Building.” “No violence!” added the deranged lunatic, which, according to the New York Times, was a dog whistle for “Minions, attack!” “Go home,” he added, which meant, “Keep pressing the attack! We will not be defeated! Blow stuff up!” At publishing time, Trump had said, “I’ve always encouraged peaceful protesting,” which meant he wanted his followers to go ransack an Arby’s.

Read more …

 

 

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


Salvator Rosa Lucrezia as poetry c.1641

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Greenwald Tucker

 

 

 

 

India and ivermectin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Spare a thought for the doctors making these decisions.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Assange Saga – Real Journalism Is Criminally Insane (Escobar)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Parler was at no. 1 in the AppStore.

Parler Kicked Off Amazon Servers And Apple Store (JTN)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Tears and fears.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan 082021
 
 January 8, 2021  Posted by at 9:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  56 Responses »


Joan Miro The tilled field 1924

 

Only In Your Imagination Was That An Attempted “Coup” (Tracey)
Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Greenwald)
Enough With The Outrage (PL)
Facebook, Twitter Finally Do Slightly More Than Nothing About Trump (IC)
US Capitol Police Say Reports Of Officer Death Not Accurate (R.)
Donald Trump’s Ruinous Legacy (Tracey)
The US and UK May Not Will Assange’s Death, But … (Cook)
Biden’s One-Two Stimulus Punch (Axios)
There Are So Many Covid Patients, Younger This Time (Anon)
Very Risky To Delay 2nd Dose Of COVID19 Vaccine – Former FDA Director (Hill)
British Scientists Develop World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Smart Patch (Unilad)
Americans Need Federal Commission To Look Into The 2020 Election (Turley)

 

 

 

 

All I saw was a bunch of clowns.

Only In Your Imagination Was That An Attempted “Coup” (Tracey)

We are being told that a “coup attempt” no longer needs to be understood as constituting an “attempt” to seize control of the government — as had generally been the common understanding of the term before the events of yesterday, which have caused the entire political and media establishment to go completely haywire Is it unusual for a mob to breach the Capitol Building — ransacking offices, taking goofy selfies, and disrupting the proceedings of Congress for a few hours? Yes, that’s unusual. But the idea that this was a real attempt at a “coup” — meaning an attempt to seize by force the reins of the most powerful state in world history — is so preposterous that you really have to be a special kind of deluded in order to believe it.

Or if not deluded, you have to believe that using such terminology serves some other political purpose. Such as, perhaps, imposing even more stringent censorship on social media, where the “coup” is reported to have been organized. Or inflicting punishment on the man who is accused of “inciting” the coup, which you’ve spent four years desperately craving to do anyway. He’s already been effectively banned from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — a rubicon-crossing event in the suppression of political speech which, of course, is being cheered by all the usual suspects who otherwise claim to be stalwart defenders of enlightened liberal values. At no point yesterday was the American government at risk of being “overthrown,” as members of Congress have laughably suggested.

Per usual, our guardians of consensus can’t bring themselves to describe what unfolded with any degree of dispassion or calm. Instead we’re told by the incoming Senate Majority Leader, for example, that January 6, 2021 will now “live in infamy” right alongside December 7, 1941. Elected officials issued emotional notices that they were “okay,” like they had just narrowly avoided being crushed in an earthquake, or escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11. This is made all the more odd because the only person upon whom lethal force was committed appears to have been a Trump-supporting woman who was shot point-blank in the throat by a Capitol Hill police officer. She’s now dead. Congress was temporarily inconvenienced.

Journalists and pundits, glorying in their natural state — which is to peddle as much free-flowing hysteria as possible — eagerly invoke all the same rhetoric that they’d abhor in other circumstances on civil libertarian grounds. “Domestic terrorism,” “insurrection,” and other such terms now being promoted by the corporate media will nicely advance the upcoming project of “making sure something like this never happens again.” Use your imagination as to what kind of remedial measures that will entail. Trump’s promotion of election fraud fantasies has been a disaster not just for him, but for his “movement” — such as it exists — and it’s obvious that a large segment of the population actively wants to be deceived about such matters.

But the notion that Trump has “incited” a violent insurrection is laughable. His speech Monday afternoon that preceded the march to the Capitol was another standard-fare Trump grievance fest, except without the humor that used to make them kind of entertaining. Trump didn’t command that his followers physically breach the Capitol Building. In fact, after previously saying he would join the march, he seems to just have gone home to tweet and watch TV. So, basically his normal routine on a typical day, minus a trip to the golf course.

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“..striking at cherished national symbols — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol — ensures rage and terror far beyond body counts or other concrete harms.”

It’s about cliockbait, Glenn. Not reason.

Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Greenwald)

The U.S. Capitol remains a potent and cherished symbol even for Americans who are deeply cynical about the ruling class and political system. Its nobility is something continually engrained deep into our collective psyche since childhood, and that meaning endures even when our rational faculties reject it. It is therefore not hard to understand why watching a marauding band of hooligans invade and deface both the House and the Senate, without any identifiable objective other than venting grievances, reflexively engenders a patriotic disgust across the political spectrum. It is unhinged to the point of being obscene to compare yesterday’s incursion to the 9/11 attack or (as Sen. Chuck Schumer did last night) to Pearl Harbor. By every metric, the magnitude and destructiveness of those two events are in an entirely different universe.

But that does not mean there are no applicable lessons to be drawn from those prior attacks. One is that striking at cherished national symbols — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol — ensures rage and terror far beyond body counts or other concrete harms. That is one major reason that yesterday’s event received far more attention and commentary, and will likely produce far greater consequences, than much deadlier incidents, such as the still-motive-unknown 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59 or the 2016 Orlando shooting that left 49 dead at the Pulse nightclub. Unlike even horrific indiscriminate shooting sprees, an attack on a symbol of national power will be perceived as an attack on the state or even the society itself.

There are other, more important historical lessons to draw not only from the 9/11 attack but subsequent terrorism on U.S. soil. One is the importance of resisting the coercive framework that demands everyone choose one of two extremes: that the incident is either (a) insignificant or even justifiable, or (b) is an earth-shattering, radically transformative event that demands radical, transformative state responses. This reductive, binary framework is anti-intellectual and dangerous. One can condemn a particular act while resisting the attempt to inflate the dangers it poses. One can acknowledge the very real existence of a threat while also warning of the harms, often far greater, from proposed solutions.

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“They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”

Enough With The Outrage (PL)

Like pretty much all conservatives, I have consistently criticized riots and other forms of political violence for many years. That includes yesterday’s Washington, D.C. riot. You can’t say the same about liberals, however. Until yesterday, one might have thought that liberals consider rioting and other forms of political violence to be as American as apple pie. You could write a book in support of that proposition, but for now let’s cite just a few examples. Do you remember when President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017? Leftist Democrats rioted in Washington that day. That riot was arguably worse, more violent and more destructive, than what happened in D.C. yesterday. The liberal rioters destroyed stores, set vehicles on fire and battled with the police. Six police officers were wounded.

I don’t recall a single Democratic office-holder denouncing the Democrats’ Inauguration Day riot, and the Associated Press came perilously close to praising the rioters. Over the ensuing four years, Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioted countless times, bringing devastation to cities like Portland, Seattle, Kenosha and Minneapolis. Did any Democrats denounce these riots? Not that I remember. Many Democrats endorsed them, or seemed to do so. Kamala Harris, for example, said about the riots in June: “They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”

This was after 12 people had been killed in Democrat-sanctioned rioting, and billions of dollars in destruction committed. Have any Democrats denounced Black Lives Matter for its role in the riots? Not one. Has any Democrat denounced Antifa? Not that I know of, and some, like Keith Ellison, have specifically endorsed Antifa’s political violence. Democratic Party journalists have joined the party’s politicians in excusing riots. The New York Times, for example, published an admiring profile of Antifa. The Washington Post, likewise, has carried water for Antifa. The litany could go on for a long time. Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol was outrageous, but let’s not forget that last time out-of-control demonstrators interrupted business at the Capitol, shouted down senators and pounded on the doors of the Supreme Court, it was Democrats objecting to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

And speaking of assaults on capitols, did any Democrats object when leftists occupied the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison for four months, destroying property, impeding public business and violently assaulting conservatives? Not a peep.

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Are we going to celebrate corporate power in politics now? Are we inviting censorship in through the front door?

Facebook, Twitter Finally Do Slightly More Than Nothing About Trump (IC)

The advertising industry is generally acknowledged as one of the most risk-averse and craven industries on the planet, with decision-making guided largely by attempting to be as inoffensive as possible to as many people as possible, taking a position on an issue only in the weakest, safest, most carefully hedged terms available. Though companies like Facebook and Twitter hold the unfathomable power to control the distribution of information to billions of people around the world and like to think of themselves as helping bring humankind to some next level of consciousness, they are still very much in the advertising business.

As advertising companies, cowardice runs deep in the souls of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, companies that have spent the past four years looking the other way, equivocating, and contorting themselves into pretzels in an attempt to justify Trump’s unfettered access to the most powerful information distribution system in world history. Despite perennial speculation in the press as to what might psychologically or ideologically explain Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey’s total unwillingness to meaningfully act, there is just one factor: money. Twitter and Facebook are only worth anything as businesses if they can boast to advertisers of their access to an enormous swath of the American market, across political and ideological lines, and fear of a right-wing backlash has been enough to keep Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board and Trump’s voter suppression dispatches on Twitter’s servers.

According to a Facebook moderator who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity for fear of employer retaliation, watching the company drag its feet, yesterday in particular, has been excruciating. According to internal communications reviewed by The Intercept, the Capitol break-in is now considered, for purposes of Facebook’s willy-nilly application of the rules, “a violating event,” and any “praise,” “support,” or even friendly “representation” is banned on the basis of the company’s “Dangerous Organizations” policies, which this moderator explained is typically applied to posts celebrating terrorist attacks, drug cartel murders, and Aryan street gangs.

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Not sure what is going on with this.

US Capitol Police Say Reports Of Officer Death Not Accurate (R.)

U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement on Thursday that media reports that an officer had died after the storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump were inaccurate. The agency said that several officers were injured and some hospitalized after the unrest Wednesday, but that no officers had died as a result. Four people had died after Trump’s supporters swarmed the building on Wednesday in a failed attempt to disrupt efforts to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

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“..he can rest easy knowing that he successfully used Trump as a vehicle to achieve the generations-long dream of the conservative donor class — a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court..”

