Jan 242021
 
 January 24, 2021  Posted by at 10:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Amedeo Modigliani Elvira Resting at a Table 1919

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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While his WHO colleagues are still in China?!

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

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

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

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

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So when’s the big rollout?

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

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


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

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How many lives could have been saved?

Lancet Retracts Study That Claimed HCQ Is Ineffective (NF)

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

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

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

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Let the games ….. continue.

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

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

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

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

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Stretching the law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“stimmy” checks.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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Ha ha ha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monsanto.

Indian Farmers on the Frontline Against Global Capitalism (OffG)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 232021
 


Zao Wu-Ki Le soleil rouge 1950

 

Here Are the Superheroes To Come and Save Us (MPN)
Dems Demand Social Media Stop ‘Polluting Minds Of American People’ (RT)
New McCarthyism Will Prove An Orwellian Mistake – Hanson (K.)
Big Tech, Big Brother, & The End Of Free Speech (RCP)
The Echo Chamber Era (Matt Taibbi)
500,000 More British Kids Face Mental Health Issues (Wilson)
Israel Analysis Of COVID Vaccine Raises Questions About UK Strategy (Sky)
Are COVID Vaccination Programmes Working? (Nature)
One Dose Of Pfizer Vaccine Could Be Less Effective Than Expected (BMJ)
Hungary First EU Country To Get Russia’s Sputnik V Covid19 Vaccine (RT)
Overall Mortality Is Around Normal For This Time Of Year (RT)
How US CDC Missed Chances To Spot COVID’s Silent Spread (R.)
McConnell Lays Out Trump Impeachment Trial Timeline (ZH)
Rough Ridin’ with Biden (Kunstler)
Home Run King Hank Aaron Dead At 86 (F.)

 

 


Cavafy – Monotony

 

 

 

 

“The few who ventured near the Capitol were mostly somber, as if they were attending a vigil.” “It feels a little postapocalyptic..”

Here Are the Superheroes To Come and Save Us (MPN)

We rely on the media to hold the powerful to account. But in its first hours in office, the corporate press has celebrated, rather than challenged, the new Biden administration. It began immediately during the 78-year-old Delawarean’s inauguration, with senior figures in the media barely able to contain their emotions watching what they saw. “As Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, the sky opened up and sunlight reflected off of the Capitol, illuminating the flag,” wrote Olivia Nuzzi, the New Yorker’s Washington correspondent. The New York Times was in a similarly poetic mood. “Whether or not related to the former president’s absence, a bipartisan lightness seemed to prevail across the stage at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Snow flurries gave way to sun,” ran its subheadline.


If it were not clear enough that corporate media intends to spend the next four years propping up, rather than scrutinizing President Biden, then senior CNN figures spelled it out. “Trump—>Biden. Lies—>truth. Ignorance—>knowledge. Amorality—>decency. Cruelty—> empathy. Corruption—>public service” wrote CNN’s White House correspondent John J. Harwood on Twitter, attributing several extremely positive (and questionable) qualities to the incoming president. Meanwhile, the company’s head of strategic communications, Matt Dornic, was in an even more bombastic mood. Sharing a picture of fireworks exploding over the Washington Monument, he remarked that, “This team truly understands optics. These images will inspire our friends and shake our foes.”

Leaving aside why some colorful pyrotechnics would terrify Russia, China or any nation, Dornic’s rhetoric worried many who felt the nation’s top journalists should see themselves as the government’s adversaries, rather than their allies. “Note how this CNN imperial stenographer fearmongers about foreign bogeymen with his “foe” rhetoric. The real foe of average working-class Americans isn’t any foreign nation; it’s the parasitic capitalist oligarchs who control everything and their lackeys in politics and the media,” replied Ben Norton of The Grayzone. Perhaps the most adulatory coverage of the inauguration came from MSNBC, however, with analyst John Heilemann depicting the senior politicians present as almost mythical ubermensch. “What was to me so striking about today was that comforting sense,” he said.


“The sight of the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas — The Avengers, the Marvel superheroes back up there together all in one place with their friend Joe Biden.” He later went on to compare Biden’s speech to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address of 1865 after the union victory in the American Civil War and claimed there was a deep sense of relief washing over the nation’s capital.. This sentiment was apparently not shared by ordinary people on the street. Even as it was praising Biden, the New York Times reported that “The few who ventured near the Capitol were mostly somber, as if they were attending a vigil.” “It feels a little postapocalyptic, to be honest,” one told them.

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How is this not the thought police?

”..algorithms and recommendations that breed extremism and undermine the sense of “objective reality.”

Dems Demand Social Media Stop ‘Polluting Minds Of American People’ (RT)

Democrats in the US Congress have urged major social media platforms to eliminate algorithms and recommendations that breed extremism and undermine the sense of “objective reality.” Representatives Anna Eshoo and Tom Malinowski wrote letters demanding change to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. A similar letter was sent to the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, and Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google. “For years, social media companies have allowed harmful disinformation to spread through their platforms, polluting the minds of the American people,” Eshoo tweeted. The lawmakers argued that social media platforms allow content which reinforces “existing political biases, especially those rooted in anger, anxiety, and fear.”


They said the algorithms used by Big Tech “undermine our shared sense of objective reality” and “facilitate connections between extremist users,” which lead to violence in real life, like the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6. Twitter was urged to “immediately make permanent changes to limit the spread of misinformation and other forms of harmful content.” Facebook and YouTube were similarly asked to tweak their recommendation systems in order not to promote “dangerous conspiracy theories” among users. The Democrats and many in the media accused former President Donald Trump of inciting the crowd of his supporters to seize the Capitol in hopes of overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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“We are in a sort of left-wing version of the Corleone “Godfather” cinema family “taking care of business” all at once.”

New McCarthyism Will Prove An Orwellian Mistake – Hanson (K.)

The efforts of “Big Tech” to ban Trump and many of his supporters, while Apple, Google etc in concert made it almost impossible for a conservative site like Parler to exist, are reflections of a Salem Witch trial madness sparked by the trifecta of Trump’s loss, the Capitol violence, and the Republican loss of the Senate. Hysteria reigns as books by conservatives are now canceled, thousands kicked off social media, radio hosts fired etc. We are in a sort of left-wing version of the Corleone “Godfather” cinema family “taking care of business” all at once. Yet this new McCarthyism will prove an Orwellian mistake, and constitute one of the greatest political blunders in modern US history.

Think of the Ayatollah Khamenei calling for the destruction of Israel on Twitter with impunity or Antifa announcing planning sessions for their next riot, on Facebook with impunity – juxtaposed to social media banning those who merely showed up in Washington at a peaceful rally and did not join the violent splinter group who stormed the halls of Congress. In contrast, again, the current Vice President Harris earlier had called for the more protests this summer. Many were violent and occasionally lethal, resulting in mass looting, death and arson by Antifa and BLM. She worked to bail out those arrested for street violence. The public is tiring of such asymmetries. US publishers all the time publish books like “In Defense of Looting” – a manifesto supporting the mass theft from stores this summer. So there is no consistency in the current violations of free speech.

And the effort to remove Trump before his tenure not only failed, but showed his opponents as small-minded and vindictive and further divided a 50/50 divided country. The attempt to coordinate Big Tech to destroy the conservative opposition’s means of communicating with the public came by design on the eve of the most revolutionary moments in modern history to come: Very soon the Left plans to end the 180-year Senate filibuster, the 234-year Electoral College, the 60-year 50-state union (by adding Puerto Rico and Washington DC), and the 150-year-old nine-person Supreme Court – and now will have its critics de-platformed from social media or afraid to express objections in fear of being banned.

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“..When 13-year-olds are entrusted with cellphones and Snapchat accounts, they can use them to bring shame on innocent children and even destroy their lives. Often, this involves spreading false rumors about the person or discrediting them for something they espouse, like their religion, their political beliefs or their sexual identity. Tell me how this is different from what Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have done to Donald Trump..”

Big Tech, Big Brother, & The End Of Free Speech (RCP)

In George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” members of the Outer Party of Oceania engage in the Two Minutes Hate ritual against Emmanuel Goldstein, who is supposed to be the enemy of the people but may actually just be a fabricated symbol to distract the people from their real enemy — Big Brother. In Nancy Pelosi’s “Twenty Twenty-One,” members of the Democratic Party engage in the Two Hours Hate against Donald Trump, who is supposed to be the enemy of the people, but may actually just be a fabricated symbol to distract the people from their real enemy — Big Tech. Two hours of hate — er, debate — was held in the House of Representatives last Wednesday for the avowed purpose of removing a president of the United States. That’s all it took. Two hours. That should tell you everything you need to know about the state of democracy in our country.

[..] In a sense, Big Tech has taken cyberbullying to its logical conclusion. When 13-year-olds are entrusted with cellphones and Snapchat accounts, they can use them to bring shame on innocent children and even destroy their lives. Often, this involves spreading false rumors about the person or discrediting them for something they espouse, like their religion, their political beliefs or their sexual identity. Tell me how this is different from what Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have done to Donald Trump and, by extension, the more than 74 million people who voted for him. This group of post-pubescent cyberbullies in Silicon Valley doesn’t like Donald Trump. They feel justified in calling him names like white supremacist and Nazi and racist. They don’t care whether it hurts him or not. They don’t care whether it is true or not. They are strangely enlivened by what they perceive as their ability to hurt him, to weaken him.

Like the mob that they have attempted to link the president to, these bullies act in mindless concert, emboldened by each other to see who can strike the deeper blow, who can make the victim hurt more. And over what? Differences of opinion, for the most part. Strong border or no border? Mask or no mask? Globalism or Americanism? Carbon credits or fracking? Abortion or no abortion? And then the last straw — fair election or fraudulent election? These should be legitimate subjects for debate in a free society. But not anymore. Big Tech has banned debate about government policy on the coronavirus, and any discussion of election fraud is treated as if it were a crime. But wait? It’s only a crime to question the government in a totalitarian system, like that in communist China or Orwell’s fictional Oceania, right?

In America, we have the right and obligation to question our government, don’t we? Because, if we don’t have that right any longer, then what are they afraid of? What are they hiding? Bottom line: At some point in some election, the allegations of election fraud have to be real. It can’t always just be the figment of some right-wing president’s imagination. And if we aren’t allowed to have free speech, then how do we fight back? If Big Tech and Big Government have their way, we don’t. Just keep your head down and your nose clean — and never ever question what you are told.

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“..not a bad or even a terrible plan, but literally a “nonexistent” plan, despite the fact that 36 million vaccines had already been delivered..”

The Echo Chamber Era (Matt Taibbi)

Blue-state audiences didn’t ask for accounting for those official warnings for the same reason Trump voters never asked what happened to those three million undocumented votes Hillary Clinton supposedly won in 2016: audiences don’t demand explanations for puffed-up claims about other groups. People like Sullivan would have you believe that “balance” is a mandate to give voice to clearly illegitimate points of view, but it’s really about not falling so completely in love with your “values” that you stop caring to avoid mistakes about those who don’t share them, or even just mistakes generally. By any standard, the press had a terrible four years, from the mangling of dozens of Russiagate tales to scandals like the New York Times “Caliphate” disaster and the underappreciated Covington High School story fiasco.

Still, many in the business can’t see how bad it’s been, because they’ve walled themselves off so completely from potential critics. Coupled with the enhanced aggressiveness of Silicon Valley in removing dissenting accounts across the spectrum — Facebook is taking down six Socialist Workers Party accounts in Britain as I write this, a day after zapping a series of Antifa accounts — reporters at places like the Post, the Times, and CNN every day have less and less to worry about in terms of audience blowback, and they know it. Just in the first few days of the Biden administration, we’ve seen editorial decisions that would never have been attempted once upon a time. The Post just tried to remove seven paragraphs of their own archived article about Vice President Kamala Harris, which contained a cringeworthy scene of Harris and her sister joking about prisoners begging for water, only to restore it after an outcry.

CNN meanwhile ran a story that incoming Biden officials had to “build everything from scratch” with regard to Covid-19 policy because the Trump administration had no plan for vaccine distribution at all — not a bad or even a terrible plan, but literally a “nonexistent” plan, despite the fact that 36 million vaccines had already been delivered. In this rare case, rival media organizations cried foul, with reporters from both Politico and the Washington Post blasting the report as untrue and a “gambit to lower expectations” by the incoming administration. In an atmosphere where editors really feared discontent from outside demographics or rival party politicians, a story like that, with an over-the-top-to-impossible premise, would never even be tried.

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COVID is not a one-dimensional issue, but it keeps being treated as such. “500,000 children under 18 in England, with no previous problems, will need mental health care..”

500,000 More British Kids Face Mental Health Issues (Wilson)

The gloom is infectious, as a study out today from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford confirmed. Formerly freewheeling, high-spirited online chats have morphed into muted complaints and low moods as the novelty of school in the kitchen wore off long ago. The wide, everchanging schoolyard social networks of our children have disappeared, replaced by social contact with whoever happens to be online at the same time they are. Boredom encourages bickering and the subtleties of personal relationships are forced to rely on broadband speed, What’s App chat emojis and access to a shared computer. It is not healthy in any way. We now risk destroying our children’s love of learning while creating a mental health crisis that has struck half a million previously healthy kids across the nation already, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

It says 500,000 children under 18 in England, with no previous problems, will need mental health care due to the devastating economic, health and family pressures caused by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. This has manifested itself in children as young as five reporting self-harm and suicidal thoughts to counsellors and a tripling in the number of eating disorders reported by adolescents. An Ofsted report in November discovered that more than two months of lost schooling last spring had resulted in children regressing in basic skills such as reading and writing. And –as always– it is the poor who suffer worst. It’s estimated 1.1m kids have no computer at home, making attending online lessons impossible. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that, in the last lockdown, better-off children spent 30 per cent more time on remote learning than disadvantaged ones. The attainment gap between rich and poor pupils will grow markedly.

A survey by England’s Mental Health of Children and Young People survey found that more than a quarter of children aged five to 16 reported disrupted sleep, one in five did not have somewhere quiet to work, and girls had the highest prevalence (27.2 per cent) of probable mental health issues. This is all shocking news. Our children are facing serious problems with their mental health in numbers never seen before and yet with no end date in sight they are expected to sit in front of a screen five hours a day, five days a week. It’s not helping, and it is clear that keeping schools shut is doing immense and lasting damage to our children.

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We had a discussion in yesterday’s Debt Rattle thread about the first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Which answers some questions, and leaves new ones. The 33% efficacy after two weeks raises alarms. Even if it rises afterwards.

I still have many questions about what exactly constitutes the efficacy. If all it does is keep people from getting more severely ill, that is fine, but at least be open about it.

Israel Analysis Of COVID Vaccine Raises Questions About UK Strategy (Sky)

The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine suggests it is matching its performance in clinical trials, but raises serious questions about the UK’s decision to delay the second dose. Scientists in Israel – which is leading the COVID-19 vaccination race – have told Sky News that they are “very hopeful” having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people. But crucially they say their results do not show efficacy at a level close to that used by the UK to justify delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab. Professor Ran Balicer is a physician, epidemiologist and chief innovation officer for Clalit, the largest health care provider in Israel. He is also an adviser to the WHO. “We compared 200,000 people above the age of 60 that were vaccinated. We took a comparison group of 200,000 people, same age, not vaccinated, that were matched to this group on various variables…” Prof Balicer said.

“Then we looked to see what is the daily positivity rate… And we saw that there was no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated until day 14 post-vaccination. “But on day 14 post-vaccination, a drop of 33% in positivity was witnessed in the vaccinated group and not in the unvaccinated… this is really good news.” However, UK scientists said in December that trial data had suggested it would be 89% effective after one dose. A document issued by the UK government’s vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, to justify delaying the second dose for up to 12 weeks said: “Using data for those cases observed between day 15 and 21, efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 was estimated at 89%, suggesting that short term protection from dose 1 is very high from day 14 after vaccination.”

This is much more optimistic than the new real-world Israeli data suggests. Responding to the UK government strategy, Prof Balicer said: “The data and estimates I gave are what we have. “We could not see 89% reduction in the data we reported. Further data and analyses will be released in peer reviewer scientific format.” He added: “The practice in Israel is to provide the second vaccine at three weeks. “And so it is impossible for us to tell what would be the impact of not providing the second dose…” Israel is following Pfizer/BioNtech protocol in giving the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine three weeks after the first. It has a smaller population and a regular supply from Pfizer/BioNtech. In return it’s providing detailed data to Pfizer.

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And this is just incredibly weak: “If vaccines are effective at preventing infections, then their indirect benefit — protecting unvaccinated people — will be visible only once enough people have been immunized..”

Are COVID Vaccination Programmes Working? (Nature)

The results from Israel are among the first to report the impact of vaccines administered to people outside clinical trials. They provide an early indication that the two-dose RNA-based vaccine developed by Pfizer–BioNTech can prevent infection or limit its duration in some vaccinated people. In a preliminary analysis of 200,000 people older than 60 who received the vaccine, compared with a matched group of 200,000 who did not, researchers found that the chances of testing positive for the virus were 33% lower two weeks after the first injection. “We were happy to see this preliminary result that suggests a real-world impact in the approximate timing and direction we would have expected,” says Ran Balicer, an epidemiologist at Israel’s largest health-care provider, Clalit Health Services, in Tel Aviv.

He expects to get more conclusive results several weeks after people receive their second shot. Another analysis, by Maccabi Healthcare Services, found a similar trend, although neither study has been peer-reviewed. Clinical trials of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine show it to be around 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, and the preliminary data suggest it can also provide some protection from infection. But it will take longer to establish whether vaccinated people no longer spread the virus to unvaccinated people, says Balicer. As more than 75% of older people in Israel have been vaccinated, Balicer says he expects to see a drop in hospitalizations among vaccinated older people over the coming weeks.

Most countries are prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for people who have a high risk of getting severe disease and dying. So, the first evidence that shots are working in those countries will probably be reductions in hospitalizations, and then in deaths, says Alexandra Hogan, an infectious-disease modeller at Imperial College London. If vaccines are effective at preventing infections, then their indirect benefit — protecting unvaccinated people — will be visible only once enough people have been immunized, says Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Israel will probably be the first country to see this kind of population-wide impact, say researchers. This is because it is using a high-efficacy vaccine and aiming for wide coverage with the explicit goal of achieving herd immunity, when enough people are immune to a virus for its spread to be controlled.

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Yeah, but effective at what? Not at protecting others, that much is clear now.

One Dose Of Pfizer Vaccine Could Be Less Effective Than Expected (BMJ)

Concerns have been raised over how much protection a single dose of the Pfizer BioNTech covid-19 vaccine provides, following reports from Israel that it is much lower than expected. Israel, which, like the UK, is currently in its third national lockdown, has so far vaccinated more than 75% of its older people with at least one dose. Early reports from the vaccine rollout have suggested that the first dose led to a 33% reduction in cases of coronavirus compared with efficacy of at least 52% reported in clinical trials. A preliminary report from the Clalit Research Institute compared the infection data of 200.000 people aged 60 and over who were not vaccinated with the infection data of 200.000 people of the same age group who received one vaccine dose and were monitored for at least 11 days from the date of vaccination.

On day 14 there was a significant decrease of about 33% in the rate of positive tests for the coronavirus among those who had been vaccinated. This decrease remained the same between days 15 and 17. The report has raised concerns, as published results have suggested that the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine was 52.4% between the first and second dose (spaced 21 days apart), and data assessed by Public Health England indicated it could be as much as 89% protective from day 15 to 21. The Clalit Research Institute stressed, however, that its results included only people aged 60 and over whereas Pfizer trials also included younger people and that the findings have not yet been peer reviewed. Additionally, the Clalit study identified those infected according to laboratory tests of those who chose to be tested, while Pfizer’s studies only referred to the appearance of symptomatic disease.

In the UK, the vaccine policy prioritises getting as many at risk people vaccinated with one dose over ensuring people get two doses within the time specified in clinical trials. While there are data to suggest the chosen 12 week interval between the two doses is effective for the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, there are no data to support this interval for the Pfizer vaccine. As such, a leading statistician has written to UK health secretary Matt Hancock urging him to investigate the effects of the decision to extend the gap between the first and second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

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“Unfortunately, the EU purchases vaccines very slowly, so Hungary continues negotiations with Israel, Russia, and China,” Orban said.”

Hungary First EU Country To Get Russia’s Sputnik V Covid19 Vaccine (RT)

Shortly after becoming the first EU country to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Hungary has agreed on a three-stage supply deal with Moscow. Budapest will receive its first delivery of doses in February. The contract between the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the government in Budapest was made on Friday, in a meeting between Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó. According to Murashko, Hungarian experts visited the Gamaleya Institute, where the formula was invented, and conducted a thorough examination of vaccine production sites. The scientists also had the opportunity to review clinical trial results. “Many countries today approve the use of the Russian Sputnik V, and we are actively cooperating with the World Health Organization,” Murashko told the press.


