Aug 192020
 


Joel Meyerowitz New York City 1963

 

 

No, no matter how much I read and watch, I can’t shake the idea (less so as I go along, actually) that the Democrats don’t really, honestly, want to win the 2020 presidential election. Obviously, there are many in the party who do, and voters too, but not the ones pushing the levers and pulling the strings. Those, whoever they may be, that are picking candidates, setting policy, maintaining media contacts, doctoring spins.

Because is there anyone among you who has ever seen a worse candidate than Joe Biden? I’m not just talking about his dementia and gaffes, but you’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone who can use Biden and enthusiasm -let alone inspiration, or even better: exhilaration- in one sentence that doesn’t include the word “no”. And isn’t that the #1 requirement for a candidate?

They ostensibly went with Kamala Harris to provide some of that, if we may believe the press. She’ll whip up the voters into wild bouts of inspiring enthusiasm! Only, Kamala bowed out of the primaries even before 2020 started, after spending $40 million -part of which is still not paid off- because she was stuck at 2% support and couldn’t generate … any enthusiasm.

What you got is a really old man who couldn’t get a toddler excited about ice cream, and a token black woman who nobody even in her own party likes. Mix those ingredients into a convention that attracts just half the viewers of the 2016 one and generates the excitement level of an infomercial for kitchen appliances, and is it any wonder I doubt that the “behind the curtain party” is in this to win?

As for the political program, the agenda, there is really only one item on it: Donald Trump. And no matter how many millions of times it may be repeated in speeches and news articles, NOT being something is in the end NOT a positive message. You’re supposed to win on your own merit, not someone else’s perceived lack of merit. Newsflash: “MOST BIDEN SUPPORTERS SAY THEIR VOTE IS AGAINST TRUMP RATHER THAN FOR BIDEN – WSJ/NBC News poll”.

This bit from the Guardian on Monday sums it up nicely, and it veers into late night comedy territory while doing it (what more can one ask for?):

Virtual Democratic Convention Kicks Off With Emphasis On Unity

The Democratic national convention begins on Monday with a star-studded lineup and heavy emphasis on unity aimed at presenting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the US’s best hope for healing a deeply divided nation[..]

The Dems have a hard enough time uniting their own party, let alone the nation. And there’s not a Trump supporter who would move into their camp – other than the odd washed up GOP politician.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on the eve of the convention found Biden with a nine-point lead over Trump nationally [..] According to the survey, Biden holds a wide advantage over Trump on nearly every issue except the economy, which voters say is a priority this election.


[..] Biden’s selection of Harris has exhilarated supporters, who showered the campaign with a stunning $48m in the 48 hours after she was announced as his running mate.[..]

What, so now they’re only $50 million or so behind?

Democrats anticipate the excitement around Harris’s historic candidacy as the first Black woman nominated for national office by a major party, will build momentum around the convention [..] Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPac, a super Pac focused on Black Democrats: “I think there is also real relief that there is a ticket people can believe in, and get behind and push over the finish line.”

Excitement, exhilaration are words that don’t seem to mean anymore what they used to.

[..] the people who were in the Bernie campaign, the people in the Biden campaign, and people outside of both of those campaigns – have really worked hard to create an effective and genuine popular front against Donald Trump,” Weaver said, adding: “Trump is a very unifying factor.”


[..] Howard Dean, a former chair of the DNC who has attended every party convention since 1980, said the new format could work in Biden’s favor. Unlike Trump, who feeds off the energy of crowds at rallies but can look wooden and uncomfortable when reading from a teleprompter, Biden, Dean said, “does better on television than he does at a podium”. “This helps him because he will be on TV projecting calmness, reasonableness and thoughtfulness,” he said. “And that’s what people are desperate for right now.”

Isn’t it great that not feeling comfortable reading from a teleprompter 24/7 in your basement has now become a negative quality? I know, it’s hard to keep up.

But then there was the reality check from CNN on Sunday. Double digit leads vanished (coincidence?) just as Kamala caused all that exhilarating excitement:

Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens As Enthusiasm Hits New High

[..] on the eve of the party conventions, a majority of voters (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election [..] 50% of registered voters back the Biden-Harris ticket, while 46% say they support Trump and Pence, right at the poll’s margin of error [..]

Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%.

It is narrower, however, among those voters who live in the states that will have the most impact on the electoral college this fall. Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%.

The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide).

 

The picture painted, especially amongst the most dedicated anti-Trumpers, is of course that Biden can’t lose; that’s what they all want, right? Well, think about it: CNN lives off of Trump, and so does a large part of the MSM. But then again, they made their beds and they’ll have to lie in them. The Democratic Party, however, does not. They are free to sabotage their own campaign.

And as I said above, there are many signs that MAY indicate that they are doing just that. The selection of Joe Biden, the basement strategy, the subsequent “appointment” of Kamala Harris, the near-dead convention. Do appreciate, please, that we have no idea how Biden and Kamala were “selected”. How did Biden all of a sudden rise to the top of the crop from seemingly nowhere? Where did Kamala come from post-primary mayhem? Did Joe personally pick her? Do you believe that?

But okay, if you don’t think that they would sabotage their own campaign, flip things around: if they WOULD have wanted to make sure they’d lose the election, what would they have done, you know, the donors behind the veil, plus maybe the Obamas and Clintons? Wouldn’t they perhaps have picked Biden and Kamala, whom very few people appeared to actually like, find sympathetic, prior to them being selected for their respective roles? Why not select people that DO resonate with voters without you having to forcefully shove them down their throats?

Why would a bunch of power-hungry folk (as all politicians and their sponsors are) want to screw up their own chance at obtaining power? Well, the lack of good candidates may well be a factor, but there’s something much bigger: the US economy, like most if not all western economies, is wobbling precariously on a precipice, and about to fall off. As I labeled it recently: The Bottom Is Falling Out.

Our entire present reality is still somewhat new, the COVID pandemic, its fallout, the bailouts, the government checks, the sick and the dead, but at some point it will all start to become a “normal” part of life. That doesn’t mean, however, that the economy will return to “normal” (whatever anybody ever thought that meant).

An enormous number of businesses will never reopen, entire fields will be obliterated, re: tourism, airlines, a large swath of retail stores. The unemployment that generates will be with us for many years. The Great Depression will become a mere footnote in most history books.

And the parties in charge in various countries, including the GOP in America, will be the ones blamed for most of the ensuing problems. If you’re a Democrat behind-the-curtain wizard, wouldn’t you at least consider saying: I think I’ll pass for this round, and let Trump take the heat?

Just so, you know, you can continue your cooperation with CNN, NYT, WaPo, FBI, and blame Trump every single day and 1000 times on Sunday for everything that falls apart, while continuing to generate clickbait profits ? If all you got to show for your grand ambitions is Joe Biden, it must seem a really appealing course of action.

Besides, you don’t appear to have any better candidates than Biden -at least not centrist ones-, but don’t forget that neither do the Republicans once Trump is gone. Da Donald is set to leave a huge hole behind where he once pontificated. And just about any Democrat except for Joe Biden could step right into that hole (pun intended).

 

 

 

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Aug 182020
 


Bettmann/Getty Minimum Wage 1963

 

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)
Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)
They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)
Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)
Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)
Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)
Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)
Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)
China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)
Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)
Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)
US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)
The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)
The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)
And in the End (Rolling Stone)

 

 

No, I didn’t watch the Dem convention. Never perform invasive surgery on myself either, for pretty much the same reason. But I did pick up a few tidbits. It all leaves a very elitist impression. Deplorables.

 

 

New global cases below 200,000, new deaths at 4,297. Not bad. Or is that just because it was Monday?

Several European countries are spiking in what is perhaps a second wave. Pretty lousy controls, which will lead to all kinds of renewed lockdowns. Unnecessary.

 

 

New cases only just above 40,000 in the US, it was 70,000 not long ago, with new deaths at “only” 589.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sounds just plain dumb.

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)

From the dorms at North Carolina to the halls of Notre Dame, officials at universities around the US scrambled on Monday to deal with new Covid-19 clusters at the start of the fall semester, some of them linked to off-campus parties and packed clubs. North Carolina’s flagship university cancelled in-person classes for undergraduates just a week into the fall semester Monday. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it will switch to remote learning on Wednesday and make arrangements for students who want to leave campus housing. “We have emphasised that if we were faced with the need to change plans – take an off-ramp – we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly,” it said in a statement after reporting 130 confirmed infections among students and five among employees over the past week.


UNC said the clusters were discovered in dorms, a fraternity house and other student housing. Before the decision came down, the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, ran an editorial headlined “UNC has a clusterf*** on its hands”. The paper said that the parties that took place over the weekend were no surprise and that administrators should have begun the semester with online-only instruction at the university, which has 19,000 undergraduates. “We all saw this coming,” the editorial said. Outbreaks earlier this summer at fraternities in Washington state, California and Mississippi provided a glimpse of the challenges school officials face in keeping the virus from spreading on campuses where young people eat, live, study – and party – in close quarters.

Read more …

The DNC pushed Bernie aside until he complied with the Biden “plan”. They do the same with AOC et al, without whom they may never have had control of the House. Instead, they have Republicans and billionaires speaking, along with has-beens like the Obamas and Clintons….

Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)

When the Democratic National Committee released its schedule for its big socially distanced convention this week, we learned that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, inarguably among the party’s most dynamic figures, would have just sixty seconds to address the nation. [..] the relegation of Ocasio-Cortez, who electrifies multiple parts of a Democratic base, to one meager minute, a segment that—unlike speeches by some other presenters—will be pre-recorded, isn’t just a snub. The failure of a major political party to showcase one of its most talented politicians, a young person whose communicative reach and facility positions her to be among its leaders deep into our future, is self-sabotage.

[..] Why will this convention not show off more of the historic number of women who enabled their party to retake the House in 2018? Most of them won’t be prominently featured, but former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich, who ran for governor as a Tea Partier and signed eleven laws (comprising 21 restrictions) on abortion, including a 20 week ban and the prohibition of rape crisis centers advising survivors about the option of abortion, will be. He also worked to rob Ohio’s public workers of the right to bargain collectively (voters later overturned this measure). Not only is Kasich getting a plum spot on Monday, he’s used his time in the Democratic sun to diss Ocasio-Cortez, telling Buzzfeed that just because she “gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party. She’s just a part, just some member of it.”

So John Kasich, Republican, feels that Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat, gets outsized attention, even as he–along with his fellow Republicans Susan Molinari (Remember her? No? Weird) and former Hewlett-Packard and eBay CEO Meg Whitman–will get more featured airtime than she at her party’s convention. But this convention seems driven to thumb its nose not only at individual politicians, but at the social movements that have transformed civic participation and changed public opinion across the nation during the course of the Trump administration. Remember those women who retook the House in 2018? A bunch of them were first time candidates who were open about how their entrance into politics was grounded in their fury about the ubiquity and pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the #metoo movement.

But the party that profited from their electoral success has offered prime speaking spots to two multiply-accused harassers: former president Bill Clinton and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. That Bloomberg’s presidential campaign met its lethal end at the hands of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who in a February primary debate detailed his history of workplace harassment, red lining, and support of stop-and-frisk policing, all in her allotted sixty seconds (she only had a minute; an eternity was in it) makes his featured presence an insult to Warren, and the many Democrats who were far more inspired by her campaign than by his. And listen, I get it, and assume everyone else does too: Bloomberg is speaking to the Democratic convention because the Democrats need his money (he shifted $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee in March).

But if organizers had been paying attention these past two years, they might have learned that that’s actually part of the structural thing about harassment and those who get away with it: too often, you need their money.


Matt Taibbi’s drinking game bingo card for the DNC

Read more …

…and that attitude of trampling over the left leads to this… If you think BLM, Antifa, #MeToo are the only angry ones, you are mistaken.

They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)

The candidate Barack Obama spoke to blue-collar America. He campaigned on change that would rejuvenate careers and restore dignity. Working Americans in the swing states doubted that Hillary Clinton even knew they existed. They saw Obama as a last hope and supported him enthusiastically in the 2008 primaries and later in the general election, but he soon proved to be a disappointment. He, too, fell in love with Silicon Valley and Wall Street and neglected the people who needed him most. And they punished him: he won fewer states in 2012 than he had in 2008. People like the alternate me felt cheated by a guy who rocked a Brooks Brothers suit and talked a great game, then gave the Tech and Finance sectors everything they wanted and more.

Educated people from the best schools trusted Big Tech outfits because educated people from the best schools ran them. Elites imagine each other to be virtuous because they imagine themselves that way. Technology giants were understood not as hardy sprouts but would be treated instead with princess-and-the-pea levels of delicacy, thanks to a superstitious fear that it might all be brought to grief by, say, forcing companies with hundreds of billions in share value to tolerate an employees’ union, offer a minimum wage adequate for a decent life, or pay tax proportional to their reliance on public goods.

No one bears greater responsibility for the lack of empathy toward Old-Economy workers that led to Donald Trump’s victory than big-name Tech darlings and the New Democrats who coddled them, then openly ridiculed their own voter base: the people Hillary foolishly nicknamed “Deplorables;” that is, the millions of disappointed Obama voters who would happily have voted blue if they’d had confidence that the party would respect them, welcome them, and acknowledge their needs. But the New Economy is a gated community, shut firmly to them, whose most strenuous boosters have been the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. Old-school, working-class Democrats are unwelcome in the party they built. No one wants them tracking mud through the salon.

Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the swing states the same way Barack Obama had: by characterizing her as disdainful toward blue-collar Americans. It was a potent message among those who once had seen decent wages in return for honest work, lately reduced to Walmart greeters and Uber drivers. Humiliated by a labor market in which they had nothing to trade, the former working class understood that they also had nothing to lose. Liberal democracy and its supporting institutions shed their veneer of sanctity when dead-end employees can aspire only to dead-end management gigs. Call them “associates” and “technicians” all you want; they know who they’ve become and what others think of them. They are why Trump won in the swing states; he was propelled to victory by disillusioned Obama voters.

Read more …

I would have expected so much more from Bernie. Folds for the DNC twice in a row, and doesn’t volunteer to return any donations.

Can someone check how many times he said the same in 2016?! “Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.”

Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)

Former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters Monday to vote for nominee Joe Biden, imploring that the “future of our planet is at stake” and that the “price of failure” for not electing Biden would be “just too great to imagine.” “The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders said on opening night of the Democratic National Convention. “We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.” Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.

“We need an unprecedented response, a movement, like never before of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency,” said Sanders, a democratic-socialist who finished second in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. “Our campaign ended several months ago but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream but let us be clear, if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy,” he also [said].

Sanders named areas where Biden has moved the progressive agenda forward, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it easier for workers to join unions,” creating 12 weeks of paid family leave and funding universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year olds. “Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over the next 15 years. These initiatives will create millions of good paying jobs all across the country,” Sanders said. “We are the only industrialized nation not to guarantee health care for all people. While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs. Further, he will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60,” added Sanders, who worked with Biden on his final campaign platform.

Read more …

Bernie campaigner David Sirota has at least a little backbone.

Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)

On the eve of a Democratic National Convention taking place as millions lose health care coverage, the health care industry is launching a new ad campaign pressing Democrats to back off from the party’s already compromised health care promises. That pressure seems to be having its intended effect on Capitol Hill, as congressional aides say the party will not push the initiative if Joe Biden wins the presidency. The signs of retreat come as health care industry profits are skyrocketing and the industry’s campaign cash has flooded into Democratic coffers. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF) — a front group created by health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbying groups to oppose “Medicare for All” — announced on Friday that it is launching a new national ad campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon their plans to create a public health insurance plan.

The group said it will run ads during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week. PAHCF is led by a former Hillary Clinton aide and run out of the offices of a DC lobbying firm led by former top Democratic congressional aides. A substantial “public option” plan — which polls show is wildly popular — was the centerpiece of recent policy negotiations between supporters of former vice president Joe Biden and progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who had been pushing for a more expansive Medicare for All program. A draft of the party platform, approved by DNC members late last month, includes a pledge to pass a public option, or a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Within twenty-four hours of the launch of the industry’s new ads, however, anonymous Democratic congressional sources were telling the Hill that Democrats likely won’t bother with the public option fight next year if Biden wins the election. Instead, they said, the party will work to tweak its 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has done little to limit insurance or hospital costs and has failed to ensure universal coverage. To justify the preemptive retreat, Democratic congressional aides told the newspaper that the party’s moderate crop of 2020 Senate challenger candidates could make it harder to pass a public option. That assertion comes even though every single one of those candidates is currently campaigning in support of a public option, according to a TMI review of campaign statements.

The situation echoes the Democratic promises and subsequent surrender on a public option that marked the debate over health care more than a decade ago — only this time around, the health care crisis is an even more acute emergency. While most developed countries have managed to contain COVID-19, the pandemic is spiraling out of control in the United States, and an estimated 27 million people have lost their employer-based health insurance plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Read more …

And also recorded before Trump lost his brother?! Or wouldn’t she have cared? She did remember last night that she said it, right? Class? Grace? Where? We go low?

.. by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair …

Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)

There was one glaring omission from Michelle Obama’s 20-minute Democratic National Convention speech Monday night — Kamala Harris. That’s because the former first lady recorded her rousing speech before Joe Biden selected Sen. Harris of California as his running mate. The speech was delivered remotely like all others at the DNC because of the coronavirus pandemic, and The Associated Press reports it was filmed before Harris was named last week as Biden’s VP candidate, indicating the choice was so close to the vest and down to the wire that even the Obamas were not in the loop. In her speech, Michelle Obama eloquently praised Biden and emotionally denounced Trump’s policies.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said. “It is what it is,” Obama added, quoting Trump’s recent remark on coronavirus deaths. “Right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another,” Obama said. “They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protesters for a photo-op.”

She said that by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own. His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.”

Read more …

The issue is not nearly as simple as some people would let you believe.

Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)

With less than three months until the 2020 election and no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, a new debate over mail-in voting has begun. Swirling and sudden concerns about the United States Postal Service (USPS) have arisen from Democrats who are wildly accusing President Trump of cheating and manipulating the Postal Service in his favor. Conveniently they forget to mention the president is more than an arms-length away from how we vote, and the Postal Service is not under the thumb of his control. Senate Democrats joined Republicans to unanimously install postal leadership — of which, one is an Obama appointee.

No doubt President Trump has expressed deep concerns about the validity of the ballots, and rightfully so. Sending out millions of ballots without authenticating the inbound ballots is ripe for massive fraud. Democrats have desperately been seeking to legalize “ballot harvesting” (the collection and submission of ballots by someone other than the voter and without authentication) and other nefarious activities. It must be noted elections in the United States are administered by counties and certified by states. In other words, per the United States Constitution, elections are run locally and not by the executive branch of the federal government. The president has simply sought fair elections.

Ironically, it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 that seeks to federalize elections and give the president power he doesn’t currently have now. Her solution would create the problem she inaccurately blames Trump for today. [..] The president of the United States does not control the operations of the Postal Service nor does he select or appoint the Postmaster General. The Board of Governors does both of these things. The Postal Regulatory Commission sets rates, service levels and decides on postal closings, not the president. The governors are appointed by a president and confirmed by the United States Senate. No more than five of the nine governors may be from the same political party.

Read more …

Clickbait fodder.

Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)

US President Donald Trump said he would soon hand out a pardon to a “very important” person. While the details were left shrouded in mystery, he ruled out both his former advisor Michael Flynn and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “Doing a pardon tomorrow on someone who is very, very important,” Trump told reporters on board Air Force One on Monday, offering little elaboration other than to say it would not be Flynn – his first National Security Advisor – nor the famed whistleblower. Despite repeatedly calling Snowden a “traitor” over the years, Trump has hinted at giving the whistleblower a reprieve on more than one occasion in the last week, saying he may have been treated “unfairly” and that he would “look at” allowing him to return home.


With the president explicitly ruling him out for Tuesday’s pardon, however, it appears Snowden will have to remain in Moscow for some time longer, where he was given asylum after leaking a massive cache of purloined documents from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing Washington’s sweeping domestic and global spying apparatus.

Read more …

They’re starting a new competition.

China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News that China poses “a greater national security threat” to the United States “than any other nation,” detailing a web of threats that includes “election influence and interference.” Intelligence officials say they are increasingly concerned about interference in the U.S. election by China, adding to existing concerns about meddling by Russia that have been around since 2016, as well as the threat of meddling from Iran. “China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation – economically, militarily and technologically. That includes threats of election influence and interference,” Ratcliffe told Fox News in a statement.

While Russia was widely seen as favoring now-President Trump and generally seeking to sow chaos in America during the 2016 election, the difference with China is it is seen to be seeking a Trump loss in November. Yet congressional Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who ever since 2016 have issued dire warnings about Russian meddling, have not been quite so vocal about China’s potential to interfere in the 2020 election. Pelosi, D-Calif., last week said the threats of interference from Russia and China are “not equivalent,” while urging the intelligence community to put out more information about Russian efforts, saying Moscow is “actively 24/7 interfering in our election.”

Ratcliffe said the threat from China is actually significant, and he is “committing the IC resources needed to fully understand the threat posed by China and provide U.S. policymakers with the best intelligence to counter China’s broad and deep malign activities.” “China is concerned that President Trump’s reelection would lead to a continuation of policies that they perceive to be ‘anti-China,’” Ratcliffe explained, noting that the intelligence community has briefed “hundreds of members of Congress” to raise their concerns about China “and its increased efforts to impact the U.S. policy climate in its favor.” “Fair and free elections are a bedrock of American democracy, and the IC remains vigilant against the various activities by China, as well as other threat countries and actors, which seek to affect our electoral process,” Ratcliffe said.

Read more …

Great fundraiser, they said.

Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)

Kamala Harris, named Tuesday to be Joe Biden’s running mate, still has more than $1 million in unpaid bills left over from her failed 2020 presidential bid, according to a report. The California senator raised about $39 million for her White House bid in 2019 and spent about $40 million, leaving her campaign with just $116,380 in the bank at the end of June, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing Federal Election Commission filings. Harris ended her campaign last December amid falling poll numbers and a lack of fundraising.


International law firm Perkins Coie LLP was still owed $523,883 at the end of June, while TorchStone Global LLC, a corporate and private security company, was owed $160,702, the report said. California political consulting firm SCRB Strategies had $92,4087 in outstanding invoices. Donors have contributed slightly more than $48,000 to her campaign this year. The report noted that the campaign can’t be shuttered until all debts are paid under federal law. And while Biden raised $26 million in a day after announcing her selection, his campaign can do little to retire Harris’ campaign debt. It can donate $2,000 and the Democratic National Committee can contribute $5,000. But Biden can ask his donors to send funds to Harris’ campaign.

Read more …

Feel free to call this a failed society.

Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)

For the first time in US history, the top twelve U.S. billionaires surpassed a combined wealth of $1 trillion. On Thursday August 13th, these 12 had a combined $1.015 trillion. This is a disturbing milestone in the US history of concentrated wealth and power. This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Twelve or a Despotic Dozen. The Oligarchic Dozen are Jeff Bezos ($189.4b), Bill Gates ($114b), Mark Zuckerberg ($95.5b), Warren Buffett ($80b), Elon Musk ($73b), Steve Ballmer ($71b), Larry Ellison ($70.9b), Larry Page ($67.4b), Sergey Brin ($65.6b), Alice Walton ($62.5b), Jim Walton ($62.3b) and Rob Walton ($62b).

Since March 18th, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent. Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18th to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent. Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.4 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18th. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18th.

Read more …

The Sacklers took out many billions, then declared bankruptcy. Now they’re “willing” to contribute more to a settlement than the entire company is worth. Sick.

US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)

U.S. states claimed they are owed $2.2 trillion to address harm from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP’s alleged role in America’s opioid epidemic, accusing the drugmaker in new filings of pushing prescription painkillers on doctors and patients while playing down the risks of abuse and overdose. In filings made as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings that were disclosed on Monday, the states said Purdue, backed by the wealthy Sackler family, contributed to a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of roughly 450,000 people since 1999 and caused strains on healthcare and criminal justice systems. The filings cited more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. tied directly to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016.

In large states such as California and New York, claims alone totaled more than $192 billion and $165 billion, respectively. Forty-nine U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and various territories are making the claims. Oklahoma settled litigation with Purdue last year. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 under pressure from more than 2,600 lawsuits brought by cities, counties, states, Native American tribes, hospitals and others. The lawsuits said the company, and in some cases the Sacklers, used deceptive marketing and took other improper steps to flood communities with prescription opioids. The company and family have denied the allegations and pledged to help combat the opioid epidemic, including by providing addiction treatment drugs and overdose reversal medications under development.

[..] Purdue is only worth a bit more than $2 billion if liquidated. The company values a proposal to settle litigation, which includes providing addiction treatment and overdose-reversing drugs, at more than $10 billion. The Sacklers would contribute $3 billion and cede control of Purdue, with the company becoming a trust run on behalf of plaintiffs.

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These well-meaning people are mightily confused about growth:

“In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth..”

