Jan 132021
 
 January 13, 2021  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  61 Responses »


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis entering the Warwick 1956

 

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)
Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)
China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)
Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)
How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)
Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)
Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)
Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)
Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)
Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)
Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

 

 

“There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right: It is the ideal American who is all wrong.”
– G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

“..a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December..”

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)

And when I say “insane infection numbers” I mean a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December, where the R number – the basic reproductive rate of the disease – went from something around 1.2 to something around 3. Where you suddenly went from a few hundred new Covid cases every day to more than six thousand cases every day. All in a country the size of Alabama (which, btw, currently has about 4 thousand cases every day). [..] I believe there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will experience a rolling series of “Ireland events” over the next 30-45 days, where the Covid effective reproductive number (Re not R0) reaches a value between 2.4 and 3.0 in states and regions where a) the more infectious UK-variant (or similar) Covid strain has been introduced, and b) Covid fatigue has led to deterioration in social distancing behaviors.

A single Ireland event is a disaster. A series of Ireland events on the scale of the United States is catastrophic. If this were to occur, I’d expect to see a doubling of new Covid cases/day from current levels in the aggregate (today’s 7-day average is 240k/day), peaking somewhere around 500,000 new daily cases before draconian economic shutdowns (more severe than anything we’ve seen to date) would occur in every impacted major metro area. Hospital systems across the country would be placed under enormous additional strain, leading to meaningfully higher case fatality ratios (CFRs) as medical care was rationed. Most critically, this new infection rate would far outpace our current vaccine distribution capacity and policy. Assuming that vaccines are preferentially administered to the elderly, aggregate infection fatality ratios (IFRs) should decrease, but the overall burden of severe outcomes (death, long-term health consequences) would shift to younger demographics.

Current US government policy rejects the possibility of an Ireland event, largely because of what I believe is a politically-motivated analysis by the CDC that models more than 100 million Americans already possessing Covid antibodies, prior to any vaccination effort. Using data from flu monitoring programs in prior years, the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up. Add in another 10 million or so Americans who the CDC models as having already had asymptomatic Covid, add in the 23 million Americans who we know have had Covid, and voila! – per the CDC, one-third of the American population is already effectively immunized against getting Covid in the future. And obviously enough, if >30% of Americans are already effectively immunized against Covid because they’ve already gotten sick, then it’s very difficult to hit the Re numbers of 2.4 – 3.0 that Ireland is currently experiencing.

I think this model is wrong, and I think the CDC knows that it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong because the 2021 behavior of someone who thinks they might have Covid is very different from the 2015 behavior of someone who thought they might have had the flu, but the CDC assumes it is the same in their models. You don’t ignore Covid. You don’t just brush it off. I’d say that no one just brushes off Covid symptoms the way they might have brushed off flu symptoms in the past, but of course that’s not true. I’m sure there are millions of Americans who have, in fact, had symptomatic Covid and ignored it, particularly in spring and early summer when our national testing capability was pathetic. But 70 MILLION Americans? Twenty percent of ALL Americans? More than three times the number of known Covid cases? C’mon, man.

I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true – if they actually thought that one-third of Americans were already effectively immunized by having Covid antibodies – this would be an ENORMOUS factor in determining vaccination policy. Otherwise, you are going to be wasting one-third of your precious supply of vaccines on people who don’t need it. I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true, how do you make sense of Covid hospitalization rates?

Read more …

Soon to come in a country near you.

Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)

The Japanese government plans to suspend the entry of all foreigners as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world. Japan halted all new arrivals of non-nationals last month after new strains of the coronavirus that are believed to be highly transmissible were confirmed in the UK and elsewhere. But it continued to allow entry by businesspeople from 10 Asian countries and Taiwan. The government plans to suspend the entry of travelers, regardless of whether a coronavirus variant has been detected in their country, as part of its tighter entry restrictions following the declaration of a state of emergency.


No foreigners will be allowed to enter Japan, except for special reasons, such as a relative’s funeral or childbirth. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said last week he plans to ban travel to and from countries and territories where a new strain of the coronavirus has been confirmed. But members of his party and others described the measure as confusing.

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China’s nervous.

China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)

China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second biggest economy. Most of the new patients were reported near the capital Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed on Wednesday, amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine. The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the mainland compared with 55 a day earlier. This was the highest daily increase since July 30.

The commission said 107 of the new cases were local infections. Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases. [..] Hebei has put three cities – Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang – into lockdown as part of the efforts to keep the virus from spreading further, while Beijing city authorities have stepped up screening and prevention measures to prevent another cluster from developing there. Heilongjiang province on Wednesday declared a COVID-19 emergency. The city of Suihua, which borders the provincial capital Harbin, put its 5.2 million people under lockdown.

Most of the cases in Heilongjiang have been found in Wangkui county, under Suihua’s jurisdiction, which had already been put into a lockdown earlier this week. Tieli, a city of about 300,000 people that borders Suihua, said on Wednesday it will not allow any people or vehicles to leave for three days as part of new COVID-19 prevention measurs.

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An 85-year old apostle for peace. Boy, you guys screwed up.

Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)

We have been discussing the chilling crackdown on free speech that has been building for years in the United States. This effort has accelerated in the aftermath of the Capitol riot including the shutdown sites like Parler. Now former Texas congressman Ron Paul, 85, has been blocked from using his Facebook page for unspecified violations of “community standards.” Paul’s last posting was linked to an article on the “shocking” increase of censorship on social media. Facebook then proceeded to block him under the same undefined “community standards” policy. Paul, a libertarian leader and former presidential candidate, has been an outspoken critics of foreign wars and an advocate for civil liberties for decades. He wrote: “With no explanation other than ‘repeatedly going against our community standards,’ @Facebook has blocked me from managing my page. Never have we received notice of violating community standards in the past and nowhere is the offending post identified.”

His son is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted, “Facebook now considers advocating for liberty to be sedition. Where will it end?” Even before the riot, Democrats were calling for blacklists and retaliation against anyone deemed to be “complicit” with the Trump Administration. We have been discussing the rising threats against Trump supporters, lawyers, and officials in recent weeks from Democratic members are calling for blacklists to the Lincoln Project leading a a national effort to harass and abuse any lawyers representing the Republican party or President Trump. Others are calling for banning those “complicit” from college campuses while still others are demanding a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to “hold Trump and his enablers accountable for the crimes they have committed.” Daily Beast editor-at-large Rick Wilson has added his own call for “humiliation,” “incarceration” and even ritualistic suicides for Trump supporters in an unhinged, vulgar column.

After the riots, the big tech companies moved to ban and block sites and individuals, including Parler which is the primary alternative to Twitter. Also, a top Forbes editor Randall Lane warned any company that they will be investigated if they hire any former Trump officials. The riots are being used as a license to rollback on free speech and retaliate against conservatives. In the meantime, the silence of academics and many in the media is deafening. Many of those who have spoken for years about the dark period of McCarthyism and blacklisting are either supporting this censorship or remaining silent in the face of it. Now that conservatives are the targets, speech controls and blacklists appear understandable or even commendable. The move against Paul, a long champion of free speech, shows how raw and comprehensive this crackdown has become. It shows how the threat to free speech has changed. It is like having a state media without state control. These companies are moving in unison but not necessarily with direct collusion.

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“..exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country…”

How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)

Critics of Silicon Valley censorship for years heard the same refrain: tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are private corporations and can host or ban whoever they want. If you don’t like what they are doing, the solution is not to complain or to regulate them. Instead, go create your own social media platform that operates the way you think it should. The founders of Parler heard that suggestion and tried. In August, 2018, they created a social media platform similar to Twitter but which promised far greater privacy protections, including a refusal to aggregate user data in order to monetize them to advertisers or algorithmically evaluate their interests in order to promote content or products to them. They also promised far greater free speech rights, rejecting the increasingly repressive content policing of Silicon Valley giants.

Over the last year, Parler encountered immense success. Millions of people who objected to increasing repression of speech on the largest platforms or who had themselves been banned signed up for the new social media company. As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.

It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules. But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country.

If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.

Tucker Greenwald

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They smell blood, this won’t stop them.

Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)

Dear Madam Speaker:

Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day. It was a moment that demonstrated to the American people the unity that is still possible in Congress when it is needed most. But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution. Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.

As you know full well, the 25th Amendment was designed to address Presidential incapacity or disability. Just a few months ago, when you introduced legislation to create a 25th Amendment Commission, you said, “[a] President’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts.” You said then that we must be “[v]ery respectful of not making a judgment on the basis of a comment or behavior that we don’t like, but based on a medical decision.” Madam Speaker, you were right. Under our Constitution, the 25th Amendment is not a means of punishment or usurpation. Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

After the horrific events of this last week, our Administration’s energy is directed to ensuring an orderly transition. The Bible says that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to heal, … and a time to build up.” That time is now. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship for millions of Americans, and the tragic events of January 6th, now is the time for us to come together, now is the time to heal. I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. I pledge to you that I will continue to do my part to work in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition of power. So help me God.

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Last chance for lots of things.

Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)

President Trump’s last days in office offer a final opportunity to declassify critical information on the Russia investigation that engulfed his lone term. Already voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal. Despite these disclosures, key questions remain about the origins and the spread of the conspiracy theory.


And with a Biden administration set to take office and Democrats taking control of both chambers of Congress, there are no guarantees that the ongoing probe of Special Counsel John Durham will fill in the remaining gaps. Both the CIA and FBI have been slow to produce much material that Trump reportedly wants declassified. They argue that disclosure would reveal sources and methods vital to national security. Such claims arouse skepticism because they have been used in the past to cover up malfeasance – as the public learned when deceptive FISA warrant applications used to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were finally released.

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What’s striking here is that it’s CNN covering it.

Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)

Israel is no longer a democracy but an “apartheid regime” devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, the country’s best-known human rights group said in a report published Tuesday. B’Tselem, which until now has confined its work to scrutiny of human rights issues in the Palestinian territories, has now also decided to look at what it calls Israel’s “regime” between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. “More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule,” B’Tselem said in a new analysis titled: “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”


The human rights group says that the traditional view of Israel as a democracy operating side-by-side with a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories “imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects … has grown divorced from reality.” “Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,” B’Tselem said in its controversial analysis. Years of injustice against Palestinians, culminating in laws that have entrenched discrimination, mean that “the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met,” B’Tselem said. The allegation that Israel is an “apartheid state” has often been dismissed by rightwing Israelis and their support groups as anti-Semitic. But this argument will be harder to make now that Israel has been labelled this way by such a well-respected Israeli institution, albeit one that enjoys only minority support in its home country.

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“..build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption…”

Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)

While the political gridlock and alarmist headlines out of Capitol Hill as well as a dramatic Democratic move to impeach look to define Trump’s final week in office, Bloomberg notes that China’s President Xi Jinping is sounding “unusually upbeat”. According to the publication he issued an unusually upbeat assessment about China’s future, noting that “time and the situation” were on the country’s side in a new year marked by domestic turmoil in the U.S. The purpose of the speech before a top-level meeting of government officials in Beijing on Monday was to lay out the Communist Party vision over the next three decades, which included the presence of the Politburo Standing Committee, Beijing’s highest decision-making body.

“The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century,” Xi said, striking a tone which many pundits observed stood in contrast to recent more dire sounding warnings. “But time and momentum are on our side. This is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence.” And further according to the Monday remarks in the closed-door meeting: “At the same time, we must see clearly that, for now and until this upcoming period of time, while our country is at an important period of strategic opportunity for development, there will always be changes to our opportunities and challenges,” Xi was quoted as saying. “The extensiveness of these opportunities and challenges is unprecedented but, all in all, the opportunities we face outweigh our challenges,” he added, calling for unity, diligence and flexibility to achieve the party’s goals.

The cautious optimism continued, as South China Morning Post writes, while he made vague or remote references to both the pandemic and political turmoil and uncertainty afflicting the United States: In his speech, Xi also again emphasised Beijing’s new “dual circulation” economic strategy first announced in May amid global challenges brought by the pandemic and China’s slowing growth. “Only by being self-reliant and developing the domestic market and smoothing out internal circulation can we achieve vibrant growth and development, regardless of the hostility in the outside world,” Xi said. Elsewhere in the speech he continued urged that self-reliance would in part come through rapid technological innovation in order to build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption.

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Scum.

Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)

An investigation has been launched in England after images shared online showed “woefully inadequate” free school meal parcels sent to families. One mum criticised the free school meals scheme after she claimed she was sent just a few pounds worth of food to feed her children for 10 days. It was claimed the image of a £30 parcel contained just over £5 worth of food. Posting the image on Twitter, user Roadside Mum said: “2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes. “Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad. “Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.”


Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: “3 days of food for 1 family… Just not good enough. “Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. “Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven’t eaten at all so their children can… We MUST do better.” England children’s Minister Vicky Ford said she would be “urgently” look into the matter. England’s Department for Education wrote on Twitter: “We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. “Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.” Chartwells, the company which the mum in England said provided the parcel, said it will investigate.


The hamper received in Caerphilly (left) compared to the hamper received by a mum in England

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Paul Ehrlich. Long time no see.

Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises. The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood. “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.


The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.” The report warns that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken. “Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds. Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

Read more …

 

 

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The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
– Albert Camus

 

 

 

 

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Jan 032021
 


Camille Pissarro Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 1897

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Assange

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

It’s just too crazy.

Legal Teams Likely Informed Already of Assange Decision (Mercouris)

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

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

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

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

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Let the dice roll.

Pence Embraces Election Challenge By Members Of Congress (JTN)

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

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A 10-day audit would not hurt anyone.

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

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


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

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

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Read the whole thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Got the pics via Dave Collum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Pierre-Auguste Renoir Les Grands Boulevards 1875

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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


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

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Not great PR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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The numbers are stark:

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

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

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


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

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Of course you must have this.

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

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


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

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Make it up as you go along.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Judge Rejects Election Lawsuit Against VP Pence (JTN)

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


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

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… and you ain’t in it..

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

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

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

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

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To the mattresses.

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

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

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


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

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The stench….

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

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

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

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

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

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A long column.

Forecast 2021 (Jim Kunstler)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 012021
 
 January 1, 2021  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Claude Monet Boulevard des Capucines 1873

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Read more …

There are multiple variants.

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

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

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

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

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

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A lot of assumptions.

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

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

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

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

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

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Billions in profits.

World Faces COVID19 “Vaccine Apartheid” (IC)

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

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

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

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

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Of course they will.

Over 100 Republicans Will Challenge Electoral College Results (SAC)

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


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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

WIll the UK fall apart next?

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

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

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

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

A Festive Message for 2021 (Varoufakis)

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

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


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

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

The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange (Greenwald)

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


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

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 232020
 


Edward Hopper Automat 1927

 

Trump Kicks COVID Bill Back To Congress; Demands $2,000 Stimulus (ZH)
Force The Vote On Direct Aid (DP)
Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Helped Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half (DP)
COVID19 Catch-22: Regime-Change Policies Come With US Pandemic Relief (GZ)
White House Memo Details How ‘Pence Card’ Can Save Trump Presidency (NF)
Growing Number Of GOP Lawmakers Back Electoral College Challenge (Hill)
Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos (DC)
WHO: New UK COVID19 Strain No Deadlier, Only Slightly More Infectious (RT)
America Is Now Ruled By People Older Than Soviet Union ‘Gerontocracy’ (RT)
Stalemate (Paul Edwards)
China Has Infiltrated America (Rickards)
Financial Warfare Is Real (Rickards)
UN Expert Melzer Asks US President Donald Trump To Pardon Julian Assange (UN)

 

 

Trump kicks the relief bill back to Congress and says he wants $2,000 checks. Everyone scrambles to react. Bernie campaigner David Sirota writes: “The question now: Will Pelosi, Schumer and Biden do everything in their power to call Trump’s bluff..?”. But what bluff? Saying the same thing as the squad is a bluff? And they can “call the bluff” only by agreeing with the man they’ve demonized for 4 years?