In response, Szijjártó called the announcement of the agreement “a great honor,” assuring Hungary’s citizens that experts from the country’s own National Institute of Pharmacology and Food Safety reviewed the entire process themselves. On Thursday, it was revealed that Budapest had approved Sputnik V for emergency use, despite it not yet being deemed safe by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). On January 8, Hungarian President Victor Orban complained that the European Union was being too slow to make any decisions, putting citizens’ lives at risk. “Unfortunately, the EU purchases vaccines very slowly, so Hungary continues negotiations with Israel, Russia, and China,” Orban said. Two weeks later, his country approved Sputnik V for use.

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Branch Covidians.

Overall Mortality Is Around Normal For This Time Of Year (RT)

Although the numbers of deaths attributed to the virus in the UK are higher than they’ve ever been, in total, not many more people are dying than in any other cold season. Is the mainstream media finally waking up to this?
A recent article in the Telegraph is one of the first in a mainstream outlet to even suggest a challenge to the official coronavirus narrative. These days, that narrative claims that the ‘second wave’ is actually deadlier than the first. (Recently, some Branch Covidians have been claiming a ‘third wave’, but there is not yet a united front on that.) The basic reasoning of the article is sound, even if it is long overdue. It laments how every day, the media solemnly reports the latest figures on Covid deaths. Presenting this figure in isolation results in graphs such as this one, which does indeed seem to show that we are at the height of a second, worse phase of a pandemic.

But, like any statistics, daily death numbers are meaningless without context, which the media rarely provides. They do not provide context because, if they did, the public might see a graph such as this one, from the Telegraph article.

It quite clearly shows the spring spike in overall mortality, which was caused by Covid (plus lockdowns). After that ends in summer, we see… nothing. Overall mortality ever since, even through this winter, hovers at around the five-year average. And overall mortality, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is the only true way to know whether you are in a pandemic or not – all other figures can easily be fiddled. So, why are the excess death data and the Covid deaths data so out of whack? And why isn’t Covid killing lots and lots of people this winter, as it did in spring? Even if you ascribe all excess deaths to Covid and none to lockdown, there really does not seem to be anything out of the normal variation in total deaths from year to year. And surely, by now, the toll of unnecessary deaths caused by untreated cancer, heart disease, depression and so on, has at least begun to register.

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You mean it was’t all Trump’s fault?

How US CDC Missed Chances To Spot COVID’s Silent Spread (R.)

Critics have widely asserted that the CDC fumbled key decisions during the coronavirus scourge because then-President Donald Trump and his administration meddled in the agency’s operations and muzzled internal experts. The matter is now the subject of a congressional inquiry. Yet Reuters has found new evidence that the CDC’s response to the pandemic also was marred by actions – or inaction – by the agency’s career scientists and frontline staff. At a crucial moment in the pandemic when Americans were quarantined after possible exposure to the virus abroad, the agency declined or resisted potentially valuable opportunities to study whether the disease could be spread by those without symptoms, according to previously undisclosed internal emails, other documents and interviews with key players.

Soon after balking at testing the returnees from Wuhan, the agency delayed testing asymptomatic passengers among 318 evacuees from the Diamond Princess, a contaminated cruise ship in Japan. In addition, the agency failed at that time to make effective use of outside experts and appeared at times unprepared for the crisis on the ground, lacking adequate personal protective gear and ignoring established protocols, Reuters found. “Yes, they were interfered with politically,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, referring to alleged meddling by the Trump administration. “But that’s not the only reason CDC didn’t perform optimally during COVID-19. There are a lot of things that went wrong.”

Four top public health experts or ethicists told Reuters that the question of whether to test or engage in research on detained people has always been a sensitive topic. But all said the CDC should have proceeded given the fast-moving public health emergency. Moreover, the CDC finalized rules in 2017 providing that medical testing was expressly allowed in quarantine, as long as participants were given the opportunity to give “informed consent” or opt out. Informed consent means giving people adequate information to understand the risks and benefits of a test or procedure. Gostin said the CDC’s argument against testing was “unreasonable” under the circumstances. “You are asking for consent and not imposing any harm,” he said. “There is a good reason to do it.”

It’s difficult to know whether more aggressive early testing among asymptomatic people would have significantly altered the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States, which has infected 24 million people and killed more than 400,000. The CDC was not the only agency that struggled with this issue. Notably, an official with the World Health Organization called asymptomatic spread “very rare” in June, only to say a day later “we don’t actually have that answer yet.” In recent months, the WHO has said infected people without symptoms can be contagious, but “it is still not clear how frequently this occurs.”

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The circus is in town.

McConnell Lays Out Trump Impeachment Trial Timeline (ZH)

While the left is split between wanting to hammer the final nail in Trump’s coffin (through the Senate impeachment trial) and tending to its aggressive agenda of new laws, spending, and government control, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement today regarding his proposed timeline for the first phases of an impeachment trial of former president Trump. “I have sent a proposed timeline for the first phases of the upcoming impeachment trial to Leader Schumer and look forward to continuing to discuss it with him. “Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.

“Given the unprecedented speed of the House’s process, our proposed timeline for the initial phases includes a modest and reasonable amount of additional time for both sides to assemble their arguments before the Senate would begin to hear them. “At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency.” Specifically, Leader McConnell shared the following proposed pre-trial timeline with the Republican Conference today: “When the articles arrive, the House Managers would exhibit (read) the articles to the Senate, Senators would be sworn in the Members as the Court of Impeachment, and would issue a summons to former President Trump.

“While we do not know what day the Managers will choose, Leader McConnell has asked for this to occur on Thursday, January 28. Former President Trump would have one week from that day to answer the articles of impeachment (February 4). The House’s pre-trial brief would also be due then. The President would then have one week from the day he submits his answer to submit his pre-trial brief (February 11). That means former president Trump has fourteen total days from when we issue the summons to write his pre-trial brief. The House would also submit its replication on this date. The House would then have two days to submit their rebuttal pre-trial brief (February 13). This approach tracks the structure of the Clinton and Trump pre-trial processes. The periods between due dates are longer than in 1999 or 2020, but this is necessary because of the House’s unprecedented timeline.

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“Who will step forward in his absence? Probably someone we haven’t heard from yet. That’s how these things work.”

Rough Ridin’ with Biden (Kunstler)

As for Mr. Trump, he departed as he had arrived in 2016: stridently contemptuous toward the parasitical oligarchy that finally expelled him like a bladder-stone. The threatened impeachment trial will be a marvel of casuistry — a procedure for removing someone from office who is no longer in office — and also for the transparently flimsy charge of “inciting the insurrection” at the capitol. As if to underscore the absurdity of that, Antifa squads rioted in Portland and Seattle on inauguration night. Their banners expressed less-than-jubilant sentiment for the new regime. The Portland outfit broke windows and spray-painted the city’s Democratic headquarters, faking-out pols who had warned against an uprising of “white supremacists.”

Of course, all those arrested would be promptly released without charges — demonstrating just how serious the Wokester officials running those cities really are about criminal anarchy. The grannies swept into the capitol rotunda by Antifa incursionists January 6th won’t be so lucky. Neither did a much chattered-about military takeover happen during the tension-filled transition hours, though kibitzers on the web insist days later that it remains secretly underway. On his way out, Mr. Trump failed to pardon either Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, a disturbing failure, while he commuted the sentences of a couple of two-bit rap-stars, based on their contributions to advancing human dignity. And whatever Mr. Trump finally rooted out in the way of declassified FBI documents has already disappeared into the DC quicksand.

Much adored as he is for valiantly opposing everything swampish, it might be best now for Mr. Trump to just retire from the political scene and leave the battle to others. He made his point, colorfully and often bravely, considering the astounding bad faith of his adversaries, though he certainly could have articulated the stakes better and with more decorum. He leaves not merely a vacuum but a sucking chest wound of leadership opposing hysterical and tyrannical Wokery. Who will step forward in his absence? Probably someone we haven’t heard from yet. That’s how these things work.

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Muhammad Ali once called Aaron “The only man I idolize more than myself.”

Aaron received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Jan 5.

I don’t normally do eulogies for athletes, but this is about so much more. I was thinking about the hardship people like Aaron and Jackie Robinson went through in America’s great national pastime.

Only when Muhammad Ali arrived did that really change. And he paid a big price for that.

Home Run King Hank Aaron Dead At 86 (F.)

Aaron was born in Mobile, Ala., to Herbert Aaron, Sr. and Estella (Pritchett) Aaron in February of 1934. He and his seven siblings grew up poor, in a home without electricity or indoor bathrooms. Aaron didn’t have an opportunity to play organized baseball in high school because only white students had teams. He signed his first baseball contract, which paid him $10 a game, at the age of 17 with a local semi-pro team called the Mobile Black Bears. After a couple of seasons dominating the Negro Leagues, Aaron joined the Atlanta Braves in 1954. Over his incredible 22-year career, Hammerin’ Hank would tally 3,771 hits in 3,298 games played. Remarkably, Aaron still holds the all-time major league records for most RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra-base hits (1,477). Yet, Aaron was best known for the long ball.


Despite measuring only six feet and weighing in at around 180 pounds in his prime, Aaron would finish his epic career with 755 career home runs, a mark that survived until Barry Bonds (reportedly with the help of steroids) broke it in 2007. Aaron was a first-ballot inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. As he inched closer to passing Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs in the early 1970s, Aaron endured an avalanche of death threats from racists that did not want to see a Black man break Ruth’s revered record. In his 1991 autobiography, Aaron described how “when people finally realized I was climbing up Ruth’s back, the “Dear N——r” letters started showing up with alarming regularity. They told me no n——-r had any right to go where I was going.” In a 1992 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Aaron revealed he held onto all the hate letters he’d received. “I’m always going to keep them,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says. It’s just like telling a Jewish family to forget about the Holocaust. If you’re not part of something, it’s easy to tell somebody to forget about it.”

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Jan 222021
 


Vincent van Gogh Laboureur dans un champ 1889

 

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)
Words of Division (MacDonald)
Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)
Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)
The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)
State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)
12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)
Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)
Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)
Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)
Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)
Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

 

 


The 21st second of the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century.

 

 

All good now, but what a blunder.

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)

Thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities, sending them outdoors or to nearby parking garages after two weeks pulling security duty after the deadly riot on Jan. 6. One unit, which had been resting in the Dirksen Senate Office building, was abruptly told to vacate the facility on Thursday, according to one Guardsman. The group was forced to rest in a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, the person said. Temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service.

Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” the Guardsman said. All National Guard troops were told to vacate the Capitol and nearby congressional buildings on Thursday, and to set up mobile command centers outside or in nearby hotels, another Guardsman confirmed. They were told to take their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside and in parking garages, the person said. Top lawmakers from both parties took to Twitter to decry the decision and call for answers after POLITICO first reported the news Thursday night, with some even offering their offices to be used as rest areas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.”

And Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) noted that the Capitol complex remains closed to members of the public, “so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them.” By 10 p.m., Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said the situation was “being resolved” and that the Guardsmen would be able to return indoors later in the night. “Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight,” added Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both of her legs in combat. “I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”

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“This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists.”

Words of Division (MacDonald)

It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency. Joe Biden’s inaugural speech as 46th president is predictably being hailed for its “unifying” message. And just as predictably, his invocations of the divisive bromides of the identitarian Left are being swept under the rug. According to Biden, we are a “great nation” and a “good people.” But we also oppress minorities with an ever-rising fervor. “Growing inequity” is among the greatest challenges facing the country, according to Biden, along with the “sting of systemic racism” and encroaching “white supremacy.” Only now are we confronting “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making.”

One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education, and government; trillions of dollars of tax dollars attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it. But to Biden’s speechwriters, steeped in academic victimology, racial inequity is always with us, requiring constant remediation from government. Biden rattled off a litany of white America’s sins: the “harsh, ugly reality” of “racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization”; “anger, resentment, hatred, [and] extremism.” He did not name white Americans as such, but he did not need to. That qualifier is inherent in the language he chose to adopt.

This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists. They are au courant, shallow terms of the moment, lacking depth or weight. In fact, such terms are so overused today that it is easy to tune them out. But that would be a mistake. The “systemic racism” conceit means that every American institution is illegitimate and needs to be reconstructed. Biden’s cabinet nominees, whether in health, finance, environmental policy, or education, have declared that eradicating systemic racism is their top priority. How this agenda will play out has already been adumbrated in the CDC’s initial priority list for Covid vaccinations: hold off on vaccinating the elderly, despite their higher risk levels, because the elderly are disproportionately white. Racial quotas will become even more the order of the day than now.

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“The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016.”

Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)

Donald Trump has slunk off the national stage for the time being, but we must remember who made him a contender for president in the first place: the Democrats and their corporate media. As Wikileaks revealed , the Clinton campaign encouraged friendly media to boost Trump’s Republican primary prospects, hoping to set up a straw man that could easily be knocked down in November, 2016. By Election Day, the corporate press had lavished $5 billion in free media on Trump – more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all of Trump’s Republican presidential competitors, combined. If you are desperate to flush the stink of four years of Trump out of your brain, remember who put it there, through constant, daily repetition.

How long will the Orange Menace stay gone? Not long; soon either Trump will make a comeback or the corporate media will inflate another racist straw man to run against. The only way the corporate Democrats can mobilize their base to eek out slim national victories while keeping Joe Biden’s promise to the rich that “nothing would fundamentally change ,” is to position themselves as the sole defense against the racist hordes. That’s how Bill Clinton succeeded in completing Ronald Reagan’s quest to “end welfare as we know it,” while vastly expanding the structures of mass Black incarceration (Sen. Joe Biden proudly “wrote the bill”), gutting safeguards against bankers blowing up the economy, and facilitating the exodus of good jobs to sweatshops overseas. Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America confederacy stampeded Blacks and “progressives” into the corporate Democratic corral, where they were politically neutered.

The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016. [..] When Blacks and progressives rallied behind Bill Clinton to defeat Gingrich, the corporate rulers were enabled to plunge the society into a great leap backward that wiped out the last vestiges of the New Deal, condemned another generation of Black youth to the Gulag, and set the stage for two economic catastrophes that rivaled the Great Depression, while the U.S. military vastly intensified its rampages around the world, the national security state penetrated every digital device on the planet, and huge corporations perfected the tools of public self-surveillance.

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MICIMATT

Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)

But, don’t go away, Russia, not just yet. The MICIMATT still finds you convenient as the kind of “threat” it can cite to justify spending untold billions of dollars on defense, enriching the already rich. The way the U.S. system is structured, it matters little in the grand scheme of things on where the money is spent – whether a Republican or Democrat sits in the Oval Office. In short, the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex rules the roost (MEDIA in all caps, as the linchpin). Clinton wonders aloud who Trump “is beholden to”. Well, speaking of beholden, Joe Biden enters office with zero vaccination against being beholden – to the MICIMATT. It is fair to say that, without that the MICIMATT’s blessing, candidates end up like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.

There are just enough straws in the wind to make the MICIMATT and its clients and supporters nervous. What would happen, should Putin and Russia become less demonized? Could there be a thaw in the unnecessarily chilly relations with Moscow? What could that mean for bloated defense spending – particularly at a time when those funds are so desperately and demonstrably needed at home? It appears likely that strategic arms negotiations with Russia will be high on President Joe Biden’s agenda, as will cooperation with Russia and the other parties to the Iran nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew. Assuming William Burns, former ambassador to Russia, is confirmed as CIA director, Biden will have at his beck and call a straight-speaking, highly experienced expert who has dealt with President Putin. Burns was also one of the chief US negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal.

In my view, it is also significant that President-elect Biden has held back from explicit condemnation of Russia by name amid the recent flurry of accusations of Russian hacking of several US institutions over the past several months. Yes, he has referred to what Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General Barr have said blaming Russia, and it can be argued that he has indirectly implicated Russia in the context of his sparse statements on this issue. In my experience, though, the Kremlin is likely to have taken note of the caution that Biden has exercised on this neuralgic issue. Nor has this likely escaped the attention of the MICIMATT and induced some worry about the long-term viability of the portrayal of Putin as villain.

Oliver Stone told me recently that, in one of his conversations in Russia, Mr. Putin, somewhat exasperated, said something along the lines of, “Now Russians are thought of like Jews before World War II”. Think about that. Amid the Russia Russia Russia over the past four-plus years, Putin has kept his voice down – and his powder dry – while staying open to negotiations to reduce arms competition, cyber warfare, and other facets of bilateral tension. If past is precedent, he is likely to see opportunities to take a fresh look at US intentions under President Biden – especially during the traditional “honeymoon” period normally accorded a new president. But clearly, Putin is also aware of the parallels between the demonization of him and Russia and how Jews were blamed for just about everything during the Thirties. Evidence-free accusations by the likes of Pelosi and Clinton will make the task of restoring a modicum of trust an uphill battle.

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“It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair.”

The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)

The US military is routinely shown to be one of the most trusted institutions in American life — so it wasn’t as though their mere presence on the streets of Washington automatically provoked universal horror. After the massive nationwide riots last summer, virtually everyone I spoke to expressed satisfaction with the National Guard’s handling of the chaos. Similarly, the vast number of soldiers deployed to DC this week to ward off a potential “insurrection” were greeted with plentiful selfies and free cheeseburger deliveries. But this operation, which reportedly consisted of 25,000 military personnel — not including the innumerable federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the ground — was another thing altogether. Downtown DC had been transformed into a brazenly fortified, militarised zone unlike anything in living memory.

Roads were blocked off by oversized armoured vehicles which had been stationed for maximum visibility. The boarding-up of endless storefronts — a result of both the Covid-related economic downturn and prolonged riot-induced anxiety — added to the sense of dystopia. Soldiers patrolled with large rifles slung around their shoulders, directing traffic and checking the “papers” of motorists. One Guardsman from Pennsylvania told me that “legitimate business” was the standard by which they were to adjudicate whether cars would be allowed to pass through. The rifles brandished by many of the troops were conspicuously without a magazine loaded. This is not uncommon for a peacetime mission. The aim was evidently not to subdue any kind of imminent, actionable threat that would require live ammunition, as many politicians and journalists had frantically warned was the case, but to simply act as a gigantic deterrent.

That objective was apparently accomplished. I did not see a single protester anywhere in the city on Inauguration Day, much less any “insurrectionists” or “armed rebels” trawling around, as had been so gravely forecast. The FBI (then still technically under the jurisdiction of Donald Trump) had warned that all 50 state Capitols were at severe risk, and therefore also needed to fortify their defences with military deployments and obtrusive fencing and barriers. Then the day came and went, and… nothing. In both Albany, NY, and Sacramento, CA a total of one Trump hat-wearing man showed up at each.

And so Joe Biden was sworn in without incident, appealing for “unity”, while the city surrounding him was essentially under full-scale military occupation. The night before, I saw multiple platoons marching the streets in two-by-two formation — en route to who knows where. The general public couldn’t get anywhere close to the Inauguration site, the interior of which had been cordoned off with barbed wire. The few stragglers who hopelessly tried to enter the outskirts of the National Mall — mostly foreign media desperate for a story — were fooled by the Secret Service into standing in a line-to-nowhere that never moved.

It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair. It confirmed that journalists will uncritically accept extravagant shows of intrusive state force, so long as the political incentives are correctly aligned. During the riots in the summer, the US media generally reacted with horror to the prospect of the American military being deployed to allay “civil unrest,” with many claiming that it would be tantamount to white supremacy for soldiers to deter arson attacks against small minority-owned businesses and private residences. But place DC under complete military occupation as a final rebuke to Trump and his shameful supporters, and the show of state force is to be celebrated rather than adversarially probed. Particularly with Democrats now controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency, the wisdom of this occupation is probably never going to be examined in any meaningful way. Will we ever learn how much it cost taxpayers? Doubtful.

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Fear rules fear.

State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)

Elly Page had never seen anything like what’s happened in recent days. A senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Page has been tracking the proliferation of anti-protest bills across the U.S. since Donald Trump became president in 2017. “The number of bills we have seen in the past three weeks is unprecedented,” she said. Since the day of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, at least nine states have introduced 14 anti-protest bills. The bills, which vary state by state, contain a dizzying array of provisions that serve to criminalize participation in disruptive protests. The measures range from barring demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs to offering legal protections to those who shoot or run over protesters. Some of the proposals would allow protesters to be held without bail and criminalize camping. A few bills seek to prevent local governments from defunding police.

The pushes by close to a fifth of state legislatures are part of a pattern that began to pick up speed after the summer’s uprisings in response to the police killing of George Floyd, which in many communities included significant property damage. In a handful of states, lawmakers did what they often do: introduced new legislation — however unnecessary — to show that they were responding to their constituents’ concerns. The rate of new bills being offered sped up dramatically this month as lawmakers kicked off their legislative sessions at the very moment that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Bills quickly arose in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.

“There has generally been an uptick at the beginning of odd-numbered years, when most states begin their biennial legislative sessions. But this year beats prior recent years,” Page said in an email. Since January 1, she noted that 11 state legislatures have introduced 17 bills, including those filed before the Capitol insurrection. “Compare that to 0 during the same period in 2020, 9 in 2019, 5 in 2018, and 13 in 2017,” she said, adding that the 2017 spike was mostly due to North Dakota responding to that winter’s Standing Rock protests.

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That’s a lot, no matter how you see it.