I think that means to want to return there.

“..the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.”

More growth? Isn’t growth itself the problem then? Never mind, anyone who talks about sustainable growth is not a serious person in my book.

The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)

In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth without risking severe climate distress and social unrest.Climate scientists tell us that in order to meet the targets outlined in the Paris climate accord, global net carbon-dioxide emissions must fall by about 45% by 2030, and by 100% by 2050. Given that the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, countries urgently need to scale up their investments in climate adaptation and mitigation. But that will not be possible if governments are bogged down in a debt crisis. If anything, debt-service requirements will push countries to pursue export revenues at any cost, including by cutting corners on climate-resilient infrastructure and stepping up their own fossil-fuel use and extraction of resources.

This course of events would further depress commodity prices, creating a doom loop for producer countries. In light of these concerns, the G20 has called on the IMF “to explore additional tools that could serve its members’ needs as the crisis evolves, drawing on relevant experiences from previous crises.” One such tool that should be considered is a “debt-for-climate swap” facility. In the 1980s and 1990s, developing countries and their creditors engaged in “debt-for-nature swaps,” whereby debt relief was linked to investments in reforestation, biodiversity, and protections for indigenous people. This concept should now be expanded to include people-centered investments that address both climate change and inequality.

Developing countries will need additional resources if they are to have any chance of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, investing sufficiently in climate adaptation, and creating opportunities for twenty-first-century jobs. One source for such resources is debt relief conditioned on such investments. A policy tool of this type would not only put us on the path to recovery, but also could help to prevent future debt-sustainability problems that might emerge as more fossil-fuel holdings and non-resilient infrastructure become “stranded assets.” Moreover, the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.

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I should read Stephanie Kelton’s book, right?!

The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)

One Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Operations

I confess immediately that I chose the title and subtitle for this post because their acronyms are palindromes. The subtitle is more accurate than the title, because this model considers only the monetary aspects of MMT: the Job Guarantee and inflation management components are not yet incorporated. But the monetary assertions of MMT remain in dispute in economic and political circles, so it is worth putting these into a mathematical model where their veracity can be tested. The primary stimulus for developing the model was the publication of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth. Stephanie has written the book for non-technical readers, and she’s done a very good job: it’s a very easy read that explains why many conventional wisdoms about government spending are wrong.

But MMT is facing heavy resistance in political and economic circles, with my favourite to date being a motion before the US Congress, posted by Representative Kevin Hern, to resolve: “That the House of Representatives (1) realizes that deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous; and (2) recognizes— (A) that the implementation of Modern Monetary Theory would lead to higher deficits and higher inflation; and (B) the duty of the House of Representatives to condemn Modern Monetary Theory.”

The objective of this series of posts is to allow the assessment of the first part of this motion—the assertion that “deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous”. The models in this post are built in the Open Source system dynamics program Minsky, whose unique feature is the capacity to build models of financial flows using what are called Godley Tables (in honour of Wynne Godley, the pioneer of stock-flow-consistent-modelling). These tables enforce the “law of accounting” that (see Figure 1, A blank Godley Table).

Once an account is flagged as an “Asset” for one entity, Minsky knows that it has to also be shown as a “Liability” for another entity. This makes it possible to take an integrated look at the financial system, which allows us to assess Hern’s motion from the perspective of the entire monetary system, and not just the Government’s view of it.

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50 years later: ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!’

And in the End (Rolling Stone)

It’s a miserable Monday morning in January 1969, and the Beatles are trying to get back to where they once belonged. The Get Back project sounded like a perfect idea: just the four lads and their instruments, ready to hit the studio, return to their roots, conjure up some great songs out of thin air. Just like they used to. John, Paul, George, and Ringo have booked a TV concert special for January 18th — their first live show in years. They’ll rehearse for a couple of weeks, eyeball to eyeball, summon up genius on the spur of the moment. They’ve done it many times before. They’ve never not done it. The good news: Paul showed up today, and so did Ringo. So did the camera crew — these sessions are being filmed, so the Beatles can show a half-hour clip of rehearsal footage before their TV performance.

So here they are on Monday morning, ready to dazzle the world with a blast of spontaneous Beatles brilliance. Or at least Paul and Ringo are. Hey, has anyone heard from John and Yoko? Or George? With George, there’s a slight complication: He quit the band. On Friday, with the cameras rolling, he was trying to teach them a new song, “All Things Must Pass.” John, strung out on his new heroin habit, sneered at George with open contempt. George finally stormed out, muttering, “See you around the clubs.” John doesn’t take this seriously. “I think if George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play in it,” he says. “The point is, if George leaves, do we want to carry on the Beatles? I do. We should just get other members and carry on.” But now it’s Monday and still no George. No John and Yoko. (No Clapton, for that matter.) Paul and Ringo kill time jamming on a current radio hit, “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

But everyone gathers to discuss the crisis, complaining bitterly about Yoko’s constant presence. Surprisingly, the one who sticks up for her is Paul. He’s a sucker for a love story — he’s Paul McCartney, for God’s sake. But he also knows how much this romance means to his oldest, closest mate, his most troubled and cruel and impossible friend. “It’s not that bad,” he insists. “They want to stay together, those two. So it’s all right. Let the young lovers be together.” Paul has to chuckle, thinking about how future generations will look back at this — the Beatles, the greatest of all rock & roll bands, the world’s most legendary creative team, falling apart over such a trivial spat. Even on a winter morning as gloomy as this one, Paul breaks into a laugh. “It’s gonna be such an incredible sort of comical thing, like in 50 years’ time, you know. ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!'”

Read more …

 

 

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Dobbs/Nunes

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aug 152020
 


Henri Cartier Bresson Boucher, Les Halles de Paris 1952

 

Former FBI Lawyer To Plead Guilty In Durham’s Trump-Russia Probe (ZH)
In Bringing First Russiagate Charge, Durham Hints At Other Crimes (JTN)
Bill Gates Says Hydroxychloroquine Has ‘Severe Side Effects’ (JTN)
Joe Biden Calls For Nationwide Facemask Mandate (KABC)
The President Was Not Encouraging: What Obama Really Thought About Biden (Pol.)
Appeals Court Spares Hillary Clinton From Deposition In Email Scandal (JTN)
Yes, Kamala Harris Is Eligible For Vice President (Turley)
UPS, FedEx Reject Calls To Handle Mail-In Ballots: Significant Problems (Hill)
California Judge Sides With Church, Allows Indoor Services (WT)
Warren Buffett Sheds Big Stakes In Banks And Goes For The Gold (Fox)
Trump: ‘A Lot Of People’ Think Edward Snowden ‘Not Being Treated Fairly’ (NYP)
Chaos In Assange Case Management Hearing (DEAssange)

 

 

As for US politics, I already wrote the core of it for a few articles below.

The “Russia Investigation Investigation”. Yes, it’s come to this.

Briefing for a descent into complete chaos post-Nov 4.

Doris Lessing’s original book title is “Briefing for a Descent into Hell”. Could use that one too. Take your pick.

 

 

Well, there’s one bright spot, perhaps: US new deaths are getting lower. And now it’s weekend again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Russia Investigation Investigation”. Yes, it’s come to this.

The MSM has also picked it up, trying to claim Clinesmith was some kind of lone cowboy.

Former FBI Lawyer To Plead Guilty In Durham’s Trump-Russia Probe (ZH)

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith will plead guilty to one count of making a false statement regarding his involvement in the agency’s actions against the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election, according to the Associated Press. In November, the New York Times revealed that Clinesmith was under criminal investigation for allegedly doctoring materials used to obtain renewals of the Carter Page surveillance warrant. Clinesmith -who worked on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russia probe, was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and interviewed Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Clinesmith, a 37-year-old graduate of Georgetown Law, “took an email from an official at another federal agency that contained several factual assertions, then added material to the bottom that looked like another assertion from the email’s author, when it was instead his own understanding,” according to the report. “Mr. Clinesmith included this altered email in a package that he compiled for another F.B.I. official to read in preparation for signing an affidavit that would be submitted to the court attesting to the facts and analysis in the wiretap application. The details of the email are apparently classified and may not be made public even when the report is unveiled.” -New York Times

Clinesmith was identified by Inspector General Michael Horowitz as one of several FBI officials who harbored animus towards President Trump, after which he was kicked off the Mueller Russia investigation in February 2018. Two other FBI officials removed for similar reasons were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom also worked on the Clinton and Trump investigations, and both of whom have similarly left the bureau. On November 9, 2016 – the day after Trump won the election, Clinesmith texted another FBI employee “My god damned name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff,” adding “So, who knows if that breaks to him what he is going to do.”

A former attorney with the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch while working under FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, Clinesmith resigned in September 2019 after he was interviewed by Horrowitz’s office. Horrowitz in turn sent a criminal referral to US Attorney John Durham, who was tasked with investigating the Obama DOJ’s conduct surrounding the 2016 US election. Durham was appointed by Barr last May to examine the FBI’s actions against the Trump campaign during and after the 2016 US election, code named “Crossfire Hurricane.” Specifically, Durham has been probing whether Obama administration officials illegally collected intelligence on the Trump campaign, and whether the agency’s surveillance of campaign aides was free of improper motive.

“They spied on my campaign, which is treason. They spied both before and after I won. Think of that. Using the intelligence apparatus of the United States to take down a president,” Trump said recently during a live phone interview with Fox Business, adding “It’s the single biggest political crime in the history of our country.”

Read more …

They all knew Page was a CIA asset since August 2016 at the latest, but failed to tell the FISA court, because none of the warrants would have been approved. How obvious do we have to make it?

In Bringing First Russiagate Charge, Durham Hints At Other Crimes (JTN)

Spygate, once derided by media and political elites as a fringe conspiracy theory, is now fact thanks to a court filing that confirms an ex-FBI lawyer who disliked President Trump falsified evidence that was used to keep surveillance against Trump associates going. U.S. Attorney John Durham filed the felony charge Friday against Kevin Clinesmith, and the ex-FBI assistant general counsel is expected to plead guilty soon and cooperate with the ongoing investigation of the Russia investigators. That alone is significant, since Clinesmith was witness to other controversial moments in the failed Trump-Russia collusion probe, including an operation to spy on the future president during a counterintelligence briefing in summer 2016.

But within the four-plus page criminal information filed in U.S. District Court, Durham also laid out evidence of an additional crime that could be prosecuted in the coming weeks. The court filing notes that Clinesmith “willfully and knowingly” altered a document in June 2017 to falsely claim that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — one of the main targets of the Russia collusion probe and identified in the court document as “Individual #1” — was not a source for the CIA, identified in the court documents as “Other Government Agency” or “OGA.” In reality, Page was a CIA asset. The filing says Clinesmith’s misdeed caused the FBI to mislead the Justice Department and the FISA court when filing an application for the last of four surveillance warrants that targeted Page for over a year.

But Durham also reveals in the filing that the FBI Crossfire Hurricane team — led by since-fired Agent Peter Strzok — had already been told of Page’s relationship with the CIA all the way back in August 2016 and failed to tell the FISA court that essential information about Page before the three prior FISA warrants were approved. Such a failure is known as a material omission because the FBI was claiming they believed Page was an agent of Russia when in fact he was an asset of the U.S. government helping to inform on Russian intelligence targets. In other words, had the FBI not omitted the truth, the judges would have known before they approved even the first FISA warrant that Page was a CIA-handled source, not a Russian stooge.

Here’s how Durham worded the account: “On Aug 17, 2016, prior to the approval of FISA #1, the OGA (CIA) provided certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memorandum indicating that Individual #1 (Page) had been approved as an operational contact for the OGA (CIA) from 2008 to 2013 and detailing information that Individual #1 (Page) had provided to the OGA (CIA) concerning Individual #1’s prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers. The first three FISA applications did not include Individual #1’s history or status with the OGA (CIA).” Several experts said Durham’s inclusion of the earlier notification signals he has concerns others may also have been involved in deceiving the court.

“It’s more than an oversight. Whether the omission was purposeful or not, it is a fraud on the court,” said Kevin Brock, the FBI’s former assistant director for intelligence and the man who created many of the procedures the bureau still uses to investigate intelligence threats. “At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I think it is clear that Durham is positioning a deeper dive into this issue of FISA application abuse,” Brock added. [..] In one instance the day after Trump won, Clinesmith texted this anti-Trump, anti-Mike Pence screed: “The crazies won finally. This is the tea party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost, they have to deal with an incumbent in 4 years. We have to fight this again. Also Pence is stupid,” he wrote in a text quoted by the inspector general.

Read more …

Why would anyone care what he thinks?

Bill Gates Says Hydroxychloroquine Has ‘Severe Side Effects’ (JTN)

Bill Gates this week added more flame to the fire in the ongoing debate over the usage of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, claiming that using the drug to treat the coronavirus carries with it the risk of “severe side effects” and arguing that medical officials should instead pursue the numerous “good therapeutic drugs” currently in development. Yet there is at present little evidence that “severe side effects” are common in COVID-19 patients who take hydroxychloroquine, with the majority of reported adverse events being relatively mild and only a small fraction of reported effects so far being dangerous and/or fatal.

The drug, which has been used for years to treat malaria and other conditions like lupus, has been at the center of a medical and political firestorm since March when President Trump touted the medicine as a possible effective treatment for coronavirus. Numerous medical officials have claimed that it offers no benefit to COVID-19 patients, while others have insisted that it is highly effective when used in certain circumstances, specifically on high-risk patients early in the course of the disease. Asked by Bloomberg magazine about the controversy on Thursday, Gates—who has been at the forefront of funding and advocacy efforts to find both a cure and a vaccine for COVID-19—said that though we live “in age of science … sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”

“In the test tube, hydroxychloroquine looked good,” he said. “On the other hand, there are lots of good therapeutic drugs coming that are proven to work without the severe side effects.” Numerous studies across the world over the past several months have produced mixed results on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19, with some showing marked benefits and others indicating that it does not help patients recover from the disease. Yet regardless of study outcomes, severe adverse health events associated with the drug appear to be comparatively rare. One randomized trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month stated that, while the study’s treatment with hydroxychloroquine “did not prevent illness compatible with Covid-19 or confirmed infection,” there were nevertheless “no serious intervention-related adverse reactions or cardiac arrhythmias” reported by study participants.

Read more …

Biden’s handlers know that many Trump supporters are against masks, so they make him call for masks everywhere in order to create conflict.

Joe Biden Calls For Nationwide Facemask Mandate (KABC)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling for a nationwide mask mandate. After getting a briefing from some healthcare professionals in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said all Americans should be wearing facemasks outside their homes for the next three months. He did not give any details on enforcement, legality or science. The former VP stressed – without citing any evidence–that it will save up to 40-thousand lives. Biden said it’s not an issue of personal rights. He insisted that it’s about personal responsibility and patriotic duty. Biden’s new running mate Kamala Harris said — “That’s what real leadership looks like.” They spoke for a total of about 8 minutes and refused to take questions.

Read more …

Power games amongst so-called friends. Meanwhile, Hillary apparently said she might “serve” in a Biden cabinet.

The President Was Not Encouraging: What Obama Really Thought About Biden (Pol.)

Biden’s own academic career was unimpressive—he repeated the third grade, earned all Cs and Ds in his first three semesters at the University of Delaware except for As in P.E., a B in “Great English Writers” and an F in ROTC, and graduated 76th in his Syracuse Law School class of ’85. He’s the first Democratic nominee since Walter Mondale in 1984 not to have an Ivy League degree. He was not a binder person, Clinton and Obama aides said. Biden admitted as much in his 2007 memoir Promises to Keep, writing “It’s important to read reports and listen to the experts; more important is being able to read people in power.” Biden’s tendency to blurt out whatever was on his mind rankled Obama, who wasn’t afraid to needle him for it.

In his first press conference in 2009, the young president quipped “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to—not surprisingly,” when asked about Biden’s assessment that there was a 30 percent chance they could get the economic stimulus package wrong. The gaffes were only one side of the story, though. Obama warmed both to Biden’s effusive personality and his skill in implementing the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, which the president had delegated to him. Aides recall that Obama and Biden took almost polar-opposite approaches to policymaking, Obama always seeking data for the most logical or efficient outcome, while Biden told stories about how a bill would affect the working-class guy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born.

[..] Panetta, who had known Clinton from his days as her husband’s White House chief of staff, recalled that “Both she and her staff worked at that a great deal in trying to build that support.” Among Obama and his aides, Panetta said, “I think there was a certain attraction to someone that would certainly break ceilings and kind of create the same kind of precedent that he created when he became president … as opposed to supporting somebody who’s kind of your more traditional politician and, you know, a white Irish Catholic guy.” There was also dismissiveness of Biden in Clinton’s orbit that echoed Obama aides.

“The good thing about a Biden run,” Neera Tanden, Clinton’s close aide who also advised the Obama administration on health policy, wrote to Podesta in 2015, in an email later exposed by WikiLeaks, “is that he would make Hillary look so much better.” Obama tried to remain above the fray, even as his closest staffers largely rallied around Clinton—which they likely would not have done if there was a chance he would support Biden. “I knew a number of the president’s former staffers, and even a few current ones, were putting a finger on the scale for Clinton,” Biden wrote. Pressed on whether Obama ever expressed a preference between Clinton and Biden, Jarrett demurred, saying, “that’s a conversation you’ll have to have with him.” Obama declined to be interviewed through his spokesperson.

“President Obama has been unequivocal in his respect for Joe’s wisdom, experience, empathy and integrity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. Even if he did express preference for Clinton, some Obama officials characterized it more as an acknowledgment of her strength than an attempt to undercut Biden. “There was a feeling of inevitability about Hillary Clinton in every aspect,” recalled Psaki. “So it never felt to me like it was Obama choosing Hillary Clinton over Joe Biden. It was a feeling like it’s inevitable after Hillary Clinton left the State Department that she will be the Democratic nominee, and she will become the next president. So Obama … was trying to play a part in being helpful.” Reines said Obama “was always very encouraging” of Clinton and that after serving as president, “he believed there was no one better prepared to do it.”

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The doors shut tight behind Hillary.

Appeals Court Spares Hillary Clinton From Deposition In Email Scandal (JTN)

Four-plus years after the James Comey-led FBI chose not to file charges against Hillary Clinton, despite evidence she transmitted classified information on an insecure email server, a federal appeals court Friday gave the former secretary of state another legal pass in the case. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a writ of mandamus requested by Clinton’s lawyers overturning a judge’s order that she submit to a sworn deposition in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. The court ruled that U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth erred in ordering the deposition in the first place.

“Discovery in FOIA cases is not a punishment, and the district court has no basis to order further inquiry into Secretary Clinton’s state of mind,” the appeals court ruled. Judicial Watch had sought to secure the deposition to explore whether Clinton’s use of the private server to transmit government documents was an effort to evade the legal requirements of the FOIA law. The group said Friday afternoon it is reviewing whether to appeal. “We’re disappointed and considering our options,” Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton told Just the News. The court ruling comes four years and one month after Comey announced on July 5, 2016 that he had unilaterally decided not to seek criminal charges against Clinton for transmitting highly classified information on her private email server.

Comey was later fired from his post and an inspector general ruled the FBI director had wrongly “usurped” the Justice Department’s authority to decide whether charges should have been filed. It was that very same day that former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele — working on behalf of Clinton’s opposition research efforts — walked the first piece of information of his now infamous anti-Trump dossier into the FBI office in London.

Read more …

“..Congress inserted the words “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Those six words have perplexed scholars for 150 years.”

But being perplexed by them today is racist.

Yes, Kamala Harris Is Eligible For Vice President (Turley)

Birthright citizenship has been a subject of debate from the time that the 14th Amendment was adopted. There are arguments on both sides of the currently accepted broad interpretation of the language. Many of our closest allies reject the concept of birthright citizenship. However, the case law strongly supports Harris. In 1898, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the court found that the child of Chinese immigrants was still a citizen under the 14th Amendment because he was born on U.S. territory. His parents were here legally as permanent residents. Moreover, the language of the 14th Amendment does not clearly support the exclusions raised by Eastman. It states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Most reading that language have concluded that it allows for birthright citizenship for anyone “born … in the United States.” The 14th Amendment starts and ends as a model of clarity, stating that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are “citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” But between those two phrases, Congress inserted the words “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Those six words have perplexed scholars for 150 years. The dominant view of law professors is the line as a whole guarantees that anyone born within the United States becomes an American citizen. But some believe that the caveat means you must be here in a legal status, that if you are not a American citizen, then you are a legal resident.

I do not believe that there is a credible question of Harris’ eligibility. However, I am concerned with the attacks on Newsweek and the author from a free speech standpoint. This issue has been raised for decades and the Supreme Court cases are few and are not dispositive on all aspects of the question. In prior coverage of candidates like McCain, there was not a demand for newspapers to denounce their own publications. Eastman is a professor who raised a commonly discussed constitutional and political issue. There is no reason to denounce him as a racist or Newsweek as an enabler of racism. Media often publish controversial theories.

There were not demands for retractions when a Harvard professor said Trump was not actually impeached when he was impeached, a North Carolina professor saying the entire Trump defense team would face bar charges, or any number of the controversial theories of criminality against Trump. Instead we simply debated the issues, which actually raised interesting historical or ethical questions. LA Times’ Michael McGough called Newsweek’s explanation “feeble” when it insisted that it was merely sharing a constitutional viewpoint and not attempting “to ignite a racist conspiracy theory around Kamala Harris’ candidacy.” Yet, this “feeble” reason has been the basis for past articles on the debate over the 14th Amendment in major publications for decades.

Read more …

Briefing for a descent into complete chaos post-Nov 4.

UPS, FedEx Reject Calls To Handle Mail-In Ballots: Significant Problems (Hill)

As concern mounts that the United States Postal Service (USPS) will not be able to handle an influx of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, many on social media have called for delivery services FedEx and UPS to step up, which the companies have dismissed. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, UPS and FedEx said they legally can’t do the work and warned there would likely be “significant” delays. “State ballots must be postmarked to be considered valid and only the USPS has lawful postmarking status. Therefore UPS, FedEx and other private parties cannot technically be involved in shipping ballots,” UPS told Reuters in a statement.


Meanwhile, FedEx says it does accept individual ballots, but encouraged customers using FedEx to “closely review their state’s guidelines on absentee voting and deadlines for ballots or related election documents.” According to Reuters, various laws prevent private delivery companies from handling mail-in and absentee ballots, and in some states it would be considered ballot harvesting. On top of legal issues, the USPS is equipped to deliver to every mailbox in the U.S. daily, while private delivery companies only deliver when someone has a package or a pickup, and don’t have blanket coverage of more hard-to-reach places, such as rural communities. Many delivery companies are also already struggling with a surge of deliveries brought on by people staying at home during the pandemic and increasingly relying on online shopping.

Read more …

How can you open Target to huge crowds but keep churches closed? What is the reasoning?

California Judge Sides With Church, Allows Indoor Services (WT)

A California court rejected Friday efforts by Los Angeles County to require a popular megachurch to comply with pandemic orders, allowing the church to hold indoor services with singing and without attendance limits pending a resolution of the case. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church after the church began holding indoor services July 26 in defiance of state and county rules aimed at combating the novel coronavirus, according to a press release from the Thomas More Society.


Attorney Jenna Ellis called it a “historic win,” tweeting that the court was the first in California “to recognize #churchisessential.” The Thomas More Society, which represented the church, said the judge ruled “it is the County’s burden to show why it should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion, but also expressing safety concerns.” At the same time, the church agreed to comply with mask-wearing and social-distancing rules before the full hearing scheduled for Sept. 4.

Read more …

Is he still getting the $600 checks?

Warren Buffett Sheds Big Stakes In Banks And Goes For The Gold (Fox)

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. unloaded a more than a quarter of its stake in Wells Fargo & Co. and about 61% of its position in JPMorgan Chase, while acquiring a new position in Barrick Gold Corp., according to 13-F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the period ended Jun 30, that were released Friday afternoon. Berkshire sold 85.6 million shares of Wells Fargo, representing about 26% of its stake and putting its ownership to about 3% from 5.3%. The insurance conglomerate also shed 35.5 million shares of JPMorgan, 61% of its position, which now represents 1% of Berkshire’s overall portfolio from 3% in the prior period.


Meanwhile, the investment firm acquired nearly 21 million shares of Barrick Gold worth $563 million, representing 0.3% of Berkshire’s holding. Berkshire also reduced its holding in PNC Financial Services (PNC), selling 3.85 million shares to cut its position to 0.3% from 0.5%. Berkshire didn’t change its holdings in Apple Inc. where the firm owns 245 million shares. Large investors must disclose long stock positions held at the end of a quarter 45 days later in a 13-F filing with the SEC, which means such filings are merely a snapshot of an investor’s holdings at a given point.

Read more …

Opening doors for Assange?