Trump has been talking about bigger checks for a long time. Was this a bluff that whole time? Amy Klobuchar tries her own private angle, and calls raising the stimulus to $2,000 per person “an attack on every American”. What? Is that also a bluff? At the end of the day, Trump and the Squad both want the same thing. All the rest are stuck in the middle.

And AOC tries to save the day, and her face, by saying the Squad had the proposals for $2,000 checks already written up.

Okay, explain where they went. How hard did you fight Pelosi etc. in order to get the exact same thing Trump wants?

Who’s calling whose bluff around here?

 

 

“Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump Kicks COVID Bill Back To Congress; Demands $2,000 Stimulus (ZH)

President Trump appeared to threaten to veto the COVID-19 stimulus package that Congress passed almost 24 hours earlier, telling lawmakers to boost checks for Americans to $2,000 as well as “get rid of wasteful and unnecessary items” in the spending bill. Trump said “throughout the summer, Democrats cruelly blocked COVID relief legislation in an effort to advance their extreme left wing agenda and influence the election…” “it’s taken forever” to get a package and the bill passed “is much different than anticipated.” “It really is a disgrace,” he added. Then reeled off a list of disgusting ‘pork’ that has been piled into this record-breaking 5,593 page bill.


As Axios notes, many of the items Trump listed, such as foreign aid, which were not related to COVID-19 are not part of the coronavirus relief package. These form part of the government funding bill, which was passed alongside the coronavirus relief package. Then he took a shot at Biden and the election. “Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump relief speech

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“Luckily for Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — and for millions of people who need help — Trump is giving them one last chance to do the right thing..”

Force The Vote On Direct Aid (DP)

Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto emergency stimulus legislation unless lawmakers increased direct payments to millions of families facing the prospect of eviction, loss of health insurance, unemployment and starvation. Lawmakers had settled on meager one-time $600 checks but the president demanded $2,000 payments — a proposal that was championed months ago by congressional progressives but that was ignored by both parties’ legislative leaders. The declaration from the GOP president follows his other recent statements in support of bigger checks. The entire situation shows that Joe Biden and Democratic congressional leaders either could have driven a much tougher bargain in their negotiations over new COVID-19 relief legislation with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — or they actually deliberately prioritized austerity and didn’t want a bigger spending package in the first place.

Luckily for Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — and for millions of people who need help — Trump is giving them one last chance to do the right thing and back a bolder version of the $1,200 direct payment proposal that Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have been pushing from the beginning of this most recent round of negotiations. In fact, seven months ago Sanders joined Sens. Kamala Harris, Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand in introducing a bill to provide monthly $2,000 checks to individuals until the pandemic is over. (That’s not surprising, given that Sanders and the Congressional Progressive Caucus he led were the original authors of the first stimulus check of the modern era, way back in 2001.) The question now: Will Pelosi, Schumer and Biden do everything in their power to call Trump’s bluff and force a vote to increase the $600 checks to $2,000?

Pelosi clearly feels the heat — she is suddenly pretending she’s always been ready to take Trump up on his offer to support $2,000 survival checks, even though prior to about an hour ago, she had never tried to triangulate Trump against McConnell on the issue. Earlier this month, she supported a deal that did not include checks at all, and just yesterday she insisted that $600 checks were “significant.” Indeed, the $2,000 is a new ask for Democratic leaders — progressive lawmakers had been pushing it for months, but Pelosi’s much-touted HEROES Act only asked for $1,200 one-time, means-tested checks. Regardless, the Democratic House Speaker is now finally saying she wants a vote to amend the stimulus bill to increase the small $600 checks to $2,000 — and such an amendment has already been written by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.

Read more …

“That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.”

Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Helped Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half (DP)

If there is any consistent throughline in Joe Biden’s long career, it is his commitment to the ideology of austerity. He has obsessively pushed for Social Security cuts for decades, and he is stocking his administration with deficit hawks — including today’s announcement that notorious Social Security cutterBruce Reed will be White House deputy chief of staff. Biden has even threatened to veto Medicare for All legislation on the grounds that it costs too much (even though Congress says it would actually save a lot of money). Now, in the whittling down of the stimulus legislation, we see the first concrete example of how Biden’s ideology can change policy in the here and now — and in deeply destructive ways.

As pain and suffering is crescendoing across the country, Biden refrained from aggressively pushing the bipartisan initiative for $1,200 survival checks. Indeed, at a time when there was a legitimate chance to flip some Republicans — including Donald Trump! — against McConnell and push for a more robust stimulus, he demurred. However, the New York Times reminds us today that Biden was “not an idle bystander in the negotiations.” On the contrary, the paper of record tells us that the president-elect played a decisive role in making sure the legislation was cut in half. Here is the key excerpt:

“With Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate far apart on how much they were willing to accept in new pandemic spending, Mr. Biden on Dec. 2 threw his support behind the $900 billion plan being pushed by the centrist group. The total was less than half of the $2 trillion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, had been insisting on. Mr. Biden’s move was not without risks. If it had failed to affect the discussions, the president-elect risked looking powerless to move Congress before he had taken the oath of office. But members of both parties said his intervention was constructive and gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands.”

Read that again, just so it sinks in: Biden endorsing an initiative to slash the stimulus bill in half “gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands” for a much more robust rescue package at a time when America faces rising food insecurity and poverty. His enthusiastic lauding of the final bill underscores the role he played. “In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for action and compromise,” Biden said in a statement. “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation.” That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.

Read more …

But it’s 2 different bills, says everyone. Yeah, big difference that makes.

COVID19 Catch-22: Regime-Change Policies Come With US Pandemic Relief (GZ)

The longest piece of legislation in United States history, containing both a coronavirus relief package and the annual omnibus spending package, quickly passed through Congress on December 22, with little opposition. While technically separate bills, the omnibus and stimulus were debated and passed together, at the same time.The massive piece of legislation — a staggering 5,593 pages in length — lays bare the priorities of the US government, prioritizing regime change in foreign nations and the imperatives of empire over the basic needs of Americans. In just a few hours, it passed through the House of Representatives by 359-53, and through the Senate by 92-6.

While the US public was forced to grovel for months for a $600 direct payment, the same piece of legislation pumps billions of dollars into “democracy programs” — US government code for regime-change operations via civil society NGOs — and foreign military assistance. The measly $600 survival checks pale in comparison to the massive foreign spending on regime change and titanic allocations to prop up US-friendly authoritarian militaries. On so-called “Democracy Programs” alone, the legislation appropriates $2.417 billion, and $6.175 billion on the “Foreign Military Financing Program.” Another $112.9 million is appropriated for “International Military Education and Training.”

$6 billion more is allocated toward the domestic procurement of US Air Force missiles and US Navy weapons of war. This is in addition to the $740 billion defense bill passed earlier in December. By contrast, the stimulus package comes at a value of $900 billion, with the largest portion devoted to business bailouts. The Federal News Network reports that the $1.4 trillion omnibus includes $671.5 billion allocated to “base defense spending,” with another $77 billion going to “overseas contingency operations.”

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“Pence has the sole power determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors.”

White House Memo Details How ‘Pence Card’ Can Save Trump Presidency (NF)

Sources in the Trump administration confirmed to National File that President Donald Trump’s most vocal advocates within the White House have determined that both U.S. Code and the Constitution contain language that requires Vice President Mike Pence to reject unlawful Electoral College certificates, but Pence must act by no later than Wednesday, December 23. The drafters of this White House memo believe that the federal check to the states’ elections resides with Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate. Additionally, Pence has the sole power determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors. However, Pence is legally required to do this on the fourth Wednesday in December, which this year falls on December 23.

National File’s sources in the White House indicated that the memo was requested by those in the President’s circle who are most keen to see the 2020 election, and the ensuing fallout, administered in as transparent of a manner as possible. They also indicate that the push to find a path to verify the 2020 election’s integrity is not coming solely from the White House, but also comes from across numerous agencies in the administration. FROM THE MEMO: Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Therefore, the papers (or “slates”) the states attempted to submit to the President of the Senate and Archivist of the United States are not legal, permissible certificates of votes and lists by Electors as recited in Title 3, U.S.C., sections 9 and 11. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin violated the U.S. Constitution’s Art. 2, S.1, Cl.2 and 14th Amendment, Section 1, Equal Protection Clause in administering their elections, therefore rendering their slates impermissible.

On Dec. 14, the States consummated a fraudulent and Constitutionally deficient certification of their electors as required by 3 USC 7. State and federal authorities have discovered Overwhelming evidence of election fraud and irregularities since Nov. 4, likely rising to the level of criminal election fraud and public corruption. Civil courts dismissed these claims procedurally, rather than on substance.

Read more …

And the Hill doesn’t like it.

Growing Number Of GOP Lawmakers Back Electoral College Challenge (Hill)

A growing number of House Republicans say they will challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. The latest Republican to say he will do so is Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who will be a part of the House when it convenes in early January. He implored other Republicans to also challenge the results in a video message. “I have a message for all other Republicans across the country,” Cawthorn said. “If you are not on the record calling for fair, free and just elections now and in the future, I will come to your district and I will fund a primary opponent against you.” Not doing this to help my career in Washington, in fact this will most likely harm it. But no one should go to Washington as a career. Go there to serve the people. And on behalf of the people I am contesting this election based on constitutional violations by key states. — Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) December 21, 2020


There is no evidence the results of the last election showing President-elect Joe Biden defeating President Trump by more than 70 electoral votes and more than 7 million votes overall was unfair, and efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse the outcome have gone nowhere in the courts. The effort in the House is also doomed to failure, as it will not be possible for supporters to secure a majority vote given Democratic control of the lower chamber, and the fact that a number of Republicans also object to the effort first launched by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). But Trump has encouraged the effort, and a number of House Republicans, likely with an eye on getting attention from the most powerful Republican in the country, have said they will join Brooks.

Read more …

“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.”

Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos (DC)

President Donald Trump granted a full pardon on Tuesday to George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide at the center of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. “Mr. Papadopoulos was charged with a process-related crime, one count of making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the White House said in a statement about the pardon. “Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.” Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch national convicted in the Mueller probe. Last month, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to false statements charges on Dec. 1, 2017.

Papadopoulos was the first Trump associate to plead guilty in the Mueller probe. He served 12 days in prison on charges that he made false statements to the FBI in January 2017 regarding his interactions with a Maltese professor who claimed to have learned that the Russian government had Hillary Clinton’s emails. The FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, on July 31, 2016, based on an Australian diplomat’s tip regarding a meeting he had on May 10, 2016 with Papadopoulos. Alexander Downer, the diplomat, claimed that Papadopoulos told him that Russia might help the Trump campaign by releasing material close to the election.

Investigators initially thought that Papadopoulos took part in a collusion scheme with Russia or knew of Trump associates who might have been. But the FBI probe, and the Mueller investigation that followed, ultimately turned up no evidence of a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Russian government. Papadopoulos has denied telling anyone on the Trump campaign about his conversations with the Maltese diplomat, Joseph Mifsud. “Notably, Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Nonetheless, the Special Counsel’s team still charged Mr. Papadopoulos with this process-related crime,” the White House said in its pardon statement.

Read more …

The borders already re-opened.

WHO: New UK COVID19 Strain No Deadlier, Only Slightly More Infectious (RT)

The World Health Organization has come forward to calm things down amid the anxiety over a new potentially ‘highly infectious’ Covid-19 strain found in the UK, saying it is not that different from other coronavirus strains. “There is zero evidence that the new coronavirus variant increases severity of the disease,” the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program Chief Mike Ryan told at a press conference on Monday, citing data received from British scientists. The risks faced by the people that catch this particular strain of the virus are pretty much the same as odds faced by other people suffering from Covid-19. According to the WHO, it is neither more aggressive, nor any deadlier than the other strains.= It does seem to be spreading somewhat easier, the health watchdog admitted. Still, its contagiousness appears to be nothing out of the ordinary and it is still much less infectious than diseases such as mumps.


The new strain would also hardly affect the efficacy of drugs and vaccines developed against Covid-19, the WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said. “So far, even though we have seen a number of changes, a number of mutations, none has made a significant impact on … the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or the vaccines under development,” she said. WHO officials also described a flurry of travel bans to and from the UK imposed by some two dozen of nations across the world as a move taken out of abundance of caution. “We have to find a balance. It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” Ryan said, while still calling this decision “prudent.”

Read more …

”.. prompting then-US president Ronald Reagan to say “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?” Yet Reagan was 74 at the time, older than all three.”

America Is Now Ruled By People Older Than Soviet Union ‘Gerontocracy’ (RT)

Joe Biden, set to be the oldest-ever US president, is actually on the younger side of people currently running the American political establishment, who show no sign of wanting to ever step aside for another generation. It is often overlooked that Donald Trump currently holds the distinction of being the oldest-ever US president, being 70 at the time of his inauguration. Biden will take that trophy as well if he’s inaugurated in January 2021, having turned 78 last month. Even so, he is actually younger than the current leaders of the House and the Senate! Though all major power brokers in Washington are older than the “gerontocracy” that ruled the Soviet Union in the 1970s and the 1980s, you won’t hear the US mainstream media make the comparison, as it wouldn’t fit their Narrative.

Sure, there has been some carefully calibrated talk about the “cognitive decline” of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is 87. But Feinstein is from an overwhelmingly Democrat state and she can be easily replaced at the same time as Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate who still hasn’t resigned her Senate seat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is 80, and has raised eyebrows herself with the whole “Good Morning. Sunday Morning” glitch-in-the-Matrix behavior during a TV appearance in September. Way back in 2018, Pelosi insisted that any talk about wanting someone younger in the leadership position was “sexist,” and went on to ruthlessly crush any opposition to her getting the gavel – and the power that went with it – inside the party. In the same interview, Pelosi blanked out on the name of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), calling him “whatshisname.”

Born several months ahead of Biden in 1942, McConnell is 78 himself. He had a bout with polio when very young, and though successfully treated, he’s had difficulty climbing stairs all his life. While he hasn’t shown any signs of cognitive decline, his political choices as of late have certainly caused some Republicans to wonder if he’s truly the legislative genius his supporters make him out to be. [..] the young activist House members who came in with 2018’s “Blue Wave,” such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), are being kept in check by the old guard. Just last week, AOC was denied a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, thwarting her plans to push for her “Green New Deal” proposal. Compare this state of US politics with the notorious “gerontocracy” of the Soviet Union. Three aging Soviet leaders died in quick succession between 1982 and 1985, prompting then-US president Ronald Reagan to say “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?” Yet Reagan was 74 at the time, older than all three.

Read more …

“On top of that, there is now—I won’t call it news—official yammer that those pesky Russkies are at it again…”

Stalemate (Paul Edwards)

In chess, stalemate describes the endgame situation in which one party has no possible legal moves. It is the point at which we are arrived in our Presidential fiasco. There has been great angst and gnashing of teeth over it, and ebullient, if tentative, rejoicing on the part of giddy enthusiasts for whom Trump’s electoral defeat represents the Jubilee, the Dawn of Glory, and re-establishment of righteousness on earth. This view, deluded and infantile as it is, is nevertheless sincere and widely held. Stalemate, though, is not victory, in chess or otherwise. In a stalemate the game ends in a draw. That said, it seems likely Trump will depart—in spite of the hysteria peddled by so many in media and cyber-flackery—without anything faintly resembling the Reichstag Fire, or even a Proud Boys version of the shootout at the OK Corral. He’ll go with a whimper, not a bang.

So the crisis ends in victory? Or has it indeed been a sort of draw? We’ve been assured from authoritative quarters, in the most decisive terms, that, in his mulish, petulant refusal to take no for an answer to his grandiose ambitions, Trump has done irreparable damage to the Great Institution of our Electoral Democracy; that his dogged denial of his loss, and utter rejection of the protocols of cordial transition have sorely undermined, and perhaps even fatally shaken, our collective faith in the purity and justice of our Constitutional process and its benign functioning. On top of that, there is now—I won’t call it news—official yammer that those pesky Russkies are at it again. Yes, by golly, they’ve diabolically infiltrated our Official Secrets Crypt, no doubt goaded into it by that fiend, Putin, who, according to what we’ve been schooled for four years to believe, ought to have been spending all his energies backing Trump, but somehow overlooked that.