12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)

More than 12,400 people in Israel have tested positive for coronavirus after being vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, including 69 who had received their second dose, the country’s Health Ministry said. Some 189,000 people were tested for Covid-19 after being vaccinated, with 6.6 percent getting a positive result, according to ministry data reported by Israeli outlets. The majority were apparently infected shortly after receiving the first jab of the two-part vaccine – a period when the inoculation isn’t expected to have kicked in yet. However, 1,410 people tested positive two weeks after their first injection, by which time partial immunity should have already taken effect.

Moreover, 69 patients became infected with the novel coronavirus despite already having been administered both shots of the vaccine, the ministry said. Israel began administering the second doses almost two weeks ago, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the first to complete the course. Pfizer has said that a spike in immunity occurs between Day 15 and Day 21 after the first jab, when the effectiveness of its vaccine increases from 52 to 89 percent. According to earlier trials, the protection offered by the vaccine reaches the 95 percent level a week after the second dose is administered, the pharma giant said. When it comes to vaccines, the results of clinical trials may differ from how the immunization performs in the field, where it’s administered to a much greater number of people.

On Tuesday, Israel’s coronavirus tsar, Nachman Ash, reportedly complained to Israeli ministers about the insufficient protection provided by the first shot of the American vaccine. It turned out to be “less effective than we had thought” and “lower than Pfizer presented,” Ash said, as cited by Army Radio. However, the head of the infection unit at Sheba Medical Center – where Netanyahu got his jabs – told Israeli media that the Pfizer vaccine “works wonderfully” after two shots. According to Professor Gili Regev-Yohai, 102 of the medics at the center were tested a week after completing the vaccination course, and all but two of them showed antibody levels between six to 20 times higher than seven days earlier.

[..] Despite already vaccinating more than 20 percent of its own population, Israel doesn’t seem as eager to share immunization with Palestinians in the occupied territories. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization expressed its “concerns” over unequal access to vaccines between Israelis and Palestinian. A WHO representative for Palestine said that the UN body has been in discussions with Israeli authorities on the possibility of allocating vaccines to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israeli Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, has said her department may offer the Palestinian Authoritiy surplus doses after Israelis have received their jabs.

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Scientist Angela’s not liking what she sees..

Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union must find common ground in fighting coronavirus and stopping the spread of new strains that have already swept through the UK and Ireland recently. On Tuesday, Merkel warned that Germany could close its borders unless neighboring states acted together. “We need to make sure that everyone around us is doing the same. Otherwise we have to look at measures such as entry restrictions.” “The EU is one area,” Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday morning, hours before she was scheduled to join a video summit of EU leaders focused on Covid-19. The chancellor warned about the dangers from the spread of the new mutant virus and that they need to be “taken very seriously.”


“We act out of precaution for our country,” Merkel said, adding that everything is now about getting the getting the pandemic under control. EU leaders are to consider whether to approve vaccine passports, which would allow for inoculated people to travel more freely, and whether to apply travel restrictions. Merkel said Germany is at a difficult stage of the pandemic. “On the one hand, the number of daily infections is gradually going down,” she told a press conference. “But the virus is still very dangerous. We have a shockingly high death count, more than 1,000 people today.” On Wednesday, Germany extended its national lockdown until February 14 and brought in new rules making it mandatory to wear medical-grade masks in shops and on public transport. So far, Germany has recorded 50,010 deaths and 2.1 million cases of coronavirus.

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Has anyone seen any reported evidence of vaccine efficacy?

Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)

New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective in guarding against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday. A handful of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged overseas that have given scientists some cause for concern. Some variants that have been identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily more deadly. While it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics against the disease.

Some early findings that were published in the preprint server bioRxiv, which have yet to be peer reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of available vaccines. “Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” researchers with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote. Their conclusions, they said, “highlight the prospect of reinfection … and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”

Even if the drugs are less effective, they will still likely provide enough protection to make the vaccines worth getting, Fauci said during a White House press briefing. Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective, creating a “cushion effect” that would allow for some dip in their effectiveness. “We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci said.

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Stimulus arriving in the wrong places.

Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)

Margin debt – the amount of money that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings – spiked by 56 billion in December, after having already spiked by 63 billion in November, by far the two largest month-to-month increases on record, to $778 billion, according to FINRA which regulates brokers and exchanges. Since March, this measure of margin debt surged by nearly $300 billion, or by 62%. Margin debt as tracked by FINRA at its member firms isn’t the only form of stock market leverage, but it’s the only form that is disclosed monthly. There are many other forms of stock market leverage by institutions and individuals that are not disclosed, or are only disclosed voluntarily in SEC filings by the brokers and banks that lend to their clients against their portfolios, such as “securities-based loans” (SBLs). We don’t know how much total stock market leverage there is, but margin loans indicate the trends, and we had another WTF moment:

High margin balances tend to precede epic stock market sell-offs, as annotated in the chart above. With these two-decade charts, the long-term changes in the dollar amounts are less relevant since the purchasing power of the dollar has dropped over the period. But on a short-term basis, the movements are very indicative about rising or falling leverage in the stock market. On a year-over-year basis, margin debt surged by nearly $200 billion in December, by far the most ever. Stock market leverage is an accelerator. When stocks already rise, and investors feel confident, they borrow money to buy more stocks, and they can borrow more against their stocks because their value has risen. And this additional borrowed money is then chasing after stocks and thereby creating more buying pressure, and prices surge further.

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Aaannd …we’re baaack!

Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)

A large U.S. military convoy was seen entering northeastern Syria on Thursday, marking the first time since Damascus issued its letter to the United Nations Security Council demanding the immediate withdrawal of American forces from the Arab Republic. According to a field report from northeastern Syria on Thursday, the U.S. military convoy entered the Al-Hasakah Governorate from neighboring Iraq, as they were observed entering the Arab Republic via the Al-Waleed Crossing. The report said the U.S. military convoy consisted of a large amount of weapons and logistical equipment, which were transferred to their bases inside the Al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor Governorates east of the Euphrates River.


They would add that the U.S. military convoy consisted of over 40 trucks and armored vehicles that were escorted by helicopters until they reached their destinations. These movements by the U.S. military have become routine, with the latter often moving troops and equipment back and forth from neighboring Iraq.

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Oz threatens to make them pay for news, they threaten to limit/cut their “services”, and then decide themselves what constitutes news. Major legal battle.

Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants’ efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google “news source”, making it the country’s first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a “news source” tag. Bundaberg also has the country’s only confirmed council-run Facebook page tagged as a “News & Media Website”. The designation shows the gaps left in the country’s traditional news market as smaller publications wither and disappear.


Bundaberg Council’s news website says it does not publish court and crime reports, politics, “investigative journalism” or “negative stories”. “It’s just another example of the way these tech giants are allowed to operate outside any accountability framework at all,” said Denis Muller, an Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism. “If they want to classify a council PR website as a news website, well, they can, and there’s nothing stopping them.” Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook are fighting an Australian federal government plan to make them pay media outlets for original content that appears on their platforms, telling a Senate inquiry that the new rules may lead them to cancel some core services in the country.

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 January 19, 2021  Posted by at 10:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  32 Responses »


Claude Monet The house at Yerres 1876

 

The Zeitgeist Wants What the Zeitgeist Wants (Kustler)
Can Joe Biden Succeed Where Barack Obama Failed? (Sirota)
McConnell, Schumer Close In On Power-Sharing Agreement (CNN)
Critics Reject $1.9 Trillion Biden COVID Plan As ‘Liberal Wishlist’ (JTN)
Hillary, Pelosi Wonder if Trump Spoke to Putin on Day of Capitol Riot (BB)
Kremlin Joins EU Officials In Denouncing Big Tech Censorship (JTN)
Germany Weighs Up Mandatory FFP2 Masks In Shops And On Transport (G.)
Evolution of Antibody Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (Nature)
Washington State Partners With Starbucks For Vaccine Distribution (F.)
EU-US Relations Under Biden Won’t Be The Same As Before Trump (EN)
Trump Announces 200 Statues To Be Built For ‘American Heroes’ (JTN)
My Letter to President Trump (Joe Lauria)

 

 

The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.
– Julian Assange

 

 

 

 

“He’ll be great in the war room, I’m sure.”

The Zeitgeist Wants What the Zeitgeist Wants (Kustler)

The hypothetical Biden Administration is shaping up to be something like a four-year-long séance, a conjuring of apparitions wailing out talking points in a darkened room. The actual location of the inaugural event remains a mystery, or even if it will be an event, maybe just a pre-recorded video concoction of Mr. Biden’s greatest hits of 2020. Check and see if he’s wearing the same necktie from beginning to end. If a hologram is inaugurated, does that make the land-mass between Montauk and Santa Barbara a post-structural figment? The “president-elect,” made an ectoplasmic appearance Sunday talking up “science,” the Democrat’s mental life-preserver, and then shuffled offstage in an apparent fog of confusion as the Ritalin wore off. He’ll be great in the war room, I’m sure.

The mystery surrounding DNI John Ratcliffe’s long overdue report on foreign interference in the election cleared up only a little with the release of a letter sent January 8th to the Senate Intelligence Committee. In it, citing a side report from Intel Community Ombudsman Barry Zulauf, Mr. Ratcliffe refers to “undue pressure being brought to bear” on analysts by CIA management to craft their conclusions according to political loyalties. In other words, once again the CIA appears to be playing games with the American people and can’t be trusted. Isn’t that reassuring?

Meanwhile, The New York Times, CNN, and MSNBC have turned into a nonstop gloat-fest anticipating the punishments to be dished out by progressive Wokesterdom against anyone who ever entertained a thought about or uttered the phrase “stolen election.” They can kiss their livelihoods goodbye. Their college degrees will be revoked by such bastions of free thinking as Harvard. Their websites will be liquidated. Senators and congresspersons must be thrown out of their seats. They’ll be reduced to squatting on filthy blankets at the entrance of the Walmart begging for spare change, or hauled off to re-education camps where NPR lawyers with riding crops preside over their therapeutic struggle sessions, beating the wrongthink out of their hides. For Democrats, vengeance is a dish to be served piping hot. Would you like flies with your shit sandwich?

Ha ha ha. CNN doesn’t like competition. “There are people on YouTube for example that have a larger audience than daytime CNN.” Note the link to ISIS ingested into the conversation. Dangerous people.

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Obama is very closely behind Biden.

Can Joe Biden Succeed Where Barack Obama Failed? (Sirota)

Twelve years after Joe Biden was sworn in as the vice president of hope and change, hope is in short supply and the need for change is even more acute. Progressives have a rare opportunity to enact their agenda—but they will need to play the kind of hardball they have backed away from in the past, because Biden continues to send conflicting messages. For every promise of transformational change, he signals a desire to appease a Republican Party intent on destroying his presidency. The stakes could hardly be higher: One out of every thousand Americans has died from a lethal pandemic, with no end yet in sight. The economy is officially still humming along, but millions face eviction, bankruptcy and hunger. Even U.S. democracy is under unprecedented siege by an insurrectionist movement encouraged by the outgoing president and his loyalists in Congress.


The path forward is difficult to envision amid the fog of culture war, political war and the threat of actual, real-life civil war. But it is clear that Biden is at a crossroad and still unsure which way to go. He can follow his boss, Barack Obama, who pursued bipartisanship, comity and compromise—accommodating corporate power. Or he can break toward the path of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did battle with oligarchy, stood down fascism and welcomed the hatred of the rich. One thing he cannot do is try to go in both directions. The lesson of the Obama administration is that you can have appeasement or transformative progress, but you almost certainly cannot have both.

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The boys are back in power.

McConnell, Schumer Close In On Power-Sharing Agreement (CNN)

The top two Senate leaders are nearing a power-sharing agreement to hash out how the evenly divided chamber will operate, with Democrats in charge of setting the schedule but both parties likely to hold an equal number of seats on Senate committees, according to sources familiar with the talks. The negotiations between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have been built largely around how the Senate operated the last time the body was split 50-50: When George W. Bush initially became president in 2001. Final details are still being sorted out between the two leaders, sources said.


Similar to those rules, set in January 2001, Schumer and McConnell aides are discussing allowing bills and nominations to advance to the Senate floor even if they are tied during committee votes, something that could become common given that each party is expected to have the same number of seats on committees. Democrats will hold the chairmanships of the committees, giving them power to set the agenda, and Schumer will be granted the title of majority leader since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes on the floor. The full chamber still has to ratify these procedures, but that is expected to occur once Schumer and McConnell have finalized their agreement.

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No DC without pork. Tons of it.

Critics Reject $1.9 Trillion Biden COVID Plan As ‘Liberal Wishlist’ (JTN)

Critics of President-Elect Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-related spending plan say the proposal goes far beyond coronavirus relief into subsidizing teachers’ unions and prioritizing taxpayer money to be spent on non-white, non-male-owned businesses rather than taking a color- and gender-blind approach. Biden’s proposal comes in addition to the $900 billion passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last month, and on top of the $2.9 trillion stimulus package passed in the spring of 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described “democratic socialist” called Biden’s plan just a “first installment.”


In an interview with the “Just the News AM” television program, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) called the plan “another multitrillion dollar liberal wishlist” that she opposed. “I just hope that President-Elect Biden looks to work with Republicans, rather than just really bowing to the far left, the AOC wing of the party where I think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure to do that,” Stefanik said, alluding to the bloc led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Though the Biden plan carves out $70 billion for COVID-related vaccines, therapies and testing (this is on top of the $42 billion passed last month), critics of the plan say that the vast majority of the rest of the funding is more focused on income redistribution to advance long-term Democratic social policies.

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It’s a disease. There’s no cure.

Hillary, Pelosi Wonder if Trump Spoke to Putin on Day of Capitol Riot (BB)

Failed Trump challenger Hillary Clinton said she would “love” to see President Donald Trump’s phone records to see “whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol” on January 6, making the remarks during a bonus episode of her podcast You and Me Both released Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared as the featured guest on the bonus episode and discussed the series of events that occurred on January 6 — the day protesters breached the U.S. Capitol as Congress gathered to certify the electoral vote. Clinton, one of the central champions of the debunked Trump-Russia collusion narrative that dominated the first years of Trump’s presidency, revealed her own suspicion that Trump could have been in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day of the protest.

“We learned a lot about our system of government over the last four years with a president who disdains democracy and, as you have said numerous times, has other agendas,” Clinton said. “What they all are, I don’t think we yet know. I hope historically we will find out who he’s beholden to, who pulls his strings. I would love to see his phone records to see whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol,” Clinton continued, also placing blame on Trump’s “enablers,” “accomplices,” and “cult members” — a likely reference to his supporters, whom she famously referred to as “deplorables” during her 2016 campaign. “Do you think we need a 9/11-type commission to investigate and report everything that they can pull together and explain what happened?” Clinton asked the speaker, who responded, “I do.”

“To your point of who is he beholden to, as I’ve said over and over, as I said to him in that picture with my blue suit as I was leaving, what I was saying to him as I was pointing, rudely, at him: ‘With you, Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin,’” Pelosi told Clinton, referring to the January 6 events as a “gift to Putin” as he “wants to undermine democracy in our country and throughout the world.” “And these people, unbeknownst to them, maybe, are Putin puppets. They were doing Putin’s business when they did that at the incitement of an insurrection by the president of the United States,” she added.

Hillary Pelosi Putin

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What does Hillary think?

Kremlin Joins EU Officials In Denouncing Big Tech Censorship (JTN)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday joined calls from European Union officials to reign in the censorship power of Big Tech. In a Moscow news conference, Lavrov characterized the tech giants as extra-governmental entities that impose their own rules on public discourse. “Let’s hope that American society will not let its elites use blatant censorship, flagrant infringement of the Constitution and international commitments in its struggle against one other,” Lavrov said in the Jan. 18 news conference. “If it fails to cope with this problem, we all should be ready to face the consequences of such a failure of the American state, and these consequences would be very serious for the global arena.”

Russia’s top diplomat made his comments in the wake of high-profile social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram abolishing accounts belonging to President Donald Trump. Although Facebook and Instagram have restored some elements of the president’s accounts, Twitter has not. The platform leader, Jack Dorsey, has disregarded public outcry against Twitter’s seemingly capricious enforcement of its terms of use, and has upheld the ban against Trump. The social media censorship moves against Trump and others last week brought cries of alarm from the European Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union. A commission official, Prabhat Agarwal, reportedly spoke out Jan. 11 in a meeting with fellow lawmakers.

“It is no longer acceptable in our view that platforms take some key decisions by themselves alone without any supervision, without any accountability, and without any sort of dialogue or transparency for the kind of decisions that they’re taking,” said Agarwal, who leads a commission e-commerce unit. “Freedom of expression is really a key value in this.” [..] “Recent events, including those in the United States, [pertain] to a situation when half a dozen people who have created their technological empires do not even want to know what rights they have in their countries,” Lavrov said. “They themselves define their rights on the basis of so-called corporate norms and they don’t care a bit about the constitutions of their nations. We have clearly seen this in the United States, and this, of course, causes serious concern.”

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Took just one year.

Germany Weighs Up Mandatory FFP2 Masks In Shops And On Transport (G.)

Germany is weighing up following Austria and Bavaria’s lead in making it compulsory to wear full protective filter masks on public transport and in shops, as the country remains on high alert about the impact of possible coronavirus mutations. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced on Sunday that wearing single-use filtering facepiece respirator, or FFP2, masks would become mandatory on public transport and in shops from 25 January, as the Alpine state moves to extend its national lockdown until 7 February.

In Germany’s largest and southernmost state, Bavaria, a similar requirement for trains, trams, buses and supermarkets came into force on Monday, though the new rule will not be policed until 24 January and allows for exemptions for bus drivers, ticket inspectors and children under the age of 15. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the heads of the country’s 16 federal states are expected to discuss following the Bavarian blueprint at a summit on Tuesday in spite of a recent reduction of infection rates. A night-time curfew and new remote-working requirements could also accompany an expected extension of the lockdown into February.

When fitted properly, FFP2 masks promise to filter out at least 94% of particles but are also more expensive, usually retailing at between €2 and €5 per mask. If FFP2 masks were made mandatory before suppliers are unable to meet the new demand, prices are expected to rise further. Some virologists warn a new compulsory mask rule could end up being counterproductive. “In theory, the move to more professional masks is welcome,” said Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a German virologist and Professor of Arbovirology at the University of Hamburg. “But I’d be wary of simply copying the Bavarian model without considering the possible downsides.

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Antibodies evolve along with virus mutations.

Evolution of Antibody Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (Nature)

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected 78 million individuals and is responsible for over 1.7 million deaths to date. Infection is associated with development of variable levels of antibodies with neutralizing activity that can protect against infection in animal models. Antibody levels decrease with time, but the nature and quality of the memory B cells that would be called upon to produce antibodies upon re-infection has not been examined. Here we report on the humoral memory response in a cohort of 87 individuals assessed at 1.3 and 6.2 months after infection. We find that IgM, and IgG anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody titres decrease significantly with IgA being less affected.


Concurrently, neutralizing activity in plasma decreases by fivefold in pseudotype virus assays. In contrast, the number of RBD-specific memory B cells is unchanged. Memory B cells display clonal turnover after 6.2 months, and the antibodies they express have greater somatic hypermutation, increased potency and resistance to RBD mutations, indicative of continued evolution of the humoral response. Analysis of intestinal biopsies obtained from asymptomatic individuals 4 months after the onset of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), using immunofluorescence, or polymerase chain reaction, revealed persistence of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids and immunoreactivity in the small bowel of 7 out of 14 volunteers. We conclude that the memory B cell response to SARS-CoV-2 evolves between 1.3 and 6.2 months after infection in a manner that is consistent with antigen persistence.

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Testimony to the lack of organization in the US? Or just Corporatism 2.0?

Washington State Partners With Starbucks For Vaccine Distribution (F.)

As states across the U.S. struggle to administer enough coronavirus vaccines, Washington has picked an unusual partner to help speed up the process: Starbucks. Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, will assign several employees to work on “operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support,” Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday. Starbucks locations will not serve as vaccination sites, but the company said it will use its technology and logistical “expertise” to help with site selection and “optimize vaccination sites with design principles and solutions focused on efficiency to thruput.” Starbucks is part of a larger public-private partnership announced Monday to help Washington’s vaccine distribution, which includes Microsoft for technology assistance, Costco pharmacies for vaccine delivery and local unions to help staff and train volunteer vaccinators.


The goal of the partnership is to boost its distribution efforts, which like many states has been moving slowly amid logistical and supply challenges. States are already partnering with private companies with pharmacies, such as Walmart, Kroger, CVS and Walgreens, for vaccine distribution, but the Starbucks partnership is unique to Washington, and it’s among the first to involve a company without a clear link to healthcare. “Starbucks is not a healthcare company, but we do operate 33,000 stores at scale, serving 100 million customers per week,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson at a press conference. “And we have a world-class team of human-centered design engineers who are working under the direction of the state and healthcare providers, like Swedish, Kaiser Permanente and others, with Microsoft and many other businesses to help support the creation of vaccination centers that can scale.”

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Ironically, the banning of Trump by the Silicon Valley Kings will play a large role in these relations.

