Feb 142021
 
 February 14, 2021  Posted by at 3:05 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Jean-Michel Basquiat Warrior 1982

 

 

As the second Trump impeachment circus has come to an end, which it seems to have done last night, we have to try and map what lies ahead, not just in politics, but also in the media. Which for the past 5 years have run almost exclusively on banging the Trump drum. This is not true only for the MSM, it also includes other media, including the Automatic Earth.

What are we all going to report on going forward? Trump has been acting like a kind of black hole in “news”, sucking up all the light and matter that came close to him. We ourselves didn’t get close enough to be annihilated by the black hole, like CNN and New York Times did, but its gravity pull did shape -and distort- our universe as well.

Last week I ran a graph depicting US cable TV viewer numbers, and said: “Here’s what will determine US politics in the next 4 years. Lack of clickbait. War would be good for ratings.” The graph is devastating for CNN, which lost over 40% of viewers in just one week, before and after the Biden inauguration. The network that is most anti-Trump got hammered once he was gone. The irony is palpable. It was also entirely predictable.

 

 

What will CNN and NYT and WaPo turn to now? Not Joe Biden, that’s for sure. No energy there, hence no news. Or rather, no clickbait. Of course over the past few days they were fully focused on the second impeachment, but that was the worst dud ever, sucking blood out of a stone. Did anyone ever have the idea that the Dems even tried to win this?

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley wrote well before the acquittal vote that he thought they were “tanking” it, an American football term for losing on purpose:

 

Did The Democrats “Tank” The Second Trump Trial?

In the last impeachment, I criticized the House leadership for impeaching Trump on the thinnest record in the shortest time in history. It then outdid itself by impeaching him a second time with no record and no hearing. Even a day of hearings would have reduced the serious prudential concerns of senators, but the House pushed through a snap impeachment on a muscle vote. That left the House with no record despite being denied witnesses in the prior impeachment by the Senate

The greatest indication of tanking was the language of the article itself. Even a single day of hearings would have allowed experts to discuss the potential impeachable conduct and the crafting of articles of impeachment. There was credible impeachable offenses in Trump’s conduct on January 6th and its aftermath. Instead, the House leadership insisted on impeachment for “incitement of insurrection.” The House is not alleging reckless or negligent conduct leading to a riot. It is alleging incitement to actually seek rebellion or overthrow of the country.

The article specifically refers to section 3 of the 14th Amendment in its prohibition of anyone holding office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States. Even moderate senators who condemned Trump for his speech would be highly unlikely to convict on such an article. The House made it easy on those seeking acquittal. It could have crafted an article that would appeal to broader bipartisan support. Instead, it sought the most extreme language alleging incitement to an actual insurrection — virtually guaranteeing a partisan vote and likely acquittal.

 

And then yesterday what seemed to happen was that Nancy Pelosi, as soon as she understood she would be called as a witness if any were allowed, fumbled the ball and would not allow any witnesses. Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen turned on the MSM media for their coverage of the trial, but only after his home was vandalized and he received 100 death threats. Shame he wasn’t wearing a Viking helmet.

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1360815669294596096

 

But okay, for now it’s over. Trump has made some noise about ‘this is only the beginning’, exactly what the MSM have wet dreams about, but for the near future, it’ll be Biden all the way. Sure, they will try and pin Ol’ Joe’s mishaps on Trump, but at some point they must blame his errors on him. The end of a perfectly beautiful friendship. Joe is Kryptonite for the MSM.

How many Americans have died of COVID-related issues since Inauguration Day? Oh, but that’s all Trump’s fault. OK, so how many will die from today on? Also Trump’s fault? Till when does that last? Question: why did Biden keep Dr. Fauci in his job after so many people died? Because he was heroically battling Trump? Nothing was Fauci’s fault?

That leads me to another topic that, like Trump, we have written so much about that I sometimes don’t see what more there is to say. Well, perhaps other than: why doesn’t your government do everything in its power to keep its citizens from dying, and instead only locks them down and puts facemasks on their weakened immune systems? (This is not only true for the US, of course).

They can boost those immune systems, it’s very easy even, and they know about it. So why does it continue to (not) happen? And when will the MSM finally find out about it and start reporting on it?

In a Twitter thread, British MP David Davis points to a recent study linked to the Lancet named Calcifediol Treatment and COVID-19-Related Outcomes , and says:

This is a very important study on vitamin D and Covid-19. Its findings are incredibly clear. An 80% reduction in need for ICU and a 60% reduction in deaths, simply by giving a very cheap and very safe therapy – calcifediol, or activated vitamin D. The findings of this large and well conducted study should result in this therapy being administered to every Covid patient in every hospital in the temperate latitudes.


Furthermore, since the study demonstrates that the clear relationship between vitamin D and Covid mortality is causal, the UK government should increase the dose and availability of free vitamin D to all the vulnerable groups. These approaches will save many thousands of lives. They are overdue and should be started immediately.

Calcifediol is what your body turns vit. D into, and the study doesn’t appear to mention that adequate vit. D levels reduce risk of infection by some 50% to begin with. If an MP knows this, and talks about it, can the rest of government plead ignorance?

Then, there are 38 published trials for ivermectin as a COVID treatment. Are these being ignored by the west because they took place in countries such as Israel, Peru, Mexico, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Argentina, Iran? What say you, Fauci? What say your friends in the industry?

 

 

And of course just a few days ago we had our own resident MD, John Day, explaining how to Treat Your Own COVID. So the information is out there, even if Fauci and/or the MSM won’t give it to you. And it’s information that may well save your lives, or those of people close to you.

Anyway, the premise of this article was what the MSM are going to do now that their Golden Trump Goose can no longer deliver the desired clickbait. Will they be desperate enough to tell people how to save their own lives? I must say, I don’t really see that happening. It appears much more likely that they start banging war drums, their tried and tested MO.

Thing is, can you really send troops to far away deserts while your own health care systems are imploding? And before you give people the $2,000 $1,400 $600 checks that some pundits claim will allow them to pay all their bills until July? I’d almost wish you would try, but I don’t actually want more people to die.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the MSM soon being back to where they were before Trump entered stage right: on the verge of bankruptcy. But I’m not a betting man, and I’m not always right. Still, if I were Trump I’d lay low for a while and let them draw their terminal breaths. But I’m not Trump either.

 

 

 

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Feb 142021
 
 February 14, 2021  Posted by at 10:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Edward Hopper Christmas card 1928

 

Only Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict Trump (F.)
Trump’s Philly Lawyers Are Facing A Backlash At Home (Inq.)
Statement on Senate Impeachment Acquittal of Trump (Nader/Fein)
Newsom Recall Effort Has Enough Signatures To Trigger Special Election (JTN)
How To Understand The Rage Economy (IC)
Cuomo Didn’t Protect Seniors. But it Was the Media That Covered it Up (NW)
Patent For Secret Bat Cages At Wuhan Lab (DM)
India Finally Bans Cryptocurrencies (BTCPeers)
State Clears First Three Foreign Military Sales Of Biden Administration
Why Russia Is Driving The West Crazy (Escobar)
Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms (Edward Curtin)

 

 

 

 

As I said to friends earlier: A circus in which even the clowns are not funny. The Dems never really tried to win. When they all agreed on witnesses, the Dems reneged as soon as it was clear that Pelosi would be called.

Only Seven GOP Senators Vote To Convict Trump (F.)

The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to acquit former President Donald Trump on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with just 7 Senate Republicans siding with Democrats in voting to convict him. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) voted with all Democrats to convict Trump on one article of impeachment. The article alleges the ex-president “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” The result comes after a particularly tumultuous final day of an already chaotic trial in which senators voted to approve debates on calling witnesses, only to backtrack and swiftly conclude the proceedings hours later.

Trump’s acquittal was widely seen as a foregone conclusion, cemented further by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement to Republican colleagues on Saturday that he would vote to let off the ex-president he has publicly condemned. “Whatever you came to Washington to do… This is almost certainly how you will be remembered by history,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, had told senators before the vote. Trump became the first president to be impeached twice last month when the House passed the article of impeachment 232-197, with a historic 10 House Republicans breaking with their party and voting to impeach.

[..] Trump is not out of the woods yet, as he is facing legal scrutiny from prosecutors in several states. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is probing his finances and business practices, while prosecutors in Georgia have reportedly opened a criminal investigation into his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged Georgia election officials to “find” votes for him.

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Mostly peaceful.

“Michael van der Veen hired 24-hour private security for his family after vandals smashed windows & spray-painted “TRAITOR” on the driveway of his..home Friday night. He told reporters Saturday he received more than 100 death threats.”

Trump’s Philly Lawyers Are Facing A Backlash At Home (Inq.)

If Donald Trump’s team of Philadelphia lawyers thought they’d get a reputational bump from defending a former president on the biggest stage of their careers, it hasn’t turned out that way. They won his acquittal Saturday at his second impeachment trial. But the backlash could end up following them for years. Members of the team described the five-day trial as a trying experience, from infighting between attorneys and second-guessing by Republican advisers in Washington, to derision hurled their way online and at their homes and offices. Michael van der Veen hired 24-hour private security for his family after vandals smashed windows and spray-painted “TRAITOR” on the driveway of his suburban Philadelphia home Friday night. He told reporters Saturday he received more than 100 death threats.

And they acknowledged being caught off guard by the level of rancor from Trump’s critics and supporters alike — even given the country’s fiercely divided politics and how other lawyers in his orbit have fared. “I’ve been representing controversial clients for 30 years, and I’ve never experienced this type of vitriol,” said William J. Brennan, another local member of the team whose past clients include priests accused of sexual abuse and judges facing corruption charges. “We had no political agenda here. We are not partisan warriors. We are criminal defense lawyers who represented a client.” Bruce L. Castor Jr., the former Montgomery County commissioner and district attorney, entered the week as the nominal leader of Trump’s team — a high-profile job that had some back home wondering if it could bolster a future run for statewide office.

Instead, his rocky, rambling opening performance Tuesday drew his client’s ire and turned him into an internet punchline. Conservative TV hosts, like Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, called him “terrible.” Sean Hannity responded: “You’re way too charitable.” Everything from his verbose delivery to his pin-striped suit became targets for social media mockery. Some used his performance to question the aptness of the term Philadelphia lawyer — a phrase inspired by Colonial-era attorney Andrew Hamilton that has long characterized an exceptionally shrewd attorney. Van der Veen — the head of Castor’s law firm, who took over the defense presentation Friday after Castor was sidelined — fared little better.

He delivered a more combative, incendiary performance, attacking Democrats for “hypocrisy” and what he described as “constitutional cancel culture.” His style was reportedly more to his client’s liking. But his testy, hectoring demeanor at the lectern turned him into a target, too. On Saturday, a small group of protesters gathered outside his Center City law firm. They left “VAN DER VEEN = LIAR” scrawled in chalk on the street. On Facebook, the firm’s page turned into a toxic stew of invective. “Michael van der Veen is ranting on my television screen — the new shame of Philadelphia,” one commenter wrote, as another added: “This entire firm should be shut down and every single one of you should lose your license.”

 

 

MVDV: “What happened at the Capitol on January 6 is absolutely horrific. But what happened at the Capitol during this trial was not too far away from that.”

Read more …

Pelosi didn’t want to be called, so no-one was?!

Tweet: “The Democrats went for cover when they found out that the Defense was going to call DC Mayor and Pelosi to testify. What are they hiding?”

Statement on Senate Impeachment Acquittal of Trump (Nader/Fein)

Donald J. Trump has once again circumvented justice, but not because of a want of facts or law. His life preserver was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to refrain from calling critical witnesses possessing “smoking gun” incriminating evidence at Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial. Her plan to abandon an Ace of Spades for a Two of Clubs to prove Mr. Trump’s guilt was upset by Republican freshman Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler (Wash.) who gave the Democrats an opportunity to subpoenas witnesses to testify under oath to fortify the video evidence introduced during the House Managers’ case in chief.

Ms. Butler’s disclosing a conversation with House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) proving President Trump’s endorsement of his mob’s resort to lethal force and violence to unconstitutionally prevent a peaceful transfer of presidential power precipitated a surprise 55-45 Senate vote this morning, including several Republicans, to entertain live witnesses. Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin (Maryland) appeared on NPR shortly before the Senate reconvened from a recess at 12:30 pm. The Senator declared that the impeachment trial would be continued for two weeks; and, that the only issue remaining for resolution between the prosecution and defense (then in private negotiations) was whether five witnesses for each side would be named or left open for later identification in a Senate witness resolution.

Mr. Cardin was clueless of the Democratic capitulation, snaring defeat from the jaws of victory. The House Managers and Mr. Trump’s defense team agreed to a stipulation to admit into the record a mere written statement by Congresswoman Butler, not delivered in person under oath or via a deposition. Not a single witness would be called.

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Schwarzenegger redux.

Newsom Recall Effort Has Enough Signatures To Trigger Special Election (JTN)

The growing effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom has reportedly secured enough signatures to trigger a special election, potentially setting up the first gubernatorial recall in that state in nearly two decades. Organizers have obtained 1.5 million signatures, more than enough to mandate a special election, Fox News reported on Saturday. The number was allegedly hit earlier this week. The state secretary will have to process the signatures first to ensure they are valid.


Newsom has faced extended criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly his shutdown orders, which have at times been among the strictest in the nation—as well as a disastrous PR blunder last year when he was spotted mask-less and at a crowded dinner table in an indoor restaurant. The last California recall election took place in 2003; in that instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger successfully won the election after voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

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“..the fragmentation of the American public into a multitude of angry factions, radicalized in different ways online and holding completely different baseline perceptions of reality.”

How To Understand The Rage Economy (IC)

The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 underlined a disturbing phenomenon that has become undeniable at this point: the fragmentation of the American public into a multitude of angry factions, radicalized in different ways online and holding completely different baseline perceptions of reality. The problem of deliberate misinformation undermining democracy has received lots of attention, but in many ways, the power of fantastic lies to grab people’s allegiance is also a byproduct of a deeper problem: extreme polarization driven by news media monetizing anger in order to survive.

This phenomenon is at the core of what media ecologist and author Andrey Mir in a new book calls “postjournalism.” Mir’s book, titled “Postjournalism and the Death of Newspapers,” is a sweeping look at how the news media evolved and shaped the world over hundreds of years, from newsletters for traders published in medieval Venice, Italy, to modern print newspapers, television, and finally the internet. For pretty much everyone, the news media is the major force that shapes how they perceive the world outside their direct experience. During an era when the main technology for producing and disseminating information changes, the world changes as well. For better or worse, we are living through one of those eras now.

The collective psychological impact of new technologies like social media has been written about in a wave of books over the past few years. Equally significant has been the underlying economic shift that has gradually transformed even traditional media outlets into something wholly different. Journalism traditionally relied on an advertising-based revenue model, and that economy also subtly incentivized a particular lens through which the world was depicted: an upbeat-as-possible, unifying worldview that made advertisers happy and promoted the needs of consumerism, even as it often overlooked or suppressed stories that fell outside its parameters.

When advertisers suddenly flocked to social media, the traditional economic model that underpinned the media and allowed even smaller papers to afford luxuries like foreign correspondents suddenly collapsed. Today established news outlets not only struggle to find advertisers after Facebook and Google swallowed up the market, but they must also compete with a seemingly infinite number of other websites, companies, and even individuals committing “acts of journalism” or just putting out entertainment, thus forcing them to battle for a finite slice of an attention economy that they cannot possibly corner.

The loss of the old advertising paradigm simply killed many local news outlets, which have shuttered at an incredible rate over the past decade. The surviving large organizations have sought desperately for a new model to support themselves. A lucky few have been able to rely on the patronage of philanthropists supporting journalism as a pure social good. But many others have been forced to do something not seen since the era of mass-produced penny tabloids: relying primarily on readers to support them through subscription and membership fees. As Mir argues, this change in the economic structure of the news media has quietly transformed what journalism itself is about, turning it from a theoretically neutral means of “manufacturing consent” into a political cause that people are rallied into supporting, usually by inciting them to some form of outrage.

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“It would prove a death sentence for thousands of seniors.”

Cuomo Didn’t Protect Seniors. But it Was the Media That Covered it Up (NW)

Things are not looking good for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. After receiving an Emmy “in recognition of his leadership” and writing a bestselling book called American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the toll Cuomo’s leadership has taken is finally emerging. On Thursday, the New York Post broke the story that Melissa DeRosa, one of the governor’s top aides, apologized to Democratic lawmakers for fudging the number of nursing home deaths from COVID for fear of being investigated.

Such an investigation was long overdue. One of the biggest scandals of the pandemic has been the number of nursing home deaths in New York City, many of them possibly linked to a March 25 directive from the Cuomo administration forcing nursing homes to take in people even if they had tested positive for COVID-19. It would prove a death sentence for thousands of seniors. And to fend off an investigation, the Cuomo administration underestimated the number of nursing home deaths by 40%. The true number was 15,000, not 9,056.

But this isn’t just a government scandal. It’s a media scandal. For while the Cuomo administration was sentencing seniors to death, the media was busy fawning over Cuomo in a series of softball interviews, many of them conducted by his own brother. Cuomo has been a television mainstay throughout the crisis, particularly on CNN where his brother, Chris Cuomo, is a host. But it wasn’t just his brother who fawned. A June interview with CNN’s Chris Cilizza provided Cuomo an opportunity to tout his performance while criticizing that of then-president Donald Trump and Republican governors who had not gone along with economy-crushing lockdowns. Cilizza was more than happy to assist.

“We tested both theories,” Cuomo told Cilizza. “We have the evidence. It’s numbers. It’s irrefutable. Why don’t we pause and recognize the undeniable reality of the situation?” “On the numbers, it’s hard to disagree,” Cilizza dutifully wrote. “On April 9, New York had almost 10,000 coronavirus cases in a single day, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. On Friday, it had just 673 cases statewide.” There would be no follow-up article when New York would hit over 14,000 cases in January. No review of what went wrong in Cuomo’s “undeniable reality.” No comparison to states that found a different “undeniable reality of the situation” and have objectively handled the COVID crisis better.

Read more …

What does the WHO hold back?

Patent For Secret Bat Cages At Wuhan Lab (DM)

The Chinese laboratory at the centre of suspicion over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic was awarded a patent for cages to hold live bats for testing just months before the virus started spreading. The revelation comes after the World Health Organisation last week backed Beijing’s line, saying that a leak from the institute was ‘highly unlikely’, while giving credence to theories that the virus had entered the country via frozen meat. The team included Peter Daszak, a British-born zoologist whose organisation EcoHealth Alliance has studied bat-borne viruses with Wuhan lab scientists for 15 years, and who has categorically denied that researchers keep the mammals for testing.

However, The Mail on Sunday has established that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) filed an application in June 2018 to patent ‘bat rearing cages’ which would be ‘capable of healthy growth and breeding under artificial conditions’. The patent, which has been seen by this newspaper, was granted in January 2019 – 11 months before Beijing reported that the first cases of the virus in the city had broken out just a few miles from the institute. A separate patent, filed by the institute on October 16, 2020, relates to the ‘artificial breeding method of wild bat’. The patent discusses cross- species transmission of SARS- CoV from bat to humans and other animals, saying: ‘Bats infected with the virus naturally or artificially have no obvious clinical symptoms, and the mechanism is unknown’.

It explicitly states that the method is for breeding bats for scientific experiments: ‘The invention aims to provide an artificial breeding method of wild bat predators, which aims at overcoming the defects in the prior art, and the wild bat predators are artificially domesticated, bred and passaged to establish an artificial breeding group, thereby providing a brand-new model experimental animal for scientific research.’ Responding to a question over whether researchers were keeping live bats, Mr Daszak tweeted in April last year: ‘The researchers don’t keep the bats, nor do they kill them. ‘All bats are released back to their cave site after sampling. It’s a conservation measure and is much safer in terms of disease spread than killing them or trying to keep them in a lab.’

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6 months to liquidate your assets.

India Finally Bans Cryptocurrencies (BTCPeers)

India has become the second country to outrightly ban Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This is coming after the Central Bank of Nigeria instructed all financial institutions in the country to block the accounts of all individuals and entities linked to cryptocurrency transactions. There has been a lot of drama surrounding India’s cryptocurrency stance. In 2018, the Reserve Bank of India issued a ban on all cryptocurrency transactions. The ban was lifted by the country’s Supreme Court in March 2020. In December 2020, government officials hinted that they were considering taxing Bitcoin transactions by up to 18%. Barely a month later and there were rumors that the country was mulling over banning all private cryptocurrencies.


Apparently, officials were serious about banning cryptocurrencies. Citing an unnamed senior finance ministry official, BloombergQuint disclosed the government’s move. However, according to the official, the ban would not be imposed overnight, as in the case of Nigeria. Instead, investors would be given three to six months to liquidate their investments. As per the report, India’s Parliament will proceed to introduce a law that bans the usage of cryptocurrencies in all forms, including restricting trading via foreign exchanges. On the flip side of India’s ban is Kenya, an East-African country that has proposed to make Bitcoin its base currency.

Read more …

BAU

State Clears First Three Foreign Military Sales Of Biden Administration

The Biden administration has approved three Foreign Military Sales requests for Jordan, Chile and a NATO agency, with a combined potential price tag of more than $200 million.] The approvals mark the first FMS cases moved since President Joe Biden took office. The last FMS cases approved by the State Department came in late December; the Biden team has since announced a pause and review of a number of weapon sales approved by the Trump administration, most notably on weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The three approvals were announced on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. DSCA announcements mean that the State Department has decided the potential FMS cases meet its standards, but this does not guarantee the sales will happen in their announced forms.

If the U.S. Congress does not object, the foreign customer begins to negotiate on price and quantity, both of which can change during the final negotiations. Jordan was approved for an F-16 Air Combat Training Center and related equipment, with an estimated cost of $60 million. That package would include “mission trainers, combat tactics trainers, instructor/operator stations, tactical environment simulators, brief/debrief stations, scenario generation stations, database generation stations, mission observation centers, and other training center equipment and support,” per the DSCA notice. The center would “enhance” Jordan’s pilot training for their fleet of F-16s, the oldest of which entered service in 1997. Work will primarily be done at Lockheed Martin’s Rotary & Mission Systems center in Orlando, Fla.

Chile was approved to purchase up to 16 Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA missiles, along with support equipment and contractor assistance, with an estimate price tag of $85 million. The anti-air weapons are slated to be used aboard two recently transferred former Adelaide-class frigates to the Chilean Navy. Work would be preformed by Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson, Ariz. The NATO alliance’s Communications and Information Agency to buy 517 AN/PRC-158 Manpack UHF SATCOM radio systems, worth an estimated $65 million. Also included in the package would be “crypto fill devices, man-portable ancillaries, vehicular ancillaries, deployed Headquarter ancillaries, power support, and operator and maintenance training,” per the DSCA notice.

Read more …

“The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.”

Why Russia Is Driving The West Crazy (Escobar)

Future historians may register it as the day when usually unflappable Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov decided he had had enough: “We are getting used to the fact that the European Union is trying to impose unilateral restrictions, illegitimate restrictions and we proceed from the assumption at this stage that the European Union is an unreliable partner”. Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, on an official visit to Moscow, had to take it on the chin. Lavrov, always the perfect gentleman, added, “I hope that the strategic review that will take place soon will focus on the key interests of the European Union and that these talks will help to make our contacts more constructive.” He was referring to the EU summit of heads of state and government at the European Council next month, where they will discuss Russia.

