Art for episode 1243

1243: Obamable

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 4m
May 17th, 2020
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Executive Producers: Sir Mark + Dame astrid Duke & Duchess of Japan and all the Disputed Islands in the Japan Sea, Fred Lybrand, Jacob Wohl

Associate Executive Producers: Sir Arnis Celmins, Joanne Brady, Dame Jennifer, Forrest Martin

Cover Artist: Mike Reiley

Chapters

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Start of Show
Woodstock
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Masks
This is a gerat time to make deep fakes with all the masks!
So as not to spread da Rona though as little pressure as the act of speaking that I will just not speak to keep everyone safe.
Millennials feel no maskers are inconsiderate
okay wearing a mask as long as I can open carry
China BOTG Masks
Just listened to the Fauci clip from 1243. What he said is
total bs. I’m from Texas but have been in China since 2008 and have been
following scientific developments around covid. We’ve known for MONTHS that
masks are to prevent asymptomatic carriers from infecting others.
The whole mask debate is so schizophrenic right now. My
younger sister, a devout millennial sjw who has a degree in public health and
is dating a registered nurse, told my family in MARCH that we shouldn’t wear
masks. The advice from the CDC in FEBRUARY was not to wear masks. How is it
that suddenly it’s only the evil republicans who aren’t wearing masks?
Jesus. I’m glad I’m not living in the US right now!
Thanks as always for the great show.
Manager's Mask Notice
Managers,
I have been in
the store for 90 seconds and 2 of the first 9 people I walk past first thing
are not wearing their facemasks while within 6' of other staff and in public
spaces.
I AM
DISAPOINTED IN WHAT I THOUGHT WAS A TEAM OF INDIVIDUALS WHO APPRECIATED AN
EMPLOYER THAT HAD AS MUCH CONCERN FOR THEM AS THEY DO OF THEMSELVES. I WOULD
REALLY LIKE TO GET BACK THE $875,000.00 (EIGHT HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE
THOUSAND DOLLARS!) WE SPENT LAST MONTH IN NET LOSSS AS A RESULT OF OUR SELFLESS
ACT OF CLOSING THE STORES AND PAYING EVERYONE FOR FOUR WEEKS SO THAT WE CAN DO
OUR PART IN TRYING TO KEEP OUR STAFF AND THEIR FAMILIES HEALTHY, SAFE AS WELL
AS MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY SECURE IN VERY UNCERTAIN TIMES. THAT WON'T HAPPEN,
WE CAN'T GET THAT MONEY BACK, BUT I DAMN SURE WILL TAKE ACTION TO MAKE SURE IT
WAS NOT IN VANE. WE WILL DO ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO PREVENT
SICKNESS AND THE RISK OF HAVING TO CLOSE OUR DOORS AGAIN.
This is the
message to each of you, and the message you must pass to each and every
member of your team today. Make a list of everyone on your team, and cross them
off as you make sure they each hear or see this today. And, while this is not
our entire effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, it is just one of the
efforts. I will be releasing a written and comprehensive plan this week so we
are all on the same page. In the mean time....
The facemask is a
selfless act that is just one small way to protect other people from you should
you be carrying the COVID-19 virus and not yet show symptoms, yet be
contagious. You are not wearing it for yourself, you are wearing it for the
health and safety of the other staff, their families (especially those who have
underlying symptoms and are at high risk) as well as our clients and community.
LET ME BE
CLEAR, IN WRITING, SO THERE IS NO MISUNDERSTANDING......
Wearing a
facemask by employees and sub-contractors is a requirement while conducting
company business at any time and anywhere, and while on our property for any
reason. Following company protocol for preventing COVID-19 spread at a rate of
100% is also a requirement. Regarding facemasks the requirement is, at
a minimum, while walking in all public areas and within 6' of any other human
being. Period. Any staff member, regardless of position, tenure,
production, personal hardship, or any other situation will be terminated on the
spot if seen violating this policy. Ignorance or forgetfulness will not be
grounds for forgiveness. Forgetful individuals are encouraged to leave it on at
all times as a method of job survival. (This has been, after all, all consuming
of our news, tv, social media feeds, conversations, etc for at least 6 weeks
now!) It will be not my responsibility alone to take this measure, it is
expected that each department manager enforce and take this action at all times
with all employees regardless of department. Managers not enforcing this policy
within your own department will also be considered a violation of our company
policy and neglecting your responsibilities as a manager.
The grounds are
simple: "Employee is terminated for being a clear and present danger to
the health, safety and wellbeing of our team members and customers by not
taking the measures required by company policy of wearing a facemask to help
prevent the spread of COVID-19".
Anyone who feels
that they are going to rebel or fight us due to beliefs that COVID-19 is some
sort of conspiracy, or that our policy is unreasonable, unjust, perhaps an
overreaction, or any other contempt for this effort and policy is encouraged to
resign immediately.
No Mask, No Problem - Sweden PM Says Face-Masks Offer "False Sense Of Security" Against Virus | Zero Hedge
Sat, 16 May 2020 11:51
Many countries in Europe promote the use of face masks in public areas while Sweden does not. Even after the latest guidelines were released via the European Commission, the Scandinavian country still says, residents do not need to cover their faces.
"Face masks in public spaces do not provide any greater protection to the population," the Public Health Agency's general director Johan Carlson said at a press conference on Wednesday (May 13).
Swedish health and other top government officials have said social distancing, washing hands, not touching your face, and stay home if sick, are some of the best ways to limit the spread of COVID-19. They argue, wearing a face mask would make people less inclined to follow social distancing rules and provides a false sense of security as there is still a risk of transmission.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven also informed reporters at the press conference: "There is a risk of a false sense of security, that you believe that you can't be infected if you wear a face mask."
The Public Health Agency's website states that wearing a face mask increases the probability of the wearer touching their face.
"The virus can gather in the mask and when you take it off, the virus can be transferred to your hands and thereby spread further," Sweden's state epidemiologist Dr. Anders Tegnell told SVT.
"Face masks can be effective against larger free-floating particles [connected to air pollution], but nothing suggests that they help protect you from airborne viruses," Tegnell said.
SVT suggested other countries have enforced mask-wearing to make people feel safe, though as explained by Swedish officials, there's no concrete evidence that masks protect people from the virus.
Sweden is one of the only countries in Europe to take an entirely different path to the full lockdown approach. It has opted to keep its economy humming while limiting gatherings over 50, has kept shops, restaurants, and factories open, as health officials have preferred the "herd immunity" strategy blended with social distancing.
The country has paid the price for its radical approach, recording 3,646 fatalities by May 15, while Denmark, Norway, and Finland, three neighboring countries, have recorded about 1,000 deaths combined. Much of the deaths in Sweden have been concentrated in senior living facilities. Yet deaths per million, Sweden has the fourth highest in the world, behind Italy, UK, and France, which all imposed strict lockdowns.
It remains to be seen if limited mask-wearing and no lockdowns to develop herd immunity is working, or if the higher casualties were worth it to avoid economic depression.
Balaclava (clothing) - Wikipedia
Sat, 16 May 2020 09:39
Different ways of wearing a balaclava
A balaclava, also known as a balaclava helmet or Bally (UK slang) or ski mask (US slang), is a form of cloth headgear designed to expose only part of the face, usually the eyes and mouth. Depending on style and how it is worn, only the eyes, mouth and nose, or just the front of the face are unprotected. Versions with a full face opening may be rolled into a hat to cover the crown of the head or folded down as a collar around the neck.
History [ edit ] This type of headgear was known in the 19th century as an Uhlan cap or a Templar cap.[1]
The name comes from their use at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War of 1854, referring to the town near Sevastopol in the Crimea,[2] where British troops there wore knitted headgear to keep warm.[3] Handmade balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather. British troops required this aid, as their own supplies (warm clothing, weatherproof quarters, and food) never arrived in time.[4] According to Richard Rutt in his History of Handknitting, the name "balaclava helmet" was not used during the war but appears much later, in 1881.[1]
Uses [ edit ] Warmth [ edit ] Safety [ edit ] Race drivers In F(C)d(C)ration Internationale de l'Automobile sanctioned events must wear balaclavas made of fire-retardant material underneath their crash helmets. In racing events, hill-climbs, special stages of rallies and selective sections of cross-country events entered on the International Sporting Calendar, all drivers and co-drivers must wear overalls as well as gloves (optional for co-drivers), long underwear, a balaclava, and shoes homologated to the FIA 8856-2000 standard.[5]
Military and police [ edit ] A Swedish police officer wearing a balaclava which masks his identity.
In the Indian subcontinent, balaclavas are commonly referred to as monkey caps because of their typical earth tone colours, and the fact that they blot out most human facial features. Monkey caps sometimes have a small, decorative, woollen pom-pom on top. They are commonly worn by troops on Himalayan duty for protection from the cold.[6]
The United States Marine Corps has recently begun issuing balaclavas with hinged face guards as part of the Flame Resistant Organizational Gear program.[7][8]
In the Soviet Union, the balaclava became a part of standard OMON (special police task force) uniform as early as the Perestroyka years of the late 1980s. The original intent was to protect the identity of the officers to avoid intimidation from organized crime. Because of increased problems with organized crime of the 90s, TV shots of armed men in black balaclavas became common. As organized crime decreased, however, balaclavas became as much an instrument of intimidation as identity protection, as they conceal facial expressions of the wearer and make positive identification difficult. Armed Russian police commonly conduct raids and searches of white-collar premises (typically in Moscow) while wearing balaclavas. Such raids have therefore come to be known in Russia as "maski shows", an allusion to a popular comic TV show of the 1990s.[9]
Concealment [ edit ] British Police in Kent confiscated a single copy of the War on Terror board game partly because of the inclusion of a balaclava. Police said it "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act."[10]
Balaclavas are often used by police battling drug cartels and gangs in Latin America to conceal their identity and protect their families.[11][12]
See also [ edit ] Anti-flash gearAnti-mask lawsFacekiniKnit capMaskNeck gaiterReferences [ edit ] ^ a b Richard Rutt, A History of Handknitting, London 1987, pages 134''5. (Note that there is a misprint in the date of the Battle of Balaclava, which took place 1854, in the original edition cited here) ^ Games, Alex (2007). Balderdash & piffle : one sandwich short of a dog's dinner . London: BBC. ISBN 978-1-84607-235-2. ^ Hartston, William. "Top 10 facts about the Crimean War". Daily Express. Express Newspaper . Retrieved March 6, 2018 . ^ Shepherd, John (1991). The Crimean Doctors: A History of the British Medical Services in the Crimean War. 1. Liverpool University Press. pp. 296''306. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF) . Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-11 . Retrieved 2009-06-24 . CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) ^ Ghosh, Subir (2005) "Thanda lege jabey" Article in 19 Nov Hindusthan Times ^ [1] Archived October 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine ^ [2] Archived September 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (2011-08-31). "Memo to Exxon: Business With Russia May Involve Guns and Balaclavas". The New York Times. ^ "Latest news from Cambridge & Cambridgeshire. Cambridge sports, Cambridge jobs & Cambridge business '' War On Terror board game seized by police". Cambridge-news.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2012-08-06 . Retrieved 2009-07-15 . ^ Sieff, Kevin (March 3, 2019). "It's so dangerous to police MS-13 in El Salvador that officers are fleeing the country". Washington Post. ^ "Why anti-terror officers wear different clothes". BBC. November 18, 2015. External links [ edit ] Media related to Balaclavas at Wikimedia Commons
Masks help stop the spread of coronavirus '' the science is simple and I'm one of 100 experts urging governors to require public mask-wearing
Sun, 17 May 2020 07:07
I'm a data scientist at the University of San Francisco and teach courses online in machine learning for fast.ai. In late March, I decided to use public mask-wearing as a case study to show my students how to combine and analyze diverse types of data and evidence.
Much to my surprise, I discovered that the evidence for wearing masks in public was very strong. It appeared that universal mask-wearing could be one of the most important tools in tackling the spread of COVID-19. Yet the people around me weren't wearing masks and health organizations in the U.S. weren't recommending their use.
I, along with 18 other experts from a variety of disciplines, conducted a review of the research on public mask-wearing as a tool to slow the spread SARS-CoV-2. We published a preprint of our paper on April 12 and it is now awaiting peer review at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Since then, there have been many more reviews that support mask-wearing.
On May 14, I and 100 of the world's top academics released an open letter to all U.S. governors asking that ''officials require cloth masks to be worn in all public places, such as stores, transportation systems, and public buildings.''
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wears a mask '' as do the governments covering 90% of the world's population '' but, so far, only 12 states in the U.S. require it. In the majority of the remaining states, the CDC recommendation has not been enough: Most people do not currently wear masks. However, things are changing fast. Every week more and more jurisdictions require mask use in public. As I write this, there are now 94 countries that have made this move.
So what is this evidence that has led myself and so many scientists to believe so strongly in masks?
Droplets ejected from people's mouths during coughing or talking are likely the most significant source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Thomas Jackson/Stone via Getty Images The evidenceThe research that first convinced me was a laser light-scattering experiment. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health used lasers to illuminate and count how many droplets of saliva were flung into the air by a person talking with and without a face mask. The paper was only recently published officially, but I saw a YouTube video showing the experiment in early March. The results are shockingly obvious in the video. When the researcher used a simple cloth face cover, nearly all the droplets were blocked.
This evidence is only relevant if COVID-19 is transmitted by droplets from a person's mouth. It is. There are many documented super-spreading cases connected with activities '' like singing in enclosed spaces '' that create a lot of droplets.
The light-scattering experiment cannot see ''micro-droplets'' that are smaller than 5 microns and could contain some viral particles. But experts don't think that these are responsible for much COVID-19 transmission.
While just how much of a role these small particles play in transmission remains to be seen, recent research suggests that cloth masks are also effective at reducing the spread of these smaller particles. In a paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers found that micro-droplets fell out of the air within 1.5 meters of the person who was wearing a mask, versus 5 meters for those not wearing masks. When combined with social distancing, this suggests that masks can effectively reduce transmission via micro-droplets.
Another recent study showed that unfitted surgical masks were 100% effective in blocking seasonal coronavirus in droplets ejected during breathing.
If only people with symptoms infected others, then only people with symptoms would need to wear masks. But experts have shown that people without symptoms pose a risk of infecting others. In fact, four recent studies show that nearly half of patients are infected by people who do not themselves have symptoms.
This evidence seems, to me, clear and simple: COVID-19 is spread by droplets. We can see directly that a piece of cloth blocks those droplets and the virus those droplets contain. People without symptoms who don't even know they are sick are responsible for around half of the transmission of the virus.
We should all wear masks.
Asking the wrong questions led to a misunderstanding of the medical literature around masks. AP Photo/Eric Gay Against the tideAfter going through all of this strong evidence in late March and early April, I wondered why mask-wearing was controversial amongst health organizations in the Western world. The U.S. and European CDCs did not recommend masks, and neither did nearly any western government except for Slovakia and Czechia, which both required masks in late March.
I think there were three key problems.
The first was that most researchers were looking at the wrong question '' how well a mask protects the wearer from infection and not how well a mask prevents an infected person from spreading the virus. Masks function very differently as personal protective equipment (PPE) versus source control.
Masks are very good at blocking larger droplets and not nearly as good at blocking tiny particles. When a person expels droplets into the air, they quickly evaporate and shrink to become tiny airborne particles called droplet nuclei. These are extremely hard to remove from the air. However, in the moist atmosphere between a person's mouth and their mask, it takes nearly a hundred times as long for a droplet to evaporate and shrink into a droplet nuclei.
This means that nearly any kind of simple cloth mask is great for source control. The mask creates humidity, this humidity prevents virus-containing droplets from turning into droplet nuclei, and this allows the fabric of the mask to block the droplets.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the research that was available at the start of this pandemic focused on mask efficacy as PPE. This measure is very important for protecting health care workers, but does not capture their value as source control. On Feb. 29, the U.S. surgeon general tweeted that masks ''are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.'' This missed the key point: They are extremely effective at preventing its spread, as our review of the literature showed.
The second problem was that most medical researchers are used to judging interventions on the basis of randomized controlled trials. These are the foundation of evidence based medicine. However, it is impossible and unethical to test mask-wearing, hand-washing or social distancing during a pandemic.
Experts like Trisha Greenhalgh, the author of the best-selling textbook ''How to Read a Paper: The Basics of Evidence Based Healthcare,'' are now asking, ''Is Covid-19 evidence-based medicine's nemesis?'' She and others are suggesting that when a simple experiment finds evidence to support an intervention and that intervention has a limited downside, policymakers should act before a randomized trial is done.
The third problem is that there is a shortage of medical masks around the world. Many policymakers were concerned that recommending face coverings for the public would lead to people hoarding medical masks. This led to seemingly contradictory guidance where the CDC said there was no reason for the public to wear masks but that masks needed to be saved for medical workers. The CDC has now clarified its stance and recommends the public use of homemade masks while saving higher-grade masks for medical professionals.
Many countries were quick to adopt public mask-wearing while others, including the U.S., still haven't enacted nationwide rules. AP Photo/Andy Wong Results of mask-wearingThere are numerous studies that suggest if 80% of people wear a mask in public, then COVID-19 transmission could be halted. Until a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19 is discovered, cloth face masks might be the most important tool we currently have to fight the pandemic.
Given all of the laboratory and epidemiological evidence, the low cost of wearing masks '' which can be made at home with no tools '' and the potential to slow COVID-19 transmission with widescale use, policymakers should ensure that everyone wears a mask in public.
[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversation's newsletter.]
Back to Work
Kentucky opening up at 33%
Gov. Andy Beshear on May 7 announced
Phase 2 of his plan for reopening Kentucky's economy, which includes
restaurants, would begin in late May.
Under the plan, restaurants can reopen their
doors to in-person traffic on May 22 at 33% capacity indoors and
unlimited seating outdoors, so long as they follow social distancing
guidelines.
Also on May 22, the state’s travel ban will
expire, according to Fox19.
Beshear also announced that movie theaters,
fitness centers, campgrounds, child care centers and certain youth sports will
be able to reopen under public health guidelines in June.
Texas's traveling economic militias are done with lockdown | Spectator USA
Fri, 15 May 2020 16:54
Conservatism Liberty Politics US Politics
Their bet is that the government will chicken out. Are they right?Police officers patrol through downtown Dallas on horseback on May 1
As lockdowns began across America due to the arrival of the Chinese coronavirus on American shores, Texans did what Texans do best: they emptied the shelves of every firearm store in the state.
Urban progressives and their vaunted expert classes across the country were quick to mock, making liberal use of the 'Firing a Gun at the Sun' meme to get their jabs in at their perceived cultural inferiors. But now it appears those same firearms, and the millions more owned by the people of Texas are going to be the Professional Managerial Class's undoing. Texans want to reopen their businesses, and are turning to amateur armed guards in order to do it.
A piece in the New York Times chronicled the development earlier this week , focusing on a tattoo shop in Shepherd, Texas, about an hour outside of Houston. When Jamie Williams's industry was passed over for the first wave of permitted business re-openings by Gov. Greg Abbott, she called one of what can only be described as Texas's traveling economic militias. One of these groups, who had been criss-crossing Texas engaging in armed stand-offs with police and local officials, set up an armed perimeter while Jamie opened her shop. Within a few hours, patrons arrived, as many as 10 at the day's peak.
The confrontations at businesses like Jamie's and now folk-hero Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther highlight a fundamental problem faced by government officials both right and left. On the left, petty authoritarians have to balance their desire to impose maximal lockdowns in devotion to neo-pagan scientism, while still championing the lawless policies of zero-dollar bail and opposition to incarceration of any sort. On the right, governors like Greg Abbott have to protect their general posture of economic freedom and small government while mollifying the moderate suburban swing voters in their state who get their news from left-leaning news outlets.
These twin challenges have come to a head in a state like Texas, where a decentralized system of local control has led to vastly different levels of lockdown and enforcement, all while Gov. Abbott tries to balance his national media profile with the desires of his Republican base and his intense support among Texas businesses.
In 2018 when Sen. Ted Cruz eked out a victory against the steadfast cultural appropriator and wine-mom heartthrob Robert Francis 'Beto' O'Rourke, most members of the national conservative media cheered briefly and moved on. However, an unseen consequence of the Betomania outbreak was the total wipeout of Republicans and right-leaning non-partisans in Texas local government. One casualty was the County Judgeship of Harris County, which contains and more importantly governs the City of Houston and over four million Texans. The moderate Republican who used to hold that seat, Ed Emmett, was swept out and replaced by a 29-year-old named Lina Hidalgo who makes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez look like an elder statesman. Her reign, as well as the reign of local executives in Texas's largest cities has led to showdowns like those that catapulted Dallas's Shelley Luther to fame last week. Her case eventually ended with Abbott defending her against the enforcement of his own guidance as Governor, a perfect example of the bind governors used to gilding themselves in the rhetoric of freedom now find themselves in.
But Shelley wasn't the first hair salon owner to defy what she saw as untenable restrictions on her stylists' ability to make a living. The reason haircuts will be legal at all in Texas this week was actually the doing of two state representatives who placed the Governor in a quandary: either open faster, or risk undermining his authority as the state's chief executive. State Representatives Briscoe Cain and Steve Toth made news on May 5 for getting so-called 'illegal haircuts' at Tune Up: The Manly Salon in Houston. Cain, who achieved national renown for telling Beto that 'My AR is ready for you' after the then presidential candidate called for the seizure of legally owned AR-15, did so as part of a broader appeal to have Gov. Abbott rescind his business shutdown orders and allow people to make a living.The challenge to his legitimacy worked: that very same day Abbott announced that restrictions on hair salons would be lifted much earlier than expected, vindicating the legislators' civil disobedience.
In many ways the armed guards outside of an assortment of bars, tattoo shops, and other verboten businesses have the same goal. C.J. Grisham, of Open Carry Texas, one of the militias that has been demonstrating outside of 'illicit' businesses, said as much to The Spectator :
'Government will only restrict our freedoms as long as they think they can get away with it. We make our stand outside of small businesses to show them that enough is enough, we will not comply.'
*** Get three months of The Spectator for just $9.99 '-- plus a Spectator Parker pen ***
Grisham and his group have advocated for stronger Second Amendment protections in Texas for several years now. They see their fight for gun rights intimately intertwined with their fight to protect the liberty of Texans to engage in commerce. While none of the altercations have resulted in violence, even as several militia-men were arrested at an event in Odessa, that may not stay the case for long.
When Grisham and dozens more activists return to Odessa in a few weeks on June 6 , they have said they will not be arrested. According to Grisham, either the business they are guarding will be allowed to peacefully operate, or they will 'respond to violence from the government with violence' in order to protect their constitutional liberties.
In doing so, they'll present local officials and Gov. Abbott with the same choice the legislators did: either exercise the authority you claim you have and face the consequences, or back off and let Texans live.
Show comments
There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. It Is Indisputable They Caused Great Harm '' William M. Briggs
Fri, 15 May 2020 07:17
The US has a little more than 4% of the world population. Yet, throughout the end of April and through mid-May, the US claimed to have about a third of the reported coronavirus cases and a quarter to a third of reported death worldwide. What accounts for these amazing numbers?
By any measure, the US has a much better healthcare system than the Philippines (PI). The country has about a third of the US population, at 106.7 million. Just to pick a date, on May 12, 2020 the PI reported 11,086 cases and 726 deaths, according to Worldometer. This represents 213 cases per million residents, and 7 per million deaths. The US reported 4,187 cases per million, and 247 deaths per million, 20 and 30 times higher than the PI. The PI also had variable lockdowns, as did the US, with Manila reportedly facing the strictest measures, similar to some areas in the US.
One obvious difference in numbers is the level of testing. The US surely carried out testing more assiduously than did the PI. The same site claimed the US carried out 29 thousand tests per million, with only 1,600 per million in the PI. But with lower deaths, a country needs fewer tests.
Without question, the media, including non-American media, focused on the US. And perhaps the US was quicker to ascribe deaths to coronavirus. Who knows what the PI policy was for ascribing deaths. The weather in the PI, too, was much better'-- that is, hotter and sunnier'--than in the areas of the US with the largest deaths, New York, Chicago, and Detroit metropolitan areas, which all had lousy weather. A late spring, with cool temperatures and a lot of rain.
Taiwan is a country of 24 million people and had, on the same date, 440 cases and 7 deaths, or 0.3 per million. With no lockdowns and relatively good weather. We heard much about Sweden, which only took modest measures. Sweden has less than half the population of Taiwan. Sweden had 26,670 reported cases, and 3,256 reported deaths, or 2,641 and 322 per million, respectively. It had worse weather.
Belgium has about as many people as Sweden, 11.5 million, though more spread out. They had 53,449 reported cases and 8,707 reported deaths, or 4,612 and 751 per million respectively, the worst of all countries. Three times worse than the US. The Belgian and US lockdown were similar, with the Belgian being slightly stricter, and easier to monitor and control given the country's size.
There were 12 countries (with at least a million people) that had, on May 12, reported death rates greater than 100 per million. These were, from worst to best, Belgium, Spain, Italy, UK, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, USA, Switzerland, Canada, Portugal. Each country besides Sweden (which had some impositions) had lockdowns, in varying severity.
There were 31 countries (of at least one million) with reported death rates from 11 to 99 per million. These included, from worst to best, Denmark (92), Germany (91), Iran (80), Norway (41), Israel (30), Mexico (28), Russia (14), and Greece (14). Lockdowns varied widely, as we'll see.
There were 51 countries (of at least one million) with reported death rates from 1 to 10 per million. These included Japan (with modest measures), South Korea (with more stringent measures), both at 5 per million, Singapore, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Georgia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Paraguay, India, China, and a host of African countries.
Finally, there were 30 countries (also at least one million) with reported deaths under 1 per million. These included Thailand, Taiwan, Jordan, Hong Kong, Botswana, Syria, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and so on.
Let's look at in pictures. I first went through every country and classified whether that country had a government-imposed lockdown of at least half its population, for any time in 2020. The sources were saved, so you can check for yourself. I welcome correction and amplifications! Download the data here. Or ignore it altogether. The spread in death rates is more then sufficient proof against lockdowns, as we'll see.
This is a histogram of the deaths per million population for those countries with at least a population of one million, broken down by lockdowns and no lockdowns. Iceland, population about a third of a million, did not have a lockdown, thus does not appear. They had a death rate of 29 per million.
The scale is by log base 10, a necessity because of the enormous variability in death rates. Countries which did not have lockdowns are in green. If anything, these are are clustered at the lower end of death rates, but the evidence is far from conclusive.
Another way to look at it, because of the potential for population density to play a role, is a plot of the death rate per million by the population, for countries with at least one million.
The two top population points are, of course, China and India. The highest death rates were discussed above. Again, death rates were more than highly variable: they were all over the place! Vietnam, which reported 0 deaths, does not appear.
Lockdowns ranged from severe, as in China's Wuhan, to practically non-existent or highly localized, as in Botswana, where major cities saw greater control. If lockdowns worked as advertised, then we would not expect to see such enormous variability in the reported death rates. Belgium, again, had 751 per million, and Ethiopia, population 109.2 million, had the lowest reported non-zero death rate of 0.04 per million. This is a difference of 19 thousand times!
Ethiopia did declare a state of emergency, but had no lockdown. They also had from the US a ''$37m package which encompassed case management, infection prevention and control, laboratory strengthening, public health screening, and communications and media campaigns, among others.''
Vietnam, population 95.5 million, which had a lockdown (they reported 18,000 businesses were forced to close), reported 0 deaths.
Sweden did better than the UK, and there couldn't have been a greater difference in strategies. In the US, South Dakota, which had no lockdown, did 7 times better than Chicago (or all Illinois), which did.
Brazil did not have a country-wide lockdown, but a handful of cities threatened, and some carried out local measures. Same kind of thing in the US, with of course harsh mandatory measures in more enlightened cities, to nothing in all in some flyover cities. Japan did not have a lockdown and did fine, relatively speaking. It's never mentioned in the press, though. Wonder why? Georgia (the country) appeared only to lockdown Tblisi.
Some countries locked down only a few major cities or ports, others cut off foreign travel, and either left their citizens alone or only issued warnings. Some lockdowns were esoecially harsh, with food shortages happening fast, like in Paraguay. Lithuania required people to wear coronavirus bracelets to indicate their health status. Foreign workers in Qatar concentrated on their lockdowns in camps. Albania scanned the grounds using drones to find lockdown scofflaws. Even nomads in Western Sahara were ordered to stay in their tents!
There is a sort of trend of lower death rates in hotter countries, or in areas of larger countries with better weather, like the US. Population density also played a part. It easier to spread any bug in tightly packed quarters, than when people are spread far apart. People mattered, of course. Australia and New Zealand, both locked down, and both had 4 per million death rates, but then it was summer in both places at the start of the pandemic, and the people are largely similar.
Obviously, many, many other things varied between countries. Age and healthy of citizens. Old and decrepit in Europe? Younger and more robust in Africa? Compliance of people was of every possible status. In some countries, there was not as much oversight on lockdowns, and even in those without lockdowns some measures were taken, as in Taiwan. In Guinea police fired on lockdown protesters. In Somalia police fired and hit their targets, killing lockdown protesters. In Michigan no shots were fired, but the politicians began sweating.
Reporting also varied widely, and wildly. The West went with hour-by-hour breathless updates for every number. The press trumpeted each new increase, besides themselves with glee for an opportunity to feel important. We hardly heard from, or about, African countries.
And then the medical systems are also vastly different among all these countries. Some numbers seemed more reliable than others. Tajikistan only a few deaths (2 per million), which some said was a lie. Who knows? Everybody is sure China lied. Did Japan? Did Belarus? Over-counting and excessive nervousness caused uncertainty in the numbers in the West. Incapacity, or lack of interest or resources, or even government intervention, as in China, muddied the numbers elsewhere.
In the end, it does not come down to country- or even city-level statistics. It comes down to people. Each individual catches the bug or not, lives or dies. Not because of their country, but because of themselves, their health, their circumstances. Any given individual might have benefited from self-quarantine and loss of job. Just as any given individual might have come to a bad end from a lockdown. The only possible way to know is to measure each case. Which can never happen.
What should we conclude? Strike that. What can we conclude. Only one thing: we cannot conclude that lockdowns worked.
The only evidence for lockdowns is the desire that lockdowns worked. That, and the embarrassment (and worse) in admitting to error. What politician anywhere will cop to ruining their economy and the lives of millions of their citizens? Who can say ''Ah, it was only a few trillion''? This will not happen. It just won't. All politicians will and much go on repeating that their lockdowns ''saved lives''.
They have to. It's suicide not to. They are all talking out their nether regions. What's the answer, the realpolitik? Let those leaders say ''My plan worked'' get away with it. And dispose of those who revealed themselves a petty martinets, dictators in training, and assholes. You can read into ''dispose'' whatever you like. Whatever happens to politicians should happen harder and longer to journalists. In any case, a global purge of braggarts will not happen.
This virus, as viruses will, found its way to all corners of the world, and it affected different areas differently. End of story.
There is a distinct tendency, at least in the Western media, to ascribe merit and blame for every event to people. What egos we all have!
In the US it went like this. The virus was caused or exacerbated by the political party I disfavor. If persons in the party I favored were listened to, this would not have been as big a crisis. The virus spread so rapidly because of the actions of the party I disfavor. The party I favor helped stem the tide and saved lives. The crisis would have ended sooner, and more lives would have been saved, if the people in the party I hate were ignored. Science saved us!
Nature gets no credit. Not for the creation of the virus, not for its highly variable spread, not for its highly variable infection rate, and certainly not for its hugely variable deaths caused. All those things were believed to be the responsibility of people. Nature has no real power, we think. It can be controlled to any degree of precision desired, if only we can muster sufficient political will and suppress our enemies.
We can credit, as we've already seen, the lockdowns for causing any number of difficulties, such as massive job loss, grief, disharmony, terror, and even death. It cause hubris to rise to the bursting point.
But the pandemic numbers suggest that this was yet another in an endless string of viruses that came, did its damage, and is fading into the background. It was not nearly as deadly as others, not even in the last 100 years, and it was worse than some.
Chances are we can do little to prevent pandemics like this. It's the expectation that we can that inspired the panic. If we don't remove that expectation, we're going to have to go through this again.
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Testing Tracing ISOLATION!
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Informs Public About Possible Accuracy Concerns with Abbott ID NOW Point-of-Care Test
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:12
SILVER SPRING, Md. , May 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting the public to early data that suggest potential inaccurate results from using the Abbott ID NOW point-of-care test to diagnose COVID-19. Specifically, the test may return false negative results.
"We are still evaluating the information about inaccurate results and are in direct communications with Abbott about this important issue. We will continue to study the data available and are working with the company to create additional mechanisms for studying the test. This test can still be used and can correctly identify many positive cases in minutes. Negative results may need to be confirmed with a high-sensitivity authorized molecular test," said Tim Stenzel , M.D., Ph.D., director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
The FDA is sharing early information available about potential inaccurate results in the spirit of transparency. The agency has been working with Abbott to analyze the information gathered to date and has worked with the company on a customer notification letter to alert users that any negative test results that are not consistent with a patient's clinical signs and symptoms or necessary for patient management should be confirmed with another test.
The FDA looks at a variety of sources to identify and understand potential patterns or significant issues with the use of the Abbott test. No diagnostic test will be 100% accurate due to performance characteristics, specimen handling, or user error, which is why it is important to study patterns and identify the cause of suspected false results so any significant issues can be addressed quickly.
The agency is aware of some scientific studies that have identified accuracy issues with Abbott ID NOW and is investigating whether it could be due to the types of swabs used or the type of viral transport media (material used to transport the patient's specimen). While there is important information to gather from these studies, it should be noted these studies have limitations, including small sample size, potential design biases, or tests that may not have been executed according to the manufacturer's instructions for use, an important part of scientific research. This is why external scientific studies are one part of the FDA's overall evaluation of a diagnostic performance.
The FDA has received 15 adverse event reports about the Abbott ID NOW device that suggest some users are receiving inaccurate negative results. The agency is reviewing these reports. It's important to note that the adverse event reports the FDA receives from manufacturers, health care providers, health care facilities, and patients can be incomplete, inaccurate, or unverified, so agency staff must meticulously comb through the reports to identify crucial data to support any signals or patterns about device use.
Moving forward, Abbott has agreed to conduct post-market studies for the ID NOW device that each will include at least 150 COVID-19 positive patients in a variety of clinical settings. The FDA will continue to review interim data on an ongoing basis. The information gathered from the post-market studies can further help the agency understand the cause or patterns of any accuracy issues and inform any additional actions the company or the FDA should take.
The FDA will keep working with Abbott to further evaluate these accuracy issues and will publicly communicate any updates.
Consumers or healthcare providers can reach Abbott directly at (224) 667-6100 or by email.
Media Contact: Emma Spaulding , 240-753-3903Consumer Inquiries: Email, 888-INFO-FDA
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Covid-19 antibody tests face a very specific problem | Evaluate
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:52
Dozens of antibody tests for immunity to Covid-19 have been released onto the market around the world, so far with little regulatory oversight. This is set to change, with the FDA, CDC and NIH saying last week that they will work together to validate the accuracy of the tests on sale in the US.
But these agencies have not stated what level of accuracy they might consider sufficient, and by no means all manufacturers of these antibody blood tests have released data on their products' sensitivity and specificity. And many of the tests for which data are available might simply not be good enough '' earlier today Roche's chief executive, Severin Schwan, said that some of the tests on the market ''are not worth anything, or have very little use''.
According to data compiled by EvaluateMedTech, 29 commercial assays designed to detect antibodies to the novel coronavirus are on sale in the US, only three of which have been granted the FDA's backing in the form of an emergency use authorisation. But none of these tests, even those with EUAs, have had their accuracy evaluated by the FDA or any other regulatory body.
Some manufacturers make their own claims for accuracy. Abbott says the IgG test it released in the US last week, when performed at least two weeks after a patient has first exhibited symptoms, has sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 99.5% (New Covid-19 test and a decent first quarter buoy Abbott, April 16, 2020). The antibody test sold in the US by Becton Dickinson, developed by BD's partner Biomedomics, has sensitivity of 88.7% and specificity of 90.6%.
Roche intends to bring its own antibody assay out next month, so it will be interesting to see what claims that company makes for the product's accuracy. Other companies known to be working on antibody, or serological, tests for Covid-19 include Siemens Heathineers, Danaher and Diasorin.
Major questions
There are two major questions here. Firstly, are these claims to be trusted without independent verification? Abbott and BD are reputable companies, highly unlikely to make claims they cannot justify, but many of the other antibody tests on sale around the world are from little-known groups and laboratories that might not be so scrupulous.
Secondly, how accurate do these tests need to be? Until the advent of a Covid-19 vaccine, countries aiming to lift lockdown restrictions and begin to accelerate their economic activity are going to rely heavily on antibody testing to determine which individuals can safely return to work.
Accuracy figures for selected Covid-19 antibody tests CompanyDevice nameUS statusEU statusSensitivity (%)Specificity (%)Abbott LaboratoriesAbbott Sars-CoV-2 IgG TestMarketedFiled100.099.5Becton Dickinson/Biomedomics*BioMedomics Covid-19 IgM/IgG Rapid TestMarketedMarketed88.790.6Cellex*Cellex qSars-CoV-2 IgG/IgM Cassette Rapid TestMarketedUnclassified93.895.6Creative DiagnosticsCreative Diagnostics Sars-CoV-2 Antibody ElisaMarketedMarketed94.5100.0CTK BiotechOnSite Covid-19 IgG/IgM Rapid TestMarketedUnclassified96.999.4Epitope DiagnosticsEDI Novel Coronavirus Covid-19 IgG Elisa KitMarketedUnclassified100.0100.0Epitope DiagnosticsEDI Novel Coronavirus Covid-19 IgM Elisa KitMarketedUnclassified45.0100.0Intec ProductsInTec Rapid Sars-CoV-2 Antibody (IgM/IgG)MarketedMarketed95.298.0Nirmidas BiotechNirmidas Biotech Covid-19 (Sars-CoV-2) IgM/IgG Antibody Detection KitMarketedUnclassified93.899.5Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics*Vitros Immunodiagnostic Product Anti-Sars-CoV-2 Total Reagent PackMarketedUnclassified83.3100.0SD BiosensorStandard Q Covid-19 IgM/IgG Duo TestMarketedUnclassified81.896.6Note: All accuracy claims made by the companies. *Tests with FDA emergency use authorisation. Source: EvaluateMedTech & company websites.The table above summarises some of the accuracy figures that selected manufacturers claim for their serological Covid-19 tests. But the validation tests these companies have performed varied widely in size; Abbott's antibody assay was tested on 1,200 specimens, whereas Epitope's tests were run on 54 samples from healthy people and just 20 and 30 cases of PCR-confirmed Covid-19 for the IgM and IgG tests respectively. The usual concerns about comparing data from different studies are vastly magnified here.
And accuracy needs to be high. The prevalence of Covid-19 is estimated at around 5% in the US, and at this low a level the risk of false positives becomes a major problem. If a serological test has 90% specificity, its positive predictive value will be 32.1% '' meaning nearly 70% of positive results will likely be false. At this same disease prevalence, a test with 95% specificity will lead to a 50% chance that a positive result is wrong. Only at 99% specificity does the false positive rate become anywhere near acceptable, and even here the chances are that 16% of positive results would be wrong.
Predictive value of a theoretical test at disease prevalence of 5%Sensitivity and specificity of 90%NPV99.4%Probability that disease is present when the test is negative0.6% PPV32.1%Probability that disease is not present when the test is positive67.9% Sensitivity and specificity of 95%NPV99.7%Probability that disease is present when the test is negative 0.3% PPV50.0%Probability that disease is not present when the test is positive50.0% Sensitivity and specificity of 99%NPV99.9%Probability that disease is present when the test is negative0.1% PPV83.9%Probability that disease is not present when the test is positive16.1%NPV & PPV = negative & positive predictive values. Source: Evaluate Vantage calculations.The FDA will need to set demanding accuracy standards for these products if it is to avoid large numbers of people with no immunity to the virus being sent back into contact with others. The agency has said it will take appropriate action against companies making or distributing unvalidated tests or those making false claims, such as issuing warning letters requesting that companies stop their unlawful promotion.
If a company can demonstrate decent, reproducible levels of accuracy, there is money to be made. Leerink analysts assume a price of $5-10 for strip-based assays similar to pregnancy tests '' the kind being sold by Cellex and Chembio, for example '' and $25-50 for high-throughput testing done at a central lab, such as that offered by Abbott and, next month, by Roche. If half the US population is tested, the market in that country will exceed $3bn.