Trump: ‘A Lot Of People’ Think Edward Snowden ‘Not Being Treated Fairly’ (NYP)

President Trump polled his aides on Thursday about whether he should let anti-surveillance whistleblower and leaker Edward Snowden return to the US from Russia without going to prison, saying he was open to it. “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump told The Post in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office, before soliciting views from his staff. Trump commented on Snowden for the first time as president after accusing former President Barack Obama of spying on his 2016 campaign. “When you look at [former FBI Director James] Comey and [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, and [former CIA Director John] Brennan — and, excuse me, the man that sat at this desk, President Obama, got caught spying on my campaign with Biden. Biden and Obama, and they got caught spying on the campaign,” Trump said.


Trump’s comments reflect a remarkable softening in his views about the man he once deemed a “traitor” worthy of execution. Republican lawmakers and the Justice Department’s inspector general recently highlighted misuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the secret FISA court to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page. “Snowden is one of the people they talk about. They talk about numerous people, but he is certainly one of the people that they do talk about,” Trump said on Thursday, before turning to his aides. “I guess the DOJ is looking to extradite him right now? … It’s certainly something I could look at. Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side.”

Read more …

How does one define “lawful” in the UK these days? Who would do the defining?

Chaos In Assange Case Management Hearing (DEAssange)

Attorney General William Barr issued a replacement extradition request just two days after Julian Assange’s defence team submitted their full and final evidence for the extradition hearing due in September, Westminster Magistrates court heard today (Friday 14th August). The clear attempt to blindside the defence by US Attorney General William Barr emerged as the court heard Julian Assange has not even seen the warmed-over extradition request, which contains no new charges but introduces new narrative content that the defence argued should be excluded from the proceedings. The defence argued the replacement indictment introduced alleged conduct from 2010 and 2011 which the US had investigated almost a decade ago, and could therefore not plausibly be argued to be new information to the US investigation.

The defence considered the move by the prosecution to bring in the replacement extradition request at the eleventh hour “astonishing”, given the case had been prepared over the course of one year and was well into substantive hearings which began in February. The defence was given a week to decide whether to ask for the September hearing to be adjourned, or to proceed as planned on 7 September. And that was only part of the chaotic hearing in which Belmarsh prison did not initially bring Assange to the video room to join proceedings, the US prosecution failed to turn up (having got the time of the hearing wrong), and every journalist and NGO observer that tried to dial-in was directed to another trial entirely and never made it into the Assange hearing.

That left a mere of handful of journalists that could gain access to the court to report proceedings. ‘This was the worst hearing so far’, said Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-chief . ‘The US government seem to want to change the indictment every time the court meet, but without the defence or Julian himself seeing the relevant documents’. Even now Julian Assange has not been re-arrested under the replacement extradition request. Instead the re-arrest will take place on the first day of the hearings. The reissued request appears to serve a PR purpose since it contains no new charges though still threatens Assange with 175 years in jail.

Julian Assange’s legal team have been denied in-person access to their client since March. Today was the first day Julian Assange was able to have a short video link meeting with his lawyers, prior to the hearing. Belmarsh prison denied Assange any facilities to talk to his lawyers after the hearing ended. Julian Assange has not seen his family and young children since March.

Read more …

 

 

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Aug 102020
 


Cy Twombly Fifty Days at Iliam: Like a Fire that Consumes All before It 1978

 

 

Might as well call it a social experiment. Any other name, like “coup” or “fishing expedition” or “hookers peeing on a bed” or “justice being done” would just inflame “passions” and lead away from what should be the actual topic.

Whatever you call it, the fact remains that Donald Trump has been the first US president to be under continued investigation for the entire 4 years of his first term, and for about a year before it as well. And that should be a cause for alarm for anyone who cares even a little bit about the American political system, including those who abhor Trump. Because once you do that, it’s no longer about just one president, it’s about all who will follow him, and inevitably about the integrity and validity of the system as a whole.

In principle, there should be no investigations of a sitting president, and not even of a presidential candidate, because this risks endangering 1) the entire electoral process, and 2) the Office of the President (not for once, but for ever). In principle. If there must be an investigation, it must be based on solid evidence available beforehand, it must be short, and the President must be removed. If all of these three things are not guaranteed, no investigation is warranted, and the accusing parties should be “liberated” from the positions they held when they initiated the investigation regardless. Skin in the game.

 

 

It gets increasingly harder to write about American politics, or express an opinion in any other way, without being dumped into one of two camps, never to be heard from again in the other (except for ridicule or slander). There is no such thing as a neutral or objective viewpoint anymore. You’re either with us or you’re against us – or them.

Seeing -and projecting- the world in black and white is a tempting proposal for anyone afraid of being confused; it should, however, never be an excuse for the media to not present its viewers and readers with a full color palette. But we can see every single day how that went. Black and white it is. And in that environment, too claustrophobic to be put in a box, I might as well paint the picture as I see it. Yes, in color.

 

The “social experiment” I see progressing has two parts:

1) can a political party, aided and abetted by the media and intelligence services, unseat an elected president it has just lost an election to?

2) can a presidential candidate be elected while shunning the media, debates, etc., and only appear at times and in forms that have been pre-selected by her/his handlers for maximum effect, while hiding his/her weaknesses?

 

As for no. 1, it has evidently not succeeded, but that is certainly not for lack of trying. One investigation has followed the other non-stop since 2016, in public and behind the scenes, and they have all come up empty. Of course one side would contest that and still say there was lots of evidence, but if so, it obviously wasn’t very strong, or Trump would have been gone.

People may also claim that the mandate of the Mueller investigation was too narrow, but really, go back and watch the man’s pathetic (sorry, but it was) testimony in Congress after the fact, that should be enough. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and others have promised solid and inconvertible evidence many times, but we never saw any. Rest assured, whatever Trump may have done wrong, you would have heard about it by now.

Or to put it another way: he probably did many things wrong, but not the things he was accused of. In fact, the entire Putin puppet narrative is so idiotic it’s impossible not to ponder from time to time that it was designed from the get-go to support Trump, not hurt him.

As for no. 2, that looks even more experimental. The approach is helped along “wonderfully” by the pandemic, which provides plenty excuses to keep Biden hidden, but it goes against everything presidential campaigns have been built upon throughout American history: contact with voters. That very few people would believe Biden is his own man, and not a sock puppet, can’t help.

But there is more at stake. Presidential campaigns are one element of a much bigger process, and you can’t separate the two. Both parts of the “social experiment” seem to run afoul of the respect that bigger process, and ultimately the entire political system, necessarily demands from all participants, from an individual voter to a President. And that is much more important than either candidate. You can’t temporarily switch off that respect if and when that might suit your purpose, because you risk for it never to be switched on again.

 

You may dislike a presidential candidate, perhaps even intensely so, but that should never make you lose sight of the integrity, if not the sacredness, of the election process, of the political system, of the institutions, of the Constitution, and certainly not of the Office of the President of the United States. Because once you do that, you open the door for everyone to do the same in the future. And no, you can’t blame that on the candidate you don’t like, you do it.

When a candidate is selected through the primaries of his/her party, you must respect that, because if you don’t respect the process, you are lost, the system is lost, and there’s no telling when you’ll see it back, if ever. If that candidate is then elected President, a lot of doors that before allowed you to question and criticize him/her, should be closed. The country at that point has either a new President, or a second-term one. A different phase of the political process starts.

The House and the Senate become the critics, empowered by the system to hold the President accountable. But only the House and the Senate. Not the media, whose role it is, other than in the occasional opinion piece, to report on decisions made; not intelligence services, whose role it is to serve the country, and the new President it just elected; and not the opposition party, whose role it is to prepare for the next election, and to provide a degree of counterbalance, depending on how bad their loss was, on Capitol Hill.

The entire picture is crystal clear. So is everybody’s role in it. But now and then people -try to- refuse to accept their roles, obviously believing that they are more important than the integrity of the political system, and ignoring that in doing so they put the whole system at risk.

 

What was happening first became apparent in late 2015 – early 2016, when the New York Times began running multiple stories every day directed against Donald Trump. Mostly small bits, based on innuendo about his past, with a whiff of truth perhaps, but not more. The word “gratuitous” comes to mind. At a certain point, they did a dozen per day of the stories, it became assembly line work for the writers and editors..

The Washington Post chimed in, and so did CNN, MSNBC and others, including international press. It turned into a feeding frenzy, with all of them completely losing sight, voluntarily or not, of their roles as news providers. They all shape-shifted into opinion-only-makers, confident that their audience would not notice the difference, at least not at first. At that point it became a very Pavlovian thing.

Which is why I was initially going to name this essay “Trump vs Pavlov”. 100+ years ago, Ivan Pavlov “found” that if he rang a bell in front of a dog, and then gave her food, she would start to associate the two. When he increased the time-lapse between first, the bell, and then, the food, the dog would salivate in expectation of food at just the sound of the bell. In the end, all he had to do was ring the bell, with no food around, and the dog would salivate. So he had nothing to offer, no food, no substance, but the reaction was the same.

That is a very accurate description of what a large part of the US media have done -and become-. All they have to do at this point is mention Trump, or just show his picture, and their public will react the same every single time: Orange Man Bad. There doesn’t have to be any substance, any factual journalistic reports of wrongdoing. The “conditioned reflex” as Pavlov described it, has set in.

And their readers and viewers have become addicted to this. How could they not? They’ve been bombarded with 1000s of these bells ringing, and the substance may not be there, but the expectation of it is. If you’re a regular viewer of Rachel Maddow, what are the odds that your opinion is still your own after hearing RussiaRussia a million times? The only way it could be yours is if you switch her off.

I’ve written before that I don’t even think they really set out to do this. Initially, there were probably just some CEOs and owners and editors who didn’t like Trump and/or were affiliated in one way or another with the other party -and later candidate-. Who was counted on to win big anyway, so why not (well, because of the integrity of the political system!).

It was only later that they found out 24/7 anti-Trump “reporting” was a great business model for them. CNN was dying in early 2016, the New York Times was nor far behind, and all of a sudden numbers of viewers and readers and subscribers went through the roof.

Their problem is that if they succeed in making Trump lose in November, they will be back to where they came from before he appeared on the political scene. All of their “reporting” on US politics has devolved into a scheme based on ringing a bell, and on the scandal and anger their non-stop salivating audience have become addicted to, and mistake for substance.

If Joe Biden should win, that scheme is dead. They may hope to last a bit longer on the angry scandal of a possible persecution of Trump if he leaves office, but that would be it, and that’s not a business model. They can’t very well now turn on Biden and his puppeteers.

New York Times writer and editor Bari Weiss said it very well when she left the paper a few weeks ago, she summarized the essence of the MSM problem in just a few words:

“[..] the lessons that ought to have followed the election – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else”.


Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world?

 

That’s the media. Second in line is US intelligence. Which, there’s no other way to put it, conspired against a presidential candidate and, when he was elected, a sitting president. The Strzok-Page “insurance policy”, the Obama Oval Office conversations where Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Susan Rice were present, plus 1,000 other things, the overall picture doesn’t exactly point to that famous seamless transition, and US Intel played a pivotal, because accommodating, role in that.

The best way to show this is perhaps that US intelligence themselves did not (could not) come up with a report on alleged links between the -prospective- president’s team and Russia, but took a dossier paid for by the president’s opposition and used it to discredit and persecute him and people in his team. The dossier was written by a two-bit MI6 hustler who hadn’t set foot in Russia in at least a decade, and whose main ‘Russian source’ wasn’t there either, but sitting in an office in the US.

That source in turn had contacts with a group of Russians whose very business model it was to make up and embellish whatever stories the highest bidder required, while failing to deal with their own severe drinking problems. That dossier was the entire foundation (or 99% of it) behind Rod Rosenstein appointing Bob Mueller as a Special Counsel. The appointment would never have been made, never have been possible, without the Steele dossier.

 

How was the dossier vetted by US intelligence, if at all? It’s very clear now what was wrong with it, but the all knowing and very clever intelligence people could not have figured that out 4 years ago, and instead cleared it for Mueller, for further FBI use, for FISA applications? How about their treatment of Michael Flynn, who they had already cleared only to resurrect the dead corpse of their investigation into his talks with Russian ambassador Kislyak? How would you, personally, spell “in good faith”?

We will see in the near future what the Durham investigation into all Russiagate players will come to. Apparently, Durham has just another three weeks to present at least something, because there is a two-month “no-go-zone” before the election, during which he would be accused of tampering with the election. And the premise for the Democrats and their sympathizers is that if Biden wins, all slates will be wiped clean.

They won’t, by the way. America still has a justice system, even if it is oftentimes crippled and grinding(ly) slow. Just watch Michael Flynn attorney Sidney Powell and her team. They have vowed to not only have their client be exonerated, but to fully clear his name, which according to their view has been besmirched by everyone up to and including Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

 

The third leg of the “creature” is the Democratic party. Who have stepped so far over their boundaries, nobody recognizes anymore that there were any. Or that the political system they are an integral part of, dictates that there are things they cannot do, lest they corrupt that system to the core.

Once you lose a presidential election, you prepare for the next one. You don’t use the next 4 years to try and frustrate the president you just lost to with all you got. The system should not allow it and can not tolerate it. There should be skin in the game for opposition politicians, who when they come with accusations of gross misconduct serious enough to remove a president, should be forced to step down when the accusations don’t lead to the intended result.

It should never be a free for all, in which you can simply try again the next morning. Because the system cannot work if that is possible. It can’t be that if you win a midterm election and get a majority in the House, you can then use that majority to make it impossible for a president to work on the agenda that made millions vote for him/her. That would cause the system to grind to a halt, and the system must always be more important than its temporary participants (even those who “sit” for 40-50 years).

When you look at the speaker’s list for the Democrat -non- convention next week where Joe Biden will be confirmed as their -virtual- candidate, you see that other than AOC, it’s just a long list of the same old people who were already there when they lost in 2016, and co-losers Hillary and Obama still have a very tight grip on the power and the purse strings.

Why they stick with Joe Biden, g-d only knows, and the same goes for whichever highly unpopular black woman they pick as VP who could soon be president. And sorry, but they all are. Kamala Harris was among the first to step down during the primaries because she didn’t get any votes. Susan Rice is not exactly “loved by the people” either, and the rest are no-names, except for Warren, but she’s both too left and much too white.

So you’re thinking: what’s going on there? That’s really the best you can do? But it does seem to be, likely because Barackillary have a small group of confidantes to choose from who they themselves are confident will be willing to cede all actual power to them once elected. And if Harris and Rice don’t get picked as VP, they’ll still exert a lot of power.

As will Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, there’s more new blood at Madame Tussaud’s than at the upper echelons of the Democratic party. Yes, AOC can come in to represent the squad in a cynical move (no power but brings in lots of votes), but that’s it. For the rest it’s still just the broken left wing of the war party. But you’re right, they’re none of them, Trump. And that at the same time is the sole identity they possess.

 

Anti-Trumpism has become a political religion. Because Trump is the only topic that attracts clickbait and viewers. The only topic that rings a bell. Joe Biden rings no bells whatsoever. A while back Donald Trump jr tweeted:

Trump is really running against the media, Silicon Valley, the establishment, the swamp, Hollywood and maybe Joe Biden.

While investor GreekFire23 did even better:

Trump is running against himself in this election. The vote will come down to those who love him vs those who hate him. Biden is totally irrelevant and not even campaigning. Biden has no platform, no slogan, no stickers, no signs, no rallies, no followers. It’s Trump vs Trump.

What can still sink Trump is obvious: it’s the economy and the pandemic. America’s problem is that no matter who wins, those will still be its main problems by January 2021. And another problem has been added in the course of 2020: protests and violence in the streets.

 

Update: I thought I could leave it at that for now, step out for a moment, have a glass of wine, let it all sink in, and write a closing paragraph. But then I was sitting outside in gorgeous Athens and this popped up, which I very obviously can’t leave out:

Senate Chairman Subpoenas FBI Director Wray For Russiagate Records; Puts Bidens On Notice

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition..

[..] The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

[..] Johnson’s committee has secured testimony from at least one State Department official who worked in Ukraine, and says the Bidens’ conduct created the appearance of a conflict of interest. “The appearance of family profiteering off of Vice President Biden’s official responsibilities is not unique to the circumstances involving Ukraine and Burisma,” wrote Johnson. “Public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.

“Additionally, the former vice president’s brothers and sister-in-law, Frank, James and Sara Biden, also are reported to have benefited financially from his work as well.

I can’t let that go because it addresses exactly what my closing paragraph would have been about. Which is the risk of the giant divide that has developed in US society, getting even wider, and potentially leading to utter mayhem. Actually, it’s not even ‘potentially’ anymore, there already has been a lot of violence.

The Democrats think they will win easily on November 3, and then push through all of their their policies, after dumping on Trump for 4 years with their media and intelligence friends, but the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump, and most of their family and friends with them, don’t think so. That’s not a threat, it’s an observation.

They feel cheated out of their 2016 victory. They realize (or should I say “suspect”) that Russiagate and the Mueller probe and the Zelensky-linked impeachment “hearings” were empty vessels directed against the election outcome that they won fair and square, and I guarantee you they won’t take it sitting down.

Which means that no matter who wins, polarization will reach levels America has never seen, and, frankly, should never wish to. Because all of the people involved, bar just a precious few, will have to live together in the same country, and share the same society, streets, highways, stores and resources.

And sometimes I wonder: how are they going to do that? If Trump should win, how will the entire so-called left react, from the Democrats through the MSM to BLM? Will they just increase the protests and the violence in the streets?

Alternatively, if Joe Biden wins, how will the Conservative side of America react? Will they all go home and wait for what the DNC has in store for them, or will their reaction be pro-active? I know which reaction I would see them lean towards.

You have these two sides in society who appear further apart than even Moses could have hoped to bring back together again, you have the media who thrive on widening that divide even further, it’s a scary picture.

 

And in the meantime, while everyone’s busy blaming each other, who’s going to take care of the country?

 

 

 

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Aug 022020
 


London 1877

 

It’s The Healthcare System, Stupid (Thomas Frank)
‘Brain Fog’ To Heart Damage, COVID19’s Lingering Problems (AAAS)
The Protein Expression Profile Of ACE2 In Human Tissues (EMBO) span>
Red Sox Ace Rodríguez Out For Season With COVID-Related Heart Ailment (G.)
Obese People Are Twice As Likely To Die From COVID (ZH)
America’s Coin Shortage Is Getting Worse (ZH)
Obama Issues Private Warning About Trump Voters To Top Democratic Donors (LZ)
CIA Fabricated Russiagate ‘Evidence’ – Bill Binney (Zuesse)
Ten Years Since WikiLeaks Published The Afghan War Logs (WSWS)
US Seeks To Re-Arrest Julian Assange With New Extradition Request (Sky.au)
Former UC Global Staff Confirm Embassy Surveillance Against Julian Assange (CW)
‘Apocalyptic’ Sky Sounds During Lockdown Baffle Experts (G.)

 

 

A few medical reports today on the brain and heart damage that’s being diagnosed increasingly. The medical community appears to have seriously dropped the ball when they all focused on lungs and the respiratory system. That’s just part of what’s happening.

 

 

“Moderate” or moderating numbers. We would love to see this trend continue. But it’s the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puppy mask

 

 

In favor of the original populism. From Le Monde Diplomatique.

It’s The Healthcare System, Stupid (Thomas Frank)

Unfortunately, it’s all a mistake. Donald Trump’s prodigious stupidity is not the sole cause of our crushing national failure to beat the coronavirus. Plenty of blame must also go to our screwed-up healthcare system, which scorns the very idea of public health and treats access to medical care as a private luxury that is rightfully available only to some. It is the healthcare system, not Trump, that routinely denies people treatment if they lack insurance; that bankrupts people for ordinary therapies; that strips people of their coverage when they lose their jobs — and millions of people are losing their jobs in this pandemic. It is the healthcare system that, when a Covid treatment finally arrives, will almost certainly charge Americans a hefty price to receive it.

And that system is the way it is because organised medicine has for almost a century used the prestige of expertise to keep it that way. Populism, meanwhile, was the reform impulse that tried (and failed) to change the system so that it served ordinary people. Which is to say that the pundits and the scholars and the thinktankers in their grave solemnity have got it entirely backward. Bowing down before expertise is precisely what has made public health an impossible dream. And the populism that our pundits so hate and fear is, in fact, the cure for what ails us. Who was a populist? Begin with the word. The term ‘Populist’ was coined in Kansas in 1891 to describe members of a brand-new American farmer-labour party who demanded a modern currency, a war on monopoly, and the nationalisation of the railroads.

The movement caught fire, and the people who called themselves Populists seemed poised to succeed at first. Instead, their party fizzled out by the end of that decade. Still, Populism’s influence lived on for decades; its ideas can be traced through the American Socialist Party, the New Deal of the 1930s and 40s, and the Bernie Sanders campaigns of 2016 and 2020. The rise and fall of the American Populists — again, the people who invented the word — has long been a favourite subject of romantically inclined historians. The Populist party’s principles and its leading figures are well known to scholars and are the subject of many books. A curious fact that is repeated often in those books: the Populists were not opponents of science or learning.

On the contrary: Populists produced homages to technology and scholarship and education that were so earnest and ornate that they are embarrassing to read today. They thought their own ideas about regulation and the welfare state were in full alignment with the scientific advances of the late 19th century. At the same time, the Pops fought endlessly with the business and academic elites of their day — experts who regarded the established order as the work of God. Populists regarded all special privilege with suspicion, including the prestige that props up the professional class. [..] The Populist way of looking at things was radically democratic: the people came first. The correct role of experts, the original Populists thought, was to serve and inform the people as they went about their lives as citizens of a democracy.

The original Populist movement didn’t have much to say about healthcare policy. In the 1890s, American medicine had not yet hardened into the supremely costly bureaucratic labyrinth we know today. But as the price of medicine grew out of reach in the decades that followed, farmers and unions and charities proposed all kinds of alternative, more democratic arrangements, and always with the same aim: to make healthcare an affordable part of life for ordinary, working-class people.

Read more …

People who can’t think straight months after being discharged. A baseball starting pitcher whose season is gone because of heart inflammation.

‘Brain Fog’ To Heart Damage, COVID19’s Lingering Problems (AAAS)

By now it’s clear that many people with COVID-19 severe enough to put them in a hospital face a long recovery. The virus ravages the heart, for example, in multiple ways. Direct invasion of heart cells can damage or destroy them. Massive inflammation can affect cardiac function. The virus can blunt the function of ACE2 receptors, which normally help protect heart cells and degrade angiotensin II, a hormone that increases blood pressure. Stress on the body from fighting the virus can prompt release of adrenaline and epinephrine, which can also “have a deleterious effect on the heart,” says Raul Mitrani, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of Miami who collaborates with Goldberger.


Many people the pair has seen with heart complications post–COVID-19 had preexisting conditions, most commonly diabetes and hypertension. COVID-19, Goldberger suspects, tips them into more hazardous terrain or accelerates the onset of heart problems that, absent the coronavirus, might have developed later. But other patients are affected without apparent risk factors: A paper this week in JAMA Cardiology found that 78 of 100 people diagnosed with COVID-19 had cardiac abnormalities when their heart was imaged on average 10 weeks later, most often inflammation in heart muscle. Many of the participants in that study were previously healthy, and some even caught the virus while on ski trips, according to the authors.

Severe lung scarring appears less common than feared—Gholamrezanezhad knows of only one recovered patient who still needs oxygen at rest. Scarring seems most likely to accompany underlying lung disease, hypertension, obesity, and other conditions. Lung damage is also seen in people who spend weeks on a ventilator. Gholamrezanezhad suspects that, as with harm to the heart, previously healthy people are not exempt from the virus’ long-term effects on the lungs, though their risk is likely lower.

[..] Then there’s the nervous system, a worrying target. Severe complications seem relatively rare but aren’t limited to those whom the virus renders critically ill. Brown, Zandi, and colleagues described 43 people with neurologic complications this month in Brain; many had been hospitalized during their acute infection, but not always for long—and for some, neurologic problems were their most debilitating symptom and the reason for hospital admission. Several were struggling to recover from encephalitis. Others had inflammation in their brain’s white matter, which helps transmit electrical signals.

Separately, doctors are starting to see a class of patients who, like Akrami, struggle to think clearly—another outcome physicians have come upon in the past. After some severe viral infections, there are “those people who still don’t feel quite right afterward, but have normal brain scans,” Brown says. Some neurologists and patients describe the phenomenon as “brain fog.” It’s largely a mystery, though one theory suggests it’s similar to a “postviral fatigue related to inflammation in the body,” Brown says.

Read more …

“..mainly observed in enterocytes, renal tubules, gallbladder, cardiomyocytes, male reproductive cells, placental trophoblasts, ductal cells, eye, and vasculature..”

The Protein Expression Profile Of ACE2 In Human Tissues (EMBO)

The novel SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV 2) poses a global challenge on healthcare and society. For understanding the susceptibility for SARS CoV 2 infection, the cell type specific expression of the host cell surface receptor is necessary. The key protein suggested to be involved in host cell entry is angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Here, we report the expression pattern of ACE2 across > 150 different cell types corresponding to all major human tissues and organs based on stringent immunohistochemical analysis. The results were compared with several datasets both on the mRNA and protein level.