Lavrov harbors no illusions the “unreliable partners” will behave like adults. Yet something immensely intriguing can be found in Lavrov’s opening remarks in his meeting with Borrell: “The main problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the European Union – the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit anyone.” The two largest players in the Eurasian space. Let that sink in. We’ll be back to it in a moment. As it stands, the EU seems irretrievably addicted to worsening the “unhealthy situation”. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen memorably botched the Brussels vaccine game. Essentially, she sent Borrell to Moscow to ask for licensing rights for European firms to produce the Sputnik V vaccine – which will soon be approved by the EU.

And yet Eurocrats prefer to dabble in hysteria, promoting the antics of NATO asset and convicted fraudster Navalny – the Russian Guaido. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, under the cover of “strategic deterrence”, the head of the US STRATCOM, Admiral Charles Richard, casually let it slip that “there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.” So the blame for the next – and final – war is already apportioned to the “destabilizing” behavior of Russia and China. It’s assumed they will be “losing” – and then, in a fit of rage, will go nuclear. The Pentagon will be no more than a victim; after all, claims Mr. STRATCOM, we are not “stuck in the Cold War”.

Read more …

RFK, Jr.

Opening the CIA’s Can of Worms (Edward Curtin)

With the rise of alternate media and a wide array of dissenting voices on the internet, the establishment felt threatened and went on the defensive. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that those same elite corporate media are now leading the charge for increased censorship and the denial of free speech to those they deem dangerous, whether that involves wars, rigged elections, foreign coups, COVID-19, vaccinations, or the lies of the corporate media themselves. Having already banned critics from writing in their pages and or talking on their screens, these media giants want to make the quieting of dissenting voices complete. Just the other day The New York Times had this headline: “Robert Kennedy Jr. Barred From Instagram Over False Virus Claims.” Notice the lack of the word alleged before “false virus claims.” This is guilt by headline.

It is a perfect piece of propaganda posing as reporting, since it accuses Kennedy, a brilliant and honorable man, of falsity and stupidity, thus justifying Instagram’s ban, and it is an inducement to further censorship of Mr. Kennedy by Facebook, Instagram’s parent company. That ban should follow soon, as the Times’ reporter Jennifer Jett hopes, since she accusingly writes that RFK, Jr. “makes many of the same baseless claims to more than 300,000 followers” at Facebook. Jett made sure her report also went to msn.com and The Boston Globe. This is one example of the censorship underway with much, much more to follow. What was once done under the cover of omission is now done openly and brazenly, cheered on by those who, in an act of bad faith, claim to be upholders of the First Amendment and the importance of free debate in a democracy.

We are quickly slipping into an unreal totalitarian social order. Which brings me to the recent work of Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, both of whom have strongly and rightly decried this censorship. As I understand their arguments, they go like this. First, the corporate media have today divided up the territory and speak only to their own audiences in echo chambers: liberal to liberals (read: the “allegedly” liberal Democratic Party), such as The New York Times, NBC, etc., and conservative to conservatives (read” the “allegedly” conservative Donald Trump), such as Fox News, Breitbart, etc. They have abandoned old school journalism that, despite its shortcomings, involved objectivity and the reporting of disparate facts and perspectives, but within limits.

Since the digitization of news, their new business models are geared to these separate audiences since they are highly lucrative choices. It’s business-driven since electronic media have replaced paper as advertising revenues have shifted and people’s ability to focus on complicated issues has diminished drastically. Old school journalism is suffering as a result and thus writers such as Greenwald and Taibbi and Chris Hedges have taken their work to the internet to escape such restrictive categories and the accompanying censorship.

Secondly, the great call for censorship is not something the Silicon Valley companies want because they want more people using their media since it means more money for them, but they are being pressured to do it by the traditional old school media, such as The New York Times, who now employ “tattletales and censors,” people who are power-hungry jerks, to sniff out dissenting voices that they can recommend should be banned. Greenwald says, They do it in part for power: to ensure nobody but they can control the flow of information. They do it partly for ideology and out of hubris: the belief that their worldview is so indisputably right that all dissent is inherently dangerous ‘disinformation.’”

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 112021
 
 February 11, 2021  Posted by at 10:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  41 Responses »


Ansel Adams Evening at McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park 1942

 

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Against New Covid Variant May Take 6-9 Months (G.)
CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don’t Need To Quarantine If Exposed To Covid (NBC)
Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID, but Died After Vaccine (Attkisson)
Dershowitz Destroys Democrats’ Impeachment In Under 2 Minutes (WND)
Dershowitz: Trump Defense Must Avoid ‘Trap’ Of Debating Election Fraud (JTN)
‘Feel Our Pain,’ Politicians Demand (Tracey)
The Disarticulation of Pandemic War Propaganda (MPN)
New US Military Base in Northeast Syria Latest of Biden’s Warlike Moves (MPN)
Facebook New Algorithm Will ‘Reduce Political Content’ On News Feeds (JTN)
Former Republican Officials In Talks To Form Anti-Trump Third Party (R.)
Will Corporation-Owned Smart Cities Come To Nevada? (AN)
Yellen Eyes Innovation To Battle Misuse Of Cryptocurrencies (R.)
Assange Prosecution Will Continue Under Biden (Gosztola)
In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3 (BBee)

 

 

 

 

COVID numbers in the UK and US crashed at the exact same moment. How is that possible?

 

 

“About Thatcher’s death: Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out on competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. That’s what she would have wanted.”
– Ken Loach

 

 

What are your plans until 2022? Forget them.

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Against New Covid Variant May Take 6-9 Months (G.)

AstraZeneca has said that it could take between six and nine months to produce Covid-19 vaccines that are effective against new variants of the coronavirus. The company’s vaccine, developed jointly with scientists at the University of Oxford, remains effective on at least one variant of the virus first discovered in Kent, England, but preliminary findings in a small-scale trial prompted South Africa to limit its use while it ascertains its efficacy. However, a six-month turnaround for an updated vaccine would represent a vast improvement over traditional vaccine development timelines. The vaccine is particularly important for poorer countries, because the company – unlike some of its rivals such as Pfizer – has pledged to sell it at cost price.


The vaccine also does not require very low temperatures during transport, making it cheaper to deliver. Announcing its financial results for 2020 on Thursday, AstraZeneca said: “In collaboration with the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca is focused on adapting C19VAZ to new disease strains if required and hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six to nine months, by utilising existing clinical data and optimising its established supply chain.” AstraZeneca will not incorporate revenues from the vaccine into its financial results, but it said that 2020 performance in its main profit-making business remained strong.

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Pfizer says they don’t know if their vaccine protects you from infections, or those around you. But the CDC now knows better? Or is this true only when wearing 3 masks?

CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don’t Need To Quarantine If Exposed To Covid (NBC)

People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday in updated guidance on its website. Quarantine is typically recommended for healthy people who have been exposed to the virus. During quarantine, people are asked to isolate from others for one to two weeks to see whether they develop symptoms of Covid-19. By not exposing others, quarantining can help stop the spread of the disease. In the updated guidance, the CDC said such quarantining is not necessary for fully vaccinated people within three months of having received their last doses as long as they do not develop any symptoms.

“Fully vaccinated” means that at least two weeks have passed since a person has received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. Other recommendations remain in place for fully vaccinated people. They include wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The guidance says the risk that fully vaccinated people could spread the coronavirus, to others is “still uncertain.” However, “vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic Covid-19; symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission than purely asymptomatic transmission,” according to the CDC.

The CDC already recommends that people who have had Covid-19 and recovered do not need to quarantine for 90 days after the illness, if newly exposed to someone who is infected; the new guidance for vaccinated people aligns with the earlier recommendations. The guidance “makes sense,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, although he said he was curious about what evidence the CDC was using. Early data from AstraZeneca and Moderna’s Phase 3 clinical trials have suggested that vaccines may slow transmission of the virus, although more work is needed to confirm the findings.

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2 days after 14 infections among fully vaccinated in pensioners’ home in Germany.

Deaths of Elderly Who Recovered From COVID, but Died After Vaccine (Attkisson)

Two small clusters of deaths after COVID-19 vaccination have been reported among nursing homes in Kentucky and Arkansas. In Kentucky, four seniors died the same day of their vaccination on Dec. 30, 2020. Three of the four who passed away reportedly already had had coronavirus prior to getting vaccinated. In Arkansas, four seniors died at a long term care facility about a week after their vaccination. All tested positive for COVID-19 after vaccination. The deaths are reported in a federal database called VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Deaths after vaccination don’t necessarily mean the vaccine is to blame. Of those receiving coronavirus vaccines, many are elderly and frail, or already suffering from serious illnesses. That makes it difficult to know whether there’s a connection.

According to VAERS reports, the Kentucky deaths occurred on Dec. 30 after vaccinations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. An ill 88-year-old woman who was “14 + days post covid” was given the Pfizer-BioNTech shot while she was “unresponsive in [her] room.” She died within an hour and a half (914961-1). An 88-year-old who was “15 days post covid” got the shot, was monitored for 15 minutes afterward, and passed away within 90 minutes (914994-1). A third report says an 88-year-old woman who was “14 + days post covid” vomited four minutes after receiving her shot, became short of breath, and passed away that night (915562-1). And an 85-year-old woman vaccinated at 5 p.m. was “found unresponsive” less than two hours later and died shortly after (915682-1). In response to questions about the Kentucky cluster, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said its experts noted “no pattern … among the [Kentucky] cases that would indicate a concern for the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Scientists differ on whether people who have had coronavirus, like the Kentucky patients, should receive the COVID-19 vaccination at all. The CDC insists it’s safe for people who have recovered from COVID-19 to get vaccinated and that there’s no minimum interval recommended between infection and vaccination. “Vaccination should be offered to persons regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] infection,” it states. But other scientists say vaccinating people who are already considered immune after a natural COVID-19 infection wastes valuable doses of vaccines when there are shortages. And neither Pfizer’s nor Moderna’s studies showed any benefit to vaccinating previously infected patients.

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“No. 1 they have no jurisdiction. No.2 it’s a bill of attainder, No. 3 they’re impeaching him for constitutionally protected speech..”

Dershowitz Destroys Democrats’ Impeachment In Under 2 Minutes (WND)

Famed Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz was on President Trump’ defense team during the first impeachment trial one year ago. And while he’s not a member of the team this time, he’s offering a quick, two-minute argument he says should close the case. “You don’t have to listen to me. Listen to James Madison, who’s the father of the Constitution,” Dershowitz said on “The Charlie Kirk Show” podcast. “He said that impeachment is only for somebody who’s still sitting in office. He said it quite clearly in the Federalist Papers,” Dershowitz said of Madison. “There’s no way around that.” The Harvard professor insisted the text of the Constitution is clear as well.

“It says impeachment is for purposes of removing a president. Once a president is removed you can also vote to disqualify him but disqualification doesn’t stand alone as a remedy,” he said. “If it did, then the Congress would have a roving commission to go through the entire United States and decide who to impeach and who not to impeach, and who to prevent from running for office,” said Dershowitz. “Say the Republicans come up with a young vibrant candidate to run against Biden four years from now. All the Democrats would have to do is impeach him, even though he’s never held office, and just disqualify him from running for office. Or find someone … who had a smaller officer earlier, and they can impeach him,” Dershowitz said.

“That’s not what the Framers had in mind. What the Framers had in mind is not allowing the Senate to put people on trial. That’s called a bill of attainder and a bill of attainder is specifically prohibited by the Constitution.” Dershowitz said there are “so many things wrong with this impeachment.” “No. 1 they have no jurisdiction. No.2 it’s a bill of attainder, No. 3 they’re impeaching him for constitutionally protected speech,” he said. Dershowitz said the impeachment itself “is doing a tremendous amount of damage to our Constitution.”

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“This is not the forum in which any evidence of election fraud is going to be seriously considered,” Kline said. “They have no interest in it…”

Dershowitz: Trump Defense Must Avoid ‘Trap’ Of Debating Election Fraud (JTN)

Key legal allies of former President Trump say his defense team must avoid the “trap” of debating election fraud during his Senate impeachment trial. House impeachment managers Tuesday cited Trump statements challenging the integrity of the 2020 election in arguing that the former president engaged in a “months-long effort to incite” an “insurrection” which culminated on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob forced its way past police lines into the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats’ move to frame Trump’s electoral fraud claims as incitement in their impeachment narrative created an opening for Trump’s defense to, in effect, put the 2020 election itself on trial before a nationwide viewing audience, as many of his supporters have urged.

Some Trump allies say his electoral fraud case has never received a full public airing due to legal challenges being tossed out on grounds of standing, timeliness and other technical issues rather than on merit. But former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who helped lead the successful defense that gained Trump’s acquittal in the 2020 impeachment trial, said this move would be “a terrible mistake” for Trump. “It’s a trap that the Democrats are trying to set for the Trump lawyers,” Dershowitz told Just the News in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a trap to have them talk about electoral fraud, because if they do, they’ll lose [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and other senators.” The “absolute trap,” Dershowitz said, “was being set by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who is leading the Democrats’ impeachment case. Raskin studied law under Dershowitz, who called his former student “a smart guy.”

[..] Attorney Phill Kline, a Trump supporter and director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, has litigated many cases involving claims of electoral fraud during the 2020 election. He told Just the News that while he thinks a national conversation about electoral fraud should continue, he doesn’t believe that the impeachment forum is ideal. “This is not the forum in which any evidence of election fraud is going to be seriously considered,” Kline said. “They have no interest in it. They refuse to acknowledge clear facts. And so it’s the wrong audience and the wrong time.” Kline said the Trump defense team should focus on the former president’s First Amendment right to speak openly and raise questions about election fraud. “They have been trying to criminalize thought for some time now,” Kline said. “This is just the fruit of their belief that if you do not think as they do, you’re a threat to the nation.”

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It’s become quite theatrical.

‘Feel Our Pain,’ Politicians Demand (Tracey)

Congress is increasingly not a place where the average member partakes in what’s generally understood as legislative activity, but rather engages in a variety of elaborate self-promotional exercises. The diminishment in the power of average House Members (as opposed to Party leaders who run their respective caucuses like fiefdoms) has been amply documented. One consequence of this trend is that “comms” has become far more of an all-consuming focus for a certain type of Member, particularly those who are most adept at social media. One “comms” strategy that appears highly effective at the moment in generating outsized public attention is extreme, heavily-personalized emotional exuberance.

With the “trauma” of the MAGA goofball mob intrusion still apparently dominating their psyches, members of Congress have taken it as a solemn duty to claim “space” for the “sharing” of their “lived experience” relating to this event. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a true pioneer in importing the rhetoric of therapeutic trauma jargon, already the lingua franca of an ascendant activism-minded cultural and media cohort, into the mainstream of the Democratic Party. At her direction, it will only become more ubiquitous. And given that such rhetoric deliberately inverts the normal epistemology of contested political claims — it’s deemed incumbent on the listener not to critically evaluate the veracity of such claims, but instead uncritically believe them — the new mode of public argument she’s popularizing is likely to prove highly effective, as it inherently forecloses the prospect of any argument at all.

Per this framework, arguments are replaced with subjective assertions that must be presumptively accepted, lest one be guilty of “minimizing” or “belittling” the elected official’s experiences and thus compounding their trauma. Jamie Raskin, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, took a page from this playbook during the opening presentation of Donald Trump’s trial Monday, breaking down in tears at one point as he wove a narrative about the terror of January 6 with his own personal turmoil. Raskin’s son died on December 31, and the pain he felt from that experience was integrated seamlessly with the pain that he posited all members of Congress must have felt during the goofball riot.

Of course, everyone who’s not a psychopath would sympathize with Raskin for having lost a son to suicide. But to invoke this tragedy in the context of an impeachment trial has an obvious political intent. The intent was to heighten the emotional resonance of the prosecution’s case for convicting Trump, as according to Raskin, he feared that his daughter might also face untimely death because she happened to be in the Capitol with him on January 6. The more intense the “pain” that can be conveyed to the juror-senators, the more likely they are to vote to convict Trump — or so the calculation seemingly goes.

Fellow impeachment manager David Cicilline charged that every single member of Congress nearly avoided being slaughtered in a mass execution-style attack that day — “They could have killed all of us,” he said — although no real evidence has ever been presented to substantiate this dramatic theory, which seems only to be professed by partisan Democrats. A number of basic facts stemming from the Capitol intrusion which could provide clarity are still mysteriously absent from the public record, such as whether any of the rioters brandished or discharged firearms. You’d think this would be helpful information to know before proclaiming, as Cicilline did, that what occurred was an “armed insurrection.” It would be a very curious “armed insurrection” for no firearms to have been deployed over the course of the “insurrection.”

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“The study Fauci funded at the WIV in 2014 was done so in contravention to the [Obama] moratorium then in effect.”

The Disarticulation of Pandemic War Propaganda (MPN)

A now-deleted fact sheet published by the U.S. State Department on January 15, 2021, claimed that for over a year, “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin.” The official release of that fact sheet focuses on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV); a controversial research lab in the Hubei province of China which has been the target of well-earned suspicions over its work on bat-borne zoonotic diseases like SARS-CoV-2, better known as the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Missing from the State Department’s missive is the intimate bond that this particular laboratory has to American scientific institutions and to a tight-knit group of individuals with direct links to the U.S. intelligence apparatus and the biodefense establishment. National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci’s funding of gain-of-function (GoF) research in 2014 at the Chinese lab is just one example. The highly polarizing GoF studies, which entail turbo-charging a pathogen’s virulence through the “generation of viruses with properties that do not exist in nature” present considerable biosafety hazards, which led the Obama administration to issue a federal moratorium on GoF research. The study Fauci funded at the WIV in 2014 was done so in contravention to the moratorium then in effect.

Deeper and more disturbing ties to outfits like USAID-funded Ecohealth Alliance have been covered by independent journalists like Same Husseini and others, revealing the WIV’s close relationship to people like David R. Franz – former commander of Fort Detrick, the pre-eminent biowarfare and biodefense facility in the U.S. and the source of the anthrax spores used in the infamous 2001 anthrax attacks. In July 2020, this author carried out an investigation into the nexus between the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), USAID and zoonotic disease research in Asia.

Recently, some of these facts have seeped into mainstream news outlets as the “lab-leak” hypothesis, which suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen escaped from a laboratory in China. Careful to avoid drawing attention to links between American scientific institutions and their Chinese counterparts, a narrative is gathering momentum as the idea of a ‘cover-up’ by Chinese authorities is promulgated on prime time television news magazine shows like “60 Minutes,” which ran an expose the promoted the idea that China is “weaponizing” the pandemic. The narrative is not new and has been lingering in the background since the pandemic was declared.

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“this new center [is being built] with the aim of observing Russian forces..”

New US Military Base in Northeast Syria Latest of Biden’s Warlike Moves (MPN)

The U.S.-government funded outlet Voice of America has confirmed rumors that a new military base is being built in northeastern Syria. A convoy of 40 troop carriers and other vehicles arrived and began setting up shop in the city of Hasakah near the Turkish and Iraqi borders over the weekend. “The U.S. flag is now raised over a building,” said journalist Jindar Berekat, a native of the city, “it is not clear how many American soldiers will be stationed at this location, but their armored military vehicles are here and it looks like they are still constructing parts of it.”

“Many here believe that the building of a U.S. base inside Hasakah could be a response to the growing Russian presence in the city,” a local reporter told Voice of America, “this new center [is being built] with the aim of observing Russian forces in Hasakah.” Russian military units have been present in Syria since 2015, intervening on behalf of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The two foreign superpowers have come close to armed confrontation in Syria many times, including in 2017, when President Trump ordered the bombing of a Russian airbase near the Lebanese border. Already, the American presence has prevented the Russian military from carrying out patrols in northeastern Syria.

While the United States has presented its role in Syria as a counter terrorism operation, Assad’s government has accused it of plundering its resources, “condemn[ing] in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company to steal Syria’s oil under the sponsorship and support of the American administration.” Around 500 American troops have been guarding the country’s oilfields for months, and last summer, Senator Lindsay Graham confirmed that the U.S. had indeed signed a deal with the SDF to “modernize” the country’s oil industry. Damascus considers the agreement “null and void.”

The new base at Hasakah is the latest in a string of actions that suggest the United States wishes to bolster or expand its presence in the war-torn country. Last month, American forces reinforced another base along the M4 highway, which runs from the city of Aleppo through the north of the country and towards the Iraqi border in the east. At the same time, its ally Israel was conducting a series of major airstrikes across the east of the country, reportedly targeting Iranian or pro-Iranian forces.

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Only the good stuff?!

Facebook New Algorithm Will ‘Reduce Political Content’ On News Feeds (JTN)

Facebook announced on Wednesday the social media platform will in the coming weeks start limiting the amount of political content viewers see on their news feeds. The company is aware that “people don’t want political content to take over their News Feed,” Product Management Director Aastha Gupta wrote in a blog post on the site. The change will begin with Facebook temporarily reduce the distribution of political content in News Feed for a small percentage of people in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week. Gupta said the process will begin in the U.S. in the coming weeks.


The initial rollout will allow the company to explore different methods of ranking political content prior to its deciding on a permanent solution. Facebook has in recent months and years attempted to reducing political content, include no new political ads in the final week of the 2020 presidential campaign. However, the company and other social media giants have meanwhile faced growing scrutiny of what third-party content they choose to censure or block. “Our goal is to preserve the ability for people to find and interact with political content on Facebook, while respecting each person’s appetite for it at the top of their News Feed,” Gupta said.

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They’ve lost their party. Might as well start another one.

Former Republican Officials In Talks To Form Anti-Trump Third Party (R.)

Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters. The early stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved say. More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism,” including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law – ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump.

The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse center-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people say. Evan McMullin, who was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election, told Reuters that he co-hosted the Zoom call with former officials concerned about Trump’s grip on Republicans and the nativist turn the party has taken. [..] Call participants said they were particularly dismayed by the fact that more than half of the Republicans in Congress – eight senators and 139 House representatives – voted to block certification of Biden’s election victory just hours after the Capitol siege.

Most Republican senators have also indicated they will not support the conviction of Trump in this week’s Senate impeachment trial. “Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy,” McMullin told Reuters. “The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”

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Why is the idea of surrendering control of parts of the US to Facebook, Google etc. not shot down on sight?

Will Corporation-Owned Smart Cities Come To Nevada? (AN)

With plans reportedly still moving forward for Blockchains, LLC, to break ground on a Tom Wiscombe Architecture and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC)-designed smart city in Nevada in 2022, Governor Steve Sisolak is looking to give it, and similar developments across the state, the power to form their own governments. According to documents acquired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sisolak has floated a draft proposal to create “Innovation Zones” across the state in a bid to draw technology companies, and giving them the power to set up their own governments. In exchange for this autonomy, the Nevada state government would forgo the tax abatement or incentive packages typically used to encourage big businesses to relocate.

Sisolak first mentioned the idea during his January 19 State of the State address but later confirmed that a draft bill was in the works on February 4 via Twitter. According to the text reviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (subject to change before a final bill is submitted), such an “alternative form of local government” is needed to entice big tech companies, and that over time, the administration of those zones would gradually take over governmental duties from their respective counties. Each zone would be overseen by a three-person board of supervisors, with the company behind the development having the majority of the say in who gets appointed.

It should be noted that the governor’s proposal only extends to companies doing “innovative” work; relating to blockchains, healthcare, robotics, renewable energy research, biometrics, autonomous vehicles, and similar cutting-edge research. Any company applying to set up an Innovation Zone through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development would need to own and be intent on developing at least 50,000 acres not already part of a city or town, $250 million on hand, and a plan to invest at least $1 billion in the area over the next 10 years.


