Georgia O’Keeffe Street of New York II 1926
If Julian Assange’s bail is denied today, that will be a huge disappointment for many people. Craig Murray doesn’t think it will be denied, because the US appeal risks opening can of worms for them.
Big day for Assange, big day also for Trump?!
— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) January 5, 2021
Murray remains very optimistic.
I am not sure that at this stage the High Court would accept a new guarantee from the USA that Assange would not be kept in isolation or in a Supermax prison; that would be contrary to the affidavit from Assistant Secretary of State Kromberg and thus would probably be ruled to amount to new evidence. Not to mention that Baraitser heard other evidence that such assurances had been received in the case of Abu Hamza, but had been broken. Hamza is not only kept in total isolation, but as a man with no hands he is deprived of prosthetics that would enable him to brush his teeth, and he has no means of cutting his nails nor assistance to do so, and cannot effectively wipe himself in the toilet. Not only is it hard to see the point of law on which the USA could launch an appeal, it is far from plain that they have a motive to do so.
Baraitser agreed with all the substantive points of argument put forward by the US government. She stated that there was no bar on extradition from the UK for political offences; she agreed that publication of national security material did constitute an offence in the USA under the Espionage Act and would do so in the UK under the Official Secrets Act, with no public interest defence in either jurisdiction; she agreed that encouraging a source to leak classified information is a crime; she agreed Wikileaks’ publications had put lives at risk. On all of these points she dismissed virtually without comment all the defence arguments and evidence. As a US Justice Department spokesman said yesterday: “While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised.
In particular, the court rejected all of Mr Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offence, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr Assange’s extradition to the United States.” That is a fair categorisation of what happened. Appealing a verdict that is such a good result for the United States does not necessarily make sense for the Justice Department. Edward Fitzgerald explained to me yesterday that, if the USA appeals the decision on the health and prison condition grounds, it becomes open to the defence to counter-appeal on all the other grounds, which would be very desirable indeed given the stark implications of Baraitser’s ruling for media freedom. I have always believed that Baraitser would rule as she did on the substantial points, but I have always also believed that those extreme security state arguments would never survive the scrutiny of better judges in a higher court.
Unlike the health ruling, the dispute over Baraitser’s judgement on all the other points does come down to classic errors in law which can successfully be argued on appeal. If the USA does appeal the judgement, it is far more likely that not only will the health grounds be upheld, but also that Baraitser’s positions on extradition for political offences and freedom of the media will be overturned, than it is likely that the US will achieve extradition. They have fourteen days in which to lodge the appeal – now thirteen. An appeal result is in short likely to be humiliating for the USA. It would be much wiser for the US to let sleeping dogs lie. But pride and the wound to the US sense of omnipotence and exceptionalism may drive them to an appeal which, for the reasons given above, I would actually welcome provided Julian is out on bail. Which I expect he shall be shortly.
Not sure the DOJ has much say in this.
The federal prosecutor seeking to try WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges said he’s uncertain about whether the administration of President-elect Joe Biden would continue the extradition effort. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, pointed out that the Assange case had already consumed years of work by line prosecutors and other officials. A judge in the United Kingdom dealt American prosecutors a blow Monday by rejecting their efforts to transfer Assange to the United States, citing his mental health troubles. The Justice Department pledged that it would appeal — a process that could drag on for months, if not longer. That means the issue of how to handle Assange, accused in one of the largest compromises of classified information in history, will be one of many questions for the new leadership team at the Justice Department.
“It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case,” Terwilliger said. “There’ll be some decisions to be made. Some of this does come down to resources and where you’re going to focus your energies.” For its part, the Biden transition didn’t comment directly on what position it would take in the Assange matter. But a spokesperson pointed out that Biden has called for an independent Justice Department in his administration. Terwilliger spoke to NPR on one of his final days in government service. Later this month, he’s set to join the law firm Vinson & Elkins. Terwilliger, 39, will beef up the firm’s white collar crime practice, after spending his entire career –a dozen years — on the other side of the courtroom as a career prosecutor and political appointee at the Justice Department.