ACE2 expression was mainly observed in enterocytes, renal tubules, gallbladder, cardiomyocytes, male reproductive cells, placental trophoblasts, ductal cells, eye, and vasculature. In the respiratory system, the expression was limited, with no or only low expression in a subset of cells in a few individuals, observed by one antibody only. Our data constitute an important resource for further studies on SARS CoV 2 host cell entry, in order to understand the biology of the disease and to aid in the development of effective treatments to the viral infection.

Read more …

Eduardo Rodríguez is a prominent example of what the research above warns about. And he’s a young fit top athlete.

Red Sox Ace Rodríguez Out For Season With COVID-Related Heart Ailment (G.)

Boston Red Sox ace Eduardo Rodríguez will miss the rest of the 2020 season as he recovers from a heart issue the team believes is related to the pitcher’s recent battle with the coronavirus. The 27-year-old left-hander, the team’s presumptive No 1 starter who had been expected to start on opening day before he was sidelined, has been diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that has been found at a high rate in recovered coronavirus patients. Rodríguez tested positive for the virus before flying to Boston for an abbreviated training camp in early July, describing symptoms including headaches, nausea and a high fever. After recovering and joining the club, he was diagnosed with the temporary ailment.


“We are confident that he’s going to make a full recovery and that his longterm prognosis is excellent, but the fact of the matter is there’s just just not enough time left this season to safely ramp him back up to pitching,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. Rodriguez had said last Sunday that his doctors told him that 10-20% of people who have had Covid-19 also have been diagnosed with myocarditis. “That’s the most important part of your body, so when you hear that, the first time I hear it was kind of scared a little,’’ Rodriguez said. “Now that I know what it is, it’s still scary, but I know exactly what it is. Just talk to my mom, talk to my wife, they know what I have and everything. Now we just gotta take the rest. That’s hard, but you gotta take a rest.”

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Shed some pounds. Get fit(ter).

Obese People Are Twice As Likely To Die From COVID (ZH)

Just in case Americans – the most obese nation in the world – needed another reason to lose some weight, here it is. In what is emerging as a perfidious Catch 22, at a time when the US population is rapidly gaining weight due to mandatory work from home regulation (hence the Covid 19 pounds) as described here and here, while a surge in domestic alcohol consumption is only making the matters worse… Public Health England has published a paper titled “Excess Weight and COVID-19 Insights from new evidence”, indicating that the risks of hospitalization, intensive care treatment and death increase progressively with increasing body mass index (BMI) above the healthy weight range even after adjustment for potential confounding factors, including demographic and socioeconomic factors. In other words, the fatter one is, the higher the risk that person may die from covid.


Some more details: according to the Public Health England paper, the hazard ratios of ICU admission patients who are overweight (BMI ≥25-29.9), obese (BMI ≥30-34.9) or severely obese (BMI ≥35) are 1.64, 2.59 and 4.35, respectively see figure below) relative to patients with a BMI of ≥20-24.9. The study also showed an increasing risk of death with increasing BMI with hazard ratios of 1.05, 1.40 and 1.92 for people with a BMI of 30-34, 35-39.9 and ≥40, respectively, relative to BMI <30. In a nutshell, people who are severely obese are twice as likely to die from Covid. Which, in a world where facts could be discussed instead of dismissed and slammed as “racist”, would mean that certain races and genders are especially at risk. However, because charts like the one below are racist, it’s best to wallow in ignorance and accuse white people for what is taking place.

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The Fed can’t do its laundry anymore.

America’s Coin Shortage Is Getting Worse (ZH)

The nation’s coin shortage, prompted by less cash circulating as a result of Covid-19 – is getting worse. And believe it or not, cash is still being used in 49% of payments that are $10 or below, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, reported on by Bloomberg. The irony of the situation lies in the fact that the Fed can print trillions for bonds, but can’t come up with a couple of quarters to do its laundry. Despite the Fed’s best efforts to keep money circulating, there is still a coin shortage in the U.S. The effects are being felt in places like laundromats, where coins are used to do laundry. Brian Wallace, president and CEO of the Coin Laundry Association (we swear this is an actual organization), said: “This is just an unexpected wrench in the works that I don’t think any of us could have anticipated, finding ourselves short on quarters.”

Only about 20% of laundromats offer a card option and 27% accept credit cards. In other words, most laundromats still rely on coins to do business. “The people that show up to the laundromat each weekend are there for a purpose. It’s an essential service. Anything that impedes that progress certainly impacts tens of millions of families that use vended laundry each week,” Wallace continued. Coinstar, which processed $2.7 billion worth of coins last year, collects an 11.9% fee from customers. The company has said its business has decreased during the lockdown, but it is now starting to see a slight bounce back. And despite operating in Japan, Canada, Italy, and several other European countries, it hasn’t seen the same issues outside the U.S. “There’s something unique about the U.S. that we can’t figure out why this has come to this crisis,” says Jim Gaherity, chief executive officer of Coinstar.

“I don’t refer to it as a shortage, I refer to it as ‘We don’t have coin moving.’ It’s there, it’s just not in the right place.” Jerome Powell said in June that the shortage would be temporary, while at the same time U.S. mints spool up more production. The Fed has, in the interim, put together a “coin task force” to liaise with companies like Coinstar to help come up with solutions. Organizations like the Coin Laundry Association have suggested the Fed distributing additional coins and prioritizing to “consumer businesses in the essential critical infrastructure workforce.” Banks and businesses are also offering premiums and deals for turning in your coins. One Wisconsin bank is offering a $5 bonus for every $100 worth of coins that are turned in. Recall, days ago, we wrote that Chick-Fil-A was giving away free food to customers who paid in coins.

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Obama’s own side has this problem. They operate solely in their echo chamber. The people getting their information from the MSM get zero info from anywhere else. So who is the threat to democracy around here? An individual’s answer to that question can be precisely predicted once you know where (s)he gets her “news”.

Obama Issues Private Warning About Trump Voters To Top Democratic Donors (LZ)

Barack Obama has reportedly just warned top Democratic donors that this election is far from a lock for Joe Biden because President Donald Trump’s voters are “glued” to rightwing outlets like Fox News and Breitbart News. Over the past two months, Obama has raised $24 million for Biden by having conversations with people like LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, actor George Clooney, as well as with top party leaders, according to The New York Times. Donors who have paid six-figure sums have been given the opportunity to watch these conversations on Zoom. In these talks, Obama claimed that because the mainstream media doesn’t reach some Trump supporters, they can filter “out any contradictory information” by getting their news from Breitbart News, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh.


“It’s just glued to Fox News and Breitbart and Limbaugh and just this conservative echo chamber — and so, they’re going to turn out to vote,” Obama reportedly said in a discussion with Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker. “What he has unleashed and what he continues to try to tap into is the fears and anger and resentment of people who, in some cases, really are having a tough time and have seen their prospects, or communities where they left, declining. And Trump tries to tap into that and redirect in nativist, racist, sexist ways.” The Times reported that Obama also has said that he sees Trump as a threat to American democracy, “even making an oblique reference to Nazi Germany” during one of the conversations.

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The former US intelligence technical specialists are still being silenced. Very effectively. Binney’s message: nothing was hacked.

CIA Fabricated Russiagate ‘Evidence’ – Bill Binney (Zuesse)

An important public statement was made on July 27th by Bill Binney, the U.S. Government’s top expert on the internet, and on computer hacking. He had been the Technical Director of the NSA when he quit and became a whistleblower against that Agency while George W. Bush was the U.S. President and invaded Iraq on the basis of faked evidence. Binney has now laid out, in this speech, the evidence that he wants to present in court against Barack Obama’s CIA, that it defrauded Americans to believe in “Russiagate” (the allegation that Russia ‘hacked’ the computers of Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party officials and fed that information to Wikileaks and other organizations). Binney cites evidence, which, if true, conclusively proves that Russiagate was actually created fraudulently by the CIA’s extensive evidence-tampering, which subsequently became covered-up by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in his investigations for the Democratic Party’s first (and failed) try at impeaching and removing from office U.S. President Donald J. Trump.


[..] NOTE: This news-report was submitted, in advance, to each of the following 40 mainstream news-media, offering it as an exclusive, to: ABC, BBC, CBS, FNC, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Guardian, McClatchy, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Spectator, The New Republic, Time, The Week, Progressive, Jacobin, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Economist, National Interest, Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, Salon, Slate, Business Insider, Politico, The Hill, The Gray Zone, The Intercept, The Daily Beast, Vice, Spiked, Bloomberg, Truthdig, Truthout, Vox, Common Dreams. None accepted it. None of them wanted their audience to see it. So, this article is now being submitted for publication, free of charge, to all English language (and a few other) news-media, simply in order to make known to as many of the public as possible, the information that it contains.

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Can you even imagine the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel cooperating with Assange today? It’s only been ten years. The narrative has (been) solidified enormously.

Ten Years Since WikiLeaks Published The Afghan War Logs (WSWS)

Last Saturday marked ten years since WikiLeaks published the Afghan war logs, a vast trove of leaked US military documents, which provided an unprecedented insight into the criminality of a war that has become the longest in American history. The documents were released, with commentary, analysis and contextual material, in partnership with the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, some three months after WikiLeaks published “Collateral Murder,” the infamous video showing a 2007 US army massacre of civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Iraq. Taken together, the exposures had an immense impact on popular consciousness, fortifying and deepening the mass anti-war sentiment first revealed in the huge international protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Significantly, the 2010 releases by WikiLeaks followed the suppression of that movement by upper middle-class pseudo-left groups. They had increasingly dispensed with opposition to imperialist war as they supported the 2008 election of Barack Obama, and aligned with other militarist parties of the ruling elite, such as the Labor Party in Australia. The Afghan logs particularly exposed the claims of innumerable liberal pundits that the occupation of that country was the “good war,” supposedly waged to defeat terrorism, extend democracy and protect women’s rights. This they contrasted with the “failed” operation in Iraq. This dovetailed with the agenda of the new US administration. Obama’s phony anti-war posturing during the 2008 election had been accompanied by plans for a massive surge in Afghanistan.

The mythmaking was facilitated by the suppression of any information about the real situation on the ground by the US, its allies and a pliant corporate media. WikiLeaks lifted the veil on the lies, revealing a neo-colonial occupation aimed at looting natural resources and securing control of the geo-strategically critical Central Asian region. Mass civilian killings, widespread popular opposition and demoralisation within US army ranks all came to the surface, more fully than they had in the nine years since the US invasion. The publication was based on 91,000 US army logs covering the period of January 2004 to December 2009, provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, who had access to the material as a military intelligence analyst.

Indicating the extent of corporate media integration into the military, Manning only turned the material over to WikiLeaks after her attempts to contact the New York Times and the Washington Post were ignored. In releasing the material, WikiLeaks publisher and then editor-in-chief Julian Assange described it as “the most comprehensive history of a war ever to be published, during the course of the war.” Unlike the corporate hacks, who seek to hide their alignment with imperialist war behind a mask of impartiality, Assange was unapologetically partisan. The documents suggested thousands of war crimes, he stated, and their release would serve to shift public opinion. “The most dangerous men are those who are in charge of war. And they need to be stopped,” he said.

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“If Julian is freed and rearrested simultaneously then we will sue for false imprisonment and malicious torture..”

US Seeks To Re-Arrest Julian Assange With New Extradition Request (Sky.au)

Julian Assange’s lawyers have suggested the WikiLeaks founder may soon be re-arrested in London after a new extradition request citing the same 18 offences, according to Sky News host Brent O’Halloran. American authorities are seeking to have Mr Assange, who is currently imprisoned in England, sent to the United States to face trial for charges relating to WikiLeaks publication of troves of confidential information. The WikiLeaks organisation has published a number of classified documents detailing mistreatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees and Democratic national committee emails showing the party was trying to rig the 2016 primaries for Hillary Clinton.


His lawyers, supporters and free press advocates argue Mr Assange is being prosecuted for exposing wrongdoing and the whole case sets a dangerous precedent, Mr O’Halloran said. Mr Assange’s father, John Shipton told Sky News the prison conditions in which his son was being kept were “farcical and dire”. “If Julian is freed and rearrested simultaneously then we will sue for false imprisonment and malicious torture,” he said.

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Wonder what the Spnish judge will conclude, and what will come of it.

Former UC Global Staff Confirm Embassy Surveillance Against Julian Assange (CW)

The Spanish National Court, Audiencia Nacional, this week heard testimony from four former employees of a company that provided security services to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London when it offered sanctuary to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The court in Madrid is investigating whether Undercover Global SL and its owner, David Morales Guillén, secretly recorded meetings between Assange and his visitors during the seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy. One of the victims of the operation is the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. Court documents show that UC Global staff secretly photographed Correa at a meeting at Spain’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas Airport. Correa claims the mobile phones of his family were hacked.

The court is investigating whether UC Global breached the privacy rights of journalists, politicians, diplomats, doctors and celebrities who visited Assange during his stay at the Embassy. Aitor Martínez Jiménez, a member of Assange’s Spanish legal team, said the four UC Global staff had confirmed email evidence already presented to the court that detailed the surveillance operation. “They have confirmed what we had said, that the cameras recorded audios, that they kept the hard drives with the recordings, that when there were sensitive visits, they were asked for the recordings,” said Martínez Jiménez. “And they took the documentation of the people who visited Assange.”

UC Global’s spying operation came to light in April 2019 when the Spanish newspaper El País revealed that the security company that monitored Assange until 2017 had installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphones and compiled reports on hundreds of people who visited Assange during his exile.

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More high class journalism from the Guardian. it’s what we count on from them.

‘Apocalyptic’ Sky Sounds During Lockdown Baffle Experts (G.)

During the months of lockdown, people have heard and recorded strange sounds seemingly emanating from the sky. Some believe these are celestial trumpets heralding the apocalypse; there may be other explanations. The sounds – heard in the US, Mexico, Slovakia, Italy, Brazil and Argentina – do not seem to correspond to angelic heralds. Some resembled aircraft noises when there were no planes flying. A sound in Bratislava was described as “Darth Vader breathing”, while a recording from Colorado was like a shrieking whistle. Another recorded over several evenings at Lake Garda was more of a vibration. No single scientific cause has been suggested, and the wide variety points to multiple causes.


The lack of human noise during lockdown has made people more aware of background meteorological sounds, from wind to distant thunder. Refraction carries sound for long distances over lakes at night, sound previously masked by traffic and other activity. Some cases may be manifestations of the enigmatic “global hum” heard in many places previously but never satisfactorily explained. A snowball effect means that when one person reports a “new” sound, others listen out and notice it too. Many of these may not be new at all. However, any reports of hail mixed with blood and fire, may mean the celestial trumpet theory needs to be revisited.


The seven angels with seven trumpets: detail from the 11th-century Bamberg Apocalypse manuscript. Photograph: The Picture Art Collection/Alamy

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Jul 272020
 


Opening of Golden Gate Bridge May 27 1937

 

$1,200 Stimulus Check, Eviction Moratorium, and Reduced Unemployment Aid (ZH)
Gold Soars To All-Time High As Dollar Dive Boosts Safety Rush (R.)
Lockdown Has Made The Nation Happier – Study (Ind.)
Vietnam Orders Evacuation Of 80,000 People After Three Test Positive (Ind.)
Spain’s COVID19 Death Toll Could Be 60% Higher Than Reported – El Pais (RT)
The $52 Trillion Bubble That Has “Hijacked China’s Economy”
Britain Unveils Plans To Tackle ‘Obesity Time Bomb’ (R.)
Riots Are Driving Portland’s Small Businesses Under (RT)
Biden Campaign Declines ‘Fox News Sunday’ Interview (Fox)
More Willful Blindness By The Media On Spying By Obama Administration (Turley)

 

 

Don’t know why, is it because it’s Monday, or because I worked hard all weekend, but I had a bit of a hard time finding things today that I found interesting. That was mostly made up for when I saw these headlines in Britain’s Independent newspaper: “Lockdown Has Made The Nation Happier” and “Lockdown Took Away My Freedom But Set Me Free Spiritually”. That is genius. Especially when followed by the news that Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people from Danang because three were infected. That’s 80,000 people about to be happier.

Plus more news that the dollar is diving. Nor sure against what. I still think it’s gold that is rising, not the other way around. One look at gold vs euro confirms it. But that’s just me. Then again, sure, there’s tons of people betting against the dollar right now. That doesn’t mean it’s smart bet, though.

 

And as I write this, there’s another Assange circus “trial” happening. Intensely sad.

 

 

Substantial declines in new cases for both the world and the US. I just wish I could be a bit happier about them, but it was only a Sunday yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power, not people. From both sides. Down to the wire it is.

$1,200 Stimulus Check, Eviction Moratorium, and Reduced Unemployment Aid (ZH)

With the Trump Treasury sitting on $1.8 trillion and three months to spend it, the White House and Senate Republicans are set to introduce a $1 trillion spending bill on Monday which would be released in stages – angering Democrats who are pushing for an immediate, $3 trillion shotgun blast of stimulus. Speaking with ABC’s “This Week,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said “I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit, to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools,” adding “we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come.” “The Trump administration opposes an extension of a $600-a-week enhanced unemployment payment that expired this month, Mnuchin and Meadows said.

Instead, White House officials favor a plan to reimburse an individual’s lost wages or salary by up to 70%”, said Mnuchin and Meadows.” -Newsday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) popped a fuse at the GOP proposal, blaming Republicans for waiting too long to negotiate for more relief after House Democrats passed a fifth, $3 trillion relief bill which would have included immediate aid to state and local governments, expanded testing and contact tracing for COVID-19. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Pelosi said that Republicans are “in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America’s families. So we have been ready for two months and 10 days. I’ve been here all weekend hoping they had something to give us.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, says the White House is “prepared to act quickly.” We bet they are.

Mnuchin added that unemployment benefits would be extended, while schools and universities would receive protection against “frivolous” lawsuits – part of overall GOP support for protections that would also include corporations. “Within the trillion-dollar package, there’s certain things that have time frames that are a bigger priority, so we could look at doing an entire deal, we could also look at doing parts,” said Mnuchin, adding that he would push for a “technical fix” to unemployment insurance after many have criticized the $600 weekly benefit as being too high, and a disincentive to searching for a job.

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Oh wait, I covered this yesterday. This morning, gold rises about as much vs the euro as vs the USD. So what is the dollar “diving” against other than gold and silver?

Gold Soars To All-Time High As Dollar Dive Boosts Safety Rush (R.)

Gold surged to record highs on Monday as an intensifying U.S.-China row and a weaker dollar sent investors scurrying to the safety of bullion to hedge against the risks to a global economy already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Spot gold rose 1.6% to $1,931.50 per ounce by 0627 GMT after hitting a record high of $1,943.93. U.S. gold futures gained 1.6% to $1,927.50. Silver too joined the rally, jumping more than 6% to $24.36, its highest since September 2013. Gold is in “perfect condition to move higher,” said ANZ commodity strategist Soni Kumari, amid the virus crisis and central banks pushing for liquidity.


“Further support is also coming from falling yields, weaker dollar and geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China. The safe-haven demand (for gold) has been rising while there is none for USD anymore.” The dollar fell to a near two-year low on increased bets the U.S. Federal Reserve could flag another accommodative policy shift when it meets this week, implying lower interest rates for longer. China seized the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, retaliating to the closure of its own consulate in Houston. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases surged to over 16.13 million globally, driving expectations of more stimulus to stem the economic blow. “As long as the (virus) situation gets worse, the market is discounting more stimulus for a longer period of time and in bigger quantities,” said Edward Meir, analyst at ED&F Man Capital Markets.

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Brilliant. Evokes the image of a guy pointing a gun at your forehead saying: I’m here to make you happy.

The Independent today also runs a story entitled “Lockdown Took Away My Freedom But Set Me Free Spiritually”. Just so you know.

Wonder what this pays.

Lockdown Has Made The Nation Happier – Study (Ind.)

Lockdown helped to restore people’s happiness after national levels fell when the pandemic began, new research suggests. According to a study by Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy, the number of Britons self-reporting as “happy” halved in just three weeks at the start of lockdown. Using data taken from YouGov Weekly Mood Tracker surveys and Google searches, the researchers found that the number of people declaring themselves as “happy” went from 51 per cent just before the UK’s first Covid-19 fatality to 25 per cent by the time lockdown began on 23 March. However, once lockdown restrictions started to be lifted, these figures reversed, with happiness levels increasing back to close to what they were pre-pandemic, reaching 47 per cent by the end of May.


The study also identified a distinction between life satisfaction among social groups, with those in wealthy categories experiencing a decline while the most deprived groups reported a relative rise in life satisfaction. Dr Roberto Foa, from Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies and director of the YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research, commented: “It was the pandemic, not the lockdown, that depressed people’s wellbeing. “Mental health concerns are often cited as a reason to avoid lockdown. “In fact, when combined with employment and income support, lockdown may be the single most effective action a government can take during a pandemic to maintain psychological welfare.”

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And here’s 80,000 more and happier Vietnamese.

Vietnam Orders Evacuation Of 80,000 People After Three Test Positive (Ind.)

Vietnam has ordered the evacuation of 80,000 people from the coastal city of Danang after three residents there tested positive for coronavirus. The government said the evacuation would take four days and involve flights chartered to 11 different Vietnamese cities. Vietnam, which has been praised for its pandemic response after reporting just 400 cases and no deaths, went back on high alert at the weekend as it confirmed its first local infections since April, all in the popular tourism destination of Danang. An aggressive and widespread testing regime plus a strict quarantine had helped the South-East Asian nation almost eradicate Covid-19 within its borders, but the authorities are now grappling with its first internal infections for months. Although foreign tourists are still barred from entering the country, there has been a surge of domestic travel as the Vietnamese take advantage of discounted flights and hotel deals.


Anyone who had recently returned home from a break in Danang would be required to quarantine at home for 14 days, the health ministry has said. In addition, the prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has also ordered police to step up a crackdown on illegal immigration. It is not clear if the new Danang cases are connected to people entering Vietnam secretly but Vietnamese state media said on Sunday police had arrested a Chinese man accused of running a gang which smuggled people into the country from China. On Monday, the government announced more than 1,500 people had been caught illegally crossing the border from China into Ha Giang province in Vietnam since May. Most of those caught were Vietnamese citizens and had been sent into quarantine.

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Probably true in many places.

Spain’s COVID19 Death Toll Could Be 60% Higher Than Reported – El Pais (RT)

Spain’s Covid-19 death toll could be off by 60 percent, according to calculations by the country’s leading newspaper, El Pais, which suggest Spain has the second-highest number of deaths in Europe after the UK. An El Pais investigation published on Sunday found that the official figure of 28,432 deaths is likely far less than the true number of people who have died with the virus. Spain’s official death toll only includes people who had a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis, and not those who were suspected of having it but were never tested. El Pais looked at regional statistics on all suspected and confirmed deaths from the virus and concluded that 44,868 people died with Covid-19.


This figure is close to the number of excess deaths recorded by the National Epidemiology Centre and National Statistics Centre (INE) in June. It found that there were 43,945 more deaths between January and May 2020 than the previous year. The Spanish Association of Professionals and Funeral Services and the Carlos III Health Institute also calculated similar excess mortality figures during this time. If El Pais’ figures are accurate, it would mean that Spain has seen the second most deadly outbreak in Europe after the UK, which has recorded over 45,000 deaths. There was a lack of widespread testing carried at the beginning of the outbreak, which might explain the discrepancy with the official figures. At the end of May, the country lowered its death toll by 2,000 as a result of duplicate records and some regions reporting suspected cases as confirmed cases.

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All our money on one horse.

The $52 Trillion Bubble That Has “Hijacked China’s Economy”

More than three years ago, we explained why “the fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” As we said at the time, “China has always been a serial bubble inflator courtesy of a closed (capital account) economy, and nearly $30 trillion in bank deposits [$40 trillion as of July 2020] which slosh from one asset class to another, be it the stock market, bitcoin, commodities, farm animals or – most often – housing. ” Why is it so important for China to consistently reflate this bubble? The answer is simple: for China’s middle class there is no more important asset than housing: as Deutsche’s Zhiewi Zhang wrote in 2017 when discussing the macro and market consequences of the Chinese bubble, it is nothing more (or less) than “a massive wealth effect.”


Furthermore, unlike the US, which is hyperfinancialized and the bulk of household net worth is in financial assets (less than 30% is in real estate), in China it is the opposite, and roughly three-quarters of all household worth is in real estate. And since a global healthy economy starts with a growing, stable and inflating Chinese economy, unless China’s housing bubble is growing at a steady, measured pace created a “wealth effect” illusion among several hundred million middle-class Chinese, we concluded three years ago that the global economy is just as reliant on China’s housing market as it is on the global – and certainly US – stock market. Fast forward a little over three years, when China’s housing bubble is bigger than ever, and now the WSJ has picked up on what we said three years ago, namely that China’s epic housing market is perhaps the world’s most defining bubble, and more importantly, not even the covid pandemic did anything to threaten the sanctity of this bubble.