Tom Wiscombe Architecture and EYRC revealed their design for the Blockchains city in 2018, and now the project’s developer may get the power to form its own government there. (Courtesy EYRC Architects and Tom Wiscombe Architecture)

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No. What Yellen eyes is control.

Yellen Eyes Innovation To Battle Misuse Of Cryptocurrencies (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday warned about an “explosion of risk” from digital markets, including the misuse of cryptocurrencies, but said new financial technologies could also help fight crime and reduce inequality. In remarks to a financial sector innovation roundtable, Yellen said such technologies could be used to stem the flow of dark money from organized crime and fight back against hackers, but also to reduce digital gaps in the United States. She said passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in December would allow the Treasury Department to rework a framework for combating illicit finance that has been largely unchanged since the 1970s.


“The update couldn’t have come at a better time,” Yellen told policymakers, regulators and private sector experts. “We’re living amidst an explosion of risk related to fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, and data privacy.” The COVID-19 pandemic had triggered more – and more sophisticated – cyberattacks aimed at hospitals, schools, banks, and the government itself, she said. Cryptocurrencies and virtual assets offered promise, but they had also been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers and to finance terrorism. Innovation in the sector could help address these problems while giving millions of people access to the financial system, she said.

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“..the Biden Justice Department is effectively signaling his administration is not all that serious about press freedom..”

Assange Prosecution Will Continue Under Biden (Gosztola)

The Justice Department under President Joe Biden plans to continue the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that was launched under President Donald Trump. “We continue to seek his extradition,” Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi told Reuters, days before February 12, the deadline for the United States government to submit its “grounds for appeal.” The statement represents a departure from President Barack Obama’s administration, which declined to prosecute Assange. Justice Department officials were reportedly concerned about the threat it would pose to press freedom.

On January 4, British district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the U.S. government’s extradition request and concluded Assange’s mental condition was “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.” She accepted that Assange would likely be imprisoned at a supermax prison in the U.S. under special administrative measures (SAMs) and would find a way to commit suicide. “I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the ‘single minded determination’ of his autism spectrum disorder.” However, the Biden Justice Department plans to contest the judge’s conclusion that Assange should not be extradited because he would likely commit suicide.

[..] During Biden’s first foreign policy speech on February 4, he proclaimed, “We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential. A free press is essential to the health of a democracy.” However, in Trump’s last year in office, he signed a counterintelligence strategy document that lumped in “leaktivists” and “public disclosure organizations,” like WikiLeaks, with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and terrorist groups, which U.S. security agencies view as “significant threats.” That strategy document, which covers 2020-2022, sharply conflicts with Biden’s assertion that the U.S. government believes the free press is not an adversary. Indeed, it shows U.S. security agencies believe they should monitor, neutralize, and even target dissident media organizations that may employ practices pioneered by WikiLeaks.

While the tone of the new administration may sound more polite toward elite journalists, by refusing to abandon this dangerous political case, the Biden Justice Department is effectively signaling his administration is not all that serious about press freedom and what officials have to say are empty platitudes that should not pacify people aware of what is at stake if Assange is brought to the U.S. and put on trial.

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“The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.”

In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3 (BBee)

In a historic move, the U.S. Senate decided to switch to voting by mail for Trump’s second impeachment trial. After all the votes were counted by an intern in a back room with no cameras, the Senate ruled to convict President Trump of incitement to violence by a vote of 8275 to 3. “Our holy democracy has spoken,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “Do not ask any questions or you are a blasphemer against the sacred sacredness of our vote. Everyone can go home now!” A couple of troublemaking Senators attempted to overthrow the Constitution by bringing up the point that there are only 100 Senators, making it impossible to arrive at a tally of 8275 to 3, but they were quickly removed from the Senate Chambers and condemned for “attempting to suppress the votes of people of color.” The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 102021
 


Claude Monet Houses of Parliament (Sun Breaking through the Fog) 1904

 

Nation To Celebrate 1st Anniversary Of Two Weeks To Flatten The Curve (BBee)
Mindless Lockdowns Destroy Lives — And Our Constitution (NYP)
Doctors Link Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines to Life-Threatening Blood Disorder (CHD)
Biden Team Fears No COVID Herd Immunity Until Thanksgiving (DB)
Trump Hid His Calls With Putin. Now, Biden Has Access To Them. (Pol.)
With Biden in Charge, Media Forgets Kids in Cages (MPN)
Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Lives On Under Biden’s Command (ZH)
Trump Plans A Reemergence And Some Retribution After Impeachment (Pol.)
Trump Reportedly Shocked, Enraged By Bruce Castor’s Performance (F.)
Births In China Plummeted 15% In 2020 (ZH)
Mark Cuban’s Mavericks Won’t Play National Anthem Anymore (NYP)
Biden Continues Push For Assange’s Extradition Ahead of US Appeal Deadline (RT)

 

 

“I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others–poor young clerks who loitered in front of the windows until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner–young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seems like a good time to open with Babylon Bee.

Nation To Celebrate 1st Anniversary Of Two Weeks To Flatten The Curve (BBee)

The nation is preparing to celebrate what is expected to become a beloved annual holiday: Two Weeks To Slow The Spread Day, to be held in March every year. “This time of year we like to come together to remember the historic day one year ago when we put on masks and locked ourselves down, trusting that the lockdown would be over in just two weeks,” said local man Paul Christof as he stared out his window longingly, his three masks securely in place. “This year, I’m going all out with a Zoom party with no more than five of my closest friends — I mean, closest, figuratively speaking, of course. We’ll be literally far apart, because I want to stay home and stay safe, and I don’t want grandma to die.”


Traditional festivities for the newly christened American holiday include remote Amazon gift exchanges, ordering DoorDash feasts for just yourself, and the customary binging of the Netflix. Historians believe the holiday will become a hit, and people will continue to wear masks and stay home throughout the year as the festive day is celebrated for hundreds of years to come.

Read more …

“The Constitution, Justice Robert Jackson famously wrote, “is not a suicide pact.”

Mindless Lockdowns Destroy Lives — And Our Constitution (NYP)

The US Supreme Court on Friday made clear to Team Biden and state governors that the fight against the pandemic doesn’t give them a blank check against individual liberties. In South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, the high court struck down a California emergency regulation that prohibited all indoor religious services. Six justices held that Gov. Gavin Newsom had violated the First Amendment by subjecting religious groups to a complete ban, even while groceries, public transit and retail shops remain open. Americans accepted a broad — but temporary — lockdown of society to slow the pandemic a year ago. Yet many still live under unprecedented restrictions: business and school closures, travel bans, curfews, quarantines, limits on groups and mask mandates.

Whatever the health benefits of these diktats (and many are questionable), they have been handed down with shocking disregard for the costs: strokes uncared for, cancers left undetected, psychological anguish (especially among young adults), skyrocketing domestic abuse and harm to children from lack of in-person schooling. Unemployment from lockdowns, meanwhile, will cause 890,000 additional US deaths over the next 15 years, according to a recent study. Lockdowns also inflict great harm upon liberty. Governments overrode the rights to meet, work, speak, worship or organize. Bureaucracies decided which businesses could open and which should die.

Our legal system understandably defers to the executive branch during an emergency, when swift action can save lives. The Constitution, Justice Robert Jackson famously wrote, “is not a suicide pact.” Emergency policies may prove imperfect, but our legal and political systems accept more mistakes during emergencies or war, because the costs of inaction are far higher. Still, our system doesn’t permit permanent dictatorial powers in the face of contrary data. In California, for example, the governor can unilaterally exercise any and all authority vested in the state, such as to impose quarantines and curfews, ration goods and services and regulate or even prohibit any economic and social activity.

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mRNA and auto-immune.

Doctors Link Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines to Life-Threatening Blood Disorder (CHD)

For the second time in under a month, The New York Times has published an article about people who developed a rare autoimmune disease after receiving COVID vaccines. Monday’s article featured two women, both of whom were described as healthy before they received the Moderna vaccine. The women, ages 72 and 48, are now being treated for immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), a condition that develops when the immune system attacks platelets (blood component essential for clotting) or the cells that create them, according to the Times. On Jan. 13, the Times reported on the death of Dr. Gregory Michael, a Florida doctor who died 15 days after getting the Pfizer vaccine. Michael, who was 56 and described as “perfectly healthy” by his wife, developed ITP three days after being vaccinated.

He died of a brain hemorrhage on Jan. 3. As The Defender reported on Jan. 13, Dr. Jerry L. Spivak, an expert on blood disorders at Johns Hopkins University, said it was a “medical certainty” the Pfizer vaccine led to Michael’s death. Spivak, who was interviewed for Monday’s article in the Times, reiterated the link between the vaccine and ITP. Another doctor, Dr. James Bussel, a hematologist and professor emeritus at Weill Cornell Medicine who has written more than 300 scientific articles on the platelet disorder, also said he thinks there is a “possible” association between the vaccines and ITP. Bussel told the Times: “I’m assuming there’s something that made the people who developed thrombocytopenia susceptible, given what a tiny percentage of recipients they are. Having it happen after a vaccine is well-known and has been seen with many other vaccines. Why it happens, we don’t know.”

Bussel and a colleague, Dr. Eun-Ju Lee, have identified 15 cases of ITP in COVID vaccine recipients by searching the government’s database — the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) — or by consulting with other physicians treating patients, and have submitted an article about their findings to a medical journal, according to the Times. In a statement provided to the Times, Pfizer said it was aware of ITP cases in vaccine recipients and that the company is “collecting relevant information” to share with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine maker added, however that “at this time, we have not been able to establish a causal association with our vaccine.” Moderna also provided a statement, but didn’t address cases of ITP, only saying that it “continuously monitors the safety of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine using all sources of data” and routinely shares safety information with regulators.

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Blind.

Biden Team Fears No COVID Herd Immunity Until Thanksgiving (DB)

Top members of President Joe Biden’s COVID response team are warning internally that the U.S. may not reach herd immunity until Thanksgiving or even the start of winter—months later than originally calculated—according to two senior administration officials. In an interview with CBS News this week, Biden hinted at some of these concerns, saying it would be “very difficult” to reach herd immunity—a population-wide resistance to the virus—“much before the end of the summer” with the current daily rate of approximately 1.3 million vaccine doses. Other top officials working on the federal government’s COVID-19 response say the are uneasy about vaccine supply long term and the impact on herd immunity, and have begun to explore ways to expand U.S. manufacturing capacity, potentially through new partnerships with outside pharmaceutical firms.


Beyond supply issues, though, top health officials say they are increasingly worried about the United Kingdom and South African COVID-19 variants, the likelihood that more variants will emerge in the coming months, and the possibility that those variants will evade the vaccines. There is some evidence to suggest that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protect against the B117 United Kingdom variant, though a recent study shows a new mutation could make the vaccines less effective. Data gathered by the Novavax and Johnson and Johnson clinical trials in South Africa suggest their vaccines are less effective against the variant spreading rapidly in the country. And South Africa recently said it was halting the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because evidence from clinical trials suggested the vaccine did not work well against the variant.

Tucker: Big Tech attempting to censor COVID-19 vaccine dissent

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RussiaRussia is alive and kicking.

Trump Hid His Calls With Putin. Now, Biden Has Access To Them. (Pol.)

Few Trump-era mysteries are as intriguing as what the 45th president said to Vladimir Putin in at least a dozen rambling, off-the-cuff calls and meetings over four years. Understanding what was said between the two could help illuminate whether Trump ever revealed sensitive information or struck any deals with the Kremlin leader that could take the new administration by surprise. Now that President Joe Biden is in the White House, he can see for himself. “They don’t need our approval to see those [records],” a former Trump White House official said, referring to the new Biden national security team. “Biden owns all the call materials. There is only one president at a time.” The Biden White House did not comment on whether it had seen the content of the calls.

But so far, at least, the National Security Council has not registered any complaints with their ability to access relevant call records from the previous administration. “It is a national security priority to find out what Trump said to Putin” over his four years in office, said one former national security official who is close to the new president. “Some things, like what happened in some face-to-face meetings where no American translator or note-taker was present, may never be fully known. But I would be very surprised if the new national security team were not trying to access” the call records. Trump closely guarded his private conversations with foreign leaders while in office, going as far as to have some hidden in the NSC’s top-secret codeword system to limit staffers’ and even cabinet members’ access and prevent leaks.

Readouts of their calls would often come from the Kremlin first, or through Trump’s Twitter feed. But while the calls were not recorded, aides were typically still on the line and taking notes of what was said. The resulting loose transcripts are known as “memcons,” or memorandums of conversation. Trump went to particularly great lengths to keep his in-person conversations with the Russian leader private, from confiscating his interpreter’s notes to forgoing American translators and notetakers altogether in their meetings. That desire for secrecy has extended even past his time in office. One former Trump official argued last week that records of Trump’s conversations with Putin, which often lasted an hour or more, should not be made available to his successor. “There are certain things a president and his immediate staff should be able to hold privileged to do the work of government, without being subject to constant partisan gamesmanship,” said a second former Trump White House official.

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Just give it a new name and you’re squeaky clean.

With Biden in Charge, Media Forgets Kids in Cages (MPN)

The Biden administration is opening a new child prison along the United States-Mexico border. The center, located in Carrizo Springs, around 100 miles southwest of San Antonio, is being specifically built for unaccompanied migrant children attempting to cross the border and will hold around 700 people when finished, although plans noted it will be expanded if the government deems it necessary. But corporate media do not see it that way. While the Trump years were filled with stories about “kids in cages” and ICE “concentration camps” along the border, they have instead almost universally referred to the new project as an “overflow facility” to help migrant children, as the following headlines demonstrate:

“Biden administration prepares to open overflow facility for migrant children,” CNN, “Biden administration to open overflow facility for 700 migrant children,” New York Post, “Biden administration to house migrant teens at overflow facility in Texas closed under Trump,” USA Today, “Biden Admin. to Open Migrant Overflow Facility amid Increase in Unaccompanied Minor Apprehensions,” Yahoo! News, “Biden administration prepares to open overflow facility for migrant children,” CBS. “Overflow facility” is a distinctly pleasantly sounding term for such an establishment, suggesting links to positively-charged services like swimming pools or libraries. The phrase is a completely new way to refer to prisons; a news search for “overflow facility” pre-January 2021 brings up only stories about COVID overflow clinics or emergency sewage treatment works.

The phrase “concentration camp” to describe the structure was completely absent. Searching for “Biden concentration camp” into news databases is more likely to generate stories about the plight of Uyghurs in Western China rather than domestic affairs. Perhaps the worst offender, however, was Fox News, whose headline informed readers: “Biden administration to open overflow shelter for migrant children in Texas” — a framing that invites the audience to see the move as a humanitarian gesture, along the lines of rape crisis shelters. None of the children who will be sent there will go of their own free will and it is doubtful whether many will appreciate the “shelter” that the U.S. government will provide them.

[..] Over much of the past three years, corporate media have been comparing the detention centers on the border to concentration camps, if not directly labeling them as such (e.g. CNN, Esquire, Washington Post). Data from Google Trends shows that phrases like “ICE concentration camp” were barely used until 2018, the term exploding into public consciousness a year later, especially after prominent Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez began using it. President Biden has promised to rein in many of the worst excesses of ICE policy, yet the organization’s role in society will not fundamentally change. Indeed, during the time he was vice-president (2009-2017), President Obama deported well over 2.5 million people through immigration orders, more than any other president in American history, earning him the moniker “Deporter-in-Chief” from critics.

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Iran, Russia, China. Axis of ….

Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign Lives On Under Biden’s Command (ZH)

Tehran is continuing to reinforce its positions and pursue its interests. This is prompted by the fact that US President Joe Biden’s vow to rejoin the Nuclear Deal turned out to be entirely hollow. Iran demanded that the sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration be removed, otherwise rejoining the deal meant nothing. On February 8th, Biden confirmed that sanctions on Iran wouldn’t be lifted, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying that such a “big policy change” wasn’t planned. To show some “reduction in pressure”, the USS Nimitz carrier strike group was pulled out of the region, in a signal that an escalation with Iran isn’t planned. That happened as Tehran, Moscow and Beijing announced they would hold joint naval drills.


In response, US Central Command’s Gen Kenneth McKenzie said that Iran was the “Main Driver of Instability”, in his first public address since Biden became president. McKenzie repeated a usual a US accusation against Tehran, claiming that for more than forty years it “has funded and aggressively supported terrorism and terrorist organizations.” The “maximum pressure” campaign is simply “on hold”, but is not canceled. [..] US and allied interests are being pressured all around the Middle East, as the Biden administration refuses to turn its back on any of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policies. The withdrawal of the USS Nimitz CSG is a likely a welcome sign, but the sanction regime remaining, surely, spoils the party.

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Politico keeps the threat of Trump alive.

Trump Plans A Reemergence And Some Retribution After Impeachment (Pol.)

Three weeks ago may have been the nadir of Donald Trump’s political influence. A meager crowd of supporters gathered to send him off to Florida, he’d lost access to Twitter and the Senate’s most powerful Republican, Mitch McConnell, seemed fully prepared to ghost him out of the party. Now, heading into what could have been an historic bipartisan rebuke, the former president and his team are confident both of his acquittal and that he’ll come out of the trial with his influence over the Republican party all but cemented. Not even Trump’s closest allies can believe the turn in fortunes. “He’s Teflon, right. It’s been a month since the Capitol riot and I would say, for the most part, the GOP has coalesced back behind him,” said a former Trump campaign official.

The confidence from Trump allies heading into the former president’s second impeachment trial — this time over the deadly riots by Trump supporters on Capitol Hill — may seem premature, given the lingering political and legal hurdles he still must confront. But it provides a road map of sorts for how they view his path ahead. Already, Trump aides contend, the impeachment process has proved beneficial to the ex-president — exposing disloyalty within the party’s ranks and igniting grassroots backlash against Republicans who have attempted to nudge the GOP base away from Trump. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse spent last week fending off constituent criticisms and censures from state party officials after he compared Trumpism to “a civic cancer for the nation.” And Trump’s allies believe the ex-president’s impending impeachment trial will further illuminate who the turncoats are.

“It’s going to help expose more bad apples that he can primary if any senators vote to convict,” added the former campaign official. While ensconced at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Trump has remained in touch with political allies and advisers. But he has intentionally kept a low profile, something that will likely continue this week. A former aide suggested Trump try to demonstrate his indifference to it all by spending much of impeachment playing golf, “as a way of sort of saying, ‘Who cares?’” Aides expect that to change once the trial wraps up though, with Trump gradually reemerging in public and turning his attention toward seeking revenge against Republicans who, he believes, crossed him after he left office.

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A knack for picking lawyers.

Trump Reportedly Shocked, Enraged By Bruce Castor’s Performance (F.)

Count former President Donald Trump among the many critics of attorney Bruce Castor’s widely panned performance on the first day of his Senate impeachment trial, with Trump reportedly outraged at his lawyer’s apparent inability to form a coherent argument, according to multiple reports. During Castor’s muddled, 50-minute speech, NBC News and the New York Times quoted an anonymous Trump source who said it was a “deliberative strategy” aimed at “lowering the temperature” after the impeachment managers’ emotional argument. But Trump had been prepared for his current impeachment team to be far less persuasive than the group of high-powered lawyers who defended him during his first impeachment trial, according to ABC News.


Still, Trump was “stunned to hear some of the arguments,” particularly Castor’s praise for his adversaries, according to ABC and the Times, which reported that “some in Trump’s orbit were unsure why Castor seemed caught off guard by video clips that were expected for days.” Trump was “deeply unhappy” with Castor’s performance and was “borderline screaming over what was going on as he was talking to people about this,” CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins said. Even Trump allies who voted to affirm Castors’ argument that the trial is unconstitutional lashed out publicly at his performance. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told reporters Castor “rambled on and on,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he was not “effective.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters, “I thought I knew where he was going, and I really didn’t know where he was going.”

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“The collapse of the newborn population is really here..”

Births In China Plummeted 15% In 2020 (ZH)

Preliminary numbers assessing China’s births in 2020 released by the country’s household registration system are setting off alarm bells for Beijing, suggesting a continued severe population decline, given the new numbers for last year show a whopping 15% decline in births from the year before. “Concerns over the outlook for China’s population have grown after the number of newborns recorded in the country’s household registration system declined 15 per cent during a coronavirus-hit 2020,” South China Morning Post observes of the new numbers. “Last year, a total 10.035 million of newborns were recorded in the household registration system, known as hukou in China, down from 11.79 million in 2019, according to figures released by the Ministry of Public Security on Monday.”

While the hukou system only reveals preliminary information on total births across the population, it’s official demographic stats for COVID-impacted 2020 is expected to come out soon via China’s National Bureau of Statistics based on a once in ten year national census it recently conducted. As SCMP underscores it’s predicted that when total official stats do come out, expectations are for a further decline after previously 2019 saw “the lowest level since 1961” and down from 2018 as well. China is the world’s most populous country with the number of people commonly estimated at just over 1.4 billion. When the current working-age population hits retirement, there are fears the decline in births trend will severely impact the world’s second largest economy.

This also given the latest official figures out of the National Bureau of Statistics show that some 18% of the population is already over 60, with this ageing demographic to grow to one-third of the entire population by 2050. The SCMP report cited one prominent research economics professor to say the writing is on the wall. “The collapse of the newborn population is really here,” he warned, writing that: “Although we cannot deduce the decline in the birth population in these regions as the annual decline in the country, we consider that idea of having two children is weak and the number of women of childbearing age has decreased, so we need not anticipate further that the birth population in 2020 will drop significantly compared with 2019. The collapse of the newborn population is really here,” said James Liang, a research professor of applied economics at the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, in a blog post last week.

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And we all care?!

Mark Cuban’s Mavericks Won’t Play National Anthem Anymore (NYP)

Haven’t heard about any national anthem protests at Mavericks games? There’s a good reason for that: Dallas isn’t and won’t be playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” anymore. Mark Cuban told The Athletic it was his decision to eliminate the tradition of playing the anthem before games. The move went by unnoticed through the first 13 combined preseason and regular-season games at American Airlines Center because the Mavericks did not publicize it, either within the organization or through an announcement to media. Monday marked the first game in which the Mavericks allowed a limited number of fans into their arena.


Cuban has been vocal about his support of those who wish to kneel during the playing of the national anthem, the practice which former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began in 2016 and which became a lightning rod for partisan political debate. The outspoken Mavericks owner told ESPN last July of the potential for his team’s players to kneel during the anthem: “If they were taking a knee, and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them” and that he hoped he would “join them.” He later tweeted, in response to what he called “The National Anthem Police,” that if critics of the nonviolent protest of systemic racism in the United States took issue then they could “complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.”

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Depraved.

Biden Continues Push For Assange’s Extradition Ahead of US Appeal Deadline (RT)

The Joe Biden administration will continue to pursue extradition for Julian Assange, the Justice Department said, rebuffing calls from rights groups to reverse course ahead of an appeal deadline in the WikiLeaks co-founder’s case. DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi said on Tuesday that Washington has not abandoned plans for Assange’s extradition from the UK, noting that Biden will still challenge a January ruling from a British judge barring extradition over concerns that Assange might take his own life in American custody. “We continue to seek his extradition,” Raimondi told Reuters, signaling that the new Biden administration will pick up where ex-president Donald Trump left off in seeking to charge the anti-secrecy activist for his publication of classified documents.


