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.

Read more …

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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“..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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Jan 032021
 


Camille Pissarro Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 1897

 

Assange Extradition Would Be End Of Free Speech In UK (Stella Moris)
Legal Teams Likely Informed Already of Assange Decision (Mercouris)
Pence Embraces Election Challenge By Members Of Congress (JTN)
11 Senators To Reject Congressional Election Certification On Wednesday (JTN)
October Legal Analysis Finds Today’s Scenario Favors Trump Victory (Attkisson)
‘Growing Body Of Evidence’ COVID-19 Leaked From Chinese Lab: US Official (NYP)
Leeds Forms Specialist Team As 100s In City Face ‘Long Covid’ Impact (YEP)
Bill de Blasio Dancing In New York Embodies The Difficult Road Ahead (Turley)
Boris Johnson Would Lose Majority And Seat In Election Tomorrow – Poll (G.)

 

 

Everything today should be about Julian Assange, really, and the ongoing perversity perpetrated against him.

 

 

Assange

 

 

“In effect, foreign countries could simply issue an extradition request saying that UK journalists, or Facebook users for that matter, have violated their censorship laws.”

Assange Extradition Would Be End Of Free Speech In UK (Stella Moris)

A month ago, I would wake up in the middle of the night seized by a recurring nightmare: my little boys, Max, 22 months, and Gabriel, who is three, had been orphaned. I was still here but their father was not. Their father is Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks. Today, that terrible nightmare is all too close to becoming a reality. Julian has been on remand in Belmarsh prison in South-East London for almost two years. He is fighting a political extradition to the United States, where he risks being buried in the deepest, darkest corner of the US prison system for the rest of his life. Julian embarrassed Washington and this is their revenge. The nightmares came to a sudden stop the week before Christmas, when a groundswell of support from all sides of the political spectrum called for President Trump to pardon him.

A leaked audio recording of Julian talking to the US State Department unmasked the trumped-up nature of the charges against him. Leading figures, from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to Nobel Prize winners, such as human-rights campaigner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, have been calling for Julian’s freedom. So far, there has been no pardon. But tomorrow, a British magistrate will decide whether to order Julian’s extradition or throw out the US government’s request. If Julian loses, I believe that it would not only be an unthinkable travesty but that the ruling would also be politically and legally disastrous for the UK. That is because Julian’s case is not about what some people would have you think it is about.

His role in founding the WikiLeaks website is well known and it is fair to say Julian has angered many government and establishment figures around the world. WikiLeaks has published thousands of sensitive classified documents, many from the US military. Yet Julian has been acting in the same way as any other journalist would in attempting to hold the powerful to account. President Obama’s administration realised this, and understood that charging Julian would require them to prosecute international media outlets. After all, newspapers, websites and TV stations had published substantially the same revelations as WikiLeaks. That is why, at the end of his term in office, Obama freed WikiLeaks’s US Army Intelligence source, whistleblower Chelsea Manning, from jail.

With Trump, however, the mood has changed dramatically and under his administration, journalistic practices have been pursued as crimes. WikiLeaks and Julian have been accused of ‘endangering national security’, but US prosecutors admit they have no evidence to support claims that WikiLeaks publications caused physical harm to anyone. Perhaps that explains why their tactics have become increasingly desperate. During Julian’s extradition hearing at the Old Bailey in September, the court heard evidence that CIA contractors were plotting to kill him with poison while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Agents-turned-whistleblowers, who were granted anonymity by the court due to their fear of reprisals, also admitted targeting our then six-month-old baby to steal his DNA.

They told the court that they had installed hidden microphones to spy on Julian’s solicitors’ meetings. The offices of his lawyers were also broken into. It might seem unthinkable that a British court would give its stamp of approval to such rampant, illegal actions by the US. It might seem equally unthinkable that a man who was practising journalism in this country, perfectly legally according to UK law, could be tried in a foreign land and potentially jailed for life. But that is what would happen if the UK decides to extradite Julian. It would rewrite the rules of what it is permissible to publish here. Overnight, it would chill free and open debate about abuses by our own government and by many foreign ones, too.

In effect, foreign countries could simply issue an extradition request saying that UK journalists, or Facebook users for that matter, have violated their censorship laws. Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists have said that as long as Julian remains in prison facing extradition, the UK is not a safe place for journalists and publishers to work. The press freedoms we cherish in Britain are meaningless if they can be criminalised and suppressed by regimes in Russia or Ankara or by prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia.

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It’s just too crazy.

Legal Teams Likely Informed Already of Assange Decision (Mercouris)

In accordance with a British magistrate court’s usual procedure, Julian Assange’s Judgment has almost certainly already been written and sent in draft form to the respective teams of lawyers, probably early on Friday evening. The lawyers therefore already know what the decision is, as well as the British government and at least the Department of Justice in Washington. Under established procedure, Assange’s lawyers are not supposed to tell Assange himself what the decision is so he and his family are probably the only people who are directly involved in his case who don’t yet know its outcome. The purpose in sending the Judgment in draft form to the lawyers in advance of the Court hearing is to give them an opportunity to check it for factual mistakes.

The public will not know the outcome until Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser reads out the Judgment in its finalised form, with any factual mistakes corrected, when Court convenes on Monday at 10 am London time. The Judgment should then be published online by the Court Service directly after she has finished. In addition to the Judgment – and obviously to the decision whether or not to extradite, which will be set out in the Judgment – the public may learn immediately afterward whether either of the two sets of lawyers intend to appeal. Either side has seven days to appeal the judgment. While the intent of allowing both sides to see the Judgment in advance is not to help facilitate an appeal, having the judgement before it is read to the court affords attorneys to a chance to consider whether or not to launch one.

If It’s a Split Decision. One possibility that must be considered is that Baraitser may decide to extradite on one indictment and not on the other, for instance, if she rules against extradition on the Espionage Act charges, but decides in favour of extradition on the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge (which carries a maximum five year sentence as opposed to 170 on espionage.) I think what would happen in that case is that the British authorities would accept Baraitser’s decision and would try to reach an agreement with the DoJ whereby, in return for Assange’s extradition, the U.S. would commit itself to try Assange only on the computer intrusion charges, and not on the Espionage Act charges. The British over the course of the negotiations would tell the U.S. that if the U.S. were not willing to give that commitment then the British would not be able to extradite Assange to the U.S.

Of course the British (if Assange were extradited to the U.S. on such a basis) would be in no position to compel the U.S. to abide by such a commitment if the U..S were to go back on it once Assange was on U.S. soil. Since that has to be a very likely possibility, one would think it would be a point which Assange’s lawyers would make in the appeal they would be bound to make to the High Court against Baraitser’s decision. In fact in such a scenario it’s not impossible that both sides would appeal to the High Court: (1) the U.S. against Baraitser’s decision to refuse to extradite on the basis of the Espionage Act; (2) Assange’s lawyers against Baraitser’s decision to extradite on the computer intrusion charges. It would be a fascinating battle and it would be fascinating to see how it would play out.

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Let the dice roll.

Pence Embraces Election Challenge By Members Of Congress (JTN)

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday embraced an effort by Republican lawmakers to object to Joe Biden‘s electors and to present evidence of fraud when Congress meets Wednesday to certify election results. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, issued a statement ahead of an expected contentious congressional session next week and just hours after 11 senators led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley announced they would contest the results of the November election on the floor of Congress. “Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” Short’s statement on behalf of the Vice President said. “The Vice President welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th,” the statement added.

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A 10-day audit would not hurt anyone.

11 Senators To Reject Congressional Election Certification On Wednesday (JTN)

A dozen U.S. senators have now pledged to dispute the scheduled congressional election certification set to take place on Wednesday, with a group of senators this weekend calling for an audit of the U.S. election out of concerns over voting integrity. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz posted an announcement on his Senate website stating that he and ten other senators “intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until [an] emergency 10-day audit is completed.”


The senators called upon an Electoral Commission to conduct that audit, after which “individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.” “These are matters worthy of the Congress, and entrusted to us to defend,” the senators said in the statement. “We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it.” The senators join Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who earlier this week also pledged to contest the congressional certification of the 2020 election results.

Kanekoa
https://twitter.com/i/status/1344730835115675653

Read more …

Read the whole thing.

October Legal Analysis Finds Today’s Scenario Favors Trump Victory (Attkisson)

As thousands of Trump supporters prepare to descend upon the Capitol this coming week amid a presidential election they are contesting, there is a mass of confusion and conflicting information about what happens next. You may have heard that a growing list of Republican members of the House and Senate have pledged to object to the electoral count of some states during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress. Most analysts have said such objections, in practical terms, amount to nothing because while they can trigger debates lasting up to two hours, it would take a majority in both the House and Senate to reject the state results naming Joe Biden the next president of the United States. There are other less discussed and, some insist, less likely scenarios. Some of them are examined in a legal analysis by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty.

Published in October, about two weeks before the presidential election, it plays out multiple scenarios including under circumstances like the ones we face today. It is titled “What Happens if No One Wins? The Constitution provides for election crises—and its provisions favor Trump.” Here are some applicable excerpts from the analysis. “Suppose states send electoral votes that—even if certified by the governor—remain under question, whether because of fraud in the vote, inability to count the ballots accurately under neutral rules, or a dispute between branches of a state government… …Vice President Pence would decide between competing slates of electors…

…If the electoral count remains uncertain enough to deprive either Trump or Biden of a majority in the Electoral College, then the 12th Amendment orders that “the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President… …If today’s House chose the president, voting by state delegations, Trump would win handily.” John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, Oct. 19, 2020. An extended excerpt from the analysis follows: …Suppose states send electoral votes that—even if certified by the governor—remain under question, whether because of fraud in the vote, inability to count the ballots accurately under neutral rules, or a dispute between branches of a state government.

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How’s that WHO team doing in China? Haven’t seen any news on that.

‘Growing Body Of Evidence’ COVID-19 Leaked From Chinese Lab: US Official (NYP)

U.S. National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger is doubling down on the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese government-run lab in Wuhan. Pottinger, a staunch critic of Beijing, allegedly made the claim in a recent Zoom meeting with British officials. “There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus,” Pottinger reportedly said, according to the Daily Mail. The Trump appointee pushed the theory as the European Union made a new investment deal with China last week over protests from Pottinger and hesitance from the incoming Biden administration. Pottinger, one of the first U.S. officials to raise alarms inside White House walls about the origins of the virus back in January 2020, has reportedly suspected since the early days of the outbreak that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.

He ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to search for evidence that it had, the New York Times reported in April. A Chinese virologist who said she did some of the earliest research on COVID-19 has publicly claimed COVID-19 was man-made, and that the Chinese government covered up its dangers. Western medical experts have discredited the theory. The World Health Organization has been investigating the source of the virus since the first case was made public in January 2020. Patient Zero has not been found. Pottinger suggested in the recent call with British officials that the WHO probe is a ruse.

“MPs around the world have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise,” Pottinger told the parliamentarians, referring to fake villages created in Crimea in the 18th Century to convince the visiting Russian Empress Catherine the Great that the region was in good health. “Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story,” Pottinger allegedly said, referring to another theory that the virus was transmitted from animals to humans inside a wildlife market in Wuhan where the first cluster of cases emerged.

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Got the pics via Dave Collum.

Leeds Forms Specialist Team As 100s In City Face ‘Long Covid’ Impact (YEP)

A team of experts has been assembled in Leeds – thought to be among the first of its kind in the country – to tackle what many fear will be a major aspect of the pandemic. National data suggests between two to five per cent of Covid-19 patients will go on to develop ‘long Covid’ – suffering symptoms beyond 12 weeks – leading to an estimated 980 people in Leeds from the first wave alone. The city’s specialist ‘Covid After-Care team’ began work in September, just days after being set up, in a fast-moving bid to reach those in need in Leeds – and what they have uncovered so far has been startling. From the first 188 patients referred in, they have found the average age was 48, with more women than men, none had originally been hospitalised and many were previously extremely fit including personal trainers and athletes now struggling for breath at rest.

The findings have overturned initial expectations that those most affected would be those who had suffered more severely initially – such as the ‘at-risk’ older age groups – and that symptoms would be mainly respiratory. Dr Bryan Power, a GP and clinical lead for long term conditions at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, who helped set up the team, said: “It’s not the cohort we expected to see. “They are of a younger age than we expected – including a 17-year-old – and also presenting with a complex range of symptoms. Some patients haven’t been able to work for six months.”

[..] “There is a huge host of symptoms but the main ones we’re seeing are fatigue, shortness of breath – that can be at rest as well as exercise; cognitive problems – people suffering short-term memory problems, concentration, many call it ‘brain fog’. “Pain is another big thing – it can be all-body pain, quite often chest pain or lung pain, headaches. “And tachycardia – the heart can be racing when they’re sat on the sofa or on a walk; autonomic dysfunction, random hot sweats, temperature, dizzy when standing. “And as a consequence of these symptoms we’re finding a lot of anxiety.”

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“New York has had a 50% increase in homicides and almost a 100 percent increase in shootings.”

Bill de Blasio Dancing In New York Embodies The Difficult Road Ahead (Turley)

At midnight at the start of the new year, if you listened hard, you could almost hear the teeth of an entire nation grinding, or at least of those watching coverage from New York as Mayor Bill de Blasio danced in a nearly empty Times Square. Millions watched as he dipped his wife in a romantic flourish to Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.” At least Nero made his own music. The scene drew angry rebukes. Andy Cohen said it made him feel sick. “I did not need to see that at the start of 2021. Do something with this city! Honestly, get it together!” In fairness to de Blasio, it probably seemed harmless. Who would object to a guy dancing with his wife? But sometimes a predictable photo turns into a cursed image. Just ask 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis after he took a spin in an army tank.

The image captured what many considered as his faux commitment to a strong defense. He and his campaign failed to think of how driving around looking like Mickey Mouse on a battle tank would only drive home the criticism of his defense policies. For de Blasio, dancing in a nearly empty Times Square came across not as amorous but as delirious in a city in lockdown with a collapsing economy and soaring crime rates. For many, it reinforced the crisis both parties now face. We have become a nation that seems untethered from all reality. In one of the most liberal cities on earth, de Blasio cannot break 40 percent in popularity. But he, like many others, plays to the extreme wings of his party. As crime raged, he pushed to reduce the police budget by $1 billion and eliminated the plain clothes division. New York has had a 50% increase in homicides and almost a 100 percent increase in shootings.

He also closed public schools despite overwhelming scientific evidence of little risk for coronavirus exposure, notably for elementary students. He finally caved to the pressure from parents and experts, admitting there was little risk in having the schools reopen. He supported the closing of restaurants, sending many to insolvency, despite the fact that they contribute to less than 2 percent of confirmed infections. With New York losing money, de Blasio said the federal government could bail out City Hall and local businesses by simply printing more money, a statement both fiscally and politically delusional. As many highly taxed residents continue to move out of New York, de Blasio voices his “tax the hell out of the wealthy” policy. He recently declared that the purpose of public schools is the redistribution of income.

The eerie image of de Blasio dancing in a dead Times Square captures what could await us in 2021. Even if the pandemic is curtailed with the vaccines, cities like New York have been devastated by the lockdowns. There is no way that the federal government can bail out every business and landlord in one city, let alone the entire country.

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Not much choice. It’s either BoJo or Blair.

Boris Johnson Would Lose Majority And Seat In Election Tomorrow – Poll (G.)

The public are deeply unhappy with the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Brexit negotiations, a damning new poll suggests. The poll predicts that if a general election were held tomorrow neither the Conservatives nor Labour would win an outright majority. Disturbingly for Boris Johnson, the survey says the Conservatives would lose 81 seats, wiping out the 80-seat majority they won in December 2019. It gives the first detailed insight into the public’s perception of Johnson’s handling of the Brexit talks and the pandemic, amid fears that Britain is heading into a third national lockdown. The prime minister is on course to lose his own seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip South, if the insight is accurate.