It appears that after doing so much to elect him in ‘16, they didn’t bother this time and let him lose. Just no fathoming their deviltry. Anyhow, our noble protectors and defenders, those fab Security Services—FBI, NSA, CIA and the other sixteen or twenty-three sister spook units who’ve done so much to keep us from harm—all have their knickers in a twist, one hand clutching their pearls and the other making a bold fist at the Kremlin, over Vlad & Co. attacking the dead meat of our sanctified secrets catacombs. What a dogpile! What a gang-bang! Trump and the Russians, allied again, bringing all their satanic powers to bear on the frail, vulnerable vessel of our fate, the very motor and mainspring of Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean: our hallowed electoral system. Come on, somebody has to call bullshit on this nonsense.

Read more …

Two pieces from Jim Rickards at Daily Reckoning.

China Has Infiltrated America (Rickards)

Spying is as old as civilization. As long as there have been leaders with secrets and armies on the march, opponents have wanted to know what they’re thinking and where they’re going. Hence the need for spies. And it comes as no surprise that the Chinese are as good as anyone when it comes to spying and that their main target is the United States. What may come as a surprise is the scope of their success and the enormous number of operatives, influencers, sleepers and other varieties of spies who have already infiltrated critical U.S. institutions. Of course, a lot of spying today involves surveillance of phone calls, digital message traffic, online financial transactions, facial recognition software, satellite surveillance and other electronic tradecraft.

But the old fashioned methods of the human spy penetrating organizations, gaining trust and stealing secrets have never gone away. In fact, that type of human intelligence (HUMINT) seems to be having a renaissance. Members of the Chinese Communist Party who pledge to “fight for communism throughout my life … and… be loyal to the party” are hard at work inside companies like Boeing, Pfizer and Qualcomm, political strongholds like the U.S. State Department, and on Capitol Hill. Other spies operate clandestinely, including a woman named Fang Fang, a young attractive Chinese spy who worked her way into an intimate relationship with Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who routinely receives classified briefings.

This is a classic intelligence technique known as a Honey Trap. Swalwell fell for it. Somehow Fang got a heads up and fled back to China before she could be turned into a double-agent or simply arrested by the FBI. No word yet on who gave her the heads-up, but Swalwell is suspected. The Chinese intelligence services have also penetrated academia using so-called Confucius Institutes (cultural exchange facilities that are really nests of spies) and lavish research grants. Too often, Americans are ensnared in Chinese spying efforts either because they are naive or just greedy for the money the Chinese spread around. U.S. targets simply turn a blind eye to the damage to America. Until things change, America’s technological and strategic edge will be blunted by Chinese theft of secrets and compromise of elite decision-makers.

Let’s hope this changes, but don’t hold your breath. Will the U.S. intelligence community get a grip on the Chinese threat? There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the U.S. The Intelligence Community, particularly the CIA, seem to have woken up to the fact that the world has changed. The bad news is that it still seems to be riddled with the same hidebound bureaucrats, the same ‘go along to get along’ guys I saw during my years at the Agency. A big problem is the “culture of secrecy.” Forty years ago, secrets were valuable, and open-source information was not particularly useful beyond just keeping up with the news. Information used to be a scarce resource. But that world has changed. Today, information flow is like a fire hose; there’s almost more than you can process. The scarce resource today is not information; it’s analytic ability.

Read more …

War simulations. Better than board games.

Financial Warfare Is Real (Rickards)

In my 2011 book, Currency Wars, I gave a detailed description of the first-ever financial war game sponsored by the Department of Defense. This financial war game took place in 2009 at the top-secret Applied Physics Laboratory located about twenty miles north of Washington, D.C., in the Maryland countryside. Unlike typical war games, the “rules of engagement” for this financial exercise did not permit the use of any kinetic weapons such as bombs, missiles or drones. The only weapons allowed were financial instruments including stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities and derivatives. The game was played out over two days in the main War Room of the laboratory using six teams divided into the U.S., China, Russia, Europe, East Asia, and Banks & Hedge Funds.

The contestants included about 40 players on the six teams and another 60 participants including: uniformed military, civilian defense officials, observers from the Treasury, Federal Reserve, CIA and other government agencies, think tanks, universities, and financial industry professionals. In that original financial war game, a scenario involving Russia, China, gold and the destruction of the U.S. dollar was played out against a backdrop of geopolitical events, including the collapse of North Korea and a threatened Chinese invasion of Taiwan. In May 2015, the Pentagon sponsored a new financial warfare session, which I was also invited to attend. This time the financial war took place inside a secure meeting facility at the Pentagon itself.

This new financial war game exercise was smaller and more focused than the one in 2009. We had about 20 participants. Our group included representatives from the diplomatic corps, military, think tanks, universities, CIA and the National Security Council. I was one of three individuals from the investment management community. Our scenario this time was not global but was instead limited to a confrontation between China and the U.S. involving disputed jurisdiction in the South China Sea. Six nations have claims in the South China Sea – China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. These claims overlap to a great extent, setting the stage for disputes and possible war.

The South China Sea is rich in oil, natural gas reserves, fishing rights and other natural resources. The surrounding nations dispute with certain island groups – the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands – and are also using reefs, sunken vessels and landfill to create artificial islands, which they are populating with bases and military garrisons. The U.S. has treaty obligations to the Philippines and Taiwan, which could result in the U.S. becoming engaged militarily in the event of a dispute with China. This volatile mix of disputed claims, natural resources and complex treaty networks has the ingredients needed to escalate into a Third World War. All it would take to start a war is some spark, such as a collision at sea or an attack based on mistaken identity or misunderstood intentions. The occurrence of such a war is likely inevitable.

Read more …

Stating the obvious.

UN Expert Melzer Asks US President Donald Trump To Pardon Julian Assange (UN)

“Mr. President, Today, I respectfully request that you pardon Mr. Julian Assange. Mr. Assange has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty for the past ten years. This is a high price to pay for the courage to publish true information about government misconduct throughout the world. I visited Mr. Assange in Belmarsh High Security Prison in London, with two independent medical doctors, and I can attest to the fact that his health has seriously deteriorated, to the point where his life is now in danger. Critically, Mr. Assange suffers from a documented respiratory condition which renders him extremely vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic that has recently broken out in the prison where he is being held.

I ask you to pardon Mr. Assange, because he is not, and has never been, an enemy of the American people. His organization, WikiLeaks, fights secrecy and corruption throughout the world and, therefore, acts in the public interest both of the American people and of humanity as a whole. I ask because Mr. Assange has never published false information. The cause for any reputational harm that may have resulted from his publications is not to be found in any misconduct on his part, but in the very misconduct which he exposed. I ask because Mr. Assange has not hacked or stolen any of the information he published. He has obtained it from authentic documents and sources in the same way as any other serious and independent investigative journalists conduct their work. While we may personally agree or disagree with their publications, they clearly cannot be regarded as crimes.

I ask because prosecuting Mr. Assange for publishing true information about serious official misconduct, whether in America or elsewhere, would amount to “shooting the messenger” rather than correcting the problem he exposed. This would be incompatible with the core values of justice, rule of law and press freedom, as reflected in the American Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by the United States. I ask because you have vowed, Mr. President, to pursue an agenda of fighting government corruption and misconduct; and because allowing the prosecution of Mr. Assange to continue would mean that, under your legacy, telling the truth about such corruption and misconduct has become a crime.

In pardoning Mr Assange, Mr. President, you would send a clear message of justice, truth and humanity to the American people and to the world. You would rehabilitate a courageous man who has suffered injustice, persecution and humiliation for more than a decade, simply for telling the truth.

Read more …

 

 

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A common mistake when trying to design something completely fool-proof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
– Douglas Adams

 

 

Alexandros Maragos Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn over #Athens

 

 

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Oct 082020
 
 October 8, 2020  Posted by at 8:08 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Hieronymus Bosch , The Garden of Earthly Delights, centre panel, detail c1500

 

 

Nothing partisan today, sorry, and thank you very much, just an observation. Which is that Trump keeps an unparralledly (can I buy a vowel?) divided America together simply because the entire nation focuses on him. One half out of support, the other out of “hatred”, but still. Anyone who saw even part of yesterday’s VP debate knows exactly what I mean. Boring! And that’s one thing Trump is not.

There was this headline that said: “Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together”, and I thought: does anyone believe that, anywhere on the political spectrum? The purpose of Biden is to give the Democrats the power, not to unite the nation, that’s just rubbish. But yeah, they dragged him all the way out to Gettysburg, to claim some sort of link to Abraham Lincoln. Hoping nobody remembers that Lincoln was a member of the Republican party. Joe even quoted the Republican Lincoln verbatim:

 

‘Again We Are A House Divided’: Biden Calls For Unity In Gettysburg Speech

Joe Biden delivered a forceful appeal for national unity from the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, as the nation lurched from crisis to crisis and the president continued to downplay the severity of the coronavirus after being hospitalized for Covid-19. From the storied civil war battlefield of Gettysburg, a symbol of the divisions that nearly tore the nation in two, Biden cast the election as a “battle for the soul of the nation” and emphasized the stakes this November. “Today, once again we are a house divided,” Biden said, framed by a row of American flags with the rolling hills of Gettysburg behind him.


“But that, my friend, can no longer be. We are facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have too bright a future to leave it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division.” In a sweeping speech – one that drew on Abraham Lincoln’s address at the same spot, the site of one of the war’s bloodiest battles, and Lyndon Johnson’s remarks from there one hundred years later – Biden warned of the “cost of division” and his fears that partisanship threatened to undermine the central pillars of American democracy. Biden vowed to govern as an “American president”, one who would seek bipartisan solutions to the nation’s most consequential problems, including the coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice and economic turmoil.

Joe Biden is a non-entity. Same for Kamala Harris and Michael Pence. They don’t count in a universe that is also home to Donald Trump. Nothing to do with their opinions or politics or plans or whatever, it’s about attention value. If you ask someone who they think people will pay more attention to, Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian, it’s maybe a toss-up, and it depends on age groups. Ask the same for Joe Biden vs Kim Kardashian, and they’re going to say: what the fcuk are you talking about?

Same for Mike Pence, and Kamala Harris, no question. Hillary, the press could spin into something, but she lost to Trump once already. It’s all, all of it, about clickbait. Trump generates more of it than anyone, and none of the other protagonists seem to have any clue as to why that is. But the press do.

It’s the anti-Trump media that focuses on him even more than the pro-Trump one. Because they know that’s where the money is. Write about Trump, anything, even anything that is not true, and the money will be flowing in. Call him a rapist, racist, misogynist, fascist, anything’s fair game. I saw the term “Little Mussolini” float by when Trump stood on the White House balcony post-Walter Reed and thought again: you guys have no idea about memes. Trump is 6’3, Mussolini was 5’7, and you’re going with “Little Mussolini”? That’s your best shot?

A few days ago, before the VP debate, a commenter here on the Automatic Earth said:

 

It doesn’t seem Trump will croak from covid, but this image …

Harris and Pence

…seems more relevant than this one…

Trump and Pence.

 

And I said:

“As long as Trump is part of the game, there’s nothing more relevant than Trump. That’s not an opinion. His presence has driven everything for 4+ years. It’s kept the NYT and CNN/MSNBC alive; they would be gone without him. The Dems’ only message 4+ years in is they are not Trump. That’s it, no other message. If he would be voted out, the MSM would be too. Politics would stop attracting viewers and readers by 50-80%.


Trump generates clickbait; Pence and Biden do not. Pence will never win anything. People detest Kamala more than they did Hillary. I’m afraid that even prior to the election, why wait?, there will be the first instances of a civil war in America. The only thing that still ties the nation together is Trump. Love him or hate him.”

The very same people who most “hate” Trump are the ones whose income most depends on him “Being There”. CNN head Jerry Zucker made it very clear to his staff during the so-called impeachment hearings that the only thing he wanted them to report on was impeachment. Not because he hates Trump, but because he knew that’s where the money is in present-day America: Yes, Trump.

CNN, WaPo, NYT, they’re altogether being busy killing their golden goose. You think these outlets, saved from bankruptcy by the appearance of Trump on the scene, don’t understand the dynamics? Of course they do. But they’re too far gone into their anti-Trump game to turn around. They know they themselves potentially initiated their own downfall by going all-out against Trump and for Joe Biden. But they have nowhere left to turn anymore.

If Biden wins, they’re done, nobody cares about him, nobody would read or watch a single thing about him, or about Kamala if she would take over, even if that switcheroo would give them a short attention “span”.

 

Trump said, coming out of Walter Reed: don’t let COVID19 dominate your life. Which the so-called left wing MSM turned into: “Don’t let tRump DOMINATE your life”. Bit late for that, guys and gals. You volunteered to let him dominate your lives for 4+ years now.

There doesn’t appear to be much of a plan in the Democratic party, and what plans there are differ hugely from each other. The gaps between Biden, Sanders and AOC are huge, on fracking, health care, you name it. They just find themselves together in the same party, for no obvious reason, other than, you guessed it, Trump. They stand for nothing together, there’s just one thing they agree on: Trump. Orange Man Bad: “I’m the one who ran against the socialists” Joe Biden said when asked about whether a vote for him is a vote for the radical left, despite the fact that Bernie campaigned for him in Michigan today”.

You can only keep that sort of thing together with a common enemy. Trump not only keeps the nation together, he literally keeps the Democratic Party together.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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Oct 082020
 


Rene Magritte Memory 1944

 

Pence Responds to Charlottesville Very Fine People Hoax at VP Debate (Pollak)
Trump: All US Troops Should Be Withdrawn From Afghanistan By Christmas (JTN)
Mike Flynn Seeks To Remove Judge Overseeing Case, Alleging Bias (JTN)
“A Means Of Distracting The Public” (Turley)
Despite MSM And Establishment Bias Against Trump, He’ll Still Win (Feierstein)
Trump Orders Russiagate Documents Declassified (Ray McGovern)
Is Warren Buffett the Wallet Behind Black Lives Matter? (Tablet)
The Constitutional Reckoning of State Lockdown Orders (AIER)
Golden Dawn Leader And Ex-MPs Found Guilty In Landmark Trial (G.)
Why Did Golden Dawn’s Neo-Nazi Leaders Get Away With It For So Long? (G.)
Reporters Claim Facebook is Censoring Information on Julian Assange Case (MPN)
Movie-Going Could ‘Become Extinct’ Warns Director (BBC)

 

 

Didn’t see the VP debate, but did see the reactions, tons of them. Pretty sure nobody really listened, and nobody learned a thing. Because those reactions are as split along party lines as the whole country is. Dems think Kamala did great, Reps think Pence demolished her.

All perfectly exemplified by the “very fine people” hoax. Both Biden and Kamala brought it up again. There is no clearer illustration of America’s divide than them being able to use a long deconstructed line again and again. Their supporters simply haven’t seen or read how ludicrous the whole thing is. Because their media won’t tell them. This happens on both sides, obviously.

Another example is the very strange play around fracking, where both Biden and Harris have in the past said they would ban it, and now say they won’t. Apparently this is because of the battle for Pennsylvania. Opportunism.

 

 

Banning fracking

 

 

 

 

“Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together ..”

There are people who believe that? Wow. Trump brings the people together, in that everyone focuses on him. But Biden?

Pence Responds to Charlottesville Very Fine People Hoax at VP Debate (Pollak)

At long last, the Charlottesville “very fine people” hoax has been deflated on the national stage. At the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) attempted to repeat the false claim that President Trump failed to condemn white supremacists on the debate stage, and the false claim that Trump called neo-Nazis in the 2017 Charlottesville riots “very fine people.” Harris said: “Last week, the President of the United States took a debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn white supremacists [sic].” She then proceeded to twist Trump’s words in which told the Proud Boys — whom Joe Biden had brought up — to “stand down and stand by,” using terms similar to those moderator Chris Wallace had used in his question prompt.