First, some context why China’s housing bubble currently eclipses the one in U.S. housing in the 2000s: “At the peak of the U.S. property boom, about $900 billion a year was being invested in residential real estate. In the 12 months ended in June, about $1.4 trillion was invested in Chinese housing. More was invested last month in Chinese real estate than any other month on record.” Some more statistics: “the total value of Chinese homes and developers’ inventory hit $52 trillion in 2019, according to Goldman Sachs, twice the size of the U.S. residential market and outstripping even the entire U.S. bond market.” China’s housing market is certainly bigger than the US stock market, and at its current growth rate will surpass the total value of all global stocks (which is currently about $85 trillion) in just a few years!

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He’ll be forever known as Fat Boris now.

Britain Unveils Plans To Tackle ‘Obesity Time Bomb’ (R.)

Britain unveiled plans to tackle an “obesity time bomb” on Monday, banning TV and online adverts for junk food before 9.00 p.m., ending “buy one get one free” deals on such foods and putting calories on menus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has lost weight since he was in intensive care with COVID-19, wants to tackle obesity after research showed those who are obese or overweight are at increased risk of death or severe illness from the coronavirus. Last month, he said Britain was fatter than most European countries apart from Malta and his government described “tackling the obesity time bomb” as a priority.

Ditching his earlier stance as a non-believer of “nannying” politics, his government is announcing a new drive to help people to “take control of their own future by losing weight, getting active and adopting a healthier lifestyle”. Alongside the ban on adverts before 9.00 p.m. (2000 GMT), on food deals and plans for the calorific content of meals to be displayed on menus, the government will also launch a consultation on displaying calories on alcohol. “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier,” Johnson said in a statement. “If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS (National Health Service).”

With more than 60% of adults in Britain considered overweight or obese, according to Public Health England, the coronavirus crisis has put the obesity issue at the forefront of the government’s thinking, with a “Better Health” campaign being launched alongside the new measures.

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Thought experiment: imagine this happening in a French or German city. How do you think their governments would react?

Riots Are Driving Portland’s Small Businesses Under (RT)

After nearly 60 straight nights of violence, business owners in Portland are sick and tired of riots. But as their stores go under, the coastal media treats the rioters to glowing coverage and city authorities do nothing. Portland is a liberal stronghold, and as ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests fizzle out around the country, anger remains at boiling point in the Oregonian city. The protests there have not been all banner-waving and slogan-chanting affairs though. Instead, droves of ‘Antifa’ types have laid siege to the city’s Justice Center for almost two months, tearing down barricades, lobbing fireworks, setting fires and stabbing each other.

Most of those involved in the riots would probably say they’re fighting police brutality or fascism, or something of the sort, but besides those injured in that fight there are other victims of the unrest – local business owners have repeatedly complained about the riots to the local media. In articles published every few days, these store owners, barmen and restaurateurs describe how the riots have driven them to the brink of bankruptcy. One clothing store manager told Oregon Live on Saturday that within days of coronavirus restrictions being lifted, he reopened his family’s store, only to watch rioters trash the premises in late May, days after the killing of George Floyd kicked off the season of unrest.

[..] While local news tells tales of shuttered stores and bankrupt businesses, national media outlets describe the violence in Portland as a good v evil showdown between protesters and federal “stormtroopers.” As store owners told their stories to local media, the New York Times ran an article last week celebrating the “diverse elements” taking part in the protests. The “mothers in helmets,” and “anti-fascist activists” are “largely peaceful,” the paper wrote, describing how they have been “galvanized” by the “militarized” feds on the streets. The Washington Post was even more effusive in its praise, describing the feds’ use of tear gas as a “chemical weapon,” and honoring the moms, dads, teachers and healthcare workers who refuse to disperse and willingly stride into the choking fumes. The motives of the protesters – beyond vague demands for “racial justice” – are never explained, but the Post painted a truly heroic image of one man using a leaf blower to fire gas back at the agents.

Read more …

For now, the basement is winning. So why change?

Biden Campaign Declines ‘Fox News Sunday’ Interview (Fox)

During his interview with Chris Wallace last week, President Trump questioned whether the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, could handle the barrage of questioning that Wallace posed to Trump. The answer to that question – at least for now – we may never know. Wallace on Sunday informed viewers that the Biden campaign told Fox News he was “not available” for an interview. “In our interview last week with President Trump, he questioned whether his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, could handle a similar encounter,” Wallace said. “This week, we asked the Biden campaign for an interview and they said the former vice president was not available.” He added, “We’ll keep asking every week.”


The Trump campaign has hit Biden for months for abstaining from holding rallies and news conferences while continuing to do interviews amid the coronavirus pandemic. While Biden recently has returned to the stump, Trump and his allies continued to mock the former vice president for “hiding” in his home in Delaware. Biden’s reticence to do public events, however, has done little to hurt his candidacy as the latest polls had Biden comfortably ahead of Trump both nationally and in key battleground states.

Read more …

Wondering how the MSM will cover future indictments, subpoenas etc. Those will come.

More Willful Blindness By The Media On Spying By Obama Administration (Turley)

The Washington press corps seems engaged in a collective demonstration of the legal concept of willful blindness, or deliberately ignoring the facts, following the release of yet another declassified document which directly refutes prior statements about the investigation into Russia collusion. The document shows that FBI officials used a national security briefing of then candidate Donald Trump and his top aides to gather possible evidence for Crossfire Hurricane, its code name for the Russia investigation. It is astonishing that the media refuses to see what is one of the biggest stories in decades. The Obama administration targeted the campaign of the opposing party based on false evidence.

The media covered Obama administration officials ridiculing the suggestions of spying on the Trump campaign and of improper conduct with the Russia investigation. When Attorney General William Barr told the Senate last year that he believed spying did occur, he was lambasted in the media, including by James Comey and others involved in that investigation. The mocking “wow” response of the fired FBI director received extensive coverage. The new document shows that, in summer 2016, FBI agent Joe Pientka briefed Trump campaign advisers Michael Flynn and Chris Christie over national security issues, standard practice ahead of the election. It had a discussion of Russian interference. But this was different.

The document detailing the questions asked by Trump and his aides and their reactions was filed several days after that meeting under Crossfire Hurricane and Crossfire Razor, the FBI investigation of Flynn. The two FBI officials listed who approved the report are Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok. Clinesmith is the former FBI lawyer responsible for the FISA surveillance conducted on members of the Trump campaign. He opposed Trump and sent an email after the election declaring “viva the resistance.” He is now under review for possible criminal charges for altering a FISA court filing. The FBI used Trump adviser Carter Page as the basis for the original FISA application, due to his contacts with Russians. After that surveillance was approved, however, federal officials discredited the collusion allegations and noted that Page was a CIA asset. Clinesmith had allegedly changed the information to state that Page was not working for the CIA.

Strzok is the FBI agent whose violation of FBI rules led Justice Department officials to refer him for possible criminal charges. Strzok did not hide his intense loathing of Trump and famously referenced an “insurance policy” if Trump were to win the election. After FBI officials concluded there was no evidence of any crime by Flynn at the end of 2016, Strzok prevented the closing of the investigation as FBI officials searched for any crime that might be used to charge the incoming national security adviser. Documents show Comey briefed President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on the investigation shortly before the inauguration of Trump.

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 152020
 


Gustave Dore Dante before the wall of flames which burn the lustful 1868

 

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)
Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)
Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)
US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)
UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)
Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)
Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)
Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)
Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)
Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)
Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)
To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)
Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

 

 

Good thing I’m not into astrology:

• Trump’s birthday: June 14 (a.k.a Obama Day)

• Xi Jinping’s birthday: June 15

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 123,645.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 121,464 cases.

But the graph says cases always come down in the weekend, and I’m early today.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,004
• Brazil + 17,086
• Russia + 8,246
• India + 13,722
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 6,938

 

 

Cases 8,017,241 (+ 121,464 from yesterday’s 7,895,777)

Deaths 436,124(+ 3,242 from yesterday’s 432,882)

 

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Taleb goes into much more detail in the article, please read. The inane “doubts” about mask efficacy cost lives. Wear a Mask in Public!

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS:

1) missing the compounding effects of masks,

2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures,

3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing),

4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own,

5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals,

6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions. [..] Note that by infecting another person you are not infecting just another person. You are infecting many many more and causing systemic risk.
Wear a mask. For the Sake of Others.

Read more …

This won’t sink in for a long time yet.

Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)

Twenty-year-old William Lovely used to work at Jason’s Deli in Virginia Beach, delivering catering orders to surrounding businesses. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, he’s struggling to pay his bills. Laid off in March, he’s gone from regular hours and pay to gigging for UberEats or Instacart, earning up to $100 on some days but often coming home with almost nothing. While the restaurant is trying to slowly reopen, Lovely reckons the best he can hope for is a part-time position, requiring him to keep his second job if he’s going to meet his expenses. “My job stopped, but the bills don’t,” he said. Lovely’s experience goes to the heart of the dilemma facing the world economy as it gradually emerges from the virus-enforced lockdown and unprecedented recession: How many of the millions of lost jobs are gone for good?

The hope is the waves of stimulus doled out by governments and central banks should eventually buoy economies and spark a revival in hiring. Furloughed or redundant workers would then return to their employers. The risk though is that the pandemic is inflicting a “reallocation shock” in which firms and even entire sectors suffer lasting damage. Lost jobs don’t come back and unemployment stays elevated. That would force workers to retrain or relocate, both of which are hard, and governments to do more than just try to spend their way out of trouble. It was a theme hit upon last week by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as U.S. central bankers forecast leaving interest rates near zero until 2022 in part because of a surge in unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression.


There will be “well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” said Powell, who will testify to Congress on the economic outlook this week. “In fact, there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.” Unfortunately, new research by Bloomberg Economics reckons 30% of U.S. job losses from February to May are the result of a reallocation shock. The analysis — based on the relationship between hiring, firing, openings and unemployment — suggests the labor market will initially recover swiftly, but then level off with millions still unemployed.

Read more …

The louder you say that the bigger the next bank bailout is going to be.

Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)

“We’re not even thinking about thinking of raising rates,” declared America’s Fed Chairman, all but eliminating uncertainty about the Fed policy path through 2022. The S&P 500 had completed a historic recovery from the pandemic lows to trade higher on the year, its price utterly disconnected from today’s economic devastation. But markets never discount today, they discount tomorrow. And no sooner had they taken a little peek at what prices looked like back on January 1st then they began to plunge. Some blamed signs of a viral resurgence, though that had swirled for days. Others blamed Millennials whose day-trading resembles the dot.com mania. And a few blamed General Milley, America’s top-ranking general, who apologized for joining the President on his ill-fated march to St. John’s Church.

You see, the generals have turned their backs on Trump over his response to demonstrators. The NFL has too; its commissioner apologized for having opposed taking a knee. Even NASCAR banned the Confederate Flag. And as Trump’s re-election prospects tanked, expectations for a dramatic restructuring of America’s economy soared. Efforts to rebalance the division of profits between capital and labor is demanded by a riotous Main Street. But this terrifies Wall Street, which has worked for years with Republicans, Democrats, CEOs and the Fed to extract an ever-increasing share of national prosperity for those who control capital.

This imbalance is central to today’s tumult. “If we held back because we think asset prices are too high – what would happen to those people who we are legally supposed to be serving?” asked Powell rhetorically, unsuccessfully defending himself from a rising chorus of critics who see the Federal Reserve as amplifying inequality. For decades, the central bank accommodated the financialization of the world’s largest economy. Now that the process is largely complete, even a modest market wobble threatens to devastate the real economy. And Powell is now helpless, caught in a trap of the Fed’s making.

Read more …

The Forbes headline says: “Trump DOL Throws…”, but the watering down of asset quality started a long time ago (Greenspan?!). We can pretend that stocks represent real value, but if that were true the Fed would get out of the way in a split second. As I always say: Remember AAA?

US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)

Trump U. S. Department of Labor watchdogs just opened the door for private equity wolves to sell the highest cost, highest risk, most secretive investments ever devised by Wall Street to 401k plan sponsors. 401k investors will be devoured like lambs to the slaughter. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor opened the door for plan sponsors to add private equity funds to their 401(k) plans. That’s a huge win for the private equity industry since 401ks hold nearly $9 trillion in assets and a monstrous setback to American workers who invest in 401ks for retirement security.

After over three decades of egregious retail price gouging by mutual fund companies—as to which the DOL turned a blind eye—401k costs have in recent years been trending downward thanks primarily to widespread excessive-fee private class action litigation. Now, if private equity is embraced, 401k costs will skyrocket, risk will dramatically increase and transparency will plummet. Bad enough that DOL—the federal agency which is supposed to protect employer-sponsored retirement benefit plans—welcomed the wolves of Wall Street to feast on workers’ hard-earned savings, but the explanation the agency provided for its reckless action is perverse.

Ramping up the fees and risks to 401k savers will “overcome the effects the coronavirus had had on our economy” and “level the playing field for ordinary investors” by allowing workers to gamble their limited retirement savings like millionaires who can afford to lose lots. [..] Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s most respected investor, recently escalated his criticism of private equity firms. At last year’s Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B annual meeting Buffett stated, “We have seen a number of proposals from private equity firms where the returns are not calculated in a manner that I would regard as honest… If I were running a pension fund, I would be very careful about what was being offered to me.”

Read more …

Until he has a substantial part of the population on these schemes, and a UBI would likely be both cheaper and more efficient. But UBI is a blasphemy.

UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)

British finance minister Rishi Sunak must extend the government’s already huge coronavirus income support measures to include over 1 million more workers who have missed out, lawmakers said on Monday. People who started jobs after a cut-off date in March for the state’s wage subsidy scheme or who set up a company in the last year should not be excluded, the lawmakers from parliament’s influential Treasury Committee said.Self-employed people who earn more than a threshold set by the government, freelancers in industries such as theatre and television and directors of companies who pay themselves in dividends should also be covered, they said. Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said Sunak had acted quickly to slow an expected surge in unemployment as the crisis escalated in March.


“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps,” he said. Sunak has recognised that some people are not protected by his support plans but has shown no sign of expanding them again. Nearly 9 million jobs are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays temporarily laid-off workers 80% of their salary, capped at 2,500 pounds a month. A separate scheme for self-employed people has received 2.6 million claims. Britain’s budget forecasters have estimated that the two programmes will cost nearly 70 billion pounds ($88 billion) this year, more than the entire government borrowing in the last financial year.

Read more …

This has birthday boy Xi really scared. 11 neigborhoods in Beijing have been shut down.

Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)

Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan has prescribed “firm and decisive measures” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Beijing, which reported another 36 new cases in a single day following an outbreak at a food market in the capital. Sun, who has been overseeing China’s Covid-19 control measures since January, told a meeting of the State Council late on Sunday that the risk of the latest outbreak spreading was “very high” because of the market’s large, densely packed and highly mobile population, according to state news agency Xinhua. The new cases bring the number of people affected in the capital by the latest outbreak to 79 – all of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution centre in southern Beijing which occupies 107 hectares and supplies food to northern provinces like Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning.


[..] Residential areas near Xinfadi market are once again under strict lockdown, with controlled access pending centralised testing for Covid-19. Beijing Health Commission spokesman Xia Xiaojun said 76,499 samples had been tested on Sunday, with 59 positive. Xia said some of those cases had already been included in the count of confirmed infections, while others were still waiting for diagnosis.

Read more …

Close to 100 new cases.

Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)

On a day when more than 20 US states are seeing a pick-up in cases, Tokyo reported a jump over the weekend and a fresh outbreak in Beijing prompted officials to close a market there, futures are tumbling, with Eminis down more than 40 points to 2,980 the lowest level since the start of June.The drop follows renewed fears of a second coronavirus wave which massacred shares on Thursday before a modest rebound Friday. But the trigger for tonight’s drop appears to have come out of China, which reported 49 new cases of COVID19 in China on June 14, including 10 imported cases and 39 local cases.

36 local cases were diagnosed in Beijing and 3 in Hebei province, according to the National Health Commission, with China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan spooking traders saying that the risks are high for Beijing’s coronavirus resurgence to spread as all cases are related to Xinfadi wholesale market where a large population has visited, according to Xinhua. As reported yesterday, Beijing shut a major food market and imposed lockdown restrictions on residential areas nearby after dozens of people associated with the wholesale market were tested positive for coronavirus.

Additionally, the Global Times reported that 17 out of 19 new imported coronavirus cases registered on Saturday came from South Asia, Chinese health authorities said Sunday, a sharp spike which analysts said indicates that loosening restrictions and worsening contagion in the region poses a danger to the country’s domestic situation. The 17 patients were reported in South China’s Guangdong Province, with 14 flying from Bangladesh and three from India. The 14 patients and the three asymptomatic carriers arrived in Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines flight CZ392 from Dhaka to Guangzhou on Thursday, which prompted the Chinese aviation regulator to suspend the route for four weeks from June 22 in accordance with the latest policy.

Read more …

Here’s a doctor who claims a second wave has started in the US. But I don’t see it. What did happen was that peaks were not simultaneous all over the country, and the first ones were in some of the most populous areas (Northeast).

It’s really just been a shift from Northeast to South and West, though, and I see no overall second wave appearing yet. If and when it does, it will likely also be different in different regions of the country. Note: there is kind of a second wave in Houston.

 

 

 

 

Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)

A second wave of coronavirus has started in the U.S. — and people need to remain careful or risk stressing out the health-care system again, said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The second wave has begun,” said the professor of medicine told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “We’re opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks.” Even so, he said he “cannot imagine” a second shutdown due to the impact of the first one. Several states in America have reported recent spikes in Covid-19 cases as measures are eased throughout the country. The U.S. has the highest number of cases in the world. Nearly 2.1 million people have been infected by the disease and more than 115,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Schaffner added that mass gatherings and religious services are also being held. “Many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree,” he said. “That, of course, will lead to more spread of the Covid virus.” Despite signs of a second wave, Schaffner said the option of another lockdown is “off the table.” Instead, governments, businesses and religious leaders have to work together to promote mask wearing and social distancing in order to flatten the curve. He said wearing masks is “very, very important” and authorities should “persuade and educate” their residents to make this a “social norm.” “If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” said Schaffner.

“If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system,” he warned. “The complete shutdown was such a financial disaster, and had so many social and cultural implications that I cannot imagine we’ll have a shutdown again,” he said. Other countries, however, have not shied away from reimposing measures when new clusters are detected in the community. In May, South Korea shut all night clubs and bars in Seoul after a new cluster surfaced there. Last week, Beijing reportedly banned tourism and locked down 11 neighborhoods in response to infections related to a wholesale market.

Read more …

If things go well, I should be back in Athens soon. The sentiment here is probably more or less the same as in many other countries.

Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)

Greeks are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, while also skeptical about the causes and repercussions of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Pulse for Kathimerini. Eighty-four percent say that Covid-19 is “definitely” or “perhaps” a serious risk to public health. The risk appears greater among older age groups and educated individuals. Meanwhile, 76 percent say that the health measures, which damaged the economy, were “definitely” or “maybe” necessary. More specifically, the measures were deemed as necessary by 90 percent of New Democracy voters and 62 percent of SYRIZA voters. Concern is widespread. Thirty-two percent are more worried about their financial situation and 23 percent about their health, while 42 percent said that both issues have them “equally concerned.”

Most people say they are against a fresh lockdown in the case of a second wave in the autumn. The restrictions on public movement appear to have taken an economic and psychological toll. As a result, only 21 percent favor a repeat of the “horizontal restrictions.” Meanwhile, 65 percent favor restrictions only in places where a spike in cases is recorded while 10 percent say that the state “must only give recommendations” to citizens. The survey shows that people with lower education and income levels are more likely to question official theories about the origin of the virus. It appears that lower income individuals (usually people with limited educational opportunities) tend to associate Covid-19 with formal structures which they hold responsible for their condition.


More specifically, 33 percent believe that the virus is being used to “intimidate” the public, an equal share say it is being used to enforce compulsory vaccination, while 35 percent say that the virus is used as an excuse to compromise citizens’ personal data. However, Greeks appear relatively immune to the 5G coronavirus conspiracy, as only 10 percent believe there is any connection between the spread of Covid-19 and mobile phone technology. A key reason perhaps is that 5G technology is still not available in Greece. [..] More than half (52 percent) said Covid-19 was created by humans. Of these, 30 percent claim that the virus was created by humans with a specific purpose in mind (like an experiment on population control), while 22 percent say that the virus was created by mistake (like an accident in a lab). Eleven percent said they did not know where the virus might have come from.

Read more …

1) Does Macron -also- mean independence from the EU?
2) The French are not averse to a bit of nationalism, and Macron like many other leaders can and does use the idea that the virus came from abroad to play into it
3) Of course countries should cut their dependence on others when it comes to essential goods, but the EU wants the opposite
4) If there’s one police force that needs reform, it’s the French

Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was accelerating France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown and that the crisis had laid bare the country’s need for greater economic independence. In a televised address to the nation, Macron promised that the 500 billion euro cost of keeping companies afloat and people in jobs during the worst downturn since World War Two would not be passed to households through higher taxes. Restaurants and cafes in Paris will be allowed to reopen fully from Monday, he said, the same day France lifts restrictions at its borders for European Union travellers, bringing sorely needed relief for the hospitality industry.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the “flaws and fragility” of France’s, and more broadly Europe’s, over-reliance on global supply chains, from the car industry to smart phones and pharmaceuticals. “The only answer is to build a new, stronger economic model, to work and produce more, so as not to rely on others,” Macron said. The coronavirus has killed more than 29,300 people in France and forced Macron, a former investment banker, to suspend his economic and social reform drive aimed at spurring growth, creating jobs and deregulating the economy. The government expects the economy to shrink by 11% in 2020. Macron said he would lay out a detailed blueprint for the final two years of his mandate in July.

[..] The global outpouring of anger has forced France to confront allegations from ethnic minorities and rights groups of racism and brutality within France’s own law enforcement agencies. Macron said skin colour too often reduced a person’s opportunities in France, promising to be unflinching against all discrimination. But he expressed support for French police and said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of the history of France, whose empire once stretched from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and included much of north and west Africa. “I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: the Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” Macron said.

Read more …

The US can only play catch-up, and even that it’s not good at.

Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)

The thing about hypersonic missiles is they are supposed to be impossible to defend against. Since Russia began touting its experimental arsenal two years ago, the prospect of devastating weapons capable of traveling at Mach 5, or at least a mile per second, has kept Pentagon generals up at night. “The hypersonic threat is real, it is not imagination,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told a D.C. defense conference in 2018. “Greaves comments come amid reports that assess Russia will be capable of fielding a hypersonic glide vehicle, a weapon that no country can defend against, by 2020,” a report at the time underscored alarmingly.

The “indefensible” super weapon… but Russian President Vladimir Putin now says the Kremlin will soon have the technology to defend against it — this as more and more information has been slowly revealed concerning the US Department of Defense’s own multi-billion dollar hypersonics program. Putin made the new comments Sunday: “It’s very likely that we will have means to combat hypersonic weapons by the time the world’s leading countries have such weapons,” he said according to the RIA news agency. Russian state media further said Putin referenced an emerging hypersonins ‘arms race’. The Russian president said that Russia’s rivals will soon be “surprised” when they learn the Russian armed forces will be able to “combat them”.

Putin’s words, as conveyed by RT, were paraphrased as follows: Other nations are hastily designing their own hypersonic weapons – but by the time they are acquired, the Russian military will have learned how to shield the country from them, President Vladimir Putin said. The world’s leading military powers will eventually succeed in developing the ultra-fast weapons, President Vladimir Putin told Russia-1 TV. Russia, meanwhile, which seems to be leading the race for hypersonic dominance, won’t be caught off-guard once that happens, he pledged. I think that we can pleasantly surprise our partners with the fact that when they get these weapons, we will have the means of combating them, with a high degree of probability.

Read more …

Balance.

To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)

To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism) In parts of the United States and the bottomless pit of the internet, today, June 14, is considered “Barack Obama Day.” On social media, the hashtag #ObamaDayJune14th is going viral. So I thought I would commemorate this day by listing some of the former Democratic president’s many accomplishments.