According to the survey of more than 22,000 people, conducted by the research data company Focaldata, using the multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) method that is said to be more than accurate than conventional polling, the results would leave the Tories with 284 seats and Labour with 282 – an increase of 82. Results in Scotland would see the Scottish National party achieve a near complete sweep, winning 57 of the 59 Scottish seats. The poll also predicts the Liberal Democrats would be reduced to just two seats – in Bath and in Kingston and Surbiton – down from the current 11. One in four voters who supported the Lib Dems in 2019 said they will switch allegiance to Labour. Many of the seats that Labour would gain are in the north of England, Midlands and Wales, part of the “red wall” collapse that swept the Tories to power at the last election, the Sunday Times reported.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 022021
 
 January 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  53 Responses »


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Les Grands Boulevards 1875

 

Israel Zooms Past 1 Million Vaccinations In Sprint To Vanquish Pandemic (ToI)
100s Of Israelis Get Infected With COVID19 After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)
Fauci Says Mandatory COVID19 Vaccines Possible For Travel, School (NYP)
Fauci Says US Will Not Delay Second Doses Of COVID Vaccine (G.)
The Missing Flu Riddle: ‘Influenza Has Been Renamed COVID’ (JTN)
2 Minnesota Lawmakers Demand Nationwide Audit of COVID19 Deaths (ET)
All Primary Schools In London To Remain Closed After U-turn (G.)
Ireland Covid Cases Surge As Health Official Warns Virus Is ‘Absolutely Rampant’ (G.)
Judge Rejects Election Lawsuit Against VP Pence (JTN)
Janet Yellen Made Millions In Wall Street, Corporate Speeches (Pol.)
Paper Dollars in Circulation Globally Spike amid Hot Demand (WS)
Schumer Begins 2021 Promising To Fight – Then Immediately Surrenders (DP)
Forecast 2021 (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL: 11.5%; UK: 1.39%; US: 0.84%; GLOBAL AVERAGE: 0.13%

Israel Zooms Past 1 Million Vaccinations In Sprint To Vanquish Pandemic (ToI)

Israel has vaccinated 1 million people against COVID-19, more than a tenth of its population, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday, as the country’s inoculation drive cemented its status as the world’s most rapid thus far. Netanyahu was on hand to mark what he said was the millionth Israeli to receive a vaccine, in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Netanyahu called it a moment of “great excitement.” “We are breaking all of the records. We brought millions of vaccines to the State of Israel,” he said. We are ahead of the entire world… with our excellent HMOs.” Arabs make up around 20 percent of Israel’s population and have been relatively slow to embrace the vaccination campaign, prompting Netanyahu to launch a series of visits to Arab localities, his first in years, in what is also seen by many as an attempt to score political points ahead of the March elections.


Netanyahu said that “it’s important for me that the Arab public in Israel will get vaccinated quickly” as “it’s saving lives.” He delivered the same message at a vaccination center in Tira, another Arab town, on Thursday. The Jewish state has so far greatly outpaced other countries, per capita, with 11.55% of the population inoculated, according to statistics from the Our World in Data website operated by Oxford University. Second place is held by Bahrain with 3.45%, followed by the UK with 1.39% (though the latter’s data is a few days old). The US stands at 0.84%. The world average is 0.13%. Israel is currently in its third nationwide lockdown to contain the outbreak. It has reported more than 426,000 cases and at least 3,338 deaths since the pandemic began.

Read more …

Not great PR.

100s Of Israelis Get Infected With COVID19 After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)

With the vaccine not providing immediate immunity to the coronavirus, over two hundred Israeli citizens have been diagnosed with the disease days after getting the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs, local media reported. The number of those who got Covid-19 despite being vaccinated was at around 240 people, according to data from Channel 13 News. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which the Israeli health authorities rely on, doesn’t contain the coronavirus and can’t infect the recipient. But time is needed for the genetic code in the drug to train the immune system to recognize and attack the disease.

The course of the US-made vaccine requires two shots. According to the studies, immunity to Covid-19 increases only eight to ten days after the first injection and eventually reaches 50 percent. The second jab is administered 21 days from the first one, while the declared immunity of 95 percent is achieved only a week after that. And, of course, there’s still a five percent chance of getting infected even if the vaccine is at its full potential. Israeli news outlets which reported the figures urged the public to remain vigilant and thoroughly follow all Covid-19 precautions during the month after the first shot of the vaccine is administered.

The Jewish state is currently undertaking a massive vaccination campaign, which already saw over one million people or almost 12 percent of the population getting the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. That’s the largest span per capita in the world, according to Oxford University. The first phase of the program aims to immunize medics and elderly people before expanding on to other categories. Around one in a thousand people have reported mild side effects after the injection, including weakness, dizziness and fever as well as pain, swelling and redness in the spot where the shot was given. Only a few dozen of them required medical attention, the Health Ministry said.

Read more …

A passport stating you had a jab that doesn’t protect people around you. Logic?

Fauci Says Mandatory COVID19 Vaccines Possible For Travel, School (NYP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci said it’s possible that COVID-19 vaccines will become mandatory in order to travel to other countries or attend school. “Everything will be on the table for discussion,” Fauci, who will be chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, told Newsweek. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stressed that it’s “not up to me to make a decision,” but added that “these are all things that will be discussed [under the Biden administration].” “I’m not sure [the COVID-19 vaccine] going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal government mandates,” Fauci said, though he added that he’s “sure” that some individual institutions will require the shot.


Fauci said vaccine requirements in schools are “possible,” but they would come from mandates at the state or city level. “A citywide school system might require it in some cities but not other cities. And that’s what I mean by things not being done centrally but locally,” Fauci said. In regard to travel, Fauci said the US could potentially issue COVID-19 vaccine passports — similar to the ones planned for Israel that would allow residents to travel abroad without being tested for coronavirus. The coronavirus vaccine might also become required by other countries to go there, Fauci said. “So we, in this country, don’t require [people] to get a yellow fever vaccine when you go someplace. It’s the place to which you are going that requires it,” he said.

Read more …

The UK is playing around with what the producer says should be done.

Fauci Says US Will Not Delay Second Doses Of COVID Vaccine (G.)

The American infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said he does not agree with the UK’s approach of delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. On Friday, Dr Fauci told CNN that the United States would not be following in the UK’s footsteps and would follow Pfizer and BioNTech’s guidance to administer the second dose of its vaccine three weeks after the first. Despite an outcry from doctors, the UK’s chief medical officers defended their plans this week to delay the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to patients, meaning people would now wait up to 12 weeks. The change is to prioritise giving more people their first dose.


Dr Fauci told CNN: “We know from the clinical trials that the optimal time is to give it on one day and for [the Moderna jab which is also approved in the US] wait 28 days and for Pfizer 21 days later.” He added that while you can “make the argument” for stretching out the doses, he would not be in favour of doing that. Pfizer and BioNTech also warned that the two doses were crucial to achieving maximum protection against Covid, saying that they did not have evidence that the first dose alone would protect patients after three weeks. In the UK, the new move will apply to people who were expecting to have their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after 4 January. Patients getting the first jab of the newly approved AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine will also have to wait up to 12 weeks.

Read more …

The numbers are stark:

“This week one year ago, the positive clinical rate was 22%, where now it stands at 0.1%.”

The Missing Flu Riddle: ‘Influenza Has Been Renamed COVID’ (JTN)

Rates of influenza have remained persistently low through late 2020 and into 2021, cratering from levels a year ago and raising the puzzling specter of sharply reduced influenza transmission rates even as positive tests for COVID-19 have shattered numerous records over the last several weeks. Where have all the flu cases gone? Epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski thinks he can answer the riddle. “Influenza has been renamed COVID in large part,” said the former head of biostatistics, epidemiology and research design at Rockefeller University. “There may be quite a number of influenza cases included in the ‘presumed COVID’ category of people who have COVID symptoms (which Influenza symptoms can be mistaken for), but are not tested for SARS RNA,” Wittkowski told Just the News on Thursday.


Those patients, he argued, “also may have some SARS RNA sitting in their nose while being infected with Influenza, in which case the influenza would be ‘confirmed’ to be COVID.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly influenza surveillance tracker reports that the cumulative positive influenza test rate from late September into the week of Dec. 19 stands at 0.2% as measured by clinical labs. That’s compared to a cumulative 8.7% from a year before. The weekly comparisons are even starker: This week one year ago, the positive clinical rate was 22%, where now it stands at 0.1%. Those low numbers continue trends observed earlier in the year in which flu rates have remained at near-zero levels. The trend is not limited to the U.S. Worldwide, health authorities have all reported sharply decreased influenza levels throughout what is normally peak flu season in the northern hemisphere.

Read more …

Of course you must have this.

2 Minnesota Lawmakers Demand Nationwide Audit of COVID19 Deaths (ET)

Two Minnesota legislators who believe their state’s COVID-19 death count is inaccurate are calling for a nationwide audit to find out how many people died from something other than the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus but were added to the pandemic death totals. Republican State Rep. Mary Franson said she has enlisted a team to examine data provided by Minnesota’s health department. Her team allegedly found that COVID-19 was blamed for some deaths clearly not linked to the respiratory disease. “We found clear-cut examples from the Minnesota Department of Health’s own files—public records—of suicide, a drowning, an auto accident where the passenger was ejected from the vehicle, we found dementia … and strokes,” Franson said during an interview with Fox News, adding that she was “so shocked at what I found that I just could not keep silent.”


“The citizens of our country are being led in fear, and that fear is leading them to make irrational decisions based on the governors with their shutdowns,” she added. “So we need this audit. We need the truth.” Franson was joined by Republican State Sen. Scott Jensen, a practicing physician. Jensen has become the subject of two state probes earlier this year for arguing that the federal and state guidelines on reporting COVID-19 deaths could pressure local authorities to misclassify and inflate their numbers, and that doctors and hospitals are motivated to do so for more health care dollars. “If you could hit a threshold of 161 admissions to your hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis between January and June, you received $77,000 of additional money for each one of those admissions” through the CARES Act, Jensen told Fox News. “I don’t think there’s any questions that reverse incentives have been created.”

Read more …

Make it up as you go along.

All Primary Schools In London To Remain Closed After U-turn (G.)

All primary schools in London are to remain closed for the start of the new term after the government bowed to protests and legal pressure from the capital’s local authorities. Under the government’s initial plan, secondary schools and colleges were set to be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of January, while primary schools within 50 local authorities in London and the south of England were also told to keep their doors shut until 18 January. But the list omitted several London areas where Covid-19 transmission rates remain high including the borough of Haringey, whose leaders said they were prepared to defy the government and support any schools that decided to close to protect staff and pupils.


The protests from local authority leaders came to a head with a letter to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, from nine London authorities asking for their primary schools to be closed to all except vulnerable children and those whose parents were key workers. The action provoked an emergency Cabinet Office meeting on New Year’s Day, which signed off on the revision, adding the remaining 10 London education authorities to the government’s “contingency areas”. Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said primaries across the country should close. “What is right for London is right for the rest of the country,” she said. “It is time for the government to protect its citizens, and in particular its children, by shutting all primary schools for two weeks in order for the situation to be properly assessed, schools made much safer and children and their families protected.”

Read more …

“The virus is absolutely rampant now in the community. Everybody is at extreme risk of contracting the virus.”

Ireland Covid Cases Surge As Health Official Warns Virus Is ‘Absolutely Rampant’ (G.)

Ireland is bracing for 9,000 more Covid cases to be added to the official tally as the system struggles to handle a surge in positive results, with health officials warning hospitals will not be able to cope if the trend continues. The sharp rise in positive results led to delays in formal reporting, said Professor Philip Nolan from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), though he said it “does not affect case management or contact tracing or our overall monitoring and modelling of the pandemic”. On Thursday, NPHET estimated the number of positive tests still pending registration was 4,000, more than doubling to 9,000 the following day. On Friday, Ireland formally reported a daily record 1,754 confirmed cases, surpassing 1,500 daily cases for the fourth day in a row. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the biggest worry was the rapid rise in hospitalisations.


“We are now admitting between 50 to 70 people a day to our hospital system. Unfortunately, we expect this to get worse before it gets better. Our health system will not continue to cope with this level of impact.” “We have also seen a significant increase in positive laboratory tests in recent days reflecting a true increase in the incidence of the disease as well as the delay in people coming forward for testing over the Christmas period. As our systems catch up with these effects it places significant pressure on our reporting system.” On New Year’s Eve, Ireland entered a level-five lockdown, with non-essential shops closing, a 5km travel limit, restrictions on household gatherings and schools staying closed. Paul Reid, CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE), told RTÉ Radio 1: “The virus is absolutely rampant now in the community. Everybody is at extreme risk of contracting the virus.”

Read more …

“..the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case and must dismiss the action..”

Judge Rejects Election Lawsuit Against VP Pence (JTN)

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday night against Vice President Mike Pence filed by a Texas congressman seeking to reject Joe Biden’s electors when Congress certifies the election next week. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle ruled that Rep. Louie Gohmert lacked standing to bring the legal action that would prevent Pence from confirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory. “Plaintiff Louie Gohmert, the United States Representative for Texas’s First Congressional District, alleges at most an institutional injury to the House of Representatives. Under well-settled Supreme Court authority, that is insufficient to support standing,” the judge ruled.


“The other Plaintiffs, the slate of Republican Presidential Electors for the State of Arizona (the “Nominee-Electors”), allege an injury that is not fairly traceable to the Defendant, the Vice President of the United States, and is unlikely to be redressed by the requested relief. Accordingly, as explained below, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case and must dismiss the action,” he added.

Read more …

… and you ain’t in it..

Janet Yellen Made Millions In Wall Street, Corporate Speeches (Pol.)

In the past two years, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has raked in more than $7.2 million in speaking fees from Wall Street and large corporations including Citi, Goldman Sachs, Google, City National Bank, UBS, Citadel LLC, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Salesforce and more. Yellen’s financial disclosure is one of three filed by the Biden team at the end of 2020 that could become politically problematic with the left wing of the Democratic Party when confirmation hearings begin in January. A Biden transition official said they filed the forms “mid-week” before the Office of Government Ethics posted the forms late Thursday, New Year’s Eve.

Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, brought in nearly $1 million giving nine speeches to Citi alone. She earned more than $800,000 speaking to Citadel, a hedge fund founded by the Republican megadonor Ken Griffin. She also spoke to the law and lobbying firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. In addition to Yellen, Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of State, disclosed the clients he advised through WestExec Advisors, the consulting firm he co-founded with other Obama administration alumni. Those clients included the investment giant Blackstone, Bank of America, Facebook, Uber, McKinsey & Company, the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, the pharmaceutical company Gilead, the investment bank Lazard, Boeing, AT&T, the Royal Bank of Canada, LinkedIn and the venerable Sotheby’s auction house.

The disclosures cracked open WestExec’s closely held client list, which the firm had previously refused to divulge. WestExec has paid Blinken nearly $1.2 million over the past two years, according to the filing, with another estimated $250,000 to $500,000 owed for his work this year.

Read more …

To the mattresses.

Paper Dollars in Circulation Globally Spike amid Hot Demand (WS)

The amount of “currency in circulation” – the paper dollars wadded up in people’s pockets and purses, stuffed under mattresses, or packed into suitcases and safes overseas – jumped again in the week ended December 30 to a new record of $2.09 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, where currency in circulation is a liability, not an asset. This was up by 16%, or by $293 billion, from February before the Pandemic. The amount has doubled since 2011. This amount of currency in circulation is a function of demand – and that demand has been red hot: US Banks have to have enough paper dollars on hand to satisfy demand at ATMs and bank branches.

Foreign banks will also request paper dollars from their correspondent banks in the US, or return unneeded cash to them. When there is demand for paper dollars, banks buy more of them from the Fed. They pay for them usually with Treasury securities they hold or with excess reserves they have on deposit at the Fed. The surge of paper dollars is a sign of hoarding, not of increased payments. In the US, the share of paper dollars for payments has been declining for years, replaced by electronic payment methods, such as credit and debit cards, PayPal, Zelle and similar systems, all kinds of smartphone-based payment systems, the automated clearinghouse (ACH) system, and checks every now and then.


During periods of uncertainty, people load up on cash, as they have done leading up to Y2K, during the Financial Crisis, and now during the Pandemic. But much of the hoarding of US dollars takes place overseas, with demand for those paper dollars then winding its way to the US banking system via the correspondent banks. These paper dollars also lubricate all kinds of corruption, drug trafficking, and other activities – and laundering this cash is a big profitable industry.

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The stench….

Schumer Begins 2021 Promising To Fight – Then Immediately Surrenders (DP)

Senator Bernie Sanders spent New Year’s morning making one last attempt to halt the defense bill in order to force Republican leader Mitch McConnell allow a vote on $2,000 checks — and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spent the morning treating everyone like we’re gullible idiots. “I just took to the floor again to demand a vote on $2000 survival checks,” Schumer declared, and he slammed Republican lawmakers for objecting. He promised: “Democrats will not stop fighting.” Then moments later, Schumer and most Senate Democrats surrendered — live on C-Span for everyone to see, they obediently voted for McConnell’s motion to move forward the defense bill for final passage, so that the Senate can close down without any vote on the $2,000 checks. Most Democrats then voted for final passage as well.