EU-US Relations Under Biden Won’t Be The Same As Before Trump (EN)

EU-US relations will not return to how they were before Donald Trump came to power, according to the European Commission’s top trade official. Sabine Weyland, the EU’s director-general for trade, was speaking at a videoconference for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the US’ 46th president on Wednesday. “There will be no nostalgia. We are not going to go back to the global order of previous days. The world today is not the same as it was ten or even five years ago,” Weyland said. Weyland’s words suggest four years of hostility towards Europe from Donald Trump’s administration have left a mark.


Nevertheless, Brussels is looking for closer cooperation with the US. It wants to focus on core priorities, like fighting the pandemic and its economic fallout, tackling climate change, and finding common ground on digital and trade policies. Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said that even with Trump out of the picture, American interests are still what counts most in Washington. “The Biden administration somewhat disappointingly is not just going to reverse all the tariffs,” Posen explained. “They will certainly stop escalating them and they will stop some of the more ridiculous tariffs that were put on allies with national security excuses. But there will be some attempt by the Biden administration to extract things in return for reducing the tariffs.”

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Not the Onion.

Trump Announces 200 Statues To Be Built For ‘American Heroes’ (JTN)

President Donald Trump announced the names on Monday of more than 200 statues to be built as part of his plan for a new “National Garden of American Heroes.” He said the new garden will demolish the “reckless attempt to erase our heroes” that occurred during last year’s protests and riots that occurred following the death of George Floyd, according to the Washington Times. The list of names is headlined by author Harper Lee, actor Jimmy Stewart, abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, baseball star Roberto Clemente and explorer Christopher Columbus. “In the peace and harmony of this vast outdoor park, visitors will come and learn the amazing stories of some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived,” Trump said in a new executive order, which lists all of the names.

The announcement came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Both King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, made Trump’s list. Trump left himself off of the list despite being nominated by several people as part of the selection process, government officials said last year. He first announced the list of names to be honored last summer as Black Lives Matter protests were occurring across the nation and statues recalling American history, such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, were being torn down. Trump’s decision to implement this “National Garden of American Heroes” was a counter to the statues of “American heroes” being destroyed and removed last summer.

His original list of 31 names received criticism for being too short and lacking diversity, as it consisted mainly of white men. Trump’s new list is much longer and much more diverse, including Native Americans, women and other minority groups. Whether this idea will be moved forward rests in the hands of President-elect Joe Biden as he takes office this week. He could completely eliminate Trump’s proposed list, alter the list of names or push it forward as is.

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Please.

My Letter to President Trump (Joe Lauria)

Dear President Trump,

You are right in many ways that the news media have become the enemies of the people and the friends of the powerful who treat the people as enemies. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” The role of the press is to keep powerful officials accountable to the electorate. The one journalist who has achieved this above all in recent years is the Australian Julian Assange. He is languishing in a British prison for exposing the powerful in the interests of the people. It is within your power to set him free. Please pardon him, Mr. President.

Joe Lauria

Tucker Assange Kiriakou

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Jan 172021
 


Salvador Dalí Cadaques 1923

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

The “science” has stood still for a year.

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

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


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

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Not from the Pfizer PR squad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ever more variants popping up.

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

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

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

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

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Mental health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Globalism wins.

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

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


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

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

Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power (Ferguson)

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

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

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

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

How the news works

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No, sorry, that is not inflation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 162021
 


Pablo Picasso Blue nude 1902

 

Dems Reject Bigger Survival Checks, Float Tax Breaks For The Rich (DP)
79% of Americans Think The US Is Falling Apart (RT)
Americans Are Being Divided As The War On Domestic Terror Expands (TLAV)
Prosecutors Walk Back Story Of Plot To Kill Lawmakers In Capitol Riot (JTN)
Signs and Wonders (Kunstler)
At Least 23 Die After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine In Norway (DS)
Silicon Valley and WEF Announce Vaccination Credential Initiative (Webb)
Twitter Suspends Account of Russian COVID Vaccine Citing Attempted US Hack (MPN)
Signal Is A Government Op (Levine)
When Will The Window Of Euphoria Close? (O’Rourke)
America’s Biggest Owner Of Farmland Is Now Bill Gates (F.)

 

 

America is united by the spread of the media clickbait used to divide it.

 

 

 

 

People are saying: Jimmy Dore goes on Tucker! He’s a traitor! As if this is not the way things should be, people with different views talking to each other to see what they might have in common.

But that’s not what clickbait feeds on.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1350270466397597698

 

 

New morning in America.

Or: among the growing divide in America, both sides still agree on one thing: stiff the poor.

Dems Reject Bigger Survival Checks, Float Tax Breaks For The Rich (DP)

Just two weeks after Democrats won the U.S. Senate on a promise to immediately pass $2,000 survival checks, party leaders are now proposing $1,400 checks — a lesser amount than many expected, which would save the federal government money and could address conservatives’ concerns that too much money is going to people who supposedly do not need it. And yet, Democratic lawmakers are also considering a new tax break that could cost nearly as much or more as the savings gleaned from reducing the survival checks — and the tax break’s benefits would primarily go to the rich. If passed, the new stimulus proposal released this week by president-elect Joe Biden would significantly boost the minimum wage and funding for unemployment benefits and rental assistance.

But the Biden initiative recommends sending $1,400 checks instead of $2,000 checks — a reduction that would save the federal government somewhere between $164 billion and $200 billion, based on estimates from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. At the same time, Democratic lawmakers are reportedly considering resurrecting their past proposal to temporary repeal a cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that high earners can deduct on their federal taxes. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, temporarily repealing the current $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction would cost $136 billion over the next two years, which was the timeframe proposed for such a repeal in legislation pushed by House Democrats last year.

California Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is touting new legislation to repeal the limits on SALT deductions. Bloomberg News reported that “Democrats have been trying to restore unlimited SALT deductions since the 2017 tax law capped the benefit at $10,000.” If Democrats choose to permanently repeal the cap, it would cost almost $600 billion — or three times the amount it would cost to boost the $1,400 checks to $2,000. The survival checks and the SALT tax breaks are mirror opposites when it comes to distributing benefits. $2,000 checks would target help to the bottom 60 percent of income earners, who would see an average increase of 11 percent in their annual income, and it would be a particularly big income boost for the poorest Americans.

By contrast, the SALT deduction would mostly benefit wealthy households, with the top 5 percent of households receiving over 80 percent of the benefit. The top 1 percent of households would get roughly 60 percent of all the benefits of a SALT cap repeal, which translates to “an average tax cut of more than $33,000,” wrote Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center.

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“The objective is to separate Trump and his supporters, to purge both from the public square, and likewise to leave no alternative to the ruling Democratic-RINO, Big Tech, mainstream media, corporate-state hegemon that threatens to impose its technologically enforced totalitarian rule.”

79% of Americans Think The US Is Falling Apart (RT)

Both Democrats and Republicans think America is disintegrating. But the newspeak narrative says that Trump and his supporters must be cleansed from the nation before it can heal. This totalitarian mindset could be the US’ undoing. A recent Axios-Ipsos poll suggests that 79 percent of Americans believe that the nation is disintegrating. “The question, asked Tuesday and Wednesday, reflects the collision of crises besetting the country — the backdrop of a pandemic, recession, decoupling of red/blue America, and racial injustice and the immediacy of the Capitol insurrection, followed by Impeachment II,” writes Axios AM reporter, Mike Allen. But the question of whether the US is now a failed national project is meant to put a stake into the heart of the Donald Trump presidency and to destroy, entirely, the movement he mobilized.

The purpose of the poll is to leave no doubt in the minds of readers that Trump is responsible for these national crises and must be removed from office, and never allowed to run again. The objective is to separate Trump and his supporters, to purge both from the public square, and likewise to leave no alternative to the ruling Democratic-RINO, Big Tech, mainstream media, corporate-state hegemon that threatens to impose its technologically enforced totalitarian rule. Twitter has banned the sitting president from its platform indefinitely. Facebook and Instagram have banished Trump until at least after Joe Biden’s inauguration. After Twitter began cancelling Trump followers, Amazon Web Services, Apple Store, and Google Play cancelled an entire corporation, Twitter competitor Parler. Other social media platforms could face a similar fate at the hands of the leftist authoritarian Big Tech cartel.

Tens of thousands, if not millions, of Trump supporters have either been purged from mainstream social media platforms or have fled in protest. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has recently promised more censorship and purges. Even the libertarian leader of an earlier populist movement, Ron Paul, has faced a Facebook ban (although this was subsequently claimed to be “an error”). Guilt by association seems to the rule, no matter how distant or strained the association. The purges extend well beyond social media. Trump has been cancelled by former business associates, including by one of his former financiers, Deutsche Bank. Blacklists of Trump supporters are being compiled. Congress members have called for the resignation of senators and House members who questioned the election results. If they refuse to resign, say the totalitarian wannabes about to seize complete control, they should be removed from office. ABC News contributor Rick Klein called for the “cleansing” of Trump supporters from the political landscape in a now-deleted tweet.

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“..the US has moved from the “War on [foreign] terror” to the “War on domestic terror”

Americans Are Being Divided As The War On Domestic Terror Expands (TLAV)

The first week of 2021 kicked off with chaos at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Was it a protest, a riot or an insurrection? Were there provocateurs, and if so, were they Antifa, the cops, and/or the Feds? As usual, everyone on the internet thinks they know the answer within ten minutes. Unfortunately, this genuinely leads to the spreading of unfounded theories – many based on nothing but speculation and emotion. But while the public is debating over theories and arguing amongst themselves, the newly emboldened Military Industrial Complex is eagerly anticipating the incoming Biden Administration as an opportunity to expand the War on Domestic Terror. In the immediate aftermath of the “storming of the Capitol”, the media pundits, intelligence community, and politicians began foaming at the mouth in excitement over the chance to push through Domestic Terror legislation.

Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin, also former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense and CIA analyst, said, “the post 9/11 era is over. The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. The threat of domestic terrorism.” Slotkin went on to say that she urges the Biden administration to “understand that the greatest threat now is internal.” TLAV writer Whitney Webb responded to Slotkin’s comment by reminding the audience that, “before Congress, Elissa worked for the CIA and the Pentagon and helped destabilize the Middle East during the Bush and Obama admins. What she says here is essentially an open announcement that the US has moved from the “War on [foreign] terror” to the “War on domestic terror”.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) also reportedly released a bulletin warning that “domestic extremists” are planning a nationwide protest to stop Joe Biden from being sworn in as President. According to ABC News, “The FBI has also received information in recent days on a group calling for “storming” state, local and federal government courthouses and administrative buildings in the event President Donald Trump is removed from office prior to Inauguration Day. The group is also planning to “storm” government offices in every state the day President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated, regardless of whether the states certified electoral votes for Biden or Trump.”

Since the bulletin has not been publicly released the report should be viewed skeptically. However, it’s only one of many emerging reports and articles stoking the flames of civil war and internal chaos. The fact of the matter is that this is not a new attempt to demonize the American people. This current effort is simply a continuation of the effort to label Americans as terrorists that has been taking place since at least the mid-1990’s following the Oklahoma City bombing false flag. These efforts were expanded further after the attacks of 9/11. In fact, as most readers know by now, it was Joe Biden who wrote the anti-terror legislation in the 90’s which became the basis for the Patriot ACT after 9/11.

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The “Qanon shaman” story was always just obvious bogus. But the seed has been planted, so it’s now safe to walk it back.

Prosecutors Walk Back Story Of Plot To Kill Lawmakers In Capitol Riot (JTN)

The acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin announced on Friday that there is no “direct evidence” indicating that the crowd of people who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 had any intention of killing or kidnapping members of Congress. He told reporters, “We don’t have any direct evidence of kill-capture teams,” which seemed to contradict federal prosecutors in Arizona who had alleged on Thursday in a court filing that there was evidence rioters wanted “to capture and assassinate elected officials.” Reuters reported that Sherwin was attempting to “walk back” the claims filed in Arizona, which were about Jacob Chansey, the so-called “Qanon shaman” who was shirtless and wearing horns in the Senate chamber. He allegedly left a note saying, “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”


Sherwin said that his office in D.C. is taking the lead on prosecuting crimes related to the breach of the Capitol, adding that there may have been a “disconnect” with other offices on some of the evidence. “The cases are all being charged here in D.C., and with our law enforcement partners, and what makes this case in particular unprecedented and unusual and extremely complex is the fact that, after the event, obviously thousands of people went back to their home districts,” said Sherwin. “And that has complicated things.”

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“..The poor schlemiel is headed straight into history’s discontinued merchandise bin…”

Signs and Wonders (Kunstler)

It’s late in the game but something appears to still be in play, and the Resistance is keenly aware of it: a trove of declassified documents laying out their crimes against their own countrymen. Nothing has stuck to the Resistance because they controlled the levers of adjudication. What if, under the extraordinary conditions of the moment, those levers are transferred to one arm of the government that has not disgraced itself: the military? I wrote in this blog more than once in recent years that political disorder could lead to this. Has that moment come? Thousands of troops are billeted in and around Washington DC now. Why is that? The figment of more white supremacists coming to reenact last week’s incident at the Capitol? I don’t think so. A BLM / Antifa riot, like the ones staged in cities (including Washington DC) all through the summer and fall? (Weren’t they mostly peaceful?)


Or is something else up, something that will mark an epochal shift in the fortunes of the USA? Did you catch Joe Biden on TV last night? Did his appearance fill you with the sweet, warm unction of reassurance? Or did you get the impression that I got: of a near-mummy in a state of panicky confusion, sent from his hidey-hole out to a podium to give an impersonation of someone in authority? I didn’t believe the performance for a minute. The poor schlemiel is headed straight into history’s discontinued merchandise bin. He will probably wonder what awful vanity propelled him down the memory hole as he descends into the darkness… but his memory preceded him down the memory hole and he will have forgotten how the whole thing started. His exit will be a merciful one compared to the people who trussed him up and shoved him onstage to flesh out their lame narrative.

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Increasing calls to refuse the Pfizer vaccine for people over 80.

At Least 23 Die After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine In Norway (DS)

At least 23 people who received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech have died in Norway, with 13 of the fatalities linked to the vaccine’s side effects, authorities said Thursday. All 13 individuals were above the age of 80, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency. It noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s common side effects, such as fever and nausea, could have contributed to the death of some elderly recipients of the shot. Along with the 13 deaths, nine cases of serious side effects and seven instances of less serious side effects have been recorded, the agency’s medical director, Steinar Madsen, told national broadcaster NRK.


Norway launched its vaccination campaign last month, right after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Nearly 33,000 people have received a dose in the country, according to data by U.K.-based tracker OurWorldInData. The latest figures show Norway’s virus caseload currently stands at 57,736, including 511 fatalities.

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There’s not one single word here that is not scary as all hell.

Silicon Valley and WEF Announce Vaccination Credential Initiative (Webb)

On Thursday, tech giants with deep ties to the US national-security state—Microsoft, Oracle, and the MITRE Corporation—announced that they had partnered with several health-care companies to create the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) to advance the implementation of digital COVID-19 vaccination records. According to a Reuters report, the VCI “aims to help people get encrypted digital copies of their immunization records stored in a digital wallet of their choice” because the “current system [of vaccination records] does not readily support convenient access and sharing of verifiable vaccination records.” The initiative, on its website, notes that the VCI is a public-private partnership “committed to empowering individuals with digital vaccination records” so that participants can “protect and improve their health” and “demonstrate their health status to safely return to travel, work, school and life while protecting their data privacy.”

The initiative is essentially built on a common framework of digital vaccination “wallets” called SMART Health Cards that are meant to “work across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries” as part of a new global vaccination-record infrastructure. The host of the VCI website and one the initiative’s key backers is the Commons Project Foundation. That foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF), runs the Common Trust Network, which has three goals that are analogous to those of VCI. As listed on the WEF website, the network’s goals are (1) to empower individuals by providing digital access to their health information; (2) to make it easier for individuals to understand and comply with each destination’s requirements; and (3) to help ensure that only verifiable lab results and vaccination records from trusted sources are presented for the purposes of cross-border travel and commerce.

[..] The SMART Health Cards framework was developed by a team led by the chief architect of Microsoft Healthcare, Josh Mandel, who was previously the Health IT Ecosystem lead for Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences. Verily is currently heavily involved in COVID-19 testing throughout the United States, particularly in California, and links test recipients’ results to their Google accounts. Their other COVID-19 initiatives have been criticized due to still-unresolved privacy concerns, something that has also plagued several of Verily’s other efforts pre-COVID-19, including those involving Mandel.

Of particular concern is that Verily, and by extension Google, created Project Baseline, which has been collecting “actionable genetic information” with a focus on “population health” from participants since 2017. Yet, during the COVID-19 process, Project Baseline has become an important component of Verily’s COVID-19 testing efforts, raising the unsettling possibility that Verily has been obtaining Americans’ DNA data through its COVID-19 testing activities. While Verily has not addressed this possibility directly, it is worth noting that Google has been heavily involved in amassing genomic data for several years. For instance, in 2013, Google Genomics was founded with the goal of storing and analyzing DNA data on Google Cloud servers. Now known as Cloud Life Sciences, the Google subsidiary has since developed AI algorithms that can “build your genome sequence” and “identify all the mutations that an individual inherits from their parents.”

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The CIA is hacking Russian Twitter accounts?!

Twitter Suspends Account of Russian COVID Vaccine Citing Attempted US Hack (MPN)

The Twitter account of the Russian COVID-19 “Sputnik V” vaccine was suspended yesterday after the Silicon Valley-based platform detected suspicious attempts to log into it. Raising more eyebrows was the stated location of the attempted hack: not Russia, but Virginia, U.S.A. The news immediately prompted Internet sleuths to question who was behind the hack. “Now who in Virginia might want to sabotage a global health initiative by one of Washington’s “official enemies?” wrote former MintPress contributor Morgan Artyukhina. Virginia is, of course, home to many of the three-letter national security agencies engaged in online warfare, including the CIA. Many social media users suggested this was evidence of a failed nefarious action. Sputnik’s Twitter account has since been reinstated.

Named after the first manmade satellite to orbit the Earth, the vaccine is among the first to be developed and brought to market. With rich nations buying up huge quantities of Western vaccines before they were even approved, leaving little for poorer states, Sputnik is primarily being used in Russia, Asia, and Latin America. Already, 727 million doses have been ordered by 50 countries, including 200 million from India and 160 million from Russia. Meanwhile, Brazil has ordered 100 million and Mexico 24 million. Bolivia, Argentina, and Venezuela are also major customers. In December, Hungary became the first EU nation to purchase the shots, and there is a possibility that the vaccine could be rolled out across the continent soon. Testing occurred in a number of nations in the Global South and the vaccine will be produced in nine countries.

Like Western variants, Sputnik must be delivered in two shots weeks apart and must also be stored in deep freezer conditions (-18°C/-0.4°F). Developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute, it is a viral vector vaccine, meaning that it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the desired immune response into cells. Protein coding genes from the coronavirus are inserted into two common cold-like viruses that have been genetically modified so they cannot replicate inside the human body. Trial results suggest that the injections are between 91-95% effective, similar to the Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines. However, Western politicians and press have been casting doubts and fears on the safety and effectiveness of the product for months, describing it as “controversial” (The Guardian) or “rushed” (BBC). Others, such as CNN and CNBC have characterized it as unsafe and ineffective.

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Interesting.

Signal Is A Government Op (Levine)

Signal — the privacy chat app favored by the world’s leading crypto experts — is trending again. In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s MAGA Maidan Internet purge (which was followed by Facebook’s announcement that it was gonna start siphoning data off its WhatsApp property), Signal shot up to being the top downloaded messenger app on the planet. The New York Times is writing about it. Edward Snowden is tweeting about it, telling his fans that Signal is the only reason he’s able to stay alive (and not the fact that he’s being protected round-the-clock by Russia’s security apparatus.) Hell, Even Elon Musk is out there telling people to go Signal. So many people are flooding the app that it’s been crashing.

Given that the app is blowing up, I figure it’s a good time to roll out my periodic public service announcement: Signal was created and funded by a CIA spinoff. Yes, a CIA spinoff. Signal is not your friend. Here are the cold hard facts. Signal was developed by Open Whisper Systems, a for-profit corporation run by “Moxie Marlinspike,” a tall, lanky cryptographer who has a head full of dreadlocks and likes to surf and sail his boat. Moxie was an old friend of Tor’s now-banished chief radical promotor Jacob Appelbaum, and he’s played a similar fake-radical game — although he’s never been able to match Jake’s raw talent and dedication to the art of the con. Still, Moxie wraps himself in air of danger and mystery and hassles reporters about not divulging any personal information, not even his age. He constantly talks up his fear of Big Brother and tells stories about his FBI file.

So how big a threat is Moxie to the federal government? This big: After selling his encryption start-up to Twitter in 2011, Moxie began partnering with America’s soft-power regime change apparatus — including the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media) — on developing tech to fight Internet censorship abroad. That relationship led to his next venture: a suite of government-funded encrypted chat and voice mobile apps. Say hello to Signal. If you look at Signal’s website today, you’ll find all sorts of celebrity endorsements — Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and even Jack Dorsey. You’ll also find a “donate” button — which, by the way, you shouldn’t press because Signal has plenty of tech oligarch cash on hand these days. What you won’t find is an “about” section that explains Signal’s origin story — a story that involves several million dollars in seed and development capital from Radio Free Asia, a CIA spinoff whose history goes back to 1951 and involves all sorts of weird shit, including its association in the 1970s with the Moonies, the hardcore anti-communist Korean cult.