As his supporters are so keen to point out, Obama had no major scandals, you see, except for:
• wearing that tan suit one time
• deporting more people than any other president, 2.7 million, earning the ignominious title “deporter in chief”
• dropping 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim-majority countries in his last year in office alone
• overseeing a genocidal war in Yemen that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed the largest humanitarian catastrophe on Earth
• supporting al-Qaeda in Syria, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to hardened Salafi-jihadist fanatics to try to destroy the country, and fueling the rise of ISIS
• arming al-Qaeda in Yemen as well
• destroying Libya, once the most prosperous country in Africa, leaving behind a failed state with open-air slave markets
• giving the Israeli apartheid regime $38 billion in unconditional military aid and arming it as it bombed civilians in Gaza (in three separate, barbaric wars: 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014)
• creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a neoliberal “free trade” monstrosity that would have ensured even more dystopian corporate tyranny over the global political and economic system

Oh yeah, and here are some more unforgettable classics from Obama:
• sponsoring the military coup in Honduras, overthrowing its democratically elected left-leaning government and installing a far-right narco-dictatorship led by a neoliberal autocrat whose drug lord brother smuggled thousands of tons of cocaine and machine guns
• managing Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, in which the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent thousands of guns to murderous drug cartels in Mexico
• backing the parliamentary coup in Brazil, removing the democratically elected Workers’ Party government and paving the way for the fascist Bolsonaro regime
• supporting a soft coup against the democratically elected government in Paraguay
• overseeing a violent coup against Ukraine’s Russia-leaning elected government with the “Euromaidan” movement, in which neo-Nazis and other fascists played a significant role
• subsequently arming the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine
• prolonging the military occupation of Afghanistan, after promising dozens of times he would end the war by 2014
• maintaining a daily “kill list” (known euphemistically as the “disposition matrix”) in which the US president personally approved extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of people, via a covert drone warfare program spanning multiple continents, regularly bombing countries including, but not limited to, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq

Read more …

The US totally ignores the video that’s central to the entire story, and the Guardian ignores teh fact that it’s published 1,000 Assange smear pieces. What a wonderful world.

Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

US prosecutors have failed to include one of WikiLeaks’ most shocking video revelations in the indictment against Julian Assange, a move that has brought accusations the US doesn’t want its “war crimes” exposed in public. Assange, an Australian citizen, is remanded and in ill health in London’s Belmarsh prison while the US tries to extradite him to face 18 charges – 17 under its Espionage Act – for conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified information. The charges relate largely to the US conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Assange’s publication of the US rules of engagement in Iraq. The prosecution case alleges Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents.

One of the most famous of the WikiLeaks releases was a video – filmed from a US Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, as it mowed down 11 people on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. The video starkly highlights the lax rules of engagement that allowed the killing of men who were neither engaged with nor threatening US forces. Two of those Crazy Horse 1-8 killed in east Baghdad that day were the Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a driver/fixer, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Their Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said the US military had repeatedly lied to him – and the world – about what happened, and it was only when Assange released the video (which WikiLeaks posted with the title Collateral Murder) in April 2010 that the full brutal truth of the killings was exposed.

“What he did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military – they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said.

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May 272020
 


G. G. Bain Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe De Luca, New York 1920

 

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)
WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)
Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)
Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .
Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)
China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)
Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)
Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)
How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)
Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)
Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)
Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)
Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)
The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,582
• Brazil + 17,838
• Russia + 8,915
• UK 4,938
• India + 6,604
• Peru + 5,772

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back to “normal” numbers: about 100,000 new cases and 4,500 new deaths.

Cases 5,709,518 (+ 99,864 from yesterday’s 5,609,654)

Deaths 352,750 (+ 4,428 from yesterday’s 348,322)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: see bottom 2: Pakistan passed Belgium in cases, but has 5 deaths per million pop. vs Belgium’s 806.

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)

Desperation for the limited supply of remdesivir is so great that Virginia will hold a lottery to determine which of the almost 1,500 severely ill patients in the state will be able to get its several hundred donated doses of the drug. In Minnesota, state officials have come up with an action plan to allocate their supply of the Covid-19 treatment, which calls for designating “triage officers” who will randomly choose among equally eligible patients. And in Alabama, physicians on a coronavirus task force set up by the governor will determine which patients get remdesivir. Some hospitals there will receive just a single course of treatment. Still, Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, recently offered his thanks to Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, which donated some 940,000 vials of the drug to the federal government that are being distributed by state health departments.

“Although the total supply of remdesivir is limited, we are grateful that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe disease in Alabama can receive this potentially lifesaving medication,” said Harris. It is amid these feelings of scarcity and indebtedness that Gilead is setting the price for its antiviral medicine. The company, which has already arranged for distribution of remdesivir in 127 countries, is expected to begin selling it commercially as soon as June. And while a 10-day course of the drug, which was developed as a potential Ebola treatment with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding, costs only about $10 to produce, according to an estimate by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, its market price is expected to be several hundred times that amount.

Still, price gouging isn’t what has many scientists upset about remdesivir. It’s the fact that the coronavirus drug that has boosted hopes and sent Gilead’s stock price (and according to some analysts, the entire stock market) soaring doesn’t seem to do much for coronavirus patients. said William Haseltine, a scientist who has spent decades studying viruses and helped lead the U.S. government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It is comparable to Tamiflu and maybe not even as good,” Haseltine added, referring to another antiviral drug that has been available by prescription for 20 years and is expected to be sold over the counter in the coming months.

Haseltine, who founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, pointed out that Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the only available information on how the drug affects the amount of the coronavirus in patients, a Chinese study of the drug published in The Lancet, showed that the drug did not lower the viral load. “That’s why I call it the fuzzy-wuzzy drug,” said Haseltine. “When the Chinese tried to find the antiviral effect, it wasn’t there.” Instead, the excitement about remdesivir is based largely on a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that showed people taking the drug had a faster recovery than those who didn’t take it: 11 days on average compared to 15 for those taking a placebo.

An article published on May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed mild improvement in hospitalized patients that took remdesivir, though the drug didn’t appear to be of any help to the sickest patients, who needed to receive high-flow oxygen through ventilators or other means. Nor did the drug significantly improve a patient’s chance of surviving Covid-19. Nevertheless, at an April 29 Oval Office press conference with President Donald Trump, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that preliminary results from that trial proved that “a drug can block this virus.” Since then, remdesivir has been positioned as our savior and Gilead as its benevolent dispenser.

While some patients and their families have spent the past few weeks frantically trying to procure remdesivir, another Covid-19 treatment has been quietly been shown to be more effective. Although neither option appears to be the much-needed cure for Covid-19, a three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it. Critically, the treatment has another leg up on Gilead’s: It clearly reduced the amount of the coronavirus in patients who took it, according to a study published in The Lancet on May 8.

Yet so far there has been no stampede of patients demanding the new regimen or lotteries to mete out the doses, which may be due at least in part to the fact that the treatment hasn’t been the subject of a major marketing campaign. It’s worth noting that each of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.

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We’d want to see all the other research from the past 65 years as well, please.

WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday promised a swift review of data on hydroxychloroquine, probably by mid-June, after safety concerns prompted the group to suspend the malaria drug’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, but the WHO on Monday called time after the British journal The Lancet reported patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed,” the body said. “It is expected by mid-June.”


Those already in a 17-country study, called Solidarity, of thousands of patients who have started hydroxychloroquine can finish their treatment, the WHO said. Newly enrolled patients will get other treatments being evaluated, including Gilead Science’s remdesivir and AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia. Separate hydroxychloroquine trials, including a 440-patient U.S. study by Swiss drugmaker Novartis, are continuing enrollment. Novartis and rival Sanofi have pledged donations of tens of millions of doses of the drug, also used in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, for COVID-19. Novartis said The Lancet study, while covering 100,000 people, was “observational” and could not demonstrate a causal link between hydroxychloroquine and side effects. “We need randomised, controlled clinical trials to clearly understand efficacy and safety,” a Novartis spokesman said.

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You can’t do accurate testing for antibodies if too small a segment of a population is infected.

Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance. “In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said.

[..] The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said. “Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

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While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines. The state attributed the increase to a backlog of test results and more testing. Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 fell 0.8% for the week ended May 24, compared with a decline of 8% in the prior week.


All 50 states have now at least partially reopened, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks. The increase in cases could also be due to more testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions. As of May 24, 15 states had met that criteria, up from 13 in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis. Washington state, where the U.S. outbreak started, has the longest streak with cases falling for eight weeks in a row, followed by Hawaii at seven weeks and Pennsylvania and New York at six weeks.

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Viruses don’t use strategies. That’s just another absurdity provoked by all the war comparisons. How can you be at war with something that’s not even considered alive? You might as well declare war on a rock or a mountain, or the sky, the ocean.

The vast majority of people alive in the west today have no first hand experience of war, and neither do the politicians who speak to them in terms of war. What makes them feel comfortable with the language, then? Is it Hollywood?

Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus uses the same strategy to evade attack from the human immune system as HIV, according to a new study by Chinese scientists. Both viruses remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used by the immune system to identify invaders, the researchers said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv.org on Sunday. They warned that this commonality could mean Sars-CoV-2, the clinical name for the virus, could be around for some time, like HIV. Virologist Zhang Hui and a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also said their discovery added weight to clinical observations that the coronavirus was showing “some characteristics of viruses causing chronic infection”.


Their research involved collecting killer T cells from five patients who had recently recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those immune cells are generated by people after they are infected with Sars-CoV-2 – their job is to find and destroy the virus. But the killer T cells used in the study were not effective at eliminating the virus in infected cells. When the scientists took a closer look they found that a molecule known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, was missing. The molecule is an identification tag usually present in the membrane of a healthy cell, or in sick cells infected by other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars. It changes with infections, alerting the immune system whether a cell is healthy or infected by a virus.

Coronavirus spread would dramatically drop if 80% of a population wore masks – AI researcher

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Zhong Nanshan again, who said in late January that the epidemic in Wuhan would be over in 10 days. That was spoken as a Beijing mouthpiece, and that’s what he still is.

China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the scientist leading the fight against the disease in China, with the respiratory disease expert attributing the magnitude of American fatalities to a failure by policymakers to heed scientists’ advice. More than 1.66 million Covid-19 infections have been reported in the US, with 98,226 people dying from the disease – the highest number of deaths for any country. In all, 5.49 million people have been infected globally and more than 340,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Seventeen years ago, the Sars epidemic was handled so well in the US, completely differently from the situation now,” said Zhong Nanshan, director of the National Clinical Research Centre for Respiratory Disease and the leader of a team of scientists advising the government.

“You can say that [the US] carried out very extensive screening or more screening than other countries … But the heavy casualties still shocked me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Zhong said his counterparts in the US told him that the American system was ill-prepared for the epidemic, despite the country’s high level of medical care, equipment and facilities. He said this was similar to the early response in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the outbreak was first identified – when many medical personnel were infected and died. But the main problem in the US was the failure to listen to medical experts, he said. As a result, US President Donald Trump “underestimated the disease’s infectious power as well as its harmful nature. He thought it was a big flu.

US officials also did not listen to medical experts’ views concerning the reopening of the economy, he said. “Opening the economy quickly can be risky. I think they should follow the rules of science and reopen the economy step by step,” Zhong said. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned against businesses reopening too soon because of the threat of a second wave of infections. Fauci, who is the government’s top medical specialist, has said repeatedly that “the virus will decide when the country is to open back up”.

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Do explain, Justin. Tell us how you do not see elderly people as disposable. See, there’s no way you never saw a single complaint before the virus came.

Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)

Canadian troops deployed to long-term care homes overwhelmed by coronavirus outbreaks found neglected and malnourished residents, rotten food and insect infestations, and a blatant disregard for critical safety protocol, according to a bombshell report from the country’s armed forces. Military medics were dispatched to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in late April, with aim of blunting Covid-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations. Soldiers deployed to five of Ontario’s worst-hit care homes encountered rotten food, cockroaches and residents in soiled diapers, according to the report published on Tuesday. At one facility, residents had not been bathed in weeks. At another, staff made “derogatory or inappropriate comments directed at residents’”.

Neglect of resident hygiene and health, often leading to infection, was documented at all facilities. At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours,” the report said. [..] Long-term care homes in Canada, many of which are privately run, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with residents making up nearly eight out of 10 Covid-19-related deaths across the country. The damage has been felt most acutely in Ontario and Quebec, which have the vast majority of the country’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. An estimated 225 people died at the five homes where the military was assisting in Ontario.

The report chronicled widespread “burnout” among staff, a number of whom hadn’t seen family in weeks. The military also found numerous examples of staff showing little knowledge of how to properly wear personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus cases. [..] Meanwhile, the Canadian military said today that some 36 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have become sick with Covid-19.

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Peak America.

Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)

In 2018, hospitals, nursing homes, and their lobbyists gave $2.3 million to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s political apparatus. Now health care executives are getting immunity for their deadly negligence during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies. New York has become one of the globe’s major pandemic hot spots — and the epicenter of the state’s outbreak has been nursing homes, where more than five thousand New Yorkers have died, according to Associated Press data.

Those deaths have occurred as Cuomo’s critics say he has taken a hands-off approach to regulating the health care industry interests that helped bankroll his election campaign. In March, Cuomo’s administration issued an order that allowed nursing homes to readmit sick patients without testing them for COVID-19. Amid allegations of undercounted casualties, the governor also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes. And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.

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You think we’ll listen now, listen more, listen better? I predict yes, we will. For two whole weeks.

How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)

Coronavirus has ravaged care homes across Europe and America, killing tens of thousands, but in Hong Kong, not a single resident in care has even contracted Covid-19. Its apparent success offers vital lessons – ones that the city learned the hard way almost two decades ago. In Sweden and Belgium, care home residents make up roughly half of each country’s Covid-19 deaths. In Spain alone, almost 18,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus, El País estimates. And in England and Wales, more than 90 per cent of those who have died from the coronavirus have been people over the age of 65, including 12,500 care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No one would have been surprised if Hong Kong suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic. It shares a border with mainland China, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most of the city’s tourists come from the mainland, accounting for tens of millions of visitors every year. In early February, Hong Kong had its first death from coronavirus – only the second death outside of mainland China. But to this day, there have been only four Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million. This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced a novel coronavirus. In 2003, six years after the former British colony was handed back to China, it became the epicentre of the SARS outbreak: 299 people died, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global death toll. The disease had first appeared the year before in Guangdong, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong.

As is the case with Covid-19, the elderly were the most susceptible to SARS, and similar to the UK, about a fifth of Hong Kong’s population is over the age of 65. By the epidemic’s end, 54 nursing homes had had cases of SARS. Two nursing home workers died. It was not a trauma the industry would quickly forget. “The nightmare of SARS is still on everyone’s minds, so [care homes] were really afraid,” Prof Terry Lum, the head of the department of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, told The Independent. “We had learned a very painful lesson,” he continued, “and since then the nursing homes had been preparing for another outbreak.” Seventeen years after SARS, Hong Kong’s nursing homes were taking no chances.

On 21 January, an infected tourist from Wuhan crossed the border into Hong Kong, becoming the city’s first case. Four days later, the government announced that it would be enacting the emergency phase of its infectious disease protocol. Because of Hong Kong’s collective memory of SARS, individuals, organisations and businesses did not need to wait for instructions from the government. Nursing homes enacted their own measures, Prof Lum recounted. They began limiting the length of workers’ leaves, in order to prevent them from taking weekend trips to mainland China and possibly bringing the virus back. When nursing homes were instructed to take the temperature of all visitors, they took it one step further: they banned visitors altogether, effectively closing off their residents from the outside world by the end of January. There were still only 13 confirmed cases in Hong Kong at the time.

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Send your kid to law school. That’s where the money is.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

Camping in Scarborough, Maine. Gathering for church in Chincoteague, Virginia. Or just grabbing a burger at Poopy’s Pub and Grub in Savanna, Illinois. Each of these activities became the subject of a federal lawsuit, as residents, businesses and even lawmakers challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The cases test where the lines are safely drawn, as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.

More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases. USA TODAY reviewed more than 80 lawsuits that often dealt with conditions at prisons and nursing homes, voting rights, and university tuition. USA TODAY focused on legal challenges to restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, and also whether abortion or church services can be limited during the pandemic, to gauge which orders were being challenged and how states were responding. The eventual rulings could redefine the balance between state police powers and constitutional rights that advocates contend are too important to sacrifice even temporarily.

Abortions are time sensitive. Buyers want guns during times of crisis. And parishioners seek solace at church. Other lawsuits test whether rules go beyond legislative authorities by requiring people to isolate themselves, stay apart in public and wear masks. “I tend to think there will be some new law made only because there are new scenarios that courts haven’t encountered before,” said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University. “What they’re balancing is the scientific basis for a particular measure and the state’s need for it, in the face of uncertainty, to protect the public health.”

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CNN and the WaPo as fact-checkers. Oh boy.

No matter what else happens, Twitter just volunteered to go from being a platform to being a publisher. That has consequences.

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Tuesday night lambasted Twitter because the company slapped a message on two of his tweets that linked to a page disputing the accuracy of his posts. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he added in another tweet. Twitter labeled two of Trump’s tweets in which he warned that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud—he specifically warned that absue would be committed in California. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month signed an executive order for every registered voter to receive mail-in ballots for the November 2020 general election.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” President Trump tweeted in a two-tweet series. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” Twitter plastered a message on both of Trump’s tweets that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” That message links to a page that pushes back against the president’s assertions.

“On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the page says. “These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

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Something tells me it will never be enough.

Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)

Japan will compile a fresh stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion that will include a sizable amount of direct spending to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a draft of the budget obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The stimulus, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, will be on top of a $1.1 trillion package already rolled out last month, putting the total amount Japan spends to combat the virus fallout at 234 trillion yen – roughly 40% of Japan’s GDP. The government’s 117 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) in fresh stimulus, to be compiled on Wednesday, will include 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the draft showed.


To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021, according to the draft. “We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead. We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with ruling party lawmakers on Wednesday. Government officials have said the new package will include steps such as an increased medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent, support for students who lost part-time jobs, and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales. In the second extra budget, the government will also set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending, the draft showed.

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Macron comes close to giving away cars for free to save the planet.

Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan on Tuesday to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country. French car plants are only just starting to rev up production after the coronavirus lockdown, which hit the auto sector badly, and Macron wants to accelerate the transition to electric cars to help revive the industry. “We need a motivational goal: make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output (up) to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” Macron told a news conference. To achieve that goal, he said France would increase the state bonus for consumers buying electric cars to €7,000 euros ($7,690) from €6,000.


But to help dealerships sell the 400,000 vehicles left unsold because of the lockdown, Macron said people buying a traditional car would also receive a €3,000 bonus under a scheme that would apply to three-quarters of households. “Our fellow citizens need to buy more vehicles, and in particular clean ones. Not in two, five or 10 years – now,” Macron said following a visit to a Valeo car parts factory in northern France. No car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad, he said. Renault, which produces its Zoe electric model in France, had pledged to make a future Renault-Nissan electric engine in France and not in Asia, as initially envisaged, he said.

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It’ll be an extreme election season. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

Just 17 days before President Trump took office in January 2017, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok texted bureau lawyer Lisa Page, his mistress, to express concern about sharing sensitive Russia probe evidence with the departing Obama White House. Strzok had just engaged in a conversation with his boss, then-FBI Assistant Director William Priestap, about evidence from the investigation of incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed Crossfire Razor, or “CR” for short. The evidence in question were so-called “tech cuts” from intercepted conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the texts and interviews with officials familiar with the conversations.

[..] The text messages, which were never released to the public by the FBI but were provided to this reporter in September 2018, have taken on much more significance to both federal and congressional investigators in recent weeks as the Justice Department has requested that Flynn’s conviction be thrown out and his charges of lying to the FBI about Kislyak dismissed. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of Missouri (special prosecutor for DOJ), the FBI inspection division, three Senate committees and House Republicans are all investigating the handling of Flynn’s case and whether any crimes were committed or political influence exerted.

The investigators are trying to determine whether Obama’s well-known disdain for Flynn, a career military intelligence officer, influenced the decision by the FBI leadership to reject its own agent’s recommendation to shut down a probe of Flynn in January 2017 and instead pursue an interview where agents might catch him in a lie. They also want to know whether the conversation about the Presidential Daily Briefings involved Flynn and “reporting” the FBI had gathered by early January 2017 showing the incoming national security adviser was neither a counterintelligence nor a criminal threat. “The evidence connecting President Obama to the Flynn operation is getting stronger,” one investigator with direct knowledge told me.

“The bureau knew it did not have evidence to justify that Flynn was either a criminal or counterintelligence threat and should have shut the case down. But the perception that Obama and his team would not be happy with that outcome may have driven the FBI to keep the probe open without justification and to pivot to an interview that left some agents worried involved entrapment or a perjury trap.” The investigator said more interviews will need to be done to determine exactly what role Obama’s perception of Flynn played in the FBI’s decision making. Recently declassified evidence show a total of 39 outgoing Obama administration officials sought to unmask Flynn’s name in intelligence interviews between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017, signaling a keen interest in Flynn’s overseas calls.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1265258033392820228

Read more …

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And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

If Boris loses the Daily Mail in this fashion, what can he do?

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 152020
 


Georgia O’Keeffe Sunflower, New Mexico I 1935

 

A Truth That’s Told With Bad Intent (Ben Hunt)
America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice (Parramore)
Want A Fast Recovery? Invest In Tests, Fed’s Kaplan Says (R.)
Novartis CEO Says Any New Coronavirus Vaccine Will Take At Least 2 Years (R.)
United States Might Not Open Up To International Travelers Any Time Soon
One In Four US Workers Claiming Jobless Benefits (BBC)
148,000 In England Infected With Coronavirus In Last Two Weeks (G.)
ECB To Scale Up Bond Buying Next Month (R.)
Critics Turn Up Heat On Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation (Fox)
Docs From Sham Flynn Prosecution Also Show Broad Russiagate Corruption (IC)
Judge Sullivan Invites Flynn’s Former Lawyers To Enter Case (SAC)
Open Memorandum to Barack Obama (Sidney Powell)
The Sickness in Our Food Supply (Pollan)
Court Files Expose Sheldon Adelson’s Role in US Spying On Julian Assange (GZ)

 

 

• New US cases 26,740

• New US deaths 1,704 (previous days 1,896, 1,894, 830, 776). Total deaths surpass 85,000.

• Russia reports 10,598 new cases, returning to its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with it broke yesterday with 9,974. Russia will in the next few days pass Spain as the no. 2 in total cases behind the US. But it reports “just” 2,418 deaths to date, vs Spain’s 27,321.

 

 

Endcoronavirus.org numbers presented by Hayes. Not sure that’s something to cheer about. But while he’s waxing ominously that the US has 1/3 of all deaths, these countries all still have a worse case fatality rate: Spain, UK, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland

https://twitter.com/joaquinlife/status/1261149626565943296

 

 


Ranking of countries by total number of reported deaths from #COVID19, and growth of that in the 24 hours before midnight GMT. Brazil fastest grower in this list. Over half of new deaths reported globally now in US, Brazil, and UK.

 

 

 

Cases 4,546,070 (+ 94,844 from yesterday’s 4,451,226)

Deaths 303,863 (+ 5,343 from yesterday’s 298,520)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“..if these idiots and fools want to take stupid risks alongside other idiots and fools, if their vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to revel in some death cult, but in a way that largely allows us non-death cultists to opt out … well, I believe it is wrong for a government to stop them.”

“I believe with all my heart that if we are to take individual rights seriously, then we must take individual responsibility and agency just as seriously.”

A Truth That’s Told With Bad Intent (Ben Hunt)

[..] I am a full-hearted believer in acting from the bottom-up, in bypassing and ignoring the high-functioning sociopaths who dominate our top-down hierarchies of markets and politics. I still believe that. But it doesn’t work with COVID-19. The core problem with any rights-based approach to public policy is dealing with questions of competing rights. Under what circumstances could your right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness come into conflict with my right to life? Under most circumstances, neither of us is forced to compromise our rights, because we have the choice to NOT interact with each other. If my laundromat requires you to wear a mask to enter, but you think wearing a mask is an affront to your liberty, then the solution is easy: go wash your clothes somewhere else. And vice versa if I think your restaurant does a poor job of enforcing social distancing and food safety: I’ll take my business elsewhere.

Let me put this a bit more bluntly. I think that COVID-19 deniers and truthers are idiots. I think that people who minimize or otherwise ignore the clear and present danger that the biology of this virus presents to themselves and their families are fools. And there’s no perfect way to insulate their idiocy and foolishness from the rest of us. But if these idiots and fools want to take stupid risks alongside other idiots and fools, if their vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to revel in some death cult, but in a way that largely allows us non-death cultists to opt out … well, I believe it is wrong for a government to stop them. Yes, there are exceptions. No, this isn’t applicable on all issues, all the time. But I believe with all my heart that if we are to take individual rights seriously, then we must take individual responsibility and agency just as seriously. Even self-destructive agency. Even in the age of COVID-19. Especially in the age of COVID-19.

There are three common and important circumstances, however, where this choice to NOT interact doesn’t exist, where the rights of yes, even idiots, to liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they understand it will inexorably come into conflict with the right to life of those who understand all too well the highly contagious and dangerous biology of this virus. Only government can provide the necessary resources and the necessary coordination to resolve these conflicts of rights peacefully and without trampling the rights of one set of citizens or another. You have no idea how much it pains me to say that.