Companies used to working at scale will obviously be best placed to gain market share. Abbott says it will be able to conduct 20 million tests per month by June, and Roche said that it will manage five times that.
There is one last headache for those who believe that serological testing is the means through which normality will resume. As Bernstein analysts point out, even a perfect test would still only allow the 5% of the population that had been infected back to work '' hardly a respectable basis for kickstarting an economy.
Therapeutics
Remdesivir coronavirus treatment: Gilead strikes deal to make drug for 127 countries
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:16
A lab technician visually inspects a filled vial of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California, March 11, 2020.
Gilead Sciences | via REUTERS
Gilead Sciences has struck a licensing agreement with five generic drugmakers to make antiviral drug remdesivir for 127 countries, not including the United States, the company announced Tuesday.
Drugmakers Mylan, Cipla, Ferozsons Laboratories, Hetero Labs and Jubilant Lifesciences will manufacture remdesivir for distribution in "low-income and lower-middle-income countries, as well as several upper-middle- and high-income countries" that face health-care obstacles amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company said.
The deal is "royalty-free" until the World Health Organization says the Covid-19 outbreak is no longer a global health crisis or "until a pharmaceutical product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent Covid-19, whichever is earlier," the company said.
The Food and Drug Administration on May 1 granted emergency use authorization for Gilead's remdesivir drug to treat Covid-19, which has infected more than 4 million people across the globe in a little over four months, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The intravenous drug has helped shorten the recovery time of some hospitalized Covid-19 patients, new clinical trial data suggests. Without other proven treatments, physicians will likely be considering its use to treat the coronavirus.
Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day told CNBC earlier this month that the company was working to expand its supply chain after learning from other serious outbreaks such as influenza.
The company has said it expects to produce more than 140,000 rounds of its 10-day treatment regimen by the end of this month and anticipates it can make 1 million rounds by the end of this year. Gilead said it will be able to produce "several million" rounds of its antiviral drug next year.
Here's a list of the 127 countries that will get the drug.
Vaccines
Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act Fact Sheet | State Public Health | ASTHO
Sun, 17 May 2020 07:20
Fact Sheet Overview The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2005 (PREP Act)1 authorizes the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a declaration that provides immunity from tort liability for claims of loss caused by countermeasures (e.g., vaccines, drugs, products) against diseases or other threats of public health emergencies. The PREP Act added new authorities under the Public Health Service Act to address concerns about potential liability associated with the development and administration of countermeasures. (Download a printable PDF.)
What the Law Does Liability Protection The PREP Act confers immunity from liability on specified persons for certain activities related to covered countermeasures:
Persons Covered'--The PREP Act covers individual persons and entities. Covered persons may, at the secretary's discretion, include manufacturers, distributors, program planners (i.e., individuals and entities involved in planning and administering programs for the distribution of countermeasures), and qualified persons who prescribe, administer, or dispense countermeasures (i.e., healthcare and other providers). The U.S. officials, agents, and employees of any of these entities or persons are also covered persons. Activities Covered'--Immunity applies to the development, manufacture, testing, distribution, administration, and use of countermeasures. Countermeasures Covered'--Countermeasures can include vaccines, drugs, or medical devices to be used against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents of terrorism, epidemics, and pandemics. Claims Covered'--The act provides immunity from tort liability except for willful misconduct. PREP Act immunity covers death and physical, mental, or emotional injury, illness, or disability, and the fear of these conditions. Liability protections also extend to claims made for medical monitoring as well as loss or damage to property, including business interruption. Claims that have a causal relationship to the development, distribution, administration, or use of the covered countermeasure are potentially included within the scope of PREP Act liability protections.2 Compensation Fund The PREP Act authorizes an emergency fund in the U.S. Treasury to provide compensation for injuries directly caused by administration or use of a countermeasure covered by the secretary's declaration. The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
What the Law Does Not Do A PREP Act declaration by the HHS secretary only provides immunity from liability for the persons, activities, and countermeasures specified in the declaration; it does not automatically protect everyone involved in any kind of medical response to an emergency. The act's liability protections do not apply where the liability arose from willful misconduct. It also does not protect individuals who violate a person's civil rights or who violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other exceptions stated in the act. The PREP Act does not confer any other immunities or liability protections. A PREP Act declaration is different from, and independent of, other federal emergency declarations. A separate public health emergency determination under Public Health Service Act Section 319 or another statute is not required to enable the PREP Act or for its immunities to take effect.2
How the Law Works Before issuing a PREP Act declaration, the secretary must determine that a disease, condition, or threat to health constitutes a public health emergency or a credible risk of a future public health emergency and find that the development of a countermeasure is desirable. The secretary then issues a PREP Act declaration that specifies, among other things3:
The countermeasures covered by the declaration. The category of diseases, health conditions, or health threats determined by the secretary to constitute a present or credible risk of a future public health emergency for which administration and use of the countermeasures is recommended. The effective time period of the declaration. The population of individuals receiving the countermeasure. Limitations, if any, on the geographic area for which immunity is in effect. Limitations, if any, on the means of distribution of the countermeasure. Any additional persons identified by the secretary as qualified to prescribe, dispense, or administer the countermeasures. PREP Act DeclarationsAs of December 2011, there have been seven PREP Act declarations since the act's passage, some which have been amended multiple times.4 The declarations have covered H5N1 and H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine and antivirals and countermeasures for the following diseases: anthrax, botulism, pandemic influenza, smallpox, and acute radiation syndrome. A declaration for influenza antiviral Peramivir has expired; all others remain in effect.4
Compensation Fund An interim final rule (IFR) governing the submission and review of claims to the CICP were issued by HRSA in October 2010. The IFR allows the CICP to begin evaluating request for benefits filed by individuals who sustained serious physical injuries as a direct result of the administration or use of covered countermeasures identified by the HHS secretary in declarations issued under the PREP Act.5 Claims must be filed within one year of administration or use of a covered countermeasure. Eligible countermeasures include certain influenza vaccines, antivirals, respiratory protection and support devices, and anything to identify, prevent, or treat smallpox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, and acute radiation syndrome.5 (Claims for injuries from seasonal influenza vaccine are administered through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.)
How the Law Affects States The PREP Act has a direct impact on states because it provides a source of liability protection for governmental and private sector persons developing and administering approved countermeasures during a public health emergency. During the H1N1 outbreak, PREP Act declarations were issued for H1N1 vaccines, antivirals, and personal protective equipment. PREP Act declarations may also provide protections related to products authorized for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which allow for the use of an unapproved medical product (drugs, biologics [e.g., vaccines], and devices [e.g., diagnostics]), or an unapproved use of an approved medical product, during a declared emergency.
Practice Notes Questions and concerns about potential liabilities for agency staff, providers, and volunteers will arise in every public health emergency event. Plan on frequently discussing liability and immunity concerns with each new event. Before an event, educate state and local public health agency staff, private clinicians, and other potential volunteers about the scope of liability protections provided by the PREP Act and any other federal and state liability protections that may apply to those persons. Develop educational materials that describe and differentiate the various liability protections available to staff, medical providers, and other volunteers under state and federal law. During an event, carefully review the PREP Act declaration, if one is issued, to understand the scope of coverage. Brief staff, clinicians, and volunteers about their potential liabilities and immunities under the current PREP Act declaration(s). Sources Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2005. Pub. L. No. 109-148. Codified in the Public Health Service Act at 42 U.S.C. §§ 247d-6d, 247d-6e. Department of Health and Human Services. ''Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act Questions and Answers'' webpage. Available at www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/prepact/Pages/prepqa.aspx. Accessed January 31, 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Law Program. ''Selected Federal Legal Authorities Pertinent to Public Health Emergencies''. September 2009. Available at http://www2.cdc.gov/phlp/docs/Selected%20Fed%20Legal%20Authorities%20re%20PH%20Emergencies%20102709%20v2.pdf. Accessed January 31, 2012. Department of Health and Human Services. ''Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act'' webpage. Available at www.phe.gov/Preparedness/legal/prepact/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed January 31, 2012.Health Resources and Services Administration. ''Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program'' webpage. Available at www.hrsa.gov/gethealthcare/conditions/countermeasurescomp/index.html. Accessed January 31, 2012.Note: This document was compiled from June''December 2011 and reflects the laws and programs current then. It reflects only portions of the laws relevant to public health emergencies and is not intended to be exhaustive of all relevant legal authority. This resource is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional legal or other advice. The document was funded by CDC Award No. 1U38HM000454 to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; Subcontractor PI Elliott, Logan Circle Policy Group LLC.
Federal Register :: Amendment to Declaration Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for Medical Countermeasures Against COVID-19
Sun, 17 May 2020 07:50
Start Preamble Notice of amendment.
The Secretary is issuing this amendment pursuant to section 319F-3 of the Public Health Service Act to extend liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19 authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The amendment to the Declaration published on March 17, 2020 (85 FR 15198) was effective as of March 27, 2020.
Start Further Info Robert P. Kadlec, MD, MTM&H, MS, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue Start Printed Page 21013 SW, Washington, DC 20201; Telephone: 202-205-2882.
End Further Info End Preamble The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary) to issue a Declaration to provide liability immunity to certain individuals and entities (Covered Persons) against any claim of loss caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from the manufacture, distribution, administration, or use of medical countermeasures (Covered Countermeasures), except for claims involving ''willful misconduct'' as defined in the PREP Act. Under the PREP Act, a Declaration may be amended as circumstances warrant.
The PREP Act was enacted on December 30, 2005, as Public Law 109-148, Division C, Section 2. It amended the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, adding Section 319F-3, which addresses liability immunity, and Section 319F-4, which creates a compensation program. These sections are codified at 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d and 42 U.S.C. 247d-6e, respectively. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Public Law 116-136 was enacted on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act amended section 319F-3(i)(1)(D) of the PHS Act, first added by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Public Law 116-127 on March 18, 2020. These amendments created a new category of covered countermeasures eligible for liability immunity under the PREP Act, namely, respiratory protective devices approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, that the Secretary determines to be a priority for use during a public health emergency declared under section 319 of the PHS Act.
On January 31, 2020, the Secretary declared a public health emergency, pursuant to section 319 of the PHS Act, 42 U.S.C. 247d, for the entire United States to aid in the response of the nation's health care community to the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 10, 2020, the Secretary issued a Declaration under the PREP Act for medical countermeasures against COVID-19 (85 FR 15198 (March 17, 2020)). The Secretary is amending the March 10, 2020 Declaration under the PREP Act to extend liability immunity to covered countermeasures authorized under the CARES Act. This amendment is made in accordance with section 319F-3 of the PHS Act, which authorizes the Secretary to amend a PREP Act declaration at any time.
Description of This Amendment by Section Section I. Determination of Public Health Emergency or Credible Risk of Future Public Health EmergencyBefore issuing a Declaration under the PREP Act, the Secretary is required to determine that a disease or other health condition or threat to health constitutes a public health emergency or that there is a credible risk that the disease, condition, or threat may constitute such an emergency. This determination is separate and apart from the Declaration issued by the Secretary on January 31, 2020 under section 319 of the PHS Act that a disease or disorder presents a public health emergency or that a public health emergency, including significant outbreaks of infectious diseases or bioterrorist attacks, otherwise exists, or other Declarations or determinations made under other authorities of the Secretary. As amended by the CARES Act, to extend the Declaration to respiratory protective devices approved by NIOSH, the Secretary must also determine that a respiratory protective device approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, is a priority for use during the public health emergency declared by the Secretary under section 319 of the PHS Act.
Accordingly, in Section I of the Declaration, the Secretary is amending his determination that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 or a virus mutating therefrom and the resulting disease, COVID-19, constitutes a public health emergency for purposes of this Declaration under the PREP Act to include the determination that the use of any respiratory protective devices approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, is a priority for use during the public health emergency declared by the Secretary on January 31, 2020 under section 319 of the PHS Act for the entire United States to aid in the nation's health care community response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Section VI. Covered CountermeasuresSection VI of the Declaration identifies the Covered Countermeasures for which the Secretary has recommended such activities. As amended by the CARES Act, the PREP Act states that a ''Covered Countermeasure'' must be a ''qualified pandemic or epidemic product,'' a ''security countermeasure,'' a drug, biological product, or device authorized for emergency use in accordance with sections 564, 564A, or 564B of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, or a respiratory protective device approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, that the Secretary determines to be a priority for use during a public health emergency declared under section 319 of the PHS Act. Accordingly, in Section VI of the Declaration, the Secretary is amending the list of medical countermeasures against COVID-19 that are covered countermeasures under the declaration to include covered countermeasures authorized by the CARES Act, namely respiratory protective devices approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, that the Secretary determines to be a priority for use during a public health emergency declared under section 319 of the PHS Act.
Section XII. Effective Time PeriodThe Secretary must identify, for each Covered Countermeasure, the period or periods during which liability immunity is in effect, designated by dates, milestones, or other description of events, including factors specified in the PREP Act. Accordingly, the Secretary is amending Section XII of the Declaration to specify the effective time period for covered countermeasures authorized by the CARES Act.
Amendments to DeclarationAmended Declaration for Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act Coverage for medical countermeasures against COVID-19.
Sections I, VI and XII of the March 10, 2020, Declaration under the PREP Act for medical countermeasures against COVID-19 are amended pursuant to section 319F-3(b)(4) of the PHS Act as described below. All other Sections of the Declaration remain in effect as published at 85 FR 15198 (March 17, 2020).
1. Determination of Public Health Emergency, Section I: Delete in full and replace with:
I. Determination of Public Health Emergency42 U.S.C. 247d-6d(b)(1)
I have determined that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 or a virus mutating therefrom and the resulting disease COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency. I further determine that use of any respiratory protective device approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, is a priority for use during the public health emergency that I declared on January Start Printed Page 21014 31, 2020 under section 319 of the PHS Act for the entire United States to aid in the response of the nation's health care community to the COVID-19 outbreak.
2. Covered Countermeasures, Section VI, delete in full and replace with:
VI. Covered Countermeasures42 U.S.C. 247d-6b(c)(1)(B), 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d(i)(1) and (7)
Covered Countermeasures are any antiviral, any other drug, any biologic, any diagnostic, any other device, any respiratory protective device, or any vaccine, used to treat, diagnose, cure, prevent, or mitigate COVID-19, or the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or a virus mutating therefrom, or any device used in the administration of any such product, and all components and constituent materials of any such product.
Covered Countermeasures must be ''qualified pandemic or epidemic products,'' or ''security countermeasures,'' or drugs, biological products, or devices authorized for investigational or emergency use, as those terms are defined in the PREP Act, the FD&C Act, and the Public Health Service Act, or any respiratory protective device approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations.
3. Effective Time Period, Section XII, delete in full and replace with:
XII. Effective Time Period42 U.S.C. 247d-6d(b)(2)(B)
Liability immunity for any respiratory protective device approved by NIOSH under 42 CFR part 84, or any successor regulations, through means of distribution, as identified in Section VII(a) of this Declaration, other than in accordance with the public health and medical response of the Authority Having Jurisdiction, begins on March 27, 2020 and extends through October 1, 2024.
Liability immunity for all other Covered Countermeasures identified in Section VI of this Declaration, through means of distribution, as identified in Section VII(a) of this Declaration, other than in accordance with the public health and medical response of the Authority Having Jurisdiction, begins February 4, 2020 and extends through October 1, 2024.
Liability immunity for all Covered Countermeasures administered and used in accordance with the public health and medical response of the Authority Having Jurisdiction begins with an emergency declaration and lasts through (1) the final day the emergency Declaration is in effect, or (2) October 1, 2024, whichever occurs first.
Start Authority 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d.
End Authority Start Signature Dated: April 10, 2020.
Alex M. Azar II,
Secretary of Health and Human Services.
End Signature [FR Doc. 2020-08040 Filed 4-13-20; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 4150-28-P
This U.S. State Has Already Established Legal Means for Mandatory Vaccinations
Sat, 16 May 2020 09:26
Loading ... While the U.S. government and global health ''authorities'' debate how quickly they can roll out Contact Tracing surveillance programs and fast track vaccines, Americans are left wondering and debating over whether the vaccinations programs for COVID-19 might end up being mandatory.
It is true that Donald Trump has acknowledged that, ''We are looking for a full vaccine for everyone who wants to get it, not everyone wants to get it'', however, it's still uncertain whether the Trump administration will side with civil liberties and informed consent when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. What is certain, at this point, is that at least one state in the United States of America has already implemented measures which will allow for forced or mandatory vaccinations once a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.
The Last American Vagabond was recently sent the meme below which has been circulating the internet in recent days. The image claims that someone's husband recently flew from Louisiana to Florida where he was handed a mandatory quarantine form to fill out. According to the post, the man was essentially forced to sign if he wanted to exit the plane. The image then shows a screenshot of a document which states that individuals who violate the quarantine will be subject to a $500 fine or a 60 day jail sentence. Furthermore, the meme states that, ''the State Health Officer and Surgeon General can order any individual to be examined, tested, vaccinated, treated, isolated or quarantined for COVID-19'".
We decided to fact check this meme to see if there was truth to the claim and, unfortunately, the document is in fact a Florida state document. Here's what we found:
The document is called, '' COVID-19 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH MANDATORY SELF-ISOLATION AIRPORT TRAVEL ,'' and can be found on the official website of the Florida Airports Council . The form asks travelers to put their home address, a detailed description of the trip, and the names and birth dates to family members who traveled with the person filling out the form.
At the bottom of the form it states the following:
I UNDERSTAND THAT ANY INDIVIDUAL IN MY FAMILY WHO VIOLATES THE SELF-ISOLATION OR SELF-QUARANTINE BY FAILING TO REMAIN WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE ADDRESS I PROVIDED FOR MY STAY IN FLORIDA FOR THE MANDATORY LENGTH OF TIME, CAN BE SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION UNDER SECTIONS 252.50 OR 381.00315(6), FLORIDA STATUTES, WHICH IF CONVICTED IS PUNISHABLE UP TO 60 DAYS IMPRISONMENT, A FINE NOT MORE THAN $500.00, OR BOTH.
Additionally, it says:
Pursuant to Executive Order 20-80 and the Florida Department of Health declaration of a Public Health Emergency, the State Health Officer and Surgeon General can order any individual to be examined, tested, vaccinated, treated, isolated or quarantined for COVID-19. Any isolation or quarantine order issued pursuant to section 318.00315, Florida Statutes, shall be enforceable by injunction filed in a Florida Circuit Court.
Finally, passengers are reminded that, ''Failure to follow any isolation or quarantine order by the Florida Department of Health is a second-degree misdemeanor.''
Right there, in plain language, a Florida state document which is being handed out to individuals flying into Florida, claims the Surgeon General can order any individual to be vaccinated. Where does the Surgeon General get this apparent authority?
According to the document, the Executive Order 20-80 and the Florida Department of Health declaration of a Public Health Emergency grant the legal authority to conduct such an action. However, a reading of EO 20-80 finds that the word vaccine is not even mentioned once. Under Section 1, D, it states the following:
''D. Pursuant to section 381.0012(5), Florida Statutes, ''it shall be the duty of every state and county attorney, sheriff, police officer, and other appropriate city and county officials upon request to assist the [Department of Health]'' in enforcing any isolation or quarantine or order of the Department of Health issued pursuant to this Order.''
Notice the vague and broad ''or order of the Dept. of Health''? Well, according to this Executive Order, it is the duty of every state, county, and local official to enforce any order given out by the DOH. This could easily be interpreted as a legal justification for a vaccination order.
When examining the Florida Department of Health declaration of a Public Health Emergency we see the following language:
''Section 6. In order to protect public health, the Florida Department of Health, at such time when necessary, may take actions to protect the public health, pursuant to the authority of section 381.00315, Florida Statutes, including quarantine, isolation and other interventions.''
What exact treatments fit under ''other interventions'' is anyone's guess, but, once again, we see vague language that could be broadly interpreted to support orders for compulsory vaccination programs in response to COVID-19.
The Florida DOH Public Health Emergency was first declared on March 1st and the EO 20-80 on March 23. Both declarations are still in effect meaning that the language could be used at any point to institute forced vaccination programs. All U.S. states have declared various states of emergency and issued executive orders in reaction to COVID-19. It is likely other states have similar measures on the books. We would love to hear from our readers who may have seen similar language used.
It's important to spread this information and inform Americans about the technocratic state and medical martial law that is unfolding. Get informed, educate others, and take action to slow the roll out of this pandemic nightmare.
Question Everything, Come To Your Own Conclusions.
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Senate Votes to Allow FBI to Look at Your Web Browsing History Without a Warrant - VICE
Thu, 14 May 2020 15:35
The government just got even more power to spy on your internet habits as millions remain quarantined at home.
by Janus Rose
May 13 2020, 7:32pm Snap
The US Senate has voted to give law enforcement agencies access to web browsing data without a warrant, dramatically expanding the government's surveillance powers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The power grab was led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell as part of a reauthorization of the Patriot Act, which gives federal agencies broad domestic surveillance powers. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) attempted to remove the expanded powers from the bill with a bipartisan amendment.
But in a shock upset, the privacy-preserving amendment fell short by a single vote after several senators who would have voted ''Yes'' failed to show up to the session, including Bernie Sanders. 9 Democratic senators also voted ''No,'' causing the amendment to fall short of the 60-vote threshold it needed to pass.
''The Patriot Act should be repealed in its entirety, set on fire and buried in the ground,'' Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight For The Future, told Motherboard. ''It's one of the worst laws passed in the last century, and there is zero evidence that the mass surveillance programs it enables have ever saved a single human life.''
The vote comes at a time when internet usage has skyrocketed, with tens of millions of Americans quarantined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Privacy advocates have warned for over a decade that allowing warrantless access to web search queries and browsing history allows law enforcement to easily crack down on activists, labor organizers, or anyone else the government deems a threat.
''Today the Senate made clear that the purpose of the PATRIOT Act is to spy on Americans, no warrants or due process necessary,'' Dayton Young, director of product at Fight For the Future, told Motherboard. ''Any lawmaker who votes to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act is voting against our constitutionally-protected freedoms, and there's nothing patriotic about that.''
NWO
W.T.O. Chief Quits Suddenly, Adding to Global Turmoil - The New York Times
Thu, 14 May 2020 16:07
Roberto Azevªdo, director-general of the World Trade Organization, has been a proponent of international cooperation, putting him at odds with the Trump administration.
Roberto Azevªdo in December. He has expressed frustration that the United States, China and Europe have not coordinated their efforts to fight the pandemic. Credit... Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images May 14, 2020Updated 2:52 p.m. ET
FRANKFURT '-- The head of the organization charged with bringing a semblance of order to international trade relations resigned unexpectedly Thursday, adding another element of uncertainty to commerce in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and escalating trade conflicts.
Roberto Azevªdo, a career Brazilian diplomat, resigned as the director-general of the World Trade Organization effective Aug. 31, the Geneva-based organization said. His second four-year term was not scheduled to end until September 2021.
The W.T.O.'s operations have been crippled since late last year as a result of actions by the Trump administration, which has refused to approve nominees to fill vacancies on a crucial appeals panel that rules on trade disputes.
With Mr. Azevªdo's departure, which caught officials in Geneva and Brussels by surprise, the organization will lose an advocate of open trade and international cooperation whose views clashed with President Trump's preference for bilateral power politics.
His resignation also leaves a leadership vacuum at a perilous moment for the world economy.
The pandemic ''is the worst shock to global trade that has happened in our lifetimes,'' said Josh Lipsky, director of the global business and economics program at the Atlantic Council, a research organization in Washington. ''To lose the leader of the W.T.O. is a serious blow. There is a broken global trading system, and it needs leadership to fix it.''
Mr. Azevªdo, 62, did not link his departure to tensions with the Trump administration. Rather, he said he wanted to give W.T.O. members a head start on choosing a successor, which is often a difficult process.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought complex negotiations on issues such as fishing subsidies to a standstill and made it unlikely that agreements would be reached until next year. A debate at the same time about the next W.T.O. director would interfere with attempts to overcome trade disputes, Mr. Azevªdo said.
''The selection process would be a distraction from '-- or worse, a disruption to '-- our desired outcomes,'' he said during an online meeting with W.T.O. members. ''We would be spending valuable time on a politically charged process that has proved divisive in the past.''
World trade was already declining because of Mr. Trump's trade wars with Europe and China, and has plunged further since the pandemic brought economic activity in many countries to a standstill. The W.T.O. has predicted that global trade could fall by one-third, a decline not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Recently Mr. Azevªdo has expressed frustration that the United States, Europe, China and other large countries were not coordinating their response to the coronavirus emergency. Mr. Trump has recently stepped up his criticism of China.
Mr. Azevªdo argued that international cooperation during the financial crisis and recession of 2008 helped the world economy recover more quickly.
''Either we shape up and begin to talk to each other and find common solutions or we are going to pay a heavy price,'' Mr. Azevªdo told CNN in April.
Robert Lighthizer, the United States' top trade official, was conciliatory Thursday. ''Despite the many shortcomings of the W.T.O., Roberto has led the institution with grace and a steady hand,'' Mr. Lighthizer said in a statement. ''He will be difficult to replace.''
Mr. Azevªdo, who was previously a top trade negotiator for Brazil and has worked in Geneva since 1997, also cited personal reasons for his departure. The W.T.O. makes decisions by consensus, which means even one of the organization's 164 members can stymie progress. The director-general must find a way to thread conflicting national interests and reach accord, a laborious and exhausting task.
Mr. Azevªdo said Thursday that, while he had no serious health problem, he recently had knee surgery. Between that and the lockdown, he said, ''I have had more time than usual for reflection.''
Video falsely claims Lightfoot supports 'New World Order' - Chicago Tribune
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:33
By AMANDA SEITZ
Associated Press |
May 14, 2020 | 11:59 AM
Mayor Lori Lightfoot wears a mask as she prepares to speak about coronavirus recently at the Historic Water Tower in Chicago.\(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune / Chicago Tribune)
CLAIM: Video shows proof of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot supporting the ''New World Order,'' a conspiracy theory built on the idea that the world's most wealthy and powerful are plotting to overthrow democracy and install a single, global authoritarian government.
AP'S ASSESSMENT: False. The video was edited to take her words out of context. Lightfoot was not planning a global coup, she was talking about ending a long-standing and unusual custom in Chicago called ''aldermanic prerogative,'' which gave aldermen absolute power on zoning and development decisions in their home wards.
THE FACTS: Social media users are taking a comment Lightfoot made in a 2019 video out of context to suggest she is part of a global scheme to overthrow U.S. democracy and institute a ''New World Order.''
During the interview, Lightfoot said she would put a stop to aldermanic prerogative, sometimes called privilege, which allowed a single alderman (out of 50) to veto or hold up a project in their home ward. Some criticized the practice as unchecked power that was easy for aldermen to abuse. The Tribune's original video is below.
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot speaks on April 3, 2019, about how she'll end aldermanic privilege. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Lightfoot goes on to explain that aldermanic prerogative isn't a law or actual rule but part of the city's ''dominant culture.'' To help get rid of the practice, Lightfoot says she plans to sign an executive order that says the city will no longer honor the practice. She tells the Tribune that after that order is signed, she will then hire new officials across key departments in the city, like zoning and housing, who are on board with abolishing the custom.
''You pick the people to run those agencies and the deputies that are pledging allegiance to the new world order and good governance,'' Lightfoot said.
Social media users are sharing an edited, one-minute video clip of that comment to suggest she is talking about trying to overthrow the government with a ''New World Order.'' Other social media posts share a screenshot of her quote to make the misleading claim.
In May 2019, after she was inaugurated, Lightfoot signed an executive order limiting aldermanic prerogative.
This is part of The Associated Press' ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Recommended on Chicago Tribune
Lori Lightfoot unfiltered: The full Tribune Q&A with Chicago's mayor-elect - Chicago Tribune
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:35
Chicago Tribune |
Apr 05, 2019 | 10:00 AM
Chicago Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot speaks about her improbable election as mayor on April 3, 2019. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot sat down Thursday for a wide-ranging interview with City Hall reporter Bill Ruthhart. Here is the full transcript of the interview, edited for clarity:
Q: You've had a little more than a day to let this sink in; is it still surreal? Has it been overwhelming at times with everything there is to do?
A: It doesn't feel overwhelming, but there is a lot to do. The conversations that I've been having with people are about, "Tell me what you believe is the right thing to do, and put the politics aside." I'm not naive, and we're going to have to contend with that, but I want to know what's the best thing for the city, for the residents, taxpayers. And so that's the charge that I've been giving to people that are working on the transition from my perspective, but also talking to people who are in, or have been in, city government. '... I want to imagine things as big as possible, and then we'll figure out what the practical realities are. But I don't want to have things on the cutting room floor before we even start the conversation.
Q: You called getting elected mayor surreal. What has made this so surreal?
A: Everything about it. If you think about, there was a Sun-Times poll that came out in January, now query whether or not it was accurate, but it put me at like 2.8 percent, which was really tough. It made it hard to gain people's confidence. When you see a poll like that, it makes it very difficult to raise money, get people to rally to your cause, but we survived. And you think about that, to winning all 50 wards on Tuesday night and vanquishing a very experienced politician who's at the head of the party and holds virtually every title that you can think of along her path, that's a pretty magnificent way to arrive on the public scene.
So, because of that, because of Chicago, I'll say, and because of the way in which we won, all sorts of possibilities have opened up, and I'm hearing from people that probably didn't know my name 10 minutes before their aide said, "You should call this person, who just did this." But I want to think about how we can use this moment to really add to the greater good for the city.
Q: Do you think winning in such a convincing fashion will make governing a bit easier early on as opposed to if it were a really tight race?
A: You know, it depends, right? I think it will make governing easier when you talk about the residents and voters of this city. Will it make it easier for dealing with a City Council that is still going to have people on it who have been around forever and just view the game from a very different perspective? That remains to be seen.
Q: Who has called you since you won? Obama called. What's that been like?
A: I spoke with President (Donald) Trump. Very cordial conversation. Spoke with (former) President (Barack) Obama. Spoke with Ivanka Trump, which was interesting and a surprise. Spoke with a number of different Democratic presidential contenders, who have reached out. A number of mayors from across the country have reached out. And then, you know, lots of friends and family members from near and far.
Q: Were you surprised that Trump called?
A: Yes and no, right? It's a smart, politic thing to do. Yeah, of course I was a little surprised. You know, when you get the White House operator and they say, "Just a moment for the president of the United States," that's a pretty heady moment.
A: I think it went well. I've never spoken to the man before. He's never spoken to me. He was very complimentary about the race, and extended an offer to be helpful to the city. I intend to take him up on that offer. While our politics are radically different, he's still the president of the United States. We have a lot of taxpayers in this city who deserve to get every nickel of their tax dollars that they're entitled to from Washington, and I intend to make that happen.
Q: Did the president bring up the crime issue that he so frequently tweets about?
A: Yeah, but in a much more indirect way. Yes, we did talk briefly about it. It was not a short conversation, but not a long conversation.
Q: You spoke with Obama, too. How did that go?
A: It went well. We don't know each other well, but we have met. He was a black lawyer in Chicago, as I am, so that's not a huge circle of people. But again, very cordial.
Q: Did you talk about the future of the presidential center and that situation?
A: Only in very brief terms. Again, it was a congratulations call. It wasn't a substantive policy discussion. Obviously, we both know that's something that is on the table and needs to to get resolved so everybody can move forward. I said to him, "It's really important that we make sure people in the neighborhoods feel like this is a good thing for them," and he agreed. I don't want to get into the details of the conversation, but I feel confident that we're going to be able to work together well, and we'll be able to move things forward in a way that protects the interests of people in the community.
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot speaks on April 3, 2019, about how the Ald. Edward Burke scandal helped propel her to victory in the mayoral election. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Q: You mentioned the unlikely nature of your campaign, just from the poll numbers in January to now. If you think back even further to when you started on the Police Board, that was pre-Laquan McDonald and before policing became the mega-issue that it is now. Has the thought crossed your mind that without the McDonald shooting and without the raids and charge against Ald. Ed Burke, that you wouldn't be sitting here in this position?
A: Well, let me take that in chunks. I think that the fact of Laquan McDonald's murder and all of the process around the suppression of the videotape caused a lot of things to happen in our city. It sent tremors in a lot of ways. It certainly galvanized the feeling that had been expressed in black and brown communities, particularly black communities, for a long time, that the police were not fair to them. And that's probably a supreme understatement. It opened up a lot of shock waves, and certainly it galvanized a lot of activism, of all generations, particularly around young people. It gave them kind of a rallying cause for sure, which I think on balance has been a good thing for our city. Obviously, there are people in that community who view me as suspect, that's probably the most generous characterization.
But some of the conversations we're having today, certainly around that issue, but also just around governance and accountability between the government and the people, we wouldn't be having without that moment happening. So, yeah, that certainly has made me think about public service and governance in a very different way. I can say unequivocally thinking about being a candidate for mayor back then was probably the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn't even in my mind. That came much, much later. But we've been in this moment in our city. We didn't know it in October of '14 when Laquan McDonald was murdered, but really if you kind of trace the arc of this, it probably could trace back until at least then. Now, a lot of these issues that are blowing have been cross currents that have been in Chicago for maybe the entirety of its history, but certainly modern history. So that's kind of one phase of it.
What happened with the search warrants with Burke's office, I can actually remember very clearly you called on a Friday afternoon, and said, "Nobody else is talking to me." I was surprised by that, because it was such a seminal moment. That conversation that we had that Friday afternoon probably propelled things, because I certainly realized they're running for cover. This is an important thing that we need to talk about, make sure we capitalize on for sure. But what it did, and obviously the final chapter in this is far from being written, but you think about that happens on a Thursday and the next Tuesday or Wednesday he holds his annual fundraiser and 2,000 people show up. They probably broke records. That really kind of puts in context where we were.
I think that and the reaction, particularly around all the running for cover. I said they were scattering like cockroaches with a light shined on them, and I think there was some truth to that. Now, I wasn't calling a person a cockroach, but it was that action of running for cover to stay away from this story and hope that it didn't consume them, but it did.
I've talked with people who are like Fortune 25 CEOs in that world, and I've talked to just the little, tiny small business person and local residents, this issue of corruption is something that touches everybody. Everybody. And people are sick of it. They want a life in this city that they don't have to do something because they are afraid that not to take some action, not to write a check, not to kiss the ring in some way, is going to cause them harm. We still have that city, and I want to fundamentally change that. So, yes, I became the vessel into which people poured their hopes that we can have a different kind of city. I recognize that, but in politics, sometimes it's good to be lucky.
Q: You ran on getting rid of aldermanic privilege (the practice of aldermen having veto power over all permitting and zoning decisions in their wards). That's probably easier to talk about than the mechanics of actually withdrawing that practice. It's not like it's a line in the city code. It's deeper than that. How do you go about addressing that?
A: I'm going to consult with some of the alderman who have been supportive of the campaign. I'm very clear on it. Some of them have a very different view, but I'm very clear that it's got to go. I want to do it in a way that doesn't do further harm, the quintessential throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But it's got to go. How do you do it? My thoughts are that because it's not written into law and it's just a very dominant culture '... I'm thinking about an executive order from day one that says in more legalese than this, "This is not a thing. We will no longer honor this."
Because the way that aldermanic prerogative works is there's got to be compliance with the executive branch, because otherwise it doesn't work. So, you've got to eliminate that compliance, and you make it a mandate. And then you do training, particularly in the city licensing departments whether it's zoning, buildings, housing, planning, and you pick the people who run those agencies and the deputies that are pledging allegiance to the new world order and good governance. And then I think you have the inspector general do some spot audits to make sure that there is real compliance.
You obviously have to engage in a dialogue with the City Council. It's not that alderman no longer are able to have notice and an opportunity to be heard. If aldermen are doing their job right, they should be the people who are closest to the vibe and the beat in their neighborhood and have a very important role to play on a number of different issues, but not a unilateral, unchecked right. That's gone as soon as I take office, because it prevents us from engaging in citywide initiatives, it prevents us from moving ahead on important issues like affordable housing and it is fundamentally corrosive and there is no way to monitor it in a way you can bring transparency and accountability to it.
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot speaks on April 3, 2019, about how she'll end aldermanic privilege. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
If I've got to go and kiss the ring of the alderman for everything, for a license to have a block club party or whatever it is and there is a catalog of all the things that are run through the aldermanic offices, that is fundamentally a problem. And it's the tens of thousands of touches that an alderman has on a regular basis with constituents who think that they have to give some additional thing to get access to basic city services, that is the corrosive effect. And it's obviously worse when an alderman takes that power and then tries to monetize it for him or herself.
Q: You mentioned Inspector General Joe Ferguson. Many conclusions he's reached in his reports you've mentioned in the campaign. It seems like one piece of low-hanging fruit in terms of reform is to give him the power to investigate aldermen. What is your relationship like with him and how might he be a partner in some of these reforms?
A: I've known Joe for a long time. We were trial partners together at the U.S. attorney's office, and when (then-Inspector General) David Hoffman was leaving, my law partner, Ty Fahner, was Mayor (Richard M.) Daley's, basically I think his personal lawyer, and was leading the search. So, I suggested Joe's name. So he became the inspector general. Now, obviously, Mayor Daley made his own choices, but I've known Joe for a long time. I think he and his team do really top-notch work. I know being in an oversight capacity, you're not always loved by all. I think he's done a lot of good work with integrity.
I look to the New York model. The department of investigations there, which I think is pretty comprehensive, they've got their people embedded into city agencies. So, we'll work through what's the right thing. Oversight auditing of (City Council) committees, to me, that's a no-brainer. I know why that was stopped, and I think he is becoming less and less relevant, he being Ed Burke. But I think that's a no-brainer. We have to have oversight. I also think that we have to think about whether or not we consolidate some of the inspector general's functions. I still would keep CPS separate, because I think that's just a whole different animal, and I think the inspector general there actually does a very good job.
But I've meant what I said. I'm not a person who puts things out in writing and policy prescriptions and is not intending to follow through. Making sure we have a robust audit function also fits in larger with '.... We have to have a real, meaningful risk management function within the city government. That is a big priority for me. I've already started thinking about what that might look like and already have talked to a number of people about the possibilities of who, but that has to happen.
Q: By all accounts, it sounds like your meeting with the mayor went OK and was not as contentious as the last time you were in that office meeting with him.
A: No. It was night and day difference from the last time I was there. It was very, very cordial. He pledged full support in helping the transition and was very generous in part talking about family and how important it was to make sure that the job didn't blot out time with our child. You know, he's raised three children while he's been in office. So, he offered I think some really sound advice on that front. I don't know (Emanuel chief of staff) Joe Deal very well, but Joan Coogan was also in that meeting, and I've known Joan for 25 years from when she was working in county government. So, I think it was a good conversation, a good start. I'm sure there will be many more.
There's only one mayor at a time, which he mentioned subtly, actually subtly. But he's right. There is only one mayor at a time, and I want to make sure that we are in communication with each other. We obviously come at issues from a different perspective. He's not forgotten, I'm sure, that I ran while he was still in contention, but I feel very confident that we're going to have all the cooperation and help that we need. That's already started at a very senior level, and I'm appreciative of that.
Q: On the Lincoln Yards development, you called for that to be held until you take office. What's your sense of where that is in the process, and do you still feel that way?
A: I do still feel that way. I don't like setting the precedent of having a mega-project like this where there is this massive commitment of city resources without a level of transparency around things like infrastructure impact, transportation impact and just kind of quality-of-life issues. I think those issues really needed to be laid out in a much more fulsome way to the public. And you know the Sterling Bay folks and probably Ald. (Brian) Hopkins (2nd) would say, "Oh my God, we had so many community meetings '...." But as you know, the master plan of the project kept evolving, and still is from what I understand. But the impacts, whether there were studies done, those were not fully out there and explained for the public to give them some confidence that this project is one that's not going to completely transform, in all the bad ways, their quality of life.
Q: Do you think Lincoln Yards still goes forward?
A: Look, I think they've got the votes for it to go forward. But all the money's not going to be given at one tranche, so we will have leverage, and I intend to make full use of that leverage to get done what needs to get done.
Q: There is a concept that Ald. Gilbert Villegas is talking about, having a speaker of the council, and allowing the council to select its own committees, chairman and acting like a true legislative body. Do you have thoughts on that concept?
A: Well, look, l think that very few people benefit by having a City Council that's a rubber stamp for a mayor. I believe that in my core. And if they want to assert new powers, we'll see what comes out of that process. They need to then actually do their jobs, and they need to build in infrastructure to be able to do it. I don't think that's a bad thing obviously, but then I want it not to be for show. I want it to be for real.
Q: They're going to need money to set up that type of infrastructure, though, right?