Put another way: Schumer tweeted out his promise to fight for starving Americans, while knowing that moments later he would be on live television surrendering to Republicans. Democrats didn’t even muster enough votes on the procedural motions to keep it close enough to force Georgia incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue off the campaign trail to help McConnell — a scenario that could have provided a huge boost to Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who have been campaigning hard for the $2,000 checks.

[..] Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and president-elect Joe Biden played particularly pernicious roles helping McConnell slash the original stimulus bill in half. And Schumer’s behavior today — pretending to be fighting hard, while voting with McConnell — was the icing on the cake. Liberal pundits and billionaire-owned media corporations outed themselves as absurdly-detached elitists — making the fake argument that the $2,000 survival checks might go to some people who don’t really need help, and the baffling claim that Americans will probably just save the checks because they can’t go to restaurants (which are still fully open in most states) or travel on airplanes (yes, people are still flying).

The only players who come off well in any of this are the handful of Democratic senators who had the guts to vote against all of McConnell’s key procedural motions (Sanders, Markey, Merkley, Warren, Wyden and Van Hollen) and rank-and-file House Democrats who were willing to use their power to pass the $2,000 checks (and yeah, Pelosi deserves some credit for quickly delivering the $2,000 checks amendment to the Senate).

Read more …

A long column.

Forecast 2021 (Jim Kunstler)

Life in the USA, and other “advanced” nations will reset, but not in the way that most people blabbering about “the Great Reset” think or say it will. Surely, there are groups, gangs, claques, and covens of people in the world who have some consensual agreement about how things might work, and how they would run them to their benefit, in their hypothetical ideal disposition of things. For instance, the so-called “Davos Crowd.” What are they? A convocation of bankers, market movers, politicians, business moguls, tech entrepreneurs, Hollywood catamites, black ops runners, and PR errand boys who have plenty of financial and political mojo in their own realms, but not enough collectively to carry out the kind of global coup that comprises the standard paranoid Great Reset fantasy.

That they meet-up in an ultra-luxurious setting out of a James Bond movie every year stokes terrific fascination, envy, anger, and paranoia that they are capable of anything beyond a festival of ass-kissing, mutual self-congratulation, and status-jockeying, which are the actual activities at the Davos meet-up. For another thing, in the USA, at least, there are too many pissed-off people with small arms, hardened by years of proffered bad faith and dishonesty from the political/media/higher-ed complex, to just bend over and take it up the back-door from a gang of seditious, would-be aristo-totalitarians with lèse-majesté dreams of nostalgie-de-la-boue Marxist redemption. If you have any doubt about how disruptive angry people with small arms and lots of ammo might be to condescending elites, just review the events in the Middle East the past twenty years and imagine those dynamics transferred to Kansas.

What does the “reset” fantasy supposedly include? A “new world order,” a phantasm of a unified world government, which is preposterous because the macro-trend at this moment of history worldwide is the opposite of consolidation and centralization of power, but rather breakup, downscaling, and re-localization. Why? As you saw in the Econ chapter, because the scale, pitch, and range of all our activities must be reduced to survive in the post-industrial conditions of resource and capital scarcity. And it will happen whether we like it or not and despite anybody’s objections. What else is in the Reset grab-bag? Supposedly a single world currency, also absurd for reasons already stated — unless you are talking about gold and silver, which may eventually become the universally-accepted medium of exchange (and store of value, index of price) if the post-industrial contraction is severe and destructive enough.

But fuggeddabowt “digital currencies,” especially in the USA because too many people are “un-banked,” or otherwise depend on cash-money in the informal “gray” economy of just-getting-by (and there will be a lot more of these types as the middle-class gets pounded further down into the mud), plus a large cohort of digitally-capable people just plain ornery about being herded into an IRS surveillance cul-de-sac — and the whole lot of them will fight like hell to prevent government-sponsored crypto-dollars from replacing what used to be considered money. And, if, in the unlikely event that rebellion fails, it’s back to gold and silver by default — and that might literally mean by default.

Read more …

 

 

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 January 1, 2021  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Claude Monet Boulevard des Capucines 1873

 

Pfizer Vaccine First To Receive Emergency Use Authorization From WHO (RT)
New Coronavirus Variant May Have Been In US Since October (G.)
The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb (Atl.)
World Faces COVID19 “Vaccine Apartheid” (IC)
Over 100 Republicans Will Challenge Electoral College Results (SAC)
Pence Asks Judge To End GOP Suit To Expand His Powers (JTN)
‘Keep The Light On,’ Scottish PM Sturgeon Tells EU (RT)
A Festive Message for 2021 (Varoufakis)
The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange (Greenwald)

 

 

 

 

But what does it do? It doesn’t protect you from infection, and it doesn’t protect others around you from your infection.

Pfizer Vaccine First To Receive Emergency Use Authorization From WHO (RT)

The first vaccine against the novel coronavirus approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization is Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, the WHO has announced. The world health body announced the emergency approval on Thursday, as 2020 came to a close. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) will enable countries to expedite their own regulatory approval of the vaccine, and allow UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization to buy it for distribution, the WHO said. “This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to [Covid]-19 vaccines,” Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant-Director General for access to medicines and health products, said in a statement. She added that “an even greater global effort” is needed to come up with enough of a supply to meet the needs of “priority populations everywhere,” however. The WHO is “working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards,” said Simão, urging other developers to “come forward for review and assessment.”

Read more …

There are multiple variants.

New Coronavirus Variant May Have Been In US Since October (G.)

A coronavirus variant carrying some of the same mutations as the highly contagious British variant may have been in the US since October and already be widespread, a re-analysis of more than 2m tests suggests. Genome sequencing to confirm whether the variant observed in Americans is the same as the so-called B117 variant currently circulating in the UK is under way. Results are expected within days but the revelations have prompted fresh questions about where the altered virus originated, including a small possibility that it began in the US, not the UK, or elsewhere altogether. The variant has also been found in at least 17 countries, including South Korea, Spain, Australia and Canada.

“It wouldn’t be at all surprising if at least some of the cases were B117,” said Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, who was not involved in the research, but whose team confirmed a Californian case of the B117 variant on Wednesday. “It has probably been here for a while at low levels – but you don’t see it until you look for it.” The existence of a new and highly transmissible Sars CoV-2 variant was announced by the UK’s health secretary on 14 December, after Covid-testing laboratories reported that a growing number of their positive samples were missing a signal from one of the three genes their PCR tests use to confirm the presence of the virus.

Further sequencing revealed that such “S gene dropout” was the result of mutations in the gene encoding the spike protein which the virus uses to gain entry to human cells. The variant is thought to have been circulating in the UK since September. News of the new variant has led to multiple countries restricting travel from the UK – or in the case of the US, requiring travelers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed into the country. However, it has been detected this week in Colorado and California, and the suspicion is it may already be widespread. To investigate, scientists at the California-based DNA testing company Helix examined the prevalence of S gene dropout among 2 million of the Covid tests the company has processed in recent months.

They observed an increase in S gene dropout among positive samples since early October, when 0.25% of positive tests exhibited this pattern. This has since grown, hitting 0.5% on average last week – although in Massachusetts, which has the highest number of such samples, it currently stands at 1.85%, although no cases of the B117 variant have been announced in that state yet. Further analysis revealed mutations in some of the same regions of the S gene which are also present in the B117 variant – although full sequencing of the viral genome is needed to confirm whether this is indeed the same variant, or something else.

Read more …

A lot of assumptions.

The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb (Atl.)

A new variant of the coronavirus is spreading across the globe. It was first identified in the United Kingdom, where it is rapidly spreading, and has been found in multiple countries. Viruses mutate all the time, often with no impact, but this one appears to be more transmissible than other variants—meaning it spreads more easily. Barely one day after officials announced that America’s first case of the variant had been found in the United States, in a Colorado man with no history of travel, an additional case was found in California. There are still many unknowns, but much concern has focused on whether this new variant would throw off vaccine efficacy or cause more severe disease—with some degree of relief after an initial study indicated that it did not do either.

And while we need more data to feel truly reassured, many scientists believe that this variant will not decrease vaccine efficacy much, if at all. Health officials have started emphasizing the lack of evidence for more severe disease. All good and no cause for alarm, right? Wrong. A more transmissible variant of COVID-19 is a potential catastrophe in and of itself. If anything, given the stage in the pandemic we are at, a more transmissible variant is in some ways much more dangerous than a more severe variant. That’s because higher transmissibility subjects us to a more contagious virus spreading with exponential growth, whereas the risk from increased severity would have increased in a linear manner, affecting only those infected.

Increased transmissibility can wreak havoc in a very, very short time—especially when we already have uncontrolled spread in much of the United States. The short-term implications of all this are significant, and worthy of attention, even as we await more clarity from data. In fact, we should act quickly especially as we await more clarity—lack of data and the threat of even faster exponential growth argue for more urgency of action. If and when more reassuring data come in, relaxing restrictions will be easier than undoing the damage done by not having reacted in time.

To understand the difference between exponential and linear risks, consider an example put forth by Adam Kucharski, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who focuses on mathematical analyses of infectious-disease outbreaks. Kucharski compares a 50 percent increase in virus lethality to a 50 percent increase in virus transmissibility. Take a virus reproduction rate of about 1.1 and an infection fatality risk of 0.8 percent and imagine 10,000 active infections—a plausible scenario for many European cities, as Kucharski notes. As things stand, with those numbers, we’d expect 129 deaths in a month. If the fatality rate increased by 50 percent, that would lead to 193 deaths. In contrast, a 50 percent increase in transmissibility would lead to a whopping 978 deaths in just one month—assuming, in both scenarios, a six-day infection-generation time.

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Billions in profits.

World Faces COVID19 “Vaccine Apartheid” (IC)

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla recently heaped praise on “the almost 44,000 people who selflessly raised their hands to participate in our trial.” “Each of you has helped to bring the world one step closer to our shared goal of a potential vaccine to fight this devastating pandemic,” Bourla wrote in an open letter to volunteers who took part in Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine research, which was conducted in Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey as well as the U.S. His letter was published on November 9, the same day Pfizer announced that the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective at preventing the disease, and Bourla laid this considerable accomplishment at the feet of the medical volunteers: “You are the true heroes, and the whole world owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

But Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, and Turkey will have to be satisfied with Pfizer’s gratitude, because (like most countries in the world) they won’t be receiving enough of the vaccine to inoculate their populations, at least not anytime soon. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Germany — along with Canada and the rest of the European Union — have contracted for enough doses of various Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate their populations several times over. While the U.S. is struggling with the logistics of its vaccine rollout — fewer than 3 million people have received the first dose so far — adequate supplies should eventually be available. The U.S. pre-purchased 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for $1.95 billion in the summer (and reportedly passed on the opportunity to secure another 100 million doses).

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a deal to buy another 100 million doses of the vaccine by July 2021, and the government has the option to purchase an additional 400 million doses. The U.S. has also purchased 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also extremely effective against Covid-19. Those doses are due by the second quarter of 2021, and the government may buy up to 300 million more doses. And the U.S. has contracts for additional vaccine doses from Ology, Sanofi, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson, whose candidates are in earlier stages of development.

Pharmaceutical companies and individual executives are already profiting handsomely from their medical breakthroughs. On the same day that he sent his open letter, Bourla, whose net worth is estimated at more than $26 million, sold more than $5 million worth of his shares of Pfizer stock. Pfizer has already made an estimated $975 million from the vaccine this year and is expected to earn another $19 billion in revenue from the vaccine in 2021, according to Morgan Stanley. Pfizer’s profit margin on the vaccine is estimated at between 60 and 80 percent. Moderna is projected to make more than $10 billion from its vaccine next year.

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Of course they will.

Over 100 Republicans Will Challenge Electoral College Results (SAC)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Wednesday he believes more than 100 members of the GOP could challenge the Electoral College results when Congress certifies the electoral votes on Jan. 6. During an interview with Charlie Sykes on “The Bulwark Podcast,” Kinzinger said he thinks “upwards of 100” GOP lawmakers could challenge the Nov. 3 election results. “I hope I’m wrong,” Kinzinger said. “I’m guessing it could be upwards of 100.” He added, “I’m just over the undermining of democracy and the frankly massive damage that’s being done with this.” Joe Biden is expected to be certified as the 2020 presidential winner, but President Donald Trump has not conceded and is encouraging members of the GOP to challenge the results.


There has been an increasing number of GOP lawmakers who have said they will support Trump’s effort in overturning the election results, including most recently Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.)
“Somebody has to stand up here,” Hawley said in an interview with Fox News Wednesday. “You’ve got 74 million Americans who feel disenfranchised, who feel like their vote doesn’t matter, and this is the one opportunity that I have as a United States senator, this process right here, my one opportunity to stand up and say something and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

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“An 1887 federal law known as the Electoral Count Act has the vice president presiding over the congressional meeting. However the suit led by Gohmert tries to invalidate the law as an unconstitutional constraint on the vice president’s authority..”

Pence Asks Judge To End GOP Suit To Expand His Powers (JTN)

Vice President Mike Pence asked a federal judge Thursday to reject an attempt by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and other congressional Republicans to expand Pence’s official powers to allow him to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. The lawsuit was filed earlier this week and attempts to expand Pence’s role in Congress’ meeting Wednesday to count states’ electoral votes and certify Biden’s victory over Trump, according to The Hill newspaper. Pence argued in a filing Thursday to U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle that he was not the correct defendant to the suit.


“A suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction,” a Justice Department attorney wrote in the filing, The Hill also reported. An 1887 federal law known as the Electoral Count Act has the vice president presiding over the congressional meeting. However the suit led by Gohmert tries to invalidate the law as an unconstitutional constraint on the vice president’s authority to choose among competing claims of victory when state-level election results are disputed. Republicans in several key battleground states have disputed Biden’s win and offered alternate “slates” of pro-Trump electors to be counted, also according to The Hill.

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WIll the UK fall apart next?

‘Keep The Light On,’ Scottish PM Sturgeon Tells EU (RT)

Within minutes of Brexit taking effect, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted a message to Brussels that Scotland would be rejoining the EU “soon,” responding to recent demand for another independence referendum. “Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on,” Sturgeon said as the clock struck midnight in Brussels and the UK’s exit from the European Union became official on Friday. The United Kingdom’s divorce from the continental bloc after 45 years of membership was the result of a protracted process following the 2016 referendum, which the Tory government expected would fail. Instead, a narrow majority in England and Wales backed Brexit, while Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain – by 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sturgeon came to lead the Scottish National Party (SNP) after the failure of the first Scottish independence referendum, in 2014. Only 45 percent of Scots voted to leave the UK, with 55 percent choosing to remain, in part due to warnings from Brussels that an independent Scotland would not automatically become an EU member and would have to negotiate entry from scratch. That ratio has now been reversed, according to recent polls. Research by Ipsos MORI in October indicated that support for Scottish independence was at 58 percent – an all-time high. Other polls show support for secession at anywhere between 51 and 59 percent.

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“Because things are the way they are, things will not remain the way they are.”

A Festive Message for 2021 (Varoufakis)

I am Yanis Varoufakis with a message for the New Year from DiEM25. 2020 leaves behind much debris – pain, fear, broken lives, smashed dreams. But, we also owe a debt of gratitude to 2020: It has helped expose seven fundamental secrets. We used to think of governments as powerless. But since Covid-19 struck we know better: Governments have stupendous powers that they hitherto chose not to use, deferring to the exorbitant power of Big Business. Yes, the money-trey does exist after all. Except, of course, that is only harvested by the powerful on behalf of the oligarchy: Money created by the rich for the rich. Solvency is a political decision because power-politics, not markets, decide who is bankrupt and who is not.

Wealth has nothing to do with hard work or entrepreneurship. America’s billionaires made 931 billion dollars from the pandemic. They got richer in their sleep. Yes, 2020 was a vintage year for capitalists, but capitalism died! Liberated from any remaining competition, colossal platform companies like Amazon own everything. So, yes, during 2020, Capitalism morphed into an insidious Technofeudalism. Our Europe, its civilisation and power notwithstanding, continued to sell its soul in 2020. One word suffices: Moria, the refuges prison camp in Lesbos – a mirror reflecting Europe’s cruelty and lost soul.