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“A window of euphoria as a $21 Trillion economy digests $10 Trillion of stimulus. What happens after that?”

When Will The Window Of Euphoria Close? (O’Rourke)

These certainly are interesting times. Despite a global pandemic, the S&P 500 is 5 days removed from all-time highs. Additionally, there are 20,000 members of the National Guard protecting Washington DC, notably Capitol Hill. That is 4x the amount of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their purpose is obvious – to protect the nation’s “peaceful” transfer of power from supporters of the outgoing President. Violence is expected throughout the nation next week. While those events are uncomfortable for Americans to contemplate, they have had no effect on the financial markets. Equities remain elevated and bonds have sold off, no haven bid necessary.

[..] There is little doubt as to what is fueling this insanity. In 2020, there was nearly $5 Trillion of fiscal stimulus pumped into the United States economy. There was an additional $3.25 Trillion of monetary stimulus and zero interest rate policy added as well. President elect Biden is seeking an additional $1.9 Trillion in fiscal stimulus in the coming month, and the Federal Reserve will add another $1.4 Trillion in monetary stimulus this year. This is a massive stimulus driven bubble. Market participants frequently talk about generational buying opportunities like Q1 2009, or maybe even March of 2020. Take note, 2021 is setting up to be a generational selling opportunity.

In the span of 12 months’ time, we are setting up to witness approximately $6.5 Trillion of fiscal stimulus and $3.5 Trillion of monetary stimulus for a $21 Trillion economy. $10 Trillion of stimulus is a tremendous amount of stimulus to digest. In his futile quest for consumer price inflation, Fed Chairman Jay Powell has created a historic asset bubble that will be the downfall of the US economy. [..] The charts below of call option activity and total equity volumes reinforce that this is simply a speculative snapshot in time. A window of euphoria as a $21 Trillion economy digests $10 Trillion of stimulus. What happens after that? The window should be used for tactical exits and certainly not as entry. The day will come when this window slams shut, and it is likely to be in the coming months.

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“While Gates may be the country’s biggest farmland owner, he by no means is the largest individual landowner.”

America’s Biggest Owner Of Farmland Is Now Bill Gates (F.)

Bill Gates, the fourth richest person in the world and a self-described nerd who is known for his early programming skills rather than his love of the outdoors, has been quietly snatching up 242,000 acres of farmland across the U.S. — enough to make him the top private farmland owner in America. After years of reports that he was purchasing agricultural land in places like Florida and Washington, The Land Report revealed that Gates, who has a net worth of nearly $121 billion according to Forbes, has built up a massive farmland portfolio spanning 18 states. His largest holdings are in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Nebraska (20,588 acres). Additionally, he has a stake in 25,750 acres of transitional land on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, which is being developed as a new suburb.

According to The Land Report’s research, the land is held directly and through third-party entities by Cascade Investments, Gates’ personal investment vehicle. Cascade’s other investments include food-safety company Ecolab, used-car retailer Vroom and Canadian National Railway. While it may be surprising that a tech billionaire would also be the biggest farmland owner in the country, this is not Gates’ only foray into agriculture. In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced $306 million in grants to promote high-yield, sustainable agriculture among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The foundation has further invested in the development and proliferation of “super crops” resistant to climate change and higher-yield dairy cows. Last year, the organization announced Gates Ag One, a nonprofit to advance those efforts.

It is not entirely clear how Gates’ farmland is being used, or whether any of the land is being set aside for conservation. However, there is some indication that the land could be used in a way that aligns with the foundation’s values. Cottonwood Ag Management, a subsidiary of Cascade, is a member of Leading Harvest, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture standards that prioritize protections of crops, soil and water resources. [..] While Gates may be the country’s biggest farmland owner, he by no means is the largest individual landowner. In its list of 100 top American landowners, The Land Report gives the top spot to Liberty Media Chair John Malone, who owns 2.2 million acres of ranches and forests. CNN founder Ted Turner ranked number three with 2 million acres of ranch land across eight states. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is investing in land on a large scale, landing the 25th spot with his ownership of 420,000 acres, mainly in west Texas.

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Jan 082021
 
 January 8, 2021  Posted by at 9:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  56 Responses »


Joan Miro The tilled field 1924

 

Only In Your Imagination Was That An Attempted “Coup” (Tracey)
Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Greenwald)
Enough With The Outrage (PL)
Facebook, Twitter Finally Do Slightly More Than Nothing About Trump (IC)
US Capitol Police Say Reports Of Officer Death Not Accurate (R.)
Donald Trump’s Ruinous Legacy (Tracey)
The US and UK May Not Will Assange’s Death, But … (Cook)
Biden’s One-Two Stimulus Punch (Axios)
There Are So Many Covid Patients, Younger This Time (Anon)
Very Risky To Delay 2nd Dose Of COVID19 Vaccine – Former FDA Director (Hill)
British Scientists Develop World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Smart Patch (Unilad)
Americans Need Federal Commission To Look Into The 2020 Election (Turley)

 

 

 

 

All I saw was a bunch of clowns.

Only In Your Imagination Was That An Attempted “Coup” (Tracey)

We are being told that a “coup attempt” no longer needs to be understood as constituting an “attempt” to seize control of the government — as had generally been the common understanding of the term before the events of yesterday, which have caused the entire political and media establishment to go completely haywire Is it unusual for a mob to breach the Capitol Building — ransacking offices, taking goofy selfies, and disrupting the proceedings of Congress for a few hours? Yes, that’s unusual. But the idea that this was a real attempt at a “coup” — meaning an attempt to seize by force the reins of the most powerful state in world history — is so preposterous that you really have to be a special kind of deluded in order to believe it.

Or if not deluded, you have to believe that using such terminology serves some other political purpose. Such as, perhaps, imposing even more stringent censorship on social media, where the “coup” is reported to have been organized. Or inflicting punishment on the man who is accused of “inciting” the coup, which you’ve spent four years desperately craving to do anyway. He’s already been effectively banned from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — a rubicon-crossing event in the suppression of political speech which, of course, is being cheered by all the usual suspects who otherwise claim to be stalwart defenders of enlightened liberal values. At no point yesterday was the American government at risk of being “overthrown,” as members of Congress have laughably suggested.

Per usual, our guardians of consensus can’t bring themselves to describe what unfolded with any degree of dispassion or calm. Instead we’re told by the incoming Senate Majority Leader, for example, that January 6, 2021 will now “live in infamy” right alongside December 7, 1941. Elected officials issued emotional notices that they were “okay,” like they had just narrowly avoided being crushed in an earthquake, or escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11. This is made all the more odd because the only person upon whom lethal force was committed appears to have been a Trump-supporting woman who was shot point-blank in the throat by a Capitol Hill police officer. She’s now dead. Congress was temporarily inconvenienced.

Journalists and pundits, glorying in their natural state — which is to peddle as much free-flowing hysteria as possible — eagerly invoke all the same rhetoric that they’d abhor in other circumstances on civil libertarian grounds. “Domestic terrorism,” “insurrection,” and other such terms now being promoted by the corporate media will nicely advance the upcoming project of “making sure something like this never happens again.” Use your imagination as to what kind of remedial measures that will entail. Trump’s promotion of election fraud fantasies has been a disaster not just for him, but for his “movement” — such as it exists — and it’s obvious that a large segment of the population actively wants to be deceived about such matters.

But the notion that Trump has “incited” a violent insurrection is laughable. His speech Monday afternoon that preceded the march to the Capitol was another standard-fare Trump grievance fest, except without the humor that used to make them kind of entertaining. Trump didn’t command that his followers physically breach the Capitol Building. In fact, after previously saying he would join the march, he seems to just have gone home to tweet and watch TV. So, basically his normal routine on a typical day, minus a trip to the golf course.

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“..striking at cherished national symbols — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol — ensures rage and terror far beyond body counts or other concrete harms.”

It’s about cliockbait, Glenn. Not reason.

Violence in the Capitol, Dangers in the Aftermath (Greenwald)

The U.S. Capitol remains a potent and cherished symbol even for Americans who are deeply cynical about the ruling class and political system. Its nobility is something continually engrained deep into our collective psyche since childhood, and that meaning endures even when our rational faculties reject it. It is therefore not hard to understand why watching a marauding band of hooligans invade and deface both the House and the Senate, without any identifiable objective other than venting grievances, reflexively engenders a patriotic disgust across the political spectrum. It is unhinged to the point of being obscene to compare yesterday’s incursion to the 9/11 attack or (as Sen. Chuck Schumer did last night) to Pearl Harbor. By every metric, the magnitude and destructiveness of those two events are in an entirely different universe.

But that does not mean there are no applicable lessons to be drawn from those prior attacks. One is that striking at cherished national symbols — the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Capitol — ensures rage and terror far beyond body counts or other concrete harms. That is one major reason that yesterday’s event received far more attention and commentary, and will likely produce far greater consequences, than much deadlier incidents, such as the still-motive-unknown 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59 or the 2016 Orlando shooting that left 49 dead at the Pulse nightclub. Unlike even horrific indiscriminate shooting sprees, an attack on a symbol of national power will be perceived as an attack on the state or even the society itself.

There are other, more important historical lessons to draw not only from the 9/11 attack but subsequent terrorism on U.S. soil. One is the importance of resisting the coercive framework that demands everyone choose one of two extremes: that the incident is either (a) insignificant or even justifiable, or (b) is an earth-shattering, radically transformative event that demands radical, transformative state responses. This reductive, binary framework is anti-intellectual and dangerous. One can condemn a particular act while resisting the attempt to inflate the dangers it poses. One can acknowledge the very real existence of a threat while also warning of the harms, often far greater, from proposed solutions.

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“They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”

Enough With The Outrage (PL)

Like pretty much all conservatives, I have consistently criticized riots and other forms of political violence for many years. That includes yesterday’s Washington, D.C. riot. You can’t say the same about liberals, however. Until yesterday, one might have thought that liberals consider rioting and other forms of political violence to be as American as apple pie. You could write a book in support of that proposition, but for now let’s cite just a few examples. Do you remember when President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017? Leftist Democrats rioted in Washington that day. That riot was arguably worse, more violent and more destructive, than what happened in D.C. yesterday. The liberal rioters destroyed stores, set vehicles on fire and battled with the police. Six police officers were wounded.

I don’t recall a single Democratic office-holder denouncing the Democrats’ Inauguration Day riot, and the Associated Press came perilously close to praising the rioters. Over the ensuing four years, Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioted countless times, bringing devastation to cities like Portland, Seattle, Kenosha and Minneapolis. Did any Democrats denounce these riots? Not that I remember. Many Democrats endorsed them, or seemed to do so. Kamala Harris, for example, said about the riots in June: “They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.”

This was after 12 people had been killed in Democrat-sanctioned rioting, and billions of dollars in destruction committed. Have any Democrats denounced Black Lives Matter for its role in the riots? Not one. Has any Democrat denounced Antifa? Not that I know of, and some, like Keith Ellison, have specifically endorsed Antifa’s political violence. Democratic Party journalists have joined the party’s politicians in excusing riots. The New York Times, for example, published an admiring profile of Antifa. The Washington Post, likewise, has carried water for Antifa. The litany could go on for a long time. Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol was outrageous, but let’s not forget that last time out-of-control demonstrators interrupted business at the Capitol, shouted down senators and pounded on the doors of the Supreme Court, it was Democrats objecting to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

And speaking of assaults on capitols, did any Democrats object when leftists occupied the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison for four months, destroying property, impeding public business and violently assaulting conservatives? Not a peep.

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Are we going to celebrate corporate power in politics now? Are we inviting censorship in through the front door?

Facebook, Twitter Finally Do Slightly More Than Nothing About Trump (IC)

The advertising industry is generally acknowledged as one of the most risk-averse and craven industries on the planet, with decision-making guided largely by attempting to be as inoffensive as possible to as many people as possible, taking a position on an issue only in the weakest, safest, most carefully hedged terms available. Though companies like Facebook and Twitter hold the unfathomable power to control the distribution of information to billions of people around the world and like to think of themselves as helping bring humankind to some next level of consciousness, they are still very much in the advertising business.

As advertising companies, cowardice runs deep in the souls of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, companies that have spent the past four years looking the other way, equivocating, and contorting themselves into pretzels in an attempt to justify Trump’s unfettered access to the most powerful information distribution system in world history. Despite perennial speculation in the press as to what might psychologically or ideologically explain Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey’s total unwillingness to meaningfully act, there is just one factor: money. Twitter and Facebook are only worth anything as businesses if they can boast to advertisers of their access to an enormous swath of the American market, across political and ideological lines, and fear of a right-wing backlash has been enough to keep Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board and Trump’s voter suppression dispatches on Twitter’s servers.

According to a Facebook moderator who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity for fear of employer retaliation, watching the company drag its feet, yesterday in particular, has been excruciating. According to internal communications reviewed by The Intercept, the Capitol break-in is now considered, for purposes of Facebook’s willy-nilly application of the rules, “a violating event,” and any “praise,” “support,” or even friendly “representation” is banned on the basis of the company’s “Dangerous Organizations” policies, which this moderator explained is typically applied to posts celebrating terrorist attacks, drug cartel murders, and Aryan street gangs.

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Not sure what is going on with this.

US Capitol Police Say Reports Of Officer Death Not Accurate (R.)

U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement on Thursday that media reports that an officer had died after the storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump were inaccurate. The agency said that several officers were injured and some hospitalized after the unrest Wednesday, but that no officers had died as a result. Four people had died after Trump’s supporters swarmed the building on Wednesday in a failed attempt to disrupt efforts to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

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“..he can rest easy knowing that he successfully used Trump as a vehicle to achieve the generations-long dream of the conservative donor class — a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court..”

Donald Trump’s Ruinous Legacy (Tracey)

The stultification of Republican electoral strategy stems fundamentally from the fact that there has been no substantial intra-party public debate about the reasons for Trump’s loss. Even now, more than two months later, to merely state that Trump lost provokes profound rage among a large segment of the party’s voters. You can be mercilessly attacked online and threatened with career-ending repudiation for doing so; Purdue and Loeffler couldn’t deviate from this line, for fear of alienating fraud-believing Trump supporters in Georgia. But Republican turnout dipped anyway, most probably because conservative media had been completely inundated with accusations that the Republican-led state government of Georgia was complicit in a conspiracy to oust Trump. It turns out “fraud-pilling” one’s own voters might not be the most reliable path to victory.

The manic Trump-induced obsession with purported fraud thereby delayed any thoroughgoing public discussion of how Congressional Republicans over-performed in November, across many metrics, even as Trump went down to defeat. So instead of capitalising on those gains, Republicans jettisoned them. As for McConnell, it was one of the more astounding moves in recent political history to sacrifice his own Senate majority, which most of his professional life has been structured around preserving at all costs, because he was dead-set against sending out the $2,000 cheques. A figure which in the grand scheme of things, as Trump would say, is “peanuts”.

But even with the majority vanquished, McConnell will maintain a fair amount of power as minority leader. As of 20 January the Senate will stand as split 50-50 with future Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. The possibility of a few Democratic defections here and there means McConnell will have plenty of opportunities to exert legislative influence. And he can rest easy knowing that he successfully used Trump as a vehicle to achieve the generations-long dream of the conservative donor class — a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, as well as some corporate tax cuts.

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Where is the next appeal? And when?

The US and UK May Not Will Assange’s Death, But … (Cook)

[..] while denying the extradition claim, she supported all the arguments advanced by the US accruing to itself the right to prosecute Assange – and any other journalist – for the crime of doing journalism. She ignored the facts, the expert testimony presented in court and the legal arguments – all of which favoured Assange – and backed instead what amounted to a purely political case made by the US. She disregarded warnings from Assange’s legal team that acceptance of the political rationale for extradition amounted to an all-out attack on fundamental journalistic freedoms. She established a terrifying legal precedent for the US to seize foreign journalists and prosecute them for “espionage” if they expose Washington’s crimes. Her ruling will inevitably have a profoundly chilling effect on any publication trying to dig out the truth about the US national-security state, with terrifying consequences for us all.

But while she enthusiastically backed the political case for Assange’s extradition and trial, Baraitser at the same time got the Wikileaks founder off the hook by accepting the humanitarian concerns raised by medical and prison experts. They had counselled that extradition to the US could be expected to lead to Assange spending the rest of his life in a barbaric US super-max prison, exacerbating mental health problems and the risk of suicide. Her ruling, while deeply disturbing in its political and legal implications, did at least suggest that Baraitser was ready to take a compassionate approach in regard to Assange’s health, even if not his journalistic exposure of western war crimes. He should have walked free there and then, had the US not immediately said it would appeal her decision.

Given Assange’s discharge by Baraitser, his team hoped that bail – his release from a high-security prison while the lengthy appeals process unfolds – would prove a formality. They hurried to make such an application after the extradition ruling on Monday, assuming that the legal logic of her decision dictated his release. Baraitser demurred, suggesting that they prepare their case and make it to her more fully on Wednesday. It now seems clear the judge manipulated Assange’s defence team. Apparently like Assange’s lawyers, former British ambassador Craig Murray, who has attended and reported on the hearings in detail, was lulled by Baraitser into assuming that she wanted a cast-iron case from the defence to justify a decision to release Assange on bail.

There were good reasons for their confidence. Any move to prevent his release would look perverse given that she had decided Assange should not be extradited or stand trial in the US. They were deceived. Baraitser denied bail, effectively signalling that she thinks her ruling might be wrong and overturned in a higher court. That is extraordinary. It suggests that she has no confidence in her own judgment of the facts of the case. As Murray has noted: “There was little or no precedent for the High Court overturning any ruling against extradition on Section 91 health grounds.”

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$4 trillion. Green.

Biden’s One-Two Stimulus Punch (Axios)

Joe Biden is considering asking Congress to help suffering Americans in two steps: give them the balance of their coveted $2,000 coronavirus payments, followed by a $3 trillion tax and infrastructure package. Biden is confident he can get multiple packages through Congress after Democrats won both Georgia Senate elections. The president-elect’s team also wants to get cash in Americans’ hands as quickly as possible, according to people familiar with the matter. In July Biden rolled out his Build Back Better plan, which includes billions of dollars for caregivers, incentives for manufacturers and some $4 trillion for green jobs and infrastructure spending.

He proposed paying for this plan with a series of tax increases on the wealthy, including taxing capital gains as regular income and increasing the marginal tax rate for top earners to almost 40%. Democrats are concerned that if they miss early opportunities to combat COVID and reverse its broader effect on the economy, the twin problems could cripple the rest of Biden’s presidency. The first bite would come in the form of $1,400 payments that would be added to the $600 in cash Congress approved last month. Also included in this quick-hit package would be money for state and local aid, as well as funding for vaccine distribution. Biden’s push for a tax and infrastructure plan, which is part of his “Build Back Better” program, will slide to later in the spring and be considered under budget reconciliation rules.

They allow the Senate to pass measures with a simple majority, instead of a more challenging filibuster-proof 60 votes. Biden is essentially dusting off his pre-election plans, back when many of his economic and political advisers assumed that if he won the presidency, he would carry the Senate along with him. Those ambitions were thrown into doubt when Republicans ran strong in the Senate on Election Day and Democrats’ only hope for regaining the majority was if they won the two uphill runoff elections held Tuesday. Biden’s blitz for a quick spending measure could allow him to build goodwill with Senate Republicans for a bigger package in the spring, especially if it includes liability protection the GOP wants for businesses fearing coronavirus lawsuits.

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Britain is brutal. How much of the healthcare system has been budgeted away in the past 20 years?

There Are So Many Covid Patients, Younger This Time (Anon)

Truly, I never imagined it would be this bad. Once again Covid has spread out along the hospital, the disease greedily taking over ward after ward. Surgical, paediatric, obstetric, orthopaedic; this virus does not discriminate between specialities. Outbreaks bloom even in our “clean” areas and the disease is even more ferociously infectious. Although our local tests do not differentiate strains, I presume this is the new variant. The patients are younger this time around too, and there are so many of them. They are sick. We are full. There can be no debate: this is much, much worse than the first surge. We start the morning with 10 new patients to be concerned about. These are just the worst of them; we cannot worry about those who, though less unwell, would have had us scared in days gone by.

They are scattered on general wards around the hospital, being given as much oxygen as possible through a standard mask. Most are lying prone on their fronts, breathing rapid, shallow breaths, too breathless to talk, blood oxygen saturations alarmingly low. The eldest is in his 70s but most are much younger. All urgently need respiratory support. This is ideally given non-invasively using a Cpap mask or very high oxygen flows through the nose. Like most hospitals we have set up a new respiratory-led breathing support unit for this purpose, but it filled up with patients weeks ago. Our intensive care unit, able to deliver these therapies as well as invasive ventilation for the very sickest, is also full despite being stretched and pushed way beyond its previous capacity.

