Feb 222021
 
 February 22, 2021  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Thomas Abercrombie Beirut 1957

 

Biden’s $1.9-Trillion Big Spend Is A Big Bet On MMT (LAT)
Cuomo Nursing Home Scandal May Rise To Federal Level Of Criminal Offense (Fox)
Scalise Requests Data On NY Nursing Home COVID Deaths (SAC)
More New York Politicians Accuse Cuomo Of Threatening Behavior (F.)
Why Do Democrats Pretend Andrew Cuomo Did a Good Job With COVID? (Slate)
Psaki Declines To Say Whether Biden Still Views Cuomo As ‘Gold Standard’ (JTN)
The Battery of American Power Is Running Flat (SCF)
Boeing 777s Grounded Around World After Denver Engine Failure (R.)
Garland Expected To Become Biden’s AG (Hill)
Vitamin D: Doctors Will Further Erode Trust In Experts (Cook)
Canada To Follow Australia, Take On Facebook, Seek Payment For Content (NYP)
Disney Labels ‘The Muppet Show’ As ‘Offensive Content’ (RT)

 

 

It’s Andrew Cuomo day! Why is he still in office? Well, the Dems want the GOP to go after him, so they don’t have to. Biden won’t have anything to do with this hot potato, until and unless he can squeeze political capital out of it. Among lower level Dems, there are too many that Cuomo has collected dirt on – or that are afraid he did.

This may take a while therefore, everyone’s playing a waiting game. And the press drip-drip new stories about Cuomo every day, without condemning him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’ll be the first to deny it.

Biden’s $1.9-Trillion Big Spend Is A Big Bet On MMT (LAT)

As Stephanie Kelton, former chief economist on the Senate Budget Committee, argues in her bestseller “The Deficit Myth,” the country’s real deficits are in healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, education and the climate. But rather than address those things by spending, writes Kelton, the government proceeds in terror of not “balancing the budget,” falsely believing that an unbalanced budget is the source of inflation. “We run around like a six-foot-tall guy who wanders around perpetually hunched over in a house with eight-foot ceilings because someone convinced him that if he tries to stand up tall he’ll suffer a massive head trauma,” she writes. Jason Furman, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama, concurs. “Given low interest rates, the United States actually has even more fiscal room to respond to the crisis today than it did in the financial crisis,” he told me. “We should use that room.”

If the Biden stimulus goes through, and inflation doesn’t skyrocket, the experiment may bear out a new monetary theory. It could be time at last for the nation to stand tall, and unfurl its economy to its full height. Of course, an experiment on such a big scale is unnerving, and Biden is facing substantial criticism for the $1.9-trillion plan. Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist at the IMF, tweeted earlier this month that such a stimulus would not just overheat the economy; it would incinerate it. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers issued a less hyperbolic warning but he brought up the fear: The policy would need to come with an aggressive fiscal policy to keep “inflationary pressures” at bay.

Kelton doesn’t completely disagree. On Twitter, she pointed out that the modern monetary theory she advocates requires Congress to stop talking about budgets and start talking entirely about mitigating inflation, if it comes, by other monetary policy means. You’re going to hear a lot more kvetching about government spending and, geez, $1.9 trillion. But remember, no one pushing Biden’s plan is trying to pave the way for a big, fat inflationary decade, filled with 1970s malaise, austerity measures and agony at the pump. They’re just willing to bet that a nearly $2-trillion stimulus, if the economy is monitored closely enough, will improve infrastructure, education, climate and healthcare, while making employers eager to find workers, which will push up wages and benefits. Which all sounds great. Especially when the checks show up.

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“New York’s willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense—particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation—..”

Cuomo Nursing Home Scandal May Rise To Federal Level Of Criminal Offense (Fox)

Legal experts are warning that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s alleged undercounting of nursing-home deaths amid the COVID-19 pandemic may rise to the level of a criminal offense. Cuomo has found himself at the center of a federal investigation into whether his administration sought to hide the true toll of the pandemic. The New York Post reported earlier this month that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, told lawmakers the administration had withheld the numbers for fear of them being “used against us.” In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John B. Daukas, who served as acting U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, wrote that DeRosa’s reported admissions weren’t “merely negligent, but intentional and perhaps criminal.”


Daukas said numerous federal statutes could apply, noting that Cuomo’s administration is accusing of both making false statements to the federal government and trying to thwart an investigation. “Even if it cannot be proved that the Cuomo administration knowingly provided false information to Justice and the (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), New York’s willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense—particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation—which, after all, is exactly what Ms. DeRosa reportedly said the administration did,” Daukas wrote. And on Saturday, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said DeRosa’s admission to lawmakers – if true – constitutes a potential obstruction of justice charge. Per the federal statute, Jarrett noted, if a government official falsifies or hides evidence to avoid triggering an investigation (or acts out of fear that such a probe may occur) that official is still culpable under the law of obstruction.”