The statement from the DOJ comes mere days before a February 12 deadline for the US government to submit its “grounds for appeal” in Assange’s extradition case, in which American attorneys will argue against UK Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling against the move. Calls on Washington to abandon the Assange case picked up momentum in the waning days of the Trump presidency, with activists and journalists across the political spectrum demanding he pardon the WikiLeaks publisher before his term was up. While Trump ultimately refused to grant clemency, much of the same pressure has carried over to the Biden administration, illustrated most recently in a letter from some two dozen civil liberties organizations condemning the indictments against Assange as a “grave threat to press freedom.”

Read more …

 

 

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5% of humans in the blue, 5% in the red.

 

 

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Feb 092021
 


Horacio Coppola Avenida de Mayo entre Bolívar y Perú, Buenos Aires 1936

 

Five Ways The Government Could Have Avoided 100,000 Covid Deaths (G.)
14 Nursing Home Residents Test Positive For B117 Despite Vaccination (DF)
Israel and Greece Sign Deal To Allow Vaccinated Tourists To Travel (EN)
Why Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments To Canada Have Been Delayed (Star)
Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccines Serve the People, Not Profits (CP)
A Very Dangerous Variant Of The Global Virus Is Spreading Again (Bilbo)
Is This The Biggest Financial Bubble Ever? Hell Yes It Is (John Rubino)
House Democrats Reject Push To Lower Income Threshold For Stimulus Checks (F.)
Yellen: US At Full Employment Next Year If Congress Passes Stimulus (CNBC)
Europe’s Debt Cancellation Would Mean Recognition of Insolvency (Lacalle)
No US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Over Past Year (Antiwar)
As Trump Impeachment Trial Starts, Democrat Agenda Crashes Into Reality (JTN)
It Cost Taxpayers $483 Million To Send National Guard Troops To DC (F.)
Assange Supporters Urge Joe Biden To Drop Prosecution (Ind.)
The -New Normal- War on Domestic Terror (CJ Hopkins)

 

 

All suspended accounts are on the right.

 

 

U.S. COVID update: Lowest number of new cases since Oct.

 

 

NOTE: Don’t miss John Day MD’s guide for COVID prevention and treatment that I published earlier yesterday: Treat Your Own COVID.

It could save your life.

 

 

Look, Prof Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, and he doesn’t manage one word on the government failing to boost their citizens’ immune systems. It’s all about masks and gloves and testing and borders and messaging. You know, the stuff that attracts attention AFTER people have been infected.

Nobody has a chance in the face of all this myopia.

Five Ways The Government Could Have Avoided 100,000 Covid Deaths (G.)

First, the UK had no border policies in place for months. [..] The second fatal flaw in the UK’s response happened on 12 March, when the government made the fatal decision to stop community testing [..] Third, the government made another harmful decision in March when it delayed the first lockdown. [..] The fourth error was the lack of appropriate personal protective equipment for many health and social workers [..] Finally, the UK has continually lacked both clear leadership and messaging, which are vital in a pandemic. Rather than leading from the front, the government seems to only follow public opinion and polling.

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The Pfizer vaccine. Google translate.

14 Nursing Home Residents Test Positive For B117 Despite Vaccination (DF)

In an old people’s and nursing home in Belm in the Osnabrück district, there was an outbreak of the British Corona variant despite the vaccination. In 14 seniors the virus is B.1.1.7. – although all residents had been vaccinated for the second time on January 25, the district announced. The home, all employees and their families have been quarantined. The board of directors of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Brysch, called on the Ministry of Health to closely monitor nursing homes after the second vaccination. Otherwise there would be no reliable data on the danger the mutation posed for the high-risk group. So far there have only been asymptomatic or mild courses of the disease in the residents, which could be a positive effect of the vaccination, said the press spokesman for the Osnabrück district.

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Again: no vaccine has been approved yet, just emergency authorized. But this is based on vaccination passports. Let’s have a legal expert explain it.

Israel and Greece Sign Deal To Allow Vaccinated Tourists To Travel (EN)

Israel and Greece agreed on Monday to pave the way for vaccinated tourists to travel between their two countries in an effort to boost their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the agreement in Jerusalem on Monday. The deal is designed to allow tourists with vaccination certificates to move between the countries “without any limitations, no self-isolation, nothing,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.


Both economies have large sectors devoted to tourism, an industry devastated by travel restrictions during the 11-month pandemic. The announcement comes at a time of tough new travel restrictions elsewhere around the world as governments grapple with variants of the virus. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation says international arrivals fell 74% last year, wiping out $1.3 trillion (€1 trillion) in revenue and putting up to 120 million jobs at risk. A UNWTO expert panel had a mixed outlook for 2021, with 45% expecting a better year, 25% no change and 30% a worse one.

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No proper research, emergency authorization, of course you’re going to run into gigantic problems. We haven’t seen nothing yet.

Why Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments To Canada Have Been Delayed (Star)

Moderna’s delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada has hit delays because the company has encountered problems with its European supply chain and restrictions on exports of vaccine supplies, the Star has learned. A senior federal source with knowledge of the file told the Star that Moderna is trying to source the material needed to produce its vaccine, and to meet demand for materials needed to package the vaccines. The source said the company’s own supply for materials has been affected by the European Union’s attempt to control how much material is exported before its member states are supplied with vaccine. In a written statement to the Star, Moderna’s country manager for Canada, Patricia Gauthier, confirmed the company’s effort to scale up production in Switzerland is a factor in delayed deliveries to countries outside of the United States.


The statement said Moderna has provided revised short-term delivery guidance “outside of the U.S., including to the government of Canada based on the ramp up trajectory of drug substance manufacturing in Switzerland.” It also suggested no problems are occurring with its packaging process. “Fill and finish activities continue as planned,” the statement said. “Moderna remains focused on operating at the highest level of quality to ensure the safety of the vaccine.” Moderna also confirmed its contract with Canada specifies “delivery volumes per quarter,” and said it will “meet its contractual commitments for the first quarter and the following quarters in order to deliver 40 million doses by the end of the third quarter.” It said its strategic collaboration with Lonza in Switzerland — which started mass production of Moderna vaccines this year — aims to manufacture up to 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per year.

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Cuba has a hard time getting the ingedients for its vaccines. Embargo, don’t you know.

Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccines Serve the People, Not Profits (CP)

Cuba’s socialist approach to developing vaccines against COVID-19 differs strikingly from that of capitalist nations of the world. Cuba’s production of four vaccines is grounded in science and dedicated to saving the lives of all Cubans, and to international solidarity. The New York Times’s running report on the world’s vaccine programs shows 67 vaccines having advanced to human trials; 20 of them are in the final phase of trials or have completed them. The United States, China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and India have each produced many vaccines; most vaccine-manufacturing countries are offering one or two vaccines. Cuba is the only vaccine manufacturer in Latin America; there are none in Africa. The only state-owned entities producing the leading vaccines are those of Cuba and Russia.

Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute has produced two COVID-19 vaccines. Trials for one of them, called Sovereign I, focus on protecting people previously infected with COVID-19. The antibody levels of some of them turned out to be low, and the vaccine might provide a boost. The other vaccine, Sovereign II, is about to enter final human trials. For verifying protection, these trials require tens of thousands of subjects, one half receiving the vaccine and the other half, a placebo vaccine. Cuba’s population is relatively small, 11 million people, too small to yield enough infected people in the short time required to test the vaccine’s protective effect. That’s why Sovereign II will be tested in Iran.

100 million doses of Sovereign II are being prepared, enough to immunize all 11 million Cubans, beginning in March or April. The 70 million remaining doses will go to Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan, India, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Sovereign II “will be the vaccine of ALBA,” explained Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, referring to the solidarity alliance established in 2004 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. “Cuba’s strategy in commercializing the vaccine represents a combination of what’s good for humankind and the impact on world health. We are not a multinational where a financial objective comes first,” says Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute. Income generated by vaccine sales abroad will pay for health care, education, and pensions in Cuba just as happens with exports of medical services and medicines.

Cuba’s Center for Genetic and Biotechnological Engineering is developing two other COVID-19 vaccines; One, named “Mambisa” (signifying a female combatant in wars of liberation from Spain), is administered via the nasal route, just as is Cuba’s hepatitis B vaccine. The other vaccine, named “Abdala” (a character in a Jose Marti poem) is administered intramuscularly. The two vaccines are involved in early trials.

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Austerity is that variant.

A Very Dangerous Variant Of The Global Virus Is Spreading Again (Bilbo)

There is a new variant of the global virus spreading again after being subdued throughout 2020. This is a very dangerous variant and if it takes hold will guarantee massive human suffering, and, a further, substantial shift in national income towards the top-end-of-town. I refer to the creeping infestation that is starting to pop up claiming that austerity will be required to pay for all the “profligacy” associated with government approach to the pandemic. I have seen this virus in the wild and it is creepy and being spread by those who seem to want to gain attention as time passes them by. Overheating threats, austerity threats – it is all part of the economics establishment trying to remain relevant. A vaccine will not work. They need to be permanently isolated.

The Prospect Magazine article (January, 26, 2021) – In defence of austerity – written by a “former head of Treasury” The sub-title begins the twisted framing: “Free money is in vogue—but there’s no such thing” – the only cost of the Bank of England buying all the debt being issued by H.M. Treasury is the wear and tear on the computer keyboards that type in the numbers. The pandemic has exposed to an increasing number of people that there is ‘free money’. They are realising that numbers just appear in bank accounts. Perhaps this former official should watch the recent speech and subsequent Q&A from the Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe to the National Press Club in Canberra (February 3, 2020).

He was asked by a journalist in the Q&A: Could you please explain in the simplest terms, perhaps keeping in mind your audience outside of this room, when the RBA decides to purchase government bonds, as it’s doing, where does the RBA get that money from? Is it simply a matter of printing new money? How does it work? The Governor replied:

“Well, it’s not printing money. People think of it as printing money, because once upon a time if the central bank bought an asset, it might pay for that asset by giving you notes, you know, bank notes. I’d have to run my printing presses to do it. We don’t operate that way anymore, obviously because we live in an electronic world. When we buy a bond from a bank, the way we pay for that is credit. The banks, we’ll use Westpac, who’s the sponsor of today’s event as an example. If we bought a bond from Westpac, we would credit Westpac’s account at the Reserve Bank, and that creates the money electronically. That’s how a modern system works. And then Westpac could use that money hopefully to make some loans to some of its customers. But we can create money electronically, and that’s what we do these days …”

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John takes a trip through all the bubbles. Read.

Is This The Biggest Financial Bubble Ever? Hell Yes It Is (John Rubino)

If you’re over 40 you’ve lived through at least three epic financial bubbles: junk bonds in the 1980s, tech stocks in the 1990s, and housing in the 2000s. Each was spectacular in its own way, and each threatened to take down the whole financial system when it burst. But they pale next to what’s happening today. Where those past bubbles were sector-specific, which is to say the mania and resulting carnage occurred mostly within one asset class, today’s bubble is spread across, well, pretty much everything – hence the term “everything bubble.” When this one pops there won’t be a lot of hiding places.


Most bubbles start when an influx of outside cash sends the price of something up dramatically. This captures the imagination of the broader investing public and the process takes on a life of its own, culminating in an orgy of bad decisions and eventually a wipe-out of the easy fortunes made on the way up. So to understand the everything bubble, let’s start at the beginning with that influx of outside money. This time it’s coming from the Federal Reserve in what can only be described as the mother of all print runs. M2, a medium-broad measure of the US money supply, has more than tripled so far in this century, and lately the arc has gone vertical, rising by nearly a third in just the past year.

All this extra money has to go somewhere, so no surprise that it’s flowing in lots of different directions. Among the recipients: The bond and money markets, made up of instruments that pay interest, are in the aggregate far bigger than the world’s stock markets. And they’ve been booming, with interest rates falling steadily for four straight decades. Since bond prices are the reciprocal of bond yields, the next chart can be read as an epic bull market in bonds, one which has gained steam in the past year as massive currency creation has forced fixed income investors (who have to invest new cash somehow) to buy bonds regardless of what they yield.

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Good Lord: “Democrats anticipate that the final package will be passed by both houses of Congress by mid-March.”

House Democrats Reject Push To Lower Income Threshold For Stimulus Checks (F.)

After days of infighting, House Democrats on Monday night released details of proposed coronavirus relief measures that would put the ceiling for full $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans at the same income levels as previous payouts, rejecting calls from more centrist Democrats to lower the threshold. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Ma.) released a draft version of the bill Monday night proposing $1,400 stimulus checks for single earners making up to $75,000 and for joint filers earning up to $150,000. Some centrist Democrats had called for lowering the threshold to $50,000 per year for individuals and $100,000 per year for joint filers, causing outrage from progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-Ny). Child and adult dependents will now be eligible, unlike the previous rounds of stimulus payments.


Responding to concerns that wealthy people would receive checks, the stimulus payments will phase out quicker, zeroing out when individual income reaches $100,000 and at $200,000 for households. Democrats last week passed a budget reconciliation measure, which allows them to pass a stimulus plan with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. As a result, the final bill will likely be subject to intense jockeying between Democrats because the party can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate without Republican support. The measure still has to pass the rest of the House and the Senate, where it meets resistance from centrist Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), who has been leading the charge to lower the income threshold. Democrats anticipate that the final package will be passed by both houses of Congress by mid-March.

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Let’s do the opposite of everything she proposes, then we should be good.

Yellen: US At Full Employment Next Year If Congress Passes Stimulus (CNBC)

The U.S. could return to full employment in 2022 if President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package is passed, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday. “There’s absolutely no reason why we should suffer through a long slow recovery,” Yellen said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I would expect that if this package is passed that we would get back to full employment next year.” Long-term unemployment is nearing a historical peak nearly a year since the pandemic began. Nearly 40% of unemployed workers have been out of work for six months, the Bureau of of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, with nearly 9 million fewer Americans working now than last February. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January.

The pandemic-fueled unemployment rate will remain elevated for years to come without more federal support, Yellen said, citing an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Without additional stimulus, it could take until 2025 to send the unemployment rate back down to 4%. Yellen also said that former Obama economic adviser Larry Summer’s concerns over Biden’s stimulus plan posing risks to inflation are small compared to economic damage from failing to provide enough economic support during the pandemic. The U.S. has “the tools to deal with” the risk of inflation, Yellen said.

Democrats in Congress have moved to pass the stimulus plan within two weeks without GOP support, using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. The plan is the first of two major spending initiatives Biden will seek and includes provisions like direct payments to Americans, weekly jobless benefits through September and funding for vaccines and testing. The second bill will focus on infrastructure reform, climate change and racial equity, among other things. “We have people suffering … through absolutely no fault of their own,” Yellen said. “We have to get them to the other side and make sure that this doesn’t take a permanent toll on their lives.”

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Everything left is dangerous.

Europe’s Debt Cancellation Would Mean Recognition of Insolvency (Lacalle)

More than 100 economists, led by French economist Thomas Piketty, creator of some of the most absurd proposals embraced by the extreme left, on Feb. 5 published an open letter in which they called for a cancellation of government debt in the hands of the ECB “in exchange for greater public investment”—which, by the way, would be paid with more issuance of public debt. Fascinating. Luís de Guindos, vice president of the ECB, has settled the controversy with two pieces of evidence. “The cancellation of debt [on the ECB balance sheet] is illegal … [and] does not make any economic or financial sense at all,” he explained in a speech, according to Europa Press. The first part is obvious. It is prohibited by the bylaws of the ECB. I will explain the lack of economic logic here.

A debt write-off or cancellation is evidence of the issuer’s insolvency. If, as the economists repeat, the solvency and credit credibility of the eurozone is not at stake, why ask for a cancellation? If, in addition, as Piketty and other defenders of massive state indebtedness maintain, deficits are not a problem and increasing debt is not a concern because it creates reserves, why cancel it? Let’s not forget that many of the parties that have embraced Piketty’s idea in Europe—Podemos, Syriza, and other European radical parties—filed a proposal to exit the euro in 2015 that they have never subsequently withdrawn or rejected. Podemos MEPs presented a resolution in Strasbourg for the European Union to prepare the mechanisms for the “orderly dissolution of the euro zone.” They also proposed to establish “the mechanisms that would allow a country integrated in the single currency to abandon it to adopt another currency,” according to Spanish newspaper Crónica Global.

So basically, radical parties in Europe demand that the ECB forgives their debt and prints more while keeping the option of leaving the euro. Call that baking the cake and eating it. Most eurozone states finance themselves today at negative rates or extremely low yields. It would be a mistake to think that these low interest yields are the consequence of good government fiscal policy. If the eurozone has low interest rates and low yields it’s because European taxpayers keep it solvent—mostly thanks to Germany’s financial solvency. European taxpayers uphold the credibility of the euro as a currency, and with this the ECB can carry out expansionary policies.

Piketty and colleagues open a dangerous option: direct monetization of all and any government spending Argentina-style. And do so ignoring that the euro is the only global reserve currency with redenomination risk, and that its credibility is maintained only because of the widespread confidence in the euro area’s commitment to repay its debts. A euro bond is an asset for many investors globally only because it’s supposed to be of the lowest risk. Opening the Pandora’s box of cancellations means its status as an asset disappears.

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And then Biden wants to go break the deal that made that possible.

No US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Over Past Year (Antiwar)

For the first time since the US war in Afghanistan started in 2001, no US troops died in combat in the country for an entire year. The last US combat death took place on February 8th, 2020, when two US Army soldiers were killed in a firefight. This means since the US and Taliban signed a peace deal in late February of last year, no US troops have been killed by the group. But with the withdrawal deadline approaching, the Taliban is vowing to again turn their weapons on US soldiers if they stay in Afghanistan past May 1st. While the Biden administration has yet to make a formal announcement, the chances of a US withdrawal by May 1st seem slim. Last week, a congressionally mandated report was released that warned against the May 1st deadline, which could be all the excuse the US needs to stay.


Pentagon officials have said the deadline is uncertain and insist troops levels in Afghanistan remain “conditions-based.” US officials have been complaining about the amount of violence between the Taliban and the US-backed government. On Monday, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said the level of violence is “too high” and that the Biden administration is taking “a close look at the way forward in accordance with the February 2020 peace agreement.” Since the US is not the only country with troops in Afghanistan, the US-Taliban deal paved the way for all foreign and NATO forces to leave the country. While the alliance has also not made a formal announcement, NATO officials told reporters that NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond May 1st.

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Get out the popcorn.

As Trump Impeachment Trial Starts, Democrat Agenda Crashes Into Reality (JTN)

[..] And the emotionally charged case that Trump incited the Capitol riot with his Jan. 6 speech, has developed deep cracks. Less than a half dozen Republicans have shown any interest in conviction as the facts increasingly show the riot was not spontaneous but rather planned for days and weeks with fund-raising, training, and combat threats. Even the former Capitol Police chief has weighed in with a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the attacks exhibited a “high level of coordination,” undercutting the Democrats’ spontaneous incitement narrative even further. The likelihood of Trump’s conviction has waned as the premeditation evidence mounts, and now Democrats once gleeful they could end the 45th president’s ability to ever hold office again are now pressing to get the trial over quickly as acquittal seems assured.

“It’s not clear to me that there is any evidence that will change anyone’s mind,” Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz told Politico. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, often an opponent of Trump, acknowledged the obvious, observing, “Both sides would kind of like to wrap it up fairly quickly.” The Senate trial will start Tuesday with a debate over whether the event is even constitutional with Chief Justice John Roberts refusing to preside, Trump already out of office, and a legitimate debate over whether Trump’s speech was protected “free speech” as Democratic law professor John Turley has argued. Once a dream of Democrats, the trial is feeling more like a burden to them as other elements pose obstacles and challenges to the Biden agenda.

Even Biden himself has little interest in watching the trial, his chief spokeswoman said Monday. “I think it’s clear from his schedule and from his intention that he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

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Expensive theater.

It Cost Taxpayers $483 Million To Send National Guard Troops To DC (F.)

The federal government is projected to spend $483 million to keep National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., until mid-March, amid fears that former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial may draw more violence. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday the price of sending National Guard troops to protect the area around the Capitol from January 6 to March 15 will total $483 million, $284 million for personnel and $199 million for operations. 5,000 troops are slated to remain in the city until March 15 as Trump’s Senate impeachment trial poses security concerns, Politico reported, including “mass demonstrations,” but it’s unclear if there is a specific threat. In the aftermath of the Capitol riots, 25,000 National Guard troops flooded Washington, D.C., for Biden’s inauguration in an effort to prevent further violence.


The majority of troops remaining in the city will do so voluntarily, according to Politico. Republican lawmakers have questioned the need for National Guard troops around the Capitol Hill complex. “We still have National Guardsmen out there, away from their families, away from their jobs, supplementing the police, and yet we can’t get a briefing on what is this dire threat that requires so many people. We still don’t have answers,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) told Fox News. Security forces were largely unprepared for the pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol last month. National Guard troops were only called in after rioters stormed the building, and members of both parties are calling for investigations into security lapses surrounding the attack. But keeping thousands of troops in the city has been rocky: nearly 200 have contracted Covid-19, according to the Military Times.

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Bit of a campaign going on, even the New York Times chimes in. 10 years too late.

Assange Supporters Urge Joe Biden To Drop Prosecution (Ind.)

Media freedom groups and supporters of Julian Assange have asked the Biden administration to drop the US’s pursuit of the WikiLeaks’ founder, saying Donald Trump was opposed to the idea of a “free press”. In their first appeal to the US government since Joe Biden became president less than three weeks ago, more than 20 groups working to promote human right and a free media, wrote to the department of justice, asking it to drop the case against Mr Assange, saying they were fearful “the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged”.

“The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” said the letter, signed by groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalise these common journalistic practices.” There was no immediate response from the White House. But in a short statement released on Monday evening, a spokesperson for the department of justice, said: “We are continuing our efforts to seek the extradition of Julian Assange.”

[..] In their letter, the activists point out the Obama administration, of which Mr Biden was a key part, decided not to pursue the prosecution of Mr Assange. “The Trump administration positioned itself as an antagonist to the institution of a free and unfettered press in numerous ways. Its abuse of its prosecutorial powers was among the most disturbing,” the letter says. “We are deeply concerned about the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged—perhaps by a future administration—against publishers and journalists of all stripes.” The New York Times said the department had a deadline of Friday to file a brief in the British court if it wanted to continue to pursue the matter. The department is currently headed by a caretaker official, Monty Wilkinson, the acting attorney general. The letter was addressed to him.

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War on Domestic Terror goes global.

The -New Normal- War on Domestic Terror (CJ Hopkins)

If you enjoyed the Global War on Terror, you’re going to love the new War on Domestic Terror! It’s just like the original Global War on Terror, except that this time the “Terrorists” are all “Domestic Violent Extremists” (“DVEs”), “Homegrown Violent Extremists” (“HVEs”), “Violent Conspiracy-Theorist Extremists” (“VCTEs”), “Violent Reality Denialist Extremists” (VRDEs”), “Insurrectionary Micro-Aggressionist Extremists” (“IMAEs”), “People Who Make Liberals Feel Uncomfortable” (“PWMLFUs”), and anyone else the Department of Homeland Security wants to label an “extremist” and slap a ridiculous acronym on. According to a “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” issued by the DHS on January 27, these DCEs, HVEs, VCTEs, VRDEs, IMAEs, and PWMLFUs are “ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority [and] perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”

They are believed to be “motivated by a range of issues, including anger over Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, police use of force,” and other dangerous “false narratives” (e.g., the existence of the “deep state,” “herd immunity,” “biological sex,” “God,” and so on). “Inspired by foreign terrorist groups” and “emboldened by the breach of the US Capitol Building,” this diabolical network of “domestic terrorists” is “plotting attacks against government facilities,” “threatening violence against critical infrastructure” and actively “citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about Covid-19.” For all we know, they might be huddled in the “Wolf’s Lair” at Mar-a-Lago right now, plotting a devastating terrorist attack with those WMDs we never found in Iraq, or generating population-adjusted death-rate charts going back 20 years, or posting pictures of “extremist frogs” on the Internet.