Harris then recited the infamous hoax, among other hoaxes: “He called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals” [sic]. He instituted, as his first act, a “Muslim ban” [sic]. He — on the issue of Charlottesville, where people were peacefully protesting [sic] the need for racial justice, where a young woman* was killed, and on the other side, there were neo-Nazis, carrying tiki torches, shouting racial epithets, antisemitic slurs, and Donald Trump, when asked about it, said: “There were fine people on both sides.” This is who we have as the President of the United States — and America, you deserve better. Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together and recognizes the beauty in our diversity, and the fact that we have so much more in common than what separates us.”

Wednesday night’s moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, gave Pence a chance to reply. He said: “You know, I think this is one of the things that makes people dislike the media so much in this country, Susan, is that you selectively edit — just like Senator Harris did — the comments that President Trump and I and others on our side of the aisle make. I mean — Senator Harris conveniently omitted, after the president made comments about people on either side of the debate over monuments, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, and has done so repeatedly. You’re concerned that he “doesn’t condemn neo-Nazis”? President Trump has Jewish grandchildren! His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. This is a president who respects and cherishes all of the American people.” Pence was correct. Trump said the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville should be “condemned totally.”

Read more …

Let’s go!

Trump: All US Troops Should Be Withdrawn From Afghanistan By Christmas (JTN)

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that the United States should withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by Christmas. “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” the president tweeted. Reuters reported that earlier on Wednesday, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that the U.S. presently has fewer than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan and will decrease the level to 2,500 by early 2021. Foreign forces are slated to depart from Afghanistan by May of next year in connection with an agreement struck between America and the Taliban, if a ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government sticks, Military Times reports.

“war made the state, and the state made war”
– Charles Tilly

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The judge was quoting Rachel Maddow?!

Mike Flynn Seeks To Remove Judge Overseeing Case, Alleging Bias (JTN)

In a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud, lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday filed a motion to disqualify U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan from considering the request to dismiss their client’s case, arguing the jurist has demonstrated “contempt and disdain for the defense.” The filing by attorneys Sidney Powell and Jesse Binnall came after the defense and judge clashed several times at a hearing last week. It also follows Flynn, retire Army lieutenant general, having tried to get an appeals court to issue a writ of mandamus forcing Sullivan to immediately dismiss the case. The defense won an initial ruling by a three-judge panel before it was reversed by the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals after Sullivan appealed.


In the new motion, the defense lawyers argued that Sullivan met the standard for dismissal or recusal because he created the appearance of bias “when he actively litigated against General Flynn” in the appeals court. “He has since far exceeded it – rising to the level of demonstrating actual bias,” the lawyers wrote, citing Sullivan’s comments during last week’s hearing. “The court’s contempt and disdain for the defense was palpable throughout the hearing on September 29, 2020, including when defense counsel made an oral motion for his immediate disqualification, which he refused to allow even to be fully stated for the record.”

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“When asked about this referral involving a candidate for the presidency, then-FBI Director James Comey insisted that it “didn’t ring a bell.”

“A Means Of Distracting The Public” (Turley)

My interest in this story is not simply the serious underlying allegation but the lack of coverage by major networks or media outlets. This was clearly released at this time for political purposes, but that does not make it a non-story. We have often discussed concerns over the active effort by many in the media to downplay stories that would either help President Donald Trump or hurt the Democrats in the upcoming elections. This would seem such a case. Whether this is true or a complete fabrication, it should be major news. In the meantime, the responses from Clinton allies have not addressed the substance of the document before simply dismissed any inquiries. Brennan’s handwritten notes would seem extremely serious on their face. It certainly indicates that Brennan considered the issue sufficiently serious to brief the President of the United States on July 28th.

The notes state “We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]. . . CITE [summarizing] alleged approved by Hillary Clinton a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.” There is also a notation reading “Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia” and margin references to “JC,” “Denis,” and “Susan.” If Brennan thought this was serious enough to brief the President, shouldn’t the media consider this sufficiently serious to investigate and report? This release further supports a newly-declassified document with the Senate Judiciary Committee revealing that, in September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral on Hillary Clinton purportedly approving “a plan concerning U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections” in order to distract the public from her email scandal.

When asked about this referral involving a candidate for the presidency, then-FBI Director James Comey insisted that it “didn’t ring a bell.” Once again, my initial interest is in the utter blackout on the story. This would seem a major story regardless of the ultimate findings. If these notes have been fabricated or misrepresented, it would show a breathtaking effort to lie to the voters before the election. If these notes are genuine, it would indicate that the FBI was aware of an effort by the Democratic presidential candidate to tag Trump with a Russian collusion scandal. We know that Clinton’s campaign funded the Steele dossier and that Steele shopped the dossier with the media to try to generate coverage to influence the election.

Throughout the campaign, and for many weeks after, the Clinton campaign denied any involvement in the creation of the dossier that was later used to secure a secret surveillance warrant against Trump associates during the Obama administration. Journalists later discovered that the Clinton campaign hid the payments to Fusion as a “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to the law firm. New York Times reporter Ken Vogel at the time said that Clinton lawyer Marc Elias had “vigorously” denied involvement in the anti-Trump dossier. When Vogel tried to report the story, he said, Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.’”

Times reporter Maggie Haberman likewise wrote: “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.” Even when Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was questioned by Congress on the matter, he denied any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Sitting beside him was Elias, who helped devise contract. Later, confronted with the evidence, Clinton and her campaign finally admitted that the dossier was a campaign-funded document that was pushed by Steele and others to the media.

Ron Paul: The Democrats have been caught

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“Biden scoffed and rambled non-sequiturs that had nothing to do with the questions asked, and the impudent ‘debate moderator’ Chris Wallace let Biden slide.”

Despite MSM And Establishment Bias Against Trump, He’ll Still Win (Feierstein)

A dark week has seen the MSM turn a blind eye to Democrat failings and exaggerate the extent and severity of Donald Trump’s illness. But I remain convinced that he will have the last laugh on November 3 when he is re-elected. As the battle for the White House intensifies, major storylines emerged over the last week that should have a major role in deciding the outcome of the election, but simply aren’t being given serious coverage by the MSM. The first came in the form of Joe Biden, a presidential ghost candidate who appeared on a debate stage refusing to answer any substantive policy questions. Instead of calling him out on this, the media ran cover for him by refusing to ask any probative questions.

Secondly, as Biden was proclaiming himself ‘the Democratic Party’, Congress was disclosing that a $3.5-million payment was made from the widow of Moscow’s ex-mayor for the benefit of his son Hunter Biden. More information also came to light regarding Hunter Biden’s employment by Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma. And thirdly, previously unseen documents were declassified that allegedly show Hillary Clinton was behind the Russiagate scandal, and that people in the US cannot trust the FBI. This is all dark, very dark. Not even Hollywood or Fellini could write a script like this. During the most contentious presidential debate in a hundred years, Biden refused to answer whether he or his administration would set objectives to end the US Senate filibuster, stack the Supreme Court, add four senators to the US Senate or end the Electoral College.

He even refused to identify his picks for the Supreme Court of the United States. Biden scoffed and rambled non-sequiturs that had nothing to do with the questions asked, and the impudent ‘debate moderator’ Chris Wallace let Biden slide. The US Senate released documents showing that Hunter Biden received a $3.5-million wire-transfer from Elena Baturina, the widow of Moscow’s ex-mayor Yury Luzhkov, who was fired for corruption. When confronted about this, Biden stumbled, repeating a lie: “That’s a lie…It has been debunked.”

No, Joe, it happened – as did Hunter’s employment by Burisma holdings, one of Ukraine’s most controversial corporations. Hunter, with no experience in the energy sector, was paid nearly one million dollars by Burisma. Why? Was it buying influence from the Obama administration’s vice president who was charged with distributing a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine? A vice president who boasted on national TV about threatening to withhold that billion dollars if the prosecutor investigating Biden’s son and Burisma was not fired. This is real banana republic stuff.

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“54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA and FBI demanded more time to decide what secrets to keep hiding – and a chastened President Trump bowed to their power.”

Trump Orders Russiagate Documents Declassified (Ray McGovern)

Home alone yesterday evening, and apparently emboldened by the steroids he is now taking, President Donald Trump sent out a storm of Tweets that included a unprecedentedly bold challenge to the FBI and CIA to stop their foot dragging and declassify documents related to Russiagate and Hillary Clinton. It was probably his plummeting poll numbers as much as the steroids that accounted for his rhetorical forcefulness, but Trump has now openly thrown down the gauntlet to the National Security State. Yes, he is the president, but he is not likely to prevail. What the president-elect didn’t know on Jan. 3, 2017, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer publicly warned that the intelligence community “has six ways to Sunday” to thwart a president, he does know now.

Trump understands that taking on the FBI and CIA is inherently risky. His public upbraiding and instructions to them on Twitter should be seen as a sign of desperation. Trump is likely to come across as impulsive and impotent in the weeks remaining before the election because — if past is precedent — the security agencies will probably double-down on slow-walking his declassification demands. The stakes are high for senior officials of the FBI, CIA and Justice Department. Remember: they fully expected Hillary Clinton to win in 2016; they took liberties with the law to make sure she did; and, when she didn’t, they had to hustle to hide their tracks.

[..] On Oct. 21, 2017, Trump tweeted that in accordance with a law passed by Congress, “I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.” Six days later, came a headline in The Washington Post: “JFK files: The promise of revelations derailed by CIA, FBI.” Trump’s decision to delay release of 30,000 of the potentially most sensitive files for another six months frustrated historians. The issue was supposed to be revisited in 180 days, but nothing further was heard of it. Thus, 54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA and FBI demanded more time to decide what secrets to keep hiding – and a chastened President Trump bowed to their power.

It will take more than a presidential Tweet to get recalcitrant players like FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, and the powerful institutions they lead, to comply. Wray has been a major stumbling block and will remain inclined to give priority to protecting his former colleagues. Haspel, who reportedly was directly involved in the off-shore Russiagate operations from her perch as CIA chief of station, London, has her own derriere, as well as those of her fellow workers, to protect. Trump could have already fired both for slow-walking release of evidence. He could also fire them now, of course, but it is doubtful that, even on steroids, he would have the temerity to do so.

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The article says it’s Buffett’s son. Plus a lot of large companies.

Is Warren Buffett the Wallet Behind Black Lives Matter? (Tablet)

In July of 2013, the seeds of the most powerful protest movement of the modern era were planted. In a restless climate of nationwide demonstrations touched off by the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an activist named Alicia Garza uttered the phrase “Black lives matter.” A few months later, in October 2013, Garza took a job with an organization called the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the nonprofit immediately saw a dramatic increase in its funding from organizations tied to some of the wealthiest people in the world—people with names like Buffett, Soros, and Rockefeller.

This spring, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the movement became a global interest: Some 1.1 million individual donations worth an estimated $33 million flowed into its coffers. Large corporations, especially in Silicon Valley and retail, have been quick to follow suit, with brands like Square, Ubisoft, Google, Spanx, Tom’s Shoes, Lululemon, Nike, and Anastasia Beauty all making six- and seven-figure organizational pledges.

The received wisdom, echoing the official mythology around Black Lives Matter Global Network Inc.—co-founded by Garza along with fellow activists Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors—is that BLM is a grassroots movement that rose up organically out of the widespread rage sparked by viral videos of Black American men killed by police officers. According to this account, the political priorities of activists in Brooklyn screaming at cops and calling to defund the police have been fused with those of suburban moms in Peloton T-shirts, hand-painting signs with their kids using the BLM hashtags of large multinational conglomerates—an unusual union of protesters and the corporate boardroom spurred on by nothing more than everyone’s shared outrage over racism.

There is, however, another version of events, in which the heartfelt dedication to racial justice is only the forward-facing side of a more complicated movement. Behind the street level activism and emotional outpouring is a calculated machinery built by establishment money and power that has seized on racial politics, in which some of the biggest capitalists in the world are financially backing a group of self-described “trained Marxists”—a label that Cullors enthusiastically applies to herself and the group’s other co-founders.

These bedfellows, whose stories and fortunes are never publicly presented as related, are in reality intertwined under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor named the International Development Exchange. A modestly endowed West Coast nonprofit with origins in the Peace Corps—which for decades supported local farmers, shepherds, and agricultural workers across the Global South—IDEX has, in the past six years, been transformed into two distinct new things: the infrastructure back end to the Black Lives Matter organization in the United States and also, at the very same time, an investment fund vehicle driven by recruited MBAs and finance experts seeking to leverage decades of on-the-ground grantee relationships for novel forms of potentially problematic lending instruments . And it did so with help from the family of one of the most famous American billionaires in history—the Oracle of Omaha himself.

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“This unilateral and unauthorized exercise of power without legislative oversight was what the court deemed unconstitutional.”

The Constitutional Reckoning of State Lockdown Orders (AIER)

On October 3rd NPR reported that the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency and the powers it granted. NPR writes: “In a 4-3 majority opinion, the state’s high court said she did not have that authority. “We conclude that the Governor lacked the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or a ‘state of disaster’ under the EMA after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we conclude that the EPGA is in violation of the Constitution of our state because it purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government– including its plenary police powers– and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely,” wrote Justice Stephen J. Markman on behalf of the majority.”

Governor Whitmer has been one of the more heavy-handed executive figures during the pandemic. One of her policies went as far as to ban the selling of gardening supplies in stores that were still permitted to stay open. More importantly, however, this court ruling was not the first of its kind but the third in a series of legal victories against lockdown orders. The first was a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that declared parts of Governor Tony Evers’ stay at home order unconstitutional and the second was by a federal court that struck down Governor Tom Wolf’s policies in Pennsylvania. There is no doubt that the governors across the country have gone off the constitutional deep end in response to Covid-19, exercising powers that are not only unprecedented but unproven.

These cases, notably in Michigan and Wisconsin, all share some important legal themes that may suggest the beginning of a constitutional reckoning for governors across America. Back in March, Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic, much like many others across the country. Unlike many other governors, hers was particularly strict and arbitrary. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, an organization that represented a number of healthcare firms in a suit against the state write: “One of the affected medical practices, Grand Health Partners, operates in the Grand Rapids area. It performs endoscopies and other elective surgeries, many of which were deemed nonessential by executive order. Due to the shutdown, many of their patients were not able to receive treatment and have suffered because of it.”

This is one of the many unintended consequences that come with policies such as stay at home orders and deeming certain businesses “nonessential.” Interestingly, this had little to do with the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling. Such claims would be justified under the equal protection clause guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. However, the court decided to take a different route. The court ruled that the governor lacked the very authority to continue her state of emergency. The Michigan legislature authorized the governor to declare a state of emergency in March but only until April 30. Governor Whitmer decided to invoke the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) of 1945 as well as the Emergency Management Act of 1976 to grant herself virtually unlimited power. This unilateral and unauthorized exercise of power without legislative oversight was what the court deemed unconstitutional.

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Good day for Greece. Because it took five years, many had doubted it would happen.

Golden Dawn Leader And Ex-MPs Found Guilty In Landmark Trial (G.)

A Greek court has delivered an overwhelming conviction against Golden Dawn, finding the neo-fascist party guilty of operating a criminal gang that brutally targeted opponents under the guise of being a political group. At the end of a trial launched more than five years ago, the three-member tribunal headed by presiding judge Maria Lepenioti, announced that seven of Golden Dawn’s leaders were culpable of directing the deadly organisation. Others were found guilty of the lesser charge of participating in the criminal gang. The judgement was met with jubilation by thousands who had gathered around the heavily guarded court complex ahead of the verdict chanting “Nazis belong to prison.” Many broke into spontaneous applause as news of the decision reached the street.

“This is a very good day for the anti-fascist movement globally,” said Petros Constantinou, a prominent anti-racist activist. “The decision will send a very important message to the far right in Europe. A conviction today is vital if we are to end the fascist threat. The evidence against them is overwhelming.” The hearing has been the biggest trial of neo-fascists since the prosecution of the Nazis at Nuremberg after the second world war. Two thousand police officers, many brought in as backup from the countryside amid fears of violent clashes between the protestors and far right supporters, surrounded the area as helicopters and drones flew overhead. The leftist former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who was in the crowd, said after years of sowing hate, poisoning Greek society and orchestrating murderous attacks, Golden Dawn fanatics would finally face justice.