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There’s a shredder working overtime somewhere…

Scalise Requests Data On NY Nursing Home COVID Deaths (SAC)

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) faces increasing criticism over reports that his administration underreported coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and a preliminary federal investigation underway, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) renewed his call Friday for Cuomo to provide all data on such deaths, describing his administration’s alleged conduct as an “apparent obstruction of justice”. Scalise, the ranking member of Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, reiterated his call in a press release emailed Friday afternoon by the House Oversight Republicans. The press release cites the February 11 New York Post exposé reporting that Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, had privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld nursing home death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

On top of that, the release mentioned the report that Cuomo had allegedly threatened a Democratic assemblyman if he didn’t help cover up the nursing home deaths. “This apparent obstruction of justice necessitates an immediate and thorough investigation by Congress especially in light of the recent revelation that you and your Administration engaged in a cover-up aimed at concealing your culpability in New York State’s COVID-19 nursing home crisis,” Scalise wrote. “Recent reporting suggests that your attempts to cover-up the truth and conceal your culpability extend beyond obstruction to threats of retaliation toward anyone who might cross you. This behavior appears to be your modus operandi when anyone attempts to question your ‘leadership.’”

The press release goes on to mention that the subcommittee’s Republicans have repeatedly called for Cuomo to provide information regarding his since-rescinded directive ordering nursing homes and long-term care facilities to admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals. According to the press release, they first asked the governor in June 2020, and subsequent times in July 2020 and last month. [..] In a letter from Scalise to Cuomo attached to the press release, the Louisiana Republican touched on the aforementioned points but also requested transcribed interviews from DeRosa and New York Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker.

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Some are just too pissed off.

More New York Politicians Accuse Cuomo Of Threatening Behavior (F.)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a growing number of allegations he and his subordinates routinely threaten critics, with two New York politicians – a former Democratic congressional candidate and a Republican ex-rival of Cuomo’s – recounting to Forbes their hostile experiences with the governor’s staff. Nate McMurray, a two-time House candidate in Western New York, told Forbes that after criticizing Cuomo for plans to attend a Buffalo Bills game, he received a call from a Cuomo aide on New Years Eve that began “you motherf***er,” before devolving into threats like “you’re done in politics.” McMurray said he took down his tweet after the call because he was “scared” and looking for a job after his run, adding that he’s heard from people in both Cuomo’s staff and the New York legislature about a “pervasive culture of fear that has trickled down from his office.”

“We’ve all been yelled at by someone in that administration,” Marc Molinaro, a Republican county executive in upstate New York who ran against Cuomo in 2018, told Forbes, adding, “It’s unacceptable but how they operate.” Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, tweeted that she was “flooded” with stories from people who said they were “bullied, mistreated, or intimidated” by Cuomo, a statement echoed by former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan, who has previously accused him of harassment. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democratic state senator, told the New Yorker Cuomo once asked her to “tell me again how your grandfather’s career ended,” which she perceived as a threat given that her grandfather, Mario Biaggi, resigned over a corruption scandal – though a Cuomo spokesperson told the New Yorker it was about the “importance of integrity in government.”

Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean tweeted that she was told by someone close to the Cuomo family to “‘Watch my back,’” when she began speaking out against him prolifically over the coronavirus-related deaths of her parents, who were both nursing home residents.

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“..a serially underachieving chief executive playing three-card monte with dead bodies. At this point, Andrew Cuomo could probably shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.”

Why Do Democrats Pretend Andrew Cuomo Did a Good Job With COVID? (Slate)

Most concerningly, Cuomo’s administration admitted this month that it had been excluding nursing home residents who died of COVID but didn’t technically die on the grounds of their facilities from its official count of COVID-related nursing home deaths. Since many such residents died only after being hospitalized, this had the effect of making the state’s nursing home outbreak look thousands of deaths smaller than it actually was. Cuomo’s office appears to have compiled the more comprehensive, accurate data months ago but didn’t release it until the state’s attorney general—who is elected independently of the governor—issued a Jan. 28 report alleging that nursing home deaths had been undercounted.

(It does not look like the discrepancy could have resulted from innocent semantic misunderstandings: A representative of the data team that manages the AARP Public Policy Institute’s Nursing Home COVID-19 dashboard noted to Slate that “CDC guidance for the data we use in our dashboard specifically states that resident deaths are supposed to be counted regardless of the place of death,” while the managing editor of the COVID Tracking Project said its staff is “not currently aware of any other US state or territory that reports deaths associated with nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities in the way that New York did for most of the pandemic.”)

[..] His press conference performances notwithstanding, the facts and evidence show that Cuomo is not someone who cares much about facts and evidence. But his liberal supporters don’t care: A Siena College poll taken after the nursing home scandal broke found that 83 percent of New York Democrats still approve of Cuomo’s handling of COVID, with more than 80 percent also saying specifically that they approve of his work “communicating with the people of New York” and “providing accurate information.”