These reports keep coming in.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency has announced that two nursing home residents passed away days after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and that an investigation has been launched into the deaths. “We have to assess whether the vaccine is the cause of death, or if it is a coincidence that it happened soon after vaccination,” Medical Director Steiner Madsen said in a statement about the deaths. He also noted that, because people of advanced age are receiving the vaccine first, it is entirely possible the deaths could be coincidental. Around 400 people die every week in Norwegian nursing homes.
The agency, along with the National Institute of Public Health, are looking into the deaths. Reported side effects from the vaccine have been minor and temporary, although there have been reports of allergic reactions in the US and UK among people who had a history of such. Numerous government officials have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including US Vice President Mike Pence. Vaccinations with the drug began in Norway on December 27.
That’s a lot.
With reports this morning of another otherwise-healthy patient dying suddenly after receiving her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, many skeptics in both Europe and the US still have serious reservations about the jabs, even as big pharma and their allies in the US and British governments insist that they are 100% safe. Everyone claiming otherwise is not only wrongheaded, but acting in a deliberately malicious manner. This is why commentary like a video posted by DoubleLine’s Jeffrey Gundlach where he questions the sky-high efficacy numbers published after the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech trials has elicited such vehement repudiation.
However, as new questions about efficacy and timing arise, independent journalist Alex Berenson, one of the most prominent skeptics of lockdowns and masks in the US, noted in a twitter thread earlier on Tuesday that the percentage of patients experiencing severe or potentially life-threatening reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines could be much higher than the data collected by the CDC are letting on. The CDC’s VAERS reporting system was set up to track vaccine-related injury, Most patients can expect to experience some kind of adverse reaction, but for the vast majority of patients, symptoms will be relatively mild and clear up within a couple of days.
But amid a rush of reports about patient deaths, Berenson points out that the number of patients seeing serious complications per the number of doses distributed is roughly 50x higher than the rate of ‘adverse’ reactions caused by the flu vaccine. Berenson also speculated that this number might be even higher due to possible delays in updating the CDC’s data sets. This would seemingly confirm rates of adverse reactions seen during clinical trials. What’s more, clinical trials, generally speaking, tend to “UNDERSTATE” unpleasant or unwanted side effects, while they “OVERSTATE” the drug’s efficacy.
“it is quite clear that they are not responsible for any side effects. If you become an alligator, it’s your problem.”
Peru has reached an impasse with Pfizer as it negotiates a deal for a Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health minister said, citing a conflict over legal immunity for the pharma firm that could undermine Peru’s sovereignty. While officials have remained in “constant contact” with Pfizer since the summer, the talks ran into trouble last month amid “controversy” over some clauses of the agreement, including those linked to pricing and delivery, as well as legal immunities for the pharmaceutical giant in the case its inoculation leads to death or injury, health minister Pilar Mazzetti told lawmakers on Tuesday. “With Pfizer there are some details where there is no agreement,” Mazzetti said, adding “This has to do with prices and the delivery schedule” as well as “the waiving of important elements such as … jurisdictional immunity.”
“It is true that one needs the vaccine but it is also true that there are aspects related to aspects of our sovereignty that the country has to protect … it has to do with risk for future generations.” The health chief noted that since most aspects of the negotiations are protected under a confidentiality agreement, she could not offer further detail on the ongoing row, but assured that the talks continue. “We hope that the controversy will be resolved so we will be able to determine when the vaccine will arrive,” she went on. Though the country announced a final deal with Pfizer for nearly 10 million vaccine doses in late November, Mazzetti said the process stalled after some clauses in the agreement required “more in-depth analysis” to determine whether they are compatible with Peruvian law.
The Latin American nation is not the first to voice concerns about legal liability waivers in their talks with the pharma firm, with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro observing last month that “it is quite clear that they are not responsible for any side effects. If you become an alligator, it’s your problem.” Officials in Argentina have raised similar worries. As the liability concerns become a major obstacle for some nations, the World Bank said on Tuesday that it is working with over 100 countries to address the issue, whether through local legislative efforts or other processes. The World Bank Group’s president, David Malpass, also noted that the agency aims to distribute $160 billion in resources by June to help developing countries obtain immunizations and fight the pandemic.