The Department of Homeland Security is “concerned,” as are its counterparts throughout the global capitalist empire. The (New Normal) War on Domestic Terror isn’t just a war on American “domestic terror.” The “domestic terror” threat is international. France has just passed a “Global Security Law” banning citizens from filming the police beating the living snot out of people (among other “anti-terrorist” provisions). In Germany, the government is preparing to install an anti-terror moat around the Reichstag. In the Netherlands, the police are cracking down on the VCTEs, VRDEs, and other “angry citizens who hate the system,” who have been protesting over nightly curfews.

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Feb 052021
 


Winslow Homer Mending the nets 1881

 

Atlantic Council Anonymous Expose Calls for Regime Change in China (MPN)
Macron: EU Shouldn’t Gang Up On China With US (Pol.eu)
Hunger Games (Ben Hunt)
US Covid Hospitalizations Drop To Lowest Level Since Before Thanksgiving (F.)
No Special Freedoms For The Vaccinated In Germany (DW)
Trump Rejects Dems’ Request To Testify At Impeachment Trial (AP)
Incitement Is Not A Real Crime (McMaken)
Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit vs Fox News, Giuliani, Powell (CNN)
Biden Withdraws Judy Shelton’s Fed Nomination (Hill)
Largest US Mall Landlord Sent Jingle Mail to Deutsche Bank (WS)
Dominant Capital Is Much More Powerful Than You Think (RWER)
Dems Are Lucy, The Football Is $2,000 (DP)
Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking (DP)
The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election (Time)

 

 

Here’s what will determine US politics in the next 4 years. Lack of clickbait. War would be good for ratings.

 

 

Warmongers “R” Us. Any thoughts on Russia?

Atlantic Council Anonymous Expose Calls for Regime Change in China (MPN)

Influential D.C. think tank the Atlantic Council has printed a 26,000-word report laying out its strategy for combating China. Published anonymously, the report states that “the single most important challenge facing the United States” in the twenty-first century is China’s growth to rival their own power. To do so, the report states that the U.S. must use “the power of its military,” the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency, and American control over technology and communication to suffocate the nation of 1.4 billion people. It advises President Biden to draw a number of “red lines” past which the U.S. would directly intervene (presumably militarily). These include Chinese attempts to expand into the South China Sea, an attack on the disputed Senkaku Islands, or moves against Taiwan’s independence.

A North Korean strike on any of its neighbors would also necessitate an American response against China, the report insists, because “China must fully own responsibility for the behavior of its North Korean ally.” Any backing down from this stance, the council states, would result in national “humiliation” for the United States. Perhaps most notably, however, the report also envisages what a successful American China policy would look like by 2050: “the United States and its major allies continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all the major indices of power;” and that head of state Xi Jinping “has been replaced by a more moderate party leadership; and that the Chinese people themselves have come to question and challenge the Communist Party’s century-long proposition that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined to an authoritarian future.” In other words, that China has been broken and that some sort of regime change has occurred.

The Atlantic Council is a NATO-offshoot organization funded by the U.S. and other allied governments, including the Gulf dictatorships. Among its largest corporate sponsors include weapons manufacturers like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. Its board of directors is full of high statespeople like Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice as well as senior military figures such as retired generals Wesley Clark, David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Lt. General Brent Scowcroft and Admiral James Stavridis. At least seven former CIA directors are also on the board. Thus, the council could be said to represent the consensus opinion of the national security state.

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“..during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council..”

Macron: EU Shouldn’t Gang Up On China With US (Pol.eu)

The EU shouldn’t gang up on China with the U.S. even if it stands closer to Washington by virtue of shared values, according to French President Emmanuel Macron. “A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality. This one, for me, is counterproductive,” Macron said, speaking in English, during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council on Thursday. This kind of common front against China — as other European leaders have advocated given the new Biden administration’s revived openness to traditional alliances — risks pushing Beijing to lower its cooperation on issues like combatting climate change, and exacerbating its aggressive behavior in Asia, including in the South China Sea, according to the French president.


Macron also said “the coming semesters will be very critical for Chinese leaders and China,” given the Biden administration’s reengagement in multilateral frameworks like the World Health Organization. “As the U.S. is reengaging itself, what will be the behavior of China?” Macron asked. He pitched, once again, holding a summit of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, the U.S., U.K. and Russia. He had tried to hold such a summit in 2020 but it had fallen prey to Sino-American tensions and never materialized. Macron was answering questions from a handful of U.S. think-tankers, professors and former officials via video link in a 90-minute session recorded at the Elysée on Wednesday afternoon.

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“You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market.”

Hunger Games (Ben Hunt)

You have been told that investing in the stock market is like betting on a sports game. You have been told that you are a SPECTATOR in the game of markets, that you are WATCHING a game being played out in front of you by lots of different companies. You have been told that you should make ‘bets’ on those companies based on how well you think those companies can play the game that you are watching. The companies will play the game and they will keep score by ‘beating’ or ‘missing’ on revenues and earnings and the like, and then that score will determine whether or not your bets pay off. You have been told that the better you are at ‘analyzing’ the teams playing this game, the more ‘due diligence’ you put into studying the teams playing this game, the more money you will make with your bets.

You have been told that everyone can win with their bets, that this is how you, too, can achieve the wealth that you deserve. You have been told that the odds are ever in your favor. You have been told this for your entire life. More and more, you suspect this is a lie. But if it is a lie … what then? What meaning exists in the stock market if this is a lie? Over the past few weeks you have been told a new story. A brave story. A story of heroes. A story of meaning. You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market. You have been told that you can slough off your market oppressors who “want companies to fail”.

You have been told that you can be a PARTICIPANT in the game of markets, that you can storm the playing field of companies, that you can take matters into your own hands and rescue a promising company under unfair attack. And, yes, make some good money in the process. Why not? Seems only fair. Today, as you see the collapsing stock prices of the companies you supported, you suspect that this was a lie, as well. And you’d be right. Neither story is true. Neither story has EVER been true. Both of these stories are narratives for our very own Hunger Games, a spectacle that chews up the participants in the arena while delivering enormous profits to the networks (media, financial and political) that put them on. Media networks count their profits in eyeballs, in the attention the Games garner.

Financial networks count their profits the old-fashioned way, in the sheer volume of dollar-generating order flow the Games produce. As for politicians, they get their most valuable coin of the modern realm – an issue. The wackos on the left get to propose insane transaction taxes. The wackos on the right get to tell us how much liBeRtY we are enjoying by giving Ken Griffin all of our money. The very serious centrists get to tell us about how we need “a national conversation” about the T+2 settlement issues raised here. And what about the rest of us? What about all of us reading story after story about the “Reddit Revolution” and what it means for us? What do WE get out of the Hunger Games?

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And then come the variants.

US Covid Hospitalizations Drop To Lowest Level Since Before Thanksgiving (F.)

Coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.S. are down to their lowest level since Nov. 24, according to The COVID Tracking Project, as signs of improvement in the pandemic appear evident across essentially the entire United States. On Thursday, there were 88,668 Covid-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, which remains well above the height of the spring and summer surges of 2020 but a significant drop from the record high of 132,474 hospitalized on Jan. 6. The rate of new cases in the U.S. has been declining for weeks, and is now averaging just under 120,000 a day for the first time since Nov. 5, according to Johns Hopkins University. Deaths, which lag behind increases in other metrics and have been at record levels, appear to finally be on the decline.

The 7-day rolling average for deaths has dropped every day during February, and is now below 3,000 a day, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Health officials are warning against complacency, especially with new strains of Covid that seem much more contagious, like the U.K. and South African varieties, that are spreading in the United States. “Now is not the time to let our guard down. Keep taking steps to protect each other,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing Wednesday.


Vaccination efforts are continuing to ramp up in the United States. As of Thursday evening, around 36.7 million Covid shots had been administered around the U.S., according to a Bloomberg tracker, with estimated 2.3% of the population fully vaccinated with two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna shots. And more help is likely on the way. On Thursday evening, Johnson & Johnson applied for emergency use authorization with the FDA for its vaccine, which only requires a single dose. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects approval to come “within a week or so,” and the company appears on track for a March rollout.

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Vaccinated with a non-approved and hardly tested vaccin. Take ’em to court.

No Special Freedoms For The Vaccinated In Germany (DW)

The German Ethics Council on Thursday spoke out against lifting restrictions for individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Germany has been in partial lockdown since November. Bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting facilities are closed. Schools and non-essential shops were added to the list in mid-December, with rules on mask-wearing and working from home tightened in January amid concerns over new virus variants. Vaccinations started at the end of December with people over 80 and their carers front of the line. There is currently a shortage of vaccines in Germany, and it will take several months for a majority of people to be immunized and become eligible for the lifting of restrictions.

Over the past few weeks tourism agencies, event managers and some politicians had suggested allowing those who have been vaccinated to travel, eat in restaurants, attend concerts and other events which would involve close contact with a high number of other people. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was the first high-profile politician to speak out in favor of lifting restrictions. “Someone who cannot fall seriously ill with the coronavirus anymore will not need intensive care and burden the health care system. He should no longer have to suffer restrictions to his basic rights and freedoms,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in January. Such proposals have been met with criticism, for example from Left party chairwoman Katja Kipping, who urged adherence to freedom and equality stipulations in the German constitution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also ruled out special regulations this Monday. The COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory in Germany. Distinguishing between the vaccinated and those not vaccinated would be the same as a mandatory vaccination,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had warned. The ethics council on Thursday pointed out that it had to be clarified first whether vaccinated people might still be able to transmit the virus. Only if that were ruled out could any exemption from rules such as wearing masks in public places be considered. “At the present time, withdrawing state restrictions on freedoms for vaccinated people should not take place as it is not yet possible to reliably assess infectiousness,” Ethics Council head Alena Buyx told a news conference in Berlin on Thursday.

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For entertainment purposes only.

Trump Rejects Dems’ Request To Testify At Impeachment Trial (AP)

House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging him to respond to their charge that he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol. A Trump adviser said the former president won’t testify. Although Democrats might not have the power to force Trump’s testimony, the request from House impeachment managers is part of their overall effort to put the violent events of Jan. 6 on the record for history and hold him accountable for his words. Democrats will look to use his refusal to testify against him as they argue that the ex-president has avoided responsibility for his actions.

Hours after the Democrats’ request was revealed, Trump adviser Jason Miller dismissed the trial as “an unconstitutional proceeding” and said the former president would not testify. Separately, Trump’s lawyers denounced the request as a “public relations stunt.” The impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is charged with inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count. Five people died. Before the riot, Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat. Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability for the attack. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from seeking office again.

In the letter to the former president and his attorneys, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump explain why he and his team have disputed key factual allegations at the center of their case. He asked that Trump provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and not later than Thursday, Feb. 11. The request from Raskin cites the words of Trump’s own attorneys, who in a legal brief earlier this week not only denied that Trump had incited the riot but also asserted that he had “performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people.”

With that argument, Raskin said, Trump had questioned critical facts in the case “notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.” He said Trump should be able to testify now that he is no longer president. Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen responded hours later that the letter proves that Democrats “cannot prove your allegations” and that an impeachment trial is too serious “to try to play these games.”

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Not a new issue.

Incitement Is Not A Real Crime (McMaken)

[..] in an essay written for a small newspaper in the late 1960s, Rothbard explains the problem with claiming incitement is a real crime: “Suppose that Mr. A tells Mr. B: “Go out and shoot the mayor.” Suppose, then, that Mr. B, pondering this suggestion, decides it’s a darn good idea and goes out and shoots the mayor. Now obviously B is responsible for the shooting. But in what sense can A be held responsible? A did not do the shooting, and didn’t take part, we will assume, in any of the planning or executing of the act itself. The very fact that he made that suggestion cannot really mean that A should be held responsible. For does not B have free will? Is he not a free agent? And if he is, then B and B alone is responsible for the shooting.

If we attribute any responsibility at all to A, we have fallen into the trap of determinism. We are then assuming that B has no will of his own, that he is then only a tool in some way manipulated by A. Now, if Person A participated in the planning of a riot or a murder, then Person A is guilty of conspiracy, not incitement. But Person A is not guilty of anything for have merely suggested to Person B that he shoot the mayor. Person B, after all, is responsible for his own actions. [..] if the will is free, then no man is determined by another; then just because somebody shouts “burn, baby, burn,” no one hearing this advice is thereby compelled or determined to go and carry the suggestion out. Anybody who does carry out the advice is responsible for his own actions, and solely responsible.

Therefore, the “inciter” cannot be held in any way responsible. In the nature of man and morality, there is no such crime as “incitement to riot,” and therefore the very concept of such a “crime” should be stricken from the statute books.” [..] Cracking down on “incitement to riot,” then, is simply and purely cracking down on one’s natural and crucial right to freedom of speech. Speech is not a crime. And hence the injustice, not only of the crime of incitement, but also of such other “crimes” as “criminal sedition” (sharp criticism of the government), or “conspiracy to advocate overthrow of the government”—in other words, planning someday to exercise one’s basic and natural right to freedom of speech and advocacy.

A decade later, Rothbard emphasized the importance of rejecting the notion of incitement as a crime in his book For a New Liberty. Under the section titled “Freedom of Speech,” he writes: “What, for example, of “incitement to riot,” in which the speaker is held guilty of a crime for whipping up a mob, which then riots and commits various actions and crimes against person and property? In our view, “incitement” can only be considered a crime if we deny every man’s freedom of will and of choice, and assume that if A tells B and C: “You and him go ahead and riot!” that somehow B and C are then helplessly determined to proceed and commit the wrongful act. But the libertarian, who believes in freedom of the will, must insist that while it might be immoral or unfortunate for A to advocate a riot, that this is strictly in the realm of advocacy and should not be subject to legal penalty.”

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Maybe you can indict them for incitement.

Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit vs Fox News, Giuliani, Powell (CNN)

A voting technology company swept up in baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election filed a monster $2.7 billion lawsuit on Thursday against Fox News, some of the network’s star hosts, and pro-Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, alleging the parties worked in concert to wage a “disinformation campaign” that has jeopardized its very survival. “We have no choice,” Antonio Mugica, the chief executive and founder of Smartmatic, told CNN Business in an interview about the company’s decision to file the lawsuit. “The disinformation campaign that was launched against us is an obliterating one. For us, this is existential, and we have to take action.”

The lawsuit, filed in New York state court, accused Fox, Giuliani, Powell and hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro of intentionally lying about Smartmatic in an effort to mislead the public into the false belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. “They needed a villain,” the lawsuit said. “They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.” “Without any true villain, defendants invented one,” the lawsuit added. “Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story.”

In a statement on behalf of the network and the named hosts issued after the lawsuit was filed, a Fox News spokesperson said, “FOX News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.” Asked for comment, Powell said in a statement, “I have not received notice or a copy of this alleged lawsuit. However, your characterization of the claims shows that this is just another political maneuver motivated by the radical left that has no basis in fact or law.” In a statement of his own, Giuliani said, “The Smartmatic lawsuit presents another golden opportunity for discovery. I look forward to litigating with them.”

Giuliani and Powell have also been sued by another voting technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, for promoting their voter fraud conspiracies. Giuliani called Dominion’s lawsuit against him an “act of intimidation” to “censor the exercise of free speech” and Powell called Dominion’s lawsuit against her “baseless.”

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Danielle DiMartino Booth: “Suggesting administration should have sway over Fed policy was error in judgment. But let’s face it, since Volcker departed, each successive administration’s influence increased. Judy just gave voice to the truth. In the end, the establishment won the war..”

Biden Withdraws Judy Shelton’s Fed Nomination (Hill)

President Biden on Thursday formally withdrew Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board, closing the book on her quest to join the central bank. Shelton’s nomination was withdrawn with more than two dozen other officials nominated by former President Trump in January shortly before he left office. The Democratic takeover of the Senate in January effectively ended Shelton’s chances of confirmation, and Biden’s withdrawal of her nomination does little more than clear the way for his eventual pick to fill the final vacant spot on the Fed board. Biden has not yet indicated who he would nominate in Shelton’s place.


Trump announced in 2019 that he would nominate Shelton, a former campaign adviser, to the Fed board after Senate Republicans rejected four of his previous picks. She was formally nominated in early 2020 and narrowly approved for a confirmation vote by the Senate Banking Committee last July despite GOP concerns about her criticism of Fed independence, past support for the gold standard and inconsistent views on monetary policy. Shelton came remarkably close to confirmation in December, but coronavirus-related absences and the opposition of three Republican senators blocked her from joining the Fed. Trump renominated Shelton in January after the new Congress convened, but Republicans were unable to confirm her before losing their Senate majority.

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“Simon Property Group has washed its hands off it, letting the CMBS holders eat the losses. And the new owners, Deutsche Bank and holders of CMBS, will now get to manage the mall.”

Largest US Mall Landlord Sent Jingle Mail to Deutsche Bank (WS)

Deutsche Bank this week foreclosed on a $177.5 million mall mortgage. The mortgage had been securitized and spread over two commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) in 2012. The collateral is 560,000 square feet of retail space at the 1.2 million square-foot Town Center at Cobb, in Kennesaw, Cobb County, Georgia. The regional mall has over 170 stores, including a Macy’s, a JCPenney, and a Belk (just filed for bankruptcy). The mall was owned by Simon Property Group, the largest mall landlord and mall REIT [SPG] in America, which, in one of its acts of jingle mail, had returned the mall to the lenders. “Jingle mail” was engraved into the American lexicon during the housing bust, when homeowners voluntarily turned their homes over to lenders, presumably by mailing them the house keys.

Most home mortgages are recourse loans, and banks can drag the homeowner to court over any deficiency after the foreclosure sale – except in the 12 “non-recourse” states. But commercial real estate mortgages are non-recourse; all the lender gets is the collateral, and the owner walks away. At the time of securitization in 2012, the collateral for the loan was valued at $322 million, according to Trepp, a data firm that tracks CMBS. And everything was hunky-dory. In October 2020, the value was slashed by 60% to $130.4 million. The legal notice by Deutsche Bank of the foreclosure sale, reported by the Marietta Daily Journal on January 27, specified that the mall would be sold on February 2 “at public outcry to the highest bidder for cash before the Courthouse door of Cobb County.” The opening bid would be $130.4 million.

And this is what happened on February 2, according to the Marietta Daily Journal: “[Attorney Matthew Norton of the law firm Polsinelli] “read the legal notice in full on the southern steps of the county’s justice center, a recitation that took over half an hour to complete. The bargain hunters who attended the morning’s residential foreclosure auctions left hours before, leaving Norton to conduct the “public outcry” on the courthouse steps across the street from an empty Flournoy Park.” And there were no bids. So Deutsche Bank and other CMBS holders are now the proud owners of the mall. Simon Property Group has washed its hands off it, letting the CMBS holders eat the losses. And the new owners, Deutsche Bank and holders of CMBS, will now get to manage the mall.

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“In capitalism, capital is power, and to accumulate it differentially – i.e., relative to others – is to fortify and augment one’s organized power over others.”

Dominant Capital Is Much More Powerful Than You Think (RWER)

According to the theory of capital as power (CasP), capitalists and corporations are driven not to maximize profit, but to ‘beat the average’. Their yardstick is not an unmeasurable theoretical abstraction, but the readily observable performance of others. Their aim is not to increase their ‘material gain’, counted in fictitious utils or socially necessary abstract labour time, but to earn more money than everyone else. And the reason, we argue, has to do with power. In capitalism, capital is power, and to accumulate it differentially – i.e., relative to others – is to fortify and augment one’s organized power over others. Following Kepler’s modern notion of force, CasP sees capitalized power not as a stand-alone qualitative entity, but as a quantitative relationship between entities.

First, capitalized power is not absolute, but relational. It’s not a ‘battery’ or ‘energy’ that some entities possess and use to impose their will over others. Instead, it is the actual structure of differential relationships among capitalist owners and organizations as well as between those owners and organization and others who are subjugated to them and resist their domination. Second, capitalized power is a pure quantity. The actual institutions, structures and processes of capitalist power – from production, to finance, to government, religion, ideology, international relations, crime and what not – vary greatly. They are qualitatively different from each other and, in that sense, hard if not impossible to compare and aggregate. But in capitalism, these qualitative differences all get reduced to pure numbers: they are converted to the universal quantities of differential profit, investors’ hype and risk perceptions – and from there they get discounted to the universal quantity of differential capitalization.

The ongoing quest to beat the average and accumulate differentially goes hand in hand with CasP’s notion of ‘dominant capital’. All capitalists try to beat the average, but only some succeed and only a minority succeeds systematically, at least over a certain period. In time, this minority percolates up the hierarchies of power to formulate the cluster we call dominant capital. This cluster comprises the largest government-backed corporate coalitions at the centre of any given sector, a particular society, a group of countries and, ultimate, the capitalist world as a whole. The constituent entities of dominant capital change over time – the Alphabets and Apples of today have substituted the U.S. Steels and AT&Ts of a century ago and will likely be replaced by others in the future. But topologically, as a ruling entity, dominant capital is ubiquitous. There is hardly a capitalist setting without it.

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Why would anyone ever vote again?

Dems Are Lucy, The Football Is $2,000 (DP)

The image of Lucy and the football is a good way to understand Democrats and the promised $2,000 checks — the party promised the checks immediately, but now seems intent on pulling the ball away at the last minute, expecting Charlie Brown to laugh. But millions of struggling middle-class families who were deceived probably won’t find it funny. The Washington Post, HuffPost and Bloomberg are reporting that Democrats may limit full $1,400 survival checks to individuals earning less than $50,000 and couples earning less than $100,000. A bipartisan group of senators is also now pushing an amendment to “ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible” for checks. At least one Democratic senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, has said he opposes the new proposed income limits.


Biden’s original proposal would send full checks to individuals earning up to $75,000 and married couples earning up to $150,000 — the same income limits Congress has used for previous rounds of checks. The proposed changes, which are being discussed in the name of “targeting” payments to those who need it, could affect checks for millions of people who have previously received COVID economic impact payments. Under the new terms being debated, about four in ten Americans could be excluded or receive partial checks, according to census data. Roughly 36 percent of U.S. households earn more than $100,000 — and some of the 29 percent of American households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 are single households.

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Bezos will have more time for his hobbies soon.

Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking (DP)

Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including the Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper’s chief “fact checker” Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos’s highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations. This might seem like a simple example of a pundit knowing exactly who pays his salary, but in this case, the pundit in question has his own axe to grind. Kessler is the scion of a fossil fuel baron, which means he has an interest in defending tax cuts that were a particularly big financial windfall for oil companies, including the one linked to his family, according to Kessler’s own newspaper.

At a time when Americans’ trust in media has plummeted, Kessler is a perfect illustration of how the cottage industry of fact checking has turned itself into a system of Orwellian misinformation — one that uses fact-o-meters and Pinocchios to insist that war is peace and ignorance is strength. Rather than clarifying reality, fact checking is routinely used to hide the truth and shield the powerful from accountability — it has helped politicians hide their votes to cut Social Security; let health care industry lobbyists distort statistics about medical bankruptcies and Medicare for All; and abetted Wall Street’s efforts to downplay bank bailouts. Now, comes the crescendo: The newspaper owned by a man worth $180 billion is deploying fact checking to try to revise the entire history of the tax cuts that enriched his retail conglomerate.