To hammer home the cognitive dissonance, only 54 percent said he’d done a good job “making public all data about COVID-related deaths of nursing home patients,” which suggests both that 54 percent of New York Democrats are full of it and that a significant portion of the rest of them know Cuomo is full of it but don’t care. To many voters, celebrating the idea of the competent blue-state governor is more important than reckoning with the reality of a serially underachieving chief executive playing three-card monte with dead bodies. At this point, Andrew Cuomo could probably shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

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Hot potato.

Psaki Declines To Say Whether Biden Still Views Cuomo As ‘Gold Standard’ (JTN)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during an interview on ABC’s This Week would not provide a direct answer about whether President Biden still considers New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo the “gold standard” on dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Journalist Jonathan Karl posed the question after playing a clip of Biden last year stating that Cuomo has performed “one hell of a job” and describing the governor as “sorta the gold standard.” Cuomo, who has come under fire for his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, has faced heightened scrutiny since his top aide Melissa DeRosa revealed the administration held back on answering questions from lawmakers due to concerns about a potential Justice Department investigation.


“Well John, we work with Governor Cuomo just like we work with governors across the country,” Psaki said, noting that Cuomo chairs the National Governors Association and has “an important role in ensuring that we’re coordinating closely in getting assistance out to people of his state and to states across the country.” She said that any matter of investigations would be in the hands of “the appropriate law enforcement authorities to determine how that path is going to move as we look forward. ”But we are going to continue to work with a range of governors, including of course Governor Cuomo because we think the people of New York, the people of states across the country need assistance, not just to get through the pandemic, but to get through this difficult economic time.”

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NATO and Pentagon are Siamese twins.

The Battery of American Power Is Running Flat (SCF)

Historically, the United States relies on NATO as a conduit to project its power and influence over Europe. This was its fundamental objective when NATO was first set up in 1949 at the start of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. In recent decades, NATO has assumed an ever-expanding purpose for American imperial power projection, encompassing not just Western Europe but all of Europe right up to Russia’s borders. NATO has become a vehicle for American hegemonic ambitions holding sway over the Balkans, Caucasia, North Africa and the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. For an organization that nominally originated for maintaining security in the North Atlantic, it sounds rather odd indeed to hear its spokesmen talk now about the need for NATO to confront China.

That oddly expanded global mission reflects the real but unspoken fact that NATO is all about serving American global ambitions. Former President Trump was too ignorant or obsessed with money-grubbing financial costs – “we’re being ripped off” he would repeatedly complain with regard to NATO – to realize the strategic bigger picture of what the alliance is really purposed to serve. Under a new man in the White House – an old-time establishment operative – there is seemingly a more consensual approach with allies. Nevertheless, underlying the liberal lexicon there is the same old mantra of hostility towards Russia and China. Lloyd Austin, the Pentagon chief, told European allies this week that there would have to be “more burden sharing” in order to confront the “threats” allegedly posed by Russia and China.

Biden continued the same theme of confronting Russia and China during his G7 and Munich conferences over the weekend. American hegemonic ambitions required to satisfy its corporate capitalism are dependent on a zero-sum geopolitics. The globe must divided into spheres of influence as in the earlier Cold War decades. There must be antagonism to thwart genuine cooperation which is anathema to American capitalism. Indeed, it can be said that the Cold War never actually ended when the Soviet Union dissolved more three decades ago. America’s imperialist ideology continued under new guises of “fighting terrorism”, “democracy promotion and nation building”, or more recently “great power competition” with Russia and China.

The bottom line is that NATO is more important than ever for enabling Washington’s global power ambitions given the demise of American capitalism and the rise of China and Eurasia. NATO provides a crucial political cover for what would otherwise be seen as naked American imperialism.

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Ha ha ha: “Boeing has recommended grounding..”

Yeah, Boeing’s a very responible corporate citizen…

Boeing 777s Grounded Around World After Denver Engine Failure (R.)

Boeing has recommended grounding more than 120 of its 777 jets worldwide following a catastrophic engine failure on a United Airlines plane in Denver. The company said on Sunday night that airlines using the same type of engine that scattered debris across Denver before making an emergency landing should suspend operations until inspections could be carried out. Flight 328 was flying from Denver International Airport to Honolulu with 231 passengers and 10 crew on board on Saturday when one engine failed shortly after take-off. Police in Broomfield, Colorado posted photos of pieces of debris from the plane near houses and other buildings. There were no reports of any injuries on the ground or among the passengers.