Yes, it has been a difficult year. We lost too many people to the pandemic. We saw exploitation flourish, driving so many into the embrace of destitution. Civil liberties took a major hit. But, despite it all, 2020 let us in on a brilliant, hope-inspiring seventh secret: Everything could be different. If this pandemic proved anything, it is that Bertolt Brecht was right when he once said: Because things are the way they are, things will not remain the way they are. I can think of no greater source of hope than this. We must thank 2020 for it. Now, it is up to us to make 2021 a year of radical change in the interests of the many. Everywhere! Happy New Year and Carpe DiEM25!

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Assange may be in prison for many more years. Monday’s a big day. But after that, appeals are sure to follow.

The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange (Greenwald)

Persecution is not typically doled out to those who recite mainstream pieties, or refrain from posing meaningful threats to those who wield institutional power, or obediently stay within the lines of permissible speech and activism imposed by the ruling class. Those who render themselves acquiescent and harmless that way will — in every society, including the most repressive — usually be free of reprisals. They will not be censored or jailed. They will be permitted to live their lives largely unmolested by authorities, while many will be well-rewarded for this servitude. Such individuals will see themselves as free because, in a sense, they are: they are free to submit, conform and acquiesce. And if they do so, they will not even realize, or at least not care, and may even regard as justifiable, that those who refuse this Orwellian bargain they have embraced (“freedom” in exchange for submission) are crushed with unlimited force.


Those who do not seek to meaningfully dissent or subvert power will usually deny — because they do not perceive — that such dissent and subversion are, in fact, rigorously prohibited. They will continue to believe blissfully that the society in which they live guarantees core civic freedoms — of speech, of press, of assembly, of due process — because they have rendered their own speech and activism, if it exists at all, so innocuous that nobody with the capacity to do so would bother to try to curtail it. The observation apocryphally attributed to socialist activist Rosa Luxemburg, imprisoned for her opposition to German involvement in World War I and then summarily executed by the state, expresses it best: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 312020
 
 December 31, 2020  Posted by at 10:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  45 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of the artist’s mother 1896

 

Russia Is Developing World’s First Covid19 Antidote, 99% Effective (RT)
China Approves Sinopharm Covid19 Vaccine For General Use (G.)
New COVID19 Strain Spreading Faster Than All Forecasts – Irish PM (R.)
Senate Democrats’ Motion To Concede On $2,000 Checks (DP)
The Pseudo-Left Imperialists Fighting Against Universal Healthcare (MPN)
Intel On China Bounties Called ‘Less’ Credible Than Russia Payments (Pol.)
Trump Campaign Wants To Air Evidence Before Congress Certifies Election (JTN)
GOP Senator To Delay Affirming Biden Victory By Forcing Votes (CNN)
Putin Signs Law To Fine & Block Social Media That Censor Russian Media (RT)
The Year in Which Comforting American Myths Were Ravaged (AIER)
Inviting Nuclear Disaster (CP)

 

 

Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for your support.

 

 

The end of the vaccines?

Russia Is Developing World’s First Covid19 Antidote, 99% Effective (RT)

Russia’s Federal Medical and Biological Agency (FMBA) has announced the development of a drug to fight against Covid-19, which would become the world’s first direct-acting antiviral antidote if clinical trials are successful.
According to Veronika Skvortsova, the head of FMBA, studies thus far have shown it is more than 99% effective. “This is the first etiotropic drug that directly affects the virus. In fact, this is an antidote for coronavirus infection,” she informed Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Wednesday, noting that preclinical studies have been completed, which have shown the remedy to be “completely safe” and “highly efficient.” Etiotropic means that the treatment is directed against the cause of a disease.

Skvortsova told the prime minister that the FMBA is ready to apply for permission for further testing, which they hope to get before the New Year. “If clinical trials confirm the effectiveness of this drug, it will be the first safe, effective, direct-acting antiviral drug that has no analogs in the world,” she explained. The FMBA is also working on a separate drug for the treatment of the most complex coronavirus cases, which suppresses and prevents a physiological reaction called ‘hypercytokinemia’. Also known as a ‘cytokine storm’, it is an immune response that leads to body tissue damage, and is thought by some to be causing Covid-19 deaths.

In May, the Russian Ministry of Health approved an anti-coronavirus drug called ‘Avifavir’, a Favipiravir-based treatment that has been used in Japan since 2014 against severe forms of influenza. The medication is being produced domestically. If effective, the antidote won’t be Russia’s only breakthrough during the Covid-19 crisis. Earlier this year, Russia became the first country to announce the registration of a coronavirus vaccine named Sputnik V. After trials, it was revealed to be 95 percent effective in producing antibodies after 40 days.

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“The vaccines have not been trialled in China because the virus is not prevalent enough..”

China Approves Sinopharm Covid19 Vaccine For General Use (G.)

China’s health authorities have approved a Covid vaccine from state-owned Sinopharm for general use on the population, the government has announced. At a press conference in Beijing a state taskforce announced the vaccine had exceeded World Health Organization standards and would help establish effective immunity in China. Health officials said vulnerable groups would be prioritised ahead of the general population. Key groups have already been receiving vaccines under emergency approvals, including about a million receiving the Sinopharm vaccine. Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the national health commission, said it was aiming for 60-70% vaccination coverage, which was expected to establish herd immunity.

“As the Chinese vaccine is proved to be safe and effective, we would like to encourage our people to participate on a voluntary and informed basis, and with consent,” he said. The officials did not give specific dates but said the rollout would begin “soon” at a “significantly reduced” cost. Zheng Zhongwei, head of the vaccine research and development working group, said the vaccine was a public good and the cost of production was “the only basis for pricing”. Zeng then added that the vaccine “must be provided free of charge for all people”, and state media subsequently reported that the vaccine will be free. Sinopharm is a state-owned pharmaceutical company with two vaccine candidates among China’s five experimental treatments in international final stage trials.

Public statements about Sinopharm vaccines do not appear to clarify which of the two candidates is being discussed. The approval followed an announcement on Wednesday by Sinopharm that phase 3 trials had found its vaccine to be 79% effective. This followed trials conducted in the UAE reporting 86% efficacy earlier in December. The vaccines have not been trialled in China because the virus is not prevalent enough, authorities say.

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How much of this is hyperbole?

New COVID19 Strain Spreading Faster Than All Forecasts – Irish PM (R.)

A new strain of COVID-19 that reached Ireland from the United Kingdom is spreading faster than the country’s most pessimistic forecasts, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Wednesday. “While international research for this new variant is ongoing, it is already very clear that we are dealing with a strain of the disease that spreads much, much more quickly,” Martin said in a televised address announcing a tightening of public-health restrictions for the next four weeks. “It is spreading at a rate that has surpassed the most pessimistic models available to us,” Martin said.

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“Democratic senators in fact provided the majority of the votes for the measure that lets the defense bill proceed without a vote on the $2,000 checks.”

Senate Democrats’ Motion To Concede On $2,000 Checks (DP)

It was always a possibility that Democrats would get too scared to halt a major Pentagon bill in order to help millions of Americans get $2,000 survival checks — in fact, as we wrote earlier this week, it was very likely that they would back down the moment any bad-faith critic so much as waved a flag and said “support the troops.” And capitulation became even more likely when Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, corporate Democratic pundits and billionaire-owned elite media outlets began parroting a series of eerily similar let-them-eat-cake talking points against the survival checks — which McConnell promptly used to bludgeon proponents of the bipartisan initiative.

But even appreciating all of this — and also knowing that many Democratic leaders still cling to an outdated austerity ideology — the sheer scale of Wednesday’s Democratic surrender was truly a sight to behold. And it probably ended the chance for more immediate aid to millions of Americans facing eviction, starvation and bankruptcy. The day began with Sen. Bernie Sanders following through on his promise to deny unanimous consent for the Senate to advance a $740 billion defense authorization bill, until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows an up-or-down vote on legislation that would send $2,000 survival checks to individuals making less than $75,000 and couples making less than $150,000.

Sanders’ move forced McConnell to ask the Senate to pass a formal motion to proceed on the defense bill, which would let Republicans move forward on the Pentagon priority without a vote on the $2,000 checks. The motion created the moment in which Democrats could have stood their ground and cornered the GOP leader. Instead, as Republicans saber rattled about the need to pass the defense bill, 41 Democrats obediently voted with McConnell, allowing him to move the defense bill forward without a vote on the checks. That included “yes” votes from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and vice-president elect Kamala Harris, the lead sponsor on a bill to give Americans monthly $2,000 checks during the pandemic. One day before her vote to help McConnell, Harris had called on the Republican leader to hold a vote on her legislation.

In the end, only six members of the Democratic Senate Caucus mustered the courage to vote against it — Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Jeff Merkley and Ed Markey. Democratic senators in fact provided the majority of the votes for the measure that lets the defense bill proceed without a vote on the $2,000 checks. It was called a motion to proceed, but it really was a motion demanding Democrats concede — and they instantly obliged.

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The craziest claim of the year: “This is the guy who took Assad money!”

The Pseudo-Left Imperialists Fighting Against Universal Healthcare (MPN)

Over the past week comedian Jimmy Dore has single-handedly exposed a collection of self-styled leaders of progressive media as imperialist hacks joined at the hip with the Democratic Party and NATO. It all started when Dore, a self-described jagoff pothead comedian – called for progressive members of Congress to withhold their votes for Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker until she agreed to hold a floor vote on Medicare for All. With a pandemic raging and Americans losing their jobs and healthcare, it seemed like the perfect way to hold Democrats’ feet to the fire. But Dore’s push apparently threatened the most prominent progressive in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

After she rejected his tactic in a series of tweets, deferring to the House Speaker she’s referred to lovingly as “Mama Bear,” a group of prominent podcasters sprang to her defense – and then launched a wave of personalized, vicious, and ultimately revealing attacks on Dore. Rather than debate the merits of his proposal, figures like Nomiki Konst, Ana Kasparian, Ben Dixon, and Cenk Uygur homed in on Dore’s personality, doing all they could to deflect from the substance of the issue, and insulating their hero AOC. The Youtube channel of longtime MSNBC contributor Sam Seder became a theater for the meltdown over Jimmy Dore’s rogue campaign for a M4A floor vote.

In the past week alone, Seder has done two lengthy segments devoted to smearing Jimmy Dore. During one 23 minute segment, podcaster and failed New York public advocate candidate Nomiki Konst launched a McCarthyite attack on Dore, accusing him of taking what she called “Assad money.” Nomiki Konst: “This is a clickbait game. There are hosts on air who want to make change. I think all of us are really concerned about educating our audience and bringing on informed people to help us understand everything, issues, and how to move through, and push for these changes. And then there are those who want to be multi-millionaires and famous. And you know, let’s just make those lines very clear. And not to mention, he has taken money, admitted to taking money, from pro-Assadist groups. So he’s not the pure guy that he wants to pretend… This is the guy who took Assad money!”

This was not just a neocon-style distraction, but a total lie. What Konst called Assad money had no relation to Assad. She was referring to a $2,500 donation from a U.S.-based anti-war nonprofit called the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees. It does relief work in Cuba, Palestine, and Syria, targets of Washington’s ruthless hybrid warfare. This non-profit has also organized openly against the devastating U.S. proxy war on Syria.

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Imagine if the US had a functioning media. We’d be rid of all this nonsense.

Intel On China Bounties Called ‘Less’ Credible Than Russia Payments (Pol.)

Allegations that China secretly offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill U.S. troops are “less” credible than previous intelligence reports indicating that Russia embarked on a similar operation, according to a senior U.S. official. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien briefed President Donald Trump on the unconfirmed allegations on Dec. 17, according to two other senior administration officials. But they stressed that the intelligence, first reported by Axios on Wednesday, is uncorroborated. In fact, the intelligence is “very thin” — thinner even than reports that Russia offered payments to the Taliban to target U.S. and coalition troops, which were never corroborated, the first senior U.S. official told POLITICO.

The official went on to described the recent intelligence as “rumors” and lacking “hard evidence.” But the allegations involving Chinese operatives in Afghanistan are being handled very differently by Trump officials than the those involving Moscow earlier this year. Trump initially denounced media reports on the alleged Russian bounties, calling it a “hoax.” He said intelligence officials told him he was not briefed about those allegations at the time because they did not find them credible. The Russian allegations have since been largely dismissed. “It just wasn’t there,” said the senior U.S. official.

Yet O’Brien briefed Trump and members of the national security team on the most recent allegations of Chinese activity in Afghanistan on Dec. 17 and convened a National Security Council Policy Coordination Committee on the topic on Dec. 22, one senior administration official said. The U.S. “treats this intelligence with caution, but any intelligence or reports relating to the safety of U.S. forces is something we take very seriously,” said the official. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team will seek to learn “as much as we can about these allegations,” said a transition official, noting that the news is “another illustration of why we need full cooperation” from the Pentagon. Biden earlier this week accused Defense Department leadership of obstructing the transition.

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Last gasp?!

Trump Campaign Wants To Air Evidence Before Congress Certifies Election (JTN)

Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller during an interview on Newsmax TV expressed the hope that evidence pertaining to election-related issues will be shared directly with the American people next week. If a minimum of one member of each congressional chamber objects to the electoral vote returns of a state during a joint session of Congress presided over by the vice president on Jan. 6, each chamber will separately debate for up to two hours and then vote on the objection, according to the Congressional Research Service: “An objection to a state’s electoral vote must be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded.”


During the interview Miller mentioned a lawsuit Rep. Louie Gohmert is involved in that Miller said argues that it “should be the vice president overseeing the Senate that should have the final say if a slate of electors are chosen. And so we hope that Congressman Gohmert will be successful in this and that we’re gonna actually have a chance in front of the American people next week to present these cases, all these evidences of fraud and really go and make sure that the American people see it so we can have full confidence in our elections,” Miller said. Miller mentioned during the interview multiple examples of election-related concerns. “These are the specific types of evidence that we want to be able to present to the American public on the national stage and not allow local politicians to sweep it under the rug,” he said.

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Just have the vote.

GOP Senator To Delay Affirming Biden Victory By Forcing Votes (CNN)

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Wednesday he will object when Congress counts the Electoral College votes next week, which will force lawmakers in both the House and Senate to vote on whether to accept the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Hawley is the first senator to announce plans to object to the results, which is significant because both a House member and senator are required to mount an objection when Congress counts the Electoral College votes on January 6. The objection will not change the outcome of the election, only delaying the inevitable affirmation of Biden’s victory in November over President Donald Trump. Democrats will reject any objections in the House, and multiple Republican senators have argued against an objection that will provide a platform for Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories claiming the election was stolen from him.


Hawley’s objection, which other senators may still join, will also put many of his Senate Republican colleagues in a difficult political position, forcing them to vote on whether to side with Trump or with the popular will of the voters. Hawley told reporters Wednesday he alerted Senate Republican leadership of his plans before his announcement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately urged Senate Republicans not to join the group of House members who are planning to object. Senate Majority Whip John Thune argued against it publicly, prompting a rebuke from Trump on Twitter and the threat of a primary challenge. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican in Senate GOP leadership, acknowledged Wednesday afternoon that Republican leaders would rather their rank-and-file members not be forced to vote on challenges to the Electoral College ballots.

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Shouldn’t this be global?

Putin Signs Law To Fine & Block Social Media That Censor Russian Media (RT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved new legislation that could see foreign social media companies punished for discriminating against the country’s media outlets. This year, RT and Sputnik have been censored on Twitter. The bill explicitly forbids censorship based on reasons such as nationality, language, and origin, as well as “in connection with the introduction of political or economic sanctions against Russia.” Once found guilty, a foreign network, such as YouTube or Facebook, could be subject to sanctions in the form of fines, the slowing down of traffic, or even a complete block. Earlier this year, US tech giant Twitter took action against RT and other publicly-funded Russian media outlets, subjecting their accounts to a shadow ban. This means that they are now undiscoverable via the website’s search function.


As well as making tweets much harder to find, Twitter also labeled several Russian sources as “state-affiliated media,” despite not doing so for Western equivalents, such as America’s state-run RFE/RL and the British government-backed BBC. After the bill was proposed, President Putin noted that the country should not “shoot itself in the foot” with any retaliatory actions against foreign media, but it is “absolutely obvious and understandable to any sane person” that these companies are discriminating against Russian outlets. The law was introduced last month by a group of parliamentarians, including MP Alexander Khinshtein and Senator Aleksey Pushkov. According to Pushkov, the law wasn’t written with the aim of blocking the websites, but to introduce legal responsibility for censorship.