Here’s how a legitimate government would deal with the three inevitable and irreconcilable conflicts of rights in the age of COVID-19:

1) Healthcare workers and first responders have no choice but to risk their right to life in caring for all citizens who are sick, regardless of the agency or lack thereof behind that sickness. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By mobilizing on a war-time basis to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to ALL healthcare workers and social workers and first responders and public safety officers and anyone else who must serve the sick.

2) Workers who believe that their employer does not provide sufficient protection against this virus have no choice but to risk their right to life in their return to work, as unemployment insurance typically is unavailable for people who “voluntarily” quit their job. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By providing a Federal safe harbor to unemployment claims based on COVID-19 safety concerns, AND by maintaining unemployment benefits at the current (higher) CARES Act level throughout the crisis.

3) All citizens who use public transit or use public facilities have no choice but to trust that their fellow citizens share a common respect for the rights of others, even if they may differ in their risk tolerance and private beliefs regarding the biology of the virus. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By mobilizing on a war-time basis to provide ubiquitous rapid testing in and around all public spaces, starting today with symptom testing (temperature checks) and required masking to limit asymptomatic spread, and implementing over time near-instant antigen tests as they are developed.

Read more …

Lynn Parramore toches on very valid points here, looking at life vs the economy, and what is valued (more). But the Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice is an American tradition, there’s nothing new, other than this time it takes place on American soil. And even then, look at all the people without health insurance all over the US, look at young blacks getting killed by police, or drug epidemics. But mostly, the experiment takes place in far-away lands, and its victims count in the very many millions.

America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice (Parramore)

“There is no wealth but life.” — John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1860)

A chilling experiment is underway in America, with plenty of unwilling human guinea pigs. Many parts of the country are reopening for business against the warnings of medical experts, flying in the face of grim predictions of sharply rising body counts. Two-thirds of Americans fear that the restart is happening too quickly, and the President himself acknowledges that by easing restrictions, “there’ll be more death.” Yet he presses on, even as his own White House suffers a viral outbreak. News screens flash with tallies of death and tallies of wealth: New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared that lives must be saved “whatever it costs,” insisting that for Americans the choice “between public health and the economy” is “no contest.”

But he did not ask celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who some weeks ago expressed his view that reopening schools could give the country its “mojo back,” and perhaps “only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. (2% sounds conveniently small compared to its equivalent in human lives, 6,560,000. Oz later apologized after public outrage). Meanwhile Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, offered his own assessment of the trade-off between capitalism and the lives of America’s senior citizens, explaining, “there are more important things than living.” Since the days of Adam Smith, free market capitalists have held that human beings are rational actors who pursue economic gain for self-interested motives. But here is Patrick, a free marketer if there ever was one, talking about a gift-sacrifice economy model in which people – some people, at least – lay down their lives to keep the economic engines revved.

Patrick’s words reveal an unspoken truth about capitalism. For the system to work smoothly, there have always been requirements of human sacrifice — a certain portion of the population was expected to act not as self-serving homo economicus, but self-sacrificing homo communis, focused upon what benefits the collective at their own expense. If these people can’t social distance at the workplace, they are expected to show up anyway. If there isn’t enough safety equipment, they are declared essential workers who must put their lives and that of their families at risk for the greater good. But for whom and for what is this sacrifice intended? How much dying will be figured into state budgets and GDP? When ranked by GDP, the U.S. is the wealthiest economy in the world, but is a country’s wealth something totally separate from, or even contrary to, the health and life the majority of its citizens?

Read more …

“Why not spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or tens of billions of dollars, to avoid spending trillions more? It is clearly the highest priority..”

Want A Fast Recovery? Invest In Tests, Fed’s Kaplan Says (R.)

Even with tens of millions of jobs lost and a historic decline in output projected this quarter, the U.S. economy could still pull off a relatively quick recovery, Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said on Thursday. “If we made a dramatic national initiative for testing – and I mean dramatic …that could help create the V,” he said in an online interview with local public TV station KERA, referring to a recession characterized by a sharp decline in output followed quickly by a steep ramp back up. “The highest return on equity investment we can make in this country is testing.” The U.S. Congress has committed nearly $3 trillion to shoring up an economy gutted by extended shutdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and buying time for the healthcare systems to build capacity to care for the sick.

“Why not spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or tens of billions of dollars, to avoid spending trillions more? It is clearly the highest priority,” Kaplan said in the interview, conducted jointly with Dallas Mayor Eric Kaplan. The United States has conducted more than 10 million tests for the coronavirus since the beginning of the crisis, according to the Covid Tracking Project. But in many parts of the country people can only get tested if they have symptoms, and there is no capacity for the kind of mass testing that China is using to screen Wuhan’s 11 million citizens this week to stamp out a recurrence of infections there. After weeks of shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy does need to reopen, Kaplan said.

“We cannot remain shut down indefinitely,” Kaplan said. At the same time, he said, without ubiquitous testing, “people are going to be more hesitant, they are going to be slower to reengage,” and the recovery will be slow and, perhaps, a second wave of infections more likely. [..] “Let’s invest a fraction of what we would have to spend on the second wave in testing, a national approach to it, particularly in dense areas, to prevent that second wave from happening – it will be a fraction of the cost.”

Read more …

There is no vaccine. There may never be one. Take that as the starting point for what comes next, for your acts. A vaccine would be an extra, but it cannot be taken as a given.

Novartis CEO Says Any New Coronavirus Vaccine Will Take At Least 2 Years (R.)

Any vaccine to fight the new coronavirus will not be ready for use for at least two years, the chief executive of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, which no longer makes vaccines itself, told a German newspaper. Novartis sold its vaccine business in 2015 to GlaxoSmithKline, one of many companies around the world now racing to make a drug. Some companies are already testing vaccine candidates on humans. “The results of the first clinical studies on the vaccine candidates should be available in autumn,” Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). “If everything goes as we hope, it will take 24 months before we have a vaccine.”


For instance, Moderna Inc has sped up plans for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine and said it expected to start a late-stage trial in early summer. But experts have said no vaccine is expected to be ready for use until at least 2021, as they must be widely tested in humans before being administered to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people to prevent infection. Narasimhan, who headed development at Novartis’s vaccine business before the Basel-based company concluded it was too small to keep and should be unloaded, said producing enough vaccine for the world would also be a challenge. He said building a new factory usually took three or four years. “That’s way too long,” he told FAZ. “We have to use the existing production network to produce large quantities quickly.”

Read more …

“..people from other countries should not be allowed into the United States if Americans still are not allowed to travel to those nations, the senior U.S. official said.

Who’s going to accept American visitors unless they’ve been tested negative?

United States Might Not Open Up To International Travelers Any Time Soon

The U.S. government largely shut down international travel to the United States in March with a series of rapid-fire moves, but restarting it will likely be a longer, more piecemeal process that could be complicated by rising tensions with China. Even as President Donald Trump pushes for U.S states to begin reopening their economies, U.S. borders remain shut to travelers from China and Europe.Any decision on easing travel restrictions will depend in large part on what safety protocols all countries put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and whether those countries in turn grant entry to Americans, U.S. officials told Reuters. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that Trump and U.S. health officials were examining the issue of international travel but did not provide further details.

Trump implemented a temporary ban on most travelers coming from China, the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in January and put similar restrictions on travelers from Europe in March. The United States also halted nonessential travel across its shared borders with Canada and Mexico in March and suspended routine visa services in most U.S. consulates abroad. Some U.S. airlines would like to resume limited service to China – a major market for them – in June, but the possibility of the Trump administration lifting travel restrictions will be complicated by China’s own restrictions on foreign carriers, according to a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. China limits foreign airlines to one flight into the country per week, and planes are only allowed to fly with 75% of passenger capacity.

The discussions within the Trump administration on how and when to reopen the United States to international travel have not yet crystallized into a plan, U.S. officials said, as the situation is still fluid and there are still fears of a resurgence of the virus in countries now reporting lower caseloads. But Washington is clear on one thing – people from other countries should not be allowed into the United States if Americans still are not allowed to travel to those nations, the senior U.S. official said. However, with the virus still rampant in the United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world, some countries may be hesitant to accept U.S. travelers any time soon. The European Union on Wednesday pushed to reopen internal borders and restart travel, but recommended Europe’s external borders remain closed for most travel at least until mid-June.

Read more …

Time for an honest worst-case scenario.

One In Four US Workers Claiming Jobless Benefits (BBC)

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by almost 3 million last week as virus shutdowns continue to weigh on the US economy. The filings brought the total number of new jobless claims since the middle of March to more than 36 million. That amounts to nearly a quarter of the American workforce. The weekly figures have been falling since the end of March but remain massive by historic standards, eclipsing the prior record of 700,000.


“Today’s unemployment claims continue their epic ascent on a cumulative weekly basis; not since the Great Depression has the US job market been in such a sorry state,” said Richard Flynn, UK managing director at Charles Schwab. The head of America’s central bank warned this week that the economic recovery is likely to be slower than initially hoped. In April, employers cut more than 20 million jobs, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7% and erasing nearly a decade of job gains. While the losses have fallen hardest on minority and low-income households, they have touched every part of the economy.

Read more …

They have 10,000 new infections per day and can’t even get down to 5,000. Like that is some noble goal.

148,000 In England Infected With Coronavirus In Last Two Weeks (G.)

The first national snapshot of Covid-19 rates has revealed that 148,000 people in England were infected with the virus over the past two weeks. The study, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), tested 10,705 people in more than 5,000 households and estimated 0.27% of the population in England were currently positive for Covid-19. The analysis suggests about 148,000 people across the entire population would have tested positive on any day between 27 April and 10 May 2020. The findings will inform the government’s next steps as it considers whether it is safe enough to further ease restrictions on socialising, businesses and schools in the coming weeks. Experts suggest the current rates of infection remain “some way off” what would be needed to lift the lockdown.

The results are likely to fuel concerns about the potential of opening primary schools on 1 June to fuel transmission in the community, as no evidence was found of differences in the proportions testing positive between the age categories 2 to 19, 20 to 49, 50 to 69 and 70 years and over. The numbers testing positive in this first release were small – 33 in total – and so this picture could change and the figures are expected to be tracked closely over the next two weeks. The study also reveals far higher infection rates among those working with patients in healthcare and those in social care roles, with 1.33% of these participants testing positive. The figures do not include people in hospital or care homes where rates of Covid-19 infection – and possibly transmission – are likely to be higher.

Sources close to Downing Street say the target for new daily infections is 5,000 before the lockdown can ease, but other more cautious voices in government are understood to be pushing for fewer than 4,000 new cases a day. There is scepticism within the government that the UK will have reached that figure before 1 June, the first possible date for easing the lockdown. The latest figures would suggest a “crude estimate” of 10,000 new cases each day, according to Hunter. However, a more accurate calculation would take into account the average number of days over which a person would test positive and other factors. And unlike the target of 5,000 cases each day, the latest ONS figures exclude hospital patients, meaning the ONS infection rate is a slight underestimate. So it is difficult to assess from the ONS data how far we are from the 5,000 target.

Read more …

Granted, it would be a unique event, but just this once, the Reuters poll of 80 economists may get it right.

ECB To Scale Up Bond Buying Next Month (R.)

The euro zone economy’s worst recession on record will be even deeper than predicted less than a month ago, according to a Reuters poll of economists. They also said the European Central Bank will ramp up bond buying next month. An economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed nearly 300,000 lives globally, will largely depend on the effectiveness of individual governments in preventing a second wave of infections despite easings of lockdown restrictions. “The biggest uncertainty now is around the pace of the reopening of the economy. There is a series of risks that are still to the downside…we may have a more prolonged period of confinement measures imposed by law or just behaviourally,” Giada Giani, European economist at Citi, said.


The May 11-14 Reuters poll of nearly 80 economists marks the third downgrade to the economic outlook in a little over a month and is despite the ECB’s adding hundreds of billions of euros to its balance sheet and governments announcing stimulus worth trillions of euros. The euro zone economy is expected to contract 7.5% in 2020, more than the 5.4% predicted three weeks ago, with the worst of the blow expected this quarter. After contracting 3.8% in January-March, its sharpest quarter-on-quarter decline since 1995, the latest poll showed the economy shrinking by nearly three times that pace in April-June, by 11.3%, more than the 9.6% predicted last month.

Read more …

Mueller is linked to Flynn is linked to Assange is linked to etc. Pandora’s box has opened.

Critics Turn Up Heat On Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation (Fox)

Critics of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are turning up the heat amid new revelations in the Justice Department’s handling of the Russian collusion investigation and related cases, like the troubled prosecution of former Trump National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn. “The Mueller probe was launched not to find wrongdoing from the Trump administration, but to cover up wrongdoing by Mueller’s colleagues, by his protege James Comey, by the corrupt Obama administration Department of Justice,” said The Federalist’s Sean Davis on a new episode of Fox Nation’s “Witch Hunt.” Skeptics of Mueller’s investigation have long alleged that the former FBI director knew almost immediately after his appointment in May 2017 that there was no credible evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government.

“Bob Mueller knew the day that he walked in the door there was no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians,” said Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif., the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a Fox News interview in May 2019. “We looked at all the intelligence,” continued Nunes in reference to the House Intelligence Committee’s own investigation. “There’s zero evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians — period,” According to Davis, the Mueller probe was never intended to find collusion but had another purpose. “From the beginning, the Mueller investigation existed to not protect the rule of law, but to protect the FBI and DOJ from scrutiny for their crimes,” he argued. Davis said the conduct of the Mueller team suggested that they were hiding something.

“You can actually see it in how it responded to requests for documentation from congressional investigations, both from the Senate Senator Chuck Grassley and from the House from Devin Nunes,” said Davis. In fact, Nunes vowed to send the DOJ a criminal referral on potential obstruction of a congressional investigation. “The House of Representatives… had multiple requests, multiple subpoenas that were out there that effectively were never answered,” said Nunes on Fox Nation, “even though they claim they answered them. Well, now what we learned is that they lied and misled Congress by omission.”

Read more …

Glenn Greenwald.

Docs From Sham Flynn Prosecution Also Show Broad Russiagate Corruption (IC)

[..] the prosecution of Flynn — for allegedly lying to the FBI when he denied in a January 24 interrogation that he had discussed with Kislyak on December 29 the new sanctions and expulsions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration — was always odd for a number of reasons. To begin with, the FBI agents who questioned Flynn said afterward that they did not believe he was lying (as CNN reported in February, 2017: “the FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say”). For that reason, CNN said, “the FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against” him.

More importantly, there was no valid reason for the FBI to have interrogated Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak in the first place. There is nothing remotely untoward or unusual — let alone criminal — about an incoming senior national security official, three weeks away from taking over, reaching out to a counterpart in a foreign government to try to tamp down tensions. As the Washington Post put it, “it would not be uncommon for incoming administrations to interface with foreign governments with whom they will soon have to work.”

What newly released documents over the last month reveal is what has been generally evident for the last three years: the powers of the security state agencies — particularly the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the DOJ — were systematically abused as part of the 2016 election and then afterward for political rather than legal ends. While there was obviously deceit and corruption on the part of some Trump officials in lying to Russiagate investigators and otherwise engaging in depressingly common DC lobbyist corruption, there was also massive corruption on the part of the investigators themselves, exploiting and abusing their vast and invasive investigative and prosecutorial powers for ideological goals, political subterfuge, election manipulation and personal vendettas.

[..] the most critical reason to delve deeply into this case is that it reveals one the most dangerous abuses of power a democracy can suffer: the powers of the CIA, FBI and NSA were blatantly and repeatedly abused to manipulate election outcomes and achieve political advantage. In other words, we know now that these agencies did exactly what Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned they would do to Trump when he appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program shortly before Trump’s inauguration:

Read more …

Election time already?

Judge Sullivan Invites Flynn’s Former Lawyers To Enter Case (SAC)

In another strange turn of events, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has invited Michael Flynn’s former defense counsel to appear as interested parties in their former clients ongoing case. Sullivan, who did not agree to drop the charges against Flynn as requested by the Department of Justice, did not specify the purpose for inviting the former lawyers to appear in court. John Hall electronically filed the notice on Thursday, as the legal representative for Covington and Burling, Flynn’s former defense counsel. Sidney Powell, Flynn’s defense counsel, didn’t comment on Sullivan’s invitation to Covington and Burling but she noted in previous filings reported on this news site that the previous counsel provided her client ineffectual representation and unrepresented him in his guilty plea, which was in violation of his 6th Amendment rights.


This turn of events has been just one in a series of bizarre decisions unleashed on Flynn and his defense team by Sullivan. Critics of Sullivan’s strange behavior have accused the judge of acting as a prosecutor and crossing the line of his judicial mandate. “Since Sullivan appears to be so invested in trying to force the government to prosecute Flynn, he should step off the bench and apply for a job as an AUSA,” said Jenna Ellis, a constitutional lawyer and Senior legal advisor to the Trump 2020 campaign. “He clearly wants to be a prosecutor, not a judge, so he’s in the wrong branch of government.”

Read more …

On May 12, I wrote: “I don’t think the DOJ will go after Obama, only Sidney Powell would.”

On May 13, Powell published this letter.

Open Memorandum to Barack Obama (Sidney Powell)

Re: Your Failure to Find Precedent for Flynn Dismissal

Regarding the decision of the Department of Justice to dismiss charges against General Flynn, in your recent call with your alumni, you expressed great concern: “there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.” Here is some help—if truth and precedent represent your true concern. Your statement is entirely false. However, it does explain the damage to the Rule of Law throughout your administration.

First, General Flynn was not charged with perjury—which requires a material false statement made under oath with intent to deceive.1 A perjury prosecution would have been appropriate and the Rule of Law applied if the Justice Department prosecuted your former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for his multiple lies under oath in an investigation of a leak only he knew he caused. McCabe lied under oath in fully recorded and transcribed interviews with the Inspector General for the DOJ. He was informed of the purpose of the interview, and he had had the benefit of counsel. He knew he was the leaker. McCabe even lied about lying.

He lied to his own agents—which sent them on a “wild-goose-chase”—thereby making his lies “material” and an obstruction of justice. Yet, remarkably, Attorney General Barr declined to prosecute McCabe for these offenses. Applying the Rule of Law, after declining McCabe’s perjury prosecution, required the Justice Department to dismiss the prosecution of General Flynn who was not warned, not under oath, had no counsel, and whose statements were not only not recorded, but were created as false by FBI agents who falsified the 302.

Read more …

America has two food chains, and they’re not talking.

The Sickness in Our Food Supply (Pollan)

A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food. They also show up on our plates, since the diet on offer at the end of the industrial food chain is linked to precisely the types of chronic disease that render us more vulnerable to Covid-19. The juxtaposition of images in the news of farmers destroying crops and dumping milk with empty supermarket shelves or hungry Americans lining up for hours at food banks tells a story of economic efficiency gone mad.

Today the US actually has two separate food chains, each supplying roughly half of the market. The retail food chain links one set of farmers to grocery stores, and a second chain links a different set of farmers to institutional purchasers of food, such as restaurants, schools, and corporate offices. With the shutting down of much of the economy, as Americans stay home, this second food chain has essentially collapsed. But because of the way the industry has developed over the past several decades, it’s virtually impossible to reroute food normally sold in bulk to institutions to the retail outlets now clamoring for it. There’s still plenty of food coming from American farms, but no easy way to get it where it’s needed.

[..] When the number of Covid-19 cases in America’s slaughterhouses exploded in late April—12,608 confirmed, with forty-nine deaths as of May 11—public health officials and governors began ordering plants to close. It was this threat to the industry’s profitability that led to Tyson’s declaration, which President Trump would have been right to see as a shakedown: the president’s political difficulties could only be compounded by a shortage of meat. In order to reopen their production lines, Tyson and his fellow packers wanted the federal government to step in and preempt local public health authorities; they also needed liability protection, in case workers or their unions sued them for failing to observe health and safety regulations.

Within days of Tyson’s ad, President Trump obliged the meatpackers by invoking the Defense Production Act. After having declined to use it to boost the production of badly needed coronavirus test kits, he now declared meat a “scarce and critical material essential to the national defense.” The executive order took the decision to reopen or close meat plants out of local hands, forced employees back to work without any mandatory safety precautions, and offered their employers some protection from liability for their negligence. On May 8, Tyson reopened a meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa, where more than a thousand workers had tested positive.

Read more …

Sidney Powell should take Assange’s case.

Court Files Expose Sheldon Adelson’s Role in US Spying On Julian Assange (GZ)

As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa and his country’s embassy in the UK. The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012.

It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands. In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company’s headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news. “From now on, we’re going to be playing in the first division,” Morales announced to his employees. When a co-owner of UC Global asked what Morales meant, he responded that he had turned to the “dark side” – an apparent reference to US intelligence services. “The Americans will find us contracts around the world,” Morales assured his business partner.

Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri, the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA. Unfortunately for Morales, the Spanish security consultant charged with leading the spying operation, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. Following Assange’s imprisonment, several disgruntled former employees eventually approached Assange’s legal team to inform them about the misconduct and arguably illegal activity they participated in at UC Global.

One former business partner said they came forward after realizing that “David Morales decided to sell all the information to the enemy, the US.” A criminal complaint was submitted in a Spanish court and a secret operation that resulted in the arrest of Morales was set into motion by the judge. Morales was charged by a Spanish High Court in October 2019 with violating the privacy of Assange, abusing the publisher’s attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. The documents revealed in court, which were primarily backups from company computers, exposed the disturbing reality of his activities on “the dark side.”

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https://twitter.com/i/status/1261223989940236289

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 122020
 


Edward Hopper Night in the park 1921

 

Letter from Hong Kong to Covid Ravaged UK: What On Earth Are You Doing? (HKFP)
14 Million Wuhan Residents To Be Tested For COVID19 In 10 Days (SCMP)
As US Meat Workers Fall Sick And Supplies Dwindle, Exports To China Soar (R.)
Mexican Border Town Uses ‘Sanitizing Tunnels’ To Disinfect US Visitors (G.)
Tesla’s Musk Says Ready For Arrest As He Reopens California Plant (R.)
The Sum of All Broken Promises (Kunstler) ;
Record Unemployment Drives Forbearances Up (NMN)
The Bailout Is Working — for the Rich (Eisinger)
Bitcoin Goes Through Third ‘Halving’ (R.)
BOJ Will Do ‘Whatever It Can’ To Combat Pandemic Fallout: Kuroda (R.)
Trump And Biden Trade Anti-China Ads (IC)
Jan 5 Oval Office Meeting Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation (Hemingway)
List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified (SAC)
Another Former Obama Official Contradicts Her Public Statements (Turley)
2,000 Former DOJ, FBI Officials Demand Barr Resign Over Flynn Case (UPI)

 

 

• US registers less than 900 #coronavirus deaths in 24-hours for second day

• US records 830 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 80,352, according to Johns Hopkins University. The figure followed Sunday’s toll of 776, the lowest daily tally since March,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 4,273,104 (+ 72,174 from yesterday’s 4,200,957)

Deaths 287,621 (+ 3,471 from yesterday’s 284,150)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“At the moment the number of deaths in Hong Kong [..] is four. Not 4,000, not 400, not 40. Four, as in number of gospel writers.”

Letter from Hong Kong to Covid Ravaged UK: What On Earth Are You Doing? (HKFP)

Five years ago I passed a landmark of no significance to anyone else but me: I had spent more than half of my life in Hong Kong. But I still wish you well. [..] And I need to ask, from one crowded island to another, what the hell have you been getting up to. My Facebook feed is bulging with lockdown stories. And it is horrifying to read the news that total deaths from Covid 19 in your place have passed, at the time of writing, 30,000. It seemed to me entirely irrelevant that, the week before, the total casualty toll had passed the tally of British Army deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. When two highly industrialised nations put hundreds of thousands of young men in a field with instructions to kill each other you expect the blood to flow.

But we are all, give or take a few civil wars a safe distance away, at peace at the moment. And the excuse that this massacre is all inevitable, the result of a medical problem which nobody could have foreseen and for which there was no immediate remedy, doesn’t wash because the consequences have been so variable. I understand it is too early to say whether the UK will achieve the unwanted distinction of the highest death rate in Europe. But why is it even in the running for this title? At the moment the number of deaths in Hong Kong, whose government enjoys neither democratic legitimacy nor a reputation for unusual efficiency, is four. Not 4,000, not 400, not 40. Four, as in number of gospel writers.

This is in a territory with a land border to the mainland, where it all started. So we had less warning and more opportunities for imported infections. Taiwan and Thailand, similarly disadvantaged, have also managed strikingly low numbers, and Viet Nam claims to have no cases at all. [..] There is an interesting irony here, at least for the moment. It seems your government is not getting the blame it has richly earned. Ours, which has had a good epidemic so far, is not getting much credit. Partly, this is because of events in the year before the arrival of the new disease. Our Chief Executive has trodden in too many political cowpats to have a shot at the Hong Kong’s sweetheart title, whatever she does about viruses.