Our neighbouring hospitals are under the same pressures, or worse; even if patients were well enough to transfer out safely there is no space to receive them. We divide and conquer. Some of us rush through the morning ward rounds on the breathing support and intensive care units, desperately hoping to find patients that have improved enough to step down on to a normal ward or could be swapped between the two units according to their needs. Some of us go to assess the new referrals. We make sure that everything possible has been done to avoid the need for more support but our colleagues have already been thorough. They need to come to us, and soon. We initiate difficult conversations with some patients who were frailer before catching Covid and would therefore have less chance of benefit from additional breathing therapy.

We no longer have the luxury of “giving it a go”; we have to ensure that we select only those with the best chance of survival. Getting it wrong may occupy a precious high dependency bed for many days, often ending in a difficult and symptomatic death while preventing other patients from receiving the correct therapy. Conversely, identifying those who will not survive will allow us to ensure better symptom control and a kinder end to life. These conversations, often barely intelligible through our PPE, are draining, fraught, brutal. We must justify to patients and their families, and often our colleagues too, why we cannot offer these therapies to everyone.

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All on red. Casino.

Very Risky To Delay 2nd Dose Of COVID19 Vaccine – Former FDA Director (Hill)

Questions surrounding the deployment and quantity of available COVID-19 vaccine doses linger as inoculations continue, with vaccine reticence and concerns about dose availability dominating the conversation. For the current approved vaccines, two separate shots are required, and some European countries have opted to delay the administration of the second dose in a bid to cultivate broader immunity. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two shots administered intramuscularly roughly three weeks apart, which the U.S. is currently undertaking. As for whether or not the U.S. should follow the lead of countries like the U.K. and Denmark, Norman Baylor, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called the plan “very risky” on CNBC.

“I understand some of the rationale to do this, but again, it’s not really data driven,” Baylor said. “It’s a very risky venture because if it fails, you’re in worse shape.” Baylor, who previously headed the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, further elaborated that there isn’t enough data to fully illustrate the immunity benefits just one dose with a prolonged second dose will bring. While more people would receive a vaccination by increasing the time between when the administration of both doses, immunity may be different from what promising clinical trials suggest. “The concern though is that space, that time, and how vulnerable you are, because…we don’t have all the data in that will indicate what the duration of protection is,” Baylor said. “If it fails, you’re in worse shape.”

The need to vaccinate more people comes as a more contagious COVID-19 strain makes its rounds through countries including the U.K. and the U.S. The U.K. in particular has seen record new daily confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 403,914 new cases recorded over the past week, per national data. This represents a 42.6 percent increase.

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In 3 years time.

British Scientists Develop World’s First Covid-19 Vaccine Smart Patch (Unilad)

Scientists from Swansea University in Wales are striving to develop the first coronavirus vaccine ‘smart patch’. The patch will use microneedles to both administer the coronavirus vaccine and monitor its efficacy for the patient by tracking the body’s immune response. The research team plans to develop a prototype by the end of March, in the hope it can be put forward for clinical trials and ultimately released to the public, as part of the effort to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Scientists at Swansea’s IMPACT research centre hope to carry out human clinical studies in partnership with Imperial College London with the aim of making the device commercially available within three years.


Using polycarbonate or silicon millimetre-long microneedles, the smart patch can penetrate the skin to administer a vaccine. It can be held in place with a strap or tape for up to 24 hours, during which time it simultaneously measures a patient’s inflammatory response to the vaccination by monitoring biomarkers in the skin. Once the vaccine has been administered, the device is scanned to produce a data reading that can provide an understanding about the efficacy of the vaccine and the body’s response to it.

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What are the odds?

Americans Need Federal Commission To Look Into The 2020 Election (Turley)

First, and most important, this was an unprecedented election in the reliance of mail-in voting and the use of new voting systems and procedures. We need to review how that worked down to the smallest precincts and hamlets. Second, possibly tens of millions of voters believe that this election was rigged and stolen. I am not one of them. However, the integrity of our elections depends on the faith of the electorate. Roughly 40% of that electorate have lingering doubts about whether their votes actually matter. Most of the cases challenging the election were not decided on the merits. Indeed, it seems they haven’t even been allowed for discovery. Instead, they were largely dismissed on jurisdictional or standing groups or under the “laches” doctrine that they were brought too late.

Those allegations need to be conclusively proven or disproven in the interests of the country. Third, there were problems. There was not proof of systemic fraud or irregularities, but there were problems of uncounted votes, loss of key custodial information and key differences in the rules governing voting and tabulations. We have spent billions to achieve greater security and reliability after prior election controversies. Indeed, we had a prior election commission that failed to achieve those fundamental goals. A real commission will take a couple years to fully address these allegations. It will be meaningless if it’s stacked by the same reliable political cutouts used historically in federal commissions. It should be formed on a commitment of absolute transparency with public hearings and public archiving of underlying material before the issuance of any final report. That way, the public at large can analyze and contribute to the review of this evidence.

[..] The main challenge, however, remains the same: Whether Congress can appoint a real federal commission without rigging the result by appointing partisan members. In 1877, to quote from a speech of Ohio Sen. Allen Granberry Thurman, “It was perfectly clear that any bill that gave the least advantage, ay, the weight of the dust in the balance, to either party, could not become the law of the land.” Nothing has changed. The stakes are too high to allow even a dust particle to tip the difference on the ultimate findings. The dust-free option requires a dependent, not independent, commission. Otherwise, the public will be the loser.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 062021
 


Georgia O’Keeffe Street of New York II 1926

 

The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now (Craig Murray)
Will Biden DOJ Pursue Assange Extradition? Outgoing Prosecutor Isn’t Sure (NRP)
2 People Die In Norway Nursing Home Days After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)
Rate Of Adverse Reactions To COVID Vaccines 50x Higher Than Flu Shot (ZH)
Peru Clashes With Pfizer Over Legal Immunity For Vaccine Side Effects (RT)
Wuhan Coronavirus Infections 10 Times Higher Than Reported (NI)
Australia Says China Should Allow In WHO Covid Investigators (G.)
China Arrests US Lawyer During “Massive Crackdown” In Hong Kong (ZH)
The US Has Lost More Than 110,000 Restaurants (Snyder)
Biden To Tap More Obama Vets To Fill Key National Security Roles
Biden Taps Architect of 2014 Ukraine Coup for State Department (Antiwar)
Catastrophe Is All Around Us (AIER)
More Than 1.5 Billion Face Masks Will Pollute Oceans This Year (NYP)
US Doctor Forgives $650,000 In Medical Bills For Cancer Patients (BBC)

 

 

If Julian Assange’s bail is denied today, that will be a huge disappointment for many people. Craig Murray doesn’t think it will be denied, because the US appeal risks opening can of worms for them.

 

 

Big day for Assange, big day also for Trump?!

 

 

Tulsi Kamala

 

 

Murray remains very optimistic.

The Assange Verdict: What Happens Now (Craig Murray)

I am not sure that at this stage the High Court would accept a new guarantee from the USA that Assange would not be kept in isolation or in a Supermax prison; that would be contrary to the affidavit from Assistant Secretary of State Kromberg and thus would probably be ruled to amount to new evidence. Not to mention that Baraitser heard other evidence that such assurances had been received in the case of Abu Hamza, but had been broken. Hamza is not only kept in total isolation, but as a man with no hands he is deprived of prosthetics that would enable him to brush his teeth, and he has no means of cutting his nails nor assistance to do so, and cannot effectively wipe himself in the toilet. Not only is it hard to see the point of law on which the USA could launch an appeal, it is far from plain that they have a motive to do so.

Baraitser agreed with all the substantive points of argument put forward by the US government. She stated that there was no bar on extradition from the UK for political offences; she agreed that publication of national security material did constitute an offence in the USA under the Espionage Act and would do so in the UK under the Official Secrets Act, with no public interest defence in either jurisdiction; she agreed that encouraging a source to leak classified information is a crime; she agreed Wikileaks’ publications had put lives at risk. On all of these points she dismissed virtually without comment all the defence arguments and evidence. As a US Justice Department spokesman said yesterday: “While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised.

In particular, the court rejected all of Mr Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offence, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr Assange’s extradition to the United States.” That is a fair categorisation of what happened. Appealing a verdict that is such a good result for the United States does not necessarily make sense for the Justice Department. Edward Fitzgerald explained to me yesterday that, if the USA appeals the decision on the health and prison condition grounds, it becomes open to the defence to counter-appeal on all the other grounds, which would be very desirable indeed given the stark implications of Baraitser’s ruling for media freedom. I have always believed that Baraitser would rule as she did on the substantial points, but I have always also believed that those extreme security state arguments would never survive the scrutiny of better judges in a higher court.

Unlike the health ruling, the dispute over Baraitser’s judgement on all the other points does come down to classic errors in law which can successfully be argued on appeal. If the USA does appeal the judgement, it is far more likely that not only will the health grounds be upheld, but also that Baraitser’s positions on extradition for political offences and freedom of the media will be overturned, than it is likely that the US will achieve extradition. They have fourteen days in which to lodge the appeal – now thirteen. An appeal result is in short likely to be humiliating for the USA. It would be much wiser for the US to let sleeping dogs lie. But pride and the wound to the US sense of omnipotence and exceptionalism may drive them to an appeal which, for the reasons given above, I would actually welcome provided Julian is out on bail. Which I expect he shall be shortly.

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Not sure the DOJ has much say in this.

Will Biden DOJ Pursue Assange Extradition? Outgoing Prosecutor Isn’t Sure (NRP)

The federal prosecutor seeking to try WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges said he’s uncertain about whether the administration of President-elect Joe Biden would continue the extradition effort. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, pointed out that the Assange case had already consumed years of work by line prosecutors and other officials. A judge in the United Kingdom dealt American prosecutors a blow Monday by rejecting their efforts to transfer Assange to the United States, citing his mental health troubles. The Justice Department pledged that it would appeal — a process that could drag on for months, if not longer. That means the issue of how to handle Assange, accused in one of the largest compromises of classified information in history, will be one of many questions for the new leadership team at the Justice Department.


“It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case,” Terwilliger said. “There’ll be some decisions to be made. Some of this does come down to resources and where you’re going to focus your energies.” For its part, the Biden transition didn’t comment directly on what position it would take in the Assange matter. But a spokesperson pointed out that Biden has called for an independent Justice Department in his administration. Terwilliger spoke to NPR on one of his final days in government service. Later this month, he’s set to join the law firm Vinson & Elkins. Terwilliger, 39, will beef up the firm’s white collar crime practice, after spending his entire career –a dozen years — on the other side of the courtroom as a career prosecutor and political appointee at the Justice Department.

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These reports keep coming in.

2 People Die In Norway Nursing Home Days After Receiving Pfizer Vaccine (RT)

The Norwegian Medicines Agency has announced that two nursing home residents passed away days after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and that an investigation has been launched into the deaths. “We have to assess whether the vaccine is the cause of death, or if it is a coincidence that it happened soon after vaccination,” Medical Director Steiner Madsen said in a statement about the deaths. He also noted that, because people of advanced age are receiving the vaccine first, it is entirely possible the deaths could be coincidental. Around 400 people die every week in Norwegian nursing homes.


The agency, along with the National Institute of Public Health, are looking into the deaths. Reported side effects from the vaccine have been minor and temporary, although there have been reports of allergic reactions in the US and UK among people who had a history of such. Numerous government officials have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including US Vice President Mike Pence. Vaccinations with the drug began in Norway on December 27.

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That’s a lot.

Rate Of Adverse Reactions To COVID Vaccines 50x Higher Than Flu Shot (ZH)

With reports this morning of another otherwise-healthy patient dying suddenly after receiving her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, many skeptics in both Europe and the US still have serious reservations about the jabs, even as big pharma and their allies in the US and British governments insist that they are 100% safe. Everyone claiming otherwise is not only wrongheaded, but acting in a deliberately malicious manner. This is why commentary like a video posted by DoubleLine’s Jeffrey Gundlach where he questions the sky-high efficacy numbers published after the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech trials has elicited such vehement repudiation.

However, as new questions about efficacy and timing arise, independent journalist Alex Berenson, one of the most prominent skeptics of lockdowns and masks in the US, noted in a twitter thread earlier on Tuesday that the percentage of patients experiencing severe or potentially life-threatening reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines could be much higher than the data collected by the CDC are letting on. The CDC’s VAERS reporting system was set up to track vaccine-related injury, Most patients can expect to experience some kind of adverse reaction, but for the vast majority of patients, symptoms will be relatively mild and clear up within a couple of days.

But amid a rush of reports about patient deaths, Berenson points out that the number of patients seeing serious complications per the number of doses distributed is roughly 50x higher than the rate of ‘adverse’ reactions caused by the flu vaccine. Berenson also speculated that this number might be even higher due to possible delays in updating the CDC’s data sets. This would seemingly confirm rates of adverse reactions seen during clinical trials. What’s more, clinical trials, generally speaking, tend to “UNDERSTATE” unpleasant or unwanted side effects, while they “OVERSTATE” the drug’s efficacy.

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“it is quite clear that they are not responsible for any side effects. If you become an alligator, it’s your problem.”

Peru Clashes With Pfizer Over Legal Immunity For Vaccine Side Effects (RT)

Peru has reached an impasse with Pfizer as it negotiates a deal for a Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health minister said, citing a conflict over legal immunity for the pharma firm that could undermine Peru’s sovereignty. While officials have remained in “constant contact” with Pfizer since the summer, the talks ran into trouble last month amid “controversy” over some clauses of the agreement, including those linked to pricing and delivery, as well as legal immunities for the pharmaceutical giant in the case its inoculation leads to death or injury, health minister Pilar Mazzetti told lawmakers on Tuesday. “With Pfizer there are some details where there is no agreement,” Mazzetti said, adding “This has to do with prices and the delivery schedule” as well as “the waiving of important elements such as … jurisdictional immunity.”

“It is true that one needs the vaccine but it is also true that there are aspects related to aspects of our sovereignty that the country has to protect … it has to do with risk for future generations.” The health chief noted that since most aspects of the negotiations are protected under a confidentiality agreement, she could not offer further detail on the ongoing row, but assured that the talks continue. “We hope that the controversy will be resolved so we will be able to determine when the vaccine will arrive,” she went on. Though the country announced a final deal with Pfizer for nearly 10 million vaccine doses in late November, Mazzetti said the process stalled after some clauses in the agreement required “more in-depth analysis” to determine whether they are compatible with Peruvian law.

The Latin American nation is not the first to voice concerns about legal liability waivers in their talks with the pharma firm, with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro observing last month that “it is quite clear that they are not responsible for any side effects. If you become an alligator, it’s your problem.” Officials in Argentina have raised similar worries. As the liability concerns become a major obstacle for some nations, the World Bank said on Tuesday that it is working with over 100 countries to address the issue, whether through local legislative efforts or other processes. The World Bank Group’s president, David Malpass, also noted that the agency aims to distribute $160 billion in resources by June to help developing countries obtain immunizations and fight the pandemic.

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Surprised?

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections 10 Times Higher Than Reported (NI)

Roughly half a million residents of Wuhan—the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated—may have been infected with the virus, a figure that is about ten times higher than what was initially reported. The study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed more than thirty-four thousand people in April, and it eventually discovered that 4.4 percent of those tested were found to be carrying the antibodies for the coronavirus. The presence of antibodies means that individuals, at one point in time, had been carriers of the virus. As of Sunday, Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million, had reported a total of 50,354 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.


The Chinese CDC noted that the study was conducted a month after China “contained the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic.” The study also indicated that the infection rate in Wuhan was significantly higher than in other major cities and provinces. For example, it revealed that only 0.44 percent of Hubei residents were found to be carrying the antibodies. “Exactly how much we have missed we don’t exactly know, but this gives us an idea that we have missed quite a bit,” Ian Mackay, an associated professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, told the South China Morning Post. Song Fujian, of Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in Britain, told the paper that “given the chaotic situation and limited testing capability during the early phase of the epidemic in Wuhan,” the serological survey results might be “more accurate than the reported number of confirmed cases.”

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It’s only been a year.

Australia Says China Should Allow In WHO Covid Investigators (G.)

The Australian government has called on China to allow a visit by World Health Organization experts investigating how the coronavirus pandemic started, insisting the country should grant them visas “without delay”. Canberra raised its concerns on Wednesday over reports that Chinese authorities had blocked the arrival of a WHO team investigating the early cases of Covid-19 in Wuhan. With China arguing the team’s visas had not yet been approved, even as some members of the group were on their way to the country, the development has heightened fears among Australian politicians about whether the WHO mission will be able to uncover answers needed to better prepare the world for the next pandemic.


The Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said she hoped “that the necessary permissions for the WHO team’s travel to China can be issued without delay”. Speaking after months of rocky relations between the two countries, partly triggered by Australia’s calls for such an investigation, Payne said Australia had “consistently sought transparency in relation to the origins of, and responses to the coronavirus, as have other countries”. “The WHO-convened scientific study is an important part of this work and we look forward to the findings from the international field mission to China,” she said. “During this global pandemic that has affected all countries, international cooperation and partnerships will maximise our ability to respond, and to equip us for the next pandemic.”

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53 arrests reported. Including activists’ lawyers.

China Arrests US Lawyer During “Massive Crackdown” In Hong Kong (ZH)

Update 11:00pm ET: In what would be a shocking development, Bloomberg reports that during its “massive crackdown” purging countless local activists and politicians, the Hong Kong police – i.e. China – has arrested American Lawyer, John Clancey, using as a pretext the National Security Law, which everyone warned China would use as strawman to crack down on Hong Kong citizens and activists. Well, it now appears that the emboldened Beijing – which is delighted by the ascent of pro-China pushover Joe Biden to the White House – is also using that law to arrest American citizens.

H.K. ARRESTS AMERICAN LAWYER JOHN CLANCEY, COLLEAGUE SAYS
CLANCEY ARRESTED UNDER NATIONAL SECURITY LAW: COLLEAGUE

In response, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent out a harshly worded tweet, warning China that the “Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.” We eagerly await to see just what the Blinken Biden administration will do, besides tweeting angrily in China’s general direction, to secure release of an American citizen unjustly arrested by Chinese proxies in Hong Kong.

Earlier: “Massive Crackdown”: Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens Of Politicians & Activists 2021 is less than a week old and already Beijing is ramping up its efforts to suppress what’s left of the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong. Right now, China hawks are preoccupied right now by a number of issues: the disappearance of Jack Ma (note: CNBC claims the Alibaba founder is just “laying low”), Beijing’s refusal to allow international investigators inside the Wuhan Institue of Virology and, finally, the CCP’s abusive treatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority. Now, less than two months after the last 19 members of the HK LegCo’s pro-democracy opposition quit en masse over Beijing’s demands that they swear a loyalty oath to uphold the new national security law and the supremacy of the CCP, Hong Kong police have rounded up dozens of pro-democracy activists.

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“..more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain and independent — are in an economic free fall.”

The US Has Lost More Than 110,000 Restaurants (Snyder)

The restaurant industry is in the midst of a complete and total meltdown that is unlike anything that we have ever seen before. If you ask Google how many restaurants there are in the United States, it will tell you that there are 660,755, although that number is a few years old. But for the purposes of this article, that is a good enough estimate. Americans love to eat out, and restaurant workers are some of the hardest working people in the entire country. So it is incredibly sad to see more restaurants constantly going under. In some cases, restaurants that have served their communities for decades are deciding to permanently close their doors. For example, over the weekend Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in New York City announced that it had finally reached the end of the road…

[..] Unfortunately, Sammy’s is far from alone. In fact, in a recent article that he penned for Fox Business, Adam Piper lamented the fact that more than 100,000 U.S. restaurants have gone out of business during this pandemic… “State and local governments have wielded the coronavirus pandemic as license to steal freedom and opportunity in pursuit of unprecedented omnipotence. Unreasonable, unnecessary and hypocritical actions have forced over 100,000 restaurants to close and endanger countless others.” And according to Bloomberg, the true number of dead restaurants is now over 110,000… “More than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long-term across the country as the industry grapples with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Just think about that. More than one out of every six restaurants in the U.S. is already gone, and the National Restaurant Association is warning that there will be more carnage in the months ahead because the industry is in “an economic free fall”… “The restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at the association, said in a letter to Congress. “What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type — franchise, chain and independent — are in an economic free fall.” This is what an economic depression looks like. With tens of thousands of restaurants sitting empty, and with tens of thousands of others not paying rent, the stage has been set for a commercial real estate disaster of unprecedented scope and size.

Of course there are millions of square feet of office space and retail space that are not being productive right now as well. In a recent article, Lee Adler referred to this looming commercial real estate nightmare as “a monster in the room”… “I think that if there’s anything that illustrates the head in the sand problem of the banks, it’s this. Commercial real estate (CRE) finance. There’s a monster in the room. All that empty space. No longer income producing.” For now, big financial institutions are doing their best to hide their coming losses, but according to Adler for certain sectors the losses will simply be unavoidable… “Multifamily will take a haircut but will survive. My guess is that industrial, while overpriced and overvalued, will produce enough income to get by. Office and retail? Kiss it goodbye. It’s done. Over. Kaput.”

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Victoria Nuland is the worst America has to offer.