A: And they're going to have to figure out how they do that. Obviously we are in a very tight budgetary situation, but you know, we will sit down. We will have discussions. We'll figure out how this all goes. You know, I've heard all sorts of rumblings like, "We'll show her. We'll teach her." That's really quite foolhardy, particularly given the incredibly broad mandate that we had. They need to read the election results. We won everywhere, and we're going to take that mandate because the people have given it to us.
Q: So you're open to this idea of a speaker of the council?
A: I mean I don't really have an opinion on it at this point. There's always a leadership. The mayor typically has a floor leader. So I don't know if that's what they're thinking about. If it's akin to that, I don't really have an opinion on it, since it's not been an idea that's been run by me. But my bottom line is they need to govern. They need to understand the responsibilities for the entire city, not just for their individual wards. And then I think we'll have a productive working relationship, which is all I think that I'm entitled to ask for.
Q: You mentioned the budgetary issue that's one of the big things you'll have to tackle relatively quickly. Now that we're not in a campaign anymore, can you give us a better sense of where you may be looking for revenue? And I know a lot of potential revenue ideas like the one you mentioned about taxing high-end law firms and accounting firms needs approval in Springfield. That would be a pretty narrow window in May to get that accomplished in Springfield. Will you look for revenue this session?
A: Well, I think, look, I'm not going to wait until May 20 to start having a legislative agenda in Springfield. That's just not enough time. It's just the vagaries of the election and when you get sworn in, so those discussions have already started, and we'll probably be taking a visit to Springfield sometime relatively soon. And you know we had a very good discussion this morning and those discussions continue at the staff level with Mayor Emanuel's financial team about what are some realistic options, and we're going to take all of that into consideration. You know, a lot of it depends upon what we can get help from Springfield with, and particularly around pension issues. And there are some things that I think seem like they're in play. Again, I don't want to talk about specifics yet, because I need to educate myself a little bit more about them before I start pushing those or pushing that.
Other than crime, there's no bigger issue that we face than securing the financial future of our city. And because of decisions that were made way beyond my thoughts about being a mayor of a city, we are in a very difficult circumstance. And you know I've said before we are absolutely going to have to have a conversation with the taxpayers about revenue. But there's a lot of things that we have to do first, and the more conversations I have with people, that list keeps getting longer of things that we have to do first.
I just want people to feel like we've heard them. People feel like they are taxed to death. They feel like they are nickel-and-dimed. And I think most people, particularly in this deep blue city, understand that taxes are a thing that have to happen. But there's got to be some rationality around it. And it's got to be coupled with a demonstration that we're going to run city government much more efficiently. I'm never going to say we're going to run city government like a business, because the two things are not the same. But it doesn't mean that we get to squander tax dollars in the way that we're doing it.
Q: So given that you want to cut first before you raise taxes, it seems to make that hard to go looking for new revenue in May in Springfield. Is that fair?
A: I don't think so. I don't think so.
Q: So one doesn't preclude the other?
A: No, I don't think so. I mean I think the city itself has to do its own business. Now, obviously our budget process is driven by what happens in Springfield, but what happens in Springfield we absolutely have a stake in. For example, the discussion that's going on right now regarding the progressive income tax. We're going to be either be hurt or helped by how those numbers and what those brackets shape out. So we have to influence that process 100 percent. We can't be on the sidelines waiting for it to just happen to us. There's too much significance there. There are discussions going on about how to address certain pension issues. I think the city of Chicago has got to have a seat at the table in those discussions. We may ultimately opt out or we may opt in, but we at least have to have a seat at the table so that our interest are represented. So there's a number of things that have to happen, which is why having a Springfield agenda and urgency '.... Now, I didn't allow myself to look past Tuesday, but you know every day for the last month at least, Springfield's been on my mind.
Q: You mentioned opt in; are you referring to the possibility of having the city's pension funds consolidated with the state's?
A: Yeah. Those are some of the discussions that are going on.
Q: Have you spoken with (Gov. J.B. Pritzker) or (House Speaker) Mike Madigan?
A: The governor and I have not had a substantive discussion yet. That's going to happen, and I expect to have a sit-down with him relatively soon. Yes, I've spoken with the speaker and the president of the Senate.
Q: And those are just niceties or did you get down to some business in those conversations?
A: I wouldn't say we got down to business, but they were a little more than niceties.
Q: A bill allowing a Chicago elected school board passed the House today (Thursday). Under that version, I think there's 20 members and the legislature gets to draw the districts. Do you have thoughts on who should draw the boundaries, how many members there should be?
A: Well, I think there are some fundamentals that still haven't been addressed, and I'm not fond of the bill in its current iteration at all. I don't think you can have a number of people on a board that's completely unwieldy and are not going to be able to do their business. We haven't answered the questions of, "OK, if we have an elected school board, what's the selection process?" And it can't just be this is like aldermanic races. That's not going to work.
I want actual parents to be able to sit on that board, and if we treat it like another political body, that's not going to happen and that to me is absolutely untenable and a nonstarter. What the level of experience is that people have to bring, and the kinds of experiences also make a difference to me. I favor a situation where we have people who have come through the (Local School Council) process, because they have skin in the game. That means they're probably a parent. They've been able to make and meet budgets. They have some expertise in doing hiring. I think all those things are very valuable skills that will help inform a school board. So obviously, Mr. (state Rep. Robert) Martwick did not confer with me about the content of his legislation. That to me is a nonstarter.
Q: So, maybe you've had to serve for a certain number of years on a Local School Council before you can run for school board?
A: Yeah. I want to spend a little more time with it, but that makes more sense to me than just throwing it open, because then it just becomes another political monster. We're going to replace one broken system with another broken system, and that's not going to build confidence in anyone. I don't favor this bill at all. I don't favor it.
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot speaks on April 3, 2019, about reducing violent crime in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Q: You've said crime is No. 1 issue facing the city. How have your discussions with Superintendent Eddie Johnson gone? I know the low clearance rate on solving homicides is an issue you've talked about. Does the department need more detectives or how do you plan to address that?
A: Depending on who you talk to, they have a completely different perspective about the clearance rate. I'm told that the clearance rate for this year is much improved over what it has been the last couple of years. I haven't dug into the details of that yet, and I'm expecting to get a fuller briefing on that sometime soon.
Look, I didn't know Eddie Johnson at all before he became the superintendent. I think I was in maybe one or two meetings where he was present, but the way the Police Department works is unless the superintendent tells you to speak, you don't talk. So he was in rooms that I was present, but we had no real interactions.
I had a lot of contact with him when I was serving as the president of the Police Board. I think we have a very cordial and good working relationship. I think there are some things he's worked extremely hard on and are important to him, including rebuilding trust. And I think he's done a good job at that. There is more work to be done. Obviously, we have to do a far better job on keeping our community safe, and that's where I'm going to put a significant amount of input.
Yesterday's conversation was an opportunity for them to kind of lay out their plan for summer violence, but I'm a detail gal, and yesterday wasn't really the time for that. But we'll be digging into the details, and we're going to hold people accountable. It just has to be. We cannot continue at the pace we're continuing at. We know there are better solutions. We see it in other cities across the country, and we're going to change this thing around or we're going to make changes.
Q: You've met with Janice Jackson. How did that go? You've said she needs to apologize for the attempt to close the National Teachers Academy in the South Loop.
A: I told her when I met her that I thought it was an important thing for her to recognize, and of course she does, that people have been really hurt. They have been wounded by the way in which a lot of things have happened at CPS. I don't think there's another institution in the city that evokes more passion than public education. There are so many stakeholders. It's a very difficult job. In some ways, it's just as challenging, if not more so, than being superintendent of police. But there are parents out there who feel like they have been shut out from the process of how their children are educated, and that's never a good thing. So I've urged her to continue a process of healing, particularly around the school closures and the attempted closure of NTA. She owns that now. But I will also say I was very impressed by her in our conversation.
A: Because she's a real person. She doesn't come at you with education-speak. She's very direct. I think she's very smart, and I appreciated the candor of our conversation.
Q: This transition in some ways is kind of insane. You have five weeks to do this. When the mayor won eight years ago, he didn't have a runoff and had more time, three months. Does this short period mean that some of the current commissioners and people in more complicated positions, like the Aviation Department or CTA, are more likely to stay in place because of the quick turnaround?
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A: I don't think that is the measuring stick. Clearly, there are some places that play a more prominent role in the day-to-day operations of the city than others, but what we are doing is systematically analyzing every city department. Some people are going to be departing on their own volition. We've already gotten word of that, and we will bid them well. There are other people who '... there certainly will be changes that are made.
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot speaks on April 3, 2019, about the short transition period before taking office. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Who and what is really going to be a function of, from my perspective, who are the best people to drive the change that is going to be necessary? Who has exhibited innovation and energy around a set of values that we are defining? And we're looking not just at the commissioners, but really down to the deputy level. On the day-to-day basis, the deputies are really the people who are driving things in the operation of city departments. You know, we're also thinking about how we reimagine some of the things in city government. So, there are a lot of factors that are going to roll up into who we ask to stay and who we say, "Thank you for your service."
And also, there are some people who may stay for a short time, because five weeks is an insanely short period of time, and we want to make sure we've given ourselves enough time. I don't want to be what happens in some instances where there's this wholesale change and then you have nobody to turn the lights on and off every day. That's not going to happen. But we're trying to be as thoughtful and robust as we can. We've been thinking about these things, certainly longer than Tuesday night. And as you see, there is a whole operation and the Civic Consulting Alliance has been extraordinarily helpful, as they would have been helpful to President Preckwinkle.
So, there's a lot of work to be done, but I think we've got a good plan in place to find '... to the extent we need to find new talent, we have a whole process in place to be able to do that. I can tell you that I, personally, and other people have been inundated with requests, resumes. We'll be making an initial announcement today (Thursday) about key people on the team, and I'm sure they'll be swamped. You know, this is an exciting time. We're in a city with unbelievable talent, so I have every confidence that we're going to be able to find the talent that we need.
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EuroLand
Burning EU and other flags can now bring German jail term - BBC News
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:48
Image copyright AFP Image caption Protesters burning an EU flag in Cyprus in 2013 Germany has made public burning of the EU flag or that of another country punishable by up to three years in jail, classing it as a hate crime.
The vote in the Bundestag (parliament) on Thursday makes defiling foreign flags equal to the crime of defiling the German flag.
The same applies for the EU anthem, Beethoven's Ode to Joy theme.
The move followed Social Democrat (SPD) complaints about protesters' burning of the Israeli flag in Berlin in 2017.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, a member of the centre-left SPD, said "burning flags publicly has nothing to do with peaceful protests". She said it stoked up "hatred, anger and aggression", and hurt many people's feelings.
The new law also applies to acts of defilement besides burning, such as publicly ripping a flag up. Public display of the Nazi swastika and other Nazi symbols is already banned in Germany.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has condemned the new law as "excessive interference in free speech and artistic expression".
The act of defiling the Union Flag in the UK is not a crime, but France has made desecration of the tricolour punishable by a fine of up to '‚¬7,500 (£6,600; $8,000) or six months in jail.
Spain, Italy and Greece also have laws banning desecration of the national flag.
Fauci
Archbishop Vigan²: Plans for a New World Order must be 'unmasked, understood, and revealed' | Opinion | LifeSite
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:40
May 14, 2020 (Veritasliberabitvos) '' On May 8, three Cardinals and nine Bishops, together with many doctors, journalists, lawyers, thinkers, and professionals from all over the world launched an appeal to raise public awareness among people, governments, scientists, and the media about the serious dangers to individual freedom caused during the spread of Covid-19.
These dangers have been felt more severely in some countries than others, but the attention of Catholics and people of good will must be drawn everywhere so that we can all understand together what is happening: if we all consider only the health side of the epidemic '' and fail to understand its social, economic, political, and religious implications '' we will be on the way to a future in which governments and the Church hierarchy will be drawn down by powers which think there is no higher authority than themselves and whose purpose is very unclear.
The idea of plans for a New World Order under which countries and ordinary citizens saw their identity taken away by a powerful elite might have seemed absurd until a few years ago. Now these very plans are being stated and indeed pushed as good for society and for individuals. These plans as promoted by international groupings must be unmasked, understood, and revealed. In ordinary times such would be the task of the media, to make each of us aware of what is happening so that we can speak out against it as individual believers and members of a community.
This is the purpose of the Appeal: to break the media silence we are seeing, especially in terms of the lack of any discussion of individual freedoms and rights. These are now being censored and controlled. We also wish to ask members of the scientific community to discuss these matters without pressure being applied by economic or ideological interests, and to remind governments of their responsibility for the good of all.
The Appeal has certainly raised a certain amount of discussion and debate. In Germany, many Bishops have simply spoken of ''conspiracy theories,'' and have completely failed to refute any of our claims. They have thus climbed onto the bandwagon of current ideology. During a recent interview with the German Catholic weekly magazine Die Tagespost, Cardinal M¼ller (one of the signatories of the Appeal) courageously notes that ''the modern trend is to consider anyone who thinks things in a different way as a conspiracy theorist.''
He also says:
Those who fail to distinguish between the suitability and danger of globalization deny reality. Pope Francis has spoken out against states and international bodies imposing abortion in poor countries as a form of neo-colonialism and denying them aid if they refuse to implement this. When Alberto Fujimori was the president of Peru, I spoke to many women and men who had been sterilized unknowingly and who had been tricked with large sums of money and promises about healthcare and a better life. Is this some sort of conspiracy theory? The same must be said about accusations of conspiracy theories concerning discussions of vaccinating seven billion people, even though the vaccine has not been properly tested yet and basic rights may be denied to any who refuse the vaccine. Nobody can be forced to believe that a couple of billionaire benefactors have the best plans for improving things around the world simply because they have been able to accumulate such huge sums of money.
We have heard the same sort of thing from Archbishop Athanasius Schneider: ''It is amazing that the Church, politics, and media establishment have all tried to discredit '' in line with mainstream trends '' the anxiety expressed in the Appeal with their knock-out argument of a conspiracy theory so that any further debate is immediately killed stone dead. I remember the same sort of reaction and language under the Soviet dictatorship, when dissidents and critics of the main ideology and political regime were accused of complicity with 'conspiracy theories' in the capitalist west (here).''
It should also be said that the Appeal, leaving aside those criticisms which have only been made by those who wish to whitewash the countless incongruities in the things we can all see with our own eyes, has been supported by important laymen and women, and many eminent representatives of the worlds of science and the media. Robert Francis Kennedy Jr has spoken in favor of the Appeal. In less than one week the Appeal has gathered almost 40,000 signatures, and is now being read in the East.
It is clear that there is a deep fracture among the Hierarchy, and the Appeal has let us all see this. Proof of this can be seen in the clearly globalist basis for the Pray for Humanity Day set up by the Committee for Brotherly Fraternity in the United Arab Emirates to ask for an end to the pandemic, to which the Holy See immediately gave its approval.
This trend, recently ratified in the Abu Dhabi Declaration, clearly draws its inspiration from the relativist ideology behind masonic thought. As such it has absolutely nothing Catholic in it, and it is extremely worrying that the Church has allowed itself to be used as ''Outreach'' by the New World Order (which is absolutely and utterly anti-Catholic).
China
China: Federalism Means U.S. Cannot Defeat Coronavirus
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:44
Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP Chinese state media on Wednesday asserted that federalism, multi-party democracy, and respect for individual privacy would make it impossible for the United States to defeat the Wuhan coronavirus, since Washington cannot dictate top-down solutions for the entire country or micro-monitor American citizens the way Beijing does.
The Global Times made the usual effort to stir up partisan divisions and blame the U.S. for trying to ''pass the buck to China'' instead of agreeing to forget where the coronavirus came from before getting to the meat of its argument, which was that Americans are paying a steep price for not being obedient drones governed by an absolute central authority:
The epidemic fight must be a people's war, but the Americans have not been fully mobilized to fight the coronavirus with science. It has taken a long and bumpy road for Americans to wear masks despite being such a simple thing. Only very recently were White House staffers ordered to wear masks. However, Washington's attempt to politically mobilize the society hasn't stopped for a moment. It's working every minute to make supporting forced resumption of work a political correctness. The US government keeps telling its people not to be afraid of the epidemic, to go back to work and smear China.
How can such a US defeat the virus? The number of deaths in the country has exceeded 82,000, and will soon surpass the iconic mark of 100,000. But the US hasn't formed a unified fight against the epidemic within the country, nor is there a consistent strategy. The last round of social distancing measures only alleviated the epidemic. The US rushed to resume work and production without establishing a strong capability to track the infected.
Constrained by the federal system, the US is weak in coordinating actions nationwide. The deformed party politics has further hindered the formation of a united epidemic fight. The US epidemic response has failed to match its scientific strength and superior public health conditions. It is fighting a chaotic battle, costing a lot while gaining little and ordinary people have become the biggest victims. Unfortunately, the most prevalent thing within the US now is to shirk responsibility and pass the buck to China.
The world's sole superpower is degenerating. The only way to ''Make America Great Again'' is to rebuild the spirit of science, which should start with subduing the novel coronavirus with science itself. What will defeat the virus is scientific prevention and control. The virus knows no borders; it will launch fatal attacks against countries with weaker defenses.
China's ''blame the victim'' efforts to shame other countries out of complaining about the virus China sent them is not much of a charm offensive, but it does give Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda writers an easy script to stick to.
As for the worship of holy science as the antidote to political dissent, it demonstrates once again that the CCP is a keen student of American left-wing rhetoric and mainstream media coverage. Of course, it would never occur to a Communist that the reason American medicine is so vastly superior to their own '-- to the point where they had to steal every technological innovation of the past three decades through massive hacking and intellectual property theft campaigns '-- is precisely because the spirit of dissent, the urge to challenge consensus and unsettle dogmatic conclusions, nourishes scientific progress. As too many people in the Western world forget, science is about questions and technology is about answers.
Contract tracing to contain the pandemic is not impossible under a federalist system with respect for individual dignity. NPR reported last week that 44 states and the District of Columbia have concrete plans to expand their contract tracing task forces, with over 66,000 workers expected to be on the job when the plans are fully implemented.
Some of those states noted their contact tracing workforces could be considerably larger because county health departments can only estimate their staffing levels and some have medical staffers who work on tracing in addition to their primary duties. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has deployed 500 staffers to help with state and local tracing programs and is planning to send out another 650. Plans have been discussed to create a massive federal contract tracing agency to supplement and coordinate state efforts.
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PBS Stations That Received Millions In Federal Funds Partnered With Chinese Foreign Agent On Pro-Beijing Film - The Schpiel
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:09
PBS affiliates that receive millions of dollars in federal funding each year are airing a pro-Beijing documentary produced in conjunction with CGTN, a Chinese-government controlled media outlet that is registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.
The film, ''Voices from the Frontline: China's War on Poverty,'' did not disclose CGTN's links to the Chinese government. Nor did it detail the ties that the film's producer, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, has to Chinese officials and the government's State Council Information Office, which specializes in foreign propaganda.
PBS affiliate KOCE, known as PBS SoCal, helped produce the film and premiered it Monday. KCET, which merged with KOCE in 2018, will air the show on Saturday. Other PBS affiliates, including in Idaho and Las Vegas, have either already aired the film or plan to do so later this month.
The one-hour documentary touts Chinese President Xi Jinping's initiative to alleviate poverty in China by this year.
''In the last forty years, China's economic development has lifted more than 700 people out of poverty,'' reads the introductory script in the film.
''To President Xi Jinping, ending poverty is his most important task,'' the script states.
The closing credits of the documentary show that it was produced by ''The Kuhn Foundation and PBS SoCal in association with CGTN.'' One PBS SoCal employee is listed as an executive producer of the film and another is listed as a production assistant.
PBS and other publicly-funded news outlets like NPR have come under fire in recent years, with conservatives pushing to defund the organizations over a perceived liberal bias. Other news outlets have come under scrutiny for publishing propaganda promoted by the Chinese government.
President Donald Trump has proposed defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which provides the federal dollars that go to PBS affiliates and NPR.
KCET received $5.6 million in funding from CPB in 2019, according to CPB records. The station received more than $1.8 million in 2018. KOCE received more than $1.8 million in 2018 and more than $2.2 million in 2017.
PBS and its 350 affiliates are funded through a mixture of government grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations. While federal funding makes up a small percentage of PBS affiliates' revenue, the organization says that government money is crucial to its survival.
''There is no viable replacement for federal funding '' which amounts to $1.35 per citizen per year,'' PBS SoCal says on its website.
''The loss of federal funding would make it difficult for local stations to operate and would cause many of them to close, which would result in a collapse of the PBS system. Loss of federal funding would also have a devastating effect on PBS's ability to produce the quality content our viewers love.''
The Los Angeles Times reported in March 2017 that KOCE receives between $2.5 million and $3 million in federal funding, or 11-15% of its budget.
The Kuhn Foundation has given $70,000 in grants to KOCE between 2015 and 2018, according to tax filings. The foundation gave $35,000 in 2015 and $17,500 in both 2017 and 2018.
Kuhn, a former investment banker, appears to be highly regarded in China, though he is not as well known in the U.S. He has made appearances on channels like CNN and Bloomberg over the years to discuss issues in China, but appears frequently on Beijing-controlled news outlets like CGTN, CCTV, and China Daily.
In December 2018, Kuhn was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal at an event held in Beijing and attended by Xi Jinping. Kuhn's personal website shows a photo of him shaking hands with Xi at the event, and refers to the medal as ''China's highest award.''
Kuhn hosted a delegation that same year to Beijing to meet with Jiang Jianguo, who served as minister of the State Council Information Office, the office reported.
The State Council is also the Chinese Communist Party's Central Office of Foreign Propaganda, according to the Wilson Center.
Kuhn's name previously surfaced in connection to Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who committed suicide while in jail on charges that he molested underage girls. Epstein through his nonprofit contributed $150,000 to the Kuhn Foundation in 2017, The Daily Beast has reported. Epstein's nonprofit also bankrolled a PBS series that Kuhn produced on spirituality called ''Closer to Truth.'' CNBC reported that Epstein contributed $500,000 to Kuhn's project in 2018.
Kuhn offers his views on the Chinese government on a weekly segment hosted by CGTN and through documentaries he has produced in coordination with Chinese media outlets.
Xi's program to fight poverty has been one area of focus for Kuhn, as has the Chinese government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
''To truly understand China, one has to recognize their genuine commitment to eradicating poverty,'' Kuhn last year told China Daily, a government-controlled outlet, of his documentary.
''Today, in the Western world, especially in the United States, there is concern about China's actions and suspicion of China's motives. But one of the things I wanted this film to do was to undermine the stereotype of China as a ruthless giant out to dominate the world. It's just not the case.''
''Xi's commitment and determination frames the film, informing its open and close,'' Kuhn said.
In a recent episode of ''The Watcher,'' a segment that airs on CGTN, Kuhn praised the Chinese Communist Party's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
''China's mobilization is unprecedented in global health history. Nowhere could it work like it works in China. The reason it works is because the party works, the Communist Party of China,'' Kuhn said.
''President Xi Jinping calls for fighting the outbreak in an open and transparent manner. That's the key: transparency, complete transparency. As China has done and is doing updating all confirmed patients and updating all the data everyday,'' he added.
In a televised event aired by China Daily, another outlet controlled by Beijing, Kuhn asserted that China will win praise in future generations for its response to coronavirus.
''Future historians may well look upon China's fight against the coronavirus as a turning in worldwide efforts to contain outbreaks of novel diseases, and stop their spread,'' Kuhn said at the event, which aired March 31.
''History may well thank China for pioneering how to deal with virulent contagions in a globalized world,'' he said.
Kuhn's view is not shared by health experts and government officials across the world who have blamed Chinese authorities for failing to contain the virus and for providing misleading information about the early stages of the outbreak.
China has been accused of releasing false statistics about the number of infections and deaths in China from coronavirus. Authorities there also offered false assurances to the World Health Organization that the coronavirus was not transmitted person to person.
Kuhn's praise for Chinese leaders has earned him blowback from some China watchers.
In 2005, The New York Times reviewed Kuhn's book, ''The Man Who Changed China,'' noting that a ''secret state propaganda team'' oversaw the writing of the book.
Kuhn rebutted some of those allegations, telling China Daily in 2011 saying that he was ''indeed an advisor to the Chinese government.'' Kuhn denied being paid by Beijing.
''I have never been paid by the Chinese government,'' he said, adding: ''I am paid by foreign companies that do business in China.''
It's unclear if the PBS stations were aware of CGTN's status as a foreign agent for the Chinese government.
The company formally registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Aug. 2, 2019.
A spokesman for KOCE and KCET provided the Daily Caller News Foundation with a press release for the Kuhn film but did not respond to a detailed list of questions. PBS did not respond to a request for comment, nor did The Kuhn Foundation. Requests for comment submitted through Kuhn's personal website were also not returned.
The Chinese government has long used its propaganda arms to disseminate pro-Beijing narratives. The initiative has involved Chinese news outlets partnering with mainstream U.S. and Western newspapers, such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, to publish paid inserts in those newspapers that promote a pro-China view.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2017 that the Chinese government was partnering with Western TV companies to produce glossy documentaries aimed at burnishing Beijing's image.
The story said that Xi ''has also stepped up support for co-productions with foreign partners, including documentary tie-ups spotlighting the country's culture, technological advancements and infrastructure projects.''
The report pointed to ''China: Time of Xi,'' a documentary that Discovery channel's Asia division aired. Kuhn was interviewed for the film.
PBS Stations That Received Millions In Federal Funds Partnered With Chinese Foreign Agent On Pro-Beijing Film | The Daily Caller
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:23
PBS affiliates receiving millions of dollars in federal funds yearly are airing a documentary produced in conjunction with CGTN, a Chinese government controlled media outlet that is registered as a foreign agent. PBS affiliates KOCE and KCET received more than $5.5 million combined in federal funding last year, according to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's records. Both stations are airing a film that touts Chinese President Xi Jinping's poverty alleviation program. The film is written and directed by an American financier who has acknowledged having close ties to Chinese officials and who has touted Beijing's coronavirus response. PBS affiliates that receive millions of dollars in federal funding each year are airing a pro-Beijing documentary produced in conjunction with CGTN, a Chinese-government controlled media outlet that is registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.
The film, ''Voices from the Frontline: China's War on Poverty,'' did not disclose CGTN's links to the Chinese government. Nor did it detail the ties that the film's producer, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, has to Chinese officials and the government's State Council Information Office, which specializes in foreign propaganda.
PBS affiliate KOCE, known as PBS SoCal, helped produce the film and premiered it Monday. KCET, which merged with KOCE in 2018, will air the show on Saturday. Other PBS affiliates, including in Idaho and Las Vegas, have either already aired the film or plan to do so later this month.
The one-hour documentary touts Chinese President Xi Jinping's initiative to alleviate poverty in China by this year.
''In the last forty years, China's economic development has lifted more than 700 people out of poverty,'' reads the introductory script in the film.
''To President Xi Jinping, ending poverty is his most important task,'' the script states.
The closing credits of the documentary show that it was produced by ''The Kuhn Foundation and PBS SoCal in association with CGTN.'' One PBS SoCal employee is listed as an executive producer of the film and another is listed as a production assistant.
PBS and other publicly-funded news outlets like NPR have come under fire in recent years, with conservatives pushing to defund the organizations over a perceived liberal bias. Other news outlets have come under scrutiny for publishing propaganda promoted by the Chinese government.
President Donald Trump has proposed defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which provides the federal dollars that go to PBS affiliates and NPR.
KCET received $5.6 million in funding from CPB in 2019, according to CPB records. The station received more than $1.8 million in 2018. KOCE received more than $1.8 million in 2018 and more than $2.2 million in 2017.
PBS and its 350 affiliates are funded through a mixture of government grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations. While federal funding makes up a small percentage of PBS affiliates' revenue, the organization says that government money is crucial to its survival.
''There is no viable replacement for federal funding '' which amounts to $1.35 per citizen per year,'' PBS SoCal says on its website.
''The loss of federal funding would make it difficult for local stations to operate and would cause many of them to close, which would result in a collapse of the PBS system. Loss of federal funding would also have a devastating effect on PBS's ability to produce the quality content our viewers love.''
The Los Angeles Times reported in March 2017 that KOCE receives between $2.5 million and $3 million in federal funding, or 11-15% of its budget.
The Kuhn Foundation has given $70,000 in grants to KOCE between 2015 and 2018, according to tax filings. The foundation gave $35,000 in 2015 and $17,500 in both 2017 and 2018.
Kuhn, a former investment banker, appears to be highly regarded in China, though he is not as well known in the U.S. He has made appearances on channels like CNN and Bloomberg over the years to discuss issues in China, but appears frequently on Beijing-controlled news outlets like CGTN, CCTV, and China Daily.
In December 2018, Kuhn was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal at an event held in Beijing and attended by Xi Jinping. Kuhn's personal website shows a photo of him shaking hands with Xi at the event, and refers to the medal as ''China's highest award.''
Kuhn hosted a delegation that same year to Beijing to meet with Jiang Jianguo, who served as minister of the State Council Information Office, the office reported.
The State Council is also the Chinese Communist Party's Central Office of Foreign Propaganda, according to the Wilson Center.
Kuhn's name previously surfaced in connection to Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who committed suicide while in jail on charges that he molested underage girls. Epstein through his nonprofit contributed $150,000 to the Kuhn Foundation in 2017, The Daily Beast has reported. Epstein's nonprofit also bankrolled a PBS series that Kuhn produced on spirituality called ''Closer to Truth.'' CNBC reported that Epstein contributed $500,000 to Kuhn's project in 2018.
Kuhn offers his views on the Chinese government on a weekly segment hosted by CGTN and through documentaries he has produced in coordination with Chinese media outlets.
Xi's program to fight poverty has been one area of focus for Kuhn, as has the Chinese government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
''To truly understand China, one has to recognize their genuine commitment to eradicating poverty,'' Kuhn last year told China Daily, a government-controlled outlet, of his documentary.
''Today, in the Western world, especially in the United States, there is concern about China's actions and suspicion of China's motives. But one of the things I wanted this film to do was to undermine the stereotype of China as a ruthless giant out to dominate the world. It's just not the case.''
''Xi's commitment and determination frames the film, informing its open and close,'' Kuhn said.
In a recent episode of ''The Watcher,'' a segment that airs on CGTN, Kuhn praised the Chinese Communist Party's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
''China's mobilization is unprecedented in global health history. Nowhere could it work like it works in China. The reason it works is because the party works, the Communist Party of China,'' Kuhn said.
''President Xi Jinping calls for fighting the outbreak in an open and transparent manner. That's the key: transparency, complete transparency. As China has done and is doing updating all confirmed patients and updating all the data everyday,'' he added.
WATCH:
In a televised event aired by China Daily, another outlet controlled by Beijing, Kuhn asserted that China will win praise in future generations for its response to coronavirus.
''Future historians may well look upon China's fight against the coronavirus as a turning in worldwide efforts to contain outbreaks of novel diseases, and stop their spread,'' Kuhn said at the event, which aired March 31.
''History may well thank China for pioneering how to deal with virulent contagions in a globalized world,'' he said.
Kuhn's view is not shared by health experts and government officials across the world who have blamed Chinese authorities for failing to contain the virus and for providing misleading information about the early stages of the outbreak.
China has been accused of releasing false statistics about the number of infections and deaths in China from coronavirus. Authorities there also offered false assurances to the World Health Organization that the coronavirus was not transmitted person to person. (RELATED: Chinese Propaganda Has Infected Daily Mail's Coronavirus Coverage)
WATCH:
Kuhn's praise for Chinese leaders has earned him blowback from some China watchers.
In 2005, The New York Times reviewed Kuhn's book, ''The Man Who Changed China,'' noting that a ''secret state propaganda team'' oversaw the writing of the book.
Kuhn rebutted some of those allegations, telling China Daily in 2011 saying that he was ''indeed an advisor to the Chinese government.'' Kuhn denied being paid by Beijing.
''I have never been paid by the Chinese government,'' he said, adding: ''I am paid by foreign companies that do business in China.''
It's unclear if the PBS stations were aware of CGTN's status as a foreign agent for the Chinese government.
The company formally registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Aug. 2, 2019. (RELATED: China's Propaganda Machine Loves WHO's Bruce Aylward)
A spokesman for KOCE and KCET provided the Daily Caller News Foundation with a press release for the Kuhn film but did not respond to a detailed list of questions. PBS did not respond to a request for comment, nor did The Kuhn Foundation. Requests for comment submitted through Kuhn's personal website were also not returned.
The Chinese government has long used its propaganda arms to disseminate pro-Beijing narratives. The initiative has involved Chinese news outlets partnering with mainstream U.S. and Western newspapers, such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, to publish paid inserts in those newspapers that promote a pro-China view.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2017 that the Chinese government was partnering with Western TV companies to produce glossy documentaries aimed at burnishing Beijing's image.
The story said that Xi ''has also stepped up support for co-productions with foreign partners, including documentary tie-ups spotlighting the country's culture, technological advancements and infrastructure projects.''
The report pointed to ''China: Time of Xi,'' a documentary that Discovery channel's Asia division aired. Kuhn was interviewed for the film.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.
Ukraine
State Department emails indicate Yovanovitch met with Burisma rep, despite testimony | Fox News
Fri, 15 May 2020 07:29
State Department emails obtained by the conservative group Citizens United this week indicate that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was involved in discussions about the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings and even in a meeting with a company representative, despite testifying to Congress during the impeachment inquiry that she knew little about the firm.
Burisma Holdings was at the center of impeachment proceedings against President Trump, after he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call to look into the Biden family's dealings in Ukraine. Former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, held a lucrative position on the board of Burisma Holdings.
IMPEACHMENT WITNESS URGES BURISMA PROBE, TESTIFIES TO CONCERN OF HUNTER BIDEN 'CONFLICT'
During the impeachment hearings, many witnesses were questioned about their knowledge of the Biden-Burisma connection, and the firm's reputation in Ukraine. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, during House testimony last year, said she didn't have much knowledge about the firm, and noted that she only learned of its connection to Biden through "press reports" she read while preparing for her Senate confirmation hearing.
''Burisma wasn't a big issue in the fall '... of 2016, when I arrived,'' she said, noting that the investigation and details surrounding its closure ''happened before I arrived.''
"It was not a focus of what I was doing in that six-month period," she said.
But through a Citizens United Freedom of Information Act request for emails related to Burisma sent by former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eastern Europe George Kent, the organization obtained more than 160 pages of emails and memos sent during the fall of 2016, including communications between Yovanovitch and U.S. Embassy officials about Burisma Holdings and documents indicating that she met with a representative of the firm at the embassy in December 2016.
The documents were first reported by John Solomon.
WHAT IS BURISMA HOLDINGS?
In September 2016, Yovanovitch received a letter from Burisma's American lawyers, John Buretta of Cravath, Swaine and Moore law firm based in New York, alerting her that prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko's office was dropping a corruption investigation related to Burisma without filing charges. Buretta also called allegations against the firm's founder ''baseless.''
''We respectfully request that Your Excellency take into consideration these objective facts when considering the narrative promoted by some, and no doubt to be repeated again, in disregard of the facts and the law and the decisions by courts,'' Buretta wrote the ambassador.
Yovanovitch appeared to forward the email to Kent, who then arranged a briefing for her to discuss the issues. Kent, before the briefing, wrote to colleagues the topics he hoped to discuss, which included ''[Burisma founder Mykola] Zlochevsky/Burisma - asset recovery and past crimes of the Yanu regime as they intersect U.S. corporate/individual interest.''
In another email, Kent wrote to Yovanovitch that the briefing was ''further to the Blue Star effort to rehabilitate the reputation of their non-client in the US, former ministry of ecologies Zlochevsky, who clearly has retained the services of a blue chip law firm and his energy company Burisma, which in turn has Hunter Biden on its board.''
Yovanovitch was herself a key figure in impeachment proceedings, recalling how she was ousted from her post and allegedly targeted by Trump allies '-- some of whom have argued that the concerns about Burisma and the Biden connection were legitimate for the president to press Ukraine on. Trump's move to withhold U.S. aid during that period, though, is what catapulted the controversy into impeachment territory '-- with the president ultimately impeached by the House and then acquitted by the Senate.
Burisma's founder, former minister of ecologies Mykola Zlochevsky, had been under investigation in Ukraine. The Obama administration pushed for the prosecutor investigating Zlochevsky, Viktor Shokin, to be removed from his post. Shokin was fired in April 2016 and the case was closed by the prosecutor who replaced him, Lutsenko. Joe Biden once boasted on camera that when he was vice president he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin.
YOVANOVITCH CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION AFTER DOCUMENTS SHOW SHE MAY HAVE BEEN SURVEILLED IN UKRAINE
Biden allies, though, maintain that his intervention had nothing to do with his son, but was rather tied to the administration's concerns of corruption in Ukraine. At the time, as vice president to former President Obama, Biden was running U.S.-Ukraine policy and anti-corruption campaigns.
Meanwhile, another document appeared to be a briefing memo to prepare Yovanovitch for a meeting on Dec. 8, 2016 inside the U.S. Embassy with Burisma representative Karen Tramontano.
''An Atlantic Council member and Washington veteran, Tramontano informally represents Mykola Zlochevsky, the Burisma CEO, who has long been the target of law enforcement proceedings in Ukraine,'' the memo stated, adding that Zlochevsky's ''official US representatives sent a letter in September ... asking that the embassy reconsider its position on him.''
Yovanovitch did not make mention of meeting with Burisma representatives during her testimony.
''These newly uncovered documents indicate Ambassador Yovanovitch made false statements under oath during the impeachment charade and this must be thoroughly investigated,'' Citizens United president David Bossie told Fox News, adding that ''the American people are sick and tired of the double standard.''
Bossie called for President Trump to order the release of records related to impeachment, Burisma and Hunter Biden:
"The records that Citizens United pried loose through our ongoing FOIA litigation are sitting in the State Department. President Trump should order the release of all records relating to impeachment, Burisma and Hunter Biden that are in the possession of the State Department. The American people have a right to know about the corruption that took place in Ukraine during the Obama-Biden Administration."
Fox News has reached out to Yovanovitch's attorneys with a request for comment.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the Burisma investigation isn't entirely closed. In October 2019, Ukraine's current prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, said at a news conference that his office was instructed to review cases that have been closed to make sure they were fairly and thoroughly handled '-- including the probe into Burisma. That announcement did not mean that Ukraine was opening a new investigation into Burisma or the Bidens.
During his testimony last year, Kent said that he raised concerns with Biden's office in 2015 that Hunter Biden's role on the board of Burisma could present ''the possibility of the perception of a conflict of interest.''
Kent also testified during the impeachment hearings that he would ''love'' to see Ukraine look into the circumstances surrounding the closure of the probe tied to Burisma.
#OBAMAGATE
''Obamagate'': Trump's latest conspiracy theory, explained - Vox
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:24
In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 85,000 Americans so far, President Donald Trump has revived his attacks on the Russia investigation '-- and on the Obama administration, which he claims orchestrated the whole thing to frame him.
Trump is now trying to make ''OBAMAGATE!'' a thing, though it's really just the latest iteration of the fringe theory that President Barack Obama and ''deep state'' holdovers from his administration have been illegally plotting to undermine Trump's presidency since its start.
Trump hasn't actually explained what those illegal acts are. When asked Monday what crimes Obama had committed, Trump told reporters: ''Uh, Obamagate. It's been going on for a long time. It's been going on from before I even got elected, and it's a disgrace that it happened.''
The case of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, seems to be the latest ''evidence'' of the supposed conspiracy. Trump and his allies have been suggesting that the Obama administration acted illegally when it pursued a case against Flynn, who lied to the FBI (and to Vice President Mike Pence) about his Russia contacts and admitted under oath that he did so.
''Obamagate'' is nonsense, and distracts from the Trump administration's slipshod response to the coronavirus crisis. But Trump's amplification of it is not. His defenders in Congress and in right-wing media are boosting it, seizing upon benign facts to ensnare Trump's 2020 opponent in the melee.
It has spurred new ''investigations into the investigators,'' including a new congressional probe announced Thursday by Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The central question now is whether Trump's rallying cry is powerful enough to rewrite the history of the Mueller investigation.
Think of ''Obamagate'' as a ''witch hunt'' rebrand of sorts''OBAMAGATE!'' Trump tweeted over a particularly busy weekend online where he tweeted and retweeted a number of right-wing conspiracies. ''The biggest political crime in American history, by far!'' he wrote in response to one.
Sounds huge. But Trump himself has a hard time articulating exactly what happened. When asked by a reporter this week what Trump meant, he replied: ''You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.''