It is also partly because the government was propelled towards some precautions, like closing the border, by public agitation. But I think the main reason is because Hong Kong people, while they do not trust the words of their government, and still less those of the government over the boundary on the mainland, did not need to be persuaded to take the whole matter seriously. This made a big difference. Why so serious? We participated extensively in the SARS epidemic in 2003, still fresh in many memories. Indeed I imagine many households, like mine, still had a box of face masks which were tucked away when that epidemic subsided. Hygiene was already a thing.

In countries that have not seen a real epidemic since the Spanish flu in 1918 this awareness would of course be absent. But this is where, in a democratic society with a literate population and free media, public information should have come in. Instead governments dithered, at best, or denied there was a problem, at worst. I do not allow the defence that they were relying on scientific opinion. This is a contradiction in terms. Science, in its slow, tentative way, produces factual observations. The opinions of scientists about matters on which science has not yet determined the facts are not scientific. They are just opinions. You may think they are expert opinions, but expert opinions about the future (see the works of Philip Tetlock) are lamentably unreliable.

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I suggest we call this a test drive.

We can only wish the west would be as thorough. China understands Crush the Curve. It just took them a fateful 5-6 weeks too long to figure it out.

14 Million Wuhan Residents To Be Tested For COVID19 In 10 Days (SCMP)

Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic coronavirus was first detected, have ordered fresh Covid-19 tests for all of its 14 million residents after a cluster of new community cases. The Wuhan Covid-19 Epidemic Prevention Headquarters ordered all districts in the city to come up with plans for a 10-day barrage of nucleic tests and submit the plans by noon on Tuesday. The tests should cover both permanent residents and mobile populations, and target residential estates and densely populated areas, the headquarters said in the orders. The unprecedented move came after reports on the weekend of six new coronavirus cases from the same residential compound, known as Sanmin.

The cases were the first in the city since its last local Covid-19 patient was reported on April 3. One Sanmin resident, an 89-year-old man, showed symptoms as early as March but was not confirmed as a coronavirus patient until Saturday. The confirmation prompted authorities to test around 5,000 people from the complex, uncovering five more cases. Zhang Yuxin, who had been serving as the Communist Party secretary in charge of the Sanmin area, was sacked for poor management, state media reported on Monday. A Chinese professor of epidemiology, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said large-scale testing was needed to prevent a new wave of infections.


“The new cases in Wuhan show there is a real risk of a second wave of potential transmission in the community by the asymptomatic carriers or mild symptoms. Covid-19 started with a few after all,” he said. “Tests on such a broad scale can help find these hidden carriers and eliminate that risk.”

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If so many people get infected in meat plants, there appears to be a serious hygiene problem right where your food comes from, and maybe the entire industry should be revised.

Q: what are the similarities between meat plants and care homes, other then they’re all virus clusters?

As US Meat Workers Fall Sick And Supplies Dwindle, Exports To China Soar (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered meat processing plants to stay open to protect the nation’s food supply even as workers got sick and died. Yet the plants have increasingly been exporting to China while U.S. consumers face shortages, a Reuters analysis of government data showed. Trump, who is in an acrimonious public dispute with Beijing over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act on April 28 to keep plants open. Now he is facing criticism from some lawmakers, consumers and plant employees for putting workers at risk in part to help ensure China’s meat supply.

Meat buyers in China ramped up imports from around the world as a pig disease decimated its herd, the world’s largest, and pushed Chinese pork prices to record highs. The supply shock drove China to pay more for U.S. meat than other countries, and even U.S. consumers, since late 2019. “We know that over time exports are critically important. I think we need to focus on meeting domestic demand at this point,” said Mike Naig, the agriculture secretary in the top U.S. pork-producing state of Iowa who supported Trump’s order. Processors including Smithfield Foods, owned by China’s WH Group Ltd, Brazilian-owned JBS USA and Tyson Foods Inc temporarily closed about 20 U.S. meat plants as the virus infected thousands of employees, prompting meatpackers and grocers to warn of shortages.


Some plants have resumed limited operations as workers afraid of getting sick stay home. The disruptions mean consumers could see 30% less meat in supermarkets by the end of May, at prices 20% higher than last year, according to Will Sawyer, lead economist at agricultural lender CoBank. While pork supplies tightened as the number of pigs slaughtered each day plunged by about 40% since mid-March, shipments of American pork to China more than quadrupled over the same period, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

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Makes me think of how the Japanese 500 years ago called westerners dirty pigs.

Mexican Border Town Uses ‘Sanitizing Tunnels’ To Disinfect US Visitors (G.)

Fears of foreigners bringing infectious disease into the country. Enhanced border checkpoints. And the use of disinfectant spray to sanitize human beings. These aren’t notes from one of Donald Trump’s freewheeling press conferences. The United States’ troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic is such that the Mexican border city of Nogales, Sonora, has set up “sanitizing tunnels” to disinfect people leaving the US through Nogales, Arizona. On the Mexican side of two major border crossings, drivers coming from Arizona must exit their vehicles and step into an inflatable tunnel that sprays them with a cleansing solution.

Videos posted to social media by the municipal government of Nogales, Sonora, show people rotate under the vapor, stretch their arms and lean over to allow the disinfectant to reach their entire bodies. In a press release, the Nogales government states that the cleansing solution is biodegradable and protects from “any virus or bacteria, including Covid-19” for up to 24 hours. It adds that the tunnels “reduce the chances that a foreign citizen or citizen of this city who presents symptoms of the disease will infect other people on the Mexican side”.


The border city’s mayor has told Mexican news outlets that a majority of the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Nogales, Sonora, had recently returned from the US. The Mexican border city plans to install five sanitizing tunnels to disinfect people arriving through its two main ports of entry from Nogales, Arizona. A sanitizing tunnel is also stationed outside a hospital in Nogales, Sonora, where visitors must brush open or duck through clear plastic curtains to be washed with the disinfectant mist.

https://twitter.com/Underground_RT/status/1259856428145278976

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Now talk to the shareholders.

Tesla’s Musk Says Ready For Arrest As He Reopens California Plant (R.)

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk on Monday said production was resuming at the automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle factory, in California, defying an order to stay closed and saying if anyone had to be arrested it should be him. The move comes as states and cities around the United States experiment with ways to safely reopen their economies after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered businesses and forced tens of millions of Americans out of work. Musk over the weekend threatened to leave California for Texas or Nevada over his factory’s closure. His move has highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo the billionaire executive by states that have reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from U.S. President Donald Trump.

In an email on Monday, Tesla referred to an order on Thursday by California’s governor allowing manufacturers to resume operations and said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees were back to their regular employment status. “We’re happy to get back to work and have implemented very detailed plans to help you keep safe as you return,” according to the email seen by Reuters and titled “Furlough Has Ended And We Are Back To Work in Production!” Musk in a tweet said production was resuming on Monday, adding that he would join workers on the assembly line. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” he wrote.


[..] Health officials in Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is based, late on Monday said they were aware that Tesla had opened beyond the so-called minimum basic operations allowed during lockdown, and had notified the company it could not operate without a county-approved plan. In a statement, officials said they expected a proposal from Tesla later on Monday and “hope Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.”

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People have been getting so used to dire stories about the economy, they can no longer tell when things are really going south.

The Sum of All Broken Promises (Kunstler) ;

[..] one reason the markets may not keep chugging is that money is disappearing into the ol’ black hole of extinction even faster than the Fed can enter keystrokes that magically represent new money. The reason: if, in fact, money is loaned into existence, it is defaulted out of existence when the loans are not paid back. After all, that’s what a loan is: money advanced on a promise to be paid back, generally at interest, interest representing the time-value of money, that is, the duration of the loan. Do you have any idea how many loans are not being paid back, and may now never be paid back?

Start with houses. 63 percent of homeowners pay a mortgage (a loan) every month. The national average outstanding mortgage debt is $148,000. Total mortgage debt is $10.3 trillion. Now cars: There are roughly 260 million passenger vehicles registered in America, with upward of 100 million of them bought on loans that are still active, amounting to $1.2 trillion, enough to buy 53 million Ford Fusions at $23,000 each. Now credit card debt: total for the US is $3.9 trillion with an average carried balance of $9,333. Meanwhile, 45 percent of adult Americans have no savings.


[..] Consider that a trillion is a thousand billion (and a billion is a thousand million). In an ordinary reality, a reality-based reality, that is, with reality-based money, that would be a lot of money (and a lot of debt)! It’s hard to project an exact figure, but with over 20 percent of the US work-force idle, with no income, there’s liable to be a lot of debt that’s not being paid back, will never be paid back, and a lot of money headed into extinction. That will translate into a lot of people with no money. Until all that money they owed is finished not being paid back, and the new money that Fed is busy creating, with no relationship to the production of things of value, overcomes the old money that’s finished disappearing. Then Americans will have plenty of money. The catch is that the money will be worthless. Thus, the two ways of going broke: having no money; or having lots of money that’s too worthless to buy anything. So it goes.

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Oh well, houses are way overpriced anyway.

Record Unemployment Drives Forbearances Up (NMN)

The number of mortgages in coronavirus-related forbearance rose by 37 basis points between April 27 and May 3 as the unemployment rate kept growing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Nearly 4 million mortgages sat in forbearance plans as of May 3. About 7.91% of all outstanding loans went into forbearance, compared to 7.54% the week before. The share of loans in forbearance at independent mortgage bank servicers saw a greater increase than the industry-wide average, growing to 7.54% from 7.13% over that period. At depositories, that share increased to 8.75% from 8.41%.


“With the calendar turning to May, the share of loans in forbearance increased, but the pace of the increase and incoming forbearance requests continued to slow,” Mike Fratantoni, the MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release. “The dreadful April jobs report showed a decline of more than 20 million jobs, and a spike in the unemployment rate to the highest level since the Great Depression. It will not be surprising if the forbearance numbers continue to rise.” In April, the largest spike came in the first full week of the month. Some projections show the same could be in store for May. Forbearance requests as a percentage of servicing portfolio volume declined 12 basis points for the week ended May 3 to 0.51 % from 0.63. But call center volume as a percentage of portfolio volume increased to 8.6% from 7.2% the previous week.

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That’s the whole idea. But the rich still live in the same country. Let the economy fail and they’re no longer rich.

A bit unreal that the Fed uses the language of MMT.

The Bailout Is Working — for the Rich (Eisinger)

Ten weeks into the worst crisis in 90 years, the government’s effort to save the economy has been both a spectacular success and a catastrophic failure. The clearest illustration of that came on Friday, when the government reported that 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April. It marked a period of unfathomable pain across the country not seen since the Great Depression. Also on Friday, the stock market rallied. The S&P 500 is now up 30% from its lows in mid-March and back to where it was last October, when the outlook for 2020 corporate earnings looked sunshiny. Companies have sold record amounts of debt in recent weeks for investment-grade companies. Junk bonds, historically dodgy during an economic swoon, have roared back.

If you’re looking for investors’ verdict on who has won the bailout, consider these returns: Shares of Apollo Group, the giant private equity firm, have soared 80% from their lows. The stock of Blackstone, another private equity behemoth, has risen 50%. The reason: Asset holders like Apollo and Blackstone — disproportionately the wealthiest and most influential — have been insured by the world’s most powerful central bank. This largess is boundless and without conditions. “Even if a second wave of outbreaks were to occur,” JPMorgan economists wrote in a celebratory note on Friday, “the Fed has explicitly indicated that there is no dollar limit and no danger of running out of ammunition.”


Many aspects of the coronavirus bailout that assist individuals or small businesses, meanwhile, are short-term or contingent. Aid to small businesses comes with conditions on what they can do with the money. The sums allocated by the CARES Act for stimulus and expanded unemployment insurance are vast by historical standards. But the relief they provide didn’t prevent tens of millions from losing their jobs. The assistance runs out in weeks, and the jobless live at the mercy of a divided Congress, which will decide whether that help gets extended and, if so, for how long.


The Nasdaq has put in six consecutive daily gains of 0.50% or more. The last time we saw such a streak was 17 years ago on 9/4/2003

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The Fed props up the stock market, not bitcoin.

Bitcoin Goes Through Third ‘Halving’ (R.)

Bitcoin slid on Monday in volatile trading, after it went through a technical adjustment that reduced the rate at which new coins are created, but the outlook remained upbeat as the increase in supply slows down. Monday’s “halving” cuts the rewards given to those who “mine” bitcoin to 6.25 new coins from 12.5. The next halving will be in 2024. Bitcoin relies on so-called “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions by competing to solve mathematical puzzles every 10 minutes. In return, the first to solve the puzzle and clear the transaction is rewarded new bitcoins. In late afternoon trading, bitcoin was last down 1.3% at $8,620.43 against the dollar on the Bitstamp platform. It briefly turned higher.

“The incentive is less for miners now to mine bitcoin and they will probably switch to more profitable cryptocurrencies. So in the short term, there’s going to be pressure for bitcoin,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York. “But longer term, you’re probably going to see higher prices. With all the fiscal and monetary stimulus that’s being pumped into the global economy, there’s renewed interest from institutional traders looking for alternatives to modern government-backed currencies.” Bitcoin has gained more than 20% since the beginning of the year. It touched $10,000 last week, a roughly three-month high, after Bloomberg reported that hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones has backed bitcoin as a hedge against inflation.


Traders said the prospect of bitcoin’s halving has fueled gains in the asset this year. Bitcoin two earlier “halvings”— one in November 2012 and the other in July 2016 — had signaled the start of bitcoin’s most dramatic bull runs over a period of several years, although not before a brief sell-off. The previous two bitcoin events propelled rallies of about 10,000% from late 2012 to 2014, and roughly 2,500% from mid-2016 to the currency’s all-time high just shy of $20,000 in December 2017, according to traders.

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Kuroda’s been head of the BOJ for over 7 years. The outcome? “Japan’s economy is in an increasingly severe state…”

BOJ Will Do ‘Whatever It Can’ To Combat Pandemic Fallout: Kuroda (R.)

The Bank of Japan will do “whatever it can” to mitigate the growing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday, warning that a collapse in global activity has had severe consequences on the the economy. The central bank has various tools at its disposal if it were to ramp up stimulus such as accelerating money printing, increasing market operation tools and cutting interest rates, Kuroda said in a semi-annual testimony to parliament. He signalled that any further steps the BOJ takes will focus on helping cash-strapped firms, rather than stimulating demand. “What’s most important for us is to take steps to smoothen corporate financing and stabilise markets,” Kuroda said.

“We will do whatever we can as a central bank, working closely with the government.” Kuroda ruled out the possibility of adding municipal bonds to the list of assets the BOJ buys, however, saying he saw no need to do so for the time being. The world’s third-largest economy is on the cusp of a deep recession with many analysts projecting a double-digit contraction in the current quarter, as the pandemic forces households to stay home and businesses to shut down. While the government plans to lift the state of emergency for some prefectures that saw infection numbers stabilise, many big cities including Tokyo will likely see current restrictions kept in place at least for the rest of this month.


Kuroda said Japan did not face an imminent risk of a sharp credit contraction, as many financial institutions have sufficient buffers to weather the pain from the pandemic. But he warned the outlook for Japan’s economy was “highly uncertain” and dependent on when the pandemic is contained, with risks skewed to the downside. “Japan’s economy is in an increasingly severe state. The outlook will remain severe for the time being,” he said.

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When will Biden start up the anti-Putin ads?

Trump And Biden Trade Anti-China Ads (IC)

As coronavirus deaths mount, President Donald Trump’s China-bashing has evolved from a short-term political tactic into a full-fledged election strategy. Take the ad “Travel Ban,” which was unveiled last week by pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action. The spot is one of several anti-China ads released by the group over the past few weeks, and it revisits some standard Trump campaign tropes: There are images of Biden from the Obama years, clips of the former vice president stumbling over his words, and allusions to the decades Biden spent in Washington. But the ad, which is part of a larger attempt to dub the presumptive Democratic nominee “Beijing Biden,” reserves its greatest ire for Biden’s purported ties to China, zooming in on a shot of him shaking hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“China is killing our jobs and now killing our people,” a male voice intones ominously. Instead of taking the high road, the Biden campaign has offered its own version of xenophobic hype. A Biden campaign spot released in mid-April juxtaposes Chinese medical workers in Tyvex suits with lines of Americans waiting to get tested for the virus. “Trump rolled over for the Chinese,” a narrator says. Both ads have angered Asian American activists. The Biden spot in particular has upset people who view him as a potential ally at a time of rising xenophobia.


They worry that even without going to extremes like calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” and the “kung-flu” — terms used by Trump and officials in his administration over the past few months — images of Asian faces and offhanded mentions of “the Chinese” are just a slightly subtler form of racist dog-whistling, and harmful at a moment when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise. “There’s a clear link between the rhetoric that’s being used and the increased harm to our community,” said John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC. “We are equally concerned about both parties. We are concerned that there will be a race to the bottom.”

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I don’t think the DOJ will go after Obama, only Sidney Powell would.

Jan 5 Oval Office Meeting Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation (Hemingway)

Information released in the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case it brought against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn confirms the significance of a January 5, 2017, meeting at the Obama White House. It was at this meeting that Obama gave guidance to key officials who would be tasked with protecting his administration’s utilization of secretly funded Clinton campaign research, which alleged Trump was involved in a treasonous plot to collude with Russia, from being discovered or stopped by the incoming administration. “President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,”

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote in an unusual email to herself about the meeting that was also attended by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, and Vice President Joe Biden. A clearer picture is emerging of the drastic steps that were taken to accomplish Obama’s goal in the following weeks and months. Shortly thereafter, high-level operatives began intensely leaking selective information supporting a supposed Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, the incoming National Security Advisor was ambushed, and the incoming Attorney General was forced to recuse himself from oversight of investigations of President Trump. At each major point in the operation, explosive media leaks were a key strategy in the operation to take down Trump.

Not only was information on Russia not fully shared with the incoming Trump team, as Obama directs, the leaks and ambushes made the transition chaotic, scared quality individuals away from working in the administration, made effective governance almost impossible, and materially damaged national security. When Comey was finally fired on May 9, in part for his duplicitousness regarding his handling of the Russia collusion theory, he orchestrated the launch of a Special Counsel probe that continued his efforts for another two years. That probe ended with Mueller finding no evidence of any American colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election, much less Trump or anyone connected to him.

An analysis of the timeline from early 2017 shows a clear pattern of behavior from the federal officials running the collusion operation against the Trump campaign. It also shows how essential media leaks were to their strategy to sideline key law enforcement and intelligence officials and cripple the ability of the incoming Trump administration to run the country. Here’s a timeline of the key moments and news articles of the efforts, per Obama’s direction, to prevent the Trump administration from learning about the FBI’s operation against it.

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Can I get this straight? Susan Rice was Obama’s national security advisor. She unmasked US officials while she was no longer at the job. Even if individuals are unmasked, their identities remain highly classified. But they were leaked in substantial numbers. Which is in turn highly illegal.

Samantha Power was United Nations Ambassador. She also unmasked Trump officials. In fact she made 260 requests for unmasking. Only, she didn’t. Someone else did in her name.

List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified (SAC)

In 2017, information published by this reporter and John Solomon, then with Circa, a online news organization under Sinclair Media, exposed that former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice had unmasked a number of U.S. officials connected to then President Donald Trump’s campaign. On Monday night, reports surfaced, first with ABC News and then others, that the acting Director Of National Intelligence Richard Grenell had authorized the declassification of the list of senior Obama officials that had unmasked Americans exponentially in the last months of the Obama administration. A U.S. official familiar with the declassification process confirmed to SaraACarter.com that the list of officials has been declassified and should be made public shortly.

In May, 2019 President Donald Trump authorized the Department of Justice to declassify the list, as well as all the other documentation pertaining to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrant used to spy on short term campaign volunteer Carter Page. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed in several recent reports that the FBI and DOJ failed to validate the evidence used to obtain the warrants to spy on Page and omitted evidence that would have stopped the secret court from authorizing the warrant to spy on the campaign. The most egregious unmasking was that of Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose prosecution has now been overturned by the Justice Department.

In January, 2017 Flynn’s name and the contents of his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was revealed to a Washington Post reporter by a senior official in the Obama administration. The contents of the conversation were later outed in a column by Washington Post writer David Ignatius. The highly classified information led to the false allegations that Flynn and the Trump campaign were conspiring with Russia. Still, no one has been held accountable for the highly classified leak. However, sources tell this reporter there has been an ongoing DOJ investigation into the matter.

Rice, who hid her role in unmasking Trump officials, eventually admitted that she had requested unmasking of officials in the campaign. However, it was in April, 2017, when Trump White House lawyers were informed that Rice had requested the identities of U.S. persons in the raw intelligence reports. Usually in the raw reports Americans are identified as U.S. Person 1 or U.S. Person 2. Those identities are considered top secret and are limited to only a few persons. Further, there was an abundance of evidence that former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, unlike any former U.N. Ambassador before her, was also unmasking American’s identities in these highly classified reports at an extraordinary rate.

Then, in October, 2017, House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy revealed that Power had admitted under testimony that not all the “unmaskings” attributed to her were made by her but instead were done by someone else who signed in her name. She allegedly made 260 requests to “unmask” Americans who had been in communication with non-U.S. citizens that were under surveillance. Recent testimony, declassified by Grenell has shown that to be the case and Power’s testimony coincides with Gowdy’s recollection of the events. “I think if she were on your show, she would say those requests to unmask may have been attributed to her, but they greatly exceed by an exponential factor the requests she actually made,” said Gowdy, in October 2017 to Fox News.

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There are now quite a few people known who said completely different things in public from what they said under oath.

Another Former Obama Official Contradicts Her Public Statements (Turley)

The long-delayed release of testimony from the House Intelligence Committee has proved embarrassing for a variety of former Obama officials who have been extensively quoted on the allegedly strong evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign and the Russians. Figures like James Clapper, who is a CNN expert, long indicated hat the evidence from the Obama Administration was strong and alarming. However, in testimony, Clapper denied seeing any such evidence.

One of the most embarrassing is the testimony of Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama Administration official who was widely quoted in her plea to Congress to gather the evidence that she knew was found in by the Obama Administration. In her testimony under oath Farkas repeatedly stated that she knew of no such evidence of collusion. Farkas, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, was widely quoted when she said on MSNBC in 2017 that she feared that evidence she knew about would be destroyed by the Trump Administration.

She stated: “..was urging my former colleagues, and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… Get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration, because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior people that left. So it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy . . . the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried, because not enough was coming out into the open, and I knew that there was more.”

MSNBC never seriously questioned the statements despite the fact that Farkas left the Obama Administration in 2015 before any such investigation could have occurred. As we have seen before, the factual and legal basis for such statements are largely immaterial in the age of echo journalism. The statement fit the narrative even if it lacked any plausible basis. Not surprisingly, the House Intelligence Committee was eager to have Farkas share all that she stated she “knew about [“the Trump folks”], their staff, the Trump’s staff’s dealing with Russian” and wanted to get “into the open.” After all, she told MSNBC that “I knew that there was more.”

She was finally put under oath in the closed classified sessions and there was nothing but classified crickets. Farkas was repeatedly asked to share that information that electrified the MSNBC hosts and audience. She repeatedly denied any such knowledge, telling then Rep. Trey Gowdy (R, S.C.), “I didn’t know anything.” Gowdy noted that Farkas left the Obama administration in 2015 and asked “Then how did you know?” She repeated again “I didn’t know anything.”

Read more …

“If any of us [..] were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation..”

Isn’t that exactly the point? Barr said it was not properly predicated?!

2,000 Former DOJ, FBI Officials Demand Barr Resign Over Flynn Case (UPI)

Almost 2,000 former federal prosecutors and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation published an open letter Monday calling for the resignation of Attorney General William P. Barr over the dropping of the Michael Flynn case in federal court. Former U.S. Department of Justice and FBI officials, identifying themselves as both Republicans and Democrats, said Barr’s decision to drop prosecution of Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security advisor, was a case of using “the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests,” the letter said. “Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented,” the letter added.

“If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.” Last week, Barr’s prosecutors asked a U.S. District judge to dismiss the charge of making false statements to the FBI with prejudice against Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Co-signers of the letter said Barr earlier overruled sentencing recommendations to seek favorable treatment for President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, showing that Barr was doing the president’s bidding as Attorney General.


[..] “[Barr’s actions flout] the core principle that politics must never enter into the Department’s law enforcement decisions and undermined its mission to ensure equal justice under the law,” the letter said. Co-signers included former federal prosecutors and some former presidential appointees. The highest-ranking signee was Stuart Gerson, who served during the Clinton administration as acting attorney general, NBC News reported. The letter urged District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who’s in charge of the Flynn case, to examine the DOJ’s rationale for dismissing the charges, and to hold hearings with witnesses if necessary, then to “deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.” Along with urging Barr’s resignation, the group urged Congress to reschedule a House Judiciary Committee meeting to censure Barr, “and demand that he answer for his abuses of power.”

Read more …

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