Donald Trump’s Ruinous Legacy (Tracey)

The stultification of Republican electoral strategy stems fundamentally from the fact that there has been no substantial intra-party public debate about the reasons for Trump’s loss. Even now, more than two months later, to merely state that Trump lost provokes profound rage among a large segment of the party’s voters. You can be mercilessly attacked online and threatened with career-ending repudiation for doing so; Purdue and Loeffler couldn’t deviate from this line, for fear of alienating fraud-believing Trump supporters in Georgia. But Republican turnout dipped anyway, most probably because conservative media had been completely inundated with accusations that the Republican-led state government of Georgia was complicit in a conspiracy to oust Trump. It turns out “fraud-pilling” one’s own voters might not be the most reliable path to victory.

The manic Trump-induced obsession with purported fraud thereby delayed any thoroughgoing public discussion of how Congressional Republicans over-performed in November, across many metrics, even as Trump went down to defeat. So instead of capitalising on those gains, Republicans jettisoned them. As for McConnell, it was one of the more astounding moves in recent political history to sacrifice his own Senate majority, which most of his professional life has been structured around preserving at all costs, because he was dead-set against sending out the $2,000 cheques. A figure which in the grand scheme of things, as Trump would say, is “peanuts”.

But even with the majority vanquished, McConnell will maintain a fair amount of power as minority leader. As of 20 January the Senate will stand as split 50-50 with future Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. The possibility of a few Democratic defections here and there means McConnell will have plenty of opportunities to exert legislative influence. And he can rest easy knowing that he successfully used Trump as a vehicle to achieve the generations-long dream of the conservative donor class — a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, as well as some corporate tax cuts.

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Where is the next appeal? And when?

The US and UK May Not Will Assange’s Death, But … (Cook)

[..] while denying the extradition claim, she supported all the arguments advanced by the US accruing to itself the right to prosecute Assange – and any other journalist – for the crime of doing journalism. She ignored the facts, the expert testimony presented in court and the legal arguments – all of which favoured Assange – and backed instead what amounted to a purely political case made by the US. She disregarded warnings from Assange’s legal team that acceptance of the political rationale for extradition amounted to an all-out attack on fundamental journalistic freedoms. She established a terrifying legal precedent for the US to seize foreign journalists and prosecute them for “espionage” if they expose Washington’s crimes. Her ruling will inevitably have a profoundly chilling effect on any publication trying to dig out the truth about the US national-security state, with terrifying consequences for us all.

But while she enthusiastically backed the political case for Assange’s extradition and trial, Baraitser at the same time got the Wikileaks founder off the hook by accepting the humanitarian concerns raised by medical and prison experts. They had counselled that extradition to the US could be expected to lead to Assange spending the rest of his life in a barbaric US super-max prison, exacerbating mental health problems and the risk of suicide. Her ruling, while deeply disturbing in its political and legal implications, did at least suggest that Baraitser was ready to take a compassionate approach in regard to Assange’s health, even if not his journalistic exposure of western war crimes. He should have walked free there and then, had the US not immediately said it would appeal her decision.

Given Assange’s discharge by Baraitser, his team hoped that bail – his release from a high-security prison while the lengthy appeals process unfolds – would prove a formality. They hurried to make such an application after the extradition ruling on Monday, assuming that the legal logic of her decision dictated his release. Baraitser demurred, suggesting that they prepare their case and make it to her more fully on Wednesday. It now seems clear the judge manipulated Assange’s defence team. Apparently like Assange’s lawyers, former British ambassador Craig Murray, who has attended and reported on the hearings in detail, was lulled by Baraitser into assuming that she wanted a cast-iron case from the defence to justify a decision to release Assange on bail.

There were good reasons for their confidence. Any move to prevent his release would look perverse given that she had decided Assange should not be extradited or stand trial in the US. They were deceived. Baraitser denied bail, effectively signalling that she thinks her ruling might be wrong and overturned in a higher court. That is extraordinary. It suggests that she has no confidence in her own judgment of the facts of the case. As Murray has noted: “There was little or no precedent for the High Court overturning any ruling against extradition on Section 91 health grounds.”

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$4 trillion. Green.

Biden’s One-Two Stimulus Punch (Axios)

Joe Biden is considering asking Congress to help suffering Americans in two steps: give them the balance of their coveted $2,000 coronavirus payments, followed by a $3 trillion tax and infrastructure package. Biden is confident he can get multiple packages through Congress after Democrats won both Georgia Senate elections. The president-elect’s team also wants to get cash in Americans’ hands as quickly as possible, according to people familiar with the matter. In July Biden rolled out his Build Back Better plan, which includes billions of dollars for caregivers, incentives for manufacturers and some $4 trillion for green jobs and infrastructure spending.

He proposed paying for this plan with a series of tax increases on the wealthy, including taxing capital gains as regular income and increasing the marginal tax rate for top earners to almost 40%. Democrats are concerned that if they miss early opportunities to combat COVID and reverse its broader effect on the economy, the twin problems could cripple the rest of Biden’s presidency. The first bite would come in the form of $1,400 payments that would be added to the $600 in cash Congress approved last month. Also included in this quick-hit package would be money for state and local aid, as well as funding for vaccine distribution. Biden’s push for a tax and infrastructure plan, which is part of his “Build Back Better” program, will slide to later in the spring and be considered under budget reconciliation rules.

They allow the Senate to pass measures with a simple majority, instead of a more challenging filibuster-proof 60 votes. Biden is essentially dusting off his pre-election plans, back when many of his economic and political advisers assumed that if he won the presidency, he would carry the Senate along with him. Those ambitions were thrown into doubt when Republicans ran strong in the Senate on Election Day and Democrats’ only hope for regaining the majority was if they won the two uphill runoff elections held Tuesday. Biden’s blitz for a quick spending measure could allow him to build goodwill with Senate Republicans for a bigger package in the spring, especially if it includes liability protection the GOP wants for businesses fearing coronavirus lawsuits.

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Britain is brutal. How much of the healthcare system has been budgeted away in the past 20 years?

There Are So Many Covid Patients, Younger This Time (Anon)

Truly, I never imagined it would be this bad. Once again Covid has spread out along the hospital, the disease greedily taking over ward after ward. Surgical, paediatric, obstetric, orthopaedic; this virus does not discriminate between specialities. Outbreaks bloom even in our “clean” areas and the disease is even more ferociously infectious. Although our local tests do not differentiate strains, I presume this is the new variant. The patients are younger this time around too, and there are so many of them. They are sick. We are full. There can be no debate: this is much, much worse than the first surge. We start the morning with 10 new patients to be concerned about. These are just the worst of them; we cannot worry about those who, though less unwell, would have had us scared in days gone by.

They are scattered on general wards around the hospital, being given as much oxygen as possible through a standard mask. Most are lying prone on their fronts, breathing rapid, shallow breaths, too breathless to talk, blood oxygen saturations alarmingly low. The eldest is in his 70s but most are much younger. All urgently need respiratory support. This is ideally given non-invasively using a Cpap mask or very high oxygen flows through the nose. Like most hospitals we have set up a new respiratory-led breathing support unit for this purpose, but it filled up with patients weeks ago. Our intensive care unit, able to deliver these therapies as well as invasive ventilation for the very sickest, is also full despite being stretched and pushed way beyond its previous capacity.

Our neighbouring hospitals are under the same pressures, or worse; even if patients were well enough to transfer out safely there is no space to receive them. We divide and conquer. Some of us rush through the morning ward rounds on the breathing support and intensive care units, desperately hoping to find patients that have improved enough to step down on to a normal ward or could be swapped between the two units according to their needs. Some of us go to assess the new referrals. We make sure that everything possible has been done to avoid the need for more support but our colleagues have already been thorough. They need to come to us, and soon. We initiate difficult conversations with some patients who were frailer before catching Covid and would therefore have less chance of benefit from additional breathing therapy.

We no longer have the luxury of “giving it a go”; we have to ensure that we select only those with the best chance of survival. Getting it wrong may occupy a precious high dependency bed for many days, often ending in a difficult and symptomatic death while preventing other patients from receiving the correct therapy. Conversely, identifying those who will not survive will allow us to ensure better symptom control and a kinder end to life. These conversations, often barely intelligible through our PPE, are draining, fraught, brutal. We must justify to patients and their families, and often our colleagues too, why we cannot offer these therapies to everyone.

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All on red. Casino.

Very Risky To Delay 2nd Dose Of COVID19 Vaccine – Former FDA Director (Hill)

Questions surrounding the deployment and quantity of available COVID-19 vaccine doses linger as inoculations continue, with vaccine reticence and concerns about dose availability dominating the conversation. For the current approved vaccines, two separate shots are required, and some European countries have opted to delay the administration of the second dose in a bid to cultivate broader immunity. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two shots administered intramuscularly roughly three weeks apart, which the U.S. is currently undertaking. As for whether or not the U.S. should follow the lead of countries like the U.K. and Denmark, Norman Baylor, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called the plan “very risky” on CNBC.

“I understand some of the rationale to do this, but again, it’s not really data driven,” Baylor said. “It’s a very risky venture because if it fails, you’re in worse shape.” Baylor, who previously headed the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, further elaborated that there isn’t enough data to fully illustrate the immunity benefits just one dose with a prolonged second dose will bring. While more people would receive a vaccination by increasing the time between when the administration of both doses, immunity may be different from what promising clinical trials suggest. “The concern though is that space, that time, and how vulnerable you are, because…we don’t have all the data in that will indicate what the duration of protection is,” Baylor said. “If it fails, you’re in worse shape.”

The need to vaccinate more people comes as a more contagious COVID-19 strain makes its rounds through countries including the U.K. and the U.S. The U.K. in particular has seen record new daily confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 403,914 new cases recorded over the past week, per national data. This represents a 42.6 percent increase.

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In 3 years time.