United Airlines said it was temporarily grounding all 24 of its Boeing 777s on active duty, and Japan’s aviation regulator swiftly followed suit, ordering Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) to cease flying 777s that use the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines while it considered whether to take additional measures. Japan said ANA operated 19 of that kind and JAL operated 13. The planes are also used by carriers in South Korea. A spokeswoman for South Korea’s transport ministry, speaking before Boeing’s statement, said it was monitoring the situation but had not yet taken any action. Korean Air Lines said it had 12 of the planes, half of them stored, and it would consult with the manufacturer and regulators and stop flying them to Japan for now.

Boeing said in total 69 of the planes were in service and 59 were in storage, at a time when airlines have grounded planes due to a plunge in demand associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The move comes after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency directive late on Sunday that required immediate or stepped-up inspections of planes similar to the one involved in the Denver incident. “We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident,” the FAA said in a statement from its administrator, Steve Dickson . “Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes. “This will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service”.

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What will happen to Durham and the Hunter files?

Garland Expected To Become Biden’s AG (Hill)

Nearly five years after Senate Republicans refused to grant Merrick Garland a hearing to be confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court, the appeals court judge is getting his chance to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, this time as President Biden’s choice to be attorney general. In 2016, former President Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not allow a hearing on the nomination, citing the presidential election eight months later. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the seat on the high court the following year, just more than two months after he was nominated by former President Trump.

Garland is one of the last major Cabinet appointments by Biden, and he is likely to secure confirmation with bipartisan support despite the former Republican blockade on his last nomination. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has said Garland’s experience “makes him well-suited to lead the Department of Justice, and I appreciated his commitment to keep politics out of the Justice Department.” “Unless I hear something new, I expect to support his nomination before the full Senate,” Cornyn added, according to The Associated Press. In opening remarks released Sunday, Garland pledged to address the threat of domestic extremism as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, specifically invoking the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“From 1995 to 1997, I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the federal government,” Garland’s remarks read. “If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.” Biden has pledged that the Justice Department during his tenure will be free of political influence or interference.

The Justice Department has asked for the resignations of all Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys, a somewhat typical move for incoming administrations. But Biden left in place the U.S. attorney in Delaware in charge of investigating the tax affairs of his son Hunter Biden. He is also allowing U.S. Attorney John Durham to continue in his role as a special prosecutor probing the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, a position appointed by former Attorney General William Barr. [..] Garland currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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Jonnathan Cook picks the wrong angle. Vitamin D given to severely ill people is not the story.

Vitamin D: Doctors Will Further Erode Trust In Experts (Cook)

The role of Vitamin D on our general wellbeing and health has come under increasing scrutiny over the past two decades after it was discovered that it is the only vitamin for which there is a receptor in every cell in our body. Long before Covid, researchers had begun to understand that Vitamin D’s role in regulating our immune systems was chronically under-appreciated by most doctors. The medical profession was stuck in a paradigm from the 1950s in which Vitamin D’s use related chiefly to bone health. As a consequence, today’s recommended daily allowances – usually between 400IU and 800IU – were established long ago in accordance with the minimum needed for healthy bones rather than the maximum needed for a healthy immune system.

Today we know that many people in northern latitudes, especially the elderly, are deficient or severely deficient in Vitamin D, even those taking these low-level supplements. In fact, it would be true to say there is a global plague of Vitamin D deficiency, even in many sunny countries where people have lost the habit of spending time outdoors or shield themselves from the sun. The doctors and researchers who have been gradually piecing together the critically important role of Vitamin D are the medical equivalent of the dissident journalists who try to present a realistic picture of what goes on in Israel-Palestine.

Because Big Pharma can make no serious money from Vitamin D, researchers into the sun hormone have struggled to raise funds for their work and have mostly been denied corporate platforms from which to publicise the stunning findings they have made. Until recently, corporate medicine simply ignored most Vitamin D research, relegating it to the supposedly fringe science of “nutrition”, which is why most doctors know little or nothing about it. With the outbreak of Covid, when these Vitamin D studies should finally have come into their own, researchers found themselves shunted further into the margins. Just as journalists, politicians and human rights groups trying to tell you real things about Israel get labelled antisemites, anyone trying to tell you real things about Vitamin D gets labelled a crank, conspiracy theorist or Covid denier.

The desperate need for Covid treatments has not led to intensified interest in Vitamin D among most doctors, even though it is very cheap, almost completely safe even in large doses, and has been shown to help in damping down immune over-reaction of exactly the kind killing Covid patients. Rather, the opportunity for Big Pharma to develop a magic bullet to treat Covid has led to an intensified campaign to discredit Vitamin D research.

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When you threaten sovereign nations, others will notice.

Canada To Follow Australia, Take On Facebook, Seek Payment For Content (NYP)

Canada is poised to take on Facebook, following the example set by Australia, which began a war with the tech giant when the country’s publishers backed proposed legislation demanding payment for their content. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault condemned Facebook’s actions as “highly irresponsible” last week when the social media giant removed all Australian news content from its sites in retaliation. Guilbeault warned that Canada would be next in making sure Facebook paid for news content from Canadian publishers. Guilbeault is charged with drafting legislation in the next few months that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay up. “Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” Guilbeault told reporters.