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“Broad population-wide lockdowns are such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional.”

The Year in Which Comforting American Myths Were Ravaged (AIER)

Thanks in large part to Covid lockdowns, this year has left vast wreckage in its wake, with ten million jobs lost, more than 100,000 businesses and dozens of national chains bankrupted or closed. Up to 40 million people could face eviction in the coming months for failing to pay rent, and Americans report that their mental health is at record low levels. But the casualty list for 2020 must also include many of the political myths that shape Americans’ lives. Perhaps the biggest myth to die this year was that Americans’ constitutional rights are safeguarded by the Bill of Rights. After the Covid-19 pandemic began, governors in state after state effectively placed scores of millions of citizens under house arrest – dictates that former Attorney General Bill Barr aptly compared to “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since the end of slavery.

Politicians and government officials merely had to issue decrees, which were endlessly amended, in order to destroy citizens’ freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of choice in daily life. Los Angeles earlier this month banned almost all walking and bicycling in the city, ordering four million people to “to remain in their homes” in a futile effort to banish a virus. The Rule of Law is another myth impaled by 2020’s dire developments. Courts have repeatedly struck down sweeping restrictions. Federal judge William Stickman IV invalidated some of Pennsylvania’s restrictions in a September ruling: “Broad population-wide lockdowns are such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional.”

After the Michigan Supreme Court effectively labeled Governor Gretchen Whitmer a lawless dictator, she responded by issuing “new COVID-19 emergency orders that are nearly identical to her invalidated emergency orders,” as the Mackinac Center noted. How many governors and mayors have you seen on the television news being led away in handcuffs after their arrest for violating citizens’ rights this year? None. Another myth that 2020 obliterated was the notion that politicians spending more than a hundred billion dollars every year for science and public health would keep Americans safe. The Centers for Disease Control utterly botched the initial testing regime, sending out bogus tests to state and local health departments and taking a month and a half to do what the Thai government achieved in one day. The Food and Drug Administration helped turn the coronavirus from a deadly peril into a national catastrophe.

Long after foreign nations had been ravaged and many cases had been detected in America, the FDA continued blocking private testing. The FDA continued forcing the nation’s most innovative firms to submit to its command-and-control approach, notwithstanding the pandemic. The benevolence and compassion of public school teachers was another myth that 2020 obliterated. Teacher unions helped barricade school doors the same way that segregationist governors in the 1950s and 1960s refused to obey federal court orders to admit black students. The Chicago Teachers Union proclaimed: “The push to reopen schools is based in sexism, racism, and misogyny.”

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100 year-old reactors. Scary.

Inviting Nuclear Disaster (CP)

Nuclear power plants when they began being constructed were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. But in recent decades, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licenses of nuclear power plants from 40 years to 60 years and then 80 years, and is now considering 100 years. “It is crazy,” declares Robert Alvarez, a former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy and a U.S. Senate senior investigator and now senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and is an author of the book Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.

“No reactor in history has lasted that long,” commented Alvarez. The oldest nuclear power plant in the U.S. was Oyster Creek, five miles south of Toms River, New Jersey, which opened in 1969 and was shut down 49 years later in 2018. The move is “an act of desperation in response to the collapse of the nuclear program in this country and the rest of the world,” he declares. The nuclear industry and nuclear power advocates in government are “desperately trying to hold on,” says Alvarez. With hardly any new nuclear power plants being constructed in the U.S. and the total number down to 94, they seek to have the operating licenses of existing nuclear power plants extended, he says, to keep the nuclear industry alive. It’s a sign of “the end of the messy romance with nuclear power.”

[..] “There is no empirical evidence” to support the notion that nuclear plants can have a century-long life span, says Alvarez. There “is no penciling away the problems of age” of nuclear power plants which operate under high-pressure, high-heat conditions and are subject to radiation fatigue. “The reality of wear-and-tear can’t be wished away.” “Who would want to ride in a 100 year-old car?” he asks.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 302020
 


Juan Gris Guitar on a chair 1913

 

Travelers May Need A COVID Vaccine Passport To Travel In 2021 (JTN)
ER Nurse Tests Positive For COVID19 Eight Days After He Was Vaccinated (DM)
Covid Poses ‘Greatest Threat To Mental Health Since Second World War’ (G.)
Majority Of New COVID Cases In UK Are New Variant (Sky)
McConnell Blocks Vote On $2,000 Checks, Signals New Package (Hill)
Bernie Sanders Fights for a $2,000 Check for You on the Senate Floor (Jac.)
10 Stats About The $2,000 Checks (DP)
Ukraine Press Conference Explicitly Ties Hunter & Joe Biden To Corruption (ZH)
Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence (MPN)
UK House Prices Rise By Most In Six Years (R.)
Five Times this Year the New York Times Accidentally Told the Truth (AIER)

 

 

 

 

Carlin immune system

 

 

I’m afraid I lost the plot line along the way. If the chief WHO scientist says there’s no evidence the vaccine protects you from being infected, or even from infecting others, what is the purpose of a vaccine passport?

Travelers May Need A COVID Vaccine Passport To Travel In 2021 (JTN)

Travelers may need to show proof that they have taken the COVID-19 vaccine in order to travel in 2021. “Several companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries,” CBS-Miami reported. “The Common Trust Network, an initiative by Geneva-based nonprofit The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, has partnered with several airlines including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as hundreds of health systems across the United States and the government of Aruba,” the station reported.

Thomas Crampton, chief marketing and communications officer for The Commons Project, told CNN Business that a simple and easily transferable set of credentials, or a “digital yellow card,” could be the answer. Last week, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said “immunity passports” for Americans to prove they have taken the COVID-19 vaccine might help the country get “back to a new normal.” Dr. Thomas Frieden told CBS that “done right, immunity passports could be one of a series of things that could help us get to a new normal as soon as possible.” “We don’t know if this is going to happen, but fundamentally we’re seeing companies and countries giving people a certificate of vaccination,” he said. “The risk of this is it will make inequality even worse. If people have both susceptibility to the virus and less access to the vaccine, they’ll have even more problems.”

Frieden, who served as director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, said for the passports to work, there would need to be “absolute privacy,” adding that the vaccine should be “absolutely opt in.” “Fundamentally, we’re facing a very difficult few weeks and few months. There’s not enough vaccine yet and we’re seeing the highest levels of cases, hospitalizations and deaths the U.S. has since the start of this pandemic,” he said. In an op-ed published this week in The Washington Post, Frieden and co-author Aaron Schwid, a human rights lawyer, wrote: “As more and more people are vaccinated, it’s time to carefully design a system of ‘immunity passports.'” “These passports would serve as a form of proof of immunity, allowing people who have immunity to engage in some activities others cannot. That could make it possible to ratchet down protective measures, such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, without increasing health risks,” they wrote.

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We’ll have to see a lot more of these stories before someone admits there may be a problem.

ER Nurse Tests Positive For COVID19 Eight Days After He Was Vaccinated (DM)

A California nurse has tested positive for COVID-19 just eight days after receiving the vaccination. ER nurse Matthew W., received the Pfizer vaccine on December 18, according to a post from Instagram. ‘Got my Covid vaccine! The 15 minutes afterward sitting around with a bunch of others while health care workers asked us how we felt made me think of an opium den. I’ll report back if I start to grow a third arm,’ Matthew wrote. But on Christmas Eve, Matthew, who works at two different hospitals in San Diego, began feeling sick after working a shift in the COVID-19 unit. He told ABC 10 News, that he first got the chills before coming down with muscle aches and fatigue. On December 26, he went to a hospital to get tested for the virus and tested positive.


And while it is surprising, it’s not unexpected, according to health experts who weighed in on the case. Dr Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the station: ‘It’s not unexpected at all. If you work through the numbers, this is exactly what we’d expect to happen if someone was exposed.’ And while it is surprising, it’s not unexpected, according to health experts who weighed in on the case. ‘That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50%, and you need that second dose to get up to 95%,’ Ramers added. Matthew says he is feeling better since his symptoms appeared last week.

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“..the number of people in contact with mental health services has never been higher, and some hospital trusts report that their mental health wards are at capacity.”

Covid Poses ‘Greatest Threat To Mental Health Since Second World War’ (G.)

The coronavirus crisis poses the greatest threat to mental health since the second world war, with the impact to be felt for years after the virus has been brought under control, the country’s leading psychiatrist has said. Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said a combination of the disease, its social consequences and the economic fallout were having a profound effect on mental health that would continue long after the epidemic is reined in. As many as 10 million people, including 1.5 million children, are thought to need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the crisis. The prediction comes as the virus surges in the UK, and highlights the need for a plan that ensures those who develop mental illness or see existing conditions worsen have swift access to effective support in the years ahead.

“This is going to have a profound effect on mental health,” James said. “It is probably the biggest hit to mental health since the second world war. It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.” Demand for mental health services dropped at the start of the pandemic as people stayed away from GP surgeries and hospitals, or thought treatment was unavailable. But the dip was followed by a surge in people seeking help that shows no sign of abating. Data from NHS Digital reveals that the number of people in contact with mental health services has never been higher, and some hospital trusts report that their mental health wards are at capacity. “The whole system is clearly under pressure,” James said.

Modelling by the Centre for Mental Health forecasts that as many as 10 million people will need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the coronavirus epidemic. About 1.3 million people who have not had mental health problems before are expected to need treatment for moderate to severe anxiety, and 1.8 million treatment for moderate to severe depression, it found. The overall figure includes 1.5 million children at risk of anxiety and depression brought about or aggravated by social isolation, quarantine or the hospitalisation or death of family members. The numbers may rise as the full impact becomes clear on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, care homes and people with disabilities.

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The UK is moving into danger territory. If only they had not cut their medical facilities in half.

Majority Of New COVID Cases In UK Are New Variant (Sky)

The new, faster-spreading coronavirus variant makes up the majority of new cases in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told Sky News. A recent surge of COVID-19 cases is largely due to the variant which may be up to 70% more infectious than the original one, Mr Hancock said. “The ‘suppress the virus’ bit has got a whole lot harder since the new variant really got going over December,” he said. “Now the majority of the new cases in the UK are the new variant. It is much, much easier to transmit from one person to another.”


The faster transmission had put extreme pressure on the NHS, Mr Hancock added. “It is absolutely critical that people follow the rules and do everything they can to stop the spread, particularly of the new variant of this virus that transmits so much faster.” “So, the challenge of suppressing the virus has got harder, but thankfully, the cavalry has arrived in terms of not one, but two vaccines – and we’ve got to get them into people’s arms at the speed at which they can be manufactured”.

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“..the GOP leader later filed a bill that would increase the amount of the stimulus checks, repeal a legal shield for tech companies known as Section 230 and create an election commission that would study the November elections.”

McConnell Blocks Vote On $2,000 Checks, Signals New Package (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to set up a stand-alone vote on increasing the amount of recently passed stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both tried to get consent for the Senate to bring up legislation that passed the House in a 273-134 vote on Monday. The GOP leader did not directly address why he objected, but under the Senate’s rules any one senator can block efforts to set up votes or pass bills. McConnell signaled separately that he could package the increase in direct stimulus checks, with a repeal of a tech shield that has emerged as a top target for Trump and election-related investigations.


Trump, in his statement on signing the $2.3 trillion package, said the Senate would “start the process for a vote” that tackles the three issues. “During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together,” McConnell said. “Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus,” he added. McConnell did not provide additional details during his floor speech about how he might bring the measures up. But the GOP leader later filed a bill that would increase the amount of the stimulus checks, repeal a legal shield for tech companies known as Section 230 and create an election commission that would study the November elections.

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“Sanders has the procedural means at his disposal to keep the Senate in session all the way to New Year’s Day..”

Bernie Sanders Fights for a $2,000 Check for You on the Senate Floor (Jac.)

For most of the last few decades, budget standoffs in Washington tended to follow the same script: Republicans threatened to block some domestic spending bill or fully shut down the government unless Democrats agreed to let the GOP own the libs with something bad like a JPMorgan giveaway, a tax break for the rich, or a draconian cut to a social program. When Democrats controlled Congress, they never mustered the courage to respond with their own version of the same shrewd tactics. Even toward the end of the Bush era when the Iraq War was deeply unpopular, they never made a serious attempt to hold up a bloated GOP-written Pentagon bill in order to try to get their way on a progressive initiative. But at the end of one of the worst years in recent history, it seems things are changing.

In a long overdue script-flipping move, Sen. Bernie Sanders is now moving to halt a major defense bill until and unless Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell allows a full vote on legislation to give millions of starving Americans $2,000 in emergency aid. That legislation passed the House yesterday over opposition from a majority of House Republicans, who tried their best to deny their own constituents much-needed aid. Now the bill is in McConnell’s hands, and Sanders is pulling a McConnell on McConnell. He is imperiling the GOP boss’s top priority — the defense bill that authorizes pay increases for soldiers, military training, new weapons systems, while also complicating attempts to draw down troops deployed in Afghanistan. That McConnell-backed legislation could be stalled unless he agrees to Sanders’ demands and stops obstructing a progressive priority.

The Vermont independent appears ready to play hardball: He is doing his best impression of Marc Maron’s cameo in Almost Famous, effectively screaming “lock the gates!” and threatening to force Senate Republicans to remain in Washington, rather than flee while the country withers. The American Prospect reports: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with the backing of the Senate Democratic caucus, is prepared to make life miserable for Senate Republicans if they do not put a clean vote on the floor to increase one-time emergency payments to most Americans approved in the recent COVID relief package from $600 to $2,000. Sanders has the procedural means at his disposal to keep the Senate in session all the way to New Year’s Day, inconveniencing Senators of both parties, particularly the incumbent Republicans from Georgia, who are in their final full week of campaigning for runoff elections on January 5….

The Senate operates on the principle of unanimous consent. It’s not impossible to get things done if one Senator objects, but it’s quite a bit slower. The majority needs to hold votes and waste time to muscle past an objecting Senator. For this reason, Sanders can prevent quick passage of the defense bill override, the only thing McConnell really wants to accomplish in the last week of the Senate session. This ramps up pressure on McConnell to just hold a vote on the $2,000 checks. Senators don’t want to be stuck in Washington on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day if they can prevent it.“

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“3. Jeff Bezos’s personal wealth increased more every second of 2020 ($2,800) than Congress is considering giving Americans who are facing eviction, starvation and bankruptcy ($2,000).”

10 Stats About The $2,000 Checks (DP)

1. The total cost of $2,000 checks ($465 billion) is less than half the amount that American billionaires have made during the pandemic ($1 trillion). The total cost of the checks is less than the amount that just 16 American billionaires increased their net worth by during the pandemic ($471 billion).

2. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk gained more wealth during the pandemic ($158 billion) than Congress just authorized for additional unemployment benefits for millions of Americans ($120 billion).

3. Jeff Bezos’s personal wealth increased more every second of 2020 ($2,800) than Congress is considering giving Americans who are facing eviction, starvation and bankruptcy ($2,000).

4. Congressional lawmakers are being paid $3,300 of government money every week to come up with ways to block $2,000 checks to millions of Americans.

5. It took Congress less than a month to pass legislation giving a $700 billion bailout to bank executives during the financial crisis. It has taken Congress more than 8 months to even seriously consider a far less expensive bill to give $2,000 checks to millions of Americans during this economic crisis.

6. A $2,000 survival check would give the average soldier more money than the proposed 3 percent military pay increase that is included in defense legislation that Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey are filibustering in order to force a vote on the survival checks.

7. The richest 5 percent of Americans received more in Trump tax cuts in 2020 ($145 billion) than Congress is spending on increased unemployment benefits for millions of Americans during the economic crisis ($120 billion).

8. In 2016, “children, elderly, disabled people, and students made up around 70 percent of the poor,” according to the People’s Policy Project. Unlike unemployment benefits, $2,000 checks would help them.

9. About 60 percent of Georgia households make less than $75,000, meaning Georgia Republican senators allowing $2,000 checks to be blocked would deny aid to roughly 2 million of their state’s households as they run for reelection.

10. As Republicans try to block the $2,000 check legislation, a new national survey found that 78 percent of Americans support it, even as some pundits insist that the proposal is “divisive.”

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Can we bury this story too?