British Scientists Develop World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Smart Patch (Unilad)

Scientists from Swansea University in Wales are striving to develop the first coronavirus vaccine ‘smart patch’. The patch will use microneedles to both administer the coronavirus vaccine and monitor its efficacy for the patient by tracking the body’s immune response. The research team plans to develop a prototype by the end of March, in the hope it can be put forward for clinical trials and ultimately released to the public, as part of the effort to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Scientists at Swansea’s IMPACT research centre hope to carry out human clinical studies in partnership with Imperial College London with the aim of making the device commercially available within three years.


Using polycarbonate or silicon millimetre-long microneedles, the smart patch can penetrate the skin to administer a vaccine. It can be held in place with a strap or tape for up to 24 hours, during which time it simultaneously measures a patient’s inflammatory response to the vaccination by monitoring biomarkers in the skin. Once the vaccine has been administered, the device is scanned to produce a data reading that can provide an understanding about the efficacy of the vaccine and the body’s response to it.

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What are the odds?

Americans Need Federal Commission To Look Into The 2020 Election (Turley)

First, and most important, this was an unprecedented election in the reliance of mail-in voting and the use of new voting systems and procedures. We need to review how that worked down to the smallest precincts and hamlets. Second, possibly tens of millions of voters believe that this election was rigged and stolen. I am not one of them. However, the integrity of our elections depends on the faith of the electorate. Roughly 40% of that electorate have lingering doubts about whether their votes actually matter. Most of the cases challenging the election were not decided on the merits. Indeed, it seems they haven’t even been allowed for discovery. Instead, they were largely dismissed on jurisdictional or standing groups or under the “laches” doctrine that they were brought too late.

Those allegations need to be conclusively proven or disproven in the interests of the country. Third, there were problems. There was not proof of systemic fraud or irregularities, but there were problems of uncounted votes, loss of key custodial information and key differences in the rules governing voting and tabulations. We have spent billions to achieve greater security and reliability after prior election controversies. Indeed, we had a prior election commission that failed to achieve those fundamental goals. A real commission will take a couple years to fully address these allegations. It will be meaningless if it’s stacked by the same reliable political cutouts used historically in federal commissions. It should be formed on a commitment of absolute transparency with public hearings and public archiving of underlying material before the issuance of any final report. That way, the public at large can analyze and contribute to the review of this evidence.

[..] The main challenge, however, remains the same: Whether Congress can appoint a real federal commission without rigging the result by appointing partisan members. In 1877, to quote from a speech of Ohio Sen. Allen Granberry Thurman, “It was perfectly clear that any bill that gave the least advantage, ay, the weight of the dust in the balance, to either party, could not become the law of the land.” Nothing has changed. The stakes are too high to allow even a dust particle to tip the difference on the ultimate findings. The dust-free option requires a dependent, not independent, commission. Otherwise, the public will be the loser.

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Jan 062021
 


Georgia O’Keeffe Street of New York II 1926

 

The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now (Craig Murray)
Will Biden DOJ Pursue Assange Extradition? Outgoing Prosecutor Isn’t Sure (NRP)
2 People Die In Norway Nursing Home Days After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)
Rate Of Adverse Reactions To COVID Vaccines 50x Higher Than Flu Shot (ZH)
Peru Clashes With Pfizer Over Legal Immunity For Vaccine Side Effects (RT)
Wuhan Coronavirus Infections 10 Times Higher Than Reported (NI)
Australia Says China Should Allow In WHO Covid Investigators (G.)
China Arrests US Lawyer During “Massive Crackdown” In Hong Kong (ZH)
The US Has Lost More Than 110,000 Restaurants (Snyder)
Biden To Tap More Obama Vets To Fill Key National Security Roles
Biden Taps Architect of 2014 Ukraine Coup for State Department (Antiwar)
Catastrophe Is All Around Us (AIER)
More Than 1.5 Billion Face Masks Will Pollute Oceans This Year (NYP)
US Doctor Forgives $650,000 In Medical Bills For Cancer Patients (BBC)

 

 

If Julian Assange’s bail is denied today, that will be a huge disappointment for many people. Craig Murray doesn’t think it will be denied, because the US appeal risks opening can of worms for them.

 

 

Big day for Assange, big day also for Trump?!

 

 

Tulsi Kamala

 

 

Murray remains very optimistic.

The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now (Craig Murray)

I am not sure that at this stage the High Court would accept a new guarantee from the USA that Assange would not be kept in isolation or in a Supermax prison; that would be contrary to the affidavit from Assistant Secretary of State Kromberg and thus would probably be ruled to amount to new evidence. Not to mention that Baraitser heard other evidence that such assurances had been received in the case of Abu Hamza, but had been broken. Hamza is not only kept in total isolation, but as a man with no hands he is deprived of prosthetics that would enable him to brush his teeth, and he has no means of cutting his nails nor assistance to do so, and cannot effectively wipe himself in the toilet. Not only is it hard to see the point of law on which the USA could launch an appeal, it is far from plain that they have a motive to do so.

Baraitser agreed with all the substantive points of argument put forward by the US government. She stated that there was no bar on extradition from the UK for political offences; she agreed that publication of national security material did constitute an offence in the USA under the Espionage Act and would do so in the UK under the Official Secrets Act, with no public interest defence in either jurisdiction; she agreed that encouraging a source to leak classified information is a crime; she agreed Wikileaks’ publications had put lives at risk. On all of these points she dismissed virtually without comment all the defence arguments and evidence. As a US Justice Department spokesman said yesterday: “While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised.

In particular, the court rejected all of Mr Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offence, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr Assange’s extradition to the United States.” That is a fair categorisation of what happened. Appealing a verdict that is such a good result for the United States does not necessarily make sense for the Justice Department. Edward Fitzgerald explained to me yesterday that, if the USA appeals the decision on the health and prison condition grounds, it becomes open to the defence to counter-appeal on all the other grounds, which would be very desirable indeed given the stark implications of Baraitser’s ruling for media freedom. I have always believed that Baraitser would rule as she did on the substantial points, but I have always also believed that those extreme security state arguments would never survive the scrutiny of better judges in a higher court.

Unlike the health ruling, the dispute over Baraitser’s judgement on all the other points does come down to classic errors in law which can successfully be argued on appeal. If the USA does appeal the judgement, it is far more likely that not only will the health grounds be upheld, but also that Baraitser’s positions on extradition for political offences and freedom of the media will be overturned, than it is likely that the US will achieve extradition. They have fourteen days in which to lodge the appeal – now thirteen. An appeal result is in short likely to be humiliating for the USA. It would be much wiser for the US to let sleeping dogs lie. But pride and the wound to the US sense of omnipotence and exceptionalism may drive them to an appeal which, for the reasons given above, I would actually welcome provided Julian is out on bail. Which I expect he shall be shortly.

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Not sure the DOJ has much say in this.

Will Biden DOJ Pursue Assange Extradition? Outgoing Prosecutor Isn’t Sure (NRP)

The federal prosecutor seeking to try WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges said he’s uncertain about whether the administration of President-elect Joe Biden would continue the extradition effort. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, pointed out that the Assange case had already consumed years of work by line prosecutors and other officials. A judge in the United Kingdom dealt American prosecutors a blow Monday by rejecting their efforts to transfer Assange to the United States, citing his mental health troubles. The Justice Department pledged that it would appeal — a process that could drag on for months, if not longer. That means the issue of how to handle Assange, accused in one of the largest compromises of classified information in history, will be one of many questions for the new leadership team at the Justice Department.


“It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case,” Terwilliger said. “There’ll be some decisions to be made. Some of this does come down to resources and where you’re going to focus your energies.” For its part, the Biden transition didn’t comment directly on what position it would take in the Assange matter. But a spokesperson pointed out that Biden has called for an independent Justice Department in his administration. Terwilliger spoke to NPR on one of his final days in government service. Later this month, he’s set to join the law firm Vinson & Elkins. Terwilliger, 39, will beef up the firm’s white collar crime practice, after spending his entire career –a dozen years — on the other side of the courtroom as a career prosecutor and political appointee at the Justice Department.

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These reports keep coming in.

2 People Die In Norway Nursing Home Days After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)

The Norwegian Medicines Agency has announced that two nursing home residents passed away days after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and that an investigation has been launched into the deaths. “We have to assess whether the vaccine is the cause of death, or if it is a coincidence that it happened soon after vaccination,” Medical Director Steiner Madsen said in a statement about the deaths. He also noted that, because people of advanced age are receiving the vaccine first, it is entirely possible the deaths could be coincidental. Around 400 people die every week in Norwegian nursing homes.


The agency, along with the National Institute of Public Health, are looking into the deaths. Reported side effects from the vaccine have been minor and temporary, although there have been reports of allergic reactions in the US and UK among people who had a history of such. Numerous government officials have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including US Vice President Mike Pence. Vaccinations with the drug began in Norway on December 27.

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That’s a lot.

Rate Of Adverse Reactions To COVID Vaccines 50x Higher Than Flu Shot (ZH)

With reports this morning of another otherwise-healthy patient dying suddenly after receiving her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, many skeptics in both Europe and the US still have serious reservations about the jabs, even as big pharma and their allies in the US and British governments insist that they are 100% safe. Everyone claiming otherwise is not only wrongheaded, but acting in a deliberately malicious manner. This is why commentary like a video posted by DoubleLine’s Jeffrey Gundlach where he questions the sky-high efficacy numbers published after the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech trials has elicited such vehement repudiation.

However, as new questions about efficacy and timing arise, independent journalist Alex Berenson, one of the most prominent skeptics of lockdowns and masks in the US, noted in a twitter thread earlier on Tuesday that the percentage of patients experiencing severe or potentially life-threatening reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines could be much higher than the data collected by the CDC are letting on. The CDC’s VAERS reporting system was set up to track vaccine-related injury, Most patients can expect to experience some kind of adverse reaction, but for the vast majority of patients, symptoms will be relatively mild and clear up within a couple of days.

But amid a rush of reports about patient deaths, Berenson points out that the number of patients seeing serious complications per the number of doses distributed is roughly 50x higher than the rate of ‘adverse’ reactions caused by the flu vaccine. Berenson also speculated that this number might be even higher due to possible delays in updating the CDC’s data sets. This would seemingly confirm rates of adverse reactions seen during clinical trials. What’s more, clinical trials, generally speaking, tend to “UNDERSTATE” unpleasant or unwanted side effects, while they “OVERSTATE” the drug’s efficacy.