Roughly half a million residents of Wuhan—the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated—may have been infected with the virus, a figure that is about ten times higher than what was initially reported. The study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed more than thirty-four thousand people in April, and it eventually discovered that 4.4 percent of those tested were found to be carrying the antibodies for the coronavirus. The presence of antibodies means that individuals, at one point in time, had been carriers of the virus. As of Sunday, Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million, had reported a total of 50,354 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.
The Chinese CDC noted that the study was conducted a month after China “contained the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic.” The study also indicated that the infection rate in Wuhan was significantly higher than in other major cities and provinces. For example, it revealed that only 0.44 percent of Hubei residents were found to be carrying the antibodies. “Exactly how much we have missed we don’t exactly know, but this gives us an idea that we have missed quite a bit,” Ian Mackay, an associated professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, told the South China Morning Post. Song Fujian, of Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in Britain, told the paper that “given the chaotic situation and limited testing capability during the early phase of the epidemic in Wuhan,” the serological survey results might be “more accurate than the reported number of confirmed cases.”
It’s only been a year.
The Australian government has called on China to allow a visit by World Health Organization experts investigating how the coronavirus pandemic started, insisting the country should grant them visas “without delay”. Canberra raised its concerns on Wednesday over reports that Chinese authorities had blocked the arrival of a WHO team investigating the early cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan. With China arguing the team’s visas had not yet been approved, even as some members of the group were on their way to the country, the development has heightened fears among Australian politicians about whether the WHO mission will be able to uncover answers needed to better prepare the world for the next pandemic.
The Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said she hoped “that the necessary permissions for the WHO team’s travel to China can be issued without delay”. Speaking after months of rocky relations between the two countries, partly triggered by Australia’s calls for such an investigation, Payne said Australia had “consistently sought transparency in relation to the origins of, and responses to the coronavirus, as have other countries”. “The WHO-convened scientific study is an important part of this work and we look forward to the findings from the international field mission to China,” she said. “During this global pandemic that has affected all countries, international cooperation and partnerships will maximise our ability to respond, and to equip us for the next pandemic.”
53 arrests reported. Including activists’ lawyers.
Update 11:00pm ET: In what would be a shocking development, Bloomberg reports that during its “massive crackdown” purging countless local activists and politicians, the Hong Kong police – i.e. China – has arrested American Lawyer, John Clancey, using as a pretext the National Security Law, which everyone warned China would use as strawman to crack down on Hong Kong citizens and activists. Well, it now appears that the emboldened Beijing – which is delighted by the ascent of pro-China pushover Joe Biden to the White House – is also using that law to arrest American citizens.
H.K. ARRESTS AMERICAN LAWYER JOHN CLANCEY, COLLEAGUE SAYS
CLANCEY ARRESTED UNDER NATIONAL SECURITY LAW: COLLEAGUE
In response, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent out a harshly worded tweet, warning China that the “Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.” We eagerly await to see just what the
BlinkenBiden administration will do, besides tweeting angrily in China’s general direction, to secure release of an American citizen unjustly arrested by Chinese proxies in Hong Kong.
Earlier: “Massive Crackdown”: Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens Of Politicians & Activists 2021 is less than a week old and already Beijing is ramping up its efforts to suppress what’s left of the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong. Right now, China hawks are preoccupied right now by a number of issues: the disappearance of Jack Ma (note: CNBC claims the Alibaba founder is just “laying low”), Beijing’s refusal to allow international investigators inside the Wuhan Institue of Virology and, finally, the CCP’s abusive treatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority. Now, less than two months after the last 19 members of the HK LegCo’s pro-democracy opposition quit en masse over Beijing’s demands that they swear a loyalty oath to uphold the new national security law and the supremacy of the CCP, Hong Kong police have rounded up dozens of pro-democracy activists.
“..more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain and independent — are in an economic free fall.”