Ukraine Press Conference Explicitly Ties Hunter & Joe Biden To Corruption (ZH)

From the introduction: “At one of the first press conferences about a year ago, we showed bank transactions for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the family of former US Vice President Joe Biden, namely to his son Robert Hunter Biden. The latter was a member of the board of directors of the infamous gas production company Burisma. Burisma belongs to the fugitive Yanukovych-era minister Mykola Zlochevsky. The inclusion of Biden in the Burisma leadership and payment for his services is nothing more than a political cover that protected Zlochevsky from the Ukrainian law, namely from the criminal code.”

Two foreign witnesses whose identities are protected – Witness 1 and Witness 2 – came forward to testify about the facts of the case. Konstantyn Kulyk, the Head of the Group of Prosecutors of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, explained what the witnesses offered: “One quote from a statement by a Witness: “All the described financial transactions were fictitious. And a lot of money was paid in Ukraine so that the state authorities turned a blind eye to it.” [snip] In the period from November 2014 to October 2015, the Witnesses noticed strange recurring payments that, at the direction of Oleh Nelin (Zlochevsky’s assistant in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine), were sent from the account of BURISMA HOLDINGS LTD, which was opened for the personal needs of Mykola Zlochevsky, in the Latvian PrivatBank AS to the account of the American company ROSEMONT SENECA BONAI LLC.”

“The witnesses drew attention to these payments since about 20 times the same uneven amount was recurring – $83,333.33 as payment for consulting services. [snip] In the period from November 2014 to October 2015, the money stolen from Ukrainians, located on account of BURISMA HOLDINGS LTD with the Latvian PrivatBank AS, was transferred to the account of ROSEMONT SENECA BONAI LLC in the American bank MORGAN STANLEY in payments in total amounting to $3.4 million for consulting services. [snip] This is a payment for the political “cover” that Biden provided to Zlochevsky.” The video offers a graphic image showing the flow of money and favors:

Andrii Derkach picked up the narrative. He focused on Joe Biden’s conversations with Former President Poroshenko when Viktor Shokin, a prosecutor, started looking into Zlochevsky’s graft. As we all know, Biden openly boasted about holding up money from the U.S. unless Poroshenko fired Shokin. The press conference included audio from a November 16, 2016 conversation between Biden and Poroshenko. Biden was wheeling and dealing for influence and money – and conducting foreign policy behind Trump’s back. The men spoke again in February 2017, at which time Biden smothered Poroshenko with fulsome compliments. Ukraine’s government is gunning for Joe Biden. The Ukrainians know Biden helped prop up a corrupt government in their country and that he profited mightily from doing so. No wonder this video has gone viral.

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“She is the affable assassin..”

Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence (MPN)

Even before President-elect Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, the Senate Intelligence Committee may start hearings on his nomination of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence. Barack Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 followed by CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2015, Haines is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. She is the affable assassin who, according to Newsweek, would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East. Haines also played a key role in covering up the U.S. torture program, known euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included repeated waterboarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dousing naked prisoners with ice-cold water, and rectal rehydration.

For these reasons, among others, the activist groups CODEPINK, Progressive Democrats of America, World Beyond War, and Roots Action have launched a campaign calling on the Senate to reject her confirmation. These same groups ran successful campaigns to dissuade Biden from choosing two other warmongering candidates for critical foreign policy positions: China-hawk Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense and torture apologist Mike Morell for CIA Director. By hosting calling parties to Senators, launching petitions and publishing Open Letters from DNC delegates, feminists—including Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinem—and Guantanamo torture survivors, activists helped derail candidates who were once considered shoo-ins for Biden’s cabinet. Now activists are challenging Avril Haines.

In 2015, when Haines was CIA Deputy Director, CIA agents illegally hacked the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart the Committee’s investigation into the spy agency’s detention and interrogation program. Haines overruled the CIA’s own Inspector General in failing to discipline the CIA agents who violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers. According to former CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, she not only shielded the hackers from accountability but even awarded them the Career Intelligence Medal. And there’s more. When the exhaustive 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture was finally complete, after five years of investigation and research, Haines took charge of redacting it to deny the public’s right to know its full details, reducing the document to a 500-page, black-ink-smeared summary.

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By no means just in the UK. As the economy shrinks bigtime.

UK House Prices Rise By Most In Six Years (R.)

British house prices rose faster than expected in December to record their biggest annual increase in six years, as tax incentives and COVID-driven appetite for larger homes continued to boost demand, mortgage lender Nationwide said. House prices rose by 0.8% in December alone, barely slowing from the 0.9% recorded in November, and were 7.3% higher than a year earlier, well above forecasts in a Reuters poll for a 6.7% rise. After a collapse in house purchases during the first months of lockdown, there has been a surge in demand to move house, driven in part by a temporary exemption of property purchase taxes which will expire at the end of March.


Nationwide said the strength of the housing market contrasted with weakness in some other parts of the economy – especially those exposed to renewed COVID-19 restrictions – and said the outlook for prices in 2021 was highly uncertain. “Housing market activity is likely to slow in the coming quarters, perhaps sharply, if the labour market weakens as most analysts expect, especially once the stamp duty holiday expires at the end of March,” Nationwide economist Robert Gardner said. So far furlough payments and similar support for the self-employed had limited the impact of a historic 26% fall in economic output on the housing market, against most economists’ earlier expectations, he added.

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Propaganda.

Five Times this Year the New York Times Accidentally Told the Truth (AIER)

The paper of record in 2020 shifted dramatically to the most illiberal stance possible on the virus, pushing for full lockdowns, and ignoring or burying any information that might contradict the case for this unprecedented experiment in social and economic control. This article highlights the exceptions. The first shocking sign of the placing of a persistent bias was a podcast with reporter Donald McNeil on February 27. This was the beginning. It was grossly irresponsible. He asserted that half the American public would get this disease and that it would have a case fatality rate of 2.5%, or 25 times as deadly as flu, hence 4.8 million dead people. No consideration of demographic gradients in risk and no knowledge of viral basics such as the tradeoff between severity and prevalence.

Even if you leave aside the fog of fatality misclassification, he exaggerated the risk by 12 times but still spoke with a sense of certainty designed to create panic. Host Michael Barbaro himself seemed shocked: “I thought you were here to bring calm, Donald.” “I’m trying to bring a sense that if things don’t change, a lot of us might die,” he said. “If you have 300 relatively close friends and acquaintances, six of them would die.” The primal fear of disease is thus thrown into massive overdrive, following 100 years in which public health tried to bring rationality to the topic. That podcast was followed by an op-ed by the same journalist/pundit: “To Take On the Coronavirus, Go Medieval on It.”

It seemed incredible that such a responsible outlet would advocate the overthrow of a century of public-health wisdom and even immunological basics, but that’s what they did. At this point, the New York Times was fully committed to the narrative that we must dismantle society to save it. And there it has been for nearly a year of unbearably biased coverage. Even within the blatant and aggressive pro-lockdown bias, and consistent with the way the New York Times does its work, the paper has not been entirely barren of truth about Covid and lockdowns. Below I list five times that the news section of the paper, however inadvertently and however buried deep within the paper, actually told the truth.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 292020
 


Juan Gris Portrait of the artist’s mother 1912

 

WHO Chief Scientist: No Evidence COVID Vaccine Prevents Viral Transmission (ZH)
WHO -Secretly- Changed Their Definition Of “Herd Immunity” (OffG)
UK Variant Linked To High Viral Loads, Neanderthal Gene Offers Protection (R.)
House Passes $2,000 Per American COVID19 Relief Bill Requested By Trump (RT)
Republicans Threaten To Deny $2,000 Checks To Their Own Constituents (DP)
House Overrides Trump’s Veto Of Bill That Blocked Afghanistan Withdrawal (RT)
Bernie Sanders To Delay Defense Veto Override In Bid For $2,000 Checks (Pol.)
McConnell Rushed To Save His Senators, But Left Trump Twisting In The Wind (IC)
Japan Gave Key Intel On China’s Uighur Crackdown To US and Britain (JT)
Trump Admin Bolsters Order Barring US Investment In Chinese Firms (R.)
In Darkness Visible (Jim Kunstler)
The Threat of Authoritarianism in the US is Very Real (Greenwald)

 

 

Entirely useless? Someone better do a risk/reward analysis.

WHO Chief Scientist: No Evidence COVID Vaccine Prevents Viral Transmission (ZH)

Once again, the WHO has stepped in to offer some confusing comments about the coronavirus vaccine, warning that there is “no evidence to be confident shots prevent transmission” and that people who receive the vaccine should continue wearing masks and following all social distancing and travel guidelines. The comments were made by WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan during what appears to have been a virtual press conference held Monday. A clip of the offending line has begun circulating on social media. “At the moment, I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines, to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from getting the infection and passing it on,”

WHO chief scientist
https://twitter.com/i/status/1343620091695538179

Of course, a close look at the research released by Pfizer and Moderna shows the studies haven’t actually tested whether the vaccines actually prevent transmission of the virus; the goal of the trials was to see whether vaccinated patients presented with COVID symptoms at a rate that was substantially less frequent than individuals who hadn’t been vaccinated. That’s pretty much it. Though the data might hint at lowering transmission rates, that’s still tbd, apparently. The doctor went on to explain that there’s no evidence to suggest that those who have been vaccinated wouldn’t be a risk if they traveled to a foreign country, say Australia, with relatively low COVID rates.


At this point, it might be helpful for the WHO to produce some kind of clarification that either offers substantially more context to explain this remark. But we suspect they won’t. Why? Well, perhaps because that context might undermine certain government officials’ insistence that there’s absolutely no reason to question the efficacy, and potential side effects (both long-term, and short) tied to the new COVID-19 vaccines.

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“..newspeak doublethink nonsense..”

WHO -Secretly- Changed Their Definition Of “Herd Immunity” (OffG)

The World Health Organization has changed the definition of “herd immunity” on the Covid section of their website, inserting the claim that it is a “concept used in vaccination”, and requires a vaccine to be achieved. Both of these statements are total falsehoods, which is demonstrated by the WHO’s own website back in June, and every dictionary definition of “herd immunity” you can find. To quote the WHO’s own original definition: “Herd immunity is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or a natural immunity developed through previous infection.” This definition was posted on the WHO’s website on June 9th of this year, and conforms with the general usage of the term for generations.


Then, on October 15th, we woke up to find the words on the side of the barn had changed. The definition has been altered to this: “‘Herd immunity’, also known as ‘population immunity’, is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.” No explanation is offered for the change, in fact [no] note of the change is made on the website at all. Indeed all the previous versions of the website have been totally wiped from the wayback machine. A telling thing to do, in and of itself. We’re only aware of the change because screencaps of the original exist:

The new definition, aside from being inaccurate and off-handedly disposing of decades of epidemiological research, is also contradictory. It includes the phrase: “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.” Which is newspeak doublethink nonsense. The entire point of vaccination IS “exposing” people to the virus. This revised, inaccurate and contradictory definition of “herd immunity” was first expressed in a speech by WHO Director General Thedros Adhanom on October 12th. Within three days that speech had been added, word for word, to the website. And within a month of the change, the UK had approved the first commercial vaccine for Sars-Cov-2 infection.

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Forget the vaccine, I’ll get the Neanderthal gene.

UK Variant Linked To High Viral Loads, Neanderthal Gene Offers Protection (R.)

The highly infectious COVID-19 coronavirus variant that has been circulating in Britain is linked to higher loads of the virus in the blood, according to a research report published on medRxiv on Sunday ahead of peer review. Around 35% of patients infected by the variant form had very high levels of the virus in their samples, compared to 10% of patients without the variant, study leader Michael Kidd of Public Health England and Birmingham University told Reuters. Higher viral loads have been linked with worse COVID-19 outcomes. The tests were conducted at the Birmingham Turnkey Lab. Kidd said additional study was needed to confirm or refute the findings. If confirmed, he hopes scientists will investigate how this particular variant manages to make more copies of itself in infected patients.

[..] A specific form of a protein passed down from Neanderthals protects against severe COVID-19, and medications that boost levels of this protein could potentially help treat the disease, according to a study reported on medRxiv on Thursday ahead of peer review. The protein, called OAS1, is involved in the body’s response to viruses. People with higher levels of the Neanderthal-related form of OAS1 are less susceptible to COVID-19, and if they do become infected, they are at lower risk for hospitalization, intubation and death, the researchers found. “This protective form of OAS1 is present in sub-Saharan Africans but was lost when the ancestors of modern-day Europeans migrated out of Africa. It was then re-introduced into the European population through mating with Neanderthals” who lived more than 40,000 years ago, said coauthor Brent Richards from the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in Montreal. An earlier study linked a cluster of genes inherited from Neanderthals to higher risks of hospitalization from COVID-19. “These findings further implicate Neanderthal ancestry in COVID-19 severity,” Richards said.

[..] The speed of patients’ antibody production – rather than the volume of antibodies they produce to fight the new coronavirus – determines whether they will survive COVID-19, new data suggest. Researchers who studied more than 200 COVID-19 patients, including 179 who were hospitalized, found those who produced so-called neutralizing antibodies within 14 days of developing symptoms eventually recovered, while those who did not produce neutralizing antibodies until more than 14 days had elapsed developed higher viral loads and more severe disease. “It is unclear why antibodies generated after this time point are unable to promote viral clearance and recovery in COVID-19 patients,” the researchers said in a report posted on medRxiv ahead of peer review. Study leader Akiko Iwasaki of the Yale University School of Medicine tweeted on Saturday, “It’s possible that virus somehow becomes resistant by hiding in inaccessible tissues.” The new findings, she added, suggest therapy with so-called monoclonal antibody drugs – such as those from Regeneron given to U.S. President Donald Trump — is likely to work only if used soon after infection.

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Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (CASH) Act.

House Passes $2,000 Per American COVID19 Relief Bill Requested By Trump (RT)

The US House of Representatives has voted to raise to $2,000 the sum of the one-time direct payment to most Americans, after President Donald Trump demanded it be raised from $600 in the spending bill he signed to avoid shutdown. Dubbed the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (CASH) Act, House Resolution 9051 passed on Monday evening, as lawmakers lined up to cast their own and proxy votes, wearing face masks under rules instituted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California). The procedural vote requiring two-thirds majority succeeded, with 275 votes in favor. The proposal was opposed by 130 Republicans, two Democrats and two 2 independents.


The resolution now goes to the Senate for approval. Trump initially threatened to veto the nearly 6,000-page omnibus-stimulus behemoth, objecting to the $600 amount and other spending measures. On Sunday, he turned around and signed it, but demanded that the House pass a bill increasing the payout to $2,000 per individual and delete some of the other spending provisions, while asking for several other actions from the Senate as well. Democrats have refused to cut any spending, however, and the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to follow through on Trump’s demands.

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“an estimated 42 percent of Kentucky children (live) in renter households (that) were behind on rent and/or did not get enough to eat, and 20 percent of adults with children in the household reported the children weren’t eating enough because they couldn’t afford enough food.”

Republicans Threaten To Deny $2,000 Checks To Their Own Constituents (DP)

Last week, House Democrats attempted to call President Donald Trump’s bluff and increase the COVID relief bill’s survival checks to $2,000. House Republicans blocked the initial maneuver, and may today prevent the legislation from passing. If it does pass, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could kill the bill. The spectacle of Congress continuing to stall $2,000 survival checks during an economic emergency spotlights Donald Trump’s erratic behavior, Democrats’ persistent austerity ideology and the dysfunctionality of a government waiting until the last minute to hammer out 5,000-page emergency legislation in a matter of hours.

Most important, the antics of House Republicans and McConnell illustrate how — despite all of America’s paens to democracy — lawmakers ostensibly elected to represent us will routinely stomp on their own constituents. Of course, constituents are barely part of the media narrative anymore. Indeed, if you read national news, you will almost never see a mention of whom exactly these Republicans are supposed to be representing. For example, you will not see any mention of the fact that, according to research from AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer, the majority of lawmakers in the House Republican Conference come from districts in the bottom two income quintiles — meaning their constituents would particularly benefit from the $2,000 checks.

Similarly, you will see McConnell depicted only as an all-powerful Republican leader — an omniscient spectre haunting the halls of power, effectively disassociated from time, place and constituency. In this mythology, he is a phantom menace who controls everything but somehow represents nobody. You will not see much mention of the fact that McConnell actually does represent a real, live place — one that illustrates how this standoff is fundamentally a crisis of democratic accountability. McConnell’s role in this debacle cannot be overstated: Had he already signed onto the plan to increase the direct payments in the COVID deal, it would probably be a done deal — but so far he has been reticent, as millions of Americans are struggling to survive.