Unless you spend a lot of time on fringe parts of the internet, it's not. But this is the gist of what Trump is claiming: Obama and officials in his administration tried to sabotage Trump's presidential campaign; when that didn't work and he was elected anyway, Obama's team tried to undermine Trump's presidency by having ''deep state'' operatives loyal to Obama stay on in government and work to take Trump down from the inside. The primary way they supposedly did that, of course, was through the Russia investigation.
In this sense, Obamagate is sort of a rebrand of the ''witch hunt'' or ''Russia hoax.''
The details of the crimes that supposedly make up Obamagate are quite a bit harder to parse. This is partly because there have been multiple iterations of this conspiracy. The earliest versions involved Trump claiming Obama had his ''wires tapped'' and was ''spying on his campaign'' or sent spies to try to ''entrap'' members of his campaign.
The latest incarnation seems to revolve around Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak, and whose case the Justice Department is now seeking to dismiss.
There seem to be two threads to the Flynn part of the conspiracy theory; how they overlap is less clear, but here's a stab at it.
First, a brief recap of the Flynn caseFlynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal law enforcement about his communications during the presidential transition (after Trump had been elected but before he officially took office) with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
In December 2016, during Trump's presidential transition, the Obama administration put sanctions on Russia for its role in interfering in the 2016 election. Flynn communicated with Kislyak and asked him not to retaliate.
When FBI agents '-- who were by then investigating Russia's role in the election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia '-- asked Flynn about those conversations in early 2017. He denied that he'd brought up sanctions. Prosecutors also found evidence that Flynn may have broken the law in other instances, including failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, but prosecutors only charged him with that one count of lying to the FBI, which Flynn pleaded guilty to in December 2017.
In return, Flynn agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. At the time, it was a major development in the probe that someone directly connected to Trump's White House was working with prosecutors. And, at first, Flynn cooperated on multiple investigations. Mueller's team described his cooperation as ''substantial'' and recommended that he serve little or no jail time.
But then Flynn started to have a change of heart, suggesting that he had been railroaded by FBI officials who didn't warn him it was a crime to lie to the FBI, or had pushed to interview him without a lawyer present.
Mueller's team dismissed Flynn's accusations, basically saying Flynn, a 33-year veteran of the US armed forces, would have known it was a crime to lie to federal officials. Mueller pointed out that Flynn also told this fake story '-- that he hadn't talked about sanctions with Russia '-- to the members of the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, which is at least what they told the public.
But Flynn's lawyers kept up this ''entrapment'' argument, and Trump and his conservative allies rallied to it. They pressed on the fact that Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who had sent anti-Trump text messages, participated in the Flynn interview.
Flynn then went so far as to attempt to withdraw his guilty plea.
How Flynn become central to this new conspiracy, part 1As Flynn began battling out his case in court, a few other things happened.
The big one: Mueller concluded his investigation in the spring of 2019. In his final report, Mueller affirmed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election and had done so to benefit Trump. However, the probe did not find sufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russian government on its interference efforts.
This allowed Trump to claim vindication of ''NO COLLUSION!'' although the Mueller report is more nuanced than that. The report, for example, notes that the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia was hindered in many instances because those they interviewed were not always forthright. ''Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference,'' Mueller wrote.
The second big thing that happened: Attorney General Bill Barr took over the Justice Department (and oversight of the Mueller probe) in February 2019, and he made his skepticism of the investigation known. He testified in April that he wanted to determine whether the Russia probe was ''adequately predicated'' '-- i.e., whether it had a legitimate basis.
Barr appointed a federal prosecutor, Connecticut US Attorney John Durham, to review origins of the Russia case (more on that), and later appointed another prosecutor, St. Louis US Attorney Jeff Jensen, to review Flynn's case.
As part of that review, FBI documents related to the case were unsealed in April. The partially redacted materials outline some of the deliberations among agents ahead of the Flynn interview in January 2017.
In a handwritten note, an FBI official (believed, based on the initials, to be Bill Priestap, the former head of FBI counterintelligence) writes that the goal of the interview with Flynn was ''to determine if he is going to tell the truth [about] his relationship w/ Russians.'' In another section, the note reads: ''What is our goal? Truth/admission or to ... get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?''
The author also writes in the note at one point: ''If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act give facts to DOJ + have them decide ... If we're seen as playing games, WH will be furious. Protect our institution by not playing games.''
Flynn's defenders pointed to these documents '-- especially the note asking whether the goal was to ''get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?'' '-- as proof that the FBI went into the interrogation with the intention of getting Flynn to lie. His attorneys used the memos to argue that Flynn was set up.
And Bill Barr's Justice Department agreed. Last week, the DOJ moved to drop its case entirely against Flynn. ''Even if Flynn told the truth, Mr. Flynn's statements could not have conceivably 'influenced' an investigation that had neither legitimate counterintelligence nor criminal purpose,'' the filing states, which was submitted by Timothy Shea, the US Attorney in the District of Columbia.
None of the prosecutors who had previously been working on the Flynn case signed the court filing asking to drop the charges, and one of the lead attorneys withdrew from the case.
Priestap has told prosecutors reviewing the case that the notes about the Flynn interview were ''misconstrued,'' according to the New York Times, though the Justice Department did not inform the court about the interview in its effort to drop the charges against Flynn. (The judge has put the dismissal of Flynn's case on hold, for now.)
But the DOJ's move seems to have validated, and intensified, the cries from Trump and others that Flynn was a martyr who was framed as part of Obama's campaign to take down Trump.
Oh, and there's more: the ''unmasking''This week, Ric Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence and a Trump loyalist, sent Senate Republicans a declassified list of Obama-era officials who may have received intelligence on Flynn during the presidential transition. Senate Republicans released that list.
Remember, Flynn's conversations with Kislyak were discovered as part of the routine surveillance of Russian officials' communications by the National Security Agency. Usually, the identities of any US citizens who happen to show up in these intercepted communications are protected, since the NSA isn't supposed to spy on Americans unless they get a special warrant.
But US officials '-- including members of Congress '-- can ask the NSA to ''unmask'' the names of these US citizens to better understand the foreign intelligence intercepts.
The list Grenell provided shows the names of top Obama administration officials who had been authorized to access the intelligence, though NSA chief Paul Nakasone could not confirm that the individuals on the list actually saw ''the unmasked information.''
Before you shout ''bombshell!'': Unmasking is standard practice. The Obama administration did it. The Trump administration does it. According to NSA data, from August 2015 to August 2016, about 9,000 US citizens were unmasked in communications. In 2017, more than 9,500. In 2018 '-- Trump's first full year as president '-- more than 16,700 US persons were unmasked.
The memo from NSA that reveals the names of the Obama officials who might have seen intelligence on Flynn also says that ''each individual was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through the NSA's standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request.''
Again, unmasking is supposed to happen when US officials legitimately need to know an individual's identity to better understand an intelligence report they're getting, as the New York Times's Charlie Savage explains.
But Grenell's declassified document lacks this context. It doesn't say which intelligence reports about Flynn were unmasked or why. The dates on the document provided extend from the specific time period of November 8, 2016, to January 31, 2017; at least when it comes to the Russia investigation, Flynn had conversations about sanctions with Kisylak in December. Some of those intel reports predate that, so it's not even clear it had anything to do with the Russia investigation. (Flynn was also up to some strange stuff with Turkey.)
Of course, this is not exactly how Republican allies of Trump are spinning this. ''In light of General Flynn's unmasking by the Obama Administration, the job of Congress will be to perform oversight of these unmasking requests to ensure the process was used for legitimate national security concerns, not reprisals or political curiosity,'' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Twitter Wednesday.
Overall, the Flynn case was one thread in a sweeping investigation with a lot of troublesome threads. Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and Trump appeared to welcome it. Back in January 2017, the question was: Why, exactly, did Flynn lie to everyone about his conversations with the Russians, especially given that they had just meddled in the US elections? That question still hasn't fully been answered. The Department of Justice, while releasing documents that appear favorable to Flynn, still has declined to make public the transcript of Flynn's conversation with Kisylak.
This is also not to say that the Russia investigation was perfect. Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the DOJ's independent watchdog, documented ''serious performance failures'' in how the FBI handled some elements of the investigation, specifically the wiretap of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Some of this could be attributed to sloppiness and negligence, but Horowitz did find one instance of real misconduct, specifically an attorney who falsified information regarding Page.
Those findings were troubling, no question. But they may not be unique to the Russia investigation, but rather endemic to the agency itself. And, critically, Horowitz found that the Russia investigation was appropriately predicated. He failed ''to find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation'' drove the investigation.
That undermines the Trump allegation of some sort of plot against him. But Barr didn't agree '-- and he's pursuing his own review of the Russia probe.
The investigation that Trump defenders are banking onIn May 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr testified before the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, where special counsel Robert Mueller's findings were the main topic of conversation. And Barr made it clear that he had some unfinished business to attend to about the investigation.
''These are the things that I need to look at. And I have to say that as I've said before, you know, the extent that there was any overreach,'' Barr testified. ''I believe it was some '-- a few people in the upper echelons of the bureau and perhaps the department.''
Shortly after that Senate appearance, Barr tapped John Durham, the Connecticut US attorney, to review the origins of the Russia probe and the FBI's actions in the counterintelligence investigations.
Durham has worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations reviewing law enforcement's conduct, including in two high-profile cases involving the FBI's handling of informant and mob boss Whitey Bulger and the CIA's use of torture after 9/11.
Durham had the right r(C)sum(C) and bipartisan credentials to review the FBI's counterintelligence investigation. But his appointment was still unusual, mostly because the Department of Justice's watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, was already reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation.
So far, Durham's review has rivaled Mueller's investigation for keeping details under wraps. What began as a review, though, was reportedly expanded to a criminal inquiry this fall, which means Durham now has the power to subpoena witnesses and convene a grand jury.
Beyond that, news reports have hinted at the broad strokes of his investigation, which involves examining the intelligence community's assessment in 2017 that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump, and not simply to sow chaos.
In particular, Durham may be examining whether top intelligence may have tried to manipulate or selectively share intelligence to prompt an investigation into Trump. That has included looking at former CIA Director John Brennan, a critic of Trump and a target of the president's ire. Durham has reportedly asked for Brennan's communications, including his emails and call logs.
There was also some disagreement among intelligence agencies about how confident they were in the conclusion that the Kremlin backed Trump. ''We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment,'' the intelligence community's 2017 assessment reads, adding that the ''CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.''
Durham is reportedly examining this discrepancy between agencies, which might not necessarily be nefarious. Separate intelligence agencies don't always come to the exact same conclusions because they may rely on different sources. (Also a Republican-led Senate committee just reaffirmed the intel community's 2017 assessment.)
Durham is also apparently examining how deeply the intelligence agencies relied on the Steele dossier, the opposition research compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele about Trump's Russia ties. That dossier has come under increased scrutiny, and even Horowitz noted in his report that the FBI found much of its information to be discredited.
And Durham is reportedly looking into media leaks about the probe, including some surrounding that Steele dossier. The New York Times reported in April that Durham was also probing leaks in the early days of Trump's presidency that spotlighted the new president's Russia ties, including a Washington Post column about Flynn's communications with a Russian official. The question Durham may be asking is whether these leaks were intentionally designed to disrupt Trump's presidency.
Barr's visibility in the probe has also helped to offer some clues. In the fall of 2019, Barr personally requested that other countries cooperate in the probe, even jet-setting to Italy (likely regarding a professor who met with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos).
Barr also urged officials in the UK and Australia to cooperate. Ukraine was also on the list, because of the baseless conspiracy theory that Kyiv framed Russia for the hacking of Democratic Party officials in 2016. You know, the conspiracy theory and bungled attempts to prove it that eventually became part of an impeachment inquiry.
Durham was, the Justice Department said in September 2019, ''exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.''
All of this information has come out in bits and pieces. Durham himself had remained quiet, except in one notable instance: to comment on DOJ Inspector General's findings about the origins of the Russia investigation.
Horowitz, again, largely discredited the primary allegation of Trump and his allies: that law enforcement and intelligence officials wanted to undermine Trump. But Durham responded with a pretty extraordinary statement:
''Our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department,'' Durham said. ''Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.''
Durham didn't say which conclusions he didn't agree with, but it leaves one, big overarching question: whether Barr and Durham are conducting a truly independent review, or seeking information to fit the narrative that's been pushed by the president about rogue Trump-haters at the FBI and CIA '-- in other words, a version of Obamagate.
This debate should be about whether the Trump administration is politicizing intelligenceIt's easy to dismiss Trump's ramblings. The president has spent the better part of three years railing about the deep state, but, at this point, the people running his intelligence agencies are pretty much all Trump appointees.
Trump's accusations about the Obama administration should be taken seriously. Not because they have merit '-- they don't '-- but because the president might use institutions and selective intelligence in an attempt to smear one former Obama administration official in particular: Joe Biden.
The possibility that Trump might abuse his powers as president to try to undermine his political opponent isn't exactly unthinkable. It now feels like a lifetime ago, but Trump was impeached for pressuring Ukraine to give him dirt on Biden, when the former vice president wasn't even the Democratic nominee. Already, Trump is using the Obamagate conspiracy theory to attack Biden.
All of this also detracts from the reality that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election. Trump's antics could have a chilling effect on intelligence and law enforcement work on the matter, especially if there is a fear that certain conclusions about that meddling could come with political reprisals.
''Obamagate'' is a convoluted mess of conspiracy theories untethered to reality. It is a deflection from the utter catastrophe unfolding daily because of the Trump administration's disastrous coronavirus response.
That may not matter. Trump has used the ''witch hunt'' strategy since the start of his presidency, and, when it comes to his base and his allies in Congress and the administration, it works.
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Clips
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Oval Office
1:28 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. This is a very special moment because this is the presentation of the Space Force flag. So we've worked very hard on this. And it's so important from a defensive standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, from every standpoint there is.
As you know, China and Russia, perhaps others, started off a lot sooner than us. We should have started this a long time ago, but we've made up for it in spades. We have developed some of the most incredible weapons anyone has ever seen, and it's moving along very rapidly. And we have tremendous people in charge.
And I '-- what I'd like to do is I'd like to just start by asking some of those folks to say a few words. And the importance strategically, militarily, and even from a pure civilian standpoint, and from bringing our economy back '-- everything '-- it's going to help so much. All made right here in the USA. And it's going to be very special, very important. Space Force.
First time in 72 years-plus that we've opened up a new branch of the United States military.
And, Mark, maybe I'll start with you. You'll saw a few words. Please.
SECRETARY ESPER: Yes, sir. Let me just say it's a very historic moment. The United States has been a spacefaring nation for decades, but we know that our adversaries in the last several years have weaponized space. They've made it a warfighting domain. And so with the establishment of Space Force and the establishment of Space Command, the United States is now doing what it needs to do to protect our assets in space and ensure that space remains the heavens by which we not only protect America, but we sustain our economy, we sustain our commercial capabilities, we sustain Americans' way of life.
So again, another very historic moment. I'm confident that both the Space Force and the Space Command will do what is necessary to defend us in space and to keep America great.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great job you're doing, too.
General Milley? Please.
GENERAL MILLEY: Sir. Thank you, Mr. President. And as the Secretary said, this is a historic day. Some time ago, we made a decision to establish the Space Force, and that's because we're undergoing a changing character of war, which is of historic importance for all nations.
And as part of that, the space part of our universe opened up as a domain of warfare. And it's critical that if we are going to sustain our way of life, if we're going to defend our nation, that we're going to have to defend ourselves in space and therefore the need for Space Force.
And it's a great day for the nation, it's a great day, really, for the world that the United States of America establishes its first Space Force.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
Please.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Mr. President, thank you for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Congratulations, by the way.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Number one.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great.
GENERAL RAYMOND: I appreciate the honor.
Sixteen thousand space professionals assigned to the Space Force. We're proud of this flag. They come to work every day focusing on providing space capabilities for our nation, for our joint coalition forces, and for the world. We're proud of this flag. We're proud to have an opportunity to present it to you here for display in the White House.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Thank you for your leadership '--
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate it.
GENERAL RAYMOND: '-- very much.
Secretary, please.
SECRETARY BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. President. You've really demonstrated leadership in establishing the Space Force. This is an important moment and an important month, actually.
Most of the Americans, before their first cup of coffee in the morning, have used space, but very few people realize how important space is '--
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
SECRETARY BARRETT: '-- to everything that we do, and that it's vulnerable, because we need to up our game in space. And you've recognized that and built a force that will help to protect our assets in space and deter aggressive action in space and, if deterrence doesn't work, to be able to defend our assets in space and those of our allies.
So we thank you very much for the leadership you've demonstrated and we're excited for this breakthrough moment.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. We're building, right now, incredible military equipment at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We have no choice. We have to do it '-- with the adversaries we have out there.
We have a '-- I call it the ''super-duper missile.'' And I heard the other night, 17 times faster than what they have right now.
SECRETARY ESPER: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: And you take the fastest missile we have right now '-- you've heard Russia has five times, and China is working on five or six times. We have one 17 times. And it's just gotten the go-ahead. Seventeen times faster, if you can believe that, General. That's something, right? Seventeen times faster than what we have right now. Fastest in the world by a factor of almost three.
So I just want to congratulate everybody and thank everybody. Space is going to be '-- it's going to be the future, both in terms of defense and offense and so many other things.
And already, from what I'm hearing and based on reports, we're now the leader in space, and that took place. Don't forget, we're having a meeting today. This is really to unfurl the flag. But we've been doing this now for quite a while. I have to say that from my standpoint, having a force '-- a space force, in this case, but to be adding to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which I've known about and read about and heard about all my life '-- just like General Milley to be the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is something that's a very special thing.
Well, to add another force into the Joint Chiefs and '-- and we're getting a four star. In this case, we're getting a four-star general on your board. So we're doing something '-- right here. So we're doing something that is such a monumental task.
So it's been more than 72 years. The Air Force, I believe, was the last one. And so we have Air Force. And not since the Air Force has anything like this happened, and now we have Space Force added on with '-- with full honors, I must add. With full honors.
So today, we're here for a very important '-- it's really an important occasion because we're unfurling the flag. And with us is Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman. And he is '-- I'd like you to say exactly, because his rank is a very special rank. Tell us about that rank.
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT TOWBERMAN: Yes, sir. I'm the senior enlisted advisor for the United States Space Force.
THE PRESIDENT: And the highest '-- highest sergeant by far, right?
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT TOWBERMAN: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: There's no '--
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT TOWBERMAN: And at the moment, the only one. So I give counsel to the Secretary and to the Chief '--
THE PRESIDENT: That's '-- that's pretty good.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Mr. President, this rank is custom designed.
THE PRESIDENT: Wow. That's beautiful. Wow. That's it.
GENERAL RAYMOND: And he's the only '-- the only Airman '--
THE PRESIDENT: That's beautiful.
GENERAL RAYMOND: '-- the only Airman that wears that rank and will be the only Airman that wears that rank. He's the senior enlisted leader.
THE PRESIDENT: That's fantastic. And I heard tremendous things about you, Roger.
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT TOWBERMAN: Thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a very important position. And you're with all these generals. But you know what? He's an important guy, right?
So why don't we go ahead and do it? Let's do it. Yes, please.
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT TOWBERMAN: Thank you.
Thank you.
(The flag is unfurled.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That's fantastic, Roger. I'll walk over there. That is great. You stay right there.
That's fantastic. Isn't that great? Please, get in the picture. That's beautiful.
SECRETARY ESPER: And, Mr. President, it will stand in your office alongside the other service flags.
THE PRESIDENT: Very, very great honor. It's a great honor. That's a beautiful flag, too. Roger, hold that up so they can see. That's really beautiful. Wow.
It's a big '-- that's a big day.
Q Can somebody explain the logo?
SECRETARY ESPER: General Raymond?
THE PRESIDENT: Please. Go ahead.
GENERAL RAYMOND: So the delta in the middle is a symbol that the space community has used for years and years and years. The North Star signifies our core value '-- our guiding light, if you will. And the orbit around the globe signifies the space capabilities that fuel our American way of life and our American way of war.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great. I'm going to do this for Roger. Here, Roger. Please don't put this on eBay tonight. (Laughter.) Here, Roger. Come here a minute.
And we're going to sign. Okay, Roger, that's for you.
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT TOWBERMAN: Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: That's for you.
SECRETARY BARRETT: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. So let's do it. This is great stuff.
(The proclamation is signed.)
Okay. Let's see, I have '-- I think we have no choice, right? General, come on over here.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Absolutely.
THE PRESIDENT: Good luck.
GENERAL RAYMOND: Mr. President, thanks you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Good luck. Okay?
GENERAL RAYMOND: Thanks for your '-- thanks for the honor.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. And these are going for everybody, please. Okay?
(Pens are distributed.)
SECRETARY BARRETT: Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Roger. Thank you very much. Mark, you're all set? General, come on over here. General Kellogg has been fantastic. Done a great job. He's working on a special project now, aren't you?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL KELLOGG: I am, sir. And we're going to get it done.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a very special project. (Applause.)
Okay? Got it? Thank you all very much. Thank you.
I'll be going to Camp David tonight with a lot of different people. We have some big things happening. So I'll be at Camp David tonight with various people.
Q Who's going?
THE PRESIDENT: Various people, including some of the folks on the Hill and some of our great leaders.
Q To talk about what exactly?
THE PRESIDENT: Different things. Different things.
Q Phase four?
THE PRESIDENT: Uh, no, not so much phase four. Phase four could happen, but it will happen the right way. We have all the cards because we have the cards for the American people. I know what they want. And I've always known what they want. That's why I'm sitting here.
No, phase four is going to happen, but it's going to happen in a much better way for the American people.
Okay. Thank you all very much.
END 1:39 P.M. EDT
VIDEO-U.S. Space Force To Launch Secret Mission Devoted To Coronavirus Victims & Frontline Workers | TODAY - YouTube
Sat, 16 May 2020 22:27
VIDEO-"We worden onnodig bang gemaakt". Maurice de Hond en Pim van Galen - YouTube
Sat, 16 May 2020 22:23
VIDEO-Tensions rise between the White House and CDC as Birx critiques virus tracking - CNNPolitics
Sat, 16 May 2020 22:20
By Kristen Holmes and Nick Valencia, CNN
Updated 1:27 PM EDT, Sat May 16, 2020
Washington(CNN) As the coronavirus pandemic stretches past its ninth week, tensions are rising between the White House and the nation's leading public health agency. In interviews with CNN, senior administration officials in Washington, as well as top officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta describe a growing sense of mistrust and animosity between the White House and CDC over how quickly the US should reopen and how the government tracks data on the virus.
In particular, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the President's coronavirus task force, has become increasingly critical of the CDC, making clear in recent meetings that she is more than frustrated with the agency, according to two senior administration officials. Specifically, Birx believes the way the CDC gathers data on the coronavirus is antiquated, causing inaccurate and delayed numbers on both virus cases and deaths.
Birx has expressed her agitation during recent task force meetings, where at least one conversation between her and CDC Director Robert Redfield has grown heated, according to a source close to the task force. Birx and Redfield have known each other for decades, due to their work on HIV research together. And while Birx defended Redfield to their peers earlier this year over the CDC's faulty test kits, her tone toward him has shifted dramatically in recent weeks, according to multiple officials and a source close to the task force.
There has also been significant tension between the White House and CDC over guidelines on how to reopen the country.
Last week, Redfield was forced to apologize to administration officials after a draft of the CDC's guidelines to reopening America were leaked to the media. The 68-page document outlined a detailed approach for how states, businesses and individuals could safely ease back into normalcy and were far more strict and detailed than the White House's own road map toward a return to normal, a CNN review found.
On Thursday the CDC published just 6 pages of graphics labeled "decision trees" as updated guidance. After spending "innumerable hours" on the guidance draft of recommendations, which they say was asked for specifically by Dr. Birx, two senior CDC officials tell CNN that the White House decision to shelve it for now in favor of a 6-page outline has only added to mounting frustration toward Birx within the CDC.
Tension between Birx and the CDC was first reported by the Washington Post.
One senior administration official told CNN that the slimmed down guidelines should not been seen as a rebuke of Redfield or the CDC inside the White House, since a whole national strategy was never on the table.
"It makes no sense for a movie theatre in a rural Tennessee town with zero COVID cases to be under the same restrictions as a theatre in New York," the official said.
Still, the limited guidelines combined with Birx's dust up with Redfield have underscored to many top officials the level of sway Birx has inside the White House, particularly with Trump.
Even as the President has publicly rebuked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, he remains totally supportive of Birx, officials tell CNN. "She is charming and listens to him. She has found a way to shut down his bad ideas without making him feel diminished, unlike Fauci and some of the others," said one senior administration official. The President has expressed on multiple occasions how great he thinks Birx is, the official said, "It is clear that she has his ear."
Since Birx first joined the task force as its coordinator, there has been a healthy amount of skepticism toward her among senior CDC officials who spoke to CNN.
One senior official, who has known Birx since she served as the division director of Global HIV/AIDS at the CDC from 2005 to 2014, said Birx has always "enjoyed being front and center."
"From the beginning of her role at the White House, Debbie Birx is out for Debbie Birx," the official said.
In interviews with CNN over the past several weeks, CDC officials have expressed a disappointment that Birx has not done more to correct some of the misinformation that Trump has touted during many of the coronavirus press briefings. "As a scientist when you stand-up in front of all that, it doesn't help your credibility," said the same official in describing the prevailing view of officials within the CDC about Birx.
Regardless, Birx's criticism of the CDC data collection system doesn't appear to be without merit. According to health industry sources familiar with the system, there are numerous flaws in the way the CDC tracks the coronavirus, including that it is unable to track symptoms in real time.
In some cases with flu-like illnesses, primary care physicians who receive patients aren't getting the information out and processed by CDC for as long as a week -- which makes contact tracing nearly impossible. Additionally, these sources note that state public health departments still use outdated technology like fax machines to transmit information.
As of May 16, CDC data still indicated 60,299 deaths and was last updated on May 15, while CNN's US death count, fueled by Johns Hopkins University data, stood at more than 87,000.
The CDC says states report at different rates. Currently, 63% of all US deaths are reported within 10 days of the date of death, but there is significant variation between states, the agency said.
"That's part of the problem, we don't know how far of a lag there is, but there definitely is a lag," one CDC official told CNN.
The CDC has been working on a major data modernization initiative to "spruce up the system," primarily by giving the state and local health departments the ability to gather data electronically in real time, federal officials said.
The system, which would help digitize the data using modern technology, will not be up and running until later this year, one official said.
VIDEO-Kramer won't wear an AIDS ribbon - YouTube
Sat, 16 May 2020 18:30
VIDEO-TheSharpEdge on Twitter: "Holy crap! This Italian lawmaker is ðŸ--¥ðŸ--¥ðŸ--¥! Watch as she exposes Bill Gates for his depopulation agenda and calls for his arrest for crimes against humanity. This is what we need worldwide. #WWG1WGA_WORLDWIDE https://
Sat, 16 May 2020 18:29
Eneri @ Enerichaos
May 15 Thank you for sharing this!!! Her speech needs to be seen worldwide! She's a brave woman, the only one in our parliament who spoke for us. She doesn't have the support of other parties, she just have us, the people (and unfortunately a lot of italian are not awake yet...)
View conversation ·
VIDEO - FDA halts Bill Gates coronavirus testing program | TheHill
Sat, 16 May 2020 13:03
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a coronavirus testing program promoted by billionaire Bill Gates and Seattle health officials pending reviews.
The program sought to send test kits to the homes of people both healthy and sick to try to bring the country to the level of testing officials say is necessary before states can begin safely reopening. The program, which had already gone through thousands of tests, found dozens of cases that had been previously undiagnosed.
The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) said on its website that the FDA had asked it to pause testing while it receives additional authorizations but maintained its procedures are safe.
The FDA "recently clarified its guidance for home-based, self-collected samples to test for COVID-19. We have been notified that a separate federal emergency use authorization (EUA) is required to return results for self-collected tests," SCAN said. "The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN's test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization."
The pause is emblematic of the fractured national response to the coronavirus, with federal officials proposing guidelines but leaving much of the implementation and administration of tests to states and localities.
Concerns have recently arisen over the reliability of coronavirus antibody tests, which can gauge if someone previously had COVID-19. However, the SCAN tests do not test for antibodies, and SCAN said it is working on getting its program up and running again.
"We are actively working to address their questions and resume testing as soon as possible," SCAN said.
Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft who has dedicated much of his personal fortune to global health issues, said the program could be an effective tool in guiding public health responses.
"Not only will it help improve our understanding of the outbreak in Seattle, it will also provide valuable information about the virus for other communities around the world," Gates wrote in a blog post this week.
An FDA spokesperson told The New York Times, which was the first to report on the pause, that the home testing kits raised concerns about the safety and accuracy of the results.
VIDEO - Coronavirus: Salem, Oregon salon to be fined for reopening early
Sat, 16 May 2020 12:01
CLOSE
About 50 to 60 protesters waiving signs showed up to show their support for owner Lindsey Graham, who could face significant fines. Salem Statesman Journal
Glamour Salon in Salem will be fined $14,000 as early as Monday after reopening against Gov. Kate Brown's executive orders.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division, known as OSHA, is fining salon owner and stylist Lindsey Graham specifically, requiring that she and her independently contracted stylists close until approved to reopen.
Once she receives the notice, expected early next week, Graham will have three days to close doors. If not, she will be fined again.
"(Graham) is unquestionably operating in violation of the governor's executive order, designed to protect workers and the public," Aaron Corvin with OSHA told the Statesman Journal.
"Our jurisdiction is indeed limited to exposure of employees," he said, "but as many employers in industries such as construction have learned, not everyone whose employer refers to them as an independent contractor actually falls outside our jurisdiction."
Corvin said at least some of those working at the salon qualify as employees under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, based on the findings of OSHA's inspection, and they have "acted accordingly."
He said the penalty reflects both the nature of the violation and the employer's willful decision to violate the law.
Buy Photo Lindsey Graham details the government action against her re-opening Glamour Salon in downtown Salem on May 15, 2020. (Photo: MADELEINE COOK / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
The salon, located downtown at 195 Liberty St. SE, reopened May 5 in defiance of Brown's order that such businesses must remain closed to avoid making the COVID-19 pandemic worse.
About 40 protesters waiving signs and American flags '-- including Joey Gibson, a nationally known far-right activist and founder of Patriot Prayer '-- rallied at the salon that Tuesday, and in days following, to show their support for Graham.
Graham argues it's her right to work so she can provide for her family.
She and her husband own six businesses, all of which have been closed because of the virus. They are under the same parent company, Glamour! LLC. Graham could not confirm the company's total annual revenue when asked Friday.
Buy Photo Glamour Salon independent contractors and supporters stand behind Lindsey Graham at a press conference she called at her salon in downtown Salem on May 15, 2020. (Photo: MADELEINE COOK / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
Two GoFundMe accounts were created for Graham to help pay any fines or attorney fees expected for reopening early.
Graham is the only stylists who has received a fine so far. Neither the three other stylists who came back to work, nor their patrons, have received any. There are currently no threats of jail time.
Contact from child services, licensing Graham told members of the media at a press conference outside the salon Friday, along with about a dozen supporters who attended and asked questions, that none of the 23 artists who work at the salon have received unemployment checks.
Additionally, the $30,000 in federal relief funds Graham's LLC has received cannot be used for payroll, she said. Graham has no official employees since the stylists are independent contractors.
She said the money will pay for about a month of overhead at only a few of their locations.
Backstory: Salem cautions Glamour for reopening against orders, cites lease violation
A day after reopening, the City of Salem '-- which owns the building that houses Glamour Salon downtown '-- issued a letter to Graham stating she is in violation of her lease agreement by breaking state orders. The city is not charging rent for this property through June 20.
The day after that, May 7, Graham said Oregon Child Protective Services showed up at her house and interviewed her son without allowing Graham or her husband in the room.
Buy Photo A supporter of Lindsey Graham films the press conference she called at Glamour Salon in downtown Salem on May 15, 2020. (Photo: MADELEINE COOK / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
Health agencies have also contacted Graham to tell her she is at risk of having her licenses revoked.
Graham said she's been closed for six weeks, though she announced in March she planned to reopen in early May.
"Every job is essential," she said, "... because it's how we make a living."
Support local journalism: Keep up on Marion and Polk county news with reporter Natalie Pate. Become a Statesman Journal subscriber and get unlimited digital access to stories that matter.
Stylists in unique positionSarah Washburn, a former stylist at Glamour Salon, stopped working at the salon in large part because her boyfriend is a Type 1 diabetic and she wanted to limit possible exposure to him and her son.
She shared her concerns about Graham reopening on Facebook because she "didn't want (her) clients to think (she) is OK with it."
"I feel bad for Lindsey," Washburn said, "but the way she's doing it isn't appropriate."
Washburn said Graham told the stylists she would not be liable for them if they started working again '-- concerning health, fines or legal help. Because stylists are essentially small businesses under a small business, they make the choices individually.
"What I really wish was out there is how much hair stylists are hurting," Washburn said. "I've signed up for unemployment, grants, everything and been denied for weeks.
"What you're seeing is people being desperate."
Reopening delay frustrates businessesEarlier this week, Brown denied reopening applications from Marion and Polk counties due to increased hospitalizations.
Some counties had pending applications and some chose not to apply, but Marion and Polk were the only two that originally applied and were denied.
County officials plan to apply again and reopen soon. But Graham said she doesn't have a set date to plan around, so she will move forward herself.
Meanwhile, several businesses across the state are suing Brown and Oregon's Public Health Director Lillian Shirley, arguing the shut-down orders violated the business owners' constitutional rights.
Buy Photo Supporters of Lindsey Graham praise her as she speaks at a press conference she called at Glamour Salon in downtown Salem on May 15, 2020. (Photo: MADELEINE COOK / STATESMAN JOURNAL)
Officials from Brown's office have previously called the premature opening of businesses "irresponsible," adding "these business owners are putting the public at risk."
"A public health crisis should never be used as a marketing opportunity," governor staff members wrote in a statement shared with the Statesman Journal.
"As a state, and as a community, we have a shared responsibility to protect our friends, neighbors, and loved ones from COVID-19."
Graham said she feels persecuted and targeted by Brown herself.
She argues consenting adults should be allowed to choose to go to the salon and that the workers know how to operate safely, adding, "I don't want anyone to get sick."
If Graham's license is revoked, she said she would fight it and sue. Her attorneys are challenging the OSHA fines now.
"I'm almost broken, I'm almost closing, which is terrifying," Graham said. "I would love to see Kate Brown be as brave as me."
For more information regarding state orders and fines, go to www.oregon.gov/gov/admin/pages/executive-orders.aspx or osha.oregon.gov.
Contact reporter Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, on Twitter @Nataliempate or Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.
Read or Share this story: https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/politics/2020/05/15/glamour-salon-salem-oregon-fine-reopen-early-governor-brown-order-coronavirus/3101171001/
VIDEO - Last Word 5/14/20 | MSNBC
Sat, 16 May 2020 10:21
Atty. General Barr gives a full-throated defense of Trump in Senate testimony
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Sat, 16 May 2020 10:19
VIDEO - Joe Biden Says He Would Not Pardon President Donald Trump | The Last Word | MSNBC - YouTube
Sat, 16 May 2020 10:12
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Sat, 16 May 2020 09:50
VIDEO - Local restaurant owner appears to be mocking Pa. Secretary of Health in since removed social media posts
Sat, 16 May 2020 09:28
BRADDOCK, Pa. '-- A local restaurant owner appeared to be mocking the person who is leading the state's fight against coronavirus on social media.
Robert Portogallo is the owner of Peppers N'at in Braddock.
It's super popular in our region, but Portagallo is coming under fire for recent Facebook comments that he posted on his personal page -- comments that some say are transphobic.
In one of the Facebook posts, Portogallo is wearing a wig, glasses and pearls, appearing to mimic the look of Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a transgender woman.
Another post shows Portogallo appearing to impersonate Levine holding a news conference around rolls of toilet paper with the caption ''Now we know who hoarded all the toilet paper.''
While Portogallo said his intent was to be funny, members of the LGBTQ community aren't laughing.
''She's done nothing but be a wonderful, compassionate leader in guiding the commonwealth in making sure they stay safe,'' said Christine Bryan.
Bryan is with the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh whose mission is to fight for the LGBTQ rights.
''I know there's a lot of people that didn't realize that she was a member of the transgender community and truthfully it doesn't matter. She's a human being just like everybody else with an extensive resume that is so impressive,'' Bryan said.
Portogallo said he wasn't aware Levine was transgender. He said he constantly impersonates public figures for fun, like in a video he posted on Saturday where he impersonates President Donald Trump.
''A lot of people got a good laugh out of it and obviously some people were offended by it, but there was no intention of offending anybody,'' Portogallo said.
Portogallo spoke to Channel 11's Christine D'Antonio about it over the phone this afternoon.
''If my humor was in poor taste I apologize because they're offended by it,'' Portogallo said. ''I'm not seeing it through their eyes but like I said there was no harm intended. If I would've thought there was harm intended I would've never posted that. That's just not me. I'm never going to degrade or insult someone on Facebook or embarrass them.''
Portogallo said he has permanently removed all of the posts.
Local restaurants getting hit especially hard by COVID-19 pandemic
(C) 2020 (C) 2020 Cox Media Group
VIDEO - Watch: Gaffes Pile Up During Bumbling Biden "Virtual Roundtable" | Zero Hedge
Sat, 16 May 2020 09:16
Presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden continues to struggle through media appearances where he consistently has trouble communicating basic stances and policies, or even articulating coherent sentences for that matter, teleprompter or not.
Of course, as we've highlighted multiple times things get drastically worse any time he has to field questions not specifically scripted, making it deeply awkward for the mainstream media interviewers who seem desperate to prop him up as the only "serious" candidate, not to mention raising serious questions of the sharpness of the 77-year old's mental faculties.
On Thursday afternoon Biden held a "virtual roundtable" despite what seems a past half-year of his team finding any excuse possible to keep him away from interacting with the public, given the number of times things go horribly wrong into hilarity and embarrassment.
Biden struggles badly during "virtual roundtable" as gaffes continue to pile up https://t.co/qbQHpvOj0Q pic.twitter.com/df27XS4yXS
'-- Disrn (@DisrnNews) May 14, 2020From nearly the beginning of the event, Biden made bizarre and confused tongue-tied claims, saying:
"We're ... in the middle of a pandemic that has cost us more than 85,000 jobs as of today. Lives of millions of people. Millions of people. Millions of jobs. You know, and we're in a position where, you know we just got new unemployment insurance, this morning, uh, numbers '-- 36.5 million claims since this crisis began."
Currently there are a little over 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 globally, and over 85,000 in the United States. It's hard to know exactly what Biden was trying to say, considering too he references "unemployment insurance... uh, numbers".
The Daily Mail describes of his switch-up on the numbers, something he didn't seem aware he was doing:
And the self-proclaimed 'gaffe machine' did little to mitigate those apprehensions during a monologue about soaring unemployment levels on Thursday, in which he wrongly claimed 85,000 jobs have been lost in the US as a result of COVID-19, and millions of Americans have died.
The former Vice President appears to have got his numbers confused. In reality, at least 85,000 Americans have died, while 36.5 million have lost their jobs.
Democrats might prefer that their presidential hopeful front-runner be hidden away somewhere until the general election, given that the more he talks the more it's impossible to ignore what's clearly not just the usual gaffes and Bidenisms, but which actually raise questions of cognitive capacities and potential senility.
''Biden claims '85,000 jobs have been lost in the US and millions of Americans have died'''Should we be concerned? If it was just a one (or two, or three) off, no one would care. But Biden's ''gaffes'' are becoming harder to ignore.#BidensMarbles https://t.co/kajj3j4GzH
'-- Amy Holmes (@realamymholmes) May 15, 2020Likely the Dem party bosses simply hope they can put a warm body in the White House after next November while they write the script, but this too could be overreaching given Biden at this point seems to struggle even when reading off a teleprompter.
* * *
As for Thursday's roundtable '-- in consolation we can say at least there was no "lying dog-faced pony soldier" moment...
VIDEO - New COVID-19 Death Dispute: Colorado Coroner Says State Mischaracterized Death '' CBS Denver
Sat, 16 May 2020 08:40
CORTEZ, Colo. (CBS4) '' When police in Cortez, Colorado were called to Cortez City Park early on the morning of May 4, they found Sebastian Yellow, 35, lying on the ground and called it out as a code ''Frank,'' meaning Yellow had died, according to a police report obtained by CBS4.
Within a week, local Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers determined Yellow had died of acute alcohol poisoning, his blood alcohol measured at .55, nearly twice the lethal limit.
(credit: Sebastian Yellow)
''It was almost double what the minimum lethal amount was in the state'', said Deavers, during an interview with CBS4.