The restaurant industry is in the midst of a complete and total meltdown that is unlike anything that we have ever seen before. If you ask Google how many restaurants there are in the United States, it will tell you that there are 660,755, although that number is a few years old. But for the purposes of this article, that is a good enough estimate. Americans love to eat out, and restaurant workers are some of the hardest working people in the entire country. So it is incredibly sad to see more restaurants constantly going under. In some cases, restaurants that have served their communities for decades are deciding to permanently close their doors. For example, over the weekend Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in New York City announced that it had finally reached the end of the road…
[..] Unfortunately, Sammy’s is far from alone. In fact, in a recent article that he penned for Fox Business, Adam Piper lamented the fact that more than 100,000 U.S. restaurants have gone out of business during this pandemic… “State and local governments have wielded the coronavirus pandemic as license to steal freedom and opportunity in pursuit of unprecedented omnipotence. Unreasonable, unnecessary and hypocritical actions have forced over 100,000 restaurants to close and endanger countless others.” And according to Bloomberg, the true number of dead restaurants is now over 110,000… “More than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long-term across the country as the industry grapples with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Just think about that. More than one out of every six restaurants in the U.S. is already gone, and the National Restaurant Association is warning that there will be more carnage in the months ahead because the industry is in “an economic free fall”… “The restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at the association, said in a letter to Congress. “What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain and independent — are in an economic free fall.” This is what an economic depression looks like. With tens of thousands of restaurants sitting empty, and with tens of thousands of others not paying rent, the stage has been set for a commercial real estate disaster of unprecedented scope and size.
Of course there are millions of square feet of office space and retail space that are not being productive right now as well. In a recent article, Lee Adler referred to this looming commercial real estate nightmare as “a monster in the room”… “I think that if there’s anything that illustrates the head in the sand problem of the banks, it’s this. Commercial real estate (CRE) finance. There’s a monster in the room. All that empty space. No longer income producing.” For now, big financial institutions are doing their best to hide their coming losses, but according to Adler for certain sectors the losses will simply be unavoidable… “Multifamily will take a haircut but will survive. My guess is that industrial, while overpriced and overvalued, will produce enough income to get by. Office and retail? Kiss it goodbye. It’s done. Over. Kaput.”
Victoria Nuland is the worst America has to offer.
President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team have begun to fill out top positions on the incoming National Security Council and at the State Department, with key roles like deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State going to veterans of the Obama administration. At the State Department, longtime diplomat Wendy Sherman will be nominated to serve as Secretary of State-designee Tony Blinken’s deputy, according to two people close to the transition. Sherman previously served as under secretary of State for political affairs in the Obama administration and was a lead negotiator for the Iran deal. Sherman is currently a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, the same firm where Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also worked as a senior counselor.
Another veteran diplomat, Victoria Nuland, will be nominated for the role of under secretary of State for political affairs, one of the people said. Nuland also previously served in the Obama administration, as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Nuland and Sherman, who entered academia and the think tank world after leaving the Obama administration, have been outspoken critics of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy — particularly his appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the National Security Council, former State Department official Jon Finer will be named deputy national security adviser, the people said, reporting up to incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
Finer, a former journalist, joined the Obama White House as a fellow in 2009 and served in various roles throughout Obama’s tenure, including as a foreign policy speechwriter for Biden and a senior adviser to then-deputy national security adviser Blinken. Finer had been working in political risk and public policy at the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which was co-founded by Blinken’s father, since leaving government in 2017. The key NSC role of senior director for European Affairs will go to Amanda Sloat, a Brookings Institution fellow who served as deputy assistant secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration.
And Nuland’s co-conspirator Geoffrey Pyatt is now US ambassador here in Greece.
According to a report from Politico, Joe Biden’s transition team is expected to nominate Victoria Nuland to be the under secretary of state for political affairs for the incoming administration’s State Department. Nuland, who is married to neoconservative Robert Kagan, is known for her role in orchestrating the 2014 coup in Ukraine while she was the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs in the Obama administration. A recording of a phone call between Nuland and then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was leaked and released on YouTube on February 4th, 2014. In the call, Nuland and Pyatt discussed who should replace the government of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced to step down on February 22nd, 2014.