“They are not innocent. We all know that,” he wrote on social media ahead of the three-member tribunal’s decision. “On Wednesday we ought to be there to shout it loud and clear. We owe it to the history of this country, we owe it to democracy, we owe it to our children.” The long-awaited verdict ends one of the longest court hearings in modern times. Golden Dawn’s entire leadership, including former MPs, were among 68 defendants accused of murder, weapons possession and operating a criminal gang while also masquerading as a political group. Those charged with directing the criminal organisation face sentences of up to 15 years in prison. If found guilty of additional crimes, the jail terms handed down by the criminal court are likely to be longer although justice officials said it may take several days of legal proceedings before they are formally announced.

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Countries with far-right regimes in their past always see remnants left over once that regime is toppled.

Why Did Golden Dawn’s Neo-Nazi Leaders Get Away With It For So Long? (G.)

In the end, the leader of a party whose supporters threatened “civil war” and to turn the skins of immigrants into lampshades could not even bring himself to face judgment in person. Nikolaos Michaloliakos, like other senior members of Golden Dawn, was absent from court in Athens yesterday as a judge read out a series of damning verdicts on the neo-Nazi party he leads. Golden Dawn, which shot to prominence amid Europe’s economic crisis a decade ago, and is responsible for a years-long campaign of violence and intimidation against immigrants, LGBTQ communities and political opponents, was found to be a criminal organisation.

Seven of the party’s former MPs, including Michaloliakos, have been found guilty of directing the organisation, while a range of members are guilty of crimes including murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons. Some now face sentences of up to 15 years in prison. It is the culmination of a lengthy court process that some campaigners have called the largest trial of Nazis since Nuremberg, triggered by the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist Greek rapper, in 2013 – at a time when the party was Greece’s third-largest political force. The trial, which lasted more than five years, has already effectively stopped Golden Dawn from operating. The verdict now offers Greece the chance to close a painful chapter in its recent history.

Born of the fascist milieu surrounding the far-right military dictatorship that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974, Golden Dawn was given its greatest opportunity by the global financial crash of 2008. As Greece struggled from a profound economic slump, and public anger grew at the remedy insisted on by the European Union – austerity – the party attracted unprecedented support. It chose familiar targets to blame for Greece’s predicament: immigrants and refugees, out-of-touch politicians and a global banking elite. But this far-right rhetoric was backed up by a paramilitary-style organisation that operated in parallel to the political party, and a cult-like devotion to Nazi beliefs. As Golden Dawn grew, assault squads of uniformed members, sometimes armed, sought to take over neighbourhoods in Greek towns and cities by attacking and intimidating parts of the local population. Much of the violence was carried out openly – yet for years it went unpunished.

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“I have never seen anything on this scale before. 90% of my traffic has just been cut off by what seems to be a general algorithm command of some kind to downplay Assange..”

Reporters Claim Facebook is Censoring Information on Julian Assange Case (MPN)

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and longtime confidant of Julian Assange, has been fastidiously reporting on the Australian publisher’s extradition hearing to the United States. Yet few people have been reading it. This, according to Murray, is because of a deliberate decision by online media giants to downplay or suppress discussion of the case. On his blog, Murray wrote that he usually receives around 50 percent of his readers from Twitter and 40 percent from Facebook links, but that has dropped to 3 percent and 9 percent, respectively during the hearing. While the February hearings sent around 200,000 readers to his site daily, now that figure is only 3,000.


To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline,” he added. Asked about the situation by former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, Murray explained that Anybody who is at all radical or takes any view of anything that is outwith the official establishment view gets used to occasional shadow banning, but I have never seen anything on this scale before.”“90% of my traffic has just been cut off by what seems to be a general algorithm command of some kind to downplay Assange,” he added. “I think it is as simple as that.”

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Theater owners say they can survive IF they are provided new movies to show.

Movie-Going Could ‘Become Extinct’ Warns Director (BBC)

Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has said that movie-going is facing a real threat of extinction. Her new superhero movie has been delayed three times during the coronavirus pandemic. Jenkins is among dozens of top Hollywood directors appealing to the US government to provide a financial lifeline to cinemas. Her warning comes as cinemas in the UK are also struggling with a recent spate of delayed film releases. “If we shut this down, this will not be a reversible process,” she said in an interview with Reuters news agency. “We could lose movie theatre-going forever.” Cinemas across the world are struggling financially with tough Covid-19 social restrictions limiting customers, along with a lack of blockbuster movies to attract them.


In the US, the National Association of Theatre Owners said 69% of small and mid-sized cinema companies could be forced to file for bankruptcy or shut down permanently. America is the world’s biggest movie market in terms of box office revenues, with China catching up rapidly. Jenkins said widespread closures would lead Hollywood studios to stop investing in films for cinemas, and turn to online streaming instead. “It could be the kind of thing that happened to the music industry,” she added. “Where you could crumble the entire industry by making it something that can’t be profitable.”

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“Modernity: we created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.”
– Nassim Taleb

 

 

 

 

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Feb 292020
 


Harris&Ewing National Emergency War Garden Commission display, Wash. DC 1918

 

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)
New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)
Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)
Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)
Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)
A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)
China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)
China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)
Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)
No More Kid Gloves (K.)
Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)
The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)
The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

 

Numbers are rising very fast in South Korea, Iran and Italy. Total cases were up 841, 621, 901, 1,190, 1,314 in the past few days. Today: 1,950.

Major batch of new cases expected today from South Korea due to intensified testing.

 

Cases 85,683 (+ 1,950 from yesterday’s 83,733)

Deaths 2,933 (+ 73 from yesterday’s 2,860)

 

• South Korea 813 new cases, total 3.150, 16 deaths, one case of reinfection
• Italy 896 (yesterday 653) cases, 21 deaths
• Iran 593 (yesterday 245) cases, 26 deaths
• Japan 241 (+705 Diamond Princess)
• China 427 new cases and 47 new deaths, total 2,835
• UK 20 cases, first death is Diamond Princess’s 6th death
• Germany 60 cases
• US 66 cases
• France cases 57 from 38 yesterday
• First case: Israel (3 cases), Mexico, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Wales, Belarus, Estonia

 

Trump names Pence, Kudlow, Mnuchin, aka an economic team, to face the crisis. China tries something similar by talking about what happens when the outbreak is over.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate down to 7%)

 

 

 

 

Xi’s biggest worry.

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)

[..] it turns out that Nomura’s dire forecast was optimistic, because moments ago China’s National Statistics Bureau reported the latest, February PMIs and they were absolutely catastrophic: Manufacturing PMI crashed to 35.7 in Feb, far below the 45.0 consensus estimate, and sharply down from 50.0 in January. A record low. Non-Manufacturing PMI plummets to 28.9, also far below the 50.5 consensus, estimate, and down nearly 50% from the 54.1 in Jan. This too was a record low. Putting these numbers in context, they are far, far worse than the prints for both series reported during the financial crisis, when the mfg PMI dropped to “only” 38.8, while the non-manufacturing PMI never even contracted.

What is even more ominous is that while China’s non-mfg PMI has traditionally been stronger, in February not only did it collapse into deep contraction, but it plunged to 5 points below where the manufacturing sector currently finds itself, a catastrophic 20-handle. This means that China’s service industries, long seen as the guiding light to China’s successful transition away from a manufacturing-led economy, is now devastated. Commenting on the unprecedented number, Bloomberg’s China economist Tom Orlik said that “the first credible gauge of how China’s economy is fairing under virus lock down – the official PMI – is pointing to a brutal drop into contraction.” Well, no: anyone who read our recent series analyzing “high-frequency”, real-time Chinese data already was already aware of the catastrophic collapse in China’s economy.

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Because the testing issue was’t confusing enough yet.

New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city. New York state’s Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process. “Upon FDA approval, which we believe is imminent, New York State’s public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center, can immediately begin testing,” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, wrote in an email.

Public health officials say the ability to test locally and get results within hours will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China, causing a sometimes fatal respiratory illness, and has spread to 46 countries. The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak. Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.

[..] The CDC kits were meant to work by comparing a sample swabbed from a patient’s nose or mouth against three distinctive stretches of the virus’ genetic material, which are in small tubes labeled N1, N2 and N3. Most labs only had issues with the kit’s third component, N3. After reviewing their data, the FDA and CDC told labs this week that the tests would work fine if they only looked for the N1 and N2 bits of the virus, ignoring the faulty N3 component. But in New York, both the state lab and the New York City lab said that in their kits the N1 component was also flawed, and that the workaround proposed by the CDC and FDA was of no use.

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US sanctions kept Iran from buying the same faulty test kits that New York is using?!

US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)

The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia. Iranian authorities have confirmed 388 cases of the new coronavirus disease as of Friday afternoon. U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government’s record of dishonesty, and the elusive nature of the virus itself have made it difficult to understand the true extent of the epidemic. The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019. The announcement does not lift the restrictions on humanitarian trade with other Iranian banks under terrorism-related sanctions.

Iran’s healthcare sector has blamed the banking sanctions for a lack of testing equipment to diagnose COVID-19. Thirty-four people have reportedly died from the virus in Iran, suggesting a large number of undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, which scientists believe has a two percent mortality rate. In fact, independent researchers estimate that eighteen thousand Iranians may have been infected already. “Several international companies are ready to ship the coronavirus diagnosis kit to Iran, but we cannot pay them,” said Ramin Fallah, vice president of the Iranian Union of Importers of Medical Equipment, in a Monday interview with Iranian media. “They also insist that the money should only be sent through banks. Although there are ways to get around [sanctions], it is time-consuming.”

[..] Iranian authorities have not inspired confidence in their current ability to deal with the outbreak transparently, either. [..] Officials have downplayed the extent of the outbreak even as the virus spreads within the government itself. Member of Parliament Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani claimed on Monday that fifty people had died in his home district of Qom alone, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied accusations of a coverup. On Tuesday, Harirchi announced that he had contracted COVID-19. Another lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, tested positive for the virus the same day. But President Hassan Rouhani continued to claim that the viral panic was worse than the virus itself, denouncing “foreign propaganda,” refusing to quarantine cities, and promising a return to normalcy.

By Wednesday, the tone in the Rouhani administration turned to panic as cabinet member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 and retired Amb. Hadi Khosrowshahi suddenly died of the disease. The government proceeded to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country, canceled flights to India, halted religious pilgrimage groups, and canceled Friday prayers in major cities. Presidential advisor Hesameddin Ashena called for “taking the situation seriously” and “not politicizing the issue.”

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The Party was not amused.

Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)

The Shanghai laboratory where researchers published the world’s first genome sequence of the deadly coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been shut down. The laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre was ordered to close for “rectification” on January 12, a day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team published the genome sequence on open platforms. It closed temporarily the following day. The release of the data helped researchers develop test kits for the virus. “The centre was not given any specific reasons why the laboratory was closed for rectification. [We have submitted] four reports [asking for permission] to reopen but we have not received any replies,” a source with the centre said, requesting anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

“The closure has greatly affected the scientists and their research when they should be racing against the clock to find the means to help put the novel coronavirus outbreak under control,” the source said. The laboratory is a Level 3 biosafety facility, the second-highest level, and passed an annual inspection by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment on January 5. It also obtained the required credentials to conduct research on the coronavirus on January 24. It was not clear whether the closure was related to the publishing of the sequencing data before the authorities. China’s National Health Commission announced hours after the release by Zhang’s team that it would share the genome sequence with the World Health Organisation. It later emerged that the information had been sent through the officially designated Wuhan Institute of Virology.

[..] Zhang’s team isolated and finished the genome sequence of the then-unknown virus on January 5, two days before China’s official announcement that mysterious pneumonia cases in Wuhan were caused by a hitherto unknown coronavirus.
The Shanghai centre reported its discovery to the National Health Commission on the same day and recommended “relevant prevention and control measures” be taken in public places, because the patient from whom the sample was collected had suffered very severe symptoms and the virus resembled a group previously found in bats. The team made the finding public on January 11 after it saw that the authorities had taken no obvious action to warn the public about the coronavirus.

The findings by Zhang’s team were published in the scientific journal Nature on February 3. The research said the virus sample was collected from a patient who showed symptoms of fever, dizziness and coughing and was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 26. The Shanghai centre has a long-term cooperation relationship with Wuhan Central Hospital. The patient was identified as a 41-year-old male vendor who worked at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was believed to be a key link of infections at the early stage of the outbreak. The lab’s closure not only affected Zhang’s research but also studies by other scientists since it is an open facility, according to another researcher with knowledge of the matter.

Read more …

“Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)

Countries have shut down some of the institutions they hold dearest. Japan has closed all schools. Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimages to Mecca. And the Chinese government has postponed indefinitely its two big annual political assemblies. Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

[..] The medical officers’ “pandemic” call was a big moment. For a start, they were way ahead of the UN body that is supposedly the lead global agency on international health emergencies, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation. Why were the Australians ahead of the world? For a very simple reason. They don’t trust the WHO. The information from multiple international sources is that the WHO is under intense pressure from the Chinese government, and succumbing to it. The Australian Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, told the NSC that it was medically inexplicable that the WHO hadn’t already declared a global pandemic. It’s politics, in other words.

That’s why Australia had earlier forged ahead of the WHO in declaring the China travel ban, on February 1. It was, again, on the unanimous advice of the AHPPC. The travel ban was decided immediately after the US made the same call. Beijing instantly lashed both the US and Australia on that occasion – the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, calling it “racist”. But, of course, that decision now looks very wise, more so with each passing day. The WHO followed suit 10 days later. When Morrison announced the China travel ban four weeks ago, there were about 7000 infections disclosed by Beijing. By Thursday this week that number had ballooned to 78,000. The number of countries announcing travel bans has grown proportionately, and mostly they have acted too late.

In any case, the political manipulation of the WHO is nothing novel. It was slow to declare HIV-AIDS to be a pandemic in the 1980s because of intense political pressure. Then it was pressure from the US. Now it’s from China. Either way, the politics trumps the medical advice. So this week the AHPPC didn’t hesitate to act ahead of the Geneva-based outfit. And when the medical officers’ advice went to federal health minister, Greg Hunt, and to Morrison, they didn’t hesitate, either. Morrison convened a three-hour meeting of the National Security Committee of cabinet on Thursday morning. They discussed the unfolding evidence, reviewed the state of medical preparations, and made three key decisions.

[..] The Australian system for dealing with communicable diseases is less prone to politics. Morrison hid from the bushfires; he had no such option on the coronavirus. The Chief Medical Officer, Murphy, does not need the government’s permission to invoke the Biosecurity Act. He informed Health Minister Greg Hunt on January 20 that he was triggering the act, automatically setting in train a pre-ordained process of monitoring and advice. Hunt encouraged Murphy and the AHPPC to give the government the full, frank and unvarnished medical advice without any view to politics. And so far, Morrison and his NSC have respected the medical advice.

Read more …

One of multiple “hopeful” vaccine stories yesterday.

I said yesterday: “Note: they’re ‘adapting’ a vaccine (against an avian virus), not developing a new one”, and “Note 3: I’m not sure it’s the antibodies that do the harm nor that it’s the virus that uses them. The problem I think is a “cytokine storm”, in which the immune system causes the overproduction of immune cells (and their activating compounds – called cytokines), which then attack the host body.”

Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)

Israeli researchers scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine say it could be ready in just three weeks – and available for use within 90 days, according to reports. The scientists at the Galilee Research Institute, known as MIGAL, are adapting its vaccine against the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus, or IBV, to work for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Congratulations to MIGAL on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” said Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science and technology.

The independent research institute, which specializes in the fields of biotechnology, environmental sciences and agriculture, says on its website that its team “includes 80 PhDs and a total of 260 researchers distributed into 53 labs that are managed by seasoned senior group leaders.” Its vaccine for IBV, a bronchial illness that affects poultry, has already been proven in preclinical trials conducted at Israel’s Veterinary Institute, according to the news outlet. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotech group chief.