Among those millions struggling to survive are hundreds of thousands of people in McConnell’s own state of Kentucky — which is one of the poorest in the country. As such, it would particularly benefit from the $2,000 survival checks. As McConnell plays coy in Washington, his state is becoming a Dickensian nightmare. More than 700,000 Kentuckians live below the federal poverty line. During the COVID-19 pandemic, things have become downright dystopian: Louisville’s ABC affiliate recently reported that “an estimated 42 percent of Kentucky children (live) in renter households (that) were behind on rent and/or did not get enough to eat, and 20 percent of adults with children in the household reported the children weren’t eating enough because they couldn’t afford enough food.”

Read more …

Bring them home.

House Overrides Trump’s Veto Of Bill That Blocked Afghanistan Withdrawal (RT)

The US House of Representatives has voted for the first time to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion annual military spending bill, which he opposed for limiting his ability to bring US troops home. After aligning with Trump to approve raising the coronavirus stimulus payments to $2,000 per American, the House also voted 322- 87 to override Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a $740 billion military spending bill, which passed both chambers of Congress earlier this month.


Trump objected to the NDAA not addressing his concerns about Section 230 and internet platforms, trying to prevent him from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and including a Democrat proposal to rename US military bases named a century ago after Civil War generals who fought for the Confederacy. If the Senate does the same, that would make it the first – and likely the last – veto override of Trump’s administration, as Democrats are joined by a faction of Republicans all too eager to abandon the president. Amid media reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) planned to hold a vote only on the NDAA override and not the increased payments, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) vowed to hold up the vote and block the Senate from going into recess over the New Year holiday.

Read more …

How things are connected.

Bernie Sanders To Delay Defense Veto Override In Bid For $2,000 Checks (Pol.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders will filibuster an override of President Donald Trump’s defense bill veto unless the Senate holds a vote on providing $2,000 direct payments to Americans. “McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that. But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday night. The Vermont independent can’t ultimately stop the veto override vote, but he can delay it until New Year’s Day and make things more difficult for the GOP. The House passed the payment boost sought by Trump and Democratic leaders on Monday evening, and Trump said the Senate has agreed to “start the process” on a stimulus checks vote when he signed the $900 billion relief bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to address the timing of such a vote. Under Senate rules, Sanders has the ability to keep the chamber in during the holiday week and likely mess with the campaign schedules of Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.). Those two face Jan. 5 runoff races for control of the Senate against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who are both campaigning on the $2,000 checks. A source close to Sanders said the Senate races were a factor in his decision — part of a bid to keep Perdue and Loeffler in D.C. and focus the campaign on their position regarding the $2,000 checks. Sanders also threatened to shut down the government earlier this month if the coronavirus relief bill did not include direct payments; ultimately it included checks of up to $600 and the government stayed open, though now Trump wants to go much higher.

Though veto overrides can be filibustered, as Sanders plans to do, it is a rare procedural move because the veto override already requires 67 votes and the filibuster is simply a delay tactic, according to the Congressional Research Service. Sanders said he hopes McConnell allows a vote on the checks on Wednesday. “The American people are desperate, and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town,” Sanders said. “It would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this.”

Read more …

“McConnell had the option to press the button, and he knew the button would help Trump, yet he didn’t press it.”

McConnell Rushed To Save His Senators, But Left Trump Twisting In The Wind (IC)

One of the enduring mysteries of the 2020 presidential election was Mitch McConnell’s apparent lack of interest in helping to reelect President Donald Trump. From the perspective of the White House, the political press corps, Democrats, and effectively everybody watching the race, there was one major thing they thought would go a long way to delivering four more years for Trump, and that was a major round of stimulus in the weeks before the election, complete with checks destined for voters. Given that a swing of fewer than 100,000 votes in the right states would have flipped the election to Trump, it’s fair to say that such a stimulus could indeed have turned the tide for Trump. Yet McConnell stood in the way. We now know with certainty that the Senate majority leader is well aware of the political value of stimulus checks.

“Kelly and David are getting hammered,” McConnell told his Republican flock, explaining why the party would be agreeing not just to a historic-sized piece of legislation, but also to one that included $600 checks for everybody with under a certain income. “Kelly,” of course, is Kelly Loeffler, the wife of the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, appointed to the Senate to replace the retiring Johnny Isaacson, and “David” is David Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General. Both Loeffler and Perdue are facing runoffs in January, and both have used their perch in the Senate to acquire financial information they used to profit on stock trades. But that’s not why they’re getting hammered. They’re getting hammered over checks. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have been blasting away for weeks at Perdue and Loeffler for blocking another round of stimulus, and in particular for blocking checks.

And so McConnell bent to political reality, doing what he didn’t want to do in order to keep control of the Senate. But if it was a price he was willing to pay for Kelly and David and control of the Senate, why wouldn’t he pay the same price to keep control of the White House? The option was available to him. Even if Democratic leaders would have preferred to pass the stimulus after the election, their obstruction beforehand would either have been politically untenable or, if held firm, politically suicidal. So McConnell had the option to press the button, and he knew the button would help Trump, yet he didn’t press it. The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that McConnell did not want to help Trump win.

Read more …

Six Eyes?!

Japan Gave Key Intel On China’s Uighur Crackdown To US and Britain (JT)

Japan provided intelligence to the United States and Britain last year showing evidence of China’s forceful detainment of Muslim Uighur minority on condition of keeping the source confidential, a person close to Japan-U.S. relations said Monday. Based on the information, the United States stepped up criticism against China’s alleged crackdown on Uighurs in the Xinjiang autonomous region, the source said. The move shows Japan has already been sharing key intelligence with partners behind the scenes amid calls within the government to join the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance to better respond to increasing threats by North Korea and China. The intelligence-sharing network involves Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.


Britain joined the United States in pressing Beijing over its crackdown on Uighurs, but Japan has only said it “is closely watching the situation with concern.” Japan seeks to maintain friendly ties with China — its largest trading partner — without hurting relations with its top security ally, the United States. Given that Tokyo’s relations with Beijing had been improving, it was preparing for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit as a state guest in spring 2020, although the planned visit was later postponed after the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Read more …

Interesting to see how this changes after Jan. 20.

Trump Admin Bolsters Order Barring US Investment In Chinese Firms (R.)

The Trump administration on Monday strengthened an executive order barring U.S. investors from buying securities of alleged Chinese military-controlled companies, following disagreement among U.S. agencies about how tough to make the directive. The Treasury Department published guidance clarifying that the executive order, released in November, would apply to investors in exchange-traded funds and index funds as well as subsidiaries of Chinese companies designated as owned or controlled by the Chinese military. The “frequently asked questions” release, posted on the Treasury website on Monday, came after Reuters and other news outlets reported that a debate was raging within the Trump administration over the guidance.


The State Department and the Department of Defense had pushed back against a bid by Treasury Department to water down the executive order, a source said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the announcement “ensures U.S. capital does not contribute to the development and modernization of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military, intelligence, and security services.” “This should allay concerns that U.S. investors might unknowingly support (Chinese military-controlled companies) via direct, indirect, or other passive investments,” he added. Specifically, some media outlets reported that Treasury was seeking to exclude Chinese companies’ subsidiaries from the scope of the White House directive, which bars new purchases of securities of 35 Chinese companies that Washington alleges are backed by the Chinese military, starting in November 2021.

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“They can hear the tinkle of their lucrative perquisites shattering in the creases of their temporal lobes.”

In Darkness Visible (Jim Kunstler)

The signals from the political establishment to Donald Trump ring pretty clear now: get thee hence, thou big-bottomed orange menace to order and sanctity! Has ever a president been lonelier at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in the drear winter months of 1864 seem downright chummy in retrospect and, of course, poor Richard Nixon stayed swozzled on scotch whiskey during the darkest nights of Watergate, when he reputedly wandered the West Wing halls conversing with portraits of his predecessors. The other power centers of America, especially the news media, insist that there is no evidence of fraud in the recent election and it’s time to get on with the hallowed ceremonies of transition.

The post-Christmas suspense is killing them. Mr. Trump will not be moved to declare that he lost the election — probably for the excellent reason that he really didn’t, if there had been anything like an honest tally of the ballots. They hear murmurings of martial law and the Insurrection Act, and it all sounds to them like an imperial Nightmare on Elm Street. They can hear the tinkle of their lucrative perquisites shattering in the creases of their temporal lobes. It’s said in the alt.media that the president wishes to exhaust all the formal alternatives before possibly moving onto the novelty steps of contesting this final act of the four-year coup against him, which brings us all the way to January 6, when the electoral college slates are toted up in the House chamber, Vice President Pence presiding. One popular fantasy has the Veep tossing out “certified” votes from states where irregularities were starkest in favor of alt.slates submitted by Republican-majority state legislatures — with Hieronymus Bosch-style Antifa chaos to follow all over the land.

Sounds like a low percentage deal to me, but then… what’s actually at stake here? Not to be too melodramatic, but something kind of like a Manchurian Candidate situation. How okay is it, actually, for Joe Biden, with a record of accepting large sums of money from China’s intel apparatus, to move into the Oval Office, especially after they laid the Covid-19 trip on the world? No problemo, the DNC and its vast network of apparatchiks answer. There’s no evidence of Ol’ Joe colluding for pay!

Read more …

“… and Has Nothing To Do With Trump”

The Threat of Authoritarianism in the US is Very Real (Greenwald)

The lockdowns from the pandemic have ushered in a collapse of small businesses across the U.S. that has only further fortified the power of corporate giants. “Billionaires increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5%) at the height of the crisis from April to July, just as millions of people around the world lost their jobs or were struggling to get by on government schemes,” reported The Guardian in September. A study from July told part of the story: The combined wealth of the world’s super-rich reached a new peak during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published by the consulting firm PwC and the Swiss bank UBC on Wednesday. The more than 2,000 billionaires around the world managed to amass fortunes totalling around $10.2 trillion (€8.69 trillion) by July, surpassing the previous record of $8.9 trillion reached in 2017.

Meanwhile, though exact numbers are unknown, “roughly one in five small businesses have closed,” AP notes, adding: “restaurants, bars, beauty shops and other retailers that involve face-to-face contact have been hardest hit at a time when Americans are trying to keep distance from one another.” Employees are now almost completely at the mercy of a handful of corporate giants which are thriving, far more trans-national than with any allegiance to the U.S. A Brookings Institution study this week — entitled “Amazon and Walmart have raked in billions in additional profits during the pandemic, and shared almost none of it with their workers” — found that “the COVID-19 pandemic has generated record profits for America’s biggest companies, as well as immense wealth for their founders and largest shareholders—but next to nothing for workers.”

These COVID “winners” are not the Randian victors in free market capitalism. Quite the contrary, they are the recipients of enormous amounts of largesse from the U.S. Government, which they control through armies of lobbyists and donations and which therefore constantly intervenes in the market for their benefit. This is not free market capitalism rewarding innovative titans, but rather crony capitalism that is abusing the power of the state to crush small competitors, lavish corporate giants with ever more wealth and power, and turn millions of Americans into vassals whose best case scenario is working multiple jobs at low hourly wages with no benefits, few rights, and even fewer options.

[..] What makes this most menacing of all is that the primary beneficiaries of these rapid changes are Silicon Valley giants, at least three of which — Facebook, Google, and Amazon — are now classic monopolies. That the wealth of their primary owners and executives — Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai — has skyrocketed during the pandemic is well-covered, but far more significant is the unprecedented power these companies exert over the dissemination of information and conduct of political debates, to say nothing of the immense data they possess about our lives by virtue of online surveillance.

Read more …

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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Dec 282020
 


Eugene Delacroix Greece expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi 1826

 

 

A little personal thank you note from the Automatic Earth is in order. 2020 has been an annus horribilis across the world, but we have been blessed with lots of attention and comments, as well as great support from our readers throughout the year, both for the Automatic Earth itself and for the Monastiraki social kitchen in Athens. Problem is, I have so many people to say thank you to.

We started covering the coronavirus early on, in January, and never looked back. Many people got their first exposure to the virus through us (pun very much intended). What developed throughout 2020 was not just a solid reader-base, but also a maturing comments section, that taught me as much as it did readers.

Thank you for that. The comments from medical professionals and others became a strong part of the entire story. And it was by no means a one-sided thing; opinions were always all over the place, as they should be.

That’s the big problem in my view that we face these days: our media have become one-dimensional, the exact opposite of what they should be. This became clear through the Trump era, and the incessant hammering of one actor vs the deafening silence about all others in the same theater and on the same stage.

 

And we see that again today: try, if you can, to find in the MSM a critical opinion about lockdowns, or facemasks, or about the newly-fangled vaccines. It’s very hard if not impossible. This one-dimensionality hides behind “the science”. Which is something that doesn’t really exist, as we know because scientists in different countries contradict each other, as do those in the same country, and scientists even often contradict themselves.

If you want people to “follow the science”, you need to convince them that this is the right thing to do. You can’t just force them to do it. Or, rather, you can try that for a short period of time, and then they will come after you. People don’t live their lives in one dimension; they can’t.

Are facemasks useful? Sure, in crowded indoor spaces. But outdoors? I have yet to see the first evidence of that, and I do read an awful lot. Let’s inject some nuance here: if there is a risk of 1 in 100,000 that someone gets infected outdoors, it that worth forcing 99,999 people to put facemasks on? Or would you rather ask them to wear those where it demonstrably matters?

Are lockdowns useful? Sure, but they can only ever be emergency measures, short and “sweet”. Because they risk destroying entire economies and societies. Lockdowns should only be used when there are no other measures available anymore.

But we haven’t exhausted the scope of all other measures, not at all. There are no governments promoting the large scale use of vitamin D, or the proper use of hydroxychloroquine, and Chris Martenson even sees his videos about ivermectin banned from YouTube. As all three substances show great promise in preventing infections, and/or limiting the consequences of being infected.

We’ve been reduced to one-dimensional lives. By now, politicians and “scientists” would rather see everyone be infected, and then “cured” by a vaccine, then not get infected in the first place. In one dimension, the world easily gets turned upside down. You just wouldn’t be able to see it, because you need three dimensions to recognize what “upside down” looks like.

 

The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines may work very well, but we don’t know, because we haven’t researched that. Which, if you want to “follow the science”, is a very strange thing to do. Of course we would all like the virus to be gone, but ignoring the science doesn’t look like the way to achieve that. And that’s what we’re doing: we’re not following the science, we’re ignoring it where that fits our purposes.

We don’t know if the Pfizer vaccine protects you from being infected, we don’t know if it keeps you from infecting others, but we do know governments and airlines are talking about requiring evidence that you’ve received a dose. But for what purpose, then, exactly? Just to let all the MPs and CEOs people claim they did what they could?

-Too- many people have lost their jobs and their businesses without any country seriously having tried to stop people from becoming infected through the use of vit. D, HCQ, ivermectin. Many of these jobs and businesses will never come back. Is this worth it? Maybe if we could say we tried everything we could, but we obviously haven’t.

We sold our souls to the “science” and then to the vaccine. Which are two very very different things.

If there’s ever been a time to ask questions, it must be now. About lockdowns, facemasks and viruses, about people, communities, societies, economies. That we are being pressured into not asking those questions, makes them even more necessary.

 

Anyway, those are all issues and questions that will need to be addressed in 2021, we’ve run out of 2020 time. It’s just that it wouldn’t have been necessary; we could easily have done much if not most of it this year. But we have become information-poor, and by design to boot. Which is the opposite of what the Automatic Earth wants to be and do. We want to present all the information, and that without paywalls or things like that.

There are too many of those already, and their main effect is to restrict information at a time when people arguably need more of it. Our model of increasingly relying on donations has worked out alright in 2020, and we hope the same will be true in the new year. Thank you again so kindly for making that possible.

 

A last word, again, about the Monastiraki kitchen: when you see things get harder for yourself, as so many have, it should be a natural reflex to wonder how they are for those less fortunate, because it’s a safe bet they will be hit even harder. It took me way too long to learn that. The team at the kitchen have that down: give, give, and never take. Enormous thanks to all of them.

That you allow me to support them is an honor, and a great responsibility which I take very seriously, both to those who donate and those who receive. Thank you, all of you.

One day when you’re old, and you ask yourself what has been the most important thing you did in your life, the answer will have to be what you did for other people. That is both the only possible outcome, and it’s also at the same time the very thing that is threatened most by the incessant lockdowns and facemask mandates. People need people.

Have a great 2021, stick with the Automatic Earth, and stick with each other.