But Deavers said that before he even signed the death certificate, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had already categorized Yellow's death as being due to COVID-19 and it was tabulated that way on the state's website.
''I can see no reason for this'', said Deavers.
Yellow's death is the latest in Colorado raising eyebrows over the way the CDPHE is reclassifying deaths that runs contrary to what doctors and coroners initially ruled.
Last month, a CBS4 Investigation revealed the state health department reclassified three deaths at a Centennial nursing home as COVID-19 deaths, despite the fact attending physicians ruled all three were not related to coronavirus.
In each case, the residents had tested positive for COVID-19, but in each case, on-scene doctors ruled the deaths were not related to the virus. Still, in their official tally, the state increased the number of coronavirus deaths at the Someren Glen facility from four to seven, based on the disputed deaths.
(credit: CBS)
On Thursday, state Rep. Mark Baisley, a Republican representing Douglas and Teller Counties, wrote a letter to District Attorney George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District, asking for a criminal investigation into the reclassification of the Someren Glen deaths and criminal charges against Jill Ryan, the director of the state health department. Baisley wrote that what occurred was ''deliberate acts of certificate falsification'' and said Baisley, ''I believe these acts of falsely altering death certificates to be criminal acts of tremendous concern to you and my constituents. I hereby request that you investigate this matter with the intent of bringing criminal charges against Jill Ryan.''
Now Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers finds himself in a similar situation in southwestern Colorado, officially ruling Yellow's death as ''ethanol toxicity'' but seeing the state record it differently.
''They should have to be recording the same way I do. They have to go off the truth and facts and list it as such,'' said Deavers.
He said following Yellow's death, the man was tested for COVID-19 since he had been associating with someone who was positive for the virus, and the information can be useful in tracking the path of the virus. Deavers said that test on Yellow came back positive, but the coroner insists that had nothing to do with Yellow's death. In fact, Deavers says a secondary cause was cirrohsis of the liver.
(credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus)
''It wasn't COVID, it was alcohol toxicity,'' said Deavers.''Yes, he did have COVID but that is not what took his life.''
Deavers said he has been calling officials at the CDPHE this week to understand why they classified Yellow's death as related to the virus, but he said as of Thursday morning, he had not yet received an explanation. He said in Cortez, citizens are wondering what's going on.
''They're thinking the state is trying to inflate numbers which it does look like it, whether they are or not, I don't know,'' said Deavers. He said some have suggested, ''They're trying to make it look like its worse than it really is, I don't know if that's what their intentions are. Maybe they're trying to do it for some of the two trillion budgeted in for the COVID.''
However some statisticians, epidemiologists and medical experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, have suggested that COVID-19 deaths are likely being undercounted, not over counted. Fauci testified this week before the Senate and was asked if 80,000 deaths from COVID was accurate.
''Most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number,'' said Fauci. He told the Senate, ''I don't know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly it's higher.''
CBS4 contacted the state health department Thursday requesting an explanation for how Yellow's death was categorized. No immediate explanation was given. But in the case of the Someren Glen deaths, a CDPHE spokesperson said, ''The department follows the CDC's case definition of COVID-19 cases and deaths'... When a person with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 dies, their death is automatically counted as a COVID-19 death unless there is another cause that completely rules out COVID-19 such as a fatal physical injury.''
Regardless, in Cortez, Deavers says the death of Sebastian Yellow and how the state is handling it is proving problematic. The county has recorded 25 coronavirus cases but 13 of those have recovered, so there are just a dozen active cases, and before Sebastian Yellow, two deaths.
The county applied May 4 for a variance from the statewide safer-at-home public health order to allow restaurants, retail establishments and other businesses to reopen. In its application the county cited its low number of coronavirus cases, but the CDPHE denied that request. The state health department said, ''Our reviewers have some concerns about vulnerabilities in Montezuma County and want to monitor the situation before further considering a variance.''
Deavers said, ''We have a low number of cases, low number of deaths in our county and we have businesses here that possibly are not going to reopen. Apparently this specific case was what helped them deny letting the variance go through.''
The state health department cited the number of coronavirus cases but other factors as well, including high death and infection rates in adjacent counties in New Mexico. In a letter to Montezuma County, CDPHE said it was concerned with increasing local cases and the situation in New Mexico which could cause problems for the health care system in Montezuma county.
CDPHE responded with this statement: We classify a death as confirmed when there was a case who had a positive SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) laboratory test and then died. We also classify some deaths as probable. You can find the full criteria for that on our website under ''About our Data,'' but the gist is that there must be strong epidemiological evidence of COVID-19 such as a combination of close contact with a confirmed case and symptoms of COVID-19. We will also count a death as a COVID-19 death when there is no known positive laboratory test but the death certificate lists ''COVID-19'' as a cause of death.
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VIDEO - DNC: Convention Must Happen, We Are Not Officially Nominating Biden
Fri, 15 May 2020 12:19
Xochitl Hinojosa, communications director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), sparked confusion this week after stating during an appearance on Fox News that it is crucial for the party to hold its convention, because they are '' not officially nominating Joe Biden in order to take Donald Trump.''
''There's a real possibility the convention does not happen or it happens in a virtual sense. Is that correct as of today?'' Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer asked.
''First of all, our convention has to happen, because we are not officially nominating Joe Biden in order to take Donald Trump,'' Hinojosa replied. ''So our convention is happening. There is business that has to happen'':
Someone should probably tell Joe Biden that the DNC Comms Director just said this on national television. pic.twitter.com/tjoXCKTjeO
'-- Lauren Boebert for Congress (R-CO3) (@laurenboebert) May 14, 2020
Joe Biden (D) officially became the Democrat Party's presumptive nominee following Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) departure from the race, as he was the last challenger standing. Sanders vowed, prior to dropping out, that he would support the eventual Democrat nominee '-- a promise he fulfilled last month.
''Today I am asking all Americans '-- I'm asking every Democrat, I'm asking every independent, I'm asking a lot of Republican '-- to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy which I endorse,'' Sanders said during a livestream event with the former vice president in April.
''If I am the nominee, which it looks like now you just made me, I am going to need you, not just to win the campaign, but to govern,'' Biden replied.
The DNC rescheduled the party's July convention to August, citing coronavirus-related concerns. This week, the Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to ''grant convention organizers in Milwaukee the authority to design an event that won't require delegates to attend in person amid the coronavirus pandemic.''
The plan, according to DNC Chair Tom Perez, ensures that ''every delegate is able to accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk '' whether that be participating in person or by other means to allow for social distancing.''
The move effectively opens the door for a virtual convention.
Hinojosa, as of Thursday evening, had yet to clarify her remark on social media.
VIDEO - NBC News contributor Dr. Joseph Fair sick with coronavirus
Fri, 15 May 2020 10:19
One of NBC News' and TODAY's most knowledgeable experts on the coronavirus outbreak has now been diagnosed with COVID-19.
On Wednesday morning, NBC News contributor and virologist Dr. Joseph Fair tweeted that he's been hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus. He last appeared on TODAY in late April.
Download the TODAY app for the latest coverage on the coronavirus outbreak.
"My friends wondering where I've been: I came down with #COVID19 & am hospitalized," he wrote. "I'm on the other end of it, but not out of the woods yet. Please continue to social distance. I used max precautions, but still managed to contract it. Back as soon as I'm able, friends. #StaySafe."
My friends wondering where I've been: I came down with #COVID19 & am hospitalized. I'm on the other end of it, but not out of the woods yet. Please continue to social distance. I used max precautions, but still managed to contract it. Back as soon as I'm able, friends. #StaySafe pic.twitter.com/Ck75sKLOU3
'-- Dr. Joseph Fair (@curefinder) May 13, 2020It's possible that Fair contracted the virus during a recent flight from New York City to New Orleans, he told TODAY. He was flying home, and his airline did not enforce social distancing measures.
"I had a mask, I had gloves on, I did ... my normal wipe-down, but you can still get it through your eyes," he said. "I was seated right next to someone. The flight was full."
Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.
Once Fair arrived, he left his home once to go to the grocery store, where he practiced "max precautions," he said. Three to four days after his flight, he started to develop "a complete lack of appetite," muscle aches and a slight fever.
"At that point, it wasn't 'classic COVID symptoms,' but nothing is. That's what we're learning," he explained. "It's just so variable."
For the first three to four days of symptoms, Fair said it wasn't serious enough for him to seek medical attention. He had spikes in his fever that got as high as 104 degrees, but he opted to self-treat with Tylenol, lots of fluids and fruit '-- "basically what you do when you have any cold or flu," he added.
But heading into last weekend, his symptoms started to worsen, and on Saturday, he noticed he was getting very short of breath.
"By Monday, I couldn't take a full breath and had to call an ambulance," he recalled.
After visiting the emergency room, he was admitted to Tulane Medical Center because of a bacterial lung infection, which caused his shortness of breath. He received four tests for COVID-19, all of which were negative, but doctors told him that they had no doubt that's what he had.
Fair said that a plausible explanation for his negative tests was that "the virus itself has passed out of my system, but my system is still responding to the damage that the virus did."
Even for Fair, who's been on the front lines of outbreaks, including Ebola, the first day in the hospital was "very frightening," he said. "There's something particularly scary about not being able to get air. That part was anxiety (inducing)."
He added that he asked his doctors only to intubate him if "there was no other choice," so they treated him with an oxygen mask, visible in the image in his tweet. After three days in the hospital, he's still a little short of breath, but he's responded well to oxygen.
At 42 years old, Fair runs 5-10 miles a day, has a "good" lung capacity and no underlying conditions. So he said one of the learnings of his experience is "if it can take me down, it can take anyone down."
As he told one fan who responded to his announcement on Twitter, "Nobody is immune! Not even a virus hunter."
Fair hopes to be discharged from the hospital this weekend and has recently left the critical care floor.
Nobody is immune! Not even a virus hunter. For doubters of the seriousness of the virus, let me assure it can take you down.
'-- Dr. Joseph Fair (@curefinder) May 13, 2020Finally, he stressed: Don't be in such a hurry to get back to life as normal.
"Your life is more valuable than any kind of short-term discomfort you may have, (even) economic," he said. "Do not put yourself in a situation that instinctively feels dangerous, and you'll know when it does."
Maura Hohman
Maura Hohman is a weekend editor for TODAY.com.
VIDEO - (20) Quoth the Raven on Twitter: "Smug fuckin Keynesians. This is unbearably arrogant." / Twitter
Fri, 15 May 2020 10:02
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VIDEO - Unfortunate audio glitch during Dr David Clark's speech picked up by international media | Newshub
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:50
First, Health Minister Dr David Clark courted international media attention for his infamous beach trip during lockdown, now he's in the headlines overseas after what looks to be an unfortunate audio glitch during one of his speeches.
Dr Clark announced on Wednesday that up to 50 people would be able to attend funerals and tangihanga if the funeral directors registered the service with the Ministry of Health and had adequate health and safety measures in place. It was a change in policy for the Government, which previously limited such gatherings to ten people.
While the announcement was positively received by funeral directors and families of those who recently died, Dr Clark's speech has picked up international traction for something not of his own making.
At about 23:53 in the RNZ livestream of his speech found below, Dr Clark is speaking about second waves of infection "just as countries were getting on top of the virus, like we are now".
However, what appears to be a slight audio glitch in the livestream cuts off the end of the word "countries", making it sound like Dr Clark had just dropped the c-bomb. Immediately following that, the vision shifts slightly and the insert which typically shows the sign language interpreter disappears.
The glitch becomes even clearer if you compare the RNZ livestream to others broadcasting the exact same speech, including TVNZ's and Newshub's. They show Dr Clark did say the full word - "countries".
Unfortunately for Dr Clark, glitches are regularly seized upon by people on social media, with a clip of the livestream shared by comedian Tim Batt receiving thousands of likes and retweets.
"This is completely unedited footage of the New Zealand Health Minister. Seriously," Batt said.
"A defining cultural moment for this nation."
"Obviously he was saying countries and missed," one user replied.
"I just snort-laughed and scared my dog," another said.
"I'm bookmarking this and when I feel down, this will move me to hysterics and cheer me up again."
However, other users did point out the tiny glitch.
International media and websites have now picked up on the moment. Most notably, LadBible, a haven of social media fails and oddities, shared it.
"Anyone tuning into the New Zealand Health Minister's press conference yesterday might have had a rude shock," that story began.
MSN used an Evening Standard version of the story, while an assortment of other sites with tabloid-like stories also told their audiences of the awkward glitch.
"Viewers watching New Zealand's Health Minister providing a COVID-19 update yesterday were left in shock when he appeared to drop the c-word during a press conference," outlet Tyla said.
"And nope, we're not talking about the word 'coronavirus'."
Many also made mention of what Dr Clark may have previously been best-known for internationally.
"At least [the glitch is] not going to be the biggest issue that Dr Clark has endured during the pandemic," LadBible said.
Dr Clark was demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings in April and stripped of his Associate Finance Minister role after taking a trip to the beach with his family while Kiwis were instructed to stay at their homes during the lockdown. He previously got caught at a mountain biking track as well.
VIDEO - Joe Buck: Fox NFL TV broadcasts might add CGI fans
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:41
The 2020 schedule has been released, but little else is known about the upcoming NFL season as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
Should the NFL season begin on time, Joe Buck '-- Fox Sports' lead play-by-play announcer for football '-- believes we might be looking at a campaign without fans in the stands. In an interview with SiriusXM's Andy Cohen, Buck said that Fox is exploring a few routes to provide for a more normal viewing experience should these fan-less games come to pass.
"There's probably going to be a season in doing games with no fans, which will be difficult," Buck said. "I think Fox and these networks have to put crowd noise under us to make it a normal viewing experience at home."
When pressed by Cohen, Buck said he was certain crowd noise will be added to potential broadcasts without fans, and went as far as to say "I know they'll do it" and that it's "pretty much a done deal."
"I think whoever's going to be at that control is going to have to be really good at their job and be realistic with how a crowd would react depending on what just happened on the field, so it's really important."
Von Miller details coronavirus fight: 'My lungs were constricting'
More:How ESPN could shake up its 'Monday Night Football' broadcast booth heading into 2020
Buck also said the network is looking into ways to at least simulate a packed house for viewers at home.
"On top of that, they're looking at ways to put virtual fans in the stands, so when you see a wide shot it looks like the stadium is jam-packed and in fact it'll be empty," Buck said.
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VIDEO - (3) The Hill on Twitter: "Joe Biden: "We're in the middle of a pandemic that has cost us more than 85,000 jobs as of today. Lives of millions of people, millions of people, millions of jobs." https://t.co/P4b2CA27Yf" / Twitter
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:40
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VIDEO - Coronavirus-tracking project gets put on hold due to FDA concerns
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:24
SCAN makes use of at-home collection of nasal samples. (GatesNotes via YouTube)The organizers of the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, a virus-tracking project supported by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, say their efforts are being paused while they deal with concerns raised by the Food and Drug Administration.
Word of SCAN's suspension came just a day after the world's second-richest person praised the effort in GatesNotes, his personal blog. ''It has the potential to become an important tool for health officials seeking insights about the spread and behavior of the virus,'' Gates wrote.
SCAN aims to track the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 throughout the Seattle area by sending out at-home tests and picking them up for analysis, with logistical support from Amazon Care, the health care program for Amazon employees. Over the past seven weeks, tests have been sent out to about 12,500 test subjects, including people with symptoms and people without symptoms.
The project had been operating under an arrangement by which the FDA let state public health officials issue Emergency Use Authorizations for coronavirus tests developed within their states. Today, SCAN said it was notified that separate federal authorization is now required to return test results, due to revisions in the guidance that were issued last week.
SCAN said it's been working to address the FDA's questions and hopes to have full authorization ''soon.''
According to SCAN, the FDA is seeking data about the self-swab technique that's being used for the at-home tests, and about the testing of people who aren't reporting symptoms.
SCAN's organizers said they've drawn upon the experience gained since the project began on March 23, as well as their experience with an earlier project known as the Seattle Flu Study.
''With regard to proper specimen collection outside of a clinical setting, our experience from more than 18 months of sampling with the Seattle Flu Study and now SCAN also shows a low rate of insufficient nasal sampling,'' the organizers said in today's blog posting. ''The internal control in our assay readily identifies whether a sufficient specimen is collected.''
Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of techThe organizers also said it was important to test subjects who aren't feeling sick. ''This can not only help us learn more about the virus, it can help us identify positive cases of COVID-19 that might otherwise go undetected,'' they said.
Separate efforts that focus on people in homeless shelters and long-term care facilities can continue under the banner of the Seattle Flu Study because the sampling is supervised by health care workers and doesn't involve self-swabbing.
This isn't the first time regulators have made things complicated for the Seattle research team. The Seattle Flu Study's pilot project to track the spread of coronavirus also ran into roadblocks. Despite the difficulties, that project found the first evidence tracing the virus' community transmission within the U.S.
SCAN is a partnership between the Seattle Flu Study and Public Health '' Seattle & King County. It's funded by Gates Ventures, the private office of Bill Gates, and is getting technical guidance from experts at organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Institute for Disease Modeling provides data modeling support.
The Seattle Flu Study was developed by the Brotman Baty Institute in league with UW Medicine, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children's. University of Washington geneticist Jay Shendure is the Brotman Baty Institute's scientific director as well as the Seattle Flu Study's lead principal investigator.
VIDEO - Pausing elective surgeries is harmful to America's economy: Doctor | Fox Business Video
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:15
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VIDEO - Resentment Builds When COVID-19 Reopening Rules Apply To Some Businesses, But Not Others '' CBS San Francisco
Fri, 15 May 2020 09:07
BERKELEY (KPIX) '' When the COVID-19 shutdown began, we were ''all in this together,'' but as some businesses like Tesla are allowed to reopen in defiance of the shelter in place order, there is growing resentment among those that can't.
Tesla's ability to defy Alameda County's health directive with no consequences sent a strong message to owners of businesses that are still shut down.
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Fremont Police: Elon Musk Honoring Deal With Health Officials; Tesla Assembly Plant Not At Full OperationCalifornia Hair Salons, Barber Shops Say They're Safe, Ready to ReopenSan Francisco Bars Struggle In COVID-19 Limbo With No End In SightAlameda County Health Officials Approve Tesla Reopening PlansPresident Trump Says To Open Tesla Plant '-- 'Now'Defiant Musk Confirms Tesla Fremont Plant Reopening; Gov. Newsom UnawareTesla Employees Forced To Make Tough Decision As Elon Musk Takes A Defiant StandTesla's Defiance To Alameda County Health Order Raises Questions Of Fairness Flouting County Lockdown, Tesla Brings Workers Back to Fremont FactoryElon Musk Criticizes Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Orders, Calling Them 'Fascist'''To me, if I was a business owner and I was playing by the rules and somebody broke the rules and nothing happened to them, I think I would probably, maybe look at something different, too,'' said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
The resentment can be seen at the corner of Telegraph and Ashby, in Berkeley.
''At the beginning we immediately closed our store, shut off our lights, put up messages to the community saying 'we're all in this together and we'll be back,'' said Marcy Simon, co-owner of Ashby Flowers.
But even now, the tiny shop is not allowed to bring flowers outside for curbside pickup by customers. It's legal in the rest of Alameda County but Berkeley has its own health rules that say florists can only deliver. Meanwhile large Whole Foods Market right next to it''which also sells flowers'--has a long line of people waiting to get inside.
Simon is like a lot of others who thought they were doing the right thing, but are now starting to get mad.
''I think that many people are now definitely looking for ways to get around the rules, there's no question about it,'' she said.
Clinical psychologist Judye Hess says that shouldn't be a surprise. She says people naturally lose respect for laws when it feels like they're being unfairly applied.
''I think it incites some kind of rebellion that often will go back to their childhood when their brother or sister was getting more than they were,'' Hess said.
She attributes it to uneven rules and a lack of strong leadership and wonders if social disorder may increase because of it.
''I think it could really turn into something like that, where there's just, everybody out for themselves and not being willing to go on like that,'' Hess said.
Back at the flower shop they seem pretty sure what's going to happen.
''I think people are going to start defying the rules much more now that Tesla has done that, for sure,'' said Simon. ''We won't, but others will.''
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VIDEO - Trump Takes Control of the FED - Leads the way for other countries to follow - Michael Tellinger - YouTube
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:57
VIDEO - DA, FF Plus, AfriForum head to court to challenge lockdown regulations - SABC News - Breaking news, special reports, world, business, sport coverage of all South African current events. Africa's news leader.
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:57
President Cyril Ramaphosa says that government will continue to face legal challenges in the way it's dealing with the coronavirus pandemic but adds that sacrifices must be made.
FF PLUS will go to court on an urgent basis to put an end to lockdown. @GroenewaldPJ #COVID19SA #LockdownSA pic.twitter.com/qaaLZrZFpW
'-- VRYHEIDSFRONT PLUS / FREEDOM FRONT PLUS (@VFPlus) May 14, 2020
This as the Democratic Alliance (DA), Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) and lobby group AfriForum announce intentions to file court papers over a number of issues, including forcing the government to lift the lockdown entirely to allow full economic activity to start and the constitutionality of aspects of the Disaster Management Act.
The threat posed by this lockdown crisis is so much greater than the threat of the virus, that we have no choice but to end the hard lockdown now and start our economy up. #EndTheLockdown
'-- Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) May 14, 2020
RKP Attorneys' Rehana Khan Parker explains on Morning Live:
'Bad faith'
Political analyst Ongama Mtimka says the Democratic Alliance's decision to take the government to court after questioning the rationality of some lockdown regulations is in bad faith.
Mtimka says the DA does not appreciate the unique circumstances in which COVID-19 has placed the country in.
The President on Thursday in the Eastern Cape said that the legal challenges that the government was facing against the national lockdown were part of the country's constitutional democracy.
''The lockdown has disrupted people's lives '' there are quite a number of people, organisations who do feel aggrieved and we did say right from the beginning that all of us will be required to make some sacrifices as we deal with this health challenge which has also turned out to be an economic challenge. Our constitution and our legal system allow anyone who is aggrieved to have the right to approach the courts and a number of people have done so and even I as president could never stand in the way of anybody who wants to challenge what we have put in place but also any decision that we take,'' says Ramaphosa.
In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa says legal challenges against lockdown are part of constitutional democracy.
'Lack of oversight'
DA interim leader, John Steenhuisen, defends that these restrictions are in place due to the lack of oversight on the decisions taken by the National Command Council during the State of Disaster. The party is calling for an immediate easing of the national lockdown, saying it will force government to take the hard decisions that this entails via the courts.
''It is our opinion that is shared by many South Africans that all three of these decisions should be immediately reversed as there are no rational justifications for a military-enforced curfew, a restriction on e-commerce business and a limited three-hour window for exercise. But it must also be said that these irrational decisions are taken by the National Command Council because they are acting with no checks and balances. The State of Disaster which we are currently under is governed by the Disaster Management Act, and it makes zero provision for Parliamentary oversight which means that the secretive National Command Council actually answers to no one,'' says Steenhuisen
We must fight back against being imprisoned by a night curfew enforced by armed soldiers and against the slew of irrational, petty regulations that do nothing but kill businesses, destroy jobs and turn decent people into criminals. #Day49ofLockdown #EndTheLockdown
'-- Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) May 14, 2020
High Court challenge
Steenhuisen says the party will file papers in the High Court challenging the rationality of three separate lockdown-related issues, namely the night curfew, the ban on e-commerce or online shopping as well as the restriction on exercise hours.
Steenhuisen said this is what South Africans want. But when asked when and where did South Africans speak about these lockdown restrictions, here is his response. Video below:
VIDEO-Bill, Melinda Gates advocate GMOs to a Brussels audience - YouTube
Fri, 15 May 2020 08:28
VIDEO-BlueSky'­¸'­¸'­¸ on Twitter: "[Brennan] is very nervous #PANIC" / Twitter
Fri, 15 May 2020 07:27
Log in Sign up BlueSky'­¸'­¸'­¸ @ QBlueSkyQ [Brennan] is very nervous
#PANIC twitter.com/RealSLokhova/s'... 6:18 PM - 14 May 2020 James Paul @ JamesPa49494414
11h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ You don't need to be a psychologist to realise how fraught this delivery was with anxiety and inner conflict. The subconscious is burbling to the surface!
View conversation · AMERICAN PATRIQT @ MERICAN_PATRIQT
11h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ @SheilaPicciocca ''TRUST WRAY''- Q
View conversation · Travis 🇺🇸 @ STP3073
11h Replying to
@MERICAN_PATRIQT @QBlueSkyQ @SheilaPicciocca Not only Patriots read the boards. Misinformation is necessary.
View conversation · Jane Surm @ JaneSurm
11h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ OBAMAtable abuse of authority, indeed!!
View conversation · Joy L. Whidden @ joybird4u
10h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ Was he trying to say abominable or Obamanable use of authority? Oh well, either way I'm sure he would have said it better in Arabic.
#ObamaGate View conversation · J&J PSALM:91 @ jcandjc
11h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ Abuse of authority....well now that's something you would know a lot about isn't it?
View conversation · Renee @ Renee08728213
10h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ @GeorgiaMAGA That tells you right there Christopher Wray is the Enemy!!!Pass it On!
View conversation · April Bosworth @ AprilBosworth5
10h Replying to
@QBlueSkyQ @februarykel He needs to go down!!!!
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VIDEO-🇺🇸Lionel🇺🇸 on Twitter: "#BillGates in charge of the @WHO?! Do you see what's happening here? We've a new battle line: the number of entrenched shadow government operatives who are now promoting the Bill Gates worldview and this pro-v
Fri, 15 May 2020 07:12
Log in Sign up 🇺🇸Lionel🇺🇸 @ LionelMedia #BillGates in charge of the
@WHO?!Do you see what's happening here? We've a new battle line: the number of entrenched shadow government operatives who are now promoting the Bill Gates worldview and this pro-vaccine frame of reference. This is nuts.
pic.twitter.com/HO2giFBDzi 3:36 AM - 15 May 2020 Twitter by: Q Research Notables @QAnonNotables Aaron @ hupotassoway
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO Graham - sellout to the New World Order. Bill Gates is very bad.
View conversation · 2020vision @ Inthegulag1
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO He says gates. Bannon recommends *DOCTOR* Ben Carson.
View conversation · Stars4Patriots @ Stars4P
33m Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO Lindsay Graham must resign.
View conversation · johnny @ johnnynuke
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO Now you don't have to wonder any more as to the senator being deep state.
View conversation · David Stoll Sr @ StollSr
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO Sen. Twinkletoes is dirty as the day is long.
View conversation · April Bowen @ AprilBowen7
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO Graham needs to go
View conversation · Brian Paul @ BrianAn44567733
27m Replying to
@LionelMedia @fedagentmark and
2 others How big was the payoff check
@LindseyGrahamSC?
View conversation · Sun Of Abyss @ AmatKiwai
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO been using "Windows" too long.
View conversation · Ed Hand @ deerlake12
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO He would double the funding it's not his decision.
View conversation · Peace, Liberty & Crypto @ tholm4
1h Replying to
@LionelMedia @WHO Anything the gonad from SC says, do the opposite!!
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VIDEO-James (Jim) Pyers on Twitter: "@LouDobbs @jsolomonReports and thousands of sealed indictments .... @adamcurry" / Twitter
Thu, 14 May 2020 20:02
and thousands of sealed indictments ....
@adamcurry
VIDEO-Trump War Room - Text TRUMP to 88022 & get the APP on Twitter: "WATCH: Joe Biden can't remember who briefs him: "Um, and uh, and I'm not, and I, I have a, I have a uh, like all of you but every day I get between an hour & an hour & a half br
Thu, 14 May 2020 17:53
rumblin bumblin stumblin puppet.
VIDEO-Katie Hopkins on Twitter: "This is now law in New Zealand. The PM has complete power to make new rules; The police can enter your home or marae without a warrant Can close your business without notice or reason using an enforcer Can lock groups down
Thu, 14 May 2020 17:51
Log in Sign up Katie Hopkins @ KTHopkins This is now law in New Zealand. The PM has complete power to make new rules; The police can enter your home or marae without a warrantCan close your business without notice or reason using an enforcerCan lock groups down in their homes or elsewhereLISTEN
pic.twitter.com/BMtHuiEkjk 3:52 AM - 14 May 2020 Twitter by: Katie Hopkins @KTHopkins Reef Stewart @ reefstewartnz
12h Replying to
@KTHopkins Katie, here in New Zealand we beg for international coverage of this! Please make sure this makes the tabloids! We are living in an authoritarian state!!
View conversation · Tom Anderson @ Proofbycontradi
12h Replying to
@reefstewartnz @KTHopkins NZ fast on its way to becoming like China. Will be a complete dump of a place in a few short years
View conversation · Louis @ louisvz63
12h Replying to
@KTHopkins pic.twitter.com/aHN5I51avz View conversation · Trick Or Treaty @ OrTreaty
12h Replying to
@KTHopkins This is what tyranny looks like.
View conversation · 🇺🇸 Tabitha 🇺🇸 @ Bicentennial42
12h Replying to
@KTHopkins This is no time for the citizens of New Zealand to act civilized. Their rights have been completely stripped! Horrific!
View conversation · 🌷mamahash'­¸'­¸'­¸ @ mamahashman
9h Replying to
@Bicentennial42 @KTHopkins Good luck. No options. Are they going to ''protest'' ? Look at Hong Kong ~ should have kept their guns. Very naive.
View conversation · Robert Dawson @ SteelCityRaver
12h Replying to
@KTHopkins These laws aren't designed for the virus, it's for dissenters when they implement the social credit system in their new world order,the banksters want to make sure they can never be removed from power
View conversation · Leon @ leon_texas
10h Replying to
@KTHopkins @Adelgary This is crazy. I have been to New Zealand many times & this sort of law can have terrible consequences. This is very dangerous for every single person living & visiting ðŸ‡"ðŸ‡. This is even dangerous for tourists visiting beautiful New Zealand.
View conversation · Sandra @ SpeckBella
12h Replying to
@KTHopkins They took all the guns away last year.
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VIDEO-Trump says he would mobilize military to distribute coronavirus vaccine when it's ready - CBS News
Thu, 14 May 2020 16:05
President Trump says he would "rapidly" mobilize the U.S. military to distribute a coronavirus vaccine once it's ready, focusing first on nursing homes and the elderly most vulnerable to deadly complications from the virus. Mr. Trump made the comments during an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo.
"We're mobilizing our military and other forces but we're mobilizing our military on the basis that we do have a vaccine. You know, it's a massive job to give this vaccine. Our military is now being mobilized so at the end of the year we're going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly," the president said.
"We will have a tremendous force because assuming we get it, then you have to distribute it," he added. "And unless you're mobilized and ready, you're not going to be able to do it for a long time. So we're starting now."
The president said he expects a vaccine to be available by the end of this year, a very optimistic timeline given that many experts, including Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, say it will take at least 12 to 18 months. The virus has killed more than 84,000 Americans so far, as states begin to reopen their economies. The president indicated he expects that number to continue to climb.
"We will lose over 100,000, perhaps, in this country," the president said in the interview that aired Thursday.
Trump repeats that coronavirus is "going to go away" A CBS News poll released Thursday shows 43% of Americans think the president is doing a good job handling the virus, down from 48% in April and 53% in March.
Most Americans also don't trust the president for information about the virus, the poll found. Only 38% of Americans said they do, compared with 61% who trust their governor and 62% who trust Fauci.
VIDEO-Google News -
Thu, 14 May 2020 16:04
Language & region English (United States)
VIDEO-"Obama Phone" Remix (parody song) - YouTube
Thu, 14 May 2020 15:48
VIDEO-Kathleen McKinley on Twitter: "Oh come on!" / Twitter
Thu, 14 May 2020 15:41
DougleaffanðŸ'🥅'Š @ Dougleaffan
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley 🤣 Are we really surprised by this?
View conversation · Kirk Merritt @ Kirk4Defiance
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro @AmbJohnBolton If
@AmbJohnBolton can say no to Congress, so can everyone.Take it to the Supreme Court!
View conversation · Georgia Bean 🇺🇸 @ GeorgiaBeannie
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro There ya go. Now we know there will never be a vaccine.
View conversation · Brad @ 2muchpeppapig
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro COP-OUT!!!! He is a phony!!!
View conversation · Bernermom55 @ bernermom55
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro Then he had better not be seen going anywhere.
View conversation · Cyberman @ michaeldhess
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro .Sure, let him stay in his house but if he leaves nab him!
#OBAMAGATEGATE View conversation · Patrick Fiorito @ FioritoPatrick
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro Nah. I agree with ClapperIt's an INVESTIGATION, not a death sentenceI don't want to agree with him but I agree with him.
View conversation · Vinces Labarum @ VLabarum
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro He's afraid. GOOD! ðŸ‚🇺🇸
View conversation · Esteban Zorrilla @ Grandmaster_Z
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro Give that man a mask!
View conversation · The Fitness Minimalist @ Jolivery1
4h Replying to
@KatMcKinley @benshapiro Do it through video 🤷ðŸ>>''‚¸
View conversation ·
VIDEO-TV News HQ on Twitter: "Watch: Clapper just conceded on CNN that ''No, I did not'' find evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Then, after being asked about leaking to the press, his video connection went dead... https://t.co/Ab13DVFVQa" /
Thu, 14 May 2020 15:34
Log in Sign up TV News HQ @ TVNewsHQ Watch: Clapper just conceded on CNN that ''No, I did not'' find evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Then, after being asked about leaking to the press, his video connection went dead...
pic.twitter.com/Ab13DVFVQa 5:09 AM - 14 May 2020 Twitter by: TV News HQ @TVNewsHQ TV News HQ @ TVNewsHQ
8h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ Once Clapper was back, he was asked whether he leaked the Flynn call to David Ignatius. He says: ''No, I did not.''
pic.twitter.com/mAww8wsp9U View conversation · Valarie J Lutz @ lutz_valarie
8h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @BretBaier Yes We have known this for years,thats why we Support TRUMP ( DRAIN THE SWAMP)
View conversation · JustTheFacts @ ConservaTarian3
8h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @BretBaier I wonder if his lawyer was there with him and cut the video to prevent him from further self-incrimination.
View conversation · John F. Lemke @ brabarig1
6h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @UrUnpaidPundit It's going to be a long summer for traitors.
View conversation · Old Man and the Ski @ Oldmanandtheski
1h Replying to
@brabarig1 @TVNewsHQ @UrUnpaidPundit Hope so.
View conversation · Mary Martin @ mosaics7
8h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @BretBaier I love it!!!
#OBAMAGATE.
#BIDENGATE View conversation · lindsey blu @ blu_lindsey
7h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @BretBaier The guy has lied on National TV for years it goes back to the Lois Lerner days I bet this corrupt player is receiving a taxpayer pension too
View conversation · Joy @ Joy17123083
7h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @BretBaier The connection didnot go dead with clapper, he knew he should not lie and could not tell the truth either thus the disconnevtuon
View conversation · BoumtjeBoumtje '­¸'­¸'­¸ @ BoumtjeBoumtje
5h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @dbongino Keep him talkin' ... this is all admissible as evidence in court
#ObamaGatepic.twitter.com/FURRWWRu8s View conversation · Stephan Penn @ PennStephan
7h Replying to
@TVNewsHQ @gehrig38 This is CNN. Hahahaha ðŸ‚
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STORIES
Germany criminalises the burning of foreign flags - The Local
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:15
You will be connected to www.thelocal.de in just a moment...
Learn about Project Shield
Senate rejects FISA amendment to bar warrantless surveillance of web browser history | Fox News
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:14
The Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which would have prohibited law enforcement officials from monitoring people's web browsing or internet search history without obtaining a warrant first.
The Senate voted 59-37 in favor of the amendment, which would have tacked on measures to a FISA reform bill that already passed in the House with substantial bipartisan support, but 60 senators needed to approve it for the amendment to pass.
FISA REFORM TO HIT THE SENATE FLOOR: HERE'S WHAT TO KNOW
The amendment, which came from Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., is one of several being considered by the Senate as possible add-ons to the House bill.
"We need to get the government out of our phones & out of our lives," Daines tweeted before the vote. "They shouldn't have access to Americans' extremely personal browser data & internet search history w/o a warrant."
The House bill, which passed by a 278-136 vote, brought together the staunchest President Trump supporters like Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and some of his fiercest critics like Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who wanted improvements to protect Americans' privacy and safeguard against surveillance abuses.
Senators including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have voiced opposition to the House bill and submitted amendments of their own.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
FISA reform has been a hot topic since a report from the Justice Department Inspector General revealed significant inaccuracies and omissions by the FBI in FISA warrant applications that led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.
A subsequent report showed that the FBI's violations of FISA-related rules went beyond the Russia investigation.
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.
Inside Moderna Therapeutics, biotech's most secretive startup
Sun, 17 May 2020 08:03
C AMBRIDGE, Mass. '-- At first glance, Moderna Therapeutics looks like the most enviable biotech startup in the world. It has smashed fundraising records and teamed up with pharmaceutical giants as it pursues a radical plan to revolutionize medicine by transforming human cells into drug factories.
But the reality is more complicated.
A STAT investigation found that the company's caustic work environment has for years driven away top talent and that behind its obsession with secrecy, there are signs Moderna has run into roadblocks with its most ambitious projects.
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At the center of it all is St(C)phane Bancel, a first-time biotech CEO with an unwavering belief that Moderna's science will work '-- and that employees who don't ''live the mission'' have no place in the company. Confident and intense, Bancel told STAT that Moderna's science is on track and, when it is finally made public, that it will meet the brash goal he himself has set: The new drugs will change the world.
But interviews with more than 20 current and former employees and associates suggest Bancel has hampered progress at Moderna because of his ego, his need to assert control and his impatience with the setbacks that are an inevitable part of science. Moderna is worth more than any other private biotech in the US, and former employees said they felt that Bancel prized the company's ever-increasing valuation, now approaching $5 billion, over its science.
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As he pursued a complex and risky strategy for drug development, Bancel built a culture of recrimination at Moderna, former employees said. Failed experiments have been met with reprimands and even on-the-spot firings. They recalled abusive emails, dressings down at company meetings, exceedingly long hours, and unexplained terminations.
At least a dozen highly placed executives have quit in the past four years, including heads of finance, technology, manufacturing, and science. In just the past 12 months, respected leaders of Moderna's cancer and rare disease programs both resigned, even though the company's remarkable fundraising had put ample resources at their disposal. Each had been at the company less than 18 months, and the positions have yet to be filled.
Lower-ranking employees, meanwhile, said they've been disappointed and confused by Moderna's pivot to less ambitious '-- and less transformative '-- treatments. Moderna has pushed off projects meant to upend the drug industry to focus first on the less daunting (and most likely, far less lucrative) field of vaccines '-- though it is years behind competitors in that arena.
The company has published no data supporting its vaunted technology, and it's so secretive that some job candidates have to sign nondisclosure agreements before they come in to interview. Outside venture capitalists said Moderna has so many investors clamoring to get in that it can afford to turn away any who ask too many questions. Some small players have been given only a peek at Moderna's data before committing millions to the company, according to people familiar with the matter.
''It's a case of the emperor's new clothes,'' said a former Moderna scientist. ''They're running an investment firm, and then hopefully it also develops a drug that's successful.''
Like many employees and former employees, the scientist requested anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement. Others would not permit their names to be published out of fear that speaking candidly about big players in the industry would hurt their job prospects down the road.
Moderna just moved its first two potential treatments '-- both vaccines '-- into human trials. In keeping with the culture of secrecy, though, executives won't say which diseases the vaccines target, and they have not listed the studies on the public federal registry, ClinicalTrials.gov. Listing is optional for Phase 1 trials, which are meant to determine if a drug is safe, but most companies voluntarily disclose their work.
Investors say it'll be worth the wait when the company finally lifts the veil.
''We think that when the world does get to see Moderna, they're going to see something far larger in its scope than anybody's seen before,'' said Peter Kolchinsky, whose RA Capital Management owns a stake in the company.
Bancel, meanwhile, said he is aware of the criticism of him and has taken some steps to address it. After scathing anonymous comments about Moderna's management began showing up online, Bancel went to Silicon Valley to get tips on employee retention from the human resources departments of Facebook, Google, and Netflix. But he makes no apologies for tumult past or present, pointing to the thousands of patients who might be saved by Moderna's technology.
''You want to be the guy who's going to fail them? I don't,'' he said in an interview from his glassy third-floor office. ''So was it an intense place? It was. And do I feel sorry about it? No.''
The Moderna offices in Cambridge, Mass. Aram Boghosian for STATAn ambitious CEO dreams bigBancel, 44, had no experience running a drug development operation when one of biotech's most successful venture capitalists tapped him to lead Moderna. He'd spent most of his career in sales and operations, not science.