“The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” he added.

Read more …

Children and caretakers.

A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)

GAZETTE: You’ve been quoted you as saying you expect between 40 percent and 70 percent of humanity to be infected with this virus within a year. Is that still the case?

LIPSITCH: It is, but an important qualifier is that I expect 40 to 70 percent of adults to be infected. We just don’t understand whether children are getting infected at low rates or just not showing very strong symptoms. So I don’t want to make assumptions about children until we know more. That number also assumes that we don’t put in place effective, long-term countermeasures, like social distancing for months at a time which, I think, is a fair assumption. It may be that a few places like China can sustain it, but even China is beginning to let up.

GAZETTE: You mentioned children having been hit only lightly by this. What about other parts of the population? What do we know about the impact of this from a demographic standpoint?

LIPSITCH: It’s definitely the case that the older you are, the more at risk of getting infected you are and, if you get symptomatic infection, the more at risk of dying you are. Men also seem to be overrepresented among those getting severe illness. The reasons why are a really important research question. One thing that also needs to be looked at is the impact on health-care workers because they are at high risk of getting infected, and I would like to know whether they’re at higher risk of getting severe infection. Some of the anecdotal cases of young physicians dying make me wonder whether they’re exposed to a higher dose and that’s making them sicker.

[..] GAZETTE: What’s the most important unanswered question to your mind?

LIPSITCH: One of the most important unanswered questions is what role do children play in transmission? The go-to intervention in flu pandemic planning is closing schools, and that may be very effective or it may be totally ineffective. It’s a costly and disruptive thing to do, especially in the United States, because many people rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. So we really need evidence that closing schools would help. We need detailed studies in households of children who are exposed to an infected person. We need to find out if the children get infected, if they shed virus, and if that virus is infectious.

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Michael Pettis tweets: “I understand that Chinese agriculture will be badly affected by Covid-19, and so I am not surprised that China will go ahead with planned agricultural imports. In fact I suspect they’ll actually increase them.”

China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)

China will “definitely” honour its agricultural purchase commitments as part of its phase one trade deal signed with the United States in January, despite the coronavirus epidemic, a former senior Chinese government official said on Friday. Wei Jianguo, a former deputy minister responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told a press conference organised by the government in Beijing that China was fully committed to the deal. However, the coronavirus outbreak that followed the signing of the deal in Washington may mean China has to invoke a force majeure clause in the trade deal with regard other planned purchases, “if some parts fail to happen”, Wei said, adding that Beijing will redouble its efforts to implement the deal “once the coronavirus epidemic is over”.


“China is fully able to complete the agreed amount of agricultural product imports [from the US],” Wei said, without mentioning purchases of non-agricultural products, such as manufactured goods and energy. Wei’s comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Beijing insiders that China has no plan to walk away from the trade deal because of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused huge damage to its economy. It is also the latest suggestion, however, that China may look to a clause in the deal which states that both parties will enter consultations if “a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations”.

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How to sneakily invoke the idea that it’ll all soon be over.

China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)

Around a third of Chinese consumers will not increase spending once the outbreak of coronavirus has been brought under control, a private survey has shown, challenging Beijing’s hope that consumer expenditure will quickly rebound to cover losses suffered amid the epidemic. China has repeatedly said that the impact of the coronavirus, which has infected over 78,000 people and killed over 2,700 in China alone, will be short-lived and that it is still on track to achieve its economic development goals in 2020. However, according to the online survey conducted by Rong360.com, a Beijing-based firm providing financial and credit information and products, 31.4 per cent of respondents said they would not increase consumer spending.


More importantly, nearly two thirds, or 64.4 per cent, said they would be more “restrained” in spending in the long term, while another 12.6 per cent said they would cut spending, with only 11 per cent saying they would increase expenditure. The remaining 12 per cent said they would keep their lifestyle unchanged. Spending on travel, pets, gifts and accessories would be among the first items to be cut, with around 30 per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between February 11-17, saying they would reduce travel and entertainment. For short-term spending, 68.6 per cent of respondents said they would increase expenditure after the epidemic, especially on entertainment, cosmetics, catering, movies, massages, fitness and sportswear.

Read more …

And soon, so will Europe and America.

Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)

As countries brace themselves for the full economic impact of the virus, one country has its eye on the future. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the country had a two-pronged line of attack for dealing with the virus: a US$4.7 billion war chest to help companies and individuals through the economic storm, and a plan to ensure the city state would be first out of the gate towards full recovery. The plan involved having Singapore businesses re-examine their labour and material supply chains to “make sure that we’re never held to ransom by a single source or a single market”, Chan said at a meeting with business leaders on Wednesday. Singapore learned a similar lesson in 2007, when the construction sector – then reliant on Indonesia for 90 per cent of its sand – nearly came to a standstill after Indonesia banned sand exports to the republic.

With a new train line and the two integrated resorts in the works, the government released its national stockpile of sand to the market and bore 75 per cent of the price hike of sand for public projects. Since then, the government has made it mandatory for the sector to diversify its sources of sand. Chan said at the business meeting that the Singapore government wanted to delve deeper and examine where the suppliers of Singapore businesses got their raw material from. “We’re not just talking about the first layer of the supply chain, we’re even going into the second, third layer to look at where the components form that supply chain in order for us to have a really resilient supply chain for our respective businesses,” said Chan.

“If the supply chain breaks, even if it’s the smallest part, it disrupts the entire supply chain.” What is unclear is how much countries really can diversify their sourcing, given that China is the top supplier of intermediate goods for many countries. China’s size, broad-based supply chain, and infrastructure provisions made it an “unmissable market for most”, said Wiranto. Half of Vietnam’s imports come from China, Korea and Japan; almost half of Korea’s come from China, Japan and the United States; while over 20 per cent of Malaysia’s imports are from China. Raw materials aside, there is also a fear that the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China will affect other supply chains. “Businesses might be looking at alternatives from Vietnam, but as the virus becomes more global over recent days, even supply chains which they thought are safe from interruptions could be disrupted,” said Song, the CIMB economist.

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Turkey’s actions threaten Greece. For now, neither NATO or the EU have taken Ankara’s side, but…

No More Kid Gloves (K.)

Facts on the ground change rapidly. Turkey’s President has been trapped in a huge quagmire exclusively of his own making. His embroiling Turkey in adventures abroad has turned into a boomerang. For the first time, his handling of the situation is openly questioned in Ankara itself. He seems to have no exit strategy. With his barefaced move to send crowds of migrants and refugees to the border with Greece, Erdogan has handed us a great diplomatic gift. Europeans finally understand that they have to deal with an unpredictable unreasonableness. But they are still groping for a response. Like the United States, they are afraid to “lose” Turkey, which, in turn, plays the usual haggling game with Moscow, Washington and Brussels, only this time with a strong dose of desperation.

How about Greece? The government is doing the right thing. It reminds Europe where its responsibilities lie and also shows that it will no longer be “business as usual.” National, and not political, reasons necessitate a different approach in dealing with the problem. When you face open blackmail and the open, undisguised use of the migration/refugee issue as a means to an end, you can no longer handle it with kid gloves. Some will take exception to this and recommend patience. The drama of the refugees is unspeakable, but no country should bear the burden alone. Especially a country bruised by a great crisis and which bears no responsibility for what has happened in Syria. Northern Europeans should grasp the gravity of the situation and stop facing the issue from the coziness of their sofas.

One last thing: this crisis is at its very beginning and could transmute into something else. Erdogan under pressure, including pressure from nationalists, can become even more unpredictable. A national consensus is imperative! It makes no sense to debate who is responsible for which things. The situation is critical.

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And Trump is right.

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct. Sen. Paul has indicated that the President is onboard with reforms, tweeing “Good talk with @realdonaldTrump yesterday and I’m pleased he is urging FISA reform NOW – and not a reauthorization of the current Patriot Act.”

I have long respected Sen. Paul’s fight for such reforms and I have been a long critic of FISA since I first went into that “court” as a young intern with the National Security Agency in the Reagan Administration. Such legislative reforms are even more pressing given the FISA court’s baffling decision to appoint a defender of the abusive use of the court as its “reformer.” Paul is pushing for limits on how the court can be used against Americans. They include modest limitations that would still allow robust surveillance, including mandatory and random audits of FISA applications by the Inspector General, ending the Call Detail Records program, mandatory disclosure of exculpatory evidence in FISA applications, and appointing amici in all “sensitive investigative matters” with access to all FISA court documents.

This includes dealing directly and honestly with the status of the controversial records program under Section 215, that gathers metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls. I am leery of efforts to again kick this can down the road with temporary extensions of existing authority. The FISA court was designed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause of a crime — using the term but making it little more than probable cause to suspect someone is working for a foreign power. That is why applications for surveillance are uniformly approved. The court has little real basis to deny such applications.

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Superdelegates revisited.

The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)

As we have been discussing, establishment figures in the Democratic party and the media have been preparing to block any nomination of Bernie Sanders, including using the “superdelegates” to hand the nomination to another candidate. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Democratic establishment was preparing for open warfare over blocking Sanders, even if it shatters the unity of the party. If Sanders does not receive the necessary votes, they intend to take away the nomination even if he has the most votes in the first round. The key again are the superdelegates who are not elected in the primaries but given votes as elected officials. On MSNBC, former Obama adviser Anton J. Gunn was particularly blunt. He declared “The party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.”

In 2016, many of us objected to the concerted effect of the Democratic establishment and the Democratic National Committee to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton. Later it was revealed that the Clintons have largely taken over the DNC by taking over its debt and the DNC openly harassed and hampered Sanders at every stage. Despite this effort, Sanders came close to beating Clinton, who has never forgiven him for contesting a primary that she literally bought and paid for with the DNC. The simmering rage was still evident in Clinton’s attack on Sanders and suggestion that she might not support him if he were the nominee (a suggestion that she later took back). Well the supers are back and Sanders may again find that it is the party elite, not the voters, who determine who will be the next nominee.

The irony is that the elite hardly has an inspiring record. In 2016, every poll showed that voters did not want an establishment figure so the establishment rigged the process for the ultimate establishment figure. Clinton lost to the most unpopular Republican candidate in history. I remain convinced that Sanders could have won that election, a position recently suggested by Michael Bloomberg. Yet, the same people that gave us the Clinton nomination will be working their magic again at the Democratic Convention. What is fascinating is that the establishment would prefer to risk the election by alienating the huge young following of Sanders rather than allow Sanders to be the nominee. If they give the nomination to another establishment figures like Biden or a billionaire like Bloomberg, the establishment would enrage millions of Sanders followers who could well stay home in 2020.

Read more …

Two claims: A) that Assange’s work is not political, and B) that nothing in the law applies even if it were.

The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)

Murray’s account contains some astonishing observations. On day one, he says, the US prosecutor, James Lewis QC, explicitly addressed his opening remarks “not to the court but to the media”. This is unprecedented. In this address, says Murray, Lewis explicitly denied that the espionage charges against Assange also threatened mainstream media like The Guardian and The New York Times. Later under questioning from the magistrate, Murray says, Lewis changed his mind and admitted that yes, they would be affected, but this part of his remarks was not offered to the media (who might well find such assertions alarming).


On day two, Assange’s defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the prosecution must prove three things: that Assange had helped Manning decode a hash key necessary to hack classified material, that Assange had solicited the material from Manning and that he had knowingly put lives at risk. There is, said Fitzgerald, no evidence on any of these counts, some of which were disproved in Manning’s court-martial. And the prosecution has admitted it cannot prove harm. But even that is not the point. No one should be arguing the substantive case here. For now, the questions are; is this a political crime? Should Assange receive a fair trial? Does anyone believe he’ll get one in Trump’s America? And do we really think, given his poor health, he would survive prison there? The answers have to be yes, yes, no and, resoundingly, no.

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The hearing resumes only in March?!

“During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.”

Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times. In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable: “Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…” “So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…” “But surely that’s a circular argument… “But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”


All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but. The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

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Jan 262020
 
 January 26, 2020  Posted by at 10:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Jack Delano Long stairway in mill district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1941

 

Chinese Virus Deaths Rise To 56, 2,000 Infected & More Cases Abroad (RT)
Coronavirus Contagion Rate Makes It Hard To Control (R.)
No Link With Seafood Market In First Case Of China Coronavirus (SCMP)
China Stole Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponized It (GGI)
US Economic Confidence at Highest Point Since 2000 (Gallup)
Stock Market A ‘Ponzi Scheme’ That Eventually Must Collapse – Guggenheim (RT)
Neither Side Is Really Trying To Win This Trump Impeachment Trial (Turley)
Trump Defense Team Signals Focus On Schiff (Hill)
Adam Schiff Is a Dangerous Warmonger (Jacobin)
Joe Biden Lied About His Record On Social Security (IC)
VP Pence Appears To Suggest Americans, Nor Russians, Liberated Auschwitz (RT)

 

 

People’s Daily: “Chinese health authorities announced Sunday that 1,975 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), including 324 in critical conditions and 56 deaths, had been reported in the country by the end of Saturday.”

We’re nicely in line with the Fibonacci sequence, with Hubei infections rising from 1,400 to 2,000. 3,300 tomorrow? Note that “official” updates are provided once a day, apparently first thing in the morning. Curious that deaths the previous day rose from 26 to 41, and today to 56, i.e. by 15 in both cases. The updates are heavily controlled.

Incubation time is now estimated as up to 2 weeks, so think back at least those 14 days and think back to how safety measures were back then. Questions also arise about the origin of the virus. A dead bat, a bioweapon lab, or both? Many animals are now -officially- off the menu.


Fibonacci

Chinese Virus Deaths Rise To 56, 2,000 Infected & More Cases Abroad (RT)

The death toll from the 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak in China has reached 56, with hundreds of new infections detected nationwide, despite all containment efforts. A handful of news cases have also been reported outside China. The first death was reported in Shanghai, and another one in Henan Province, while 13 more people died in Hubei Province – the epicenter of the outbreak – where nearly 130 people were reportedly in serious or critical condition as of Sunday morning. In addition to hundreds of known and confirmed cases, some 7,000 people there remain under increased medical supervision due to their potentially dangerous “close contacts.”

Meanwhile, the number of those who have beaten the virus and were discharged from hospitals has increased to at least 85, according to authorities. = China is facing a “grave situation” as the new coronavirus is “accelerating its spread,” President Xi Jinping warned earlier. He added, however, that given the immense efforts to contain the outbreak, China “will definitely be able to win the battle.” Around 450 Chinese military medics, many with experience in combating SARS or Ebola, were deployed in the region to help the overworked and exhausted hospital staff, who had been on around-the-clock shifts in recent weeks. Meanwhile, local authorities are rushing to construct a new 1,000-bed facility specifically to treat victims of the deadly virus.

Chinese authorities have also imposed strict travel restrictions in the outbreak epicenter of Wuhan, as well as nearly 20 cities in Hubei Province, with nearly 50 million people virtually quarantined in the middle of the holiday season. With many mass public events canceled, additional limitations have been imposed on intercity bus routes starting Sunday. Medical staff have been tasked with checking travelers’ temperatures for any signs of fever – the most apparent symptom of coronavirus, which is followed by a dry cough and leads to shortness of breath.

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R0 rate appears to have been lowered to 2.5, from 3.8. Don’t get all happy.

Coronavirus Contagion Rate Makes It Hard To Control (R.)

Each person infected with coronavirus is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at current transmission rates, according to two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic. Whether the outbreak will continue to spread at this rate depends on the effectiveness of control measures, the scientists who conducted the studies said. But to be able to contain the epidemic and turn the tide of infections, control measures would have to halt transmission in at least 60% of cases. The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 41 on Saturday, with more than 1,400 people infected worldwide – the vast majority in China.