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“it is quite clear that they are not responsible for any side effects. If you become an alligator, it’s your problem.”

Peru Clashes With Pfizer Over Legal Immunity For Vaccine Side Effects (RT)

Peru has reached an impasse with Pfizer as it negotiates a deal for a Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health minister said, citing a conflict over legal immunity for the pharma firm that could undermine Peru’s sovereignty. While officials have remained in “constant contact” with Pfizer since the summer, the talks ran into trouble last month amid “controversy” over some clauses of the agreement, including those linked to pricing and delivery, as well as legal immunities for the pharmaceutical giant in the case its inoculation leads to death or injury, health minister Pilar Mazzetti told lawmakers on Tuesday. “With Pfizer there are some details where there is no agreement,” Mazzetti said, adding “This has to do with prices and the delivery schedule” as well as “the waiving of important elements such as … jurisdictional immunity.”

“It is true that one needs the vaccine but it is also true that there are aspects related to aspects of our sovereignty that the country has to protect … it has to do with risk for future generations.” The health chief noted that since most aspects of the negotiations are protected under a confidentiality agreement, she could not offer further detail on the ongoing row, but assured that the talks continue. “We hope that the controversy will be resolved so we will be able to determine when the vaccine will arrive,” she went on. Though the country announced a final deal with Pfizer for nearly 10 million vaccine doses in late November, Mazzetti said the process stalled after some clauses in the agreement required “more in-depth analysis” to determine whether they are compatible with Peruvian law.

The Latin American nation is not the first to voice concerns about legal liability waivers in their talks with the pharma firm, with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro observing last month that “it is quite clear that they are not responsible for any side effects. If you become an alligator, it’s your problem.” Officials in Argentina have raised similar worries. As the liability concerns become a major obstacle for some nations, the World Bank said on Tuesday that it is working with over 100 countries to address the issue, whether through local legislative efforts or other processes. The World Bank Group’s president, David Malpass, also noted that the agency aims to distribute $160 billion in resources by June to help developing countries obtain immunizations and fight the pandemic.

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Surprised?

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections 10 Times Higher Than Reported (NI)

Roughly half a million residents of Wuhan—the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated—may have been infected with the virus, a figure that is about ten times higher than what was initially reported. The study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed more than thirty-four thousand people in April, and it eventually discovered that 4.4 percent of those tested were found to be carrying the antibodies for the coronavirus. The presence of antibodies means that individuals, at one point in time, had been carriers of the virus. As of Sunday, Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million, had reported a total of 50,354 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.


The Chinese CDC noted that the study was conducted a month after China “contained the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic.” The study also indicated that the infection rate in Wuhan was significantly higher than in other major cities and provinces. For example, it revealed that only 0.44 percent of Hubei residents were found to be carrying the antibodies. “Exactly how much we have missed we don’t exactly know, but this gives us an idea that we have missed quite a bit,” Ian Mackay, an associated professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, told the South China Morning Post. Song Fujian, of Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in Britain, told the paper that “given the chaotic situation and limited testing capability during the early phase of the epidemic in Wuhan,” the serological survey results might be “more accurate than the reported number of confirmed cases.”

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It’s only been a year.

Australia Says China Should Allow In WHO Covid Investigators (G.)

The Australian government has called on China to allow a visit by World Health Organization experts investigating how the coronavirus pandemic started, insisting the country should grant them visas “without delay”. Canberra raised its concerns on Wednesday over reports that Chinese authorities had blocked the arrival of a WHO team investigating the early cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan. With China arguing the team’s visas had not yet been approved, even as some members of the group were on their way to the country, the development has heightened fears among Australian politicians about whether the WHO mission will be able to uncover answers needed to better prepare the world for the next pandemic.


The Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said she hoped “that the necessary permissions for the WHO team’s travel to China can be issued without delay”. Speaking after months of rocky relations between the two countries, partly triggered by Australia’s calls for such an investigation, Payne said Australia had “consistently sought transparency in relation to the origins of, and responses to the coronavirus, as have other countries”. “The WHO-convened scientific study is an important part of this work and we look forward to the findings from the international field mission to China,” she said. “During this global pandemic that has affected all countries, international cooperation and partnerships will maximise our ability to respond, and to equip us for the next pandemic.”

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53 arrests reported. Including activists’ lawyers.

China Arrests US Lawyer During “Massive Crackdown” In Hong Kong (ZH)

Update 11:00pm ET: In what would be a shocking development, Bloomberg reports that during its “massive crackdown” purging countless local activists and politicians, the Hong Kong police – i.e. China – has arrested American Lawyer, John Clancey, using as a pretext the National Security Law, which everyone warned China would use as strawman to crack down on Hong Kong citizens and activists. Well, it now appears that the emboldened Beijing – which is delighted by the ascent of pro-China pushover Joe Biden to the White House – is also using that law to arrest American citizens.

H.K. ARRESTS AMERICAN LAWYER JOHN CLANCEY, COLLEAGUE SAYS
CLANCEY ARRESTED UNDER NATIONAL SECURITY LAW: COLLEAGUE

In response, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent out a harshly worded tweet, warning China that the “Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.” We eagerly await to see just what the Blinken Biden administration will do, besides tweeting angrily in China’s general direction, to secure release of an American citizen unjustly arrested by Chinese proxies in Hong Kong.

Earlier: “Massive Crackdown”: Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens Of Politicians & Activists 2021 is less than a week old and already Beijing is ramping up its efforts to suppress what’s left of the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong. Right now, China hawks are preoccupied right now by a number of issues: the disappearance of Jack Ma (note: CNBC claims the Alibaba founder is just “laying low”), Beijing’s refusal to allow international investigators inside the Wuhan Institue of Virology and, finally, the CCP’s abusive treatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority. Now, less than two months after the last 19 members of the HK LegCo’s pro-democracy opposition quit en masse over Beijing’s demands that they swear a loyalty oath to uphold the new national security law and the supremacy of the CCP, Hong Kong police have rounded up dozens of pro-democracy activists.

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“..more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain and independent — are in an economic free fall.”

The US Has Lost More Than 110,000 Restaurants (Snyder)

The restaurant industry is in the midst of a complete and total meltdown that is unlike anything that we have ever seen before. If you ask Google how many restaurants there are in the United States, it will tell you that there are 660,755, although that number is a few years old. But for the purposes of this article, that is a good enough estimate. Americans love to eat out, and restaurant workers are some of the hardest working people in the entire country. So it is incredibly sad to see more restaurants constantly going under. In some cases, restaurants that have served their communities for decades are deciding to permanently close their doors. For example, over the weekend Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in New York City announced that it had finally reached the end of the road…

[..] Unfortunately, Sammy’s is far from alone. In fact, in a recent article that he penned for Fox Business, Adam Piper lamented the fact that more than 100,000 U.S. restaurants have gone out of business during this pandemic… “State and local governments have wielded the coronavirus pandemic as license to steal freedom and opportunity in pursuit of unprecedented omnipotence. Unreasonable, unnecessary and hypocritical actions have forced over 100,000 restaurants to close and endanger countless others.” And according to Bloomberg, the true number of dead restaurants is now over 110,000… “More than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long-term across the country as the industry grapples with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Just think about that. More than one out of every six restaurants in the U.S. is already gone, and the National Restaurant Association is warning that there will be more carnage in the months ahead because the industry is in “an economic free fall”… “The restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at the association, said in a letter to Congress. “What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain and independent — are in an economic free fall.” This is what an economic depression looks like. With tens of thousands of restaurants sitting empty, and with tens of thousands of others not paying rent, the stage has been set for a commercial real estate disaster of unprecedented scope and size.

Of course there are millions of square feet of office space and retail space that are not being productive right now as well. In a recent article, Lee Adler referred to this looming commercial real estate nightmare as “a monster in the room”… “I think that if there’s anything that illustrates the head in the sand problem of the banks, it’s this. Commercial real estate (CRE) finance. There’s a monster in the room. All that empty space. No longer income producing.” For now, big financial institutions are doing their best to hide their coming losses, but according to Adler for certain sectors the losses will simply be unavoidable… “Multifamily will take a haircut but will survive. My guess is that industrial, while overpriced and overvalued, will produce enough income to get by. Office and retail? Kiss it goodbye. It’s done. Over. Kaput.”

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Victoria Nuland is the worst America has to offer.

Biden To Tap More Obama Vets To Fill Key National Security Roles

President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team have begun to fill out top positions on the incoming National Security Council and at the State Department, with key roles like deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State going to veterans of the Obama administration. At the State Department, longtime diplomat Wendy Sherman will be nominated to serve as Secretary of State-designee Tony Blinken’s deputy, according to two people close to the transition. Sherman previously served as under secretary of State for political affairs in the Obama administration and was a lead negotiator for the Iran deal. Sherman is currently a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, the same firm where Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also worked as a senior counselor.

Another veteran diplomat, Victoria Nuland, will be nominated for the role of under secretary of State for political affairs, one of the people said. Nuland also previously served in the Obama administration, as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Nuland and Sherman, who entered academia and the think tank world after leaving the Obama administration, have been outspoken critics of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy — particularly his appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the National Security Council, former State Department official Jon Finer will be named deputy national security adviser, the people said, reporting up to incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Finer, a former journalist, joined the Obama White House as a fellow in 2009 and served in various roles throughout Obama’s tenure, including as a foreign policy speechwriter for Biden and a senior adviser to then-deputy national security adviser Blinken. Finer had been working in political risk and public policy at the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which was co-founded by Blinken’s father, since leaving government in 2017. The key NSC role of senior director for European Affairs will go to Amanda Sloat, a Brookings Institution fellow who served as deputy assistant secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration.

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And Nuland’s co-conspirator Geoffrey Pyatt is now US ambassador here in Greece.

Biden Taps Architect of 2014 Ukraine Coup for State Department (Antiwar)

According to a report from Politico, Joe Biden’s transition team is expected to nominate Victoria Nuland to be the under secretary of state for political affairs for the incoming administration’s State Department. Nuland, who is married to neoconservative Robert Kagan, is known for her role in orchestrating the 2014 coup in Ukraine while she was the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs in the Obama administration. A recording of a phone call between Nuland and then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was leaked and released on YouTube on February 4th, 2014. In the call, Nuland and Pyatt discussed who should replace the government of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced to step down on February 22nd, 2014.