Guilbeault said he recently met with government ministers from Australia, Finland, France and Germany to hammer out a common front with respect to Google and Facebook, the Globe and Mail reported.“It was the first ministerial meeting where we jointly started talking about what we want to do together regarding web giants, including fair compensation for media. We believe that there’s real strength in unity on that,” he said, adding that the growing coalition of countries opposed to Facebook and Google could soon reach 15. “I’m a bit curious to see what Facebook’s response will be. Is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France, with Canada, with Australia and other countries that will join? At a certain point, Facebook’s position will be completely untenable.”

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But not for animal cruelty?!

Disney Labels ‘The Muppet Show’ As ‘Offensive Content’ (RT)

Five seasons of ‘The Muppet Show’ appeared on the Disney+ streaming service on Friday night but many viewers were shocked to discover that one of their childhood favorites is now considered “offensive content.” According to a warning from Disney, the show features “stereotypes” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.” “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the roughly 300 billion-dollar corporate giant declared. “Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”


No references are made to what specifically Disney considers to be offensive about the show’s content, though it does depict minorities including Asians and people from the Middle East, as well as featuring a homeless character named “Oscar the grouch” who lives in a trash can. In season five, singer Johnny Cash also performs in front of a confederate flag. “Even the Muppets are now ‘offensive.’ Anyone watching ‘The Muppet Show’ on Disney+ will first see a warning against ‘offensive content.’ It’s time to pack up, seriously,”wrote one baffled Twitter user.

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Jul 242020
 


Vincent van Gogh Branches Of An Almond Tree In Blossom in Red 1890

 

Coronavirus Traveled Nearly 30 Feet At German Slaughterhouse (ZH)
US Clears Way For Drugmakers To Share COVID Antibody Capacity (R.)
Over 30 Million Americans About to Lose $600 in Unemployment Benefits (Mish)
More Than 1,000 People At Twitter Had Ability To Aid Hack Of Accounts (R.)
How the Child Care Crisis Will Distort the Economy for a Generation (Pol.)
Georgia’s Governor And Atlanta’s Mayor Ordered To Mediate Face Mask Fight (R.)
Pompeo Urges More Assertive Approach To ‘Frankenstein’ China (R.)
China’s Three Gorges Dam At The Brink (AC)
Congress Blocks Defunding the Pentagon: What We Could Do With The Money (MPN)
Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Opens As A Mosque For Muslim Prayers (AP)
Disney Postpones ‘Mulan’ Indefinitely, Delays ‘Avatar’ And ‘Star Wars’ (R.)

 

 

No records, nothing terribly spectacular, but the numbers remain elevated. When you look at the daily new cases in the US since mid-June, that’s quite the graph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maté
https://twitter.com/aaronjmate/status/1286504352203644930

 

 

 

 

Slaughterhouses and care homes. What do they have in common?

Coronavirus Traveled Nearly 30 Feet At German Slaughterhouse (ZH)

COVID-19 particles traveled 26 feet across a German slaughterhouse where approximtely 1,500 workers contracted the virus, according to researchers who reconstructed the likely cause of the outbreak at the Toennies Groups slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck. According to Bloomberg, a combination of cold, stale air allowed the virus to spread over such a long distance, raising concerns that the same might happen at meat plants worldwide. And while the virus is significantly less deadly than originally thought, it can lead to significant disruptions, as it takes between two weeks and several months to recover. Some patients still report symptoms, though how contagious they are is yet to be seen.

“Similar conditions at plants globally are a reason they’ve become virus epicenters, according to the report from groups including the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research. Meat plants from the U.S. to the U.K. and South America have seen the rapid spread of the virus, infecting thousands of employees who often work in close proximity on processing lines. Dozens of workers have died, and labor advocates have said that a lack of social distancing could continue to put people at risk. Outbreaks also forced American meat plants to close earlier this year, sparking some protein shortages”. -Bloomberg

The Tonnies outbreak is believed to have been caused in May by a single employee who infected the rest of their co-workers in the plant’s dismantling area, where temperatures hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Adam Grundhoff, co-author of the study, chilly air circulated without frequent changes, combined with a strenuous work environment, helped move virus particles long distances. “It is very likely that these factors generally play a crucial role in the global outbreaks in meat or fish processing plants,” said Grundhoff, a research group leader at the Heinrich Pette Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology. He added that distances of 1.5 to 3 meters (5 to 10 feet) is insufficient to prevent transmission.

“The Toennies plant — Germany’s largest pork abattoir — reopened last week after a month-long closure and plans to gradually ramp up output. The company, which posted a link to the research report on Twitter, also recently released a 25-point plan detailing measures it’s making to prevent further outbreaks. They include testing employees twice a week, hiring workers directly and overhauling ventilation. The report’s findings show that no factory worldwide was built for such a crisis, and the company has invested in air filters and other mechanisms to protect employees, a Toennies spokesman said by email. -Bloomberg The workers’ housing conditions were not found to play a significant role in the outbreaks.