Biden To Tap More Obama Vets To Fill Key National Security Roles

President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team have begun to fill out top positions on the incoming National Security Council and at the State Department, with key roles like deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State going to veterans of the Obama administration. At the State Department, longtime diplomat Wendy Sherman will be nominated to serve as Secretary of State-designee Tony Blinken’s deputy, according to two people close to the transition. Sherman previously served as under secretary of State for political affairs in the Obama administration and was a lead negotiator for the Iran deal. Sherman is currently a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, the same firm where Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also worked as a senior counselor.

Another veteran diplomat, Victoria Nuland, will be nominated for the role of under secretary of State for political affairs, one of the people said. Nuland also previously served in the Obama administration, as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Nuland and Sherman, who entered academia and the think tank world after leaving the Obama administration, have been outspoken critics of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy — particularly his appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the National Security Council, former State Department official Jon Finer will be named deputy national security adviser, the people said, reporting up to incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Finer, a former journalist, joined the Obama White House as a fellow in 2009 and served in various roles throughout Obama’s tenure, including as a foreign policy speechwriter for Biden and a senior adviser to then-deputy national security adviser Blinken. Finer had been working in political risk and public policy at the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which was co-founded by Blinken’s father, since leaving government in 2017. The key NSC role of senior director for European Affairs will go to Amanda Sloat, a Brookings Institution fellow who served as deputy assistant secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration.

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And Nuland’s co-conspirator Geoffrey Pyatt is now US ambassador here in Greece.

Biden Taps Architect of 2014 Ukraine Coup for State Department (Antiwar)

According to a report from Politico, Joe Biden’s transition team is expected to nominate Victoria Nuland to be the under secretary of state for political affairs for the incoming administration’s State Department. Nuland, who is married to neoconservative Robert Kagan, is known for her role in orchestrating the 2014 coup in Ukraine while she was the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs in the Obama administration. A recording of a phone call between Nuland and then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was leaked and released on YouTube on February 4th, 2014. In the call, Nuland and Pyatt discussed who should replace the government of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced to step down on February 22nd, 2014.

The US-backed coup sparked the war in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and led to the Russian annexation of Crimea. Both regions have a majority ethnic-Russian population who rejected the nationalist, anti-Russian post-coup government that even had neo-Nazis in its midst. In a 2020 column for Foreign Affairs titled, “Pinning Down Putin,” Nuland said Russian President Vladimir Putin “seized” on the 2014 coup and other “democratic struggles” to “fuel the perception at home of Russian interests under siege by external enemies.” She also cited the war in the Donbas and annexation of Crimea as examples of Russian aggression, as most in Washington do.

Currently, Nuland is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and works for the Albright Stonebridge Group. She is also a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, a US-taxpayer funded nonprofit that funds “pro-democracy” movements across the world.

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“..the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown. Dr. Henderson warned against it all…”

Catastrophe Is All Around Us (AIER)

As a naturally optimistic person, it vexes me that the word catastrophe has echoed in my mind since early March 2020. It’s the word the great smallpox eradicator Donald Henderson used in his 2006 prediction of the consequences of lockdown, a word that wasn’t around then. His masterful article addressed the idea of travel restrictions, forced human separation, business and school closings, mask mandates, limits on public gatherings, quarantines, and the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown. Dr. Henderson warned against it all. This is not how you deal with disease, he said; at a minimum society needs to function so that medical professionals can do their work.

Diseases are managed one person at a time, not with grand central plans. That was the old wisdom in any case. Under the influence of vainglorious modelers, ideological resetters, and politicians hoping to make names for themselves, most of the world tried the lockdown experiment anyway. Here we are nearly a year since I wrote my first article warning that governments presumed themselves to possess the quarantine power. They could use it if they wanted to. I didn’t expect they would. I wrote this piece as a “for your information” public service just to let people know how terrible governments could be.

I had no idea that quarantines would be only the beginning. At this point we know what we did not know then. They are capable – by they I mean even governments in presumably civilized countries with functioning democracies – of the unthinkable, and they are capable of persisting in the unthinkable for an appalling amount of time. Now the lockdowns are our life in the US, unless you are lucky enough to live in Florida, Georgia, South Dakota, South Carolina, and perhaps a few other places. Here in these outposts of what we used to call civilization, life seems normal. Our readers in these states don’t even think about the virus much, and they read my articles and find them overwrought, like I’m describing life on another planet.

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Externalities.

More Than 1.5 Billion Face Masks Will Pollute Oceans This Year (NYP)

More than 1.5 billion disposable face masks will wind up in the world’s oceans this year — polluting the water with tons of plastic and endangering marine wildlife, according to a Hong Kong-based environmental group. A report by OceansAsia cites a global market research report that estimates 52 billion masks were made this year to meet the demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It also says that a “conservative” calculation means at least 3 percent of them will be washed out to sea. “Single-use face masks are made from a variety of meltblown plastics and are difficult to recycle due to both composition and risk of contamination and infection,” the report says.


“These masks enter our oceans when they are littered or otherwise improperly discarded, when waste management systems are inadequate or non-existent, or when these systems become overwhelmed due to increased volumes of waste.” With each mask weighing three to four grams, the situation could lead to 6,800-plus tons of plastic pollution that “will take as long as 450 years to break down,” according to the report. In addition to the harmful effects of micro-plastic and nano-plastic particles, elastic ear loops pose a “possible entanglement risk for wildlife,” the report says. The report cites several examples of marine animals killed by masks, including a “dead bloated pufferfish” found tangled in the loops of a disposable blue mask by volunteers cleaning a Miami beach in August.

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And sometimes you look up from whatever it is you’re doing and suddenly you see life.

US Doctor Forgives $650,000 In Medical Bills For Cancer Patients (BBC)

A US oncologist has wiped out nearly $650,000 worth of debts for 200 cancer patients after realising that many of them were struggling to pay. Dr Omar Atiq closed his cancer treatment centre in Arkansas last year after nearly 30 years in business. He worked with a debt collection firm to gather outstanding payments, but then realised many families had been hit hard financially by the pandemic. Over Christmas, he wrote to patients telling them any debts would be erased. “Over time I realised that there are people who just are unable to pay,” Dr Atiq told ABC’s Good Morning America. “So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt. We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it.” Dr Atiq, who is originally from Pakistan, founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in Pine Bluff in 1991, providing treatments including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and CAT scans.


He is now a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. “We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people’s lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff,” Dr Atiq said, quoted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He said the outstanding bills from about 200 patients totalled nearly $650,000 (£480,000). In his Christmas greeting card to patients, he wrote: “The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 052021
 
 January 5, 2021  Posted by at 10:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  37 Responses »


Camille Pissarro The Boulevard Montmartre at Night 1897

 

Julian Assange: Imminent Freedom (Craig Murray)
Mexican President Promises Asylum For Julian Assange (RT)
Nurse Dies Following Vaccination With Pfizer’s COVID19 Shot In Portugal (RT)
Cheap Hair Lice Drug May Cut Risk Of COVID19 Death By 80 Percent (NYP)
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis (Baker)
US May Cut Some Moderna Vaccine Doses In Half To Speed Rollout (R.)
Putin Pushes Plan To Roll Out COVID “Immunity Passports” In Russia (ZH)
Greek Orthodox Church To Defy Lockdown By Opening For Epiphany (G.)
Tourism Tumbles To 1990 Levels As Pandemic Halts Travel (ZH)
Giving Up the Ghost (Kunstler)

 

 

Yesterday’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange is great news, but no-one really knows what it means. Craig Murray was one of the few allowed inside the courtroom, and he’s optimistic Assange will be out on bail by tomorrow. Let’s cling to that for now.

 

 

 

 

“I should be very surprised if Julian is not released on Wednesday pending the appeal.”

Julian Assange: Imminent Freedom (Craig Murray)

It has been a long and tiring day, with the startlingly unexpected decision to block Julian’s extradition. The judgement is in fact very concerning, in that it accepted all of the prosecution’s case on the right of the US Government to prosecute publishers worldwide of US official secrets under the Espionage Act. The judge also stated specifically that the UK Extradition Act of 2003 deliberately permits extradition for political offences. These points need to be addressed. But for now we are all delighted at the ultimate decision that extradition should be blocked. The decision was based equally on two points; the appalling conditions in US supermax prisons, and the effect of those conditions on Julian specifically given his history of depression.

The media has concentrated on the mental health aspect, and given insufficient attention to the explicit condemnation of the inhumanity of the US prison system. I was the only person physically present in the public gallery inside the court, having been nominated by John Shiption to represent the family, aside from two court officials. I am quite sure that I again noted magistrate Baraitser have a catch in her throat when discussing the inhumane conditions in US supermax prisons, the lack of human contact, and specifically the fact that inmates are kept in total isolation in a small cage, and are permitted one hour exercise a day in total isolation in another small cage. I noted her show emotion the same way when discussing the al-Masri torture evidence during the trial, and she seemed similarly affected here.

Julian looked well and alert; he showed no emotion at the judgement, but entered into earnest discussion with his lawyers. The US government indicated they will probably appeal the verdict, and a bail hearing has been deferred until Wednesday to decide whether he will be released from Belmarsh pending the appeal – which court sources tell me is likely to be held in April in the High Court. I should be very surprised if Julian is not released on Wednesday pending the appeal. I shall now be staying here for that bail hearing.

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Could be for only 3 years.

Mexican President Promises Asylum For Julian Assange (RT)

Mexico’s president has offered asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, hours after a British judge refused to extradite Assange to the US to face espionage charges. “Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favor of pardoning him,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters on Monday, saying “we’ll give him protection.” “Our tradition is protection,” Obrador added. [..] Were Assange to take Lopez Obrador up on his offer, he would likely have to weigh the president’s promise of protection against the fact that Obrador could be voted out of office in 2024, when his six-year term concludes.


Since taking office, Lopez Obrador has pursued an idiosyncratic foreign policy. On one hand, the left-wing president sheltered Bolivian President Evo Morales following a right-wing coup in 2019 and refused to follow the lead of the US and its allies in Latin America and recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president last year. On the other hand, Lopez Obrador has been largely supportive of US President Donald Trump’s administration. The Mexican leader tightened up security at his southern border when Trump railed against Central American migrant “caravans” entering the US via Mexico, and was repaid by Trump during negotiations with OPEC last year, when the US President intervened to help Mexico avoid cuts to oil production.

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One single death doesn’t have much meaning.

Nurse Dies Following Vaccination With Pfizer’s COVID19 Shot In Portugal (RT)

Health authorities in Portugal are investigating the sudden death of a pediatric surgery assistant in Porto, who was reportedly in “perfect health” when she received the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus. Identified on Monday as Sonia Azevedo, 41, the mother of two worked as a surgical assistant at the Instituto Portugues de Oncologia (IPO), an oncology hospital in Porto. She was among the 538 healthcare workers at IPO who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Wednesday. Azevedo had dinner with her family on New Year’s Eve, and was found dead in bed the following morning.


“I want to know what caused my daughter’s death” her father Abilio told the Portuguese tabloid Orreio da Manha. He described her as a “well and happy” person who “never drank alcohol, didn’t eat anything special or out of the ordinary.” Azevedo was so proud to be among the first to receive the vaccine, she changed her Facebook profile picture to reflect that. “Covid-19 vaccinated,” she wrote under a selfie with her face mask on. “We don’t know what happened. It all happened quickly and with no explanation,” Azevedo’s daughter Vania Figueiredo told the paper. “I didn’t notice anything different in my mother. She was fine. She just said that the area where she had been vaccinated hurt, but that’s normal…”

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Ivermectin goes mainstream. “But we have to do more testing”.

Cheap Hair Lice Drug May Cut Risk Of COVID19 Death By 80 Percent (NYP)

A simple treatment for COVID-19 could be cheaper than 20 bucks — and familiar to most grade school nurses. Head lice drug ivermectin is being explored as a potential treatment for the coronavirus following a promising new study that showed an 80% reduction in hospitalized COVID-19 patient deaths. Just 8 out of 573 patients who received ivermectin passed away, compared to the 44 individuals out of 510 who died after being given a placebo. An earlier study of the antiparasitic prescription drug, which costs between $17 and $43 for a course of treatment, according to GoodRx, revealed promising results in April — by removing all viral RNA within 48 hours of a single dose.

Liverpool University virologist Andrew Hill has called the new study “transformational” in the search for a coronavirus therapy. His findings, based on data from over 1,400 patients, were made public in a video posted to YouTube in which Hill discusses his results in a previously aired livestream. The research currently awaits peer review prior to publishing. “If we see these same trends observed consistently across more studies, then this really is going to be a transformational treatment,” said Hill. However, critics have called Hill’s study conclusion premature, urging further research before declaring ivermectin an effective treatment — citing other buzzed-about methods that ultimately failed to deliver, such as hydroxychloroquine and tocilizumab.

“All we have are observational studies and clinicians’ opinions,” said University of Sydney professor Andrew McLachlan, the Daily Mail reported. “Many of the current studies have low numbers of participants, weak study designs, and inconsistent (and relatively low) ivermectin dosing regimes, with ivermectin frequently given in combination with other drugs.”

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Long piece on all options.

The Lab-Leak Hypothesis (Baker)

What happened was fairly simple, I’ve come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist’s well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed. Many thoughtful people dismiss this notion, and they may be right. They sincerely believe that the coronavirus arose naturally, “zoonotically,” from animals, without having been previously studied, or hybridized, or sluiced through cell cultures, or otherwise worked on by trained professionals.

They hold that a bat, carrying a coronavirus, infected some other creature, perhaps a pangolin, and that the pangolin may have already been sick with a different coronavirus disease, and out of the conjunction and commingling of those two diseases within the pangolin, a new disease, highly infectious to humans, evolved. Or they hypothesize that two coronaviruses recombined in a bat, and this new virus spread to other bats, and then the bats infected a person directly — in a rural setting, perhaps — and that this person caused a simmering undetected outbreak of respiratory disease, which over a period of months or years evolved to become virulent and highly transmissible but was not noticed until it appeared in Wuhan.

There is no direct evidence for these zoonotic possibilities, just as there is no direct evidence for an experimental mishap — no written confession, no incriminating notebook, no official accident report. Certainty craves detail, and detail requires an investigation. It has been a full year, 80 million people have been infected, and, surprisingly, no public investigation has taken place. We still know very little about the origins of this disease. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth offering some historical context for our yearlong medical nightmare. We need to hear from the people who for years have contended that certain types of virus experimentation might lead to a disastrous pandemic like this one. And we need to stop hunting for new exotic diseases in the wild, shipping them back to laboratories, and hot-wiring their genomes to prove how dangerous to human life they might become.

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The drug itself is not experimental enough?!

US May Cut Some Moderna Vaccine Doses In Half To Speed Rollout (R.)

The U.S. government is considering giving some people half the dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in order to speed vaccinations, a federal official said on Sunday. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine program, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that officials were in talks with Moderna and the Food and Drug Administration about the idea. Moderna’s vaccine requires two injections. “We know that for the Moderna vaccine, giving half of the dose to people between the ages of 18 and 55, two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have,” Slaoui said. “We know it induces identical immune response” to the full dose, he added.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 4,225,756 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and distributed 13,071,925 doses. The U.S. has also approved a vaccine from Pfizer, which like Moderna’s requires two shots. Vaccinations have fallen far short of early targets, as officials had hoped to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of the 2020. Slaoui said he was optimistic vaccinations would continue to accelerate. He rejected the suggestion that officials should prioritize giving more people a single shot, rather than holding back doses for the second shot, saying that cutting Moderna vaccine doses in half was “a more responsible approach that would be based on facts and data.” Slaoui said it would likely not be known until late spring whether vaccinated people can still spread the disease to others.

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Vaccination iron curtain?!

Putin Pushes Plan To Roll Out COVID “Immunity Passports” In Russia (ZH)

As Russian President Vladimir Putin ramps up his aggressive campaign to stamp out COVID-19 once and for all (as Russia races to vaccinate its most vulnerable citizens while striking deals to supply “Sputnik V” to developing markets the world), the embattled president has just raised the possibility of distributing ‘immunity passports’, an idea that has gained traction around the world since the dawn of the pandemic. According to an RT report, the Russian government is considering the development and distribution of documents verifying whether individuals have been vaccinated. China has already road-tested technology transmitting people’s COVID status via smartphone apps, and it’s widely suspected that Beijing will impose some version of immunity passports, if they haven’t already.

In a series of instructions to officials, published at the end of 2020, President Vladimir Putin ordered policymakers “to consider issuing certificates to people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 infections using Russian vaccines…or the purpose of enabling citizens to travel across the borders of the Russian Federation and those of other countries.” Russia’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, has been charged with implementing the recommendations, and is set to report back on January 20. For once, Putin and American billionaire Bill Gates will be seeing eye to eye, as support for “immunity passports” grows not just among governments (even in “liberal democracies” like Canada), but the private sector as well. As RT reminds us, the IATA has voiced support for “immunity passports” as a strategy for hastening the revival of air travel.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents 290 airlines across the world, has supported the idea of vaccine passports, and is developing its own digital system to track who has been immunized against the virus. Passengers may be expected to present equivalent documents before being allowed to board planes in the future. Immunizations with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, the first to be registered for the prevention of Covid-19 anywhere in the world, have been taking place in growing numbers in the capital and across the country. More than 70 centers in Moscow are now offering jabs, and at least 800,000 people have received their first dose.

Remember, once they arrived, people might soon find “Immunity Passports” will become a permanent facet of their lives: even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, they could be used to offer evidence that a traveler has been vaccinated – not just for COVID-19, but for any other diseases, or even perhaps mutated forms of COVID-19. Critically, as we noted previously, if we are going to live in a world where vaccines are mandatory for travel, who is to say that every nation on Earth is going to acknowledge the validity of every other vaccine. The Mainstream Media makes it seem as though just getting any vaccine with some sort of paperwork to back it up should be good enough, but this is unlikely to be true.

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The church is powerful in Greece.

Greek Orthodox Church To Defy Lockdown By Opening For Epiphany (G.)

The Greek Orthodox church has announced it will defy government lockdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus and open places of worship to mark Epiphany this Wednesday. After an emergency session of the holy synod, its governing body, senior clerics said they would press ahead as planned and celebrate the baptism of Christ on 6 January. “The synod does not agree with the new government measures regarding the operation of places of worship and insists on what was originally agreed with the state,” the ecclesiastical body said in a statement. “It asks that the aforementioned decision be absolutely respected by the state without further ado taking into consideration … that all the foreseen hygiene measures were upheld by clerics in thousands of churches across Greece.”

The announcement, which flies in the face of new week-long restrictions on movement, is the most open act of defiance yet by the powerful institution. Before the holiday season Athens’ centre-right government had said it would relax curbs and permit all places of worship to conduct services, albeit with limited congregations, on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and the Epiphany. But with the country’s health system under pressure after a surge in coronavirus cases, the administration rescinded the decision at the weekend saying restrictions eased over the festive period would be reimposed to facilitate the reopening of schools on 11 January. Greece has been in lockdown since 7 November.

How the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who kicked off the new year with a cabinet reshuffle earlier on Monday, will react to the decision remains to be seen. The sight of worshippers breaching restrictions that have caused consternation, not least in the retail sector, would fuel further controversy. Epidemiologists have called for even tougher curbs if a second wave of the pandemic is to be brought under control in a country that, while faring better than most, has recorded 140,099 coronavirus cases and 4,957 Covid-19 deaths to date.

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This bloated industry can do with some less.

Tourism Tumbles To 1990 Levels As Pandemic Halts Travel (ZH)

While few industries have been spared by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, even fewer have been hit as hard as the tourism sector. As 2020 drew to a close with severe limitations to travel still in place, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expects international arrivals to have declined by 70 to 75 percent compared to the previous year. As Statista’s Felix Richter writes, that equates to a decline of around 1 billion international arrivals, bringing the industry back to 1990 levels.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the global tourism sector had seen almost uninterrupted growth for decades. Since 1980, the number of international arrivals skyrocketed from 277 million to nearly 1.5 billion in 2019. As Statista’s chart above shows, the two largest crises of the past decades, the SARS epidemic of 2003 and the global financial crisis of 2009, were minor bumps in the road compared to the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, most experts don’t expect a full recovery in 2021, which started off with many countries still battling the second wave of the pandemic. According to the UNWTO’s estimates, it will take the industry between 2.5 and 4 years to return to pre-pandemic levels of international tourist arrivals.

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“Persistent rumor has the president laying out a royal flush of deadly information about his antagonists, enough to make heads explode among the formerly cocksure and vaporize the narrative they’ve been running for four years.”

Giving Up the Ghost (Kunstler)

Things are shaking loose. Secrets are flying out of black boxes. Shots have been fired. The center is not holding because the center is no longer there, only a black hole where the center used to be, and, within it, the shriekings of lost souls. Will the United States go missing this week, or fight its way out of the chaos and darkness? Whatever occurs in this strange week of confrontation, Joe Biden will not be leading any part of it. Where has he been since Christmas? Back to hiding in the basement? Did the American people elect a ghost? Even if this storm blows over, could Joe Biden possibly claim any legitimacy in the Oval Office? And then what happens with the rest of the story — which is an epic economic convulsion sharper than the Great Depression — as time is unsuspended and the year 2021 actually unspools?