But he had made no secret of his ambition.
A native of France, Bancel earned a master's in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Harvard in 2000. As Harvard Business School classmates rushed to cash in on the dot-com boom, Bancel laid out a plan to play ''chess, not checkers.''
''I was always thinking, one day, somebody will have to make a decision about me getting a CEO job,'' he told an audience at his alma mater in April. '''... How do I make sure I'm not the bridesmaid? How do I make sure that I'm not always the person who's almost selected but doesn't get the role?''
He went into sales and rose through the operational ranks at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, eventually leading the company's Belgian operation. And in 2007, at just 34, he achieved his goal, stepping in as CEO of the French diagnostics firm bioM(C)rieux, which employs roughly 6,000 people.
The company improved its margins under Bancel's tenure, and he developed a reputation as a stern manager who got results, according to an equities analyst who covered bioM(C)rieux at the time.
''He doesn't suffer fools lightly,'' the analyst said, speaking on condition of anonymity to comply with company policy. ''I think if you're underperforming, you'll probably find yourself looking for another job.''
Bancel's rise caught the eye of the biotech investment firm Flagship Ventures, based here in Cambridge. Flagship CEO Noubar Afeyan repeatedly tried to entice him to take over one of the firm's many startups, Bancel said. But he rejected one prospect after another because the startups seemed too narrow in scope.
Moderna was different.
The company's core idea was seductively simple: cut out the middleman in biotech.
''It's a case of the emperor's new clothes. They're running an investment firm, and then hopefully it also develops a drug that's successful.''
Former Moderna scientist
For decades, companies have endeavored to craft better and better protein therapies, leading to new treatments for cancer, autoimmune disorders, and rare diseases. Such therapies are costly to produce and have many limitations, but they've given rise to a multibillion-dollar industry. The anti-inflammatory Humira, the world's top drug at $14 billion in sales a year, is a shining example of protein therapy.
Moderna's technology promised to subvert the whole field, creating therapeutic proteins inside the body instead of in manufacturing plants. The key: harnessing messenger RNA, or mRNA.
In nature, mRNA molecules function like recipe books, directing cellular machinery to make specific proteins. Moderna believes it can play that system to its advantage by using synthetic mRNA to compel cells to produce whichever proteins it chooses. In effect, the mRNA would turn cells into tiny drug factories.
It's highly risky. Big pharma companies had tried similar work and abandoned it because it's exceedingly hard to get RNA into cells without triggering nasty side effects. But if Moderna can get it to work, the process could be used to treat scores of diseases, including cancers and rare diseases that can be death sentences for children.
Bancel was intrigued. He knew it was a gamble, he told STAT, ''but if I don't do it, and it works, I'm just going to kick myself every morning.''
And so he became the company's CEO '-- and soon developed an almost messianic reverence for the mRNA technology.
Despite having never worked with RNA before, Bancel said he sat around the table with his core team in the early days of the company, dreaming up experiments. As a result, he is listed as a co-inventor on more than 100 of Moderna's early patent applications, unusual for a CEO who is not a PhD scientist.
Though he's been here several years now, Bancel stands out in the freewheeling startup hub of Kendall Square. He prefers tailored suits over the industry's fleece-heavy wardrobe, and he doesn't shy away from sweeping promises that might trouble CEOs more concerned with managing expectations.
Under Bancel, Moderna has been loath to publish its work in Science or Nature, but enthusiastic to herald its potential on CNBC and CNN, taking part in segments on the world's most disruptive companies and the potential ''cure for cancer.''
Bancel lays out those grand ambitions in an accent that bends his own company's name into something more akin to the Italian city. In conversation, Bancel has a salesman's skill of making complex concepts seem simple, but with an earnestness that keeps his spiel from feeling like a con.
He peppers his speech with Silicon Valley buzzwords, many of which are scrawled on a giant whiteboard in his spacious office. Messenger RNA ''is like software,'' he explained: If it works in one disease, it should work for thousands.
Most biotech startups focus on one or two leading drug candidates at first, pushing them through human trials before turning to another target. Moderna, by contrast, has nearly 100 projects going at once. With mRNA, ''you can just turn the crank and get a lot of products going into development,'' Bancel explained, flashing a smile as though he himself was bemused by the idea's simplicity.
Resignations, dismissals, and churnFrom the beginning, Bancel made clear that Moderna's science simply had to work. And that anyone who couldn't make it work didn't belong.
The early Moderna was a chaotic, unpredictable workplace, according to former employees. One recalls finding himself out of a job when a quick-turnaround experiment failed to pan out. Another helped train a group of new hires only to realize they were his replacements.
''There was a kind of Jack Welch-ian, 'We fire the bottom 10 percent' from the very beginning,'' said a former Moderna manager. ''That's probably the biggest HR difference between Moderna and virtually any other biotech, where they talk so much about developing their people.''
Moderna went through two heads of chemistry in a single year, according to former employees, and its chief scientific officer and head of manufacturing left shortly thereafter. Those who fell out of favor with Bancel would find themselves excluded from key meetings, pushed aside until they resigned or ultimately got dismissed, employees said.
''You want to be the guy who's going to fail [patients]? I don't. So was it an intense place? It was. And do I feel sorry about it? No.''
St(C)phane Bancel, Moderna CEO
Most stunning to employees was the abrupt departure of Joseph Bolen, who came aboard in 2013 to lead Moderna's R&D efforts.
Bolen was a big-name hire in biotech circles, an experienced chief scientific officer who had guided Millennium Pharmaceuticals to FDA approval for a blockbuster cancer drug. He'd been profiled in The Scientist, which dubbed him ''the people's CSO'' for his ability to keep morale high and research focused. Landing him was a coup.
But two years into his tenure at Moderna, he abruptly stepped down last October, making no public statement save for changing his LinkedIn status to ''resigned.''
''No scientist in his right mind would leave that job unless there was something wrong with the science or the personnel,'' said a person close to the company at the time.
Insiders said Bancel had effectively pushed Bolen out, hiring parallel executives until Bolen was in charge of just ''a postage stamp'' worth of territory, as one former Moderna manager put it. Bolen declined to comment.
For his part, Bancel acknowledged the changes that limited Bolen's power but insisted the parting was friendly. Bancel said he tried to convince Bolen to stay, but the scientist ''voted himself off the island.''
Bolen wasn't alone. Chief Information Officer John Reynders joined in 2013 to make Moderna what he called the world's ''first fully digital biotech,'' only to step down a year later. Michael Morin, brought in to lead Moderna's scientific efforts in cancer in 2014, lasted less than 18 months. As did Greg Licholai, hired in 2015 to direct the company's projects in rare diseases. The latter two key leadership positions remain unfilled.
''You wonder,'' influential biotech blogger Derek Lowe wrote last year, ''if Moderna really is a rocket ship getting ready to launch and spray a formation of new drugs across the sky, then why are these people leaving?''
The company has a simple explanation: Moderna lives in dog years compared with other biotechs.
''We force everyone to grow with the company at unprecedented speed,'' Moderna Chief Financial Officer Lorence Kim said. ''Some people grow with the company; others don't.''
Bancel is sprightly in describing the company's future, but his tone hardens on the topic of its formative years '-- Moderna 1.0, as he calls it.
''The people in the 1.0 team who did not really live the mission ended up either leaving or being asked to leave because they were not accomplishing what we needed them to accomplish,'' he said.
Moderna's internal turmoil came spilling messily into public view starting in late 2012, as more than a dozen harsh critiques popped up on Glassdoor, a website that allows a company's employees '-- or anyone, for that matter '-- to write anonymous reviews of management and workplace culture.
The posts, full of invective for company leaders, eventually came to the attention of the board. ''And you'd be lying to say it didn't affect you emotionally,'' said the company's president, Dr. Stephen Hoge, a former emergency medicine physician whose tendency for self-deprecation cuts a disarming contrast to Bancel's intensity. ''Like, what if my dad sees that?''
The company sought to improve its workplace, and Hoge said the once-high turnover rate has fallen to within industry standards, though he declined to disclose specifics.
''You wonder, if Moderna really is a rocket ship getting ready to launch and spray a formation of new drugs across the sky, then why are these people leaving?''
Derek Lowe, biotech blogger
Moderna '-- which now offers Silicon Valley-style perks like a daily catered lunch and iPhones for all employees '-- has roughly doubled in size each year, meaning most of the company's current workforce of about 450 has joined since 2013. They're spread out among three locations, and many are siloed off from top executives. Survey data from such junior employees helped vault Moderna to Science magazine's list of top employers of 2015.
Those who buy in are all in: Some employees speak with respect bordering on awe about Moderna's promise, with one likening the technology to ''magic.''
The two current employees put forward by the company to talk with STAT sounded a note of pride at Moderna's reputation for driving its staff hard.
''In a way, it's a blessing in disguise,'' said Edward Miracco, a senior scientist who started at Moderna in 2014. ''It separates the wheat from the chaff.''
Not everyone is cut out to work at Moderna, where ''things change daily, hourly,'' said Dan Brock, an associate director who joined the company in February. ''Everyone who comes here already kind of gets it.''
But the recent departures and vacancies suggest that turmoil continues in the top ranks '-- those who most closely deal with upper management, including Bancel.
''He believes in a bigger stick than carrot,'' a former manager said. ''Moderna has some growing up to do, no question about it.''
Talia Bronshtein/STAT Source: PitchBook Data A gold rush for ModernaHoge, who joined the company in 2012, describes the early days of Moderna as ''when we were living in the caves.'' The company often had only enough cash to keep the lights on for six months at a time, he said. ''The strategy was just to survive.''
Moderna 1.0, and life in the caves, came to a close in 2013, according to company lore.
That's when Moderna '-- which had just 25 employees '-- signed a staggering $240 million partnership with UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. It was the most money pharma had ever spent on drugs that had not yet been tested in humans.
The agreement is commemorated in one of Moderna's offices by a framed clipping from the New York Times. Page B7 of the March 21, 2013 edition: ''AstraZeneca Makes a Bet On an Untested Technique.''
For AstraZeneca, the unprecedented deal came at a time of uncertainty. A series of clinical failures had led the firm to fire its head of research and lay off 1,600 scientists. Pascal Soriot, just six months into his tenure as CEO, was under pressure from investors to chart a new course. And Moderna, with its brash ambition to bring 100 drugs to clinical trials within a decade, gave Soriot a way forward.
The rich deal started a gold rush for Moderna. Everyone, it seemed, wanted in.
Before the end of 2013, Moderna would turn heads again with a $110 million investment round, followed by a high-dollar partnership with biotech giant Alexion.
In early 2015, Moderna disclosed a $450 million financing round, the largest ever for a private biotech company. This month, the company broke its own record, raising another $474 million.
The run-up was ''biotech fervor to the extreme,'' according to a venture capitalist not involved with the company, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. While bigger investors got to see all the company's data from animal experiments, some of Moderna's smaller investors put in funds based on just a peek, according to people familiar with the process. Moderna's fundraising success had created a seller's market: Why deal with the questions of one potential investor when it had 10 more lined up?
Afeyan, Moderna's chairman and cofounder, insists the company's investors have done their homework. To say they bought in without due diligence ''would be a bit of an insult to these people,'' he said.
''I hope they solve those challenges, because it's not going to be good for the broader biotech industry in general if this thing implodes.''
Biotech investor
Though it has yet to reveal data from a single clinical trial, Moderna is now valued at $4.7 billion, according to Pitchbook.
That's twice as much as Spark Therapeutics, the company widely expected to market the United States's first gene therapy, which has shown signs in clinical trials that it can reverse blindness caused by a rare genetic disorder. Moderna is also worth billions more than Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma, startups developing novel treatments for cancer that have demonstrated promising results in early human trials.
Moderna has long shaken off rumors that it is soon to market its shares on Wall Street, with Hoge likening the company to a child star: ''You don't want to go through your adolescence publicly,'' he told STAT.
But that's about to change. Moderna's next planned step is an initial public offering, according to a person close to the company. Bancel declined to say just when Moderna might go public, but the company has already prepared: In its latest filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Moderna changed its business structure from an LLC to a C corporation, completing a necessary step before mounting an IPO.
Moderna's mission statement, which is painted on various walls throughout its Cambridge, Mass., offices. Aram Boghosian for STATA strategic shift to less ambitious targetsWith a public listing come required disclosures, and many are eager to see what Moderna's been keeping under wraps all these years.
Outsiders and competitors, looking only at Moderna's public statements, have noted a shift in strategy that might signal undisclosed setbacks.
From the start, Moderna heralded its ability to produce proteins within cells, which could open up a world of therapeutic targets unreachable by conventional drugs. The most revolutionary treatments, which could challenge the multibillion-dollar market for protein therapy, would involve repeated doses of mRNA over many years, so a patient's body continued to produce proteins to keep disease at bay.
But Moderna's first human trials aren't so ambitious, focusing instead on the crowded field of vaccines, where the company has only been working since 2014.
First are the two vaccine trials for undisclosed infectious diseases. Coming next is a one-time treatment for heart failure, developed in partnership with AstraZeneca, followed by another experimental vaccine, for Zika virus, which several other pharma companies are also working to develop. And after that, Moderna is planning a human trial of a personalized cancer vaccine using mRNA, something it just came up with last year.
The choice to prioritize vaccines came as a disappointment to many in the company, according to a former manager. The plan had been to radically disrupt the biotech industry, the manager said, so ''why would you start with a clinical program that has very limited upside and lots of competition?''
The answer could be the challenge of ensuring drug safety, outsiders said.
Delivery '-- actually getting RNA into cells '-- has long bedeviled the whole field. On their own, RNA molecules have a hard time reaching their targets. They work better if they're wrapped up in a delivery mechanism, such as nanoparticles made of lipids. But those nanoparticles can lead to dangerous side effects, especially if a patient has to take repeated doses over months or years.
Novartis abandoned the related realm of RNA interference over concerns about toxicity, as did Merck and Roche.
''Now, as we're going to human [trials], it's pretty clear no one else is going to catch us.''
Kenneth Chien, scientist who works with Moderna
Moderna's most advanced competitors, CureVac and BioNTech, have acknowledged the same challenge with mRNA. Each is principally focused on vaccines for infectious disease and cancer, which the companies believe can be attacked with just a few doses of mRNA. And each has already tested its technology on hundreds of patients.
''I would say that mRNA is better suited for diseases where treatment for short duration is sufficiently curative, so the toxicities caused by delivery materials are less likely to occur,'' said Katalin Karik", a pioneer in the field who serves as a vice president at BioNTech.
That makes vaccines the lowest hanging fruit in mRNA, said Franz-Werner Haas, CureVac's chief corporate officer. ''From our point of view, it's obvious why [Moderna] started there,'' he said.
Moderna said it prioritized vaccines because they presented the fastest path to human trials, not because of setbacks with other projects. ''The notion that [Moderna] ran into difficulties isn't borne in reality,'' said Afeyan.
But this is where Moderna's secrecy comes into play: Until there's published data, only the company and its partners know what the data show. Everyone outside is left guessing '-- and, in some cases, worrying that Moderna won't live up to its hype.
''Frankly, I hope that there's real substance and I hope they solve those challenges, because it's not going to be good for the broader biotech industry in general if this thing implodes,'' said one investor not involved with Moderna.
And it could still go either way, former employees said. If Moderna's promises come to fruition, it could be a pillar of the biotech industry. If they don't, it could find a place among a short list of companies that have cast a shadow over the entire industry and left investors disillusioned.
''Either we'll be talking about it as the next Genentech,'' a former Moderna manager said, ''or we'll think, 'Well, back then, first there was Turing, then there was Valeant, and then there was Moderna.''
Enough cash to absorb some setbacksModerna's management and its investors are keeping the faith, pointing to the company's pipeline of 11 drug candidates and more than 90 preclinical projects.
And with Moderna's huge cash reserves '-- estimated at $1.5 billion '-- it can afford a few setbacks, proponents said. The company said it's pouring money into its manufacturing operation, planning to spend $100 million this year on a new plant. Moderna has pioneered an automated system modeled on the software Tesla uses to manage orders, Bancel said: Scientists simply enter the protein they want a cell to express, and testable mRNA arrives within weeks.
''If we have a bump in the road in the clinic, we will not have to wait years to go back to the drawing board,'' Bancel said.
That has always been part of the plan, former employees said, pointing to Bancel's fascination with the tech industry. Uber and Amazon were not the first to come up with their respective business ideas, but they were the ones that built enough scale to ward off competition. And Moderna is positioning itself to do the same in mRNA.
''Now, as we're going to human [trials], it's pretty clear no one else is going to catch us,'' said Dr. Kenneth Chien, a professor at Karolinska Institutet working with Moderna and AstraZeneca.
Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna's chief medical officer, promises that the company will soon break its silence on the publishing front. He said next year Moderna will disclose the animal data that helped get its two vaccines into the clinic. The company has also committed to publishing full results from all of its human trials, starting with the vaccine studies next year.
Moderna's reticence to share data earlier is ''not because we decided to be secret,'' Zaks said. ''This is the natural evolution of a platform. As we go into the clinic, we will be very transparent.''
For all the tumult at Moderna these past few years, Bancel said the company remains true to its mission statement: ''Deliver on the promise of mRNA science to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients.''
The message, which adorns the walls of Moderna's offices, was first to be printed on posters, but Bancel insisted it be inscribed in paint.
''Because that,'' he said, pointing to the first word, ''is not ever going to change.''
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the age at which Bancel became CEO of bioM(C)rieux.
An Inward Perspective '' Travel, Photography and Random Thoughts
Sun, 17 May 2020 07:02
Over the past few months, most of us have probably had more time to think than we would have necessarily liked to have had. Personally I've been lucky enough to have found a crutch in my work, but many have not been so fortunate.
How do you come to terms with a conflicting inner battle that is fighting between a feeling that we are all being oppressed by rather draconian authoritarian rules and one where you tell yourself that it's for the good of public safety?
As the data evolves, one would hope that the responses of governments will become more measured. How can nations effectively close their economies based on what have been proven to be inaccurate computer models, such as is the case with the Imperial College of London model led by Neil Ferguson?
The model, spearheaded by a man who went against his own recommendations by admitting that he met up with his mistress during a lockdown, is largely flawed. It has emerged that it ran on thirteen year old, undocumented code, only capable of running on single thread.
Circumstantial technical jargon aside, it was out by an order of magnitude.
Knee jerk decisions were made based on this model, mainly in the UK and the US, but carrying over into the decision making processes of many governments. Up until the model predicted over 500,000 deaths in the UK and 2.2 million deaths in the US from COVID19, the UK were planning to take a similar course of action to the one that has been followed through by Sweden.
Then there is the matter of reporting. It's very difficult to compare the figures reported by one country, directly to the figures of another, even when demographics and the standard of health care appear to be similar.
Volumes of testing heavily influence both the numbers of confirmed cases and the ability to determine how many people need medical attention or require isolation to prevent further spread.
The declaration of COVID19 deaths is also a major factor in determining the mortality rate. Some countries are more generous than others in how deaths are reported. While keeping track of all of the deaths is important for future records, wouldn't it make far more sense to split the data out for further clarity?
If deaths were broken down into primary cause, contributory cause or died with COVID19 we would see a far more accurate picture. If a person dies right now of anything, and are found to test positive for COVID19, it's treated as a COVID19 death in many countries.
A notable example of this was in Italy, where according to an article in The Telegraph, Professor Walter Ricciardi, scientific adviser to Italy's Minister for Health, the death toll was very high due to a combination of demographics and how deaths were recorded in the country.
He stated that ''all people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus''. This is a very important and largely overlooked factor by most of the media.
In addition, at the time of publication of the article in The Telegraph, upon a review carried out by the Italian Institute of Health, only 12% of the death certificates showed a direct casualty from coronavirus, with 88% having at least one pre-morbidity, with many having two or three.
Why then is this not more widely reported and discussed by mainstream media? As a child I wanted to be a journalist. As I grew older I held an idealised view that journalism was about holding people to account and getting people to ask questions. In the past 10 years however, this idealised view was abruptly shattered with the realisation that it's really more about keeping sponsors (advertisers) happy and not being too controversial.
I'm not really suggesting that there is any sort of cover up happening with COVID19, am I? I still cling to the hope that this is not the case, but I'm lacking the evidence that the media are asking the right questions in order to dispel any notions that something untoward may be occurring. It's one thing to tell people that they should steer clear of 'misinformation', but it's a whole other thing to provide transparent, detailed and accurate information in order to remove all reasonable doubt as to whether everything is above board. I find myself asking if this is down to an unfortunate drop in standards in journalism as a whole or whether there is a lack of evidence to completely rule out the former.
One thing is certain, we have come face to face with a new virus, regardless of it's origin, that has disrupted our lives. It's certain that people have died and this is a horrible reality. This article is no way meant to disrespect those who have died from COVID19. It's certainly possible to respect those who have been affected, while simultaneously asking questions.
There is much talk about the hope for a vaccine this year. I am 100% pro safe vaccinations. The world has changed for the better thanks to many of the vaccines that we have today. The keyword is safe. There is plenty of evidence that mistakes have been made in the past, particularly in the early stages of vaccine development. A notable example is the early Polio vaccines, where failure to acknowledge the presence of live Polio in the vaccine led to a virulent vaccine being disseminated, resulting in the largest Polio outbreak ever. 200,000 people were infected with 70,000 becoming sick, resulting in 200 children becoming paralysed and ten dying.
In that instance, Dr. Bernice Eddy, who discovered that some of the monkeys during testing had become paralysed, raised the alarm but her research was dismissed. To add insult to injury, Eddy also discovered that SV40, a cancer causing virus in monkeys, had contaminated ninety-eight million of the vaccine batches.
At the risk of going down a rabbit hole, I only hope that if a vaccine for COVID19 is discovered, that it remains immune from corruption and an urge to be first to patent. Honest, well intentioned science is what will ultimately protect us, while the type of corruption that has been seen on more than one occasion in the past could potentially lead to one of the largest scandals to ever see the light of day, especially due to the likely global rapid dissemination of any such vaccine.
On more than one occasion in this article I refer to an inner conflict, one that is causing me to lose sleep on a regular basis. It's an inner debate as to whether the type of extreme measures such as the ones that we are currently living through in Ireland are really necessary.
We are entering a phase that has seen the announcement of a slight relaxation of those measures from this coming Monday. As I speak we are entering week eight of one of Europe's strictest sets of measures designed to curb the spread of COVID19 and to flatten the now infamous curve, which has long since happened.
We are now permitted to exercise within 5km of our homes, up from 2km when the measures first came into force. The extension of this radius already occurred approximately two weeks ago, but little else has changed. Outside of that, we are only permitted to venture further for essential reasons such as going to work, grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy, caring for animals and a small number of other reasons.
From Monday, the only changes are that we can meet as a group of four people from different households in an outdoor setting while keeping two meters apart, as well as the reopening of a number of other types of businesses. The 5km rule will also apply to those social visits. The regulations are Dublin centric and have been inflicted upon those of us living in rural Ireland.
I could theoretically, although currently against the law, walk for 20km where I live and not come even close to within two metres of another human being.
When we drive on main routes, we are subjected to Garda (Irish Police) checkpoints. Whilst I must commend the fine people of the Garda­ for being courteous and professional, it does amount to a less than pleasant intrusion on our civil liberties. I'm sure that if pressed to comment, many of the Garda­ would say that they do not agree with having to encroach on the freedom of healthy, normally free citizens.
I often wonder what the people who fought for the freedom of our state would say if they learned that emergency legislation had been passed, by an unelected caretaker government to forcefully restrict the free movement of ordinary decent people. Many people will find this an absurd comparison and are more than happy with the sense of security, false or real, that these measures have provided us.
Personally, I feel that the types of forced measures that have been put in place amount to a gross overreach by government. That's not to say that I feel that we shouldn't exercise caution and use common sense by keeping two meters away from people and avoiding crowds for a while.
The problem for me lies in the fact that we are not given a choice to use our common sense and choose to be sensible ourselves. Instead, we face fines and up to six months in prison if we fail to adhere to the ridiculous 5km radius rule or fail to turn around if instructed to do so if a Garda decides that our journey is unnecessary.
If I drive 100km, don't come in contact with anyone and go for a hike on a mountain alone, I have done no harm to anyone yet would face the draconian penalties mentioned above.
Benjamin Franklin once said: ''Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety''. History has taught us that when we give up privacy or freedom in exchange for perceived safety, despite promises to the contrary, we rarely have them restored to their previous levels. I lay awake at night, hoping that I am wrong.
Sources:
Italian Deaths '' The Telegraph, 'Why have so many coronavirus patients died in Italy?', March 23rd 2020
Polio Vaccine Issues '' Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science, published by Skyhorse, April 14th 2020
Neil Fergusson breech of lockdown '' The Evening Standard, Professor Neil Ferguson resigns from Government's Sage committee 'after breaching lockdown rules to meet woman', May 5th 2020
Steven Horsford admits affair with intern | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Sun, 17 May 2020 06:50
Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford on Friday acknowledged that he'd carried on a longstanding affair with a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid who has detailed the relationship in a series of podcast episodes and on Twitter.
The woman, Gabriela Linder, told the Review-Journal that she is ''Love Jones,'' the pseudonym of a person who first began sharing her story through a public podcast, ''Mistress for Congress,'' in April. The podcast and a related Twitter account have relayed what she claims are various details of the affair, including a purported screenshot of a message exchanged between Horsford, D-Nev., and Linder in 2018.
She agreed to an interview with the Review-Journal on Friday. She said Horsford offered her financial support, introduced her to political connections and filmed a segment for her young son's YouTube show using his congressional staff.
Reached for comment on Linder's allegations on Friday evening, Horsford provided this statement:
''It is true that I had a previous relationship outside of my marriage, over the course of several years. I'm deeply sorry to all of those who have been impacted by this very poor decision, most importantly my wife and family. Out of concern for my family during this challenging time, I ask that our privacy is respected.''
Linder said the affair began in 2009, when she met Horsford '-- then the majority leader of the Nevada state Senate '-- during her time as an intern in former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada office. She claims she met Horsford at an event then later arranged to meet him through a friend.
They had a sexual relationship that continued intermittently until September 2019, Linder said, though the two remained in contact until April. Linder never worked for Horsford in any capacity.
On April 1, Horsford appeared on a children's YouTube show hosted by Linder's young son. Linder asked Horsford to appear by calling him on a personal phone, and not through his office, she said. (Linder says on her podcast that she had her son while in another relationship while attending law school at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during a period when she and Horsford were not seeing each other.)
The video shows Horsford speaking broadly about politicians and their role during the COVID-19 pandemic in what appears to be his Washington, D.C., congressional office. Linder said his staff shot the video with him and sent it to her.
Linder and Horsford stopped speaking shortly after the appearance, she said.
Off-and-on relationship
In total, she said, their sexual relationship took place between 2009-10 and 2017-2019, though they remained in regular contact for the entire decade.
Linder stressed she was not seeking to damage Horsford during an election year, but rather sees her podcast as ''an empowering journey'' as she moves on from the relationship. She said she was not paid any money to produce it, nor was she asked or contacted by any candidate in Horsford's 4th District race. She said she was writing a book about her experience.
Linder does, however, believe Horsford should end his bid for re-election.
''If this was a story in 2018 (when Horsford successfully recaptured the seat after having lost it in 2014), he wouldn't have run,'' Linder said. ''He obtained this position under false pretenses that he was a family man and man of God. He should take a step back, atone, and if people are satisfied, then he can come back into politics.''
Horsford represented the 4th District from 2013 to 2014, when he lost his re-election bid to Republican Cresent Hardy. He won the seat back in 2018, after then-Rep. Ruben Kihuen decided not to seek re-election because of sexual harassment allegations.
Horsford has been married since 2000 and has three children.
Ending the relationship
Linder also claimed she broke off her relationship with Horsford, whom she said had discussed leaving his wife for her but could not do so during the 2020 election season.
''I decided I can't wait, deserved more and didn't want to be that person anymore,'' she said. ''And I realized someone who could lie that way is not someone who would be honorable to me.''
During the third episode of her podcast, Linder said Horsford ''looked out for her over the years, from anything from a job recommendation to financial support.''
In her interview with the Review-Journal, Linder declined to elaborate on this support. As an attorney, she said, she worried saying anything further could get her caught up in divorce proceedings should Horsford's marriage be dissolved. (State Bar of Nevada records show no one with her name is licensed to practice law in Nevada.)
Reached for comment Friday night, a Horsford aide said Linder ''never received any compensation from the congressman or from the campaign over the course of their private relationship.''
''This was a private relationship of the congressman's and this was in no way related to his public office,'' the aide said.
Linder said that as far as she knew, Horsford never used campaign funds or money from his state Senate or congressional accounts to purchase anything for her.
'Loyal to a fault'
Linder, who was a 21-year-old senior at UNLV when the relationship began, claims she now realizes that Horsford, who was 36 at the time and is now 47, used his status as an older, powerful man to take advantage of her and control her. He never explicitly asked her not to tell anyone, she said.
''He knew how in love with him I was, and he knew what he could do and get away with,'' she said. ''He knows I would support him. He never told me to keep quiet. He didn't have to. He knew I was loyal to a fault.''
She said she now has a ''disdain'' for men in politics who fail to support women. She hopes her story will serve as a cautionary tale to women who participate in or even seek out similar relationships with older, powerful men.
Linder said she recently reached out to Horsford through her publicist to have him appear on her podcast. She told the Review-Journal she has an email on her personal account purportedly from Horsford that pointed her to a Washington, D.C., attorney, Howard Schiffman.
She said Horsford told her he thought they were resolving the situation amicably, and that failing to do so would be damaging to everyone.
Linder plans to release a new podcast episode on Sunday.
Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.
Texas Open Carry Explained | Texas Gun Laws
Sun, 17 May 2020 06:30
NEW! Starting January 1, 2016, folks with a concealed carry license will be permitted to now carry openly in TEXAS, per House Bill 910 of the 2015 legislative session. Non-Texans from states whose permits are also recognized by Texas will be allowed to open carry under the new law January 1, 2016. This website is not meant to be legal counsel. We are not lawyers.
Q: Can I Open Carry in Texas (in Public)?A: You can openly carry rifles and shotguns. Yes you can, as of January 1 '' 2016, folks can carry a handgun openly or concealed. However, you do have to be licensed. By Texas law, the gun must be carried using a ''shoulder or belt holster.'' Long arms still do not require a license.
Q: Why Can't I Open Carry my Handgun in Texas (in Public)?A: You can now openly carry with a license as of January 2016. Before that, Texas has long had a prohibition on the open display of handguns. This dates back to the days of Cowboys in the ''Wild West'' era of the 1800s; contrary to public opinion.
Q: Can I Open Carry on my own Property?A: Yes, you may carry openly on property that you own or that is directly under your control.
Q: Can I Open Carry on Private Land?A: Yes and No. You can carry openly if you are in the act of hunting or directly en route to your residence which can include a motor vehicle. You cannot openly carry on property that is not yours, even if the owner gives you permission to do so.
Q: I have a CHL, can I Carry Openly?A: At this time the CHL enables you to carry concealed or in the open.
Q: Can everyone open carry in Texas? '‹A: No, most minors under the age of 18 cannot, people convicted of various crimes cannot. You must have a license to open carry in Texas
Q: I live out of state, can I open carry in Texas?A: Yes. There is not a residency restriction legally open carry as long as you have a handgun license with Texas reciprocity.
Richard Morris: Top British diplomat missing after going for a run as Foreign Office 'extremely worried' | UK News | Sky News
Sun, 17 May 2020 05:56
Police in Hampshire have issued a new appeal for information about a top British diplomat who has been missing since he went for a run last week.
People in and around the Bentley area of Farnham were urged to check sheds and gardens to help in the search for Richard Morris, 52, who has a distinctive birthmark on his face.
Police also appealed for any CCTV footage that might offer clues on what happened to the married father-of-three, as the Foreign Office says it is "extremely worried" about his disappearance.
Mr Morris, who is due to become the UK's high commissioner to Fiji in July, was last seen at around 10.30am on 6 May when he left his home in Bentley.
A diplomatic colleague said his disappearance was very out of character. Mr Morris's previous diplomatic posting was as ambassador to Nepal.
Hampshire Police issued an appeal for information on the day he went missing. It noted that he has a port wine birthmark on his face, is white, 6ft tall, with greying hair and a beard.
"His family are understandably concerned for his welfare," the statement said.
The second police appeal on Monday thanked the public for their response.
"We are now asking residents in the surrounding areas if they could assist by checking sheds, outbuildings and gardens," the police statement said.
"We would also love to hear from any residents or businesses with CCTV that could help our enquiries."
Image: Mr Morris has not been seen since going for a jogThe police urged local people not to attempt to look for Mr Morris outside of their own property.
"We would like to reassure people that we have professional search teams conducting a thorough search of local areas," the statement said.
"This is so teams can accurately monitor all areas that have been police searched to a professional standard and so potential tracking can be conducted by search dogs.
"We again appeal for anyone with information and also ask residents to check their outbuildings for any signs that someone might have been sheltering there or for discarded items.
"If you can help please get in touch by phoning 101 and quote the reference 44200160398."
An FCO spokesperson said: "Richard is a much valued and well liked colleague. We are extremely worried that he is missing and we all hope he will be found safe and well soon."
A career diplomat, Mr Morris was ambassador to Nepal for four years until November 2019.
Before that post, he was head of pacific department at the Foreign Office.
He had previously been consul general in Sydney and served in Mexico City.
A graduate from Aberystwyth University, Mr Morris joined the Foreign Office in 1990.
He worked in multiple departments, including on defence issues, cultural relations and spent time at the UK mission to the United Nations in New York.
He has a wife, a daughter and two sons.
His Foreign Office biography says that he "enjoys long-distance running, reading, travel, music and spending time with his family".
Mr Morris had completed a marathon up Mount Everest for a charity to support people with facial disfigurement.
He had finished the 42km race from Base Camp to Namche in seven hours and 51 minutes on 30 May last year.
Chinese ambassador to Israel found dead in Herzliya home - The Jerusalem Post
Sun, 17 May 2020 05:56
There are reportedly no signs of violence. Wei's death comes a week after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel in an apparent attempt to convince the gov't to limit Chinese investment. China's Ambassador to Israel Du Wei attends a briefing in his previous post in Ukraine.
(photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)
The Chinese Ambassador to Israel, Du Wei, was found dead in his Herzliya home on Sunday morning, a Foreign Affairs Ministry official confirmed. Police are currently in his home and investigating.
The Chinese embassy, however, said that it cannot confirm the reports as of yet.
Army Radio claims that at the moment, there are no signs of violence, leading investigators to believe that Wei passed from a heart attack.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem spoke to China's Deputy Ambassador to Israel Dai Yuming, and expressed his condolences over the ambassador's death.
Rotem said the Foreign Ministry will help in any way necessary.
The 57-year-old ambassador was a husband and father to a boy. His family is not in the country with him. He arrived in Israel to hold the position of ambassador in February, having served as Chinese ambassador to Ukraine before that.
He had written an article for
The Jerusalem Post a few days prior to his death about the resilience of the Chinese and Israeli people alike.
"We have a lot to offer each other, and we have much to achieve through our cooperation," the ambassador said on the embassy's website when he first took the position, speaking about potential cooperation between China and Israel. "The Chinese Embassy in Israel is committed to promoting friendship and cooperation between our two countries."
Wei's death comes one week after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel in what seemed to be an attempt to convince the government to limit Chinese investments.
The spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Israel, Wang Yongjun, wrote an opinion piece for the
Post after his visit, calling Pompeo's claims and comments "absurd."
"Historical experience also shows that pandemic is accompanied by conspiracies and the dark mentality of seeking scapegoats," Yongjun said. "Jewish friends know it well."
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U.S. state attorneys general likely to bring antitrust lawsuits against Google -source
Sun, 17 May 2020 03:25
FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Google logo is seen in this illustration taken
(Reuters) - A group of state attorneys general led by Texas are likely to file an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc's Google and are working on potential litigation for later this year, a person familiar with the situation said on Friday.
The Justice Department is also moving toward bringing a case as soon as this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Shares of Alphabet fell about 1.5% in after-hours trading.
Google - along with Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc - are under a series of probes into allegations that the tech behemoths use their clout to unfairly defend their market share, including one by the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel.
The federal probe of Google focuses on search, advertising and management of its Android operating system. The Federal Trade Commission settled an antitrust investigation of Google in 2013 with a reprimand.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the multi-state investigation, said they were talking to companies who said that they had been hurt by the search and advertising giant.
"Our antitrust investigation into Google has not been slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic," he said in a statement. "We hope to have the investigation wrapped up by fall. If we determine that filing is merited, we will go to court soon after that."
Paxton said in February he has not taken any possible punishment off the table, including breaking up the search and advertising giant.
Google said it would not comment on speculation about the potential for litigation.
"We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the Department of Justice and Attorney General Paxton, and we don't have any updates or comments on speculation," a Google spokesperson said in an email statement.
The Justice Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The four tech giants, which are powerhouses in search and online advertising, social media, online sales and smartphones, have caused concern among progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans alike because of their outsized clout.
The Justice Department is believed to be looking at all four companies while the FTC is probing Facebook and Amazon.com. Dozens of state attorneys general, led by New York, are also investigating Facebook.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Sonya Hepinstall)
Coronavirus and a savage memoir may kill Anna Wintour's career
Sun, 17 May 2020 03:24
Given its virulence and staying power, it's looking like COVID-19 might do what decades of rumors, Cond(C) Nast power plays, Page Six leaks and ''The Devil Wears Prada'' '-- the book and the movie '-- could not: Kill off Anna Wintour's career.
The first sign she was newly vulnerable came in March, with the announcement that the Met Gala, which doubles as Wintour's annual re-coronation as high fashion's queen, would be postponed indefinitely.
Then last week, her former longtime Vogue consigliere-slash-apologist Andr(C) Leon Talley did the classic double-air-kiss before plunging the knife in Wintour's back.
''I love her,'' Talley told People magazine while promoting his campily titled memoir ''The Chiffon Trenches,'' out Tuesday.
''People may see my book as a vengeful, bitchy tell-all. It is not.''
Oh, but it is.
''Ruthless,'' ''incapable of human kindness'' and ''immune to anyone other than the powerful and famous people who populate the pages of Vogue'' are just three ways Talley describes her in his book.
Designer Ralph Rucci, historically excluded from Vogue, rushed to Instagram to call Wintour ''satanic'' and the root of ''so much personal evil and destruction.''
It's not like any of this is news. In 2009, Wintour sat for a biting ''60 Minutes'' profile in which journalist Morley Safer called her ''Darth Vader in a frock,'' wondered to her face if she was, in fact, ''a bitch'' and compared Meryl Streep's portrayal of her in ''Devil'' as ''a teddy bear'' compared to the real thing.
This year's Met Gala, which doubles as Wintour's annual re-coronation as high fashion's queen, has been postponed indefinitely. Getty ImagesWintour did herself no favors by telling Safer what she thought of the average American fashion consumer. ''I had just been on a trip to Minnesota,'' she said, ''where I can only kindly describe most of the people I saw as little houses.''
Only kindly!!!!
Talley is 6-foot-6 and has long been so obese he wears only caftans. What must he have felt when he watched that interview?
And yet, he stuck around, through a significant demotion, until Wintour ousted him in 2018.
Even back in 2009, rumors '-- and hopes '-- were swirling that Anna was on her way out, that her loftiness, her imperiousness and her excess (a $200,000 annual clothing budget provided by Cond(C) Nast atop daily hair and makeup) had no place in recession-era America.
''Twenty years on the throne,'' Safer intoned, and ''her days may be numbered.''
Yet here she is, still. Even as Vogue slides ever downward in profitability and relevance '-- the rise of reality shows, YouTube stars and influencers has new generations looking elsewhere for fashion and beauty guidance '-- Wintour has clung to her considerable power, one that had her reportedly dictating which stars wore which designers' gowns to the Met Gala (a'‰k'‰a ''The Fashion World's Oscars''). Anna even made Oprah lose weight before she'd put her on Vogue's cover!
She may be a bully, but she is also an expert strategist, failing so upward at Cond(C) that she was named the company's creative director in 2013 and ''global content advisor'' for Cond(C)'s international brands in 2019.
This, despite star editors Graydon Carter and Cindi Leive departing in 2017. That same year, Teen Vogue, Wintour's baby, folded its print edition. The print frequency of Glamour, Allure, GQ, Architectural Digest, W, Bon Appetit and Cond(C) Nast Traveler all shrunk. Observers noted that Wintour, approaching 70 at this point, had a penchant for remaking other titles in the image and likeness of, yes, Vogue.