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Keep the profit making out of it.

US Clears Way For Drugmakers To Share COVID Antibody Capacity (R.)

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday said it will not stand in the way of efforts by companies, including Eli Lilly and Co and Amgen Inc, to share information to help scale up capacity to manufacture antibody treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. In a letter to Lilly, Amgen, AbCellera Biologics, AstraZeneca Plc, Roche Holding’s Genentech unit and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the DOJ said demand for monoclonal antibodies targeting COVID-19 is likely to exceed what one firm could produce on its own. The drugmakers are in various stages of developing experimental monoclonal antibodies – manufactured proteins designed to bind to a targeted cell, neutralize it and mark it for destruction by the immune system – for treatment, or even prevention, of COVID-19.


Monoclonal antibodies are among the most common type of biotech medicines, used for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other conditions. The DOJ did not include Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, which expects to have definitive trial results for its dual-antibody treatment by late summer or early fall. The Department of Health and Human Services in June awarded Regeneron a $450 million contract and the company has cleared the way for U.S. manufacturing of its antibody cocktail by moving production of its other products to a plant in Ireland. “Waiting until regulators approve specific treatments before scaling up manufacturing might delay access to these potentially life-saving medicines by many months,” the agency said in its letter.

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I don’t think they’ll let it happen. But only at the very last minute, or even a step beyond that. It’s not about people, it’s about power.

Over 30 Million Americans About to Lose $600 in Unemployment Benefits (Mish)

How Many Set to Lose $600 Checks? CNBC says More than 25 million Americans are set to lose the $600 unemployment boost next week. The Century Foundation says More than 25 Million Americans Are About to Lose an Essential $600-a-Week Unemployment Insurance Benefit. Forbes says “some 25 million unemployed workers are finishing the last week of the expanded federal unemployment benefits and will soon only receive state unemployment benefits, which average $378 per week.” To determine a better number, let’s review the Department of Labor Guidelines.

Programs which entitle an individual to receive FPUC. This program provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular UC (including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX)), as well as the following unemployment compensation programs: • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) • Extended Benefits (EB) • Short-Time Compensation (STC) • Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA) • Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) • Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program

[..] Republicans, especially Trump, do not want to extend the $600 benefit because many make more being unemployed than they did working. This is what the bickering is all about. The last full week in July ends Saturday July 25 for most state UI programs. And that is when the benefits expire, not July 31. Rubio proposes taking up the lapse in insurance “by the first week in August.” That would be too late.

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Don’t use Twitter for anything confidential. Easy.

More Than 1,000 People At Twitter Had Ability To Aid Hack Of Accounts (R.)

More than a thousand Twitter employees and contractors as of earlier this year had access to internal tools that could change user account settings and hand control to others, two former employees said, making it hard to defend against the hacking that occurred last week. Twitter Inc and the FBI are investigating the breach that allowed hackers to repeatedly tweet from verified accounts of the likes of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Twitter said on Saturday that the perpetrators “manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials” to log into tools and turn over access to 45 accounts.


On Wednesday, it said that the hackers could have read direct messages to and from 36 accounts but did not identify the affected users. The former employees familiar with Twitter security practices said that too many people could have done the same thing, more than 1,000 as of earlier in 2020, including some at contractors like Cognizant. “That sounds like there are too many people with access,” said Edward Amoroso, former chief security officer at AT&T. Responsibilities among the staff should have been split up, with access rights limited to those responsibilities and more than one person required to agree to make the most sensitive account changes. “In order to do cyber security right, you can’t forget the boring stuff.”

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Another matter, like the pandemic preparedness, that has festered for decades, waiting to see the light. Communities should be able to solve this, but not if you make it profit-based.

How the Child Care Crisis Will Distort the Economy for a Generation (Pol.)

Schools across the U.S. are closed because of the coronavirus, and unlikely to reopen safely anytime soon. Parents are exhausted from constant, round-the-clock care while trying to work from home; some have chosen to leave their jobs, or switch to part-time work, just to take care of their kids. And kids themselves are slipping behind academically. Now comes the bad news: We haven’t seen the worst of it yet. When the economist Betsey Stevenson looks at the pandemic-era economic crisis, she sees a long-simmering child care crisis that has suddenly surged to the foreground of people’s lives—and whose true scope we’ve barely begun to reckon with. Its potential to inflict lasting damage to the economy is enormous, and it’s getting short shrift in the recovery plans coming out of Washington.