The US-backed coup sparked the war in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and led to the Russian annexation of Crimea. Both regions have a majority ethnic-Russian population who rejected the nationalist, anti-Russian post-coup government that even had neo-Nazis in its midst. In a 2020 column for Foreign Affairs titled, “Pinning Down Putin,” Nuland said Russian President Vladimir Putin “seized” on the 2014 coup and other “democratic struggles” to “fuel the perception at home of Russian interests under siege by external enemies.” She also cited the war in the Donbas and annexation of Crimea as examples of Russian aggression, as most in Washington do.

Currently, Nuland is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and works for the Albright Stonebridge Group. She is also a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, a US-taxpayer funded nonprofit that funds “pro-democracy” movements across the world.

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“..the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown. Dr. Henderson warned against it all…”

Catastrophe Is All Around Us (AIER)

As a naturally optimistic person, it vexes me that the word catastrophe has echoed in my mind since early March 2020. It’s the word the great smallpox eradicator Donald Henderson used in his 2006 prediction of the consequences of lockdown, a word that wasn’t around then. His masterful article addressed the idea of travel restrictions, forced human separation, business and school closings, mask mandates, limits on public gatherings, quarantines, and the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown. Dr. Henderson warned against it all. This is not how you deal with disease, he said; at a minimum society needs to function so that medical professionals can do their work.

Diseases are managed one person at a time, not with grand central plans. That was the old wisdom in any case. Under the influence of vainglorious modelers, ideological resetters, and politicians hoping to make names for themselves, most of the world tried the lockdown experiment anyway. Here we are nearly a year since I wrote my first article warning that governments presumed themselves to possess the quarantine power. They could use it if they wanted to. I didn’t expect they would. I wrote this piece as a “for your information” public service just to let people know how terrible governments could be.

I had no idea that quarantines would be only the beginning. At this point we know what we did not know then. They are capable – by they I mean even governments in presumably civilized countries with functioning democracies – of the unthinkable, and they are capable of persisting in the unthinkable for an appalling amount of time. Now the lockdowns are our life in the US, unless you are lucky enough to live in Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, South Carolina, and perhaps a few other places. Here in these outposts of what we used to call civilization, life seems normal. Our readers in these states don’t even think about the virus much, and they read my articles and find them overwrought, like I’m describing life on another planet.

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Externalities.

More Than 1.5 Billion Face Masks Will Pollute Oceans This Year (NYP)

More than 1.5 billion disposable face masks will wind up in the world’s oceans this year — polluting the water with tons of plastic and endangering marine wildlife, according to a Hong Kong-based environmental group. A report by OceansAsia cites a global market research report that estimates 52 billion masks were made this year to meet the demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It also says that a “conservative” calculation means at least 3 percent of them will be washed out to sea. “Single-use face masks are made from a variety of meltblown plastics and are difficult to recycle due to both composition and risk of contamination and infection,” the report says.


“These masks enter our oceans when they are littered or otherwise improperly discarded, when waste management systems are inadequate or non-existent, or when these systems become overwhelmed due to increased volumes of waste.” With each mask weighing three to four grams, the situation could lead to 6,800-plus tons of plastic pollution that “will take as long as 450 years to break down,” according to the report. In addition to the harmful effects of micro-plastic and nano-plastic particles, elastic ear loops pose a “possible entanglement risk for wildlife,” the report says. The report cites several examples of marine animals killed by masks, including a “dead bloated pufferfish” found tangled in the loops of a disposable blue mask by volunteers cleaning a Miami beach in August.

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And sometimes you look up from whatever it is you’re doing and suddenly you see life.

US Doctor Forgives $650,000 In Medical Bills For Cancer Patients (BBC)

A US oncologist has wiped out nearly $650,000 worth of debts for 200 cancer patients after realising that many of them were struggling to pay. Dr Omar Atiq closed his cancer treatment centre in Arkansas last year after nearly 30 years in business. He worked with a debt collection firm to gather outstanding payments, but then realised many families had been hit hard financially by the pandemic. Over Christmas, he wrote to patients telling them any debts would be erased. “Over time I realised that there are people who just are unable to pay,” Dr Atiq told ABC’s Good Morning America. “So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt. We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it.” Dr Atiq, who is originally from Pakistan, founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in Pine Bluff in 1991, providing treatments including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and CAT scans.


He is now a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. “We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people’s lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff,” Dr Atiq said, quoted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He said the outstanding bills from about 200 patients totalled nearly $650,000 (£480,000). In his Christmas greeting card to patients, he wrote: “The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 052021
 
 January 5, 2021  Posted by at 10:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  37 Responses »


Camille Pissarro The Boulevard Montmartre at Night 1897

 

Julian Assange: Imminent Freedom (Craig Murray)
Mexican President Promises Asylum For Julian Assange (RT)
Nurse Dies Following Vaccination With Pfizer’s COVID19 Shot In Portugal (RT)
Cheap Hair Lice Drug May Cut Risk Of COVID19 Death By 80 Percent (NYP)
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis (Baker)
US May Cut Some Moderna Vaccine Doses In Half To Speed Rollout (R.)
Putin Pushes Plan To Roll Out COVID “Immunity Passports” In Russia (ZH)
Greek Orthodox Church To Defy Lockdown By Opening For Epiphany (G.)
Tourism Tumbles To 1990 Levels As Pandemic Halts Travel (ZH)
Giving Up the Ghost (Kunstler)

 

 

Yesterday’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange is great news, but no-one really knows what it means. Craig Murray was one of the few allowed inside the courtroom, and he’s optimistic Assange will be out on bail by tomorrow. Let’s cling to that for now.

 

 

 

 

“I should be very surprised if Julian is not released on Wednesday pending the appeal.”

Julian Assange: Imminent Freedom (Craig Murray)

It has been a long and tiring day, with the startlingly unexpected decision to block Julian’s extradition. The judgement is in fact very concerning, in that it accepted all of the prosecution’s case on the right of the US Government to prosecute publishers worldwide of US official secrets under the Espionage Act. The judge also stated specifically that the UK Extradition Act of 2003 deliberately permits extradition for political offences. These points need to be addressed. But for now we are all delighted at the ultimate decision that extradition should be blocked. The decision was based equally on two points; the appalling conditions in US supermax prisons, and the effect of those conditions on Julian specifically given his history of depression.

The media has concentrated on the mental health aspect, and given insufficient attention to the explicit condemnation of the inhumanity of the US prison system. I was the only person physically present in the public gallery inside the court, having been nominated by John Shiption to represent the family, aside from two court officials. I am quite sure that I again noted magistrate Baraitser have a catch in her throat when discussing the inhumane conditions in US supermax prisons, the lack of human contact, and specifically the fact that inmates are kept in total isolation in a small cage, and are permitted one hour exercise a day in total isolation in another small cage. I noted her show emotion the same way when discussing the al-Masri torture evidence during the trial, and she seemed similarly affected here.

Julian looked well and alert; he showed no emotion at the judgement, but entered into earnest discussion with his lawyers. The US government indicated they will probably appeal the verdict, and a bail hearing has been deferred until Wednesday to decide whether he will be released from Belmarsh pending the appeal – which court sources tell me is likely to be held in April in the High Court. I should be very surprised if Julian is not released on Wednesday pending the appeal. I shall now be staying here for that bail hearing.

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Could be for only 3 years.

Mexican President Promises Asylum For Julian Assange (RT)

Mexico’s president has offered asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, hours after a British judge refused to extradite Assange to the US to face espionage charges. “Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favor of pardoning him,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters on Monday, saying “we’ll give him protection.” “Our tradition is protection,” Obrador added. [..] Were Assange to take Lopez Obrador up on his offer, he would likely have to weigh the president’s promise of protection against the fact that Obrador could be voted out of office in 2024, when his six-year term concludes.


Since taking office, Lopez Obrador has pursued an idiosyncratic foreign policy. On one hand, the left-wing president sheltered Bolivian President Evo Morales following a right-wing coup in 2019 and refused to follow the lead of the US and its allies in Latin America and recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president last year. On the other hand, Lopez Obrador has been largely supportive of US President Donald Trump’s administration. The Mexican leader tightened up security at his southern border when Trump railed against Central American migrant “caravans” entering the US via Mexico, and was repaid by Trump during negotiations with OPEC last year, when the US President intervened to help Mexico avoid cuts to oil production.

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One single death doesn’t have much meaning.

Nurse Dies Following Vaccination With Pfizer’s COVID19 Shot In Portugal (RT)

Health authorities in Portugal are investigating the sudden death of a pediatric surgery assistant in Porto, who was reportedly in “perfect health” when she received the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus. Identified on Monday as Sonia Azevedo, 41, the mother of two worked as a surgical assistant at the Instituto Portugues de Oncologia (IPO), an oncology hospital in Porto. She was among the 538 healthcare workers at IPO who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Wednesday. Azevedo had dinner with her family on New Year’s Eve, and was found dead in bed the following morning.


“I want to know what caused my daughter’s death” her father Abilio told the Portuguese tabloid Orreio da Manha. He described her as a “well and happy” person who “never drank alcohol, didn’t eat anything special or out of the ordinary.” Azevedo was so proud to be among the first to receive the vaccine, she changed her Facebook profile picture to reflect that. “Covid-19 vaccinated,” she wrote under a selfie with her face mask on. “We don’t know what happened. It all happened quickly and with no explanation,” Azevedo’s daughter Vania Figueiredo told the paper. “I didn’t notice anything different in my mother. She was fine. She just said that the area where she had been vaccinated hurt, but that’s normal…”

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Ivermectin goes mainstream. “But we have to do more testing”.

Cheap Hair Lice Drug May Cut Risk Of COVID19 Death By 80 Percent (NYP)

A simple treatment for COVID-19 could be cheaper than 20 bucks — and familiar to most grade school nurses. Head lice drug ivermectin is being explored as a potential treatment for the coronavirus following a promising new study that showed an 80% reduction in hospitalized COVID-19 patient deaths. Just 8 out of 573 patients who received ivermectin passed away, compared to the 44 individuals out of 510 who died after being given a placebo. An earlier study of the antiparasitic prescription drug, which costs between $17 and $43 for a course of treatment, according to GoodRx, revealed promising results in April — by removing all viral RNA within 48 hours of a single dose.