But it's only now, as this pandemic has disrupted nearly every industry on the planet, that Wintour is facing real danger. Just three months ago, her cruelty was on full display when she gathered her flock at Paris Vogue's headquarters during that city's fashion week as the teams from other fashion magazines headed home, fleeing coronavirus.
''The message from Anna was, 'This is not a big deal,''‰'' one staffer told The New York Times. Left unsaid but understood: None of her people, no matter how scared or vulnerable, were to ask to go home.
Wintour also, according to the Times, ''made arch jokes about people who had fled,'' then later told her staff to keep coming to Vogue's downtown offices in New York until the mayor issued his shelter-in-place edict.
Just three months ago, Wintour's cruelty was on full display when she gathered her flock at Paris Vogue's headquarters during that city's fashion week as the teams from other fashion magazines headed home, fleeing coronavirus. EPASince then, Wintour has been forced to take a 20 percent pay cut off her reported $2 million annual salary and desperately reinvent herself as one who understands the masses. So here is the new COVID-ready Wintour, posting photos of herself working from home in athleisure (one category soaring in sales as luxury brands plummet). Here she is introducing ''Vogue Global Conversations'' (online discussions with top designers), available to the great unwashed for free. Here she is partnering with Amazon, till now frozen out by luxury brands and niche designers, in a last-ditch attempt to save her dying industry.
Ironically, the theme of this year's Met Gala was ''About Time: Fashion and Its Duration.'' As Americans hunker down in sweats and slippers, realizing that comfort is the ultimate '-- and affordable '-- luxury, Wintour surely must wonder if her own time is over.
Stacey Abrams Wants More Than the Vice Presidency - The New York Times
Sat, 16 May 2020 22:20
She wants the Democrats to reach a different kind of swing voter '-- those who otherwise stay home. And she says she can help Joe Biden do it.
Stacey Abrams, who has made no secret of her desire to be Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s running mate, says Democrats must do more to persuade Americans of color to vote. Credit... Johnathon Kelso for The New York Times May 16, 2020Updated 1:07 p.m. ET
The clapping hands appeared on the screen '-- one, two, a flurry of emojis '-- flashing under the Facebook Live feed of the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams. It was the socially distanced derivative of the applause she has often encountered in the past year or so, since her narrow loss in the race for governor of Georgia in 2018.
Ms. Abrams was addressing the virtual audience of the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention. She was there last Saturday to talk voter suppression, the focal point of her work since 2018, and by the looks of the comments, had found a receptive crowd. ''Go Stacey!'' popped one, then, 13 seconds later: ''Stacy for VP!''
This, of course, was the subtext of Ms. Abrams's appearance Saturday, and again Thursday night when she appeared with Joseph R. Biden Jr. on MSNBC to talk about voting rights.
In early April, on a call with Georgians to discuss her work on ballot access in the pandemic, Ms. Abrams said: ''You don't do these things for the title.'' But in her recent run of appearances and interviews, she has nevertheless been open about the title she wants '-- vice president '-- and what she thinks her name on the ticket would mean for the future of the Democratic electorate.
With Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, nearing 78, the question of his running mate has largely been one of experience '-- who is capable of stepping into the top job on Day 1. It is not a standard that favors the chances of someone with the limited national political r(C)sum(C) of Ms. Abrams, which for some Democrats has made her candid ambition for the nomination off-putting.
Yet to Ms. Abrams, 46, the value of whomever Mr. Biden chooses is not just about experience: It is about signaling which voters the party wants to cultivate, both ahead of November and beyond.
Traditionally, Democrats have sought a vice-presidential pick that appeals to swing voters, those suburban whites whose operative variable is not whether they show up to the polls, but whether they go blue or red upon arrival. Such a priority this year would elevate the appeal of a running mate like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.
But there is another, oft-overlooked slice of the electorate that Ms. Abrams argues is equally crucial to the party's success, voters who grapple with a different binary: voting Democratic, or not voting at all.
''The focus on persuasion has often been trying to persuade someone to shift from their conservative ideology to a more moderate or liberal ideology,'' Ms. Abrams said in an interview. ''But for voters of color, it isn't about shifting ideology '-- it's persuading them that voting actually will have an effect.''
These other swing voters, oscillating between voting Democratic or not at all, are the Americans '-- largely racial minorities and young people '-- whom Ms. Abrams has devoted her career to reaching. As she explains it, there are overt voter suppression tactics, and then there is this more insidious thread, often unwittingly perpetuated by her own party, that tells this segment of swing voters that they are less worthy of courting.
Melanye Price, a professor of African-American studies and political science at Prairie View A&M University, said what was striking was not so much that Ms. Abrams views these unreliable voters as essential to the Democratic playbook, but that so few party leaders recognize their own role in alienating them. ''It's the biggest failure of the Democratic Party of the last decade,'' she said. ''I don't think it's malicious. I think it's just benign neglect.''
Image Supporters at Ms. Abrams's primary night party in May 2018, when she became the first black woman nominated by a major party in a governor's race. Credit... Melissa Golden for The New York Times As the first black woman to run as either major party's candidate for governor in any state, Ms. Abrams became the face of the issue of voting rights in 2018, after narrowly losing her race to Brian Kemp, a Republican. She argued that racially motivated voter suppression had sealed Mr. Kemp's victory, and shortly after launched Fair Fight, a PAC dedicated to expanding voter education and ballot access across the United States.
She still lived in her Atlanta townhouse, still read as many as three books at a time for fun (on rotation now: A biography of Huey Long, a novel called ''A Place for Us,'' and the latest from the sci-fi writer N.K. Jemisin). But she committed herself to the question of civic participation broadly and intensely, crisscrossing the country to raise money and give speeches, and starting another organization to educate voters on the importance of the census.
Since 2018, Fair Fight, along with its nonprofit arm, Fair Fight Action, has raised millions of dollars and funded teams at state Democratic parties across the country. In 2019, for example, Fair Fight helped Kentucky Democrats file a lawsuit that restored to the rolls some 175,000 voters who had been purged by the Republican governor. And amid the pandemic, the organization has shifted its focus to the expansion of voting by mail.
Ms. Abrams stressed that these efforts can matter little if citizens do not buy into the act of voting itself '-- in other words, if the barrier to participation is not so much a law or policy but a belief that the system has never valued one's voice to begin with.
For Americans of color, it is often impossible to believe that there are any leaders who ''want more for them,'' Ms. Abrams said. It is critical, then, for Democrats to commit to persuading these communities that voting is still worth it, that ''more and better is possible.''
Allowing disenchantment to fester unchecked, she reiterated, is its own blemish on the party. Few elections underscored the consequences better than in 2016, when black turnout dropped '-- and in many regions plummeted '-- contributing to Hillary Clinton's losses in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
As Lauren Groh-Wargo, Fair Fight's chief executive and Ms. Abrams's former campaign manager, explained it, campaigns often don't turn to black voters until after Labor Day, sending a cursory crush of mailers following a summer of intensive and individualized outreach to white so-called ''persuadables.''
''And then we wonder why, come Election Day, we don't see the type of African-American enthusiasm and engagement and support levels that we want to win,'' she said.
For Ms. Abrams, the issues of access to the vote, and African-American political engagement, are intensely personal.
Storytime for Ms. Abrams and her five siblings growing up in Mississippi and Georgia included the day their father was arrested while trying to register older black voters in Hattiesburg, Miss. He was around 14 or 15 years old, far too young himself to register, ''but he knew the fact that he could not even imagine voting was wrong,'' Ms. Abrams said.
They learned about the dogs, the police officers, the time that either a cop or an ''angry segregationist'' '-- she can't remember which '-- shot at her father and clipped his heel. (''My mom was different,'' Ms. Abrams said. ''She was also involved in activism, we just like to joke she was smart enough not to get caught.'')
Ms. Abrams remembered jumping up the morning of her 18th birthday to register to vote herself, feeling grown up using her Spelman College P.O. Box in Atlanta as her address. She set out a table on campus, clipboard and pen in hand, helping other people register as Bill Clinton ran his first campaign for president.
The story of voter suppression today is no longer the stuff of billy clubs and hoses that Ms. Abrams heard about as a child. But what was once a ''very clear, bright line where the government said 'you cannot,''' Ms. Abrams said, has been replaced with ''labyrinthine rules and invisible barriers.''
As Dr. Price sees it, such issues are rarely discussed at the national level in part because voter suppression can be incorrectly viewed as a uniquely Southern menace '-- and because they don't think they can win there, she argued, Democrats ''don't take the South seriously.''
The question, then, is at what point Democratic leaders start to incorporate voices like Ms. Abrams's into the party's identity, regardless of immediate electoral prospects. ''I know what Stacey Abrams feels,'' said Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the House majority whip. ''I know what it is to operate in Washington, D.C., with people looking upon Southerners as being sort of outside the mainstream.''
''And black Southerners,'' he added, ''my God.''
Mr. Clyburn, whose endorsement before the South Carolina primary in February helped propel Mr. Biden to the nomination, said Ms. Abrams was ''among the 10 or 12 people'' he thinks would be ''highly qualified'' to be Mr. Biden's running mate, though in a Financial Times interview in late March he questioned whether she had the requisite experience. (''Qualifications are not the problem,'' he said in a recent interview with The New York Times. ''It's the chemistry that's got to be there.'')
Image Mr. Biden and Ms. Abrams appeared at a church service in Selma, Ala., in March. Credit... Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press Mr. Clyburn said that as the father of three black women, he thought it would be ''great'' if Mr. Biden picked a black woman, but he did not see it as a ''must'' '-- certainly not a political necessity in the same way that he believed Mr. Biden's pledge to pick a female running mate was.
But he argued that his party should heed Ms. Abrams's message about the kind of voter it can no longer take for granted. ''The South has given too much not to get the respect in return,'' he said.
This is, in some ways, the crux of Ms. Abrams's case for vice president. In her 2018 campaign for governor, in which she achieved record turnout among African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, and young people, Ms. Abrams showed how an investment in such voters '-- those least likely to show up to the polls and thus most likely to be ignored '-- could make the Democratic Party competitive even in a state as conservative as Georgia. (She struggled, however, to pick up votes in rural areas.)
All of which may bolster Ms. Abrams's claim that she knows how to ''translate progressive to Southern.'' Nevertheless, close as that race may have been, Ms. Abrams lost, meaning her highest-profile political experience remains leading Democrats in the Georgia state legislature.
Donald Trump, of course, upended any traditional notion of what constitutes experience when he won the presidency in 2016. ''But what Democrats were looking for this year is the anti-Trump,'' said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. ''That was always Biden's appeal, someone with a lot of national political experience, a sharp contrast to Trump. If anything, that criterion is even more important for vice president, because that person has to be someone who's ready to serve as president.''
Ms. Abrams, he said, ''is just not strong in that area.''
But Ms. Abrams says her qualifications, if not her experience in the strictest sense, stack up with anyone else's. She's not worried about surviving a full political vetting, arguing that things like her debt, which she paid off in full last year, are not red flags, but evidence she has ''lived a real life.'' On foreign policy, she stressed that she had traveled to over a dozen countries ''not on vacation, but learning.'' And asked if she was prepared to be president on Day 1 if needed, amid a pandemic no less, she answered with an unequivocal ''yes.''
Beyond her r(C)sum(C), critics have questioned Ms. Abrams's unwillingness to play the game, to act as though her ambition is an afterthought '-- a candor some Democrats have objected to, especially in light of reports that Mr. Biden does not view her as a top contender. Representative William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat, said in April he found Ms. Abrams's lobbying for the job ''offensive'' and ''inappropriate.''
But as Ms. Abrams sees it, campaigning on questions of who has a voice, and whose voice is heard, means she is speaking for far more than just herself.
''We know extrapolations are made from single moments,'' she said. ''Part of my directness in answering the question about V.P. is that I don't want anyone'' '-- whether a Southerner, an African-American, a woman, or all of the above '-- ''to ever look at my answer and say, 'Well, if she can't say it, then I can't think it.'''
Updated May 15, 2020
Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s presidential campaign is planning a substantial expansion of its operation and eyeing an ambitious battleground map. A Republican flipped former Representative Katie Hill's seat in California. Wisconsin and Nebraska also held votes Tuesday. See the results. Get an email recapping the day's news Download our mobile app on iOS and Android and turn on Breaking News and Politics alerts Listen to our podcast, The Field, on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
HEROES Act Passes House; Omits $2,000 Recurring Stimulus Checks And Other Notable Items
Sat, 16 May 2020 22:18
718,239 views | May 16, 2020, 08:20am EDT
Shahar Ziv Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. I teach students and employees how to ace their personal finances.
to secure passage of the HEROES Act last night
Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act, by a vote of 208-199. The sweeping $3 trillion legislation was dismissed by Senate Republicans with Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, deriding it as a ''big laundry list of pet priorities.'' The ''grab bag'' bill included many provisions seemingly disconnected from stabilizing the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, such as ones related to cannabis banking. For a messaging bill meant to outline Democratic priorities, the HEROES Act is as notable for what it omits as for what it includes.
No Paycheck Guarantee ActSpearheaded by Representative Pramila Jayapal and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Paycheck Guarantee Act would have guaranteed 100 percent coverage of workers' wages up to $90,000 a year. The sponsors argued that given the economic carnage inflicted by coronavirus, Congress needed to ''think bigger'' and offer ''workers as well as businesses, nonprofits and local governments of all sizes a better path forward in this uncertain environment.''
Interestingly, an analysis by Moody's chief economist, Mark Zandi, estimated that the net costs of the program would be $654 billion over six months, which is actually less than the two rounds of small business loans approved by Congress as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. Another interesting feature of the proposal would have taken out banks as the intermediary to disburse payments, instead facilitating payments straight from the IRS to employers.
Exclusion of the Paycheck Guarantee Act led to a mini-rebellion with progressives initially threatening to vote against the HEROES Act. Most members eventually fell in line with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted in favor of the HEROES bill.
No Recurring $2,000 Monthly Stimulus ChecksThe HEROES Act included a proposal for a second round of direct payments to Americans '' $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for joint filers, and $1,200 for up to three dependents. This one-time infusion of cash would provide relief to many Americans who exhausted their funds from the first round of stimulus payments, received a lower amount than anticipated, or are still waiting to receive it.
Pelosi and Democrats chose the single-payment route instead of a recurring stimulus payment that would have provided ongoing relief for up to 12 months. Representatives Ro Khanna and Tim Ryan had introduced The Emergency Money for the People Act, which had attracted increasing support from other House Democrats. Other similar proposals were introduced by Pramila Jayapal and Rashida Tlaib in the House as well as by counterparts in the Senate, including a proposal by Ed Markey, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders that would provide a monthly $2,000 check to those struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. ''A single check is not sufficient for households that are struggling during this health and economic crisis.'' said Senator Markey. ''Americans need more than just one payment.''
No Automatic StabilizersAs argued in a previous column, ''there is a looming disconnect between the sluggish speed of recovery and the duration of unemployment benefits that were included in the $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress.'' This problem could have been solved through the use of automatic stabilizers, which would have tied federal aid to economic conditions. Use of stabilizers would have removed the need to continuously pass additional legislation for more aid, instead, automatically extending aid, such as enhanced unemployment insurance, until the economy recovers.
MORE FROM FORBES New Proposal Would Extend $600 Unemployment Benefit Indefinitely Until Coronavirus Crisis Ends By Shahar Ziv The Worker Relief and Security Act, introduced by Senators Michael Bennet and Jack Reed, along with Representative Don Beyer, aimed to align relief with the span of the COVID-19 pandemic as opposed to allowing benefits to lapse after a fixed period of time. However, this proposal, along with automatic stabilizers of any kind, were left out of the HEROES Act passed by the House. Instead, the bill would simply extend the enhanced unemployment benefits through January, 2021.
No Improvements To Get Funds To Individuals Quicker and More AccuratelyProblems with the CARES Act weren't limited to eligibility or duration of funding, they also involved executional mistakes. The process of delivering funds to individuals and small businesses was riddled with friction and complexity. Many individuals have still not received their stimulus checks from the CARES Act. Others received checks, but for a lower amount than expected and are being told by the IRS that they won't be able to receive the difference until 2021 when they file their taxes. Instead of spending over 1,800 pages on futile proposals, many not germane to the coronavirus pandemic, it would have behooved Democrats to develop proposals to deliver funds more quickly and more accurately to Americans.
Further Coronavirus-Related Reading:4.3 Million Adults Eligible For Two $1,200 Stimulus Checks If HEROES Act Signed Into Law
Get My Payment: IRS Formally Addresses What To Do If Your Stimulus Check Amount Was Wrong
New Proposal Would Extend $600 Unemployment Benefit Indefinitely Until Coronavirus Crisis Ends
Here's An Idea: Don't Give Americans Second Stimulus Checks Of Equal Face Value; Save $35 Billion
IRS Explains Why Your Stimulus Check Payment May Be Different Amount Than Anticipated
9 Potential Hacks To Escape IRS ''Payment Status Not Available'' Purgatory And Track Your Stimulus Check
Proposal: $5,000 Stimulus Check In Exchange For Slightly Delayed Social Security Benefits
Don't Be Fooled By Official Unemployment Rate Of 14.7%; The Real Figure Is Even Scarier
Romney Proposal Calls For Up To $5,760 In Hazard Pay Bonuses For Essential Workers
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Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website. Shahar is the founder of Acing Your Finances (www.acingyourfinances.com), where he helps students and employees develop healthy financial habits. He co-founded a popular
'... Read More Shahar is the founder of Acing Your Finances (www.acingyourfinances.com), where he helps students and employees develop healthy financial habits. He co-founded a popular personal financial management course at Harvard University and has worked with students at Wharton, Columbia, and NYU as well as lawyers at Skadden and Debevoise, resident physicians at Mount Sinai Hospital, and employees at DoorDash.
All opinions expressed are my own
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Musk tries to explain Bitcoin to JK Rowling, attacks central banks - Business Insider
Sat, 16 May 2020 18:32
A composite photo showing Elon Musk (left) at a conference in March 2020 and J.K. Rowling (right) at a film premiere in December 2019. AP/Business Insider JK Rowling asked Twitter to explain bitcoin to her, and was bombarded by replies '-- including from Elon Musk.Rowling ultimately gave up engaging with the topic, a decision Musk supported.In the process, he took a swipe at conventional central banks, which he said had undermined their credibility and made even bitcoin "look solid by comparison."Banks like the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank have pumped trillions of dollars into the global economy via quantitative easing programs.Many of these have been expanded in an attempt to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.Elon Musk intervened in a Twitter thread to attempt to explain bitcoin to J.K. Rowling, and ended up attacking central banks whom he said made the cryptocurrency "look solid by comparison."
Musk chimed in after Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels, was bombarded by replies after tweeting: "I don't understand bitcoin. Please explain it to me."
Bitcoin advocates and skeptics then rushed to explain the cryptocurrency '-- a financial asset which exists solely in digital form.
Unlike traditional currencies, it is not tied to a central bank controlled by a government, and instead is regulated by complicated mathematics and a public log '-- called a blockchain '-- of all transactions.
Its value has ballooned since its creation. According to Markets Insider data, a single Bitcoin was worth almost $20,000 in December 2017. Its price at the time of writing was around $9,410.
Despite lofty predictions by its advocates, it has not found widespread use.
Rowling eventually gave up trying to understand bitcoin, posting a tweet that implied that she was no longer interested.
Musk responded essentially agreeing with her, but taking a swipe at the behavior of traditional central bankers in the process.
Musk said that central banks '-- like the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England '-- made bitcoin "look solid by comparison" because of their recent behavior.
Since the financial crisis in 2008, banks embarked on a huge program of "quantitative easing" '-- essentially pumping vast sums into the economy '-- to prevent the collapse of the economy.
It also left interest rates at historic lows and, critics say, has distorted financial markets in ways we are yet to understand fully.
Many banks have renewed their easing programs in light of the coronavirus pandemic. A report in late April by Fitch Ratings said that central banks around the world had already committed to $6 trillion worth of easing programs.
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The American Genie '' Engineering a Catastrophe - American Herald Tribune
Sat, 16 May 2020 13:05
The first signs that something terrible had gone wrong with the security at the Fort Detrick bio-defence facility fifty miles north-west of Washington DC were when cases of a previously unknown and serious respiratory illness appeared at a retirement village on the western outskirts of the capital in July 2019. The first cases were noted on June 30th amongst the 260 residents of the Greenspring Assisted Living unit, with the infectious disease later affecting 19 staff and taking the lives of some older residents.
''The notice that went out on July 10 from Donna L. Epps, an administrator at Greenspring, said several residents had been having symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever, coughing and body aches. Epps's notice, which says the symptoms recede in about five to seven days with treatment but have caused pneumonia, also announced limits on visitors, enhanced sanitation measures and other steps.''
The story was rapidly picked up, and statements issued to ease concerns:
''-- the two patients who died in the outbreak had been hospitalized with pneumonia but were "older individuals with complex medical problems."
"One of the things about skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities is that when you have a lot of people in close proximity, who have underlying medical conditions, there is an increased risk for outbreaks," he said. "Seeing a respiratory outbreak in a long-term care facility is not odd. ... One thing that's different about this outbreak is just that it's occurring in the summer when, usually, we don't have a lot of respiratory disease."
The Centre for Disease Control was alerted on July 8th and took samples but ''was unable to identify the organism responsible''. As if. Perhaps it was just a sensible precaution to close down the Fort Detrick research facility two weeks later, where infection control mechanisms had previously been suspect.
''The statement said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention decided to issue a ''cease and desist order'' last month to halt the research at Fort Detrick because the center did not have ''sufficient systems in place to decontaminate wastewater'' from its highest-security labs.''
While the organisms Fort Detrick conducted research on and with included such lethal ones as Ebola, concerns had been raised back in 2015 about their research on genetically engineered and mutant viruses that posed an unacceptable risk to humans should they escape. This research, known as ''gain of function'' or GOF had been banned in 2014 by the Obama administration, but some programs appear to have continued, and in November 2015 caused scientists to issue a warning. While this warning has been widely publicised, as well as used to support the theory that SARS-CoV-2 came from a lab and not from nature, the GOF research it referred to, published a little earlier in Nature medicine has had little attention.
This research was a collaborative project between the scientists at the University of Carolina and a team led by ''Bat Woman'' Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While the research is complex and the motives obscure, there is little doubt that the researchers successfully engineered a ''chimaera'' which combined a lethal coronavirus from a bat with one capable of easily infecting human cells, and proved its ''gain of function'' both in vitro and in vivo.
*(Shi Zhengli. Credit: Weibo)
Further information has now come to light on evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered following a detailed scientific study into the genome of the virus. Ironically perhaps, the focus of the anonymous analyst seems to have been to incriminate the Chinese government ''communist party'' and its research lab in Wuhan. As explained by ''GM Watch'', despite this political angle and the suspect anonymity of the unpublished research, the science it presents is very persuasive. Significantly however, they question the analyst's view that the synthetic virus was designed as a bioweapon, ''though it may have been''. They conclude:
''In our view, the evidence presented above shows that there is an urgent need for a credible and independent international investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and the roles played by Shi Zhengli, the Chinese government, and the US bodies that helped fund the virus research at the WIV, including the National Institutes of Health and the EcoHealth Alliance.''
It may be a surprise for some to learn of US involvement in research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but it should be a shock to learn how this collaboration came about and who was involved. As recently revealed in the mainstream publication Newsweek, America's high-profile scientific expert Dr Anthony Fauci strongly supported GOF research, and following the ban in the US was involved in funding a similar project in Wuhan. That five-year project ended in 2019 and was extended:
''A second phase of the project, beginning that year, included additional surveillance work but also gain-of-function research for the purpose of understanding how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans. The project was run by EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit research group, under the direction of President Peter Daszak, an expert on disease ecology. NIH canceled the project just this past Friday, April 24th, Politico reported. Daszak did not immediately respond to Newsweek requests for comment.''
Newsweek notes that Dr. Fauci also did not respond to their requests, and other media didn't pick up the story. But:
''according to Richard Ebright, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University, the project description refers to experiments that would enhance the ability of bat coronavirus to infect human cells and laboratory animals using techniques of genetic engineering. In the wake of the pandemic, that is a noteworthy detail.
Ebright, along with many other scientists, has been a vocal opponent of gain-of-function research because of the risk it presents of creating a pandemic through accidental release from a lab.''
As well as supporting GOF research, for reasons described by Newsweek, Dr. Fauci was renowned for his work on HIV, and more recently on bird flu viruses. He also was involved in the development of Remdesevir, which he has recently promoted as a treatment for COVID-19 cases despite little evidence for its efficacy, in contrast to the widely used Hydroxychloroquine favored by the US President '' and many others around the world.
But the treatment or consequences of the release of this novel Coronavirus are not my concern at this crucial junction point '' or rather disjunction point '' in history.
Having concluded some time ago that the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was most probably the bio-insecure facility at Fort Detrick, the one question that remained unanswered was how and why it appeared in Wuhan, and what happened in the months before it was first identified there.
A number of impossibly unlikely coincidences led to that conclusion, in particular the first detected appearance of the virus in the hotel where US soldiers stayed during the World Military Games, held between October 18th and 27th 2019 in Wuhan. Coincidentally and indicatively also, a ''novel Coronavirus'' pandemic simulation exercise was held in New York on the very day the games began, sponsored by and involving some key actors in the health and pharmaceutical industry, as well as significant international experts.
The apparent suppression of reporting on ''Event 201'' in the mainstream media has led observers to interpret this pandemic rehearsal in the way that other coincidental exercises have been '' as further evidence of ''conspiracy''. The involvement of CEPI director Jane Halton in Event 201 is the most indicative of these coincidences, given the role Australia is playing in pushing for an ''inquiry'' targeting China, and Halton's role in the National Coronavirus Coordination committee.
It is instructive to read the recommendations issued following the Event 201 exercise, particularly on the development of public-private partnerships and on the control of false information in the media, as this is reflected in the control of the ''COVID-19 Pandemic'' narrative here in Australia.
Although there is a divergence of opinion on how to treat the escalating conflict with China, particularly following the Chinese Government's actions on food imports from Australia, no-one in the Government, Opposition, think tanks or media is saying that China is not to blame for the pandemic, in some way or another. Influential commentators, as well as union leaders, are portraying the dispute as a choice between taking China's money or protecting our sovereignty, a position that is both idiotic and mistaken, ignoring the reality of our dependence on Chinese exports and imports.
Australians may not be able to see it, but for the Chinese foreign ministry it is crystal clear '' that Australia's proposals and actions are in no-ones interest, except America's.
Until now the situation appeared paradoxical. Concluding that the US had intentionally introduced the novel Coronavirus into Wuhan made little sense, given the inevitable blowback. Four months on it is the US which has suffered worst from the Coronavirus Pandemic, while China is restarting its temporarily disabled economy after successfully suppressing the epidemic in Wuhan. Barring some of the wilder conspiracy theories that might see a benefit for some elites and vested interests in health and security in the chaos induced by the lock-downs, the question of ''cui bono'' remained unanswered, until now.
Some of the US soldiers in the team sent to Wuhan for the games reportedly fell ill and even went to hospital, but it now appears that athletes in teams from other countries were infected by contact with them. Two French athletes recently reported having suffered a strange respiratory illness after returning home from Wuhan, which they now realize was very probably CV19. Apparently similar cases have been reported in athletes from other teams who participated in the Wuhan games, with Luxemburg and Sweden cited in this report. A more recent but still early appearance of a distinct strain of the virus in France suggests an origin in those early cases from Wuhan. The distinct and early outbreaks in Italy and Iran may well have also originated similarly from returning athletes.
So now the possibility arises that far from the Wuhan Military Games being the point where the novel Coronavirus was introduced into China, they were the point from which the infection fanned out across the world, potentially to all the countries participating in the Games. Except for one.
As with Italy and France, they were early reports of an unusually severe pneumonia occurring in the US in December and November, but with cases mistaken for influenza at that time of year, except by the CDC, which recognized the infection as ''COVID 19'' but kept quiet about it until questioned in senate hearings. Unsurprisingly, China picked up on this admission from the CDC, asking the question to which we now have the answer '' ''where was your patient zero?''.
Perhaps they may also be considering a new ''conspiracy theory'' following the revelation of the July outbreak at Greensprings retirement village. This would be my suggestion:
To say that the escape of the Coronavirus Genie from Fort Detrick was a monumental disaster looming for the US health system and for the economy is a gross understatement. As we can see from the way the world has been turned upside down by the chaotic response to the pandemic, being held responsible for this long predicted catastrophe could bring the world down on you. So rather than admit to the viral Genie's escape and the total failure of the Centre for Disease Control to control this unknown and deadly disease, they had to come up with a plan.
Because of the collaboration with Wuhan on GOF research and the presence of similar or identical viruses at the WIV, a scheme might be devised to plant the infection in the centre of the city and lay the blame for the subsequent predicted pandemic on China. When the virus later reached the US, its already established presence there would be effectively concealed, at least from the public. Concealing such things from epidemiologists and virologists is clearly harder, and it has been noted that while cases in Washington State are closely related to the Wuhan strain, those in New York are not. (It has also been reported that Italy has requested the exhumation of bodies in the US following suspicions on the origins of the Italian outbreak; the US has so far refused.)
I propose that the scheme devised in desperation last summer for this ''diversionary tactic'', was to send the Fort Detrick Virus with the soldiers set to compete at the Wuhan games in three months' time, while trying to keep a lid on the domestic epidemic until the new year, and a lock on the inquisitive media. Rehearsing for the subsequent global pandemic called for ''Event 201'' to prepare participants for what they might have to face, and bring their organizational and media responses into line. Shi Zhengli's presence in Wuhan also looks to be an important part of this US operation, with stories about her work with Horseshoe Bats, and her recent insistence on the natural origins of the Virus playing a vital role in the cyber-warfare side of the operation. Given Zhengli's role in the controversial genetic engineering research project in 2015, those stories are clearly vital disinformation.
Whether this theory is the correct one may not yet be proven, but it does provide an explanation to the conundrum of the genie that was accidentally released from the bottle but intentionally released from Wuhan. And we must all now suffer the consequences of that US ''culpable manslaughter'' as we learn to live with their engineered Genie. Just don't take it out on China.
*(Top image: Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper tours the U.S Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID) with Army Brig. Gen. Mike Talley, commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Research Development Command (USARMDC) during his visit to Fort Detrick, Md., March 17, 2020. Credit: DoD photo by Army Staff Sergeant Nicole Mejia)
'The American friends': New court files expose Sheldon Adelson's security team in US spy operation against Julian Assange | The Grayzone
Sat, 16 May 2020 13:00
An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and exposes the Sands security staff who helped coordinate the malicious campaign.By Max Blumenthal ''I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.''
'' Mike Pompeo, College Station, TX, April 15, 2019
As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador's then-President Rafael Correa and his country's embassy in the UK.
The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012. It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands.
In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company's headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news.
UC Global CEO David Morales (left) at a 2016 security fair in Las Vegas ''From now on, we're going to be playing in the first division,'' Morales announced to his employees. When a co-owner of UC Global asked what Morales meant, he responded that he had turned to the ''dark side'' '' an apparent reference to US intelligence services. ''The Americans will find us contracts around the world,'' Morales assured his business partner.
Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri , the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson's Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA.
Unfortunately for Morales, the Spanish security consultant charged with leading the spying operation, what happened in Vegas did not stay there.
Following Assange's imprisonment, several disgruntled former employees eventually approached Assange's legal team to inform them about the misconduct and arguably illegal activity they participated in at UC Global. One former business partner said they came forward after realizing that ''David Morales decided to sell all the information to the enemy, the US.'' A criminal complaint was submitted in a Spanish court and a secret operation that resulted in the arrest of Morales was set into motion by the judge.
Morales was charged by a Spanish High Court in October 2019 with violating the privacy of Assange and abusing the publisher's attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. The documents revealed in court, which were primarily backups from company computers, exposed the disturbing reality of his activities on ''the dark side.''
Obtained by media outlets including The Grayzone, the UC Global files detail an elaborate and apparently illegal US surveillance operation in which the security firm spied on Assange, his legal team, his American friends, US journalists, and an American member of Congress who had been allegedly dispatched to the Ecuadorian embassy by President Donald Trump. Even the Ecuadorian diplomats whom UC Global was hired to protect were targeted by the spy ring.
The ongoing investigation detailed black operations ranging from snooping on the Wikileaks founder's private conversations to fishing a diaper from an embassy trash can in order to determine if the feces inside it belonged to his son.
According to witness statements obtained by The Grayzone, weeks after Morales proposed breaking into the office of Assange's lead counsel, the office was burglarized. The witnesses also detailed a proposal to kidnap or poison Assange. A police raid at the home of Morales netted two handguns with their serial numbers filed off, along with stacks of cash.
One source close to the investigation told The Grayzone that an Ecuadorian official was robbed at gunpoint while carrying private information pertaining to a plan to secure diplomatic immunity for Assange.
Throughout the black operations campaign, US intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson's Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson's hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.
In its coverage of the alleged relationship between the CIA, UC Global, and Adelson's Sands, the New York Times claimed it was ''unclear whether it was the Americans who were behind bugging the embassy.'' Though he outlined work for an ''American client'' in company emails, Morales insisted before a Spanish judge that the spying he conducted in the embassy was performed entirely on behalf of Ecuador's SENAIN security services. He has even claimed to CNN Espa±ol that he was merely seeking to motivate his employees when he boasted about ''playing in the first division'' after returning from his fateful trip to Las Vegas.
This investigation will further establish the US government's role in guiding UC Global's espionage campaign, shedding new light on the apparent relationship between the CIA and Adelson's Sands, and expose how UC Global deceived the Ecuadorian government on behalf of the client Morales referred to as the ''American friends.''
Thanks to new court disclosures, The Grayzone is also able to reveal the identity of Sands security staff who presumably liaised between Morales, Adelson's company, and US intelligence.
According to court documents and testimony by a former business associate and employees of Morales, it was Adelson's top bodyguard, an Israeli-American named Zohar Lahav, who personally recruited Morales, then managed the relationship between the Spanish security contractor and Sands on a routine basis. After their first meeting in Vegas, the two security professionals became close friends, visiting each other overseas and speaking frequently.
During the spying operation, Lahav worked directly under Brian Nagel, the director of global security for Las Vegas Sands. A former associate director of the US Secret Service and cyber-security expert, Nagel was officially commended by the CIA following successful collaborations with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. At Sands, he seemed to be an ideal middleman between the company and the US national security state, as well as a potential guide for the complex surveillance tasks assigned to Morales.
When Adelson's favored candidate, Donald Trump, moved into the Oval Office, the CIA came under the control of Mike Pompeo, another Adelson ally who seemed to relish the opportunity to carry out illegal acts, including spying on American citizens, in the name of national security.
Pompeo outlines the attack on Assange Pompeo's first public speech as CIA Director , hosted at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank on April 13, 2017, was one of the most paranoid and resentful addresses ever delivered by an agency chief.
The former Republican congressman from Kansas opened his speech with an extended tirade against the ''Philip Agees in the world,'' referring to the CIA whistleblower who handed over thousands of classified documents to leftist publishers that revealed shocking details of illegal US regime change and assassination plots around the world.
Alluding to Agee's contemporary ''soulmates,'' Pompeo declared, ''The one thing they don't share with Agee is the need for a publisher. All they require now is a smart phone and internet access. In today's digital environment, they can disseminate stolen US secrets instantly around the globe to terrorists, dictators, hackers, and anyone else seeking to do us harm.''
The CIA director made no secret about the identity of his target. ''It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is '' a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,'' he rumbled from the podium.
For the next several minutes, Pompeo ranted against Assange, branding him as a ''narcissist,'' ''a fraud,'' ''a coward.'' The right-wing Republican even quoted criticism of the Wikileaks publisher by The Intercept's Sam Biddle .
Next, Pompeo pledged a ''long term'' campaign of counter-measures against Wikileaks. ''We have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now,'' he vowed.
Though Pompeo said he recognized that ''the CIA is legally prohibited from spying on people through electronic surveillance in the United States,'' he seemed to have already put into motion an aggressive program to spy not only Assange, but on his American friends, lawyers, and virtually everyone in his immediate vicinity. Carried out by UC Global, the campaign entailed recording private conversations of US targets, opening their phones, photographing their personal information, and even stealing their email passwords.
The CIA's apparent attack on Assange had been activated weeks earlier, when Wikileaks announced the publication of the CIA's Vault 7 files. It would not be long before Adelson's security team began preparing space for Morales in Las Vegas.
Journey to ''the dark side'' On February 26, 2017, Wikileaks announced the forthcoming release of a major tranche of CIA files revealing details of the agency's hacking and electronic surveillance tools. One such spying application called ''Marble '' allowed agency spies to implant code that obfuscated their identity on computers they had hacked. Other files contained evidence of programs that allowed hackers to break into encrypted messaging applications like Signal and Telegram, and to turn Samsung smart TVs into listening devices.
Two days after Wikileaks' initial announcement, on February 28, Morales was junketed from Spain to a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia '' just a stone's throw from CIA headquarters in Langley. Though UC Global had no publicly known contracts with any company in Virginia, court documents obtained by The Grayzone establish that Morales sent encrypted emails from an Alexandria IP address and paid bills from a local hotel for the next eight days.
From that point on, he traveled back and forth almost each month between Spain, the DC area, New York City, Chicago, or the Las Vegas base of Adelson's operations.
When in DC, Morales sent emails from a static IP address at the Grand Hyatt Hotel just four blocks from the White House.
The Instagram posts of Morales' wife and travel partner, Noelia Pez, highlighted the frequency of his trips:
Instagram posts by Morales' wife, Noelia Pez , posted while in Las Vegas on January 20, 2017 Fellow UC Global executives began to grow suspicious of Morales and his secretive dealings in the US. According to their testimonies, he spoke constantly about his working relationship with the Americans. Yet UC Global had been contracted by Ecuador's intelligence agency, SENAIN, to provide security to the country's embassy in London '' not to spy on its occupants.
It was increasingly clear to them that Morales was deceiving one client in Quito to serve a more powerful force in Washington.
''I remember that David Morales asked a person from the company to prepare a safe phone, with safe applications, just like an encrypted computer to communicate with 'the American friends,' to take his relationship with the US out of the company's range,'' a former UC Global employee recalled.
A former business partner at UC Global stated in their testimony, ''Sometimes, when I insistently asked him who his 'American friends' were, on some occasions David Morales answered that they were 'the US intelligence.' However, when I asked him for a particular person from intelligence he was meeting with to give them information, Mr. Morales cut the conversation and pointed out that the subject was exclusively managed by him aside from the company.''
The ex-partner suspected that Morales was receiving payments from US intelligence through a bank account managed by his wife, Pez. ''On one occasion,'' they testified, ''I heard a conversation related to payments to that account from which Mr. Morales didn't want to inform the rest of the company members about.''
Suspicion turned to rage when the former UC Global partner recognized the full extent of Morales' subterfuge. ''I started [lashing out] at him openly in violent discussions in which I reiterated to him that a company like ours is based on 'creating trust' and that he can't 'give out information to the opposing side,''' the ex-associate recalled. At the end of several such arguments, he said Morales tore open his shirt, puffed out his chest and exclaimed, ''I am a wholehearted mercenary!''
One camera feed for Ecuador, another for ''the American client'' Two former UC Global workers and the ex-business partner said Morales began implementing a sophisticated spying operation at the embassy in London in June 2017. His testimony was corroborated by emails Morales sent to employees who oversaw the surveillance.
Before that point, the cameras in and around Ecuador's embassy in London were standard CCTV units. Their sole function was to detect intruders. Most importantly, they did not record sound.
To transform the cameras from security instruments into weapons of intrusion, Morales emailed a friend, ''Carlos C.D. (spy),'' who owned a surveillance equipment company called Espiamos, or, ''We Spy.'' He informed Carlos that ''our client'' demanded new cameras be placed in the embassy that were equipped with undetectable microphones.
On the 27th of the same month, Morales wrote to the same employee: ''the client wants to have streaming control of the cameras, this control will have to be possessed from two different locations.'' He requested a separate storage server that could be operated ''from out of the enclosure where the recorder is located.''
By altering the cameras so they could be controlled from the outside, and outfitting them with hidden microphones, Morales put in place the mechanism to snoop on Assange's intimate conversations with friends and lawyers. He also took steps to feed the footage to a separate, exterior storage server, thus keeping the operation hidden from Ecuador's SENAIN. His marching orders came from an organization he described simply as ''the American client.''
Every 15 days or so, Morales sent one of the workers to the embassy to collect DVR recordings of the surveillance footage and bring it to company headquarters in Jerez, Spain. Some important clips were uploaded to a server named ''Operation Hotel,'' which was later changed to a website-based system. In cases when the DVR size was too large to upload, Morales personally delivered it to his ''client'' in the US.