“The work of recovering from it will not end just because we have a vaccine,” says Stevenson, a labor economist at the University of Michigan and former member of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “We are making choices right now about where we will be as an economy in 20 years, in 30 years, based on what we do with these kids.” Among those most likely to be affected are working mothers, who shoulder an outsize share of child care responsibilities, and have suddenly had far more work dropped in their laps. Women already need to make difficult choices between work advancement and their family roles, which can bring down their incomes over time; Stevenson expects the crisis to make that conflict sharply worse: “The impact of the child care crisis on women’s outcomes is going to be felt over the next decade.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that both parents work in two-thirds of families in which married parents have children — as do the majority of America’s 13.6 million single parents. For all of them, there are major long-term financial repercussions of dropping out of the labor market, even temporarily. “When you talk about upward mobility,” she says, “this puts families on just a completely different trajectory that’s not about losing two or three years of income; it’s about being on a lower earnings trajectory for the rest of your life.”

And for anyone hoping a vaccine will allow a quick, healthy reopening sometime next year, she says: Don’t count on it. “We are letting the whole child care system erode in such a way that it’s not going to be there for us when we are fully ready to go back. You’re seeing child care centers that can’t stay in business. They can’t figure out how to reopen. They can’t keep their employees on staff. They’re letting people go,” Stevenson says. “Once we are ready to have all the jobs come back and we’re really ready to recover, even though we’ll have opened the schools, opened the child care centers, the workers aren’t going to be there, the slots aren’t going to be there.”

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Apparently nobody is clear on what the law says, or what the plans are, who’s responsible for what.

Georgia’s Governor And Atlanta’s Mayor Ordered To Mediate Face Mask Fight (R.)

A Georgia judge on Thursday ordered the governor and Atlanta’s mayor to enter mediation over the governor’s lawsuit aimed at stopping the city from enforcing its requirement that people wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Fulton Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick ordered Governor Brian Kemp and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to attend mediation with another judge and try to resolve the dispute before an emergency hearing scheduled in the case for Tuesday. Earlier this month, Kemp, a Republican, barred local leaders from requiring people to wear masks. Even so, several Georgia cities, including Democratic-led Atlanta, Savannah and Athens, defied the governor’s order and kept local mandates in place in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.


Bottoms told reporters that she and Kemp spoke by phone on the matter. “We are both in agreement that masks saves lives,” she said. “Hopefully we can move past this.” The governor’s office filed a lawsuit on July 16 against Bottoms and the Atlanta city council, arguing that local officials lack the legal authority to override Kemp’s orders. “Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage a public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the 16-page complaint read. More than 4 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the virus, including more than 150,000 cases in Georgia with more than 3,000 fatalities in the state. Kemp has stood apart even from his Republican counterparts on the mask issue. More than half of all states have statewide mask mandates.

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There are no “freedom-loving nations of the world”. There are only power-lovong politicians. And they’re everywhere.

Pompeo Urges More Assertive Approach To ‘Frankenstein’ China (R.)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China on Thursday and said Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, calling it the “mission of our time.” Speaking at the Nixon Library in President Richard Nixon’s birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, Pompeo said the former U.S. leader’s worry about what he had done by opening the world to China’s Communist Party in the 1970s had been prophetic. “President Nixon once said he feared he had created a ‘Frankenstein’ by opening the world to the CCP,” Pompeo said. “And here we are.” Nixon, who died in 1994 and was president from 1969-74, opened the way for the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1979 through a series of contacts, including a visit to Beijing in 1972.

In a major speech delivered after Washington’s surprise order this week for China to close its Houston consulate, Pompeo called for an end to “blind engagement” with China and repeated frequently leveled U.S. charges about its unfair trade practices, human rights abuses and efforts to infiltrate American society. He said China’s military had became “stronger and more menacing” and the approach to Beijing should be “distrust and verify,” adapting President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra about the Soviet Union in the 1980s. “The truth is that our policies – and those of other free nations – resurrected China’s failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it,” Pompeo said.

“The freedom-loving nations of the world must induce China to change … in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.” Recalling remarks he made after meeting British leaders in London this week, Pompeo said “maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies,” while adding: “If the free world doesn’t change, Communist China will surely change us.” Pompeo said “securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time,” and America was perfectly positioned to lead it.

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“..the flood has already raised the water dammed behind the Three Gorges to 50 — fifty — feet higher than the maximum flood level.”

China’s Three Gorges Dam At The Brink (AC)

China’s massive Three Gorges Dam project on the upper Yangtze River is at risk. If that dam breaks, the resulting flooding would be a catastrophe of world-historical proportions. Hundreds of millions of people live along the lower Yangtze River. And the catastrophe wouldn’t simply be confined to China. The lower Yangtze is China’s commercial and industrial heartland — which means it is perhaps the world’s most important economic region. If it is swept away by a torrent, it could easily crater the already weak world economy. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Cheng [..] says that the flood has already raised the water dammed behind the Three Gorges to 50 — fifty — feet higher than the maximum flood level.