The US-backed coup sparked the war in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and led to the Russian annexation of Crimea. Both regions have a majority ethnic-Russian population who rejected the nationalist, anti-Russian post-coup government that even had neo-Nazis in its midst. In a 2020 column for Foreign Affairs titled, “Pinning Down Putin,” Nuland said Russian President Vladimir Putin “seized” on the 2014 coup and other “democratic struggles” to “fuel the perception at home of Russian interests under siege by external enemies.” She also cited the war in the Donbas and annexation of Crimea as examples of Russian aggression, as most in Washington do.
Currently, Nuland is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and works for the Albright Stonebridge Group. She is also a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, a US-taxpayer funded nonprofit that funds “pro-democracy” movements across the world.
“..the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown. Dr. Henderson warned against it all…”
As a naturally optimistic person, it vexes me that the word catastrophe has echoed in my mind since early March 2020. It’s the word the great smallpox eradicator Donald Henderson used in his 2006 prediction of the consequences of lockdown, a word that wasn’t around then. His masterful article addressed the idea of travel restrictions, forced human separation, business and school closings, mask mandates, limits on public gatherings, quarantines, and the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown. Dr. Henderson warned against it all. This is not how you deal with disease, he said; at a minimum society needs to function so that medical professionals can do their work.
Diseases are managed one person at a time, not with grand central plans. That was the old wisdom in any case. Under the influence of vainglorious modelers, ideological resetters, and politicians hoping to make names for themselves, most of the world tried the lockdown experiment anyway. Here we are nearly a year since I wrote my first article warning that governments presumed themselves to possess the quarantine power. They could use it if they wanted to. I didn’t expect they would. I wrote this piece as a “for your information” public service just to let people know how terrible governments could be.
I had no idea that quarantines would be only the beginning. At this point we know what we did not know then. They are capable – by they I mean even governments in presumably civilized countries with functioning democracies – of the unthinkable, and they are capable of persisting in the unthinkable for an appalling amount of time. Now the lockdowns are our life in the US, unless you are lucky enough to live in Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, South Carolina, and perhaps a few other places. Here in these outposts of what we used to call civilization, life seems normal. Our readers in these states don’t even think about the virus much, and they read my articles and find them overwrought, like I’m describing life on another planet.
More than 1.5 billion disposable face masks will wind up in the world’s oceans this year — polluting the water with tons of plastic and endangering marine wildlife, according to a Hong Kong-based environmental group. A report by OceansAsia cites a global market research report that estimates 52 billion masks were made this year to meet the demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It also says that a “conservative” calculation means at least 3 percent of them will be washed out to sea. “Single-use face masks are made from a variety of meltblown plastics and are difficult to recycle due to both composition and risk of contamination and infection,” the report says.
“These masks enter our oceans when they are littered or otherwise improperly discarded, when waste management systems are inadequate or non-existent, or when these systems become overwhelmed due to increased volumes of waste.” With each mask weighing three to four grams, the situation could lead to 6,800-plus tons of plastic pollution that “will take as long as 450 years to break down,” according to the report. In addition to the harmful effects of micro-plastic and nano-plastic particles, elastic ear loops pose a “possible entanglement risk for wildlife,” the report says. The report cites several examples of marine animals killed by masks, including a “dead bloated pufferfish” found tangled in the loops of a disposable blue mask by volunteers cleaning a Miami beach in August.
And sometimes you look up from whatever it is you’re doing and suddenly you see life.
A US oncologist has wiped out nearly $650,000 worth of debts for 200 cancer patients after realising that many of them were struggling to pay. Dr Omar Atiq closed his cancer treatment centre in Arkansas last year after nearly 30 years in business. He worked with a debt collection firm to gather outstanding payments, but then realised many families had been hit hard financially by the pandemic. Over Christmas, he wrote to patients telling them any debts would be erased. “Over time I realised that there are people who just are unable to pay,” Dr Atiq told ABC’s Good Morning America. “So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt. We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it.” Dr Atiq, who is originally from Pakistan, founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in Pine Bluff in 1991, providing treatments including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and CAT scans.
He is now a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. “We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people’s lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff,” Dr Atiq said, quoted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He said the outstanding bills from about 200 patients totalled nearly $650,000 (£480,000). In his Christmas greeting card to patients, he wrote: “The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”
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