Liverpool University virologist Andrew Hill has called the new study “transformational” in the search for a coronavirus therapy. His findings, based on data from over 1,400 patients, were made public in a video posted to YouTube in which Hill discusses his results in a previously aired livestream. The research currently awaits peer review prior to publishing. “If we see these same trends observed consistently across more studies, then this really is going to be a transformational treatment,” said Hill. However, critics have called Hill’s study conclusion premature, urging further research before declaring ivermectin an effective treatment — citing other buzzed-about methods that ultimately failed to deliver, such as hydroxychloroquine and tocilizumab.

“All we have are observational studies and clinicians’ opinions,” said University of Sydney professor Andrew McLachlan, the Daily Mail reported. “Many of the current studies have low numbers of participants, weak study designs, and inconsistent (and relatively low) ivermectin dosing regimes, with ivermectin frequently given in combination with other drugs.”

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Long piece on all options.

The Lab-Leak Hypothesis (Baker)

What happened was fairly simple, I’ve come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist’s well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed. Many thoughtful people dismiss this notion, and they may be right. They sincerely believe that the coronavirus arose naturally, “zoonotically,” from animals, without having been previously studied, or hybridized, or sluiced through cell cultures, or otherwise worked on by trained professionals.

They hold that a bat, carrying a coronavirus, infected some other creature, perhaps a pangolin, and that the pangolin may have already been sick with a different coronavirus disease, and out of the conjunction and commingling of those two diseases within the pangolin, a new disease, highly infectious to humans, evolved. Or they hypothesize that two coronaviruses recombined in a bat, and this new virus spread to other bats, and then the bats infected a person directly — in a rural setting, perhaps — and that this person caused a simmering undetected outbreak of respiratory disease, which over a period of months or years evolved to become virulent and highly transmissible but was not noticed until it appeared in Wuhan.

There is no direct evidence for these zoonotic possibilities, just as there is no direct evidence for an experimental mishap — no written confession, no incriminating notebook, no official accident report. Certainty craves detail, and detail requires an investigation. It has been a full year, 80 million people have been infected, and, surprisingly, no public investigation has taken place. We still know very little about the origins of this disease. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth offering some historical context for our yearlong medical nightmare. We need to hear from the people who for years have contended that certain types of virus experimentation might lead to a disastrous pandemic like this one. And we need to stop hunting for new exotic diseases in the wild, shipping them back to laboratories, and hot-wiring their genomes to prove how dangerous to human life they might become.

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The drug itself is not experimental enough?!

US May Cut Some Moderna Vaccine Doses In Half To Speed Rollout (R.)

The U.S. government is considering giving some people half the dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in order to speed vaccinations, a federal official said on Sunday. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine program, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that officials were in talks with Moderna and the Food and Drug Administration about the idea. Moderna’s vaccine requires two injections. “We know that for the Moderna vaccine, giving half of the dose to people between the ages of 18 and 55, two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have,” Slaoui said. “We know it induces identical immune response” to the full dose, he added.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 4,225,756 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and distributed 13,071,925 doses. The U.S. has also approved a vaccine from Pfizer, which like Moderna’s requires two shots. Vaccinations have fallen far short of early targets, as officials had hoped to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the 2020. Slaoui said he was optimistic vaccinations would continue to accelerate. He rejected the suggestion that officials should prioritize giving more people a single shot, rather than holding back doses for the second shot, saying that cutting Moderna vaccine doses in half was “a more responsible approach that would be based on facts and data.” Slaoui said it would likely not be known until late spring whether vaccinated people can still spread the disease to others.

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Vaccination iron curtain?!

Putin Pushes Plan To Roll Out COVID “Immunity Passports” In Russia (ZH)

As Russian President Vladimir Putin ramps up his aggressive campaign to stamp out COVID-19 once and for all (as Russia races to vaccinate its most vulnerable citizens while striking deals to supply “Sputnik V” to developing markets the world), the embattled president has just raised the possibility of distributing ‘immunity passports’, an idea that has gained traction around the world since the dawn of the pandemic. According to an RT report, the Russian government is considering the development and distribution of documents verifying whether individuals have been vaccinated. China has already road-tested technology transmitting people’s COVID status via smartphone apps, and it’s widely suspected that Beijing will impose some version of immunity passports, if they haven’t already.

In a series of instructions to officials, published at the end of 2020, President Vladimir Putin ordered policymakers “to consider issuing certificates to people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 infections using Russian vaccines…or the purpose of enabling citizens to travel across the borders of the Russian Federation and those of other countries.” Russia’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, has been charged with implementing the recommendations, and is set to report back on January 20. For once, Putin and American billionaire Bill Gates will be seeing eye to eye, as support for “immunity passports” grows not just among governments (even in “liberal democracies” like Canada), but the private sector as well. As RT reminds us, the IATA has voiced support for “immunity passports” as a strategy for hastening the revival of air travel.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents 290 airlines across the world, has supported the idea of vaccine passports, and is developing its own digital system to track who has been immunized against the virus. Passengers may be expected to present equivalent documents before being allowed to board planes in the future. Immunizations with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, the first to be registered for the prevention of Covid-19 anywhere in the world, have been taking place in growing numbers in the capital and across the country. More than 70 centers in Moscow are now offering jabs, and at least 800,000 people have received their first dose.

Remember, once they arrived, people might soon find “Immunity Passports” will become a permanent facet of their lives: even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, they could be used to offer evidence that a traveler has been vaccinated – not just for COVID-19, but for any other diseases, or even perhaps mutated forms of COVID-19. Critically, as we noted previously, if we are going to live in a world where vaccines are mandatory for travel, who is to say that every nation on Earth is going to acknowledge the validity of every other vaccine. The Mainstream Media makes it seem as though just getting any vaccine with some sort of paperwork to back it up should be good enough, but this is unlikely to be true.

Read more …

The church is powerful in Greece.

Greek Orthodox Church To Defy Lockdown By Opening For Epiphany (G.)

The Greek Orthodox church has announced it will defy government lockdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus and open places of worship to mark Epiphany this Wednesday. After an emergency session of the holy synod, its governing body, senior clerics said they would press ahead as planned and celebrate the baptism of Christ on 6 January. “The synod does not agree with the new government measures regarding the operation of places of worship and insists on what was originally agreed with the state,” the ecclesiastical body said in a statement. “It asks that the aforementioned decision be absolutely respected by the state without further ado taking into consideration … that all the foreseen hygiene measures were upheld by clerics in thousands of churches across Greece.”

The announcement, which flies in the face of new week-long restrictions on movement, is the most open act of defiance yet by the powerful institution. Before the holiday season Athens’ centre-right government had said it would relax curbs and permit all places of worship to conduct services, albeit with limited congregations, on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and the Epiphany. But with the country’s health system under pressure after a surge in coronavirus cases, the administration rescinded the decision at the weekend saying restrictions eased over the festive period would be reimposed to facilitate the reopening of schools on 11 January. Greece has been in lockdown since 7 November.

How the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who kicked off the new year with a cabinet reshuffle earlier on Monday, will react to the decision remains to be seen. The sight of worshippers breaching restrictions that have caused consternation, not least in the retail sector, would fuel further controversy. Epidemiologists have called for even tougher curbs if a second wave of the pandemic is to be brought under control in a country that, while faring better than most, has recorded 140,099 coronavirus cases and 4,957 Covid-19 deaths to date.

Read more …

This bloated industry can do with some less.

Tourism Tumbles To 1990 Levels As Pandemic Halts Travel (ZH)

While few industries have been spared by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, even fewer have been hit as hard as the tourism sector. As 2020 drew to a close with severe limitations to travel still in place, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expects international arrivals to have declined by 70 to 75 percent compared to the previous year. As Statista’s Felix Richter writes, that equates to a decline of around 1 billion international arrivals, bringing the industry back to 1990 levels.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the global tourism sector had seen almost uninterrupted growth for decades. Since 1980, the number of international arrivals skyrocketed from 277 million to nearly 1.5 billion in 2019. As Statista’s chart above shows, the two largest crises of the past decades, the SARS epidemic of 2003 and the global financial crisis of 2009, were minor bumps in the road compared to the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, most experts don’t expect a full recovery in 2021, which started off with many countries still battling the second wave of the pandemic. According to the UNWTO’s estimates, it will take the industry between 2.5 and 4 years to return to pre-pandemic levels of international tourist arrivals.

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“Persistent rumor has the president laying out a royal flush of deadly information about his antagonists, enough to make heads explode among the formerly cocksure and vaporize the narrative they’ve been running for four years.”

Giving Up the Ghost (Kunstler)

Things are shaking loose. Secrets are flying out of black boxes. Shots have been fired. The center is not holding because the center is no longer there, only a black hole where the center used to be, and, within it, the shriekings of lost souls. Will the United States go missing this week, or fight its way out of the chaos and darkness? Whatever occurs in this strange week of confrontation, Joe Biden will not be leading any part of it. Where has he been since Christmas? Back to hiding in the basement? Did the American people elect a ghost? Even if this storm blows over, could Joe Biden possibly claim any legitimacy in the Oval Office? And then what happens with the rest of the story — which is an epic economic convulsion sharper than the Great Depression — as time is unsuspended and the year 2021 actually unspools?

Only the bare outlines of this week’s fateful game are visible. Mr. Trump has not conceded the election. An action will play out in congress under rarely-used constitutional rules as to how the electoral college votes are awarded to whom. The rancor around this action is already epic. Few of the political players are beyond suspicion of dark deals and shifty allegiances. Persistent rumor has the president laying out a royal flush of deadly information about his antagonists, enough to make heads explode among the formerly cocksure and vaporize the narrative they’ve been running for four years. A whole lot of people are converging in the nation’s capital at midweek, maybe even the touted million. It is a moment, possibly, not unlike the Bastille in Paris, 1789. They will be clamoring right outside Congress as the electoral vote ceremony proceeds. If the battle is not joined in the chamber, it’s a little hard to believe the crowd will just heave a million sighs, trudge back to their cars, and drive quietly home.