And what a coincidence — the revision is happening just as the tax policy may be revisited by a new Democratic president. Not surprisingly, this particular broadside is being directed at Sanders, arguably the most prominent critic of Bezos and Amazon in all of American politics. He introduced legislation to shame the company for its labor practices, he successfully pressured the company to raise its workers’ wages and has championed legislation to tax billionaires. Bezos’s company has responded by attacking the Vermont senator — and now his newspaper is trying to reinforce those attacks under the deceptive guise of fact checking, all as it warns readers on every story that democracy dies in darkness.

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A curious celebration.

The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election (Time)

A weird thing happened right after the Nov. 3 election: nothing. The nation was braced for chaos. Liberal groups had vowed to take to the streets, planning hundreds of protests across the country. Right-wing militias were girding for battle. In a poll before Election Day, 75% of Americans voiced concern about violence. Instead, an eerie quiet descended. As President Trump refused to concede, the response was not mass action but crickets. When media organizations called the race for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, jubilation broke out instead, as people thronged cities across the U.S. to celebrate the democratic process that resulted in Trump’s ouster.

A second odd thing happened amid Trump’s attempts to reverse the result: corporate America turned on him. Hundreds of major business leaders, many of whom had backed Trump’s candidacy and supported his policies, called on him to concede. To the President, something felt amiss. “It was all very, very strange,” Trump said on Dec. 2. “Within days after the election, we witnessed an orchestrated effort to anoint the winner, even while many key states were still being counted.” In a way, Trump was right. There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day. Both sides would come to see it as a sort of implicit bargain–inspired by the summer’s massive, sometimes destructive racial-justice protests–in which the forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy.

The handshake between business and labor was just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election–an extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted. For more than a year, a loosely organized coalition of operatives scrambled to shore up America’s institutions as they came under simultaneous attack from a remorseless pandemic and an autocratically inclined President. Though much of this activity took place on the left, it was separate from the Biden campaign and crossed ideological lines, with crucial contributions by nonpartisan and conservative actors. The scenario the shadow campaigners were desperate to stop was not a Trump victory. It was an election so calamitous that no result could be discerned at all, a failure of the central act of democratic self-governance that has been a hallmark of America since its founding.

Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result. “The untold story of the election is the thousands of people of both parties who accomplished the triumph of American democracy at its very foundation,” says Norm Eisen, a prominent lawyer and former Obama Administration official who recruited Republicans and Democrats to the board of the Voter Protection Program.

Read more …

 

 

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That is one scary image…

 

 

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Jan 262021
 


James McNeill Whistler Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville 1865

 

EU Threatens To Block Covid Vaccine Exports Amid AstraZeneca Shortfall (G.)
COVID19 Has Cost Global Workers $3.7 Trillion In Lost Earnings – ILO (G.)
House Delivers Impeachment Article To Senate (ZH)
Joe Biden On Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial: ‘It Has To Happen’ (G.)
Sen. Leahy To Preside Over Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial (JTN)
Democrats Have Released A Roadmap To One-Party Rule (RCP)
Poll: Trump ‘Patriot Party’ Would Win 23% Of Voters, Drop GOP To Third (JTN)
Democrat Sens. Manchin, Sinema Won’t Back Elimination Of The Filibuster (JTN)
Janet Yellen Confirmed As Treasury Secretary (Axios)
Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Wikipedia-Style Approach To Fight Misinformation (F.)
Ex-CIA Engineer Tells Judge He’s Incarcerated Like An Animal (Ind.)
Leon Black To Step Down From Apollo Global After Epstein Investigation (F.)
Flying Blind (Jim Kunstler)
Let Nuke Plants Run for 100 Years? (CP)

 

 

We passed 100 million cases overnight.

 

 

And off to the bullfight we go. Still not a word on HCQ, ivermectin or even vitamin D. Is it really just incompetence?

EU Threatens To Block Covid Vaccine Exports Amid Astrazeneca Shortfall (G.)

The EU has threatened to block exports of coronavirus vaccines to countries outside the bloc such as Britain, after AstraZeneca was accused of failing to give a satisfactory explanation for a huge shortfall of promised doses to member states. The pharmaceutical company’s new distribution plans were said to be “unacceptable” after it “surprisingly” informed the European commission on Friday that there would be significant shortfalls on the original schedule. The EU has been due to receive 100m doses in the first quarter of this year. But it is feared that the bloc will only receive half of that despite making large advance purchases ahead of authorisation of the vaccine by the European medicines agency.

In a heated call with AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, on Monday, the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the company must live up to its contractual obligations. The EMA is expected to authorise the vaccine by the end of this week. Von der Leyen’s spokesperson said: “She made it clear that she expects AstraZeneca to deliver on the contractual arrangements foreseen in the advance purchasing agreement. “She reminded Mr Soriot that the EU has invested significant amounts in the company up front precisely to ensure that production is ramped up even before the conditional market authorisation is delivered by the European Medicines Agency. “Of course, production issues can appear with the complex vaccine, but we expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly.”

The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, made a televised statement to express her frustration at the company’s behaviour, warning that the answers so far provided had not been satisfactory. Late on Monday evening following discussions with executives representing the pharmaceutical company, Kyriakides tweeted: “Discussions with AstraZeneca today resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations. “EU member states are united: vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold. “With our member states, we have requested from [Astrazeneca] a detailed planning of vaccine deliveries and when distribution will take place to member states. Another meeting will be convened on Wednesday to discuss the matter further.”

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On the bright side, at least we know where those trillions are. Safely in the hands of Bezos, Musk et al.

COVID19 Has Cost Global Workers $3.7 Trillion In Lost Earnings – ILO (G.)

The economic blow from Covid-19 has cost workers around the world $3.7tn (£2.7tn) in lost earnings, after the pandemic wiped out four times the number of working hours lost in the 2008 financial crisis, according to the UN’s labour body. The International Labour Organization (ILO) said women and younger workers had borne the brunt of job losses and reductions in hours, and warned that people in sectors hardest-hit by the crisis – such as hospitality and retail – risked being left behind when the economy recovers. Sounding the alarm that entrenched levels of inequality risked becoming a defining feature of the economic rebound from Covid-19, the Geneva-based agency said that governments around the world needed to take urgent action to support those at the heart of the storm.

In its annual analysis of the global jobs market, it said 8.8% of working hours were lost in 2020 relative to the end of 2019, equivalent to 255m full-time jobs. This is approximately four times bigger than the damage suffered by workers as a consequence of the 2008-9 financial crisis. These “massive losses” resulted in an 8.3% decline in global labour income, before government support measures are included, according to the ILO, equivalent to $3.7tn in earnings – about 4.4% of global GDP. Women have been more affected than men by the disruption to the jobs market, with female workers more likely to drop out of work altogether and stop looking for a new job. Younger workers have also been particularly hard hit, either losing jobs, dropping out of the labour force or delaying the search for a first job.

The ILO said there were some encouraging signs of recovery at the start of 2021 as the Covid-19 vaccine is gradually deployed around the world. However, it still estimated the continuing economic fallout would lead to a 3% loss of working hours globally in 2021 compared with the end of 2019, equivalent to 90m full-time jobs. In a pessimistic scenario, which assumes slow progress on vaccination, working hours would fall by 4.6% this year, while on an optimistic path the world economy would still lose 1.3% of working hours.

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They’re so hungry for blood they can’t see how ridiculous they look.

House Delivers Impeachment Article To Senate (ZH)

The House delivered its single impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, setting the stage for a February 8 trial. Just three Senate Republicans were present during the formal delivery of the article; Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Roger Marshall. Senators will get sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, according to a previous statement by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), while both the impeachment managers who will argue the House Democrats’ case, and Trump’s defense team, will have time to draft and file legal briefs, according to CNBC. “The managers, headed by lead manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., carried the article across the Capitol to the Senate on Monday in masked pairs as part of a formal procession. As Raskin read the charge against Trump, a smattering of senators wearing face coverings looked on from within the chamber.” -CNBC

Ironically, Trump – the only president to be impeached twice by the House – is unlikely to be convicted according to none other than President Biden, who told CNN he believed the outcome would be different if Trump had six months left in office – but that he doubts the required 17 GOP senators will vote to convict. Which begs the question if the entire exercise is moot, then why do it as it will only further polarize the already deeply divided US society and certainly not help the “unity” that Biden is allegedly striving to achieve. Trump was charged by the House with incitement of insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 by, as House Democrats claim, ‘falsely claiming that widespread election fraud cost him the 2020 election,’ and then encouraging his supporters to show up and challenge the electoral college count.

According to the article, Trump “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government,” and “thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

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Twitter comment:

“DC will stay under military occupation while the opposition leader is put on trial..”

Joe Biden On Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial: ‘It Has To Happen’ (G.)

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump “has to happen”, Joe Biden told CNN on Monday. While acknowledging the effect it could have on his agenda, the president said there would be “a worse effect if it didn’t happen”. Biden said he didn’t think enough Republican senators would vote for impeachment to convict, though he also said the outcome might well have been different if Trump had had six months left in his term. “The Senate has changed since I was there, but it hasn’t changed that much,” Biden said. The US House on Monday delivered its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, setting the stage for Trump’s second impeachment trial and the first ever Senate trial of a former US president.


Trump has been charged with inciting the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, when an assault by a violent pro-Trump mob lead to the deaths of five people. Monday’s delivery and formal reading of the charge marks the opening of the trial, although arguments are set to start the week of 8 February. Republicans and Democrats last week agreed to a two-week delay to the start of the proceedings to allow both sides to prepare arguments and give senators a fortnight to negotiate vital legislation to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus and consider Biden’s cabinet appointments. Following Trump’s impeachment in the House on 13 January, Biden had said he hoped senators would “deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation”.

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Judge, jury and henchman. Where’s the impartiality? Isn’t that required in a trial?

Sen. Leahy To Preside Over Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial (JTN)

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is presiding over the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Trump in the Democratic-led Senate, the lawmakers announced in a statement on Monday. Chief Justice John Roberts presided over the first impeachment trial against Trump, which centered on his phone conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, in which he brought up Hunter Biden’s work with a Ukrainian gas company while his father, Joe Biden, was U.S. vice president. Leahy, the new Senate president pro tempore, voted in favor of convicting Trump on both articles of impeachment during the first trial against Trump in February 2020. Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.


“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents. When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy said in a statement on Monday. “It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.” Leahy also said he considers holding the president pro tempore position “one of the highest honors and most serious responsibilities” of his political career. “When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws,” he said.

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“Mark Zuckerberg alone poured $419 million into this scheme.”

Democrats Have Released A Roadmap To One-Party Rule (RCP)

The Democrats appear intent on instituting one-party rule in the United States. They’re trying to use the U.S. Capitol riots as an excuse to criminalize dissent and banish conservative voices from the public sphere, and at the same time they’re hoping to use their temporary, razor-thin majority in Congress to rewrite the rules governing our elections in a way designed to keep the Democratic Party entrenched in power for decades to come. In the House, Democrats have revived sweeping election reform legislation that died in the Senate during the previous session, perhaps hoping they can browbeat enough Republicans into going along with them. If that happens, the “Grand Old Party” of Abraham Lincoln might as well disband, because Republicans would never have any hope of regaining a congressional majority or controlling the White House under the rules that HR 1 would put in place.

Although the Constitution explicitly places state legislatures in charge of managing federal elections, HR 1 seeks to use the power of the purse to bludgeon the states into conforming to a centralized system pioneered in California and other deep-blue states. Congress can’t technically compel the states to change their voting laws, but seasoned politicians know that the states have become dependent on federal money to run their elections, and can’t afford to pick up the tab themselves. To make matters worse, HR 1 declares that Congress possesses “ultimate supervisory power over Federal elections” — an extraordinary usurpation of governmental authority that the Founders specifically assigned to the states. The 2020 election witnessed private interests dictating the manner in which the election was conducted in the nation’s urban cores.

Mark Zuckerberg alone poured $419 million into this scheme. The goal of centralizing power in the hands of the federal government has long been at the heart of liberal politics, and this legislation demonstrates why. HR 1 would codify the very practices — many of them currently illegal in most states — that created widespread irregularities in the 2020 elections and contributed greatly to public mistrust of the electoral process. In 2020, state and local officials used the COVID-19 pandemic as justification to ignore or deliberately violate state election laws. If HR 1 is enacted, they won’t need any such excuse in 2022 because the states will have no choice but to implement policies such as legalized ballot harvesting, early voting, and universal mail-in voting, as well as repeal of voter ID laws, signature-matching laws, and other ballot security measures.

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Democrats’ wet dream.

Poll: Trump ‘Patriot Party’ Would Win 23% Of Voters, Drop GOP To Third (JTN)

A hypothetical “Patriot Party” led by former President Donald Trump would win the support of almost a quarter — 23% — of the electorate, bumping the GOP down to third place with just 17%, according to a new Just the News poll with Scott Rasmussen. The startling survey result comes amid reports that Senate Republican support for convicting Trump in an impeachment trial is fast eroding. A Trump third party could provoke a pivotal realignment in American politics. With the support of 46% of registered voters in the new poll, Democrats would reap the benefits of a fractured opposition and entrench themselves as the nation’s dominant party — even without majority support.

Among “very conservative” voters — who make up a disproportionately large bloc within the Republican primary electorate — a Trump Patriot Party crushes the GOP 55%-24%. Should Trump remain in the GOP, his wide lead among these highly motivated voters affords him great leverage to influence the direction of the party by wielding the threat of conservative primary challenges against establishment Republicans ill at ease with the former president’s combative brew of conservatism infused with populism and nationalism. Despite Trump’s outperformance in 2020 of recent GOP presidential candidates among minorities, African-American and Hispanic voters effectively split evenly between the GOP and a Patriot Party in the the new poll.

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Move the goalposts.

Democrat Sens. Manchin, Sinema Won’t Back Elimination Of The Filibuster (JTN)

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will not back the elimination of the filibuster. “I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition. It’s not who I am,” West Virginia’s Manchin said on Monday, according to The Hill. “If I haven’t said it very plain, maybe Sen. McConnell hasn’t understood, I want to basically say it for you. That I will not vote in this Congress, that’s two years, right? I will not vote” to alter the filibuster, the senator said in an interview on Monday, according to Politico. Sinema of Arizona is also unwilling to support nixing the filibuster. According to the Washington Post, a Sinema spokesperson said that the lawmaker is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.” “The Senate filibuster has evolved over the course of its history into a de facto supermajority requirement, necessitating 60 votes to end debate and advance legislation,” according to the Post.

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Vicious circles: as Fed president, she lowered interest rates, which as Treasury Secretary she can now use to excuse “acting big”.

Janet Yellen Confirmed As Treasury Secretary (Axios)

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday. Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis. Yellen previously served as the first female chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton and the first female chair of the Federal Reserve under President Obama. Her confirmation as Treasury secretary makes her the first person to have held all three economic power positions in the federal government. Yellen told senators during her confirmation hearings that her immediate focus would be pandemic relief. With her confirmation, she can immediately start negotiating and working with Congress to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.


“The damage has been sweeping, and as the President-elect said last Thursday, our response must be, too,” Yellen said last week. Yellen also endorsed Biden’s tax reform plan in her testimony, but she said the administration’s top legislative priority would be economic stimulus, with infrastructure not too far behind. “The focus right now is on providing relief and on helping families keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and not on raising taxes.” “Neither the president-elect nor I propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”

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Big Bird is watching you.

Twitter Launches Birdwatch, A Wikipedia-Style Approach To Fight Misinformation (F.)

In a significant attempt to overhaul how it moderates content, Twitter on Monday unveiled Birdwatch, a pilot program to crowdsource fact-checks to combat misinformation. Birdwatch will allow regular users, called “Birdwatchers,” to identify tweets they think have misinformation and write notes with more information and context, which is similar to Wikipedia, where registered volunteers write, update and edit articles for accuracy. Anyone can apply to be a Birdwatcher, and the only requirements are a valid phone number, email and no recent violations of Twitter’s rules. Birdwatch notes will appear beneath a tweet, and in an effort to prevent people from gaming the system, Birdwatchers will be able to rate the effectiveness of each note, impacting the note’s ranking.

The program is currently a pilot, and is only available via a separate website, but eventually the company wants to expand Birdwatch to the rest of Twitter. During the pilot, Twitter said it wants to focus on making Birdwatch “resistant to manipulation attempts and ensure “it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors.” “We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable. Eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors,” Twitter Vice President Keith Coleman said in a blog post.

Twitter has long been under pressure to prevent misinformation from spreading on its platform. But it wasn’t until this year that the company took more aggressive action. Twitter fact-checked tweets from former president Donald Trump and other politicians about Covid-19, mail-in voting and the election results. Those labels linked to news organizations or other institutions offering credible information. The social network eventually banned Trump entirely, citing tweets that could incite more violence following the Capitol riot. The intention of Birdwatch, though, is to expand those efforts beyond “circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention,” Coleman said.

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Gitmo in Manhattan.

“Schulte has been in solitary confinement and not been outdoors in over two years..”

“Schulte’s filthy cell, the size of a parking space, is infested with rodents, rodent droppings, cockroaches and mold and there is no heating, air conditioning or functioning plumbing..”

Ex-CIA Engineer Tells Judge He’s Incarcerated Like An Animal (Ind.)

A former CIA software engineer charged with leaking government secrets to WikiLeaks says it’s cruel and unusual punishment that he’s awaiting trial in solitary confinement, housed in a vermin-infested cell of a jail unit where inmates are treated like “caged animals ” Joshua Schulte, 32, has asked a Manhattan federal judge to force the federal Bureau of Prisons to improve conditions at the Metropolitan Correction Center, where he has been held for over two years under highly restrictive conditions usually reserved for terrorism defendants. In court papers Tuesday, Schulte maintained he is held in conditions “below that of impoverished persons living in third world countries.” “It is barbaric and inhumane to lock human beings into boxes for years and years — it is a punishment worse than death,” the court filing said.

Last year, a jury deadlocked on espionage charges alleging that Schulte stole a massive trove of the agency’s hacking tools and gave it to the organization that publishes news leaks. He was convicted of lesser charges of contempt of court and making false statements. He is scheduled for another trial on espionage charges in June in what was said to be the largest leak in CIA history involving classified information. Afterward, he faces a separate trial on child pornography charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. In his 20s, Schulte, originally from Lubbock, Texas, worked as a coder at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where digital sleuths design computer code to spy on foreign adversaries.

The so-called Vault 7 leak published in March 2017 by WikiLeaks revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations and efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices. After a yearlong probe, investigators blamed Schulte, who had already left the agency after falling out with colleagues and supervisors and moved to New York City to work at a news agency. At trial, a prosecutor called the leaks “devastating to national security.” A defense lawyer said the materials could have been accessed and stolen by hundreds of people. Juror Alexis Anthony said she never thought the evidence was strong enough to convict Schulte of espionage-related charges.

According to the court papers, Schulte has been in solitary confinement and not been outdoors in over two years under special administrative measures designed to severely restrict an inmate’s communications and interactions with others. Prosecutors say the measures are necessary after Schulte tried to leak even more classified information using a contraband cellphone that had been smuggled into the jail. They said he declared an “information war” and was “prepared to burn down the United States government.” Schulte’s filthy cell, the size of a parking space, is infested with rodents, rodent droppings, cockroaches and mold and there is no heating, air conditioning or functioning plumbing, the court papers said, while sunlight is blocked by a blacked out window. Television access is permitted for one hour per week.

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“Black paid Epstein a stunning $158 million in fees for services..”

Leon Black To Step Down From Apollo Global After Epstein Investigation (F.)

Leon Black, the billionaire co-founder of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, will be stepping down from his role as CEO of the $433 billion in assets firm. Black, who will remain as chairman, will be replaced by co-founder Marc Rowan by mid-year. The announcement of changed leadership came on Monday evening as Apollo released findings of an investigation directed by its board of directors into Black’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased financier who was criminally charged with human trafficking in 2019. Apollo said its investigation, conducted by law firm Dechert, found “no evidence that Mr. Black was involved in any way with Mr. Epstein’s criminal activities at any time.”

However, the report did show that Black paid Epstein a stunning $158 million in fees for services, loaned him over $30 million in loans and made a $10 million donation to Epstein’s charity, all figures that are multiples of what was previously reported. While the changing of guard atop one of the world’s largest private equity firms was characterized as part of its succession planning—Black is turning 70 this year and has been one of Wall Street’s most feared dealmakers for decades—it is also a maneuver by Apollo to move past well over a year of Epstein-related questions, which have slowed the firm’s growth, sunk its stock at times, and been a troubling mystery for its investors.

Black is the most prominent Wall Street A-lister connected to Epstein, a disgraced financier who was convicted and jailed for sex trafficking charges in 2008. After a Miami Herald investigation into Epstein in 2018, it was revealed that his trafficking operation was far greater than the public had known due to a sweetheart deal he cut with Florida prosecutors. The Herald found Epstein’s alleged trafficking was international and included numerous victims who came forward with allegations. The investigation, which won reporter Julia K. Brown a Pulitzer prize, caused prosecutors to reopen their investigations of Epstein, and exposed deep ties between Epstein, Wall Street power players like Black and well connected politicians and heads of state.

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“There will be plenty of work for former professors of Intersectionality in the sorghum fields.”

Flying Blind (Jim Kunstler)

Growing food and getting it to markets is the most critical activity. Poor Bill Gates, addled by his fortune, has bought up something like a quarter-million acres of farmland. His grandiosity prompts him to believe he can organize farming on the super-giant scale — Walmart for corn and turnips. Nothing could be further from the real coming trend: a reduction of scale and scope of farming and of the distribution supply lines that serve it. Poor Bill doesn’t seem to realize that the oil-and-gas-based “inputs” (fertilizers, pesticides) won’t be there for him, nor will the million-dollar diesel-powered combines. Nor the trucking industry. He could do more good for mankind getting into the mule business. (He won’t. Lacks razzle-dazzle.)

The transition between the old giant agri-biz model of farming and the emergent system of small-scaled farms based on human and animal labor will be arduous and disorderly in the early going. A lot of people will miss a lot of meals, and you know what that means. Working on a farm will be one way to make sure you get enough to eat. But also consider all the businesses that have to be created from scratch on the local level to serve the logistics of farming. You are already seeing many food products unavailable in the supermarkets. That will become more distressingly obvious in the disorders of 2021. When food deliveries to the supermarkets get really spotty, the farmers’ markets will not just be for schmoozing over lattes and almond croissants.

For those perhaps not paying attention, Covid-19 has destroyed what remains of education, especially the public school system. It was already moribund, waiting to crash, reduced to a pension racket for teachers. Going forward, the money won’t be there to operate these giant centralized schools and their yellow buses (while paying out pensions). The virus has kick-started exactly the kind of home-schooling pod system (several families combining) that can be reorganized into small-scale schooling for people who want it. People who don’t want it can move into their future without knowing how to read or do arithmetic. We’ll finally get a good test of the noble savage hypothesis. As for the colleges and universities, their business models are toast. They’ll be downscaling and shuttering as far ahead as the eye can see. Whatever remains will be more like finishing schools for neo-medieval ladies and gentlemen — and, by the way, the distinction between men and women will be reestablished. Why? Because reality insists on it. There will be plenty of work for former professors of Intersectionality in the sorghum fields.