 

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site.

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

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime, election time, all the time. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

Dec 282020
 
 December 28, 2020  Posted by at 10:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Juan Gris Grapes 1913

 

Trump Averts Shutdown, Signs $2.3 Trillion Spending And COVID Relief Bill (JTN)
Trump Signs Covid-19 Bill: Announces Congress Review of Section 230 (SAC)
Georgia Runoff Results May Not Be Known ‘for Weeks’ (RS)
Special Counsel Is Guaranteed If Biden Picks Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG
Most Europeans, Including Hospital Staff, Refuse To Take Vaccine (ZH)
Vaccines To Cause COVID Rates To Drop In Nursing Homes Soon – Gottlieb (JTN)
How Cancel Culture Keeps COVID19 Lockdown Doubters Silent (NYP)
Chinese Banks To Feel Fundraising Pain As Investors Fear Bad Loans (R.)
China Pushes Ant Group Overhaul In Latest Crackdown On Ma (R.)
Brexit: Britons Warned On Travel Insurance, Roaming Charges And Exports (Sky)

 

 

The attempts to shut down the discussion about vaccines will backfire spectacularly. We need to have that discussion, badly. “Believe in the science” has been turned into “Believe in the vaccine”. But those are not the same thing.

 

 

You think you are following the science when, in fact, you are following the media’s and politicos’ presentation of the science. Follow the science is a rallying cry by all but the scientists.
– Dave Collum

 

 

Dr. Kary Mullis, inventor of the PCR test, on the fraud who is called Dr. Fauci

 

 

What are the odds of $2,000 by now?

Trump Averts Shutdown, Signs $2.3 Trillion Spending And COVID Relief Bill (JTN)

President Trump on Sunday night signed a $2.3 trillion federal spending and COVID relief bill, averting a government shutdown and ensuring millions of Americans continue to get unemployment benefits. Despite his misgivings about wasteful spending and low stimulus payments in the bill, Trump said he signed the legislation because “I have an obligation to protect the people of our country“ from further economic devastation. He said, however, “more money is coming” as Congress votes this week on larger checks. The president on Sunday also invoked the 1974 Impoundment Control Act to demand “rescissions” be made to the spending measures. Under the Act, a president can seek congressional approval to rescind funds by sending a special message to Congress identifying the amount he proposes to cut, the reasons for it, and the economic impact.


“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” Trump said. The signing came after Trump tweeted, “Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!” The signing brought hope to millions of Americans who lost jobless benefits over the weekend as a federal shutdown loomed. The standoff occurred after Trump refused before Christmas to sign the $2.3 trillion spending and COVID relief bill, demanding more money for everyday Americans. Congress failed to address the president’s demands to increase the $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 per person.

Read more …

What substance does the review have?

Trump Signs Covid-19 Bill: Announces Congress Review of Section 230 (SAC)

President Trump signed on Sunday the Covid-19 stimulus package, saying that the bill will “restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more.” Trump also announced that the House of Representatives will vote on Monday to increase “payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000 and that a family of four would receive $5,200.” Another unexpected announcement was that Congress has promised to review Section 230, “which so unfairly benefits Big Tech at the expense of the American people.” Trump said that he expect them to either terminate it or substantially reform it.

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“What we have seen traditionally in Georgia that Republicans are much more reliable runoff voters than Democrats are. The republican have a pretty long string of unbroken wins in statewide runoffs..”

Georgia Runoff Results May Not Be Known ‘for Weeks’ (RS)

One of the reasons that folks on the right have been so upset over the Nov. 3 election is not just that many believe it was stolen from President Donald Trump, but also the concern that if you don’t fully answer/resolve the questions that have been raised about the election, then you can’t be assured that it won’t happen again. A recent USA Today poll found that fully 78% of Republicans don’t believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected. While the media wants to blame that on President Donald Trump, as indeed they blame everything, it has far more to do with the media failure to actually address the questions raised, dismissing sworn affidavits and the failure to comply with state laws. That’s a big issue when you fail to address the concerns of that many people.

Now, as we approach the Georgia run-offs, Fox is reporting that we may not know the winners in the run-offs for “weeks.” From the NY Post: “Election officials in Georgia are gearing up for the possibility that next month’s Senate runoff elections may spend weeks in litigation before a final winner is determined. The state has become closely divided in recent years and both Democrats and Republicans expect the results to be razor-thin.” Until just enough ballots come in to declare Democrats the winners? Check this hot take: “Given what happened after the presidential election, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see attempts to challenge the results, especially if Democrats win,” Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We’re already seeing questions about signature verification, challenges of new voter registration. This could all just be a glimpse of the future.” Yes, how dare people be concerned about signature verification?! Or be concerned about people falsely registering to vote in the state to influence the election? Shouldn’t everyone be concerned about those questions? From Fox5 Atlanta: “This is no run-of-the-mill runoff. The fate of the nation’s balance of power Is on the table here,” political strategist Brian Robinson said. [….] “What we have seen traditionally in Georgia that Republicans are much more reliable runoff voters than Democrats are. The republican have a pretty long string of unbroken wins in statewide runoffs,” he said. “They want to make sure Democrats don’t control every level of power in Washington. That’s a very powerful motivator. Democrats are fat and happy because they got what they want in Washington.”

Read more …

“If I wasn’t governor of New York, I would have decked Trump. Period.”

Special Counsel Is Guaranteed If Biden Picks Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG

In recent days, President-elect Joe Biden has stated that his attorney general will not be “the president’s lawyer,” adding that he promises his “justice department will be totally on its own making its judgments about how to proceed.” And who could disagree? The attorney general is the top cop in the land, and no person, not even the president, as Richard Nixon once claimed in a famous interview with British journalist David Frost, is above the law. But Biden’s AG shortlist says quite the opposite of his declaration of AG independence. Take Sally Yates, the former federal prosecutor who has become a media darling in recent years for the same reason almost everyone else has: Her resistance efforts against President Trump while using the kind of soaring rhetoric one would expect in your average Aaron Sorkin production.

“Put simply, [Trump] treats our country like it’s his family business. This time, bankrupting our nation’s moral authority at home and abroad,” Yates said during her endorsement speech of Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention. “But our country doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to all of us. Joe Biden embraces that. He has spent his entire life putting our country first.” “He has never backed down from a challenge or a bully,” she continued. “He summons the best in us, and lives by the values that define us as Americans, service, integrity, courage, compassion.” Yup. Yates is just the person to lead the Justice Department given that perspective and rhetoric. And we can be totally sure that if Biden asked her not to pursue any investigation of his son Hunter Biden any further than the current FBI investigation that has been ongoing for more than a year, she’ll completely resist doing so in the name of service and integrity, right?

Rhetorical question. How about Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.)? The 2020 Emmy winner is reportedly on Biden’s shortlist as well. “If I wasn’t governor of New York, I would have decked Trump. Period,” Cuomo told Howard Stern last month in response to a question regarding Trump calling his brother Chris “Fredo,” a reference to the hapless Godfather character. “I mean he was attacking me, he was attacking my family, he was anti-Italian.” This is the same Cuomo who said this of Trump even considering returning to his home state of New York. “He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City,” Cuomo told reporters in September in a not-so-veiled threat to a sitting president “Forget bodyguards. He better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the streets in New York.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo has resisted at every turn calls for an independent investigation into his order to send COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes, resulting in the deaths of thousands. Fortunately for those looking for the truth, the Justice Department has expanded an investigation into the matter, which Cuomo calls “a political charade.” As for the whole-work-independent-of-Biden thing, Cuomo, who never met a camera he didn’t like, also spoke at the DNC in August in endorsing Biden. Yup. This is just the guy to serve as the top cop in the land.

Read more …

[In Bulgaria] “..only 15% of the population will actually volunteer for a vaccine in the near future..”

Most Europeans, Including Hospital Staff, Refuse To Take Vaccine (ZH)

All is not going according to plan in the biggest global rollout of what is arguably the most important vaccine in a century, and it is not just growing US mistrust in the covid injection effort that was rolled out in record time: an unexpected spike in allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (and now, Moderna too) may prove catastrophic to widespread acceptance unless scientists can figure out what is causing it after the FDA’s rushed approval, and is also why as we reported yesterday, scientists are scrambling to identify the potential culprit causing the allergic reactions. Making matters worse, Europe rolled out a huge COVID-19 vaccination drive on Sunday to try to rein in the coronavirus pandemic but even more Europeans than American are sceptical about the speed at which the vaccines have been tested and approved and reluctant to have the shot.

While the European Union has secured contracts drugmakers including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, for a total of more than two billion doses and has set a goal for all adults to be inoculated next year, this is looking increasingly like a pipe dream: according to recent surveys, the local population has expressed “high levels of hesitancy” towards inoculation in countries from France to Poland, with many used to vaccines taking decades to develop, not just months. “I don’t think there’s a vaccine in history that has been tested so quickly,” Ireneusz Sikorski, 41, said as he stepped out of a church in central Warsaw with his two children. “I am not saying vaccination shouldn’t be taking place. But I am not going to test an unverified vaccine on my children, or on myself.”

Smart: why take the risk of getting vaccinated when others will do it, resulting in the same outcome. Surveys in Poland, where distrust in public institutions runs deep, show that fewer than 40% of people planning to get vaccinated. Worse, according to Reuters on Sunday, only half the medical staff in a Warsaw hospital where the country’s first shot was administered had signed up. And if the doctors don’t trust the vaccine, one can be certain that the broader population will refuse to take it. The situation is similar in Spain, one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries, where 28-year-old singer and music composer German summarizes the skepticism of a broad range of the population, and plans to wait for now. “No one close to me has had it (COVID-19). I’m obviously not saying it doesn’t exist because lots of people have died of it, but for now I wouldn’t have it (the vaccine).”

A Christian Orthodox bishop in Bulgaria, where 45% of people have said they would not get a shot and 40% plan to wait to see if any negative side effects appear – meaning only 15% of the population will actually volunteer for a vaccine in the near future – is in the tiny minority when it comes to taking the vaccine.

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“..maybe as early as this week..”? But doesn’t it take two jobs, a month apart? How can this be true?

Vaccines To Cause COVID Rates To Drop In Nursing Homes Soon – Gottlieb (JTN)

Nursing homes likely should begin to see COVID-19 infection rates drop in coming days, the former Former Food and Drug Administration chief said Sunday. “We will begin to see some indication that the vaccines are probably having an effect maybe as early as this week, because we know that immunity does begin to kick in about a week after vaccination,” Scott Gottlieb said while appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Vaccines normally offer immunity about a week after being administered, Gottlieb said. According to that standard, he said, death rates in American nursing homes should soon go down. “That will start to have an impact on the mortality trends with COVID, but it’s coming late in the season,” he said. “Vaccinations will take about three weeks to get through all of the nursing homes,”Gottlieb said.

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We badly need the discussion.

How Cancel Culture Keeps COVID19 Lockdown Doubters Silent (NYP)

“Thank you so much for speaking out to open schools. I can’t do it myself, for obvious reasons.” “I completely agree with you about opening schools in September, but I’m afraid I’ll be targeted at my job.” These were just a few of the supportive reader comments I received over the summer and fall, as I wrote column after column urging that schools be reopened. They opened a revealing window onto the mechanics of social control in the age of COVID-19. My correspondents’ fear was obvious: Say the wrong thing online, and have your life destroyed. Cancel culture has permeated everything, including debates over how to deal with the pandemic. Schools had been open in other countries for months, and they were all reporting lower positivity rates than their surrounding communities.


My arguments were measured and evidence-based: The data were making the case for reopening schools all by themselves. Yet most of the rest of the media seemed determined to tell the story from only one perspective: that of lockdown hard-liners, not least teacher-union bosses. This paper aside, very few outlets pushed for school openings. On the left, the conversation is heavily policed, with clear red lines drawn around “unacceptable” opinion. Reopening schools was treated as “irresponsible,” even though the numbers said otherwise. It wasn’t until Oct. 9 when things began to shift. That’s when a piece headlined “Schools Aren’t Super-Spreaders” appeared in The Atlantic. The piece didn’t exactly break new ground. What mattered is that it appeared in a liberal publication. That made it OK to believe and say what even many liberal parents knew but didn’t dare voice.

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Chinese banks are a murky lot. Question is does Xi want to allow them to fail?

Chinese Banks To Feel Fundraising Pain As Investors Fear Bad Loans (R.)

Chinese banks are expected to face headwinds raising funds next year as profit-conscious investors cling to the sidelines, expecting a wave of bad loans to hammer the sector and erode already slimming margins. The sector is ending its worst annual performance in years after putting aside record provisions due to COVID-19 while Beijing urged banks to sacrifice profits to help the economy. Next year as lenders end pandemic-related loan forbearance – which let borrowers suspend repayments or pay less in interest – banks must bolster their capital against loans previously not classified as nonperforming. Big and medium-sized lenders also need to improve their capital adequacy as demanded by global and domestic watchdogs.


China’s banks raised 1.2 trillion yuan ($18 billion) in the first 11 months of the year, off the pace of 1.5 trillion yuan for all of 2019, data from Fitch Ratings shows. The 26 listed banks may need to replenish at least 1.25 trillion yuan of capital in 2021, Shenzhen-based brokerage Guosheng Securities estimates. “The pressure of capital-raising for the whole banking industry is still pretty big,” said Vivian Xue, Fitch’s director of Asia-Pacific financial institutions. “China’s largest banks will need to raise substantial capital or loss-absorbing debt over the next few years.” The four largest – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China – face a shortfall in this loss-absorbing debt of 4.7 trillion yuan by the end of 2024 to meet requirements set by the Basel-based Financial Stability Board, according to Fitch.

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China’s biggest loanshark?

China Pushes Ant Group Overhaul In Latest Crackdown On Ma (R.)

China’s central bank disclosed on Sunday it had asked the country’s payments giant Ant Group Co Ltd to shake up its lending and other consumer finance operations, the latest blow to its billionaire founder and controlling shareholder Jack Ma. The announcement came more than a month after Chinese regulators abruptly suspended Ant’s blockbuster $37 billion initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and only days after the country’s antitrust authorities said they had launched a probe into Ma’s e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Chinese regulators and Communist Party officials have set about reining in Ma’s sprawling financial empire after he publicly criticized the country’s regulatory system in October for stifling innovation.


Regulators have urged Ant to rectify financial regulatory violations, including in its credit, insurance and wealth management businesses, and overhaul its credit rating business to protect personal information, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) Vice Governor Pan Gongsheng said on Sunday. Pan’s comments stopped short of calling for a breakup of Ant, yet pointed to a significant operational restructuring. Ant should set up a separate holding company to ensure capital adequacy and regulatory compliance, Pan said. Ant should also be fully licensed to operate its personal credit business, and be more transparent about its third-party payment transactions and not engage in unfair competition, Pan added. Ant said in a statement it would establish a “rectification” working group and fully implement regulatory requirements.

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It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.

Brexit: Britons Warned On Travel Insurance, Roaming Charges And Exports (Sky)

Britons travelling to the European Union have been warned they face disruption and potential charges after the Brexit transition period ends on Thursday. Travellers from the UK have previously been able to rely on free healthcare with their European Health Insurance Card, and to escape roaming charges thanks to a ban on the fees throughout the bloc. But the trade deal brokered between the European Union and the UK does not allow for Britons to keep either of these advantages. The deal only says both sides must encourage mobile providers to have “transparent and reasonable rates”, while government guidance tells British travellers to check with their mobile provider to see what charges they will face.

Any British visitor to the EU will also have to make sure their passport has enough validity when they begin their journey. Cabinet minister Michael Gove acknowledged there will be “some disruption” as the nation adjusts, so he said “it is vital” to be as ready as possible. Mr Gove also warned businesses that the time left to make final preparations before the new deal comes into force “is very short”. Businesses must understand the new rules on importing and exporting goods between Great Britain and the EU, as well as rules when trading with Northern Ireland. EU officials are set to meet on Monday to discuss the Brexit trade deal agreed with the UK on Christmas Eve. If the Brexit agreement, covering £660bn of trade, can be provisionally approved by EU ambassadors, it will then move on to formal ratification by the European Parliament.

It will almost certainly be passed by the UK parliament this week, with Labour backing what it describes as a “thin” treaty, as the alternative would be a chaotic no-deal situation on 1 January. And Boris Johnson has said that, although he accepts that “the devil is in the detail” of the deal, he believes that it will stand up to inspection from sceptics such as the European Research Group of Brexiteers.

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