Senator Ted Cruz has come up with a pretty sound plan: a ten-day emergency audit of the balloting with an electoral commission consisting of five Senators, five House Members, and five Supreme Court Justices — to consider and resolve the disputed returns. The proposal is based on the 1877 procedure for resolving the contested Hayes-Tilden election. “Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed,” the proposal stated. Naturally, the Democratic Party’s news media handmaidens denounced it as “embarrassing” — which raises the question: who exactly will be embarrassed if the plan goes ahead?

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 042021
 


Vincent van Gogh Boulevard de Clichy, Paris 1887

 

Killing Julian Assange (AlJ)
Docs Urge Early Outpatient Treatment For COVID-19 (France Soir)
New Zealand Tightens Border Again Amid Fears Over New Covid Strain (G.)
Fauci Says He Did Not Expect COVID19 Death Toll To Climb To 350,000 (JTN)
Trump Call Actually Reveals A President Deep Into Detail (Kassam)
McCarthy Supports Electoral Challenge In House, Deputy Cheney Opposes It (JTN)
The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director (Kiriakou)
Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Suspected Missing (Y!)
Breadlines Stretch Across America (ZH)
The American System Is One Big Grift (van Buren)

 

 

Assange hearing due any moment. Not sure it makes sense to wait for the outcome. It will be appealed no matter which way it goes. And then move to a higher court.

A big moment for sure, but more to gauge how lawless the UK will allow itself to look.

 

UPDATE: UK judge rules against extradition of Assange to US

That was unexpected. She says he must be discharged from Belmarsh for health reasons.

 

Other big theme today: the Trump call to Georgia, leaked to the WaPo, which edited the transcript. Two entirely different interpretations of what it says.

It’s the Zelensky call all over again.

 

 

“..the act of exposing US crimes of torture and killing abroad can at times get you tortured and killed yourself. Call it poetic injustice.”

Killing Julian Assange (AlJ)

On Monday, January 4, a London court will decide whether to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges. If convicted, the whistle-blower will face a prison sentence of up to 175 years in everyone’s favourite “land of the free”. The Australian citizen is accused of having harmed the US and its allies by publishing classified documents. Assange collaborated with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who has already been put through the horror show of the so-called US justice system for leaking classified documents related to, inter alia, the US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Among the most notorious material published by WikiLeaks is the “Collateral Murder” video, released in 2010. It depicts a 2007 episode in Baghdad in which US Apache helicopter personnel enthusiastically slaughtered a dozen Iraqis, including two Reuters staffers – a fitting hint, perhaps, as to the existential perils of journalistic efforts to document the truth.

In Assange’s case, his crime is just that: telling the truth in contravention of an official narrative of heroic, world-saving interventions by the US military. Indeed, according to the perverse perspective of the US, it is absolutely fine to massacre Iraqi civilians – just not to talk about it. In the end, after all, what is imperial war if not sustained butchery and devastation of civilian populations? Yet pointing out the bleeding obvious is apparently enough to land you in jail for 175 years. And not just any jail. Charles Glass, veteran journalist and former chief Middle East correspondent for ABC News – who has himself visited the imprisoned Assange in London – writes in The Intercept that, if extradited, Assange risks internment in the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”, a federal supermax prison in Colorado that houses Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Oklahoma City co-bomber Terry Nichols.

There, Assange’s life would consist of “permanent solitary confinement in a concrete box cell with a window four inches wide, with six bed checks a day and one hour of exercise in an outdoor cage”. Similar punishment is of course also meted out to all of the US soldiers who kill and rape with abandon, and to the politicians who dispatch them to do so. (Just kidding.) In the meantime, as Assange awaits the extradition verdict, the British are doing a fine job maintaining a regimen of “denial of access to healthcare and prolonged psychological torture” – as 117 doctors have affirmed in a letter to the medical journal The Lancet. Back in November of 2019, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, had already warned that the psychological torture and abuse to which Assange was being subjected in the UK – at the behest of the US – could ultimately cost him his life.

It seems, then, that the act of exposing US crimes of torture and killing abroad can at times get you tortured and killed yourself. Call it poetic injustice. In an email to me, Julie Wark, author of The Human Rights Manifesto, recalled the special rapporteur’s observations, emphasising that “a gang of so-called democratic states has deliberately demonised and abused a single individual with almost zero regard for human rights and rule of law”. She continued: “The official leviathan turned against Assange and other whistleblowers is a measure of the crimes these states want covered up.” Obviously, the precedent of extraditing an Australian citizen from the UK to the US for the “crime” of exposing reality would be a disastrous blow to journalism worldwide – although it would certainly assist in further exposing a reality in the world’s self-proclaimed “greatest democracy”, where, as it turns out, freedom of the press is not actually a thing. Ditto for other cool stuff like freedom of speech and thought.

Read more …

France goes its own way in virustime.

Docs Urge Early Outpatient Treatment For COVID-19 (France Soir)

The year 2020 will have been marked by a series of studies on treatments against COVID-19 and associated controversies. All will remember the declarations of the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister that ” there is no treatment against Covid-19 ” despite the studies published by the IHU of Prof. Raoult. In December, the Italian Council of State rehabilitated the early-phase treatment based on hydroxychloroquine, proving the doctors right and recalling the principle that no national agency should interfere in the privileged relationship between a doctor and his patient. In the United States in October, under the influence of Senator Johnson , Professors Peter McCullough , Harvey Risch, and doctor Pierre Kory testified under oath to the Senate commission of inquiry into early stage treatments.

The latter recalled the fundamental basis of a response to a viral epidemic with the 4 pillars: the control of contagion by various measures such as barrier gestures, early phase treatment, hospital care, and the vaccine or group immunity. A peer-reviewed study published in the Reviews of Cardiovascular Medicine (Reviews of Cardiovascular Medicine) on December 30, 2020 by a group of 57 doctors, including Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Harvey Risch, many of whom have treated the disease in the early phase, includes all the elements to show that there is no cure for Covid-19, but that a combination of drugs and other supplements can significantly reduce the risk of worsening the disease . This also leads to a reduction in hospitalization needs, thus reducing the pressure on the use of intensive care or resuscitation beds. The question of risk benefit for the need for a vaccine therefore arises.

The study summary states: “The SARS-CoV-2 virus that is spreading across the world has resulted in epidemic peaks of COVID-19 disease, hospitalizations and deaths. The complex and multifaceted pathophysiology of COVID-19 is life threatening to those infected (including damage to organs mediating the virus, cytokine storm and thrombosis). This therefore justifies early interventions to treat all facets of the disease . In countries where therapeutic nihilism is prevalent, patients experience escalating symptoms and without early treatment, patients may succumb to complications of delayed hospitalization, resulting in death. Early and rapid initiation of Combination Sequence Therapy (SMDT) is a widely and currently available solution to stem the tide of hospitalizations and deaths.”

A multi-pronged therapeutic approach includes 1) adjuvant nutraceuticals, 2) combined intracellular anti-infective therapy, 3) inhaled / oral corticosteroids, 4) antiplatelet / anticoagulant agents, 5) supportive care, including supplemental oxygen, monitoring and telemedicine. Randomized trials of new individual oral therapies have failed to provide doctors with the tools they need to fight the pandemic. No single treatment option so far has been fully effective and therefore a combination is required at this time. An urgent immediate transition from single drug therapy to SMDT regimens should be used as a critical strategy to treat the large number of patients with acute COVID-19 with the goal of reducing the intensity and duration of symptoms and avoiding hospitalization and death.

The risk of complications and death increases if there is no early phase treatment as soon as the first symptoms appear. This study therefore supports the approach advocated by Professor Raoult since the start of the year: treatment in the early phase helps reduce the risk of complications linked to the disease. It also confirms all the work done in the United States by Dr. Zelenko as well as all the doctors who have worked for the early phase treatment against thick and thin, too often ignored by health agencies and medical authorities.

The ANSM (National Agency for Health and Medicines), the Minister of Health and the various administrative bodies will undoubtedly have to explain their decisions to the French. The benefit-risk analysis as described by the Italian Council of State (in the absence of specific treatment, there is no reason that health agencies interfere in the doctor-patient relationship, especially for drugs that have proven to be safe over several decades) makes sense in the light of this new study. The abandonment of hydroxychloroquine in the arm of various studies when the signs were positive (Hycovid study), overdose in other studies, media silence on ivermectin will undoubtedly need to be addressed by those with comprehensive legal expertise.

Read more …

6 cases in New Zealand, 6 cases in Greece.

New Zealand Tightens Border Again Amid Fears Over New Covid Strain (G.)

New Zealand has further tightened border controls amid mounting anxiety about the new strain of coronavirus driving up infections overseas. Six cases of the new variant of the virus – five in arrivals from the UK and one from South Africa – were recorded in managed isolation facilities in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Travellers to New Zealand from the US and UK will now be required to show a negative test for Covid-19 before departure, as well as taking a test on their arrival in quarantine in addition to those on days three and 12. The border remains mostly closed to non-citizens. The Ministry of Health said in a statement on Sunday that these were “extra precautionary steps [to] provide another layer of protection” against the new strain of coronavirus, recorded in more than 30 countries.


Though there has been no community transmission of coronavirus in New Zealand since 18 November, Auckland University microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said the new variant – which is reported to be more infectious – would challenge the country’s safeguards. “If there are any chinks in the chain, it will find them,” she told Stuff. For New Zealanders in the UK and the US wanting to come home, the new requirement to obtain a test is an additional barrier on top of flight cancellations and the long wait for a vacancy in quarantine. The vast majority of the 5,800 spots in the 32 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities across New Zealand were occupied over Christmas and New Year in Kiwis’ rush to return. Stuff reports that the earliest available vacancy was in mid-March.

Read more …

But he gets to keep his job…

Fauci Says He Did Not Expect COVID19 Death Toll To Climb To 350,000 (JTN)

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci on ABC This Week said that he had not expected the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. to rise to 350,000. “Did you ever expect it to be that high?” host Martha Raddatz asked. “No Martha, I did not,” Fauci responded. “But you know that’s what happens when you’re in a situation where you have surges related to so many factors: Inconsistent adhering to the public health measures, the winter months coming in right now with the cold allowing people or essentially forcing people to do most of their things indoors as opposed to outdoors and then the traveling associated with the holiday season is all of the ingredients that unfortunately make for a situation that is really terrible.”


Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University indicates that the U.S. coronavirus death count exceeds 350,000. President Trump on Sunday tweeted: “The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of @CDCgov’s ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low. ‘When in doubt, call it Covid.’ Fake News!” Asked about the president’s tweet, Fauci responded: “Well, the deaths are real deaths. I mean, all you need to do is to go out into the trenches, go to the hospitals, see what the health care workers are dealing with. They are under very stressed situations in many areas of the country, the hospital beds are stretched, people are running out of beds, running out of trained personnel who are exhausted right now. That’s real. That’s not fake. That’s real.”

Read more …

1 phone call. 2 completely different stories.

Trump Call Actually Reveals A President Deep Into Detail (Kassam)

“I don’t know about that… I don’t have it in front of me… we’re looking into that…” These weren’t the vague, non-committal words of the President of the United States on the phone call leaked by theWashington Post newspaper – which has recently taken millions of dollars from the Chinese Communist Party – this Sunday. They were the statements of the establishment Republicans on the call: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Ryan Germany, and Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs on the January 2nd call. Despite the partisan framing from the Washington Post – that the call somehow reflected Trump making demands for votes from his Republican colleagues – the President actually does no such thing. Throughout the call, the President makes clear that his calls are for election transparency, full and transparent audits, and public access.

At no point does the President imply he wants votes invented or confected, as the establishment media is portraying. He even offers to recuse himself from parts of the conversation and ends by asking for “the truth… it’s just that simple.” In fact the President begins the call by ripping through specifics that are never addressed by their opponents on the call: the establishment Republicans. Trump states: “We have at least 2 or 3 — anywhere from 250 to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls. Much of that had to do with Fulton County, which hasn’t been checked. We think that if you check the signatures — a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County — you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged.”

He continues: “We had, I believe it’s about 4,502 voters who voted but who weren’t on the voter registration list, so it’s 4,502 who voted, but they weren’t on the voter registration roll, which they had to be. You had 18,325 vacant address voters. The address was vacant, and they’re not allowed to be counted. That’s 18,325.” And the President went on: “You had out-of-state voters. They voted in Georgia, but they were from out of state, of 4,925. You had absentee ballots sent to vacant, they were absentee ballots sent to vacant addresses. They had nothing on them about addresses, that’s 2,326.” The level of granularity was actually remarkable, especially for a President that the media continues to allege is not concerned with details.

Read more …

Dice roll.

McCarthy Supports Electoral Challenge In House, Deputy Cheney Opposes It (JTN)

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy threw his support Sunday behind an effort in his caucus to oppose Joe Biden’s electors even as one of his deputies sent a memo opposing the movement. “I think it’s right that we have the debate. I mean, you see now that senators are going to object, the House is going to object — how else do we have a way to change the election problems?” McCarthy told The Hill newspaper in an interview. McCarthy made the commons as at least two dozen House members and a dozen senators, all Republicans, announced plans this weekend to oppose Biden’s electoral victory when Congress certifies electors on Wednesday.


While McCarthy endorsed the effort, House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a frequent Trump opponent, sent a memo to GOP caucus members opposing the effort as a danger to democracy “Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress,” she wrote. “This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans.”

Read more …

John Kiriakou is a former CIA agent.

The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director (Kiriakou)

Former acting CIA Director Mike Morell, who has disingenuously argued for years that he had nothing to do with the agency’s torture program, but who continued to defend it, has taken himself out of the running to be President-elect Joe Biden’s new CIA director. The decision is a victory for the peace group Code Pink, which spearheaded the Stop Morell movement, and it’s a great thing for all Americans. Now, though, we have to turn our attention to Biden’s nominee to be director of national intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines. Haines is certainly qualified on paper to lead the Intelligence Community. A longtime Biden aide, she has the president-elect’s confidence. But that’s not good enough. Haines is exactly the kind of person who shouldn’t be in a position of authority in intelligence.

She is the kind of neoliberal intelligence apologist whom so many of us have opposed for so many years. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Look at her record. Haines first began working for Biden when she served as deputy general counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was its chairman. When Biden became vice president in 2009, Haines moved to the State Department, where she was the assistant legal adviser for treaty affairs. After only a year, she moved to the White House, where she became deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs, the National Security Council’s chief attorney.

That’s quite a position. What it means was that her job was to legally justify President Barack Obama’s decisions on such intelligence issues as drone strikes and whether to release the CIA Torture Report. She served there under CIA Director John Brennan. Obama apparently liked the job she did for him because in 2013, he named Haines deputy director of the CIA (DD/CIA). Haines was the first woman to be named DD/CIA, and she served again under Brennan, who proved time and again that he was no fan of congressional oversight. Haines’s attitude was similar to Brennan’s: The CIA was going to do what it was going to do, and she would make no apologies for it.

Read more …

Ma got too big.

Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Suspected Missing (Y!)

Speculation has swirled around Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s whereabouts after reports surfaced that the high-profile businessman has not made a public appearance in more than two months. The Alibaba founder also failed to appear as scheduled in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, which gives budding African entrepreneurs the chance to compete for a slice of US $1.5 million. Ma was supposed to be part of the judging, but was replaced by an Alibaba executive in the November final, UK’s Telegraph reported. His picture was also taken off the website. An Alibaba spokesperson said Ma was unable to take part on the judging panel “due to a schedule conflict”, according to Financial Times.

Ma’s business empire, Ant Group, has been under scrutiny by Beijing ever since Ma delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai on 24 October that criticised China’s regulation system for stifling innovation and likened global banking rules to an “old people’s club”. “Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age,” Ma said in the speech. “We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.” Little over a week later, Ant’s IPO (valued at a record-setting US $37 billion or AU $48 billion), which had already received the green light from China’s securities watchdog, was suspended, with the Shanghai Stock Exchange saying Ant had reported “significant issues such as the changes in financial technology regulatory environment”.

But US veteran investor Mark Mobius said the move was designed to curtail financial institutions from getting too big. “I believe the Chinese government stepped in because they realised that they had to regulate these companies, so that they don’t … get too big,” he told CNBC. “The Chinese government is waking up to the fact that they cannot allow these companies that dominate a particular sector and particularly the financial sector.”

Read more …

“..8 million Americans joining the ranks of the poor since June..”

Breadlines Stretch Across America (ZH)

The economic collapse of 2020 has undeniably widened the wealth gap. Now, our country is essentially divided between those who patiently wait for some food in breadlines – after losing their ability to provide for themselves and, oftentimes, the roof over their heads – and those who sit comfortably at their own homes waiting for the meltdown to be over while discovering the joy of baking bread. Breadlines vs. Bread makers, that’s the ominous picture of an increasingly unequal America. That’s what Epic Economist exposes in the following video: The collapse has laid bare just how unequal our system is. As euphoria on Wall Street sends stock prices to astronomical heights, Main Street remains in crisis, with roughly 8 million Americans joining the ranks of the poor since June. The numbers are even letting some billionaires worried that the enormous inequality may lead to mass conflicts in months ahead. And even the establishment is showing it’s afraid that things could suddenly get out of hand, because much more turbulence is about to emerge.

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The Clintons and Bidens are bit players.

The American System Is One Big Grift (van Buren)

The first bribe I ever paid was to an Indonesian immigration officer, who noticed some small defect on my passport. Of course, he said, it could be resolved. Between us. With a fine (so many euphemisms). Off to the side. In cash. It was all of $20 to save a vacation but I felt filthy, cheated, a chump. But I learned the rules. In New York we use the euphemism “tip,” and it is as required as oxygen to get through the day. A restaurant table pre-COVID. A last minute anything. A friendlier handling by a doorman. Timely attention to fix-it requests. My, um, friend, used to pay a lot of money for better hotel rooms until he learned $20 at check in with a friendly “anything you can do” often got him upgraded to the same thing at a fraction of the price. What, you still paying retail, bro?

I used to think it was all small stuff, maybe with the odd mafia king bribing a judge with real money or something else Netflix-worthy. In America we were ultimately… fair, right? But things started to add up. We have our petty corruption like anywhere, but our souls are filthy on a much larger scale. America goes big or it goes home. Things like the Clinton Foundation accepting donations from the Saudis to help with women’s empowerment, an issue of course dear to the heart of the Kingdom. When it looked like his wife was going to be president, Bill made six-figure speeches to businesses seeking influence within the U.S. government, earning $50 million during his wife’s term as secretary of pay-for-play state. The Foundation, now mostly out of business, was at its peak a two-billion-dollar financial dangle.

It spent in 2013 the same on travel expenses for Hillary and her family as it did on charitable grants. The media, forever big Clinton fans, told us we should be used to it. Hey, Nixon was so much worse. Trump refused to be very specific about who his charity donated to. We know its offshoot, the Eric Trump charity, donated to a wine industry association, a plastic surgeon supposedly gifting nose jobs to kids, and an artist who painted a portrait of Donald. Trump-owned resorts received $880,000 for hosting Trump-sponsored charity events. Trump donated money from his foundation to conservative influencers ahead of his presidential bid.

With Joe as vice president, the Bidens made $396,000 in 2016. But in just the four years since leaving the Obama White House, Joe and Jill made more than $15 million. In fact, as his prospects for election improved, Joe and his wife made nearly twice as much in one year as they did in the previous 19 years combined. Joe scored $10 million alone for a book no one read. Jill was paid more than $3 million for her book in 2018. Joe has a tax-dodge S Corporation that donated money back to his own political PAC. Then of course there was Hunter, who scored millions in Chinese and Ukrainian money for doing nothing but being Joe’s son.

About half the nation got very twisted over Trump’s corruption and actively avoided noticing the Clintons and Bidens, and vice-versa, to the point of covering their ears NYANYANAYNYA. Yeah, politicians are corrupt, but does anyone think the donors in all three cases didn’t know what they were buying? What, you still voting retail, bro? But even all those millions, measured in Epsteins (a unit of influence buying I just made up) are petty cash. Real corruption scales. Pre-COVID America’s 614 billionaires were worth $2.95 trillion. As the Dow hit record highs this month, there are now 650 billionaires and their combined wealth is $4 trillion. The 400 richest Americans own 64 percent of the country’s wealth. Where’d all their money come from? You.

Read more …

 

 

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