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“..when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems..”

Let Nuke Plants Run for 100 Years? (CP)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a “public meeting” last week on what it titled “Development of Guidance Documents To Support License Renewal For 100 Years Of Plant Operation.” Comments from the “public” were strongly opposed to the NRC’s desire for it to let nuclear power plants run for a century. “I request you pause and consider before you go ahead on this reckless path,” testified Michel Lee, chairman of the New York-based Council on Energy & Conservation Policy. “Our position and that of our constituents is a resounding no,” declared Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the national organization Beyond Nuclear.

“It’s time to stop this whole nuke con job,” said Erica Grey, nuclear issues chair of the Virginia Sierra Club. There is “no solution” to dealing with nuclear waste, she said. It is “unethical to continue to make the most toxic waste known to mankind.” And, “renewable energy” with solar and wind “can power the world.” Jan Boudart, a board member of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, spoke, too, of the lack of consideration of nuclear waste. Cited was the higher likelihood of accidents with plants permitted to run for 100 years. Whether the NRC—often called the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission—listens is highly unlikely considering its record of rubberstamping whatever has been sought by other nuclear promoters in government and the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power plants when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So operating licenses were limited to 40 years. But with the major decline of nuclear power—the U.S. is down to 94 plants from a high of 129 and only two are now under construction—the nuclear promoters in the U.S. government and nuclear industry are pushing to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years to somehow keep nuclear power going.

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Jan 242021
 
 January 24, 2021  Posted by at 10:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Amedeo Modigliani Elvira Resting at a Table 1919

 

EU Vaccine Delays Dog Effort To Speed Up COVID Inoculations (EN)
Delaying Second Dose Of Vaccine Increases Risk Of New Resistant Strain – Sage (Ind.)
WHO Advisor: COVID19 Pandemic Likely Started Via Lab Leak (TSun)
‘Miraculous’ Ivermectin Approved For Use In The US For COVID19 (LS)
Lancet Retracts Study That Claimed HCQ Is Ineffective (NF)
Moderate Republicans Push Back On Biden’s Economic Plan (NBC)
Rand Paul Says Chief Justice Roberts Won’t Take Trump Impeach Trial (NYP)
Seattle Police and City Attorney Take Hardline Stance Against Antifa (PM)
Grantham Sees “Spectacular” Crash In “The Next Few Months” (ZH)
Bezos, Zuckerberg $18 Billion Richer In Biden’s First Days In Office (F.)
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Refuting Mail-in Votes For Unionization (Outkick)
Eurostar Near Collapse, Asks for Bailout, Becomes Hot Potato (WS)
Indian Farmers on the Frontline Against Global Capitalism (OffG)

 

 

 

 

“Italy’s coronavirus commissioner said that vaccinations had been cut from 80,000 a day to 28,000 a day, Italian media reported. He said Italian authorities were considering taking legal action against Pfizer..”

EU Vaccine Delays Dog Effort To Speed Up COVID Inoculations (EN)

AstraZeneca’s EU vaccine shipments will be delayed, the EU’s health commissioner said, in yet another obstacle to the bloc’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. “The EU Commission and Member States expressed deep dissatisfaction with this,” Stella Kyriakides tweeted on Friday after member states heard from AstraZeneca representatives. The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is expected to receive approval from the European Medicines Agency this week, and any delay or shortage of doses could be a significant speed bump as member states race to vaccinate their populations amid a worsening COVID-19 crisis. The emergence of more transmissible variants of coronavirus has caused significant concern in Europe with the UK reporting record daily hospitalisations and deaths due to the virus mutations.

Johnson warned on Friday that early evidence showed the new variant could be more deadly as well. Countries are racing against the clock to vaccinate as many people as possible before the variants spread further. But Pfizer said just last week that fewer doses would be available in the EU in late January and early February due to quality tests at the manufacturing plant in Belgium. Some EU countries have since had to cut vaccinations amid the delays, prompting criticism of the pharmaceutical companies behind the vaccines. Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s coronavirus commissioner, said that vaccinations had been cut from 80,000 a day to 28,000 a day, Italian media reported. He said Italian authorities were considering taking legal action against Pfizer, AP reported.

Authorities in Germany’s most populous state said that due to delays in delivery of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine they would halt first vaccinations. North Rhine Westphalia had received 100,000 vaccine doses less than originally planned, the state said. Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn said that “we are currently in a phase in which the worldwide demand for corona vaccines is very high.”

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Well, that’s too bad then. Because you’ve run out.

Delaying Second Dose Of Vaccine Increases Risk Of New Resistant Strain – Sage (Ind.)

Delaying doses of coronavirus inoculations will increase the chances of a vaccine-resistant strain of Covid-19 emerging, government scientists have warned. In new reports, released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), experts also warned that resistant new variants were a “realistic possibility” driven by the virus reacting to increasing levels of natural immunity among the population. The government’s decision to delay the second dose of vaccines to 12 weeks rather than three, to try and give more people some protection from the virus, has sparked anger among frontline health workers who fear they are being left at increased risk from infections.

There have also been suggestions from Israel, that have yet to be fully validated, that the protection from a first dose could be far less than originally thought. In papers released on Friday, Sage scientists there was an “increased risk of virus replication under partial immunity after one dose than after two doses, so in the short term, delaying the second dose would be expected to somewhat increase the probability of emergence of vaccine resistance – but probably from a low base. “Is such an increase material? It is not currently possible to quantify the probability of emergence of vaccine resistance as a result of the delayed second dose, but it is likely to be small. The UK currently has more than 1,000 Covid-19-related deaths each day and has limited supplies of vaccine.

“In the current UK circumstances the unquantifiable but likely small probability of the delayed second dose generating a vaccine escape mutant must be weighed against the measurable benefits of doubling the speed with which the most vulnerable can be given vaccine-induced protection.”

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While his WHO colleagues are still in China?!

WHO Advisor: COVID19 Pandemic Likely Started Via Lab Leak (TSun)

One year after the pandemic started, World Health Organization advisor Jamie Metzl wants China to come clean about the origins of the COVID-19 virus. The Kansas City-born, New York-based Metzl, who served as Deputy Staff Director of the Foreign Relations Committee under then Senator Joe Biden (2001-2003) and before that on the National Security Council (1997-99) and the State Department (1999-01) under President Bill Clinton), theorizes it was most likely an accidental lab leak in Wuhan. “There’s no irrefutable evidence,” said Metzl, who was appointed to the WHO’s expert advisory committee on human genome editing in 2019 and is also the author of Hacking Darwin. “There’s just more evidence and as more evidence arrives, the case for accidental lab leak, in my view, increases.”

We caught up with Metzl down the line from San Miguel de Allende: What about the original theory that this all started in a wet market in Wuhan? That was a lie. And the Chinese government knew very early on that that was a lie. And so in the face of overwhelming evidence in May of last year, the Chinese government shifted its position. Do you get the idea of scary viruses being created in a lab may seem a little sci-fi? It may feel like sci-fi to people but what’s happening is sci. There is a field of study called “gain of function” research, which is highly controversial in which some scientists amplify the virility of viruses. We know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in gain of function research on bat coronaviruses.

Is it because this specifically started in China that we still don’t know how COVID-19 started? If there had been an outbreak in Congo or some country in Africa and that country, in the earliest days of the pandemic, prevented World Health Organization investigators from going onto the scene of the outbreak, for nearly a month, the world would have gone berserk. Will a change of the U.S. administration help find an answer? Biden will be tougher on China than President Trump because President Biden is very smart and strategic and he understands that American power and American strength doesn’t rest on bluster, it rests on principles, it rests on partnerships, and alliances and accountability. And the Trump administration unfortunately gave China a pass by over politicizing the question of the origin of the virus by alienating America’s partners and allies.

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So when’s the big rollout?

‘Miraculous’ Ivermectin Approved For Use In The US For COVID-19 (LS)

Following the diligent efforts of physicians associated with a group called Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has upgraded their recommendation for the “miraculous” drug ivermectin, making it an option for use in treating COVID-19 within the United States. The result comes one week after Dr. Paul Marik and Dr. Pierre Kory—founding members of the FLCCC, along with Dr. Andrew Hill, researcher and consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), presented their data before the NIH Treatment Guidelines Panel. A press release from FLCCC explains the “new designation upgraded the status of ivermectin from ‘against’ [the drug’s use] to ‘neither for nor against,’ which is the same recommendation given to monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma, both widely used across the nation.”


“By no longer recommending against ivermectin use,” the statement said, “doctors should feel more open in prescribing ivermectin as another therapeutic option for the treatment of COVID-19. This may clear its path towards FDA [Food and Drug Administration] emergency use approval.” “Ivermectin is one of the world’s safest, cheapest and most widely available drugs,” explained Dr. Kory, President of the FLCCC Alliance. “The studies we presented to the NIH revealed high levels of statistical significance showing large magnitude benefit in transmission rates, need for hospitalization, and death. What’s more, the totality of trials data supporting ivermectin is without precedent.”

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How many lives could have been saved?

Lancet Retracts Study That Claimed HCQ Is Ineffective (NF)

A leading medical journal has issued a retraction of their endorsement for a study that concluded the anti-viral drug hydroxychloroquine was ineffective against the COVID-19 virus. This retraction appears to validate the claims then-President Trump made about the medication being a frontline drug in the battle in the pandemic. The Lancet, a respected online medical journal, issued an apology to its readers in an edition last year after the retraction. “We deeply apologize to you, the editors, and the journal readership for any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused,” the publishers of The Lancet said.

Compared to the significantly more expensive medications being used to treat the virus, hydroxychloroquine – a drug widely used to treat malaria – is relatively inexpensive and universally available. Hydroxychloroquine ranges in price from $0.30 to $6.63 per dose depending on location. The Lancet’s endorsement of the study was withdrawn because the Surgisphere Corporation, the company that provided data, refused to provide full access to the information it based its study on. Peer review medical journals typically engage in third-party peer review to validate the findings. The Surgisphere Corporation said it refused to release the study data because it would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements, raising questions about the study’s legitimacy.

“Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources. Due to this unfortunate development, the authors request that the paper be retracted,” The Lancet said in a statement. In the now debunked study, researchers concluded that hydroxychloroquine didn’t aid in curbing the COVID-19 virus. It went on to say that the drug caused heart problems and appeared to elevate the risk of death. The study was immediately embraced by the beleaguered World Health Organization and other groups causing research into the use of the drug to combat COVID-19 to stop.

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Let the games ….. continue.

Moderate Republicans Push Back On Biden’s Economic Plan (NBC)

Key moderate Republicans in the Senate dismissed quick action on President Joe Biden’s top priority of a $1.9 trillion economic package, indicating that the $1,400 stimulus payments he requested could take months, or never arrive. Democrats need to convince 10 Republicans in the Senate, which might require asking for less funding than Biden initially requested, or bypassing the 60-vote threshold utilizing a parliamentarian maneuver. Biden’s team appears ready to mount an aggressive campaign to get Congress to act, a departure from the previous administration that largely failed to engage lawmakers on legislative priorities and did not spend political capital on getting bills passed.

Republicans who would be critical to get to the finish line said they’re open to additional money to speed up distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, but balked at Biden’s overall price tag. Some called on Biden to pare back the plan while others suggested waiting a few months to see if the economic need persists. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the most moderate Republicans, said she’s “sympathetic” to boosting vaccine funds but doesn’t see the justification for a bill “that is so big.” “It’s hard for me to see when we just passed $900 billion of assistance why we would have a package that big,” Collins told reporters Thursday. “Maybe a couple of months from now, the needs will be evident and we will need to do something significant, but I’m not seeing it right now.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called Biden’s request “significant,” adding that “the ink is barely dry on the $900 billion” bill. “And so it’s going to require, I think, a fair amount of debate and consideration,” she told reporters. Sen. Mitt Romney R-Utah, a conservative who has a track record of breaking with his party, told NBC News that he isn’t inclined to borrow another $1 trillion or even $500 billion for a broad economic package. “My own view is that what’s holding back the economy is Covid, not money,” he said. “I want to do everything we can to get the Covid vaccines out. But once the Covid vaccine is out and people are inoculated, I believe you’ll see the economy coming back.”

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Stretching the law.

Rand Paul Says Chief Justice Roberts Won’t Take Trump Impeach Trial (NYP)

As Democrats plunge ahead with a post-term impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, a key question remains: Will Chief Justice Roberts take the case? Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says he won’t — making the exercise “a fake, partisan impeachment,” the lawmaker told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Friday. Paul claimed Roberts has “privately said he’s not supposed to come unless it’s an impeachment of the president.” According to the US Constitution, “when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside” — a requirement not made for any other impeachment case. As lawmakers debated the legitimacy of impeachment, the Biden administration continued to keep its distance from the issue.

“Congress is going to do what Congress does,” Ashley Etienne, Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications director, told MSNBC Saturday. One thing Trump enemies in Congress appear to be doing is grasping at straws — even reaching back to a post-Civil War amendment. Several Dems have floated the idea of punishing Trump with the 14th Amendment’s rule that shuts those who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” out of elective office. “I certainly think there is a 14th Amendment avenue separate and aside from impeachment,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told The Hill.

But the stricture, which was written to prevent former Confederate loyalists from regaining power as the United States struggled through Reconstruction, has not been used since — and would spark a long judicial battle if Congress attempted to invoke it, legal experts say. Meanwhile, with Trump no longer in the White House, Republicans like Paul continued to deride the impeachment as “an illegitimate procedure.” Roberts, who has not said publicly whether he will preside over the trial, has two more weeks to decide. After the House of Representatives’ impeachment managers on Monday read their articles of impeachment accusing Trump of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot, the Senate will delay the trial until the week of Feb. 8 so that President Biden can get his administration up and running, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday.

If Trump is convicted with a two-thirds majority of the Senate, Schumer could call for a second vote, this one requiring only a simple majority, barring him from holding elective office again. But conviction will require the votes of at least 17 Senate Republicans — an increasingly remote possibility, as more party members climb aboard Paul’s argument that only a sitting president can be impeached. “It’s going to be tough to get even a handful” of GOP defectors, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told CNN — because “everybody has views that it’s kind of a constitutional concern.”

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The Seattle Times never mentions the term Antifa. It’s just an idea.

Seattle Police and City Attorney Take Hardline Stance Against Antifa (PM)

As Antifa militants take to Seattle’s streets on a near-daily basis following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the city’s police and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes are responding with a promise to bring the hammer down on violent protesters. In an announcement on Saturday, the city’s interim police Chief Adrian Diaz announced that his department is coordinating with the city attorney to enact a strict new policy to arrest and prosecute protesters who destroy property during street demonstrations. Diaz said that the new enforcement policy will take effect this Saturday, when a demonstration has been planned for Occidental Square. Prosecutions will increase under the new order.

In his speech, Seattle’s top cop said that he has wanted to crack down on the violent militants for months, and that its becoming clear following Biden’s inauguration that their protests have no real cause. “They’re focused on breaking windows, and these are things we need to work on,” he said, reported Seattle Times. A spokesperson for the police said that suspects in low-level crimes were not even booked into jail last year due to coronavirus concerns, and that the policy of not booking those who commit misdemeanors is unlikely to change. However, individuals released on bail who are re-arrested will likely be prosecuted now. Diaz said that police will take a hardline approach to repeat offenders.

“We will be prosecuting these crimes from now on,” he said. “When we don’t have any form of accountability for people — and many of them are coming from outside the city — they will continue to do that activity, and we can’t have that.” In addition to the prosecutions, police will be deploying in extra numbers starting Saturday and will coordinate law enforcement efforts with the Washington State Patrol and federal agents to prevent protesters from entering freeways and federal buildings. “We would like to protect buildings from being vandalized in the first place, and don’t want to cause undue conflict. It’s safer for protesters and officers to not be drawing that line, so to speak,” said Diaz. Earlier this week, Antifa rioters vandalized and looted the historic Starbucks, a Democratic Party office, and numerous local businesses in protest of the newly inaugurated president.

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“stimmy” checks.

Grantham Sees “Spectacular” Crash In “The Next Few Months” (ZH)

Two weeks ago, investing icon Jeremy Grantham turned apocalyptic and warned that the “Bursting Of This “Great, Epic Bubble” Will Be “Most Important Investing Event Of Your Lives.” Since then the market has generally continued to melt up, yet Grantham’s conviction that all this will end in tears has only grown, and in an interview with Bloomberg today, the co-founder of GMO who correctly called the last two crashes, now predicts that Joe Biden’s economic-recovery plan will propel stocks to perilous new heights, followed by an inevitable crash. “We will have a few weeks of extra money and a few weeks of putting your last, desperate chips into the game, and then an even more spectacular bust,” the value-investing legend said in a Bloomberg “Front Row” interview.


“When you have reached this level of obvious super-enthusiasm, the bubble has always, without exception, broken in the next few months, not a few years.” Amid market euphoria the likes of which have – literally – never been seen before as the following chart from Citi shows and which prompted Citi, BofA and Goldman to all warn that a selloff appears imminent, and which was fueled by risk-taking behavior funded by the latest round of pandemic-relief checks, Grantham has “no doubt” at least some of the $1.9 trillion in federal aid Biden is seeking from Congress will end up being spent on stocks instead of food or shelter.

While that will help push stocks even higher, Grantham then sees it all ending in tears, or rather a collapse rivaling the 1929 crash or the dot-com bust of 2000, when the Nasdaq cratered 80% before recovering thanks to trillions more in Fed “stimmy” checks. And while some (increasingly fewer) investors claim that today’s valuations are justified by the growth potential of transformative technologies and new business models, Grantham, 82, dismisses that argument as fanciful, and rejects the popular theory that the Federal Reserve can cushion or even the next crash with even more QE or easing. “At the lowest rates in history, you don’t have a lot in the bank to throw on the table, do you?” he said.

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How much more stimulus do we need to keep making them richer? It will stop somewhere.

Bezos, Zuckerberg $18 Billion Richer In Biden’s First Days In Office (F.)

The world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, had a very good week. The Amazon CEO got $10 billion richer, bringing his net worth to $191.5 billion. He’s got an $8.3 billion lead over Tesla CEO Elon Musk (net worth: $183.2 billion), who briefly claimed the top spot this month before falling back to second place. Even better for Bezos? His boost this week comes in part thanks to the departure of Donald Trump, a constant critic of Amazon and the Bezos-owned Washington Post. President Joe Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday, sending tech stocks soaring on optimism over his administration’s Covid-19 vaccine and stimulus plans.


Amazon ended the week up 6.1%, Facebook gained 9.2% and Google parent Alphabet rose 9.5%, beating the S&P and Dow Jones Industrial Average’s weekly gains of 2% and 0.5%, respectively. On Inauguration Day, Amazon executive Dave Clark sent a letter to Biden offering Amazon’s resources to help distribute the vaccine. “We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination effort,” he wrote. Clark also took the opportunity to advocate prioritizing vaccinating Amazon’s 800,000 employees, most of whom are essential frontline workers.

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Ha ha ha.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon Refuting Mail-in Votes For Unionization (Outkick)

Jeff Bezos — a strong Democratic supporter — and Amazon are aiming to postpone a unionization vote at one of its warehouses in Alabama, the Wall Street Journal reports. Interestingly, Amazon has requested that the National Labor Relations Board reconsider allowing mail-in voting, claiming that the mail-in voting process has “serious and systemic flaws.” Got that? Bezos and Amazon are doing all they can to prevent any shady activity when workers cast their ballots for unionization, and they are particularly concerned about the integrity of mail-in ballots. You are likely trying to figure out how that adds up, right? The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, called any claims of mail-in voter fraud by Donald Trump and his supporters dangerous and inexcusable.

Amazon even banned Parler from its servers, in part to ensure no one could claim voter fraud occurred from mail-in ballots back in November. But stop trying to make it make sense. It is not supposed to add up. In this case, mail-in voting is disadvantageous for Bezos and his e-commerce behemoth. Therefore, they now consider mail-in voting seriously flawed. An Amazon spokesperson tells CNN the company is seeking a “valid, fair and successful election” and suggests that only in-person voting can ensure that. Hmm, interesting perspective. Amazon has, thus far, fended off unions in the United States. If a majority of ballots vote in favor of unionization, hourly Amazon workers would send an L right up to Bezos’ office.

Bamazonunion.com explains that a union at Amazon would “give us the right to collectively bargain over our working conditions including items such as safety standards, training, breaks, pay, benefits, and other important issues that would make our workplace better.” The NLRB says, “A mail ballot election will enfranchise employees who cannot enter the voting location for health reasons or due to positive COVID tests.” Fearing an unfavorable outcome, however, Amazon now insists that current COVID outbreaks aren’t dangerous enough to warrant this NLRB decision.

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In a train in a tunnel with COVID. No thanks.

Eurostar Near Collapse, Asks for Bailout, Becomes Hot Potato (WS)

Eurostar, the company that operates the cross-Channel train service that connects the UK with France, Belgium and the Netherlands, is on the brink of collapse, the company’s management warned this week. With passenger numbers down 95% in the final quarter of 2020 and revenues down over 80% over the course of 2020, it is now “on a drip” and in desperate need of extra cash, says Christophe Fanichet, a senior executive of France’s state SNCF railways, which is the majority shareholder of Eurostar. “I’m very worried about Eurostar. The company is in a critical state, I’d even say very critical,” he said.

In 2019, Eurostar shuttled 11 million passengers — including many businessmen and women — from London St Pancras to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. While generally more expensive than budget air fares, it is quicker, more comfortable, and drops off passengers in the center of their chosen city of destination. But like the airlines, its whole business model has been upended by the virus crisis. At present, the company is operating only two services a day, a far cry from the two trains an hour it used to operate during peak times before the pandemic. And most of those trains are less than a quarter full. More than 90% of its workers have been furloughed.

It’s a similar story across Europe’s railway sector. Passenger numbers have plunged between 70%-90% as lockdowns, social-distancing rules, and concerns about the risks of using public transport have taken their toll. The industry is estimated to have racked up losses of €22 billion in 2020, according to CER, a Brussels-based commerce group representing passenger and freight prepare operators. That’s similar to the total losses accrued so far by Europe’s airlines. Thousands of workers are on government-subsidized furloughs. “It’s a totally extraordinary situation,” said Libor Lochman, CER’s executive director. “There is no comparison for it, and it can and will lead to the bankruptcy of a number of companies, unless there is the political will to prevent it”.

Just as happened last Spring, travel restrictions are tightening across Europe and borders are closing as countries try to counter the spread of new strains of the Covid-19 virus. France announced on Thursday that visitors from the UK, which is no longer part of the EU, will need to observe a seven-day quarantine and undertake a PCR test on their arrival. The UK already has a quarantine system in place for travelers from the EU. These latest travel restrictions have compounded Eurostar’s woes. It could run out of money by April, according to industry sources. To stave off that fate, the company is asking for government support of the kind already doled out to many airlines. Eurostar has already tapped shareholders for €200 million and is apparently loath to do so again, particularly given the recent tightening of travel restrictions.

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Monsanto.

Indian Farmers on the Frontline Against Global Capitalism (OffG)

In the above short video on the empirediaries.com YouTube channel, a protesting farmer camped near Delhi says that during lockdown and times of crisis farmers are treated like “gods”, but when they ask for their rights, they are smeared and labelled as “terrorists”. He, along with thousands of other farmers, are mobilising against three important pieces of farm legislation that were recently forced through parliament. To all intents and purposes, these laws sound a neoliberal death knell for most of India’s cultivators and its small farms, the backbone of the nation’s food production. The farmer says: “Corporates invested in Modi before the election and brought him to power. He has sold out and is an agent of Ambani and Adani. He is unable to repeal the bills because his owners will scold him. He is trapped. But we are not backing down either.”