Rain is still falling this week in central China. I am told by a Chinese media follower that the government has just raised the emergency level in five affected provinces — Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu — to the highest level below martial law, as part of last-ditch efforts to protect the Three Gorges Dam. The state is releasing water from tributary dams, flooding those provinces even worse than they already have been, because the alternative — a Three Gorges Dam collapse — is unthinkable. The WSJ’s Cheng said that China has had its worst economic year in four decades because of Covid, but if that dam goes, the damage to China’s economy will “dwarf” what Covid has done to it.

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Thank a war party of your preference.

Congress Blocks Defunding the Pentagon: What We Could Do With The Money (MPN)

The majority of House Democrats joined with the Republican colleagues yesterday in voting down progressive legislation that would have cut the Pentagon budget by 10 percent ($74 billion) and used the money to fund healthcare, housing, and education for the poorest Americans. The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, sponsored by Barbara Lee (D–CA) and Mark Pocan (D–WI) was soundly defeated 93-324, with 139 Democrats joining all 185 voting Republicans in rejecting the idea. Despite the defeat, Pocan vowed to continue pushing an anti-war agenda. “We will keep fighting for pro-peace, pro-people budgets until it becomes a reality,” he said.


Democrats who voted against the military budget cuts received over three times the contributions from the defense industry as those who voted for the reduction. Earlier today, the Senate also voted down the proposal. The result will no doubt disappoint the majority of Americans as well. A poll conducted last week by Data for Progress found that 56 percent of the country supported the idea to defund the military and use the money to fight COVID-19 alleviate the growing housing crisis. Democrat-voters supported the plan by 69 to 19 percent, with Republicans also backing it, by 50 to 37 percent. The proposal is hardly a radical shift; the military’s budget has increased by around 20 percent under President Trump alone, reaching near-historic highs.

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Erdogan is not done by a long shot. The talk of the day in Greece is all about war. BILD in Germany says Merkel called Erdogan two days ago and narrowly prevented Greece firing on Turkish vessels in the Med.

Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Opens As A Mosque For Muslim Prayers (AP)

Hundreds of Muslim faithfuls were making their way to Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia on Friday to take part in the first prayers in 86 years at the structure that once was one of Christendom’s most significant cathedrals, then a mosque and museum before its reconversion into a Muslim place of worship. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to attend the inaugural prayers inside the sixth-century monument along with around 500 dignitaries, as he fulfills what he has described as the “dream of our youth” anchored in Turkey’s Islamic movement. Thousands of men and women, including many who traveled from across Turkey, are set to perform prayers in segregated areas outside Hagia Sophia. Several camped near the structure overnight.

Orthodox church leaders in Greece and the United States, meanwhile, were scheduled to observe “a day of mourning” over the inaugural prayers. Brushing aside international criticism, Erdogan issued a decree restoring the iconic building as a mosque earlier this month, shortly after a Turkish high court ruled that the Hagia Sophia had been illegally made into a museum more than eight decades ago. The structure has since been renamed “The Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque.” The move sparked dismay in Greece, the United States and among Christian churches who had called on Erdogan to maintain it as a museum as a nod to Istanbul’s multi-religious heritage and the structure’s status as a symbol of Christian and Muslim unity. Pope Francis expressed his sadness.

Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque with the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding leader of the secular Turkish republic converted the structure into a museum in 1934. Although an annex to the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan’s pavilion, has been open to prayers since the 1990s, religious and nationalists group in Turkey have long yearned for the nearly 1,500-year-old edifice, which they regard as the legacy of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the conquerer, to be reverted into a mosque.

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What happened to streaming?

Disney Postpones ‘Mulan’ Indefinitely, Delays ‘Avatar’ And ‘Star Wars’ (R.)

Walt Disney Co on Thursday postponed the debut of its movie “Mulan” indefinitely, dealing a new blow to theater operators that were counting on the live-action epic to help attract audiences during a pandemic. ViacomCBS Inc’s Paramount Pictures also said “Top Gun: Maverick”, the much-awaited sequel to the Tom Cruise-starring “Top Gun”, has been delayed to July 2, 2021 from December 23, 2020. “Mulan” was scheduled to reach theaters in March but its release has been postponed several times as many cinemas remain closed. The film had most recently been set to debut on Aug. 21 and theater operators had hoped it would help spark a late-summer rebound for movie-going.


Disney also said it had delayed the next film installments from two of its biggest franchises, “Avatar” and “Star Wars,” by one year as the novel coronavirus has disrupted production. The “Avatar” sequel is now set to debut in theaters in December 2022, and the next “Star Wars” movie in December 2023. “It’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis,” a Disney representative said. “Today that means pausing our release plans for ‘Mulan’ as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world.” The “Mulan” delay follows Warner Bros decision to postpone the August release of Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenet.” The two films were seen as theaters’ best chance to salvage part of the lucrative summer season.

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