“It is unclear at the current time whether this outbreak can be contained within China,” said Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London who co-led one of the studies. Ferguson’s team suggest as many as 4,000 people in Wuhan were already infected by Jan. 18 and that on average each case was infecting two or three others. A second study by researchers at Britain’s Lancaster University also calculated the contagion rate at 2.5 new people on average being infected by each person already infected. “Should the epidemic continue unabated in Wuhan, we predict (it) will be substantially larger by Feb. 4,” the scientists wrote. “Should the epidemic continue unabated in Wuhan, we predict (it) will be substantially larger by Feb. 4,” the scientists wrote.

They estimated that the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak began in December will alone have around 190,000 cases of infection by Feb. 4., and that “infection will be established in other Chinese cities, and importations to other countries will be more frequent.”

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This kind of uncertainty doesn’t help.

No Link With Seafood Market In First Case Of China Coronavirus (SCMP)

The first person known to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus had never visited the city’s seafood market – regarded as the epicentre of the outbreak – according to Chinese researchers, who also called for extra precautions against airborne transmission of the disease between humans. The researchers, seven of whom work at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital, designated for patients with the illness, revealed on Friday in The Lancet medical journal that symptoms of the new disease were first reported on December 1 – much earlier than the Wuhan government’s initial announcement on December 31 of 27 cases of the pneumonia-like infection.

According to the report, the first patient had no exposure to the Huanan seafood market which was shut down on January 1 over fears – later confirmed – that the new virus was linked to its trade in wild animals. The researchers added that none of the patient’s family had developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. There was also no epidemiological link between the first patient and the later cases, they found. The researchers analysed data from 41 patients with confirmed infections who had showed an onset of symptoms up to January 2. Six of those patients died, putting the fatality rate of the group at 15 per cent. The researchers noted that clinical presentations of the patients greatly resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The first patient to die from the new coronavirus had continuous exposure to the market before he was admitted to hospital with a seven-day history of fever, cough and breathing difficulties, according to their report. Five days after the onset of symptoms, his wife, a 53-year-old woman with no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the isolation ward, they said. The absence of a link to the seafood market is one of the indicators for human-to-human transmission of the virus and the researchers identified another 13 patients who also had no direct exposure to the market.

Read more …

Lots of background. Viruses are potent weapons.

China Stole Coronavirus From Canada And Weaponized It (GGI)

Last year a mysterious shipment was caught smuggling Coronavirus from Canada. It was traced to Chinese agents working at a Canadian lab. Subsequent investigation by GreatGameIndia linked the agents to Chinese Biological Warfare Program from where the virus is suspected to have leaked causing the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak. On June 13, 2012 a 60-year-old Saudi man was admitted to a private hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a 7-day history of fever, cough, expectoration, and shortness of breath. He had no history of cardiopulmonary or renal disease, was receiving no long-term medications, and did not smoke. Egyptian virologist Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki isolated and identified a previously unknown coronavirus from his lungs.

After routine diagnostics failed to identify the causative agent, Zaki contacted Ron Fouchier, a leading virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center (EMC) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for advice. Fouchier sequenced the virus from a sample sent by Zaki. Fouchier used a broad-spectrum “pan-coronavirus” real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method to test for distinguishing features of a number of known coronaviruses known to infect humans. This Coronavirus sample was acquired by Scientific Director Dr. Frank Plummer of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg directly from Fouchier, who received it from Zaki. This virus was reportedly stolen from the Canadian lab by Chinese agents.

Coronavirus arrived at Canada’s NML Winnipeg facility on May 4, 2013 from the Dutch lab. The Canadian lab grew up stocks of the virus and used it to assess diagnostic tests being used in Canada. Winnipeg scientists worked to see which animal species can be infected with the new virus. Research was done in conjunction with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s national lab, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases which is housed in the same complex as the National Microbiology Laboratory.

In March 2019, in mysterious event a shipment of exceptionally virulent viruses from Canada’s NML ended up in China. The event caused a major scandal with Bio-warfare experts questioning why Canada was sending lethal viruses to China. Scientists from NML said the highly lethal viruses were a potential bio-weapon. Following investigation, the incident was traced to Chinese agents working at NML. Four months later in July 2019, a group of Chinese virologists were forcibly dispatched from the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory (NML). The NML is Canada’s only level-4 facility and one of only a few in North America equipped to handle the world’s deadliest diseases, including Ebola, SARS, Coronavirus, etc.

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Elections in 9-10 months.

US Economic Confidence at Highest Point Since 2000 (Gallup)

Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy is higher than at any point in about two decades. The latest figure from Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is +40, the highest reading recorded since +44 in October 2000. Americans’ buoyant confidence in the economy in Gallup’s latest poll, conducted Jan. 2-15, likely reflects the U.S. unemployment rate’s continued stay at a 50-year low. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to reach record highs — and flirts with reaching the 30,000 marker. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is the average of two components: Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions and their views on whether the economy is getting better or getting worse.


The index has a theoretical maximum of +100, achieved if all Americans believe the economy is excellent or good and getting better. The theoretical minimum is -100, if all Americans say the economy is poor and getting worse. The current conditions component score of +54 is the result of 62% of Americans saying the economy is “excellent” or “good” and 8% describing it as “poor.” Meanwhile, the economic outlook component score of +26 is the result of 59% saying the economy is “getting better” and 33% saying it is “getting worse.” Gallup’s tracking of economic confidence over the past 28 years has recorded index readings at or above the +40 mark in just nine other measurements, all between 1998 and 2000 — with the highest level recorded in January 2000, at +56, after a then-record high for the Dow. The latest reading of +40 is the only time the index has reached that level since 2000.

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Nothing I haven’t already said 1000 times.

Stock Market A ‘Ponzi Scheme’ That Eventually Must Collapse – Guggenheim (RT)

The rallying markets aren’t as good as they seem, says Guggenheim Partners chief Scott Minerd. He likened inflation of asset prices caused by loose money policies of central banks to a ponzi scheme that eventually must collapse. “We will reach a tipping point when investors will awake to the rising tide of defaults and downgrades,” Minerd wrote in a letter from the World Economic Forum meeting. “The timing is hard to predict, but this reminds me a lot of the lead-up to the 2001 and 2002 recession.” He cited rising defaults despite a rally in riskier assets, and reiterated a warning that BBB-rated bonds risk further downgrades.


The chief executive said that the type of debt is at a greater risk of deterioration than it was in 2007. Guggenheim Partners, which operates in the global investment and advisory space, manages more than $275 billion in assets as of September last year. The company’s fixed-income chief Anne Walsh told Yahoo Finance that 15 percent of the US economy is already in recession. According to her, the Federal Reserve’s efforts to pump liquidity into markets has created “zombie companies” that may see an outflow of capital as the utility of that money continues to diminish. The longer that this market runs, the harder the fall will be when it ends, she said.

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Don’t attack a jury.

Neither Side Is Really Trying To Win This Trump Impeachment Trial (Turley)

It is the one unbreakable rule in litigation. You can insult the defendant or the opposing attorney and, on occasion, you might even insult the judge. But the one thing you can never do is insult the jury. That is only if you want to win a jury verdict, and that may be why both legal teams in the impeachment trial of President Trump seem more eager to get the goats of Senate jurors rather than their votes. Both sides seem to be striving for the constitutional equivalent of a hung jury, not enough votes for either a bipartisan acquittal or conviction, simply the status quo. What is different is that you usually do not actually hang the jury in a hung jury strategy.

The most riveting example this week was the argument of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who stood in the well of the Senate and appeared to accuse Republican senators of a conspiracy to “cover up” the wrongdoing of the president. It was a moment that produced an audible gasp from the room, along with a note from Senator Susan Collins complaining to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then promptly declared that “those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.” The aspersions from Nadler alienated at least two of the four Republican senators that House impeachment managers are struggling to win over in their fight to call witnesses.

In addition to Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski was irate and denounced the comments by Nadler as soon as she walked off the floor. Murkowski later expressed skepticism about helping House managers to call witnesses they did not seek to compel during their own investigations. That is what happens when a prosecutor incorporates the jury into the list of accomplices in an ongoing conspiracy during trial. House manager Adam Schiff produced further gasps when he repeated reports that the senators were warned that if they vote against Trump their heads “will be on a pike.” Collins and Murkowski were among those angrily responding to the “unnecessary” remarks. Other senators have had their own awkward moments.

The House managers played a clip of Senator Lindsay Graham from the Clinton impeachment trial declaring, “What is a high crime? It does not even have to be a crime. It is just when you start using your office and you are acting in a way that hurts people, you have committed a high crime.” That statement of a hurtful standard for impeachment was meant to embarrass Graham. It certainly worked. For its part, the White House could not get enough of old clips of Senator Charles Schumer promising to vote for acquittal before the Clinton trial was even scheduled. Schumer also opposed any witnesses or a full trial in the Clinton impeachment.

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He’s the face after all. They get bonus points for limiting it to 2 hours. And they seemed to do well.

Trump Defense Team Signals Focus On Schiff (Hill)

At several points during their opening argument, President Trump’s defense team trained their fire on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), removing any doubt about their intent to make the House manager’s credibility an issue at the impeachment trial. Addressing the Senate on Saturday, Trump’s lawyers accused Schiff of repeatedly stretching the truth and creating false impressions amid his pursuit to take down the president. “Chairman Schiff has made so much of the House’s case about the credibility of interpretations that the House managers want to place on — not hard evidence — but on inferences,” said Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to Trump.

“It is very relevant to know whether assessments of evidence he’s presented in the past are accurate,” Philbin said of Schiff. “And we would submit they have not been, and that that is relevant for your consideration.” The defense team portrayed Schiff as having first launched his overreaching efforts against Trump during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and continuing through Trump’s impeachment trial. The attacks on Schiff were perhaps unsurprising, as the House Intelligence Committee chairman has emerged as the lead prosecutor among House managers pressing the case against Trump in the Senate.

In fact, Schiff anticipated the offensive and delivered a warning to senators last night that spelled out specific attacks he expected to be lodged against him, some of which materialized Saturday. “I think the second thing you’ll hear from the president’s team is, attack the managers. Those managers are just awful. They’re terrible people,” Schiff said. “Especially that Schiff guy. He’s the worst. He’s the worst.” [..] Trump’s team today called into question whether Schiff can be trusted as an honest broker. At one point, Trump’s defense team played video of Schiff on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying that he had seen “evidence that is not circumstantial” that the Trump campaign had colluded in Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Trump’s lawyers contrasted Schiff’s claim with Mueller’s conclusion that his nearly two-year probe had established no coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The defense team also accused Schiff and his staff of coaching the whistleblower, who raised a red flag over Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president that set in motion the impeachment. They paired the allegation with a clip of Schiff asserting on national television that “we have not spoken directly with the whistleblower,” a claim which fact-checkers found was false.

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The war party.

Adam Schiff Is a Dangerous Warmonger (Jacobin)

Assuring us that he is aware, actually, of what century this is, Schiff said in 2015, “Now, we’re not seeing the same bipolar world we had between communism and capitalism.” (Phew!) He then added, “But we are seeing a new bipolar world, I think, where you have democracy versus authoritarianism.” Schiff has not viewed this as a mere contest of ideas: he constantly advocated for Obama to impose tougher sanctions on Russia and give more weapons to Ukraine.

Although delicately opposed to violence in some contexts — he’s a vegan! — this isn’t the only war Schiff has championed. He supported the Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya wars, greater US intervention in Syria, as well as the Saudi war with Yemen (although he has, in the past year, turned against the latter adventure, seeming to draw the line at sawing up journalists with bonesaws — he is a moderate after all, plus very popular with the media), and he has voted for nearly every possible increase in the defense budget.

As Jacobin’s own Branko Marcetic observed two years ago, Schiff’s bellicosity is extensively funded by arms manufacturers and military contractors. A Ukrainian arms dealer named Igor Pasternak held a $2,500 per head fundraiser for Schiff in 2013, as the late Justin Raimondo reported in a terrific analysis on Antiwar.com in 2017, at a time when Ukraine was desperately trying to counter the Obama administration’s disinterest in funding its war with Russia. Despite that disinterest, the State Department approved some very profitable dealings for Pasternak in Ukraine after that fundraiser.

And that’s only one example. In the current cycle, donations from the war industry have continued to flood his coffers. Many come from employees of firms with extensive Department of Defense contracts, including Radiance Technologies and Raytheon. PACs representing the defense industry also make a robust showing among Schiff’s contributors, according to data on Open Secrets.org; companies funneling money to Schiff — sorry, contributing to those PACs — include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Radiance, and others, including L3Harris Technologies (which got in big trouble with the State Department in September and had to pay $13 million in penalties for illegal arms dealing).

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Why is everyone still talking about Biden? He’s out.

Joe Biden Lied About His Record On Social Security (IC)

Over the past few weeks, former Vice President Joe Biden has been making an effort to recast his record on Social Security as one of a champion who defended the program from assaults, rather than one who consistently argued that it ought to be cut. The value of such a revision is clear: Austerity is no longer a politically viable platform for Democrats to take in the primary. His defense of his record has included multiple television interviews, public comments, and even an ad attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders for “dishonest smears” challenging him on Social Security. In the ad, Biden makes a sweeping claim: “I’ve been fighting to protect — and expand — Social Security for my whole career. Any suggestion otherwise is just flat-out wrong.”

At Vice’s Black and Brown Forum in Iowa this week, when pressed on his proposal to freeze Social Security payments by moderator Antonia Hylton, he simply lied: “I didn’t propose a freeze.” In fact, Biden has argued for cuts or freezes to Social Security throughout much of his career. Earlier in January, The Intercept wrote about several instances in which Biden advocated for cutting Social Security over the course of his career. Biden, when he acknowledges his past support for cuts, portrays the advocacy as deep in the past. But a close inspection finds reams of more recent evidence of Biden’s support for cuts — including in Biden’s recent recounting of a conversation he had with China’s president, Xi Jinping, and in his choice of Bruce Reed, a longtime deficit hawk, as a senior policy adviser in his current presidential campaign.

Reed, a longtime Biden aide, played a central role in advocating cuts to the New Deal-era program as a co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, as the top staffer for a controversial commission dedicated to slashing the deficit, and then as Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration. In Washington, D.C., he would be the last high-level staffer a campaign would bring aboard if it was genuinely intent on expanding, not cutting, Social Security.

This past week, Biden steadily ratcheted up his revision of his record. At Vice News’s Brown and Black Forum in Iowa on Monday, he was pressed on Social Security. “Do you think though that it’s fair for voters to question your commitment to Social Security when in the past you proposed a freeze to it?” he was asked by Vice moderator Hylton. “No, I didn’t propose a freeze,” he said. “You did,” she corrected. On Tuesday, he released an ad attacking Sanders for what he called “dishonest smears.” The hit prompted a response from Sanders, who posted a short ad showing Biden boasting of his willingness to cut Social Security on the Senate floor. The Sanders ad has been viewed some 4 million times, to Biden’s less than a million.

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Does he even know?

VP Pence Appears To Suggest Americans, Nor Russians, Liberated Auschwitz (RT)

US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech on the Holocaust left the impression it was American soldiers who liberated Auschwitz, erased the Soviet Union’s well-documented act, and even used the solemn occasion to lash out at Iran. Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum in Israel on Thursday, Pence said that it was “soldiers” who opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. Which soldiers? Pence does not say, whether accidentally or on purpose. Pence’s omission became much more glaring a few moments later, when he honored the memory of “all the Allied forces, including more than two million American soldiers, who left hearth and home, suffered appalling casualties, and freed a continent from the grip of tyranny.”

Listening to Pence’s speech, one might be tempted to conclude that it was these American soldiers who liberated Auschwitz, or bore the brunt of the burden of liberating Europe from the Nazis. Yet if we want to talk about truly “appalling casualties,” how about the nearly 27 million soldiers and civilians of the Soviet Union who perished in that war? What about the Red Army’s 322nd Rifle Division, under General Pyotr Ivanovich Zubov, that actually kicked in the doors of Auschwitz, only to be ‘erased’ from memory by an American vice-president 75 years later? One word – “Soviet” before “soldiers” – would have sufficed to give credit where it’s due. There is nothing wrong with being an American patriot, but this sort of dissembling is at best ignorance, and at worst outright stolen valor, both entirely unbecoming of a statesman.