He then asks whether ministers know how many seeds are needed to grow wheat on an acre of land: “We farmers know. They made these farm laws sitting in air-conditioned rooms. And they are teaching us the benefits!” While the corporations that will move in on the sector due to the legislation will initially pay good money for crops, once the public sector markets (mandis) are gone, the farmer says they will become the only buyers and will beat prices down. He asks why, in other sectors, do sellers get to put price tags on their products but not farmers: “Why can’t farmers put minimum prices on the crops we produce? A law must be brought to guarantee MSP [minimum support prices]. Whoever buys below MSP must be punished by law.”

The recent agriculture legislation represents the final pieces of a 30-year-old plan which will benefit a handful of billionaires in the US and in India. It means the livelihoods of hundreds of millions (the majority of the population) who still (directly or indirectly) rely on agriculture for a living are to be sacrificed at the behest of these elite interests. Consider that much of the UK’s wealth came from sucking $45 trillion from India alone according to renowned economist Utsa Patnaik. Britain grew rich by underdeveloping India. What amount to little more than modern-day East India-type corporations are now in the process of helping themselves to the country’s most valuable asset – agriculture.

According to the World Bank’s lending report, based on data compiled up to 2015, India was easily the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution. The World Bank thus exerts a certain hold over India: on the back of India’s foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to more than $120 billion in loans at the time, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange. The plan involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 172021
 


Salvador Dalí Cadaques 1923

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

The “science” has stood still for a year.

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

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


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

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Not from the Pfizer PR squad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ever more variants popping up.

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

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

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

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

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Mental health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Globalism wins.

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

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


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

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

Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power (Ferguson)

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

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

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

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

How the news works

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No, sorry, that is not inflation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 152021
 
 January 15, 2021  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


Salvador Dalí Living still life 1956

 

Trump Declassifying Trove Of FBI Memos Exposing Steele’s Motivations (JTN)
Trump Declassifies ‘Foot-High’ Stack Of Russiagate, Obamagate Documents (ZH)
After Trump Bans, Facebook, Twitter See Combined $51 Billion In Losses (JTN)
Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans (AP)
Poland Plans To Make Censoring Of Social Media Accounts Illegal (G.)
Google Refuses To Answer Questions About Removing Australian News Sites (G.)
Trump Impeached Amid Efforts to Silence Him (Lauria)
Impeachment Is More Dangerous Than Trump (Tracey)
Liberal Activist Arrested, Charged With Participating In Capitol Riot (JTN)
Biden’s Cabinet Picks Are A Missed Opportunity For Change (USAT)
Will the Senate Confirm Coup Plotter Victoria Nuland? (Benjamin)
ECB’s Lagarde Calls For Regulating Bitcoin’s “Funny Business” (R.)
Secret Service Barred From Using Ivanka Trump’s Bathrooms (G.)

 

 

I can’t unsee this picture. This is not the only one that has the same angle. The photographer knew what he was doing, and moved till he had it just right.

 

 

 

 

Special Russiagate Counsel needed.

Trump Declassifying Trove Of FBI Memos Exposing Steele’s Motivations (JTN)

Delivering in his final days on one of his last unfulfilled promises, President Trump is declassifying a massive trove of FBI documents showing the Russia collusion story was leaked in the final weeks of the 2016 election in an effort to counteract Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. The memos to be released as early as Friday include FBI interviews and human source evaluation reports for two of the main informants in the Russia case, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele and academic Stefan Halper. The president authorized the release of a foot-high stack of internal FBI and DOJ documents that detail significant flaws in the investigation and provide a detailed timeline of when the FBI first realized the Steele dossier was problematic, multiple government officials told Just the News.

Among the bombshell revelations is an admission by Steele that he violated his confidential human source agreement with the FBI and leaked information from his dossier to the news media in the final weeks of the election because he wanted to counteract new revelations in the Hillary Clinton email scandal that were hurting her election efforts. The former foreign intelligence officer made the confession in a fall 2017 interview with agents. Steele, who was hired by Clinton’s campaign law firm to compile anti-Trump dossiers attempting to link Trump to Russian influence, told agents he had two clients at the time — Clinton and the FBI — and chose the interests of the Democratic candidate over the bureau in leaking.

Steele told the bureau that then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton email probe in fall 2016 triggered him to leak his dossier details in what he described as a taking-the-gloves-off moment. The FBI interview summary makes clear that Steele, a British citizen, was allegiant to Clinton, did not like Trump and believed a Trump presidency would be negative for his homeland and thus made a decision to meddle in the U.S. election by leaking information to the news media. The leaks, which led to Steele’s termination as an FBI informant, have been known for more than a year, but his motivation for leaking was hidden in the classified documents. His admission that the Russia collusion narrative, later debunked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was injected into the public as a means of counteracting Clinton’s email scandal corroborates other information obtained by the CIA.

The soon-to-be-released records also expose a tantalizing connection between Steele, his primary source and one of the Democrats’ key impeachment witnesses in the Ukraine scandal, former Trump National Security Council Russia expert Fiona Hill. Steele divulged to the FBI that he was introduced by Hill to his primary sub-source of information for his anti-Trump dossier and that he later told Hill that the source had provided information for his now infamous memos. [..] The documents also will settle a long-debated question in Washington about whether the FBI’s tactics amounted to spying on the Trump campaign. Tasking instructions the FBI gave to Halper, an academic who long worked as an FBI informant, make clear he was instructed to infiltrate the Trump campaign by posing as someone who wanted to work for the GOP nominee and then targeting campaign advisers to find out what they knew about Trump or his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Solomon

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“These are the things that the FBI has tried to keep from the public for 4 years.”

Trump Declassifies ‘Foot-High’ Stack Of Russiagate, Obamagate Documents (ZH)

President Trump has declassified and authorized the release of “more than a foot-high stack of documents” related to the Obama administration’s surveillance and espionage committed against the 2016 Trump campaign, as part of a larger campaign to discredit and undermine the incoming US president. According to journalist and Trump insider John Solomon, the documents would be released as soon as Friday, but no later than Monday. “He has delivered in a big way. More than a foot-high stack of documents he has authorized to be released by the FBI and the DOJ. These are the things that the FBI has tried to keep from the public for 4 years. They have amazing, big picture revelations,” Solomon told Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” According to Solomon’s website, Just The News, the release will support claims that the entire Russia narrative was created and leaked to the news media to upstage concerns over Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.

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Dorsey and Zuckerberg have hugely overestimated their powers. Their investors will be very unhappy.

After Trump Bans, Facebook, Twitter See Combined $51 Billion In Losses (JTN)

Facebook and Twitter have lost a combined $51 billion in market cap following their bans of President Donald Trump last week as investors balked at the tech giants’ surprise censorship of Trump roughly two weeks before his term was set to end. Facebook bore the overwhelming brunt of the market plunge, according to Business Insider, seeing gargantuan losses of $47.6 billion following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Trump would remain suspended from the social media platform “indefinitely,” until at least after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.


Twitter, meanwhile, saw its market cap plunge by $3.5 billion after it permanently suspended Trump from its servers due to claims that the president was inciting violence among his supporters with his posts. In the week since the bans were announced, users have reportedly been flocking to alternative social media sites, ones that have touted a commitment to censorship-free services in contrast to the heavier hands of the mainstream social media platforms.

@jack Veritas

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People will contend this is just the Mexican president, and AP even tries to paint him off as a Trump sympathizer. But this is a global issue. Twitter and Facebook will soon be subject to strong regulations, or they will be banned from many countries.

“..the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law.”

Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans (AP)

Mexico’s president vowed Thursday to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have blocked or suspended the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration is reaching out to other government to form a common front on the issue. “I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” López Obrador said. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” “How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” he asked. Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico is starting to build an international campaign around the issue.


“Given that Mexico, through our president, has spoken out, we immediately made contact with others who think the same,” Ebrard said, noting they had heard from officials in France, Germany, the European Union, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. “The president’s orders are to make contact with all of them, share this concern and work on coming up with a joint proposal,” Ebrard said. “We will see what is proposed.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among those who have publicly criticized the action against Trump. Her spokesman said Monday the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, later called for new regulations that would govern the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the European Union.

Tucker @jack

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“Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland..”

Poland Plans To Make Censoring Of Social Media Accounts Illegal (G.)

Polish government officials have denounced the deactivation of Donald Trump’s social media accounts, and said a draft law being readied in Poland will make it illegal for tech companies to take similar actions there. “Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are right and which are not,” wrote the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, on Facebook earlier this week, without directly mentioning Trump. “There can be no consent to censorship.” Morawiecki indirectly compared social media companies taking decisions to remove accounts with Poland’s experience during the communist era. “Censorship of free speech, which is the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, is now returning in the form of a new, commercial mechanism to combat those who think differently,” he wrote.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is ideologically aligned with Trump on many issues, has itself been accused of trying to limit freedom of speech in recent years. Some of its members have made a habit of posting anti-LGBT or anti-refugee rhetoric. However, government officials have long claimed that people with rightwing views in Poland and abroad have been the victims of biased decisions by international tech companies. Sebastian Kaleta, secretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of Justice, said Facebook’s decision to remove Trump’s account was hypocritical, politically motivated and “amounts to censorship”. He said the draft law prepared by the justice ministry would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that did not break Polish law.

“Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland,” Kaleta told Rzeczpospolita newspaper. In recent years, Facebook has moved to block content from far-right Polish organisations and politicians on numerous occasions. The MP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, aligned with the Konfederacja party, was in November shut out of his account, which had 780,000 followers, for what Facebook called repeated violations of community standards. Korwin-Mikke accused Facebook of being run by “fascists and Bolsheviks”.

Under the provisions of the Polish draft law, users would be able to file a court petition to force social media companies to restore removed content if they believed it did not violate Polish law. The court would rule within seven days and the process would be fully electronic. Morawiecki called on the EU to introduce similar regulations. Other European politicians, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, have also expressed unease at the ban on Trump by various social media outlets, and a new EU proposal, the Digital Services Act, envisions tougher regulations on tech companies, including tough fines for failure to block illegal content.

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Just an experiment…

Google Refuses To Answer Questions About Removing Australian News Sites (G.)

Google has refused to answer questions on its secret trial of removing news sites from search results in Australia, with the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, saying the company should focus on paying for news, not blocking it. Google blindsided news consumers and media outlets this week with a trial that removed Australian media outlets such as the ABC, Nine, the Guardian and others from its search results. Users were not informed of the change, or advised how to find news articles when searching, with some reporting they initially believed it was an issue only affecting them.


People affected by the trial can get around the block by searching in a private browser window, such as in incognito mode in Google Chrome. The move by Google came as a Senate committee is reviewing legislation that would force Google and Facebook to negotiate with Australian news media companies for a fair price for displaying local news content. Google has argued strongly against the code since it was first announced last year, by alerting users to the proposed changes in search and in Google Chrome.

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Joe Lauria goes through the law chapter by chapter. Excellent read.

Trump Impeached Amid Efforts to Silence Him (Lauria)

The Congressional Republicans who challenged the electoral college results last Wednesday are guilty of one transgression: wasting Congress’ time. There was no way the electoral college votes would be overturned. However those Republicans were completely within their rights to challenge the results and spur debate and a vote in both chambers. To suggest that that Constitutional right constituted incitement or support for the riot is extraordinary overreach. There have been Democratic calls for these Republicans to be unseated and even investigated for possible prosecution. During the impeachment debate on Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler said the rioters’ “accomplices in this House will be held to account.” Numerous corporate donors have said they will no longer contribute to these Republicans’ campaigns.

There is even wild speculation by some Democrats that some Republican members gave Capitol “reconnaissance” tours to the rioters the night before. The New York Times posted photos of all Republican members who challenged the electoral college votes as if they were on a wanted poster. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan in the impeachment debate pointed out that more Democrats in Congress objected to more states’ electoral college results in 2017’s certification than had Republicans last Wednesday. A Republican member responded that Hillary Clinton had conceded, unlike Trump, and that the objections were based on “Russian interference” in that election. He accused the Republicans, with a straight face, of engaging in “conspiracy theories” about a stolen 2020 election.

Such Democratic hypocrisy was underscored on 60 Minutes Sunday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous.” But is he any more “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous” than Democrats who joined Republicans to vote in 2003 to invade and occupy a nation that posed no threat to the United States? How would one describe Pelosi’s response in 2019 when asked why she opposed impeaching George W. Bush for that invasion, a crime of “aggression,” the worst war crime according to the Nuremberg Tribunal? Because of that invasion Bush was still a far worse and more dangerous president than even Trump.

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“..the text of the impeachment article will now be permanently embedded in the fabric of American governance.”

Impeachment Is More Dangerous Than Trump (Tracey)

The most apt parallel for the second impeachment of Donald Trump may not be any other of the three previous presidential impeachments, including his own just over a year ago. It may instead be the PATRIOT Act, which was passed in the heated emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks, with negligible debate afforded to the long-term implications of what Congress was enacting. Reason and deliberation had given way to a collective desire for security and revenge, and thus the most sweeping curtailment of civil liberties in the modern historical record was approved. Those who departed from the swiftly assembled consensus could expect to be denounced as sympathisers to terrorists.

Likewise, if you deign to raise concerns about the implications of this sudden impeachment sequel — or any of the other extraordinary actions taken in the past week, such as an ongoing corporate censorship purge of unprecedented proportions — you can expect to be accused of defending or supporting the “domestic terrorists” who carried out the mob attack on the Capitol. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, rationalised rushing through Wednesday’s impeachment resolution at spell-binding speed — by far the fastest impeachment process ever — on the grounds that Trump posed a “clear and present danger” to the country, and needed to be removed immediately. “Imminent threats” of various stripes also have a long history of being cited to justify sweeping emergency action, such as the invasion of Iraq. Often upon further inspection, the purported “threat” turns out to have been not so “imminent”, or in fact to have never existed at all.

But as rushed as the impeachment was, if the purported emergency conditions were truly so dire as Pelosi maintained, she could have theoretically summoned the House to convene the day after the mob attack and impeach Trump right away. Congress convened the very next day after the attack on Pearl Harbor to declare war on Japan, for example. Instead, Pelosi waited a full week, and gave everyone the weekend off in the interim. Trump, alleged to be in the process of orchestrating a violent “coup”, was allowed to remain in office unimpeded with access to the nuclear codes for seven days. Nonetheless, with a total of two hours of perfunctory debate — and no hearings, fact-finding or meditation on the relevant Constitutional Law considerations — Trump was impeached for the second time. As such, the text of the impeachment article will now be permanently embedded in the fabric of American governance.

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Both sides say Jake Sullivan belongs to the other side.

Liberal Activist Arrested, Charged With Participating In Capitol Riot (JTN)

A progressive activist has been arrested and charged with participating in last week’s U.S. Capitol riot a week after he uploaded footage of the event to YouTube. Utah resident and anti-Trump activist John Sullivan told Just the News last week that he had been present at the riot, including inside the Capitol, “specifically [as] a journalist, just to record the events that were going down.” Yet FBI agent Matthew Foulger alleged in an affidavit on Wednesday that, rather than merely act as a journalist during the riots, Sullivan “knowingly and willfully joined a crowd of individuals who forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol and impeded, disrupted, and disturbed the orderly conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.”


Foulger in the affidavit said that footage taken by Sullivan at the riot shows the activist accompanying and cheering on the rioting crowd by saying things such as “Let’s go. This shit is ours!” and “Let’s burn this shit down.” Sullivan has been arrested and charged pursuant to the incident, Salt Lake City station Fox 13 reported on Thursday evening. The station said the activist has been charged with “rioting and criminal mischief.”

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The details are terrible, the language is terribly polite.

“Corporate nominees are insulting against the backdrop of complete economic destruction that Americans are grappling with in the pandemic.”

Biden’s Cabinet Picks Are A Missed Opportunity For Change (USAT)

As the 2020 Democratic primaries were heating up last year, then-candidate Joe Biden assured his wealthy campaign donors in Manhattan that “nothing would fundamentally change” for their luxurious standard of living under his presidency. Based on the majority of his Cabinet picks, he wasn’t kidding. Biden will maintain a cozy relationship with corporate America by lubricating the hinges of the ever revolving door of politics. Take Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of State, as an example. In 2017, Blinken transitioned out of the Obama administration and founded a consulting firm called WestExec Advisors. The majority of its staffers — 21 out of 38 — personally donated to Biden’s campaign. WestExec co-founder Michele Flournoy alone raised more than $100,000 for the former vice president.

Was Blinken chosen for the job because he’s best suited, or is Biden trading favors based on campaign fundraisers and donations? Sure, Blinken and Biden have worked together in the past, and that could have factored into his decision. But aside from the transparent “favor for a favor” deal-making taking place in plain sight, Blinken’s opaque work at WestExec Advisors could be rife with conflicts of interest. The firm’s website boasts about selling influence to the White House by stating that its name “is derived from ‘West Executive Avenue,’ the closed street that runs between the West Wing of the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It is, quite literally, the road to the Situation Room, and it is the road everyone associated with WestExec Advisors has crossed many times en route to meetings of the highest national security consequences.”

While it’s clear that this consulting firm’s services mostly revolve around helping corporate clients and defense contractors win favorable government treatment, little is known about its client list because its staffers aren’t considered lobbyists. They’re labeled strategic advisers, which means they don’t have to disclose whom they’re working for. As The Intercept noted, the Biden team is squandering an opportunity for reform by sticking to conventional nominees like Avril Haines for director of national intelligence. While serving in the CIA under the Obama administration, Haines was an architect of the disastrous drone program that killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Later, Haines worked as a consultant for WestExec Advisors and Palantir — a controversial data mining firm that has provided the Trump administration intel to perform mass deportations.

Janet Yellen, who has been tapped to serve as Treasury secretary, is another example. When Politico reported that Yellen made $7.2 million in the past two years for giving closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms, Biden supporters brushed it off as nothing more than a misogynistic attack. However, there should be an overwhelming consensus that Americans deserve to know about any lucrative ties politicians and government officials have to bankers and hedge funds.

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By now I think she may be out.

Will the Senate Confirm Coup Plotter Victoria Nuland? (Benjamin)

Who is Victoria Nuland? Most Americans have never heard of her because the U.S. corporate media’s foreign policy coverage is a wasteland. Most Americans have no idea that President-elect Biden’s pick for Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs is stuck in the quicksand of 1950s U.S.-Russia Cold War politics and dreams of continued NATO expansion, an arms race on steroids and further encirclement of Russia. Nor do they know that from 2003-2005, during the hostile U.S. military occupation of Iraq, Nuland was a foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney, the Darth Vader of the Bush administration. You can bet, however, that the people of Ukraine have heard of neocon Nuland. Many have even heard the leaked four-minute audio of her saying “Fuck the EU” during a 2014 phone call with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

During the infamous call on which Nuland and Pyatt plotted to replace the elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, Nuland expressed her not-so-diplomatic disgust with the European Union for grooming former heavyweight boxer and austerity champ Vitali Klitschko instead of U.S. puppet and NATO booklicker Artseniy Yatseniuk to replace Russia-friendly Yanukovych. The “Fuck the EU” call went viral, as an embarrassed State Department, never denying the call’s authenticity, blamed the Russians for tapping the phone, much as the NSA has tapped the phones of European allies. Despite outrage from German Chancellor Angela Markel, no one fired Nuland, but her potty mouth upstaged the more serious story: the U.S. plot to overthrow Ukraine’s elected government and America’s responsibility for a civil war that has killed at least 13,000 people and left Ukraine the poorest country in Europe.

In the process, Nuland, her husband Robert Kagan, the co-founder of The Project for a New American Century, and their neocon cronies succeeded in sending U.S.-Russian relations into a dangerous downward spiral from which they have yet to recover. Nuland accomplished this from a relatively junior position as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. How much more trouble could she stir up as the #3 official at Biden’s State Department? We’ll find out soon enough, if the Senate confirms her nomination.

Joe Biden should have learned from Obama’s mistakes that appointments like this matter. In his first term, Obama allowed his hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and military and CIA leaders held over from the Bush administration to ensure that endless war trumped his message of hope and change. Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, ended up presiding over indefinite detentions without charges or trials at Guantanamo Bay; an escalation of drone strikes that killed innocent civilians; a deepening of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; a self-reinforcing cycle of terrorism and counterterrorism; and disastrous new wars in Libya and Syria.

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Central banks will demand control.

ECB’s Lagarde Calls For Regulating Bitcoin’s “Funny Business” (R.)

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde called on Wednesday for global regulation of Bitcoin, saying the digital currency had been used for money laundering activities in some instances and that any loopholes needed to be closed. Bitcoin has come out of its niche in recent years and is now bought by ordinary people, investment funds and even large corporations. Some have even taken out loans to buy more of the cryptocurrency, whose value has increased almost tenfold since last March. But its largely anonymous nature has raised concerns that it could be used for money laundering and other illegal activities.


“(Bitcoin) is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity,” Lagarde said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference. Lagarde did not provide specific examples of money laundering cases but said she understood there had been criminal investigations into illegal activity. She did not elaborate. The cryptocurrency sector is still mostly lightly overseen or unregulated, although global standards on areas such as anti-money laundering (AML) have emerged. She joined a number of regulators from across the world in calling for implementing global rules for cryptocurrencies.

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The WaPo tries more smear, but the story is 100% bogus, and they are forced to correct within hours. Meanwhile, it’s been gleefully quoted by a million outlets all over the globe.

This has been the MO for over 4 years now. Question: what can they do next? Turn on Biden? Where’s my clickbait?

Secret Service Barred From Using Ivanka Trump’s Bathrooms (G.)

The dying days of the Trump administration have been plagued by yet more scandal in the form of riots, Twitter bans and impeachment. Now the Washington Post has added another: water closet gate. In a multi-bylined article one of America’s top investigative news outlets has chronicled in leg-crossing detail the apparently extreme difficulty that the Secret Service detail assigned to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have had in finding a place to go to the bathroom. According to the Washington Post the president’s daughter and her top White House adviser spouse have apparently exiled the squad of men and women assigned to keep them from harm’s way from using the toilets in their sprawling Washington DC mansion.

“Instructed not to use any of the half-dozen bathrooms inside the couple’s house, the Secret Service detail assigned to President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law spent months searching for a reliable restroom to use on the job,” the paper reported, citing neighbors and law enforcement official. It quoted one law enforcement official as saying: “It’s the first time I ever heard of a Secret Service detail having to go to these extremes to find a bathroom.” It added that Secret Service members in the couple’s detail who were desperate to relieve themselves had resorted to a porta-potty, as well as bathrooms at the homes of Barack Obama and Vice-President Mike Pence.

The solution to the problem was not a cheap one. Since September 2017, the paper reported, the federal government rented the stricken Secret Service members a basement studio with a bathroom for the purposes of them going to the loo. The cost to taxpayers? Some $3,000 a month. A White House spokesperson denied the couple restricted agents from their home. But the Post stuck by its investigative guns, saying: “That account is disputed by a law enforcement official familiar with the situation, who said the agents were kept out at the family’s request.” The Post’s story is unlikely to endear Washington citizens – or indeed many other Americans – to Ivanka Trump and her husband as they leave office after four high-profile years in Donald Trump’s administration.

Read more …

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.