Only the bare outlines of this week’s fateful game are visible. Mr. Trump has not conceded the election. An action will play out in congress under rarely-used constitutional rules as to how the electoral college votes are awarded to whom. The rancor around this action is already epic. Few of the political players are beyond suspicion of dark deals and shifty allegiances. Persistent rumor has the president laying out a royal flush of deadly information about his antagonists, enough to make heads explode among the formerly cocksure and vaporize the narrative they’ve been running for four years. A whole lot of people are converging in the nation’s capital at midweek, maybe even the touted million. It is a moment, possibly, not unlike the Bastille in Paris, 1789. They will be clamoring right outside Congress as the electoral vote ceremony proceeds. If the battle is not joined in the chamber, it’s a little hard to believe the crowd will just heave a million sighs, trudge back to their cars, and drive quietly home.

Senator Ted Cruz has come up with a pretty sound plan: a ten-day emergency audit of the balloting with an electoral commission consisting of five Senators, five House Members, and five Supreme Court Justices — to consider and resolve the disputed returns. The proposal is based on the 1877 procedure for resolving the contested Hayes-Tilden election. “Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed,” the proposal stated. Naturally, the Democratic Party’s news media handmaidens denounced it as “embarrassing” — which raises the question: who exactly will be embarrassed if the plan goes ahead?

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 042021
 


Vincent van Gogh Boulevard de Clichy, Paris 1887

 

Killing Julian Assange (AlJ)
Docs Urge Early Outpatient Treatment For COVID-19 (France Soir)
New Zealand Tightens Border Again Amid Fears Over New Covid Strain (G.)
Fauci Says He Did Not Expect COVID19 Death Toll To Climb To 350,000 (JTN)
Trump Call Actually Reveals A President Deep Into Detail (Kassam)
McCarthy Supports Electoral Challenge In House, Deputy Cheney Opposes It (JTN)
The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director (Kiriakou)
Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Suspected Missing (Y!)
Breadlines Stretch Across America (ZH)
The American System Is One Big Grift (van Buren)

 

 

Assange hearing due any moment. Not sure it makes sense to wait for the outcome. It will be appealed no matter which way it goes. And then move to a higher court.

A big moment for sure, but more to gauge how lawless the UK will allow itself to look.

 

UPDATE: UK judge rules against extradition of Assange to US

That was unexpected. She says he must be discharged from Belmarsh for health reasons.

 

Other big theme today: the Trump call to Georgia, leaked to the WaPo, which edited the transcript. Two entirely different interpretations of what it says.

It’s the Zelensky call all over again.

 

 

“..the act of exposing US crimes of torture and killing abroad can at times get you tortured and killed yourself. Call it poetic injustice.”

Killing Julian Assange (AlJ)

On Monday, January 4, a London court will decide whether to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges. If convicted, the whistle-blower will face a prison sentence of up to 175 years in everyone’s favourite “land of the free”. The Australian citizen is accused of having harmed the US and its allies by publishing classified documents. Assange collaborated with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who has already been put through the horror show of the so-called US justice system for leaking classified documents related to, inter alia, the US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Among the most notorious material published by WikiLeaks is the “Collateral Murder” video, released in 2010. It depicts a 2007 episode in Baghdad in which US Apache helicopter personnel enthusiastically slaughtered a dozen Iraqis, including two Reuters staffers – a fitting hint, perhaps, as to the existential perils of journalistic efforts to document the truth.

In Assange’s case, his crime is just that: telling the truth in contravention of an official narrative of heroic, world-saving interventions by the US military. Indeed, according to the perverse perspective of the US, it is absolutely fine to massacre Iraqi civilians – just not to talk about it. In the end, after all, what is imperial war if not sustained butchery and devastation of civilian populations? Yet pointing out the bleeding obvious is apparently enough to land you in jail for 175 years. And not just any jail. Charles Glass, veteran journalist and former chief Middle East correspondent for ABC News – who has himself visited the imprisoned Assange in London – writes in The Intercept that, if extradited, Assange risks internment in the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”, a federal supermax prison in Colorado that houses Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Oklahoma City co-bomber Terry Nichols.

There, Assange’s life would consist of “permanent solitary confinement in a concrete box cell with a window four inches wide, with six bed checks a day and one hour of exercise in an outdoor cage”. Similar punishment is of course also meted out to all of the US soldiers who kill and rape with abandon, and to the politicians who dispatch them to do so. (Just kidding.) In the meantime, as Assange awaits the extradition verdict, the British are doing a fine job maintaining a regimen of “denial of access to healthcare and prolonged psychological torture” – as 117 doctors have affirmed in a letter to the medical journal The Lancet. Back in November of 2019, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, had already warned that the psychological torture and abuse to which Assange was being subjected in the UK – at the behest of the US – could ultimately cost him his life.

It seems, then, that the act of exposing US crimes of torture and killing abroad can at times get you tortured and killed yourself. Call it poetic injustice. In an email to me, Julie Wark, author of The Human Rights Manifesto, recalled the special rapporteur’s observations, emphasising that “a gang of so-called democratic states has deliberately demonised and abused a single individual with almost zero regard for human rights and rule of law”. She continued: “The official leviathan turned against Assange and other whistleblowers is a measure of the crimes these states want covered up.” Obviously, the precedent of extraditing an Australian citizen from the UK to the US for the “crime” of exposing reality would be a disastrous blow to journalism worldwide – although it would certainly assist in further exposing a reality in the world’s self-proclaimed “greatest democracy”, where, as it turns out, freedom of the press is not actually a thing. Ditto for other cool stuff like freedom of speech and thought.

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France goes its own way in virustime.

Docs Urge Early Outpatient Treatment For COVID-19 (France Soir)

The year 2020 will have been marked by a series of studies on treatments against COVID-19 and associated controversies. All will remember the declarations of the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister that ” there is no treatment against Covid-19 ” despite the studies published by the IHU of Prof. Raoult. In December, the Italian Council of State rehabilitated the early-phase treatment based on hydroxychloroquine, proving the doctors right and recalling the principle that no national agency should interfere in the privileged relationship between a doctor and his patient. In the United States in October, under the influence of Senator Johnson , Professors Peter McCullough , Harvey Risch, and doctor Pierre Kory testified under oath to the Senate commission of inquiry into early stage treatments.

The latter recalled the fundamental basis of a response to a viral epidemic with the 4 pillars: the control of contagion by various measures such as barrier gestures, early phase treatment, hospital care, and the vaccine or group immunity. A peer-reviewed study published in the Reviews of Cardiovascular Medicine (Reviews of Cardiovascular Medicine) on December 30, 2020 by a group of 57 doctors, including Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Harvey Risch, many of whom have treated the disease in the early phase, includes all the elements to show that there is no cure for Covid-19, but that a combination of drugs and other supplements can significantly reduce the risk of worsening the disease . This also leads to a reduction in hospitalization needs, thus reducing the pressure on the use of intensive care or resuscitation beds. The question of risk benefit for the need for a vaccine therefore arises.

The study summary states: “The SARS-CoV-2 virus that is spreading across the world has resulted in epidemic peaks of COVID-19 disease, hospitalizations and deaths. The complex and multifaceted pathophysiology of COVID-19 is life threatening to those infected (including damage to organs mediating the virus, cytokine storm and thrombosis). This therefore justifies early interventions to treat all facets of the disease . In countries where therapeutic nihilism is prevalent, patients experience escalating symptoms and without early treatment, patients may succumb to complications of delayed hospitalization, resulting in death. Early and rapid initiation of Combination Sequence Therapy (SMDT) is a widely and currently available solution to stem the tide of hospitalizations and deaths.”

A multi-pronged therapeutic approach includes 1) adjuvant nutraceuticals, 2) combined intracellular anti-infective therapy, 3) inhaled / oral corticosteroids, 4) antiplatelet / anticoagulant agents, 5) supportive care, including supplemental oxygen, monitoring and telemedicine. Randomized trials of new individual oral therapies have failed to provide doctors with the tools they need to fight the pandemic. No single treatment option so far has been fully effective and therefore a combination is required at this time. An urgent immediate transition from single drug therapy to SMDT regimens should be used as a critical strategy to treat the large number of patients with acute COVID-19 with the goal of reducing the intensity and duration of symptoms and avoiding hospitalization and death.

The risk of complications and death increases if there is no early phase treatment as soon as the first symptoms appear. This study therefore supports the approach advocated by Professor Raoult since the start of the year: treatment in the early phase helps reduce the risk of complications linked to the disease. It also confirms all the work done in the United States by Dr. Zelenko as well as all the doctors who have worked for the early phase treatment against thick and thin, too often ignored by health agencies and medical authorities.

The ANSM (National Agency for Health and Medicines), the Minister of Health and the various administrative bodies will undoubtedly have to explain their decisions to the French. The benefit-risk analysis as described by the Italian Council of State (in the absence of specific treatment, there is no reason that health agencies interfere in the doctor-patient relationship, especially for drugs that have proven to be safe over several decades) makes sense in the light of this new study. The abandonment of hydroxychloroquine in the arm of various studies when the signs were positive (Hycovid study), overdose in other studies, media silence on ivermectin will undoubtedly need to be addressed by those with comprehensive legal expertise.

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6 cases in New Zealand, 6 cases in Greece.

New Zealand Tightens Border Again Amid Fears Over New Covid Strain (G.)

New Zealand has further tightened border controls amid mounting anxiety about the new strain of coronavirus driving up infections overseas. Six cases of the new variant of the virus – five in arrivals from the UK and one from South Africa – were recorded in managed isolation facilities in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Travellers to New Zealand from the US and UK will now be required to show a negative test for Covid-19 before departure, as well as taking a test on their arrival in quarantine in addition to those on days three and 12. The border remains mostly closed to non-citizens. The Ministry of Health said in a statement on Sunday that these were “extra precautionary steps [to] provide another layer of protection” against the new strain of coronavirus, recorded in more than 30 countries.


Though there has been no community transmission of coronavirus in New Zealand since 18 November, Auckland University microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said the new variant – which is reported to be more infectious – would challenge the country’s safeguards. “If there are any chinks in the chain, it will find them,” she told Stuff. For New Zealanders in the UK and the US wanting to come home, the new requirement to obtain a test is an additional barrier on top of flight cancellations and the long wait for a vacancy in quarantine. The vast majority of the 5,800 spots in the 32 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities across New Zealand were occupied over Christmas and New Year in Kiwis’ rush to return. Stuff reports that the earliest available vacancy was in mid-March.

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But he gets to keep his job…

Fauci Says He Did Not Expect COVID19 Death Toll To Climb To 350,000 (JTN)

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci on ABC This Week said that he had not expected the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. to rise to 350,000. “Did you ever expect it to be that high?” host Martha Raddatz asked. “No Martha, I did not,” Fauci responded. “But you know that’s what happens when you’re in a situation where you have surges related to so many factors: Inconsistent adhering to the public health measures, the winter months coming in right now with the cold allowing people or essentially forcing people to do most of their things indoors as opposed to outdoors and then the traveling associated with the holiday season is all of the ingredients that unfortunately make for a situation that is really terrible.”


Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University indicates that the U.S. coronavirus death count exceeds 350,000. President Trump on Sunday tweeted: “The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of @CDCgov’s ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low. ‘When in doubt, call it Covid.’ Fake News!” Asked about the president’s tweet, Fauci responded: “Well, the deaths are real deaths. I mean, all you need to do is to go out into the trenches, go to the hospitals, see what the health care workers are dealing with. They are under very stressed situations in many areas of the country, the hospital beds are stretched, people are running out of beds, running out of trained personnel who are exhausted right now. That’s real. That’s not fake. That’s real.”

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1 phone call. 2 completely different stories.

Trump Call Actually Reveals A President Deep Into Detail (Kassam)

“I don’t know about that… I don’t have it in front of me… we’re looking into that…” These weren’t the vague, non-committal words of the President of the United States on the phone call leaked by theWashington Post newspaper – which has recently taken millions of dollars from the Chinese Communist Party – this Sunday. They were the statements of the establishment Republicans on the call: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Ryan Germany, and Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs on the January 2nd call. Despite the partisan framing from the Washington Post – that the call somehow reflected Trump making demands for votes from his Republican colleagues – the President actually does no such thing. Throughout the call, the President makes clear that his calls are for election transparency, full and transparent audits, and public access.

At no point does the President imply he wants votes invented or confected, as the establishment media is portraying. He even offers to recuse himself from parts of the conversation and ends by asking for “the truth… it’s just that simple.” In fact the President begins the call by ripping through specifics that are never addressed by their opponents on the call: the establishment Republicans. Trump states: “We have at least 2 or 3 — anywhere from 250 to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls. Much of that had to do with Fulton County, which hasn’t been checked. We think that if you check the signatures — a real check of the signatures going back in Fulton County — you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged.”

He continues: “We had, I believe it’s about 4,502 voters who voted but who weren’t on the voter registration list, so it’s 4,502 who voted, but they weren’t on the voter registration roll, which they had to be. You had 18,325 vacant address voters. The address was vacant, and they’re not allowed to be counted. That’s 18,325.” And the President went on: “You had out-of-state voters. They voted in Georgia, but they were from out of state, of 4,925. You had absentee ballots sent to vacant, they were absentee ballots sent to vacant addresses. They had nothing on them about addresses, that’s 2,326.” The level of granularity was actually remarkable, especially for a President that the media continues to allege is not concerned with details.

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Dice roll.

McCarthy Supports Electoral Challenge In House, Deputy Cheney Opposes It (JTN)

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy threw his support Sunday behind an effort in his caucus to oppose Joe Biden’s electors even as one of his deputies sent a memo opposing the movement. “I think it’s right that we have the debate. I mean, you see now that senators are going to object, the House is going to object — how else do we have a way to change the election problems?” McCarthy told The Hill newspaper in an interview. McCarthy made the commons as at least two dozen House members and a dozen senators, all Republicans, announced plans this weekend to oppose Biden’s electoral victory when Congress certifies electors on Wednesday.


While McCarthy endorsed the effort, House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a frequent Trump opponent, sent a memo to GOP caucus members opposing the effort as a danger to democracy “Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress,” she wrote. “This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans.”

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John Kiriakou is a former CIA agent.

The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director (Kiriakou)

Former acting CIA Director Mike Morell, who has disingenuously argued for years that he had nothing to do with the agency’s torture program, but who continued to defend it, has taken himself out of the running to be President-elect Joe Biden’s new CIA director. The decision is a victory for the peace group Code Pink, which spearheaded the Stop Morell movement, and it’s a great thing for all Americans. Now, though, we have to turn our attention to Biden’s nominee to be director of national intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines. Haines is certainly qualified on paper to lead the Intelligence Community. A longtime Biden aide, she has the president-elect’s confidence. But that’s not good enough. Haines is exactly the kind of person who shouldn’t be in a position of authority in intelligence.

She is the kind of neoliberal intelligence apologist whom so many of us have opposed for so many years. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Look at her record. Haines first began working for Biden when she served as deputy general counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was its chairman. When Biden became vice president in 2009, Haines moved to the State Department, where she was the assistant legal adviser for treaty affairs. After only a year, she moved to the White House, where she became deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs, the National Security Council’s chief attorney.

That’s quite a position. What it means was that her job was to legally justify President Barack Obama’s decisions on such intelligence issues as drone strikes and whether to release the CIA Torture Report. She served there under CIA Director John Brennan. Obama apparently liked the job she did for him because in 2013, he named Haines deputy director of the CIA (DD/CIA). Haines was the first woman to be named DD/CIA, and she served again under Brennan, who proved time and again that he was no fan of congressional oversight. Haines’s attitude was similar to Brennan’s: The CIA was going to do what it was going to do, and she would make no apologies for it.

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Ma got too big.

Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma Suspected Missing (Y!)

Speculation has swirled around Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s whereabouts after reports surfaced that the high-profile businessman has not made a public appearance in more than two months. The Alibaba founder also failed to appear as scheduled in the final episode of his own talent show, Africa’s Business Heroes, which gives budding African entrepreneurs the chance to compete for a slice of US $1.5 million. Ma was supposed to be part of the judging, but was replaced by an Alibaba executive in the November final, UK’s Telegraph reported. His picture was also taken off the website. An Alibaba spokesperson said Ma was unable to take part on the judging panel “due to a schedule conflict”, according to Financial Times.

Ma’s business empire, Ant Group, has been under scrutiny by Beijing ever since Ma delivered a controversial speech in Shanghai on 24 October that criticised China’s regulation system for stifling innovation and likened global banking rules to an “old people’s club”. “Today’s financial system is the legacy of the Industrial Age,” Ma said in the speech. “We must set up a new one for the next generation and young people. We must reform the current system.” Little over a week later, Ant’s IPO (valued at a record-setting US $37 billion or AU $48 billion), which had already received the green light from China’s securities watchdog, was suspended, with the Shanghai Stock Exchange saying Ant had reported “significant issues such as the changes in financial technology regulatory environment”.

But US veteran investor Mark Mobius said the move was designed to curtail financial institutions from getting too big. “I believe the Chinese government stepped in because they realised that they had to regulate these companies, so that they don’t … get too big,” he told CNBC. “The Chinese government is waking up to the fact that they cannot allow these companies that dominate a particular sector and particularly the financial sector.”

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“..8 million Americans joining the ranks of the poor since June..”

Breadlines Stretch Across America (ZH)

The economic collapse of 2020 has undeniably widened the wealth gap. Now, our country is essentially divided between those who patiently wait for some food in breadlines – after losing their ability to provide for themselves and, oftentimes, the roof over their heads – and those who sit comfortably at their own homes waiting for the meltdown to be over while discovering the joy of baking bread. Breadlines vs. Bread makers, that’s the ominous picture of an increasingly unequal America. That’s what Epic Economist exposes in the following video: The collapse has laid bare just how unequal our system is. As euphoria on Wall Street sends stock prices to astronomical heights, Main Street remains in crisis, with roughly 8 million Americans joining the ranks of the poor since June. The numbers are even letting some billionaires worried that the enormous inequality may lead to mass conflicts in months ahead. And even the establishment is showing it’s afraid that things could suddenly get out of hand, because much more turbulence is about to emerge.

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The Clintons and Bidens are bit players.

The American System Is One Big Grift (van Buren)

The first bribe I ever paid was to an Indonesian immigration officer, who noticed some small defect on my passport. Of course, he said, it could be resolved. Between us. With a fine (so many euphemisms). Off to the side. In cash. It was all of $20 to save a vacation but I felt filthy, cheated, a chump. But I learned the rules. In New York we use the euphemism “tip,” and it is as required as oxygen to get through the day. A restaurant table pre-COVID. A last minute anything. A friendlier handling by a doorman. Timely attention to fix-it requests. My, um, friend, used to pay a lot of money for better hotel rooms until he learned $20 at check in with a friendly “anything you can do” often got him upgraded to the same thing at a fraction of the price. What, you still paying retail, bro?

I used to think it was all small stuff, maybe with the odd mafia king bribing a judge with real money or something else Netflix-worthy. In America we were ultimately… fair, right? But things started to add up. We have our petty corruption like anywhere, but our souls are filthy on a much larger scale. America goes big or it goes home. Things like the Clinton Foundation accepting donations from the Saudis to help with women’s empowerment, an issue of course dear to the heart of the Kingdom. When it looked like his wife was going to be president, Bill made six-figure speeches to businesses seeking influence within the U.S. government, earning $50 million during his wife’s term as secretary of pay-for-play state. The Foundation, now mostly out of business, was at its peak a two-billion-dollar financial dangle.

It spent in 2013 the same on travel expenses for Hillary and her family as it did on charitable grants. The media, forever big Clinton fans, told us we should be used to it. Hey, Nixon was so much worse. Trump refused to be very specific about who his charity donated to. We know its offshoot, the Eric Trump charity, donated to a wine industry association, a plastic surgeon supposedly gifting nose jobs to kids, and an artist who painted a portrait of Donald. Trump-owned resorts received $880,000 for hosting Trump-sponsored charity events. Trump donated money from his foundation to conservative influencers ahead of his presidential bid.

With Joe as vice president, the Bidens made $396,000 in 2016. But in just the four years since leaving the Obama White House, Joe and Jill made more than $15 million. In fact, as his prospects for election improved, Joe and his wife made nearly twice as much in one year as they did in the previous 19 years combined. Joe scored $10 million alone for a book no one read. Jill was paid more than $3 million for her book in 2018. Joe has a tax-dodge S Corporation that donated money back to his own political PAC. Then of course there was Hunter, who scored millions in Chinese and Ukrainian money for doing nothing but being Joe’s son.

About half the nation got very twisted over Trump’s corruption and actively avoided noticing the Clintons and Bidens, and vice-versa, to the point of covering their ears NYANYANAYNYA. Yeah, politicians are corrupt, but does anyone think the donors in all three cases didn’t know what they were buying? What, you still voting retail, bro? But even all those millions, measured in Epsteins (a unit of influence buying I just made up) are petty cash. Real corruption scales. Pre-COVID America’s 614 billionaires were worth $2.95 trillion. As the Dow hit record highs this month, there are now 650 billionaires and their combined wealth is $4 trillion. The 400 richest Americans own 64 percent of the country’s wealth. Where’d all their money come from? You.

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