Pence ended his speech by praising the US alliance with Israel and urging the world to “stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran” as “the one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.” Meanwhile, at the same event, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the use of the Holocaust in present-day political disputes and proposed a summit of the five permanent UN Security Council members – representing the nations principally responsible for defeating Hitler and establishing the post-war world order – to address the challenges of the world today and “demonstrate our common commitment to the spirit of allied relations, historical memory and the lofty ideals and values for which our predecessors, our grandfathers and fathers fought shoulder to shoulder.”

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https://twitter.com/i/status/1221188593290366976

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Oct 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Head of a bearded man 1940

 

Democrats Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents (ZH)
2nd Whistleblower May File Complaint About Trump/Ukraine: New York Times (RawS)
House Democrats Target Pence Over Ukraine; Peddle Fiction Over ‘Favor’ (ZH)
Newly Released Rosenstein Emails Reveal Crusade To Investigate Trump (ZH)
Do You Have a Lisance for that Minky? (Kunstler)
Boris Johnson Brexit Plan Hangs By Thread As EU Dismisses Weekend Talks (G.)
China Has No Room for Dissenting Friends (FP)
PayPal Becomes First Member To Exit Facebook’s Libra Association (R.)
Regulators Weigh ‘Startle Factors’ For Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training (R.)
Boeing Crash Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Testimony From 737 MAX Whistleblower (R.)
Greece Needs To Face Reality About Asylum Seekers (HRW)
Air Pollution And Human Health Impacts Of Cryptocurrency Mining (SD)

 

 

This is not how US election campaigns used to look.

Democrats Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents (ZH)

Just one day after President Trump dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold an impeachment inquiry vote – a move which would open Democrats up to Republican subpoenas, House Democrats slapped the White House with a subpoena first. Addressed to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the subpoena demands documents and communications related to the case being constructed against Trump – namely that his request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption constitutes election interference and endangered national security. Of note, the Justice Department concluded that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky did not violate campaign finance law.

“How the White House, which has routinely rejected congressional requests for information, responds to the demands for documents could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. Under normal circumstances, the White House could claim materials referred to in both requests were privileged, using that as a defense in court.” -New York Times. What Democrats aren’t pursuing, by the by, is anything resembling due diligence on Biden – the (still) leading Democratic candidate trying to fend off accusations of nepotism in Ukraine and China while abusing his office as Vice President. As we noted earlier Friday, Vice President Mike Pence was hit with a subpoena as well over, demanding information on “any role you may have played” in helping with the Ukraine effort against Biden.


Pence press secretary Katie Waldman said “given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ to call attention to their partisan impeachment.” Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) have warned that failure to comply with subpoenas will be viewed as obstruction of Congress – which the Times says is “itself a potentially impeachable offense.” “The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis,” reads the subpoena, demanding information by October 15. “After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the president has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up.”

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Also CIA.

2nd Whistleblower May File Complaint About Trump/Ukraine: New York Times (RawS)

President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry continues to grow, according to a bombshell new report in The New York Times. “A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress,” The Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter. “The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry,” the newspaper explained. “The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.”


“A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point,” the newspaper noted. “Whistle-blowers have created a new threat for Mr. Trump. Though the White House has stonewalled Democrats in Congress investigating allegations raised in the special counsel’s report that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, the president has little similar ability to stymie whistle-blowers from speaking to Congress.”

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If both Trump and Pence are impeached, Nancy Pelosi is next in line to become president.

But the Dems won’t get any documents until they hold a House vote.

House Democrats Target Pence Over Ukraine; Peddle Fiction Over ‘Favor’ (ZH)

House Democrats on Friday roped Vice President Mike Pence into their investigation into whether President Trump “jeopardized national security” by asking Ukraine to investigate what looks like obvious corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In a letter from Democratic House Committee Chairs Eliot Engel (NY), Adam Schiff (CA) and Elijah Cummings (MD), Pence is given a deadline of October 15 to turn over all documents related to President Trump’s April 21 and July 25 phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The letter also requests all communications between administration officials regarding the calls, as well as information concerning Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate or pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.


Of note, the letter danced around a popular lie about the call between Trump and Zelensky: According to the record, President Trump stated, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He also stated, “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.” The letter then jumps to a transcript of the July 25 phone call in which Trump said: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.” Meanwhile, House Democrats purposely conflate Trump’s “favor” – which was actually for the investigation of the DNC servers involving their contractor Crowdstrile – and the Biden investigation.

 

If Pence refuses to comply, the chairmen say it “shall constitute evidence of obstruction” in their impeachment inquiry. For those keeping track – Rep. Schiff lied when he said his office had no contact with the whistleblower (which earned him ‘four Pinocchios’ from the Washington Post). Schiff also fabricated a quote from the Trump-Zelensky call which he read during an official hearing. And now, he and two other House Democratic chairs are doing their best narrative shaping by misrepresenting more facts.

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Not looking good.

Newly Released Rosenstein Emails Reveal Crusade To Investigate Trump (ZH)

New emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveal the details surrounding communications between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the former FBI Director’s appointment as special counsel in the Russia probe. Mueller would go on to assemble a team comprising “13 Angry Democrats” as Trump called them, due to their obvious animus towards the president. According to the 145 pages of documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Rosenstein and Mueller were discussing just three days after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, and ostenisbly for some time before that.


“The boss and his staff do not know about our discussions,” Rosenstein wrote Mueller on May 12, 2017 as the two tried to nail down a time for their next conversation. Four days later on May 16- the day before Mueller’s appointment, Rosenstein told former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General and current Kirkland & Ellis Partne, Mark Filip “I am with Mueller. He shares my views. Duty Calls. Sometimes the moment chooses us.” “And on May 17 Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Also, during the same time period, between May 8 and May 17, Rosenstein met with then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other senior Justice Department FBI officials to discuss wearing a wire and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump.” -Judicial Watch

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“..that claque of lesser monsters who cooked up the coup to overthrow the president, and botched the job.”

Do You Have a Lisance for that Minky? (Kunstler)

[..] what if it turns out that there actually is no Whistleblower, that the figure was just a fiction, a CGI figment cooked up by Adam Schiff, his lawyers, and sundry other players on the Deep State bench? Sounds outlandish perhaps, but I wouldn’t put it past the congressman from Hollywood. We’ll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, it appears that the purported Whistleblower and his chief handler, Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson failed to observe the proper procedures in reporting the complaint through channels, not to mention the legerdemain of sketchy paperwork that attested to the complaint.

Remember who Michael Atkinson is: the former legal counsel to John P. Carlin, who was Assistant Attorney General for National Security during the origin months of the RussiaGate operation in the summer of 2016, and before that chief of staff to… wait for it… Robert Mueller, when he was FBI Director. Do you begin to detect a claque of senior bureaucrats scrambling to cover each other’s ass? Interesting days ahead as this feculent blob of malfeasance creepy-crawls through the spooky weeks of October, climaxing in Halloween. These are the weeks when the DOJ Inspector General’s report on FISA court shenanigans comes down. It’s also the month of the Brexit Absolute Deadline.


That hairball over in Old Blighty might seem of unconcern over here, but it contains enough explosive power to destabilize the European banking system and, with it, America’s, which would lead to some rather scary action in the bond and equity markets at exactly the time of year when accidents like that happen. And then, deeper in the background, like Hades and Thanatos, stand the grave figures of Barr and Durham, whose very silence lo these many months must be giving the vapors to that claque of lesser monsters who cooked up the coup to overthrow the president, and botched the job.

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“..no basis for such discussions, given the British prime minister’s insistence on there being a customs border on the island of Ireland.”

Boris Johnson Brexit Plan Hangs By Thread As EU Dismisses Weekend Talks (G.)

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans look to be falling apart as the European commission said there are no grounds to accept a request from the UK for intensive weekend negotiations two weeks before an EU summit. EU sources said there was no basis for such discussions, given the British prime minister’s insistence on there being a customs border on the island of Ireland. Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, along with a team of a dozen British officials, failed to convince their EU counterparts in Brussels on Friday that he had a mandate from Downing Street to compromise on what the EU sees as major flaws in the UK government’s proposals. Frost had been seeking to rescue the British prime minister’s proposed deal after it was strongly criticised.


The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had told diplomats on Thursday evening that the British needed to “fundamentally amend their position”. A European commission spokeswoman said: “We have completed discussions with the UK for today. We gave our initial reaction to the UK’s proposals and asked many questions on the legal text. “We will meet again on Monday to give the UK another opportunity to present its proposals in detail.” The spokeswoman added that the proposals did not “provide a basis for concluding an agreement”. An EU official said: “The UK often asks for meetings to keep [the] process going; we agree we should leave no stone unturned. But there is nothing useful that could be done this weekend.”

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Muslim silence on Uighurs.

China Has No Room for Dissenting Friends (FP)

In July this year, 22 Western-aligned countries issued a joint statement to the high commissioner of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council objecting to China’s abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. That’s not unusual: The reports of human rights abuses in the province are coming out thick and fast, and Western countries are more than happy to raise concerns against such abuses, whether out of genuine concern, domestic virtue signaling by political leaders, or the use of any available stick to whack a geopolitical rival.

What was remarkable was the 37 countries issuing a counter letter praising China’s human rights record, from humanitarian luminaries including such as Syria, Myanmar, and North Korea. More interestingly, about half of the signatories of this letter were Muslim-majority countries. If the issues had been about Palestinians or even the Rohingya, one might expect the usual cynical domestic virtue signaling by political leaders around the well-worn claims of Muslim solidarity. Instead, they chose to loudly broadcast their support for Beijing’s policy of eradicating the old Islamic culture of the ancient Silk Road gateway to the Chinese heartland in Xinjiang.


The calculation of such leaders, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto head of government of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is well understood and publicized: “Muslim solidarity” is a convenient and effective slogan to be thrown at domestic audiences, but if your national economy—and the personal profits of the elite—depends on the goodwill of Beijing, then you must defer to China’s supposedly sovereign right to do as it pleases within its borders, and forget about the umma.

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Won’t be the last.

PayPal Becomes First Member To Exit Facebook’s Libra Association (R.)

U.S. payments processor PayPal said on Friday it was leaving Libra Association, the entity managing the Facebook-led effort to build global digital currency Libra, making it the first member to exit the group. PayPal said it would forgo any further participation in the group and would instead focus on its own core businesses. “We remain supportive of Libra’s aspirations and look forward to continued dialogue on ways to work together in the future,” PayPal said in a statement. In response, Geneva-based Libra Association said it was aware of the challenges lying ahead in its attempts to “reconfigure” the financial system.


“The type of change that will reconfigure the financial system to be tilted towards people, not the institutions serving them, will be hard. Commitment to that mission is more important to us than anything else. We’re better off knowing about this lack of commitment now, rather than later”, Libra Association said in a statement. Facebook declined to comment.

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Now it’s ‘pilot overload’. And software of course. But the pilots were not overloaded, the hardware didn’t work.

Regulators Weigh ‘Startle Factors’ For Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training (R.)

Global regulators are looking at “startle factors” that can overwhelm pilots as they consider revised protocols for the Boeing 737 MAX, Nicholas Robinson, the head of civil aviation for Transport Canada, told Reuters on Friday. Boeing Co’s fastest-selling jetliner, the 737 MAX, was grounded worldwide in March after two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 people within five months. Pilot overload appears to have played a role in both crashes, in which crews struggled to regain control of the airplane while a new flight control system repeatedly pushed the nose down amid a series of other audio and sensory alarms and alerts. “What we need to do is ensure that the aircrew in the MAX are able to handle that environment,” Robinson said in an interview with Reuters.

Transport Canada is among a core group of regulators that is evaluating the requirements for the 737 MAX to fly again after a seven-month grounding. It has been convening weekly by phone, video conferences or face-to-face with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and its counterparts in the European Union and Brazil, Robinson said. Their decisions could lead to sweeping changes to pilot flight operating manuals and classroom instruction and even mandates for costly simulator training, industry sources have said. However, no training decisions can be made until Boeing submits software updates to the FAA for review and approval, Robinson said.


Transport Canada is closely aligned with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency on return to service demands and has also raised questions over the architecture behind the 737 MAX’s angle of attack system. “We continue to look for a solution proposed by the manufacturer and the FAA on that area,” he said. Still, Canada’s goal is for the MAX to return in countries across the globe simultaneously, or at least in close succession. “It’s not a necessity, but it’s a goal,” Robinson said.

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What is it about October and whistleblowers?

Boeing Crash Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Testimony From 737 MAX Whistleblower (R.)

An attorney representing families of passengers killed in a Boeing Co 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia said on Friday he will seek sworn evidence from a Boeing engineer who claims the company rejected a proposed safety upgrade to the 737 MAX because it was too costly. The engineer, Curtis Ewbank, said the upgrade could have reduced risks that contributed to two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people, according to two people familiar with the complaint. Ewbank filed the complaint through internal Boeing channels after the March crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, the sources said. The sources described the complaint to Reuters, but Reuters has not seen a copy of the complaint.


Managers rejected the proposed upgrade from Ewbank’s team of engineers, called synthetic airspeed, on the basis of “cost and potential (pilot) training impact,” according to the Seattle Times, which first reported the complaint on Wednesday. Robert Clifford, the lead counsel representing families of victims from the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said in an email the complaint raises fresh concerns about Boeing’s culture and whether the company placed too great an emphasis on cost and schedule at the expense of safety. He said he would take steps to depose Ewbank as quickly as possible.

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Things are getting out of hand again. Hundreds of refugees daily, courtesy of Erdogan. A right wing government is not going to help. Still a dumb headline though.

Greece Needs To Face Reality About Asylum Seekers (HRW)

The Greek islands are under the spotlight again, as a new wave of tragic events has hit asylum seekers trapped there. On 29 September, a big fire broke out in Moria – the notorious camp on the island of Lesbos – killing one woman, and injuring at least nine more people, including a baby, the health ministry reported. On 24 September, a truck killed a five-year-old Afghan boy who was playing just outside Moria. The number of asylum seekers crossing the Aegean from Turkey is also increasing. With camps already overcrowded, conditions are horrific for asylum seekers and migrants trapped there. According to the government’s most recent figures, 26,753 women, men and children live in camps designed for about 6,300. The number has almost doubled since June.


But while the numbers have increased, neither the horrible conditions nor the flawed policies that cause them are new. Underinvestment, a poorly functioning asylum system, and a deliberate policy choice to confine asylum seekers to islands has left thousands trapped there for months or years in inhuman and degrading conditions. Forcing migrants and asylum seekers to remain on the islands was ostensibly to expedite their return to Turkey under the March 2016 EU-Turkey deal. But on 11 September, Gerald Knaus, head of a research organisation whose ideas inspired the EU-Turkey deal, wrote that: “The situation on Greek islands is unacceptable, the asylum system on the verge of collapse. This is a moment of truth.”

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Abstract of an academic study published at Science Direct.

Air Pollution And Human Health Impacts Of Cryptocurrency Mining (SD)

Cryptocurrency mining uses significant amounts of energy as part of the proof-of-work time-stamping scheme to add new blocks to the chain. Expanding upon previously calculated energy use patterns for mining four prominent cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero), we estimate the per coin economic damages of air pollution emissions and associated human mortality and climate impacts of mining these cryptocurrencies in the US and China. Results indicate that in 2018, each $1 of Bitcoin value created was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US and $0.37 in China.


The similar value in China relative to the US occurs despite the extremely large disparity between the value of a statistical life estimate for the US relative to that of China. Further, with each cryptocurrency, the rising electricity requirements to produce a single coin can lead to an almost inevitable cliff of negative net social benefits, absent perpetual price increases. For example, in December 2018, our results illustrate a case (for Bitcoin) where the health and climate change “cryptodamages” roughly match each $1 of coin value created. We close with discussion of policy implications.

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The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.

– African proverb