In December 2017, Morales was summoned to Las Vegas Sands for a special session with ''the American friends.'' On the 10th of that month, he sent a series of emails from a static IP address at Adelson's Venetian Hotel to his spy team. The messages contained a new set of instructions.
''Nobody can know about my trips, mainly my trips to the USA,'' Morales emailed his employees, ''because SENAIN is onto us.''
To further limit the Ecuadorian government's access to the surveillance system installed in the embassy, he instructed his workers, ''We can't give them access to some of the program's services, so they don't realize who has more log-ins or who is online inside the system'... [but] everything must look like they have access to it.''
Morales sent his team a powerpoint presentation containing instructions for the new system. The aim of the instructions was to create two separate users: an administrator for the Ecuadorian client with no access to the log-in so they would not be able to notice the second user; and a separate security log-in for the Americans, who would be in full control of the system's surveillance features.
Obtained by The Grayzone, the slides were composed in perfect English by a native speaker who was clearly not Morales.
From the powerpoint surveillance instructions provided to Morales by the ''American client'' while he stayed at Adelson's Venetian hotel in December 2017 ''David Morales obviously didn't have the technical knowledge,'' a former UC Global IT specialist who received the instructions, ''so the document must have been sent by another person. Because it was in English, I suspect that it could've been [created by] US intelligence.''
Whoever authored the powerpoint instructions was clearly an expert in cyber-security with experience in electronic surveillance and hacking. That person demonstrated their tradecraft by erasing all of the document's metadata except for the username, ''PlayerOne.'' The powerpoint was handed down in the apparent physical presence of Morales, who proceeded to tell his employees, ''these people have given me the following instructions, drafted in English.''
In Adelson's orbit, there was at least one cyber-security expert with a long record of collaboration with US law enforcement and intelligence: senior vice president and global head of security at Las Vegas Sands, Brian Nagel.
From top US cyber-crime investigator to Adelson's security chief During his lengthy career in the US Secret Service, Nagel worked at the nexus of federal law enforcement and US intelligence. In the 1990s, Nagel not only served on the personal protection detail of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; he was assigned to ''work with two foreign protective services after the assassination and attempted assassination of their respective heads of state,'' he said in sworn testimony in a US District Court in 2011. Nagel also stated that he later protected the director and deputy director of a federal agency that he neglected to name.
During the same testimony, Nagel said he received the CIA's Intelligence Community Seal Medallion , an award given to non-CIA personnel ''who have made significant contributions to the Agency's intelligence efforts.''
As the deputy director of the Secret Service, he appeared alongside then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft at a November 2003 press conference on combating cybercrime, and testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee in March 2007. Besides those two public events, Nagel has not appeared on camera.
One of just a few publicly available photos of Las Vegas Sands Director of Global Security Brian Nagel, from his congressional testimony in 2007 While the public tends to associate the US Secret Service with burly men in dark suits and aviator shades who whisper into their sleeves while shadowing presidents, the agency also functions as the country's leading computer crime investigative body.
In November 2002, the LA Times reported on Nagel's role in creating the Los Angeles Electronic Crimes Task Force, a massive federal operation that occupied an entire floor of a downtown LA skyscraper. Dedicated to fighting electronic crime and cyber terrorism, the task force included the FBI, local law enforcement, private security contractors, and the US Secret Service. The initiative, said Nagel, ''was all about enhancing our current partnerships and building new ones.''
In October 2004, Nagel was credited with taking down a major international cybercrime outfit called shadowcrew.com (no relation to the Shadow Brokers hacker outfit that leaked NSA secrets). According to TechNewsWorld , under Nagel's watch, ''The Secret Service used wiretaps, an undercover informant and their own hackers to gain access to the private portions of the [shadowcrew] site.''
These tactics seemed remarkably similar to those deployed 13 years later to spy on Assange.
Before leaving public life in 2008, Nagel helped the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) create the National Computer Forensic Institute. Then-DHS Director Michael Chertoff vowed the institute would ''turn the tables on criminal groups'' by empowering law enforcement to use ''the same technologies'' hackers and cyber-criminals typically employed.
Two years later, when Wikileaks first appeared, the special federal cyber-security units Nagel helped create were likely on the frontlines of the US fight to combat Assange's online information clearinghouse.
Adelson's Israeli-American bodyman turns spying middleman When Nagel joined Las Vegas Sands as its global security director, he was placed in charge of securing an international financial and political empire that spanned from the US to Israel to Macau in the People's Republic of China. Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson possessed a fortune valued at around $30 billion that placed him consistently in the top 10 of Forbes' list of the wealthiest Americans.
Adelson's political activities were guided by two factors: his desire to expand his gambling operations around the globe, and his fanatical Zionism. He is so committed to the self-proclaimed Jewish state, he once lamented having served in the US Army as a young man rather than in Israel's military.
As a personal friend and financial benefactor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Adelson plowed his money into a failed attempt to prevent President Barack Obama's re-election and halt the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. In 2016, he became a top donor to Trump's presidential campaign, helping to cultivate the most pro-Likud administration in US history.
To ensure his personal protection, Adelson assembled a collection of former Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers as bodyguards. At the head of his security detail was Zohar Lahav, an Israeli citizen who served as the vice president for executive protection at Las Vegas Sands.
Adelson with a top bodyguard Naturalized in the US, Lahav worked for a period in the 1990s as an administrator at the Israeli consulate in Miami. He was the subject of minor controversy in 1996 when the Miami New Times reported that the city of Miami had hired him as sergeant-in-arms, entrusting him with protecting the mayor along with an array of undefined roles, including personal aide.
Lahav found himself in the news again in 2011 when nine members of Adelson's executive team sued his employer at Las Vegas Sands for refusing to pay them overtime. Three of the staffers amended the lawsuit to allege that they were denied promotions because they were African American.
''The [executive protection team], for all of its 14 years of existence, has been managed and controlled by an executive management team which has been comprised exclusively of former Israeli citizens who are white males,'' their lawyer complained. (Besides Lahav, the legal complaint named Adi Barshishat as an Israeli who helped direct Adelson's security team. On his LinkedIn profile , Barshishat lists extensive training surveillance by an unnamed ''Israeli Government Agency.'')
In their complaint against Sands, the plaintiffs alleged that Lahav routinely told racially charged jokes. One of them accused Lahav of forcing team members to ''transport firearms in violation of state law'' and making them operate an unregistered x-ray machine that placed their health in danger. Two of the security guards subsequently sued Adelson for causing them to ''suffer injuries, including sterilization,'' by forcing them to x-ray every piece of the billionaire's mail. Lahav was also accused of ordering security staff not to communicate with Brian Nagel under any circumstance.
Sands retaliated swiftly against the disgruntled security guards, reassigning them to humiliating mall cop-style roles. Next, Adelson's attorney accused the opposing counsel of anti-Semitism, claiming he had harassed Lahav with ''insulting questions about race, his religion,'' and Adelson's family. Finally, Nagel pushed to prevent the legal proceedings from being filmed, insisting before a district judge that televised coverage would ''create material for viral use on the internet by extremist hate groups and terrorists'' that could result in harm to Adelson's personal safety.
It was an ironic claim by a security operative whose company appeared to have participated in a highly intrusive and possibly illegal spying operation against Assange and numerous lawyers, journalists, politicians, US citizens, and Ecuadorian diplomats.
A CIA front in Chinese territory? By the time of the lawsuit, Adelson's company appeared to have been working closely with the CIA. A confidential 2010 report by a private investigator contracted by the gambling industry pinpointed Adelson's casino in Macau as a front for Agency operations against China.
''A reliable source has reported that central Chinese government officials firmly believe that Sands has permitted CIA/FBI agents to operate from within its facilities. These agents apparently 'monitor mainland government officials' who gamble in the casinos,'' it stated.
Previously detailed by the Guardian in 2015 and viewed by The Grayzone this May, the confidential report cited evidence from Chinese official sources of '''US agents' operating from Sands, 'luring' and entrapping mainland government officials, involved in gaming, to force them to cooperate with US government interests.''
A spokesman for Adelson's Sands issued a non-denial denial of the report, dismissing it as ''an idea for a movie script.'' Not long after, another collaboration between Adelson and Langley seemed to be in the works, and it too contained all the elements of a blockbuster spy thriller.
''I sense that this person offered him to collaborate with American intelligence authorities'' A 2016 security industry fair in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo provided the occasion for Adelson's company '' and presumably the CIA '' to enlist David Morales. His personal recruiter, according to witness testimony, was Lahav.
When Morales returned from Vegas to his home base in Spain, he divulged details of the deal to his then-business partner.
''I deduced from the conversations with David Morales, where he confessed in detail his agreements achieved at his US trip,'' the ex-partner later testified in Spanish court, ''the head of security of Las Vegas Sands, a Jewish guy named Zohar Lahav, made contact with Mr. Morales, getting to become good friends with him at the security fair in Las Vegas. I sense that this person offered him to collaborate with American intelligence authorities to send information about Mr. Assange.''
Morales confirmed his and Lahav's close friendship during an interview in Spanish court conducted this February by Aitor Martinez, a Spanish lawyer representing Assange in the case. In an earlier court appearance, the Spanish prosecutor asked Morales directly about the connection between Lahav and US intelligence services; Morales claimed he had no idea.
A former business partner of Morales recalled an incident ''when Zohar [Lahav] came to Spain and stayed at [Morales'] usual house for a week.''
Further evidence of the relationship between Lahav and Morales can be found in an undated recommendation letter Lahav wrote for his pal. Authored on Sands letterhead, Lahav stated that he had ''worked with Mr. David Morales CEO in UC Global S.L. for 3 years,'' praising him for his ''loyalty and consistency.''
By the end of 2017, the alleged collaboration between Morales and Sands had fully matured, with the CIA apparently providing a guiding hand. Together, these entities ratcheted up their surveillance of Assange's associates and foiled his plan to leave the embassy under the protection of diplomatic inviolability.
Spying, stealing diapers, and burglary plans Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist who visited Assange regularly at the embassy in London, remembered relaxed encounters with minimal security and friendly interactions with embassy staff for the first five years of the Wikileaks founder's stay. It was in December 2017 that everything changed.
During a visit to interview Assange that month, the Spanish security guards from UC Global demanded Maurizi hand over her backpack and all belongings inside for the first time. She protested the new and seemingly arbitrary procedure, but to no avail.
''They seized everything,'' Maurizi told The Grayzone. ''They took my two telephones, one which was encrypted; my iPod, and many USB sticks. There was no way to get my backpack back. The guard told me, 'Don't worry, everything will be fine, no one will access your materials or open your backpack.' I was very suspicious. I wasn't even allowed to bring a pen inside to take notes.''
It turned out that UC Global employees photographed the unique International Mobile Equipment Identity number and the SIM card number inside the phone of Maurizi and many other visitors. In one photograph obtained by The Grayzone, the security contractors removed the SIM to get a clear image of the codes. It seemed this was the information they needed to hack the phones.
UC Global photo of journalist Stefania Maurizi's mobile phone Maurizi knew nothing at the time about the relationship currently under investigation between the CIA and the security team at the embassy. She was only aware that Correa, the leftist president of Ecuador who advocated for Assange, had been succeeded months earlier, in May 2017, by Lenin Moreno, his former vice president whom he branded as a Trojan horse for US interests.
The new administration took a sudden pro-US turn that mandated hostility towards Assange and his organization. As the IMF dangled a massive loan before his cash-strapped government, Moreno denigrated Assange as a ''hacker'' and cut off his internet access as well as visits from the outside for a prolonged period.
Assange, for his part, had become convinced that the embassy security was spying on him. By late 2017, he was using a white noise machine in the main conference room to keep his conversations with lawyers secure, and held the most sensitive meetings with his attorneys in the women's bathroom, opening the faucets to drown out the sound of their conversations. UC Global countered by planting a magnetic microphone on the bottom of a fire extinguisher, enabling them to snoop through the white noise. A second microphone was installed in the women's bathroom.
Other plans exposed in UC Global company emails called for planting a mic capable of listening through walls, and placing it secretly inside the office of the ambassador, who was referred to in emails as ''Director of the Hotel.''
Morales also proposed installing listening devices in Assange's bedroom, and even put a program in place to swap out all fire extinguishers and replace them with new ones with hidden mics. The mic in the main conference room recorded the bulk of conversations, and is currently in the possession of the Spanish judge overseeing the case.
''Julian was extremely worried. He said the guards were working for intelligence,'' his lawyer, Martinez, recalled. ''I told him they were just working-class guys from southern Spain, where I'm from. But now I realize he was totally right.''
On December 12, two days after receiving the powerpoint instructions at Las Vegas Sands on creating separate surveillance camera feeds, Morales sent an email to his embassy spy team identifying specific individual targets. According to a former UC Global worker, the list was created by ''the Americans.''
Among the first he ordered them to focus on was ''Fix,'' a German cyber-security expert; and ''MULLER,'' a reference to Andrew M¼ller-Maguhn, a German hacker and internet rights activist who was close friends with Assange. On a visit to the embassy, UC Global security photographed the contents of M¼ller-Maguhn's backpack and the contact numbers in his mobile phone.
Morales also demanded the surveillance of Ola Bini, a Swedish software developer who visited Assange, and Felicity Ruby, a colleague of Bini at the company ThoughtWorks, which Morales described as ''a team of hackers.''
In a September 2017 bulletin, Morales issued a list of 10 individual targets for investigation, demanding updated profiles on Assange lawyers such as Renata Avila, Jennifer Robinson, and Carlos Poveda, as well as Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.
Morales urged ''special attention'' to Stella Morris, a member of the legal team who recently revealed she began a relationship with Assange and had two children with him during his time in the embassy. After proposing ''a person thoroughly dedicated to the activity'' of spying on Morris, Morales eventually instructed an employee to steal a diaper from one of Morris' infant sons in order to extract DNA which could prove she was the mother of Assange's children. ''At the time,'' the employee testified, ''Morales deliberately indicated that 'the Americans' insisted in confirming [the DNA results].''
Upset by the bizarre assignment, the UC Global staffer eventually intercepted Morris outside the embassy to inform her about the planned diaper theft and to warn her against taking the child inside.
''They were obsessed with American visitors, all of them, from lawyers to journalists to friends. They focused a lot on Glenn Greenwald, even opening his passport, taking pics of his visa to Russia and sending it to their headquarters,'' Martinez said, referring to the Brazil-based, American journalist who had visited Assange. (The Grayzone has viewed UC Global's photo of the entry visa in Greenwald's passport.)
The December 12 email from Morales also called for attention to any ''Russian citizens'' visiting Assange. The directive seemed to reflect the growing American obsession with connecting Wikileaks to Russian intelligence and the alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee email servers in 2016.
UC Global spy footage of comedian and activist Randy Credico visiting Julian Assange in November 2017 As a result of the ramped-up surveillance, Garzon, the Spanish judge who led Assange's legal team, was followed by UC Global spies when he picked up former Ecuadorian President Correa at Barajas Airport in Madrid, Spain. The two were photographed while at Garzon's home. Morales subsequently emailed a report and photographs of the meeting.
A former UC Global employee testified that in November 2017, Morales proposed breaking into the Garzon's Madrid office in order ''to obtain relevant information about Mr. Assange and giving it to [the Americans].'' The ex-staffer noted that two weeks later, Garzon's office was burglarized and no money or valuables were taken. The Spanish daily El Pais reported that three hooded men dressed in black broke into Garzon's office on December 18, 2017, took no money, but ''shuffled through documents.''
All surveillance, tracking, and communications requests on Baltasar Garz"n, according to what David Morales said, ''came from the Americans,'' the former employee testified.
Morales also sent reports about a meeting Correa held in Brussels, with details of the serial numbers of his devices, intimate information on the people he met, and the content of those conversations. Strangely, the report was drafted by Morales in English and sent to his team in order to be shared on the special server created for the ''American client.'' He claimed implausibly that the report was for Ecuador's SENAIN.
Yet when he was asked by the prosecutor and by Martinez, the lawyer for Assange, why he composed an email to Spanish-speaking Ecuadorian officials in English, Morales struggled for an excuse. ''Sometimes I like to write in English,'' he claimed.
Maurizi, for her part, found that calls, emails, and texts from her editors, then at the Italian daily La Repubblica, were failing to go through. ''No one could explain this disruption,'' Maurizi said. ''I wonder if it had anything to do with these espionage activities. To this day I cannot say.''
Meanwhile, Pamela Anderson, the American actress who became a friend of Assange, had her email and mobile phone passwords stolen by UC Global during a visit. The theft occurred when Anderson wrote her passwords on a notepad so Assange could verify the security of her accounts. With the camera system they installed, UC Global spies managed to photograph the pad, allowing them access to her accounts.
The spying dragnet ensnared virtually everyone who entered the embassy, even then-US Representative Dana Rohrabacher. Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson attended the August 2017 meeting with Rohrabacher and claimed he announced himself as an official emissary of Trump. She said the congressman offered a presidential pardon on the condition that the Wikileaks publisher could provide concrete evidence the Russian government did not hack the DNC's email server.
Rohrabacher later admitted that he dangled the possibility of a pardon, but maintained his visit was a personal ''fact-finding mission'' unrelated to any Trump initiative.
A former UC Global worker testified that ''the Americans were very nervous about the visit'' by Rohrabacher, and ''personally asked Morales to control and monitor absolutely everything related to that visit.'' During the meeting, Rohrabacher was required to leave his phone with UC Global spies.
Sabotaging Assange's exit strategy, robbery and assassination plots Throughout December 2017, Assange and his lawyers were formulating a plan to exit the embassy under the protections granted to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. One proposal called for appointing Assange as a diplomat for a friendly government like Bolivia or Serbia, thus guaranteeing him diplomatic immunity. The final component of the plan relied on cooperation from the head of Ecuador's SENAIN, Rommy Vallejo, who was technically the boss of Morales. Vallejo arrived at the embassy on December 20, 2017 '' just five days before Assange planned to leave the embassy.
''It was the last step,'' said Martinez of the visit by the SENAIN chief. ''[Vallejo] was going to speak with Julian [Assange] about final details to leave the embassy and arrange a diplomatic vehicle. Now, after checking all the records and emails, we found that when he visited Julian, Morales told [his spy team] to record everything, open all the cameras, and take all data of all telephone mobiles.''
Indeed, as soon as the meeting was finished, Morales asked his employees to send the full surveillance records to him by Dropbox. The UC Global team proceeded to open Vallejo's phones and take his mobile codes.
On December 21, the day after Assange's meeting with the SENAIN chief, US prosecutors secretly filed charges against Assange in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
According to a source involved in the plan to grant Assange diplomatic immunity, the US ambassador to Ecuador, Todd Chapman, informed Ecuadorian authorities that he had learned of the initiative, and warned them against executing it.
The source also told The Grayzone that when one of the Ecuadorian officials involved in conceiving the strategy to free Assange from the embassy returned to Quito, his official government vehicle was stopped on a road by masked gunmen on a motorcycle who robbed him of his laptop. The computer contained detailed information about the plan to legally allow Assange to leave the embassy.
Guillaume Long, the foreign minister of Ecuador under Correa, told The Grayzone that the US-coordinated spying operation targeting Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy was '' a major breach of sovereignty, of international law and the rules by which international diplomacy is regulated. And it's completely illegal and, I would argue, really undermines the US case for the extradition of Julian Assange.''
The alleged robbery of an Ecuadorian official in Quito was consistent with another violent plan divulged by a former UC Global employee in the Spanish court.
T he ex-staffer recalled Morales mentioning that '' the Americans were desperate'' to end Assange's presence in the embassy. Thus they were ''proposing to activate more extreme measures against him,'' including ''the possibility of leaving one diplomatic mission door open, arguing that it was an accidental mistake, to allow the entrance and kidnapping of the asylum seeker; or even the possibility of poisoning Mr. Assange.''
The staffers were shocked when they learned of the proposal and protested to Morales that the direction he was taking ''was starting to get dangerous.''
After a campaign of espionage, an Espionage Act prosecution On April 11, 2019, British police raided the Ecuadorian embassy in London and dragged Assange into a waiting van. It was the first time in history a government had allowed a foreign law enforcement agency to enter its sovereign territory to arrest one of its citizens.
That same day, Ola Bini '' the Swedish computer programmer branded as a ''hacker'' by Morales and placed under apparent US surveillance '' was arrested in Ecuador and detained for months without charges. Accused of collaborating with Assange and various cyber-crimes, Bini has been held in Ecuador's El Inca prison, where US authorities have reportedly requested to interrogate him. Amnesty International has labeled Bini a ''digital defender'' and condemned ''undue government interference'' as well as the intimidation of his legal defense team.
Assange, an Australian citizen, was subsequently jailed in Belmarsh Prison, where he now awaits possible extradition to the US and trial for 18 charges, 17 of which relate to violating the Espionage Act. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison.
During the first extradition hearing this February 24, Assange was confined to a glass box that prevented him from directly conferring with his lawyers. Observers including former British diplomat Craig Murray said they noticed US agents conferring outside the courtroom with UK prosecutors.
One witness to the extradition hearing provided The Grayzone with photographs of several attendees they claimed were US Department of Justice officials who sat directly behind British prosecutors throughout the proceedings. The photos, seen below, show the alleged officials outside the courtroom.
After the hearing began, according to Assange's lawyer, Martinez, a female British barrister arrived and demanded permission to observe. She was representing Las Vegas Sands, a clear indication that Adelson was deeply concerned about the outcome of the proceedings.
Having been promoted from CIA director to secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has reportedly laid the groundwork to run for US senate in Kansas. The first step in Pompeo's fledgling campaign, according to a raft of articles, was outreach to Sheldon Adelson to ''gauge interest'' in financing the Senate bid.
By the end of 2019, following the exposure of Sands' relationship with UC Global, former employees of Morales revealed a rumor that Adelson's bodyguard, Zohar Lahav, had been fired by Las Vegas Sands. When Morales was asked during an appearance before the Spanish court this February if the rumor was true, he confirmed it, stating that Lahav was terminated because of the ''mess'' that he helped create.
Reached by phone by The Grayzone on May 12, Lahav immediately hung up when told he was speaking with a reporter.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican Gomorrah, Goliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America's state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.
reddit: the front page of the internet
Sat, 16 May 2020 12:45
I'm getting back into the hobby after an 8 year hiatus. I pulled out my heavily used FT-817 (not ND) and after an evening of frustration with no success at 20m FT8 (pskreporter says it never heard me) I finally decided to test my output with a power meter. Nothing.
I assume the finals are blown, as that's a pretty common issue with the FT-817.
My question is, where would I find a replacement board? Googling has not been successful. Any and all advice (even recommendations to dump the old FT-817) are appreciated.
73 Derron KB3EAW
Liberation theology - Wikipedia
Sat, 16 May 2020 12:00
A synthesis of Christian theology and Marxist socio-economic analyses
Liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and socio-economic analyses, based in far-left politics, particularly Marxism, that emphasizes "social concern for the poor and political liberation for oppressed peoples."[1] In the 1950s and the 1960s, liberation theology was the political praxis of Latin American theologians, such as Gustavo Guti(C)rrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay, and Jon Sobrino of Spain, who popularized the phrase "Preferential option for the poor."
The Latin American context also produced evangelical advocates of liberation theology, such as C. Ren(C) Padilla of Ecuador, Samuel Escobar of Peru, and Orlando E. Costas of Puerto Rico, who, in the 1970s, called for integral mission, emphasizing evangelism and social responsibility.
Theologies of liberation have developed in other parts of the world such as black theology in the United States and South Africa, Palestinian liberation theology, Dalit theology in India, and Minjung theology in South Korea.
Latin American liberation theology [ edit ] The best-known form of liberation theology is that which developed within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, arising principally as a moral reaction to the poverty and social injustice in the region. The term was coined in 1971 by the Peruvian priest Gustavo Guti(C)rrez, who wrote one of the movement's defining books, A Theology of Liberation. Other noted exponents include Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Jon Sobrino of Spain, and Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay.[2][3]
Latin American liberation theology met opposition in the United States,[4] which accused it of using "Marxist concepts", and led to admonishment by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1984 and 1986. While stating that "in itself, the expression "theology of liberation" is a thoroughly valid term", [1] The Vatican rejected certain forms of Latin American liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin and for identifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class that had long been oppressing indigenous populations from the arrival of Pizarro onward.[5]
History [ edit ] A major player in the formation of liberation theology was the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM). Created in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, CELAM pushed the Second Vatican Council (1962''1965) toward a more socially oriented stance.[6] However, CELAM never supported liberation theology as such, since liberation theology was frowned upon by the Vatican, with Pope Paul VI trying to slow the movement after the Second Vatican Council.[7][citation needed ]
More or less at the same time as the initial publications of Latin American liberation theology are also found voices of Black liberation theology and feminist liberation theology.[8]
After the Second Vatican Council, CELAM held two conferences which were important in determining the future of liberation theology: the first was held in Medell­n, Colombia, in 1968, and the second in Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979.[6] The Medell­n conference debated how to apply the teachings of Vatican II to Latin America, and its conclusions were strongly influenced by liberation theology.[5] Although liberation theology grew out of these officially recognized ideas, the Medell­n document is not a liberation theology document. It did, however, lay the groundwork, and since then liberation theology has developed rapidly in the Latin American Catholic Church.[9]
Cardinal Alfonso L"pez Trujillo was a central figure after the Medell­n Conference, who as priest in Bogota he did not attend, and was elected in 1972 as general secretary of CELAM, and then, its president in 1979 (at the Puebla conference). He represented a more orthodox position, becoming a favourite of Pope John Paul II and the "principal scourge of liberation theology."[10] Trujillo's faction became predominant in CELAM after the 1972 Sucre conference, and in the Roman Curia after the CELAM conference in Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979.
Despite the orthodox bishops' predominance in CELAM, a more radical form of liberation theology remained much supported in South America. Thus, the 1979 Puebla Conference was an opportunity for orthodox bishops to reassert control of the radical elements, but they failed. At the Puebla Conference, the orthodox reorientation was met by strong opposition from the liberal part of the clergy, which supported the concept of a "preferential option for the poor". This concept had been approved at the Medell­n conference by Ricard Durand, president of the Commission about Poverty.
Pope John Paul II gave the opening speech at the Puebla Conference. The general tone of his remarks was conciliatory. He criticized radical liberation theology, saying, "this idea of Christ as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth, does not tally with the Church's catechesis";[11] however, he did acknowledge that "the growing wealth of a few parallels the growing poverty of the masses,"[11] and affirmed both the principle of private property and that the Church "must preach, educate individuals and collectivities, form public opinion, and offer orientations to the leaders of the peoples" towards the goal of a "more just and equitable distribution of goods".[11]
Some liberation theologians, however, including Gustavo Guti(C)rrez, had been barred from attending the Puebla Conference. Working from a seminary and with aid from sympathetic, liberal bishops, they partially obstructed other clergy's efforts to ensure that the Puebla Conference documents satisfied conservative concerns. Within four hours of the Pope's speech, Guti(C)rrez and the other priests wrote a 20-page refutation, which was circulated at the conference, and has been claimed to have influenced the final outcome of the conference. According to a socio-political study of liberation theology in Latin America, a quarter of the final Puebla documents were written by theologians who were not invited to the conference.[12]
Theology [ edit ] Liberation theology could be interpreted as an attempt to return to the gospel of the early church where Christianity is politically and culturally decentralized.[13]
Liberation theology proposes to fight poverty by addressing its alleged source, the sin of greed. In so doing, it explores the relationship between Christian theology (especially Roman Catholic) and political activism, especially in relation to economic justice, poverty, and human rights. The principal methodological innovation is seeing theology from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. For example, Jon Sobrino argues that the poor are a privileged channel of God's grace.
Some liberation theologians base their social action upon the Bible scriptures describing the mission of Jesus Christ, as bringing a sword (social unrest), e.g., Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 10:34, Luke 22:35''38 '-- and not as bringing peace (social order).[better source needed ] This biblical interpretation is a call to action against poverty, and the sin engendering it, to affect Jesus Christ's mission of justice in this world.
Gustavo Guti(C)rrez gave the movement its name with his 1971 book, A Theology of Liberation.[14] In this book, Guti(C)rrez combined populist ideas with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. He was influenced by an existing socialist current in the Church which included organizations such as the Catholic Worker Movement and the Jeunesse Ouvri¨re Chr(C)tienne, a Belgian Christian youth worker organization. He was also influenced by Paul Gauthier's The Poor, Jesus and the Church (1965). Guti(C)rrez's book is based on an understanding of history in which the human being is seen as assuming conscious responsibility for human destiny, and yet Christ the Saviour liberates the human race from sin, which is the root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression.[15]
Guti(C)rrez also popularized the phrase "preferential option for the poor", which became a slogan of liberation theology and later appeared in addresses of the Pope.[16] Drawing from the biblical motif on the poor, Guti(C)rrez asserts that God is revealed as having a preference for those people who are ''insignificant", "marginalized", ''unimportant", "needy", "despised", and "defenseless". Moreover, he makes clear that terminology of "the poor" in scripture has social and economic connotations that etymologically go back to the Greek word, ptōchos.[17] To be sure, as to not misinterpret Guti(C)rrez's definition of the term "preferential option", he stresses, "Preference implies the universality of God's love, which excludes no one. It is only within the framework of this universality that we can understand the preference, that is, 'what comes first'."[18]
Guti(C)rrez emphasized practice (or, more technically, "praxis") over doctrine. Guti(C)rrez clarified his position by advocating a circular relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxis seeing the two as having a symbiotic relationship.[19] Gutierrez' reading of prophets condemning oppression and injustice against the poor (i.e., Jeremiah 22:13''17) informs his assertion that to know God (orthodoxy) is to do justice (orthopraxis).[20] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), however, criticized liberation theology for elevating orthopraxis to the level of orthodoxy.[21] Richard McBrien summarizes this concept as follows:
God is disclosed in the historical "praxis" of liberation. It is the situation, and our passionate and reflective involvement in it, which mediates the Word of God. Today that Word is mediated through the cries of the poor and the oppressed.[22]
Another important hallmark for Guti(C)rrez's brand of liberation theology is an interpretation of revelation as "history". For example, Guti(C)rrez wrote:
History is the scene of the revelation God makes of the mystery of his person. His word reaches us in the measure of our involvement in the evolution of history.[23]
Guti(C)rrez also considered the Church to be the "sacrament of history", an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, thus pointing to the doctrine of universal salvation as the true means to eternal life, and assigning the Church itself to a somewhat temporal role, namely, liberation.
Practice [ edit ] One of the most radical aspects of liberation theology was the social organization, or reorganization, of church practice through the model of Christian base communities. Liberation theology strove to be a bottom-up movement in practice, with biblical interpretation and liturgical practice designed by lay practitioners themselves, rather than by the orthodox Church hierarchy. In this context, sacred text interpretation is understood as "praxis". Liberation theology seeks to interpret the actions of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the poor and disadvantaged. In Latin America, liberation theologians specifically target the severe disparities between rich and poor in the existing social and economic orders within the nations' political and corporate structures. It is a strong critique of the various economic and social structures, such as an oppressive government, dependence upon First World countries and the traditional hierarchical Church, that allow some to be extremely rich while others are unable to even have safe drinking water.[9]
The journalist and writer Penny Lernoux described this aspect of liberation theology in her numerous and committed writings intended to explain the movement's ideas in North America. Base communities were small gatherings, usually outside of churches, in which the Bible could be discussed, and Mass could be said. They were especially active in rural parts of Latin America where parish priests were not always available, as they placed a high value on lay participation. In May 2007, it was estimated that 80,000 base communities existed in Brazil.[24]
Contemporaneously, Fanmi Lavalas in Haiti, the Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil, and Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa are three organizations that make use of liberation theology.[25]
Brazilian liberation theology [ edit ] The Brazilian Catholic Church is arguably one of the most theologically progressive Catholic congregations due, in large part, to a history of violent military and political conflicts as well as a divisive socioeconomic climate. During Brazil's military rule from 1964 to 1985, the Catholic Church and its members assumed responsibility to provide services to the poor and disenfranchised, often under threat of persecution. The Vatican II and Medell­n conference innovations in liberation theology entered the Brazilian Church as the Brazilian lower classes experienced sharply deteriorating economic and political conditions. Among these were an increase in landownership concentration, a decline in wages and standards of living, and a rise in the military state's political repression and violence, including mass detainment, torture, and the assassination of political opponents.[26]
Base ecclesial communities [ edit ] After decades of repression from the government authorities, the liberationist Catholic Church in Brazil is absent of traditional centralization and encourages an increased lay participation. Faced with a severe priest shortage, much of the Brazilian Catholic Church is organized into Base Ecclesial Communities or, "CEBs" in which the Mass, community spirituality programs, and community needs are led or addressed by a single clergy member or a trained lay member in either a small chapel or an individual's home. The CEBs introduced new social ideas and democratic methods which led to many participants' active involvement in popular movements of Brazil that worked for progressive social change. An example of progressive social change initiated by the CEBs is in Nova Igua§u. A health program began there to try to organize the population in order to remedy widespread malnutrition, open sewers, and other health hazards.[9] Eventually the neighbourhood initiative reached a national interest level where it then became a mass movement in nearly every neighbourhood. Initiatives like the health program in Nova Igua§u illustrate how CEBs have helped the transition from military to democratic rule.
While liberation theology has brought about significant progressive reforms in Brazil, anthropologist Robin Nagle questions the effectiveness of Catholic Church theology in Brazil. Nagle concentrates on the conflict between conservatives and liberationists in Recife, Brazil, in 1990. The poor neighbourhood of Morro da Concei§£o had a liberationist priest named Reginaldo who was expelled by the traditionalist archbishop because the archbishop found Reginaldo's politics and social theology annoying and adverse to his own agenda. When Reginaldo and his followers refused to accept the expulsion and the new priest, the archbishop called in the Military Police. Conversely, the event did not cause a mass response because the liberationist agenda aroused distrust and even hatred among many of its intended audience. The main reason was that it was too much to ask poor parishioners to embrace a Church focused more on the troubles of this life than solace in the next.[27]
While Robin Nagle claims that liberation theology is ineffective for genuine social change, anthropologist Manuel Vsquez argues that liberation theology embraced by CEBs create a twofold effect, because it not only provided moral justification for resistance but it also served as a means to organize the resistance. Many people come to the CEB through conversion experiences, but also because they are keenly concerned with the spiritual and infrastructural needs of their community.[28] Through his fieldwork in working-class neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro, Vsquez reveals that CEBs combat disenfranchisement but also serve to overcome the obstacles associated with materialism and globalization. The social and political impact can be viewed in terms of initial consciousness-raising, the motivation for involvement, the sense of community they develop, the experience of grassroots democracy, the direct actions they engage in, and finally, directly political actions.[9]
Liberation theology and indigenous Brazil [ edit ] The Tapeba [ edit ] Anthropologist and author Max Maranh£o Piorsky Aires analyzes the influence of liberation theology on the transformation of the indigenous Tapeba people of Brazil from poor, uneducated inhabitants neglected by the state to rights-bearing and involved citizens. Specifically he largely attributes the work of the Brazilian Catholic Church to the progression of the Tapeba. The Catholic Church enlisted state authorities, anthropologists, and journalists to help uncover the identity of neglected indigenous peoples of Brazil. Early recognition by missionaries and followers of liberation theology stimulated indigenous identification of the Tapeba population as a possibility for attaining rights, especially land, health, and education.[29] The Church gathered and contributed historical knowledge of indigenous territory and identity of the Tapeba in Caucaia that ultimately succeeded in the tribes obtaining a legally codified identity as well as a rightful place as Brazilian subjects.
Gurup [ edit ] In Gurup, the Catholic Church employed liberation theology to defend indigenous tribes, farmers, and extractors from land expropriation by federal or corporate forces. New religious ideas, in the form of liberation theology, have fortified and legitimized an evolving political culture of resistance.[26] Meanwhile, the Church-supported Base Ecclesial Communities (CEBs) have promoted stronger social connections among community members that has led to more effective activism in Gurup. Anthropologist Richard Pace's study of Gurup revealed that CEBs assured safety in united activism, and, combined with liberation theology, encouraged members to challenge landowner's commercial monopolies and fight for better standards of living. Pace references a specific incident in the CEB of Nossa Senhora de Ftima, in which a community of 24 families of farmers, timber extractors, and traders resisted an extra-regional timber extraction firm. The community negotiated an agreement with the firm that gained them a higher standard of living that included imported goods, increased food availability, and access to health care. While severe social dislocations such as government-initiated capitalist penetration, land expropriation, and poor wages persist, small-farmer activism is fortified by liberation theology and receives structural support from unions, political parties, and church organizations.[26]
[ edit ] Joseph Ratzinger [ edit ] In March 1983, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), made ten observations of Gustavo Guti(C)rrez's theology, accusing Guti(C)rrez of politically interpreting the Bible in supporting temporal messianism, and stating that the predominance of orthopraxis over orthodoxy in his thought proved a Marxist influence. Ratzinger objected that the spiritual concept of the Church as "People of God" is transformed into a "Marxist myth". In liberation theology he declared, the "'people' is the antithesis of the hierarchy, the antithesis of all institutions, which are seen as oppressive powers. Ultimately anyone who participates in the class struggle is a member of the 'people'; the 'Church of the people' becomes the antagonist of the hierarchical Church."[30]
Ratzinger did praise liberation theology in some respects, including its ideal of justice, its rejection of violence, and its stress on "the responsibility which Christians necessarily bear for the poor and oppressed".[30] He subsequently stated that no one could be neutral in the face of injustice, and referred to the "crimes" of colonialism and the "scandal" of the arms race. Nonetheless, media reports tended to assume that the condemnation of "liberation theology" meant a rejection of such attitudes and an endorsement of conservative politics.[citation needed ]
In 1984, it was reported that a meeting occurred between the CDF and the CELAM bishops, during which a rift developed between Ratzinger and some of the bishops,[10] with Ratzinger issuing official condemnations of certain elements of liberation theology.[31][32] These "Instructions" rejected as Marxist the idea that class struggle is fundamental to history, and rejected the interpretation of religious phenomena such as the Exodus and the Eucharist in exclusively political terms. Ratzinger further stated that liberation theology had a major flaw in that it attempted to apply Christ's sermon on the mount teachings about the poor to present social situations.[33] He asserted that Christ's teaching on the poor meant that we will be judged when we die, with particular attention to how we personally have treated the poor.
Ratzinger also argued that liberation theology is not originally a "grass-roots" movement among the poor, but rather, a creation of Western intellectuals: "an attempt to test, in a concrete scenario, ideologies that have been invented in the laboratory by European theologians" and in a certain sense itself a form of "cultural imperialism". Ratzinger saw this as a reaction to the demise or near-demise of the "Marxist myth" in the West.[30]
Throughout the 1990s, Ratzinger, as prefect of the CDF, continued to condemn these elements in liberation theology, and prohibited dissident priests from teaching such doctrines in the Catholic Church's name. Leonardo Boff was suspended and others were censured. Tissa Balasuriya, in Sri Lanka, was excommunicated. Sebastian Kappen, an Indian theologian, was also censured for his book Jesus and Freedom.[34] Under Ratzinger's influence, theological formation schools were forbidden from using the Catholic Church's organization and grounds to teach liberation theology in the sense of theology using unacceptable Marxist ideas, not in the broader sense.
Towards reconciliation under Pope Francis [ edit ] According to Roberto Bosca, a historian at Austral University in Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) had "a reputation as an opponent of liberation theology during the 1970s" but he "accepted the premise of liberation theology, especially the option for the poor, but in a 'nonideological' fashion."[35] Before becoming Pope, Bergoglio said, "The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It's the Gospel itself. If you were to read one of the sermons of the first fathers of the Church, from the second or third centuries, about how you should treat the poor, you'd say it was Maoist or Trotskyist. The Church has always had the honor of this preferential option for the poor ... At the Second Vatican Council the Church was redefined as the People of God and this idea really took off at the Second Conference of the Latin-American bishops in Medell­n."[36] Bosca said Bergoglio was not opposed to liberation theology itself but to "giving a Catholic blessing to armed insurgency", specifically the Montoneros, who claimed liberation theology as part of their political ideology.[35] Blase Bonpane, a former Maryknoll father and founding director of the Office of the Americas, said "The new pope has not been comfortable with liberation theology."[37]
On September 11, 2013, Pope Francis hosted Guti(C)rrez in his residence, where he concelebrated mass with Guti(C)rrez and Gerhard M¼ller, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[38] Some saw this meeting as a sign of warming relations between the hierarchy and liberation theologians.[39][40] The same month, L'Osservatore Romano published an article by Archbishop M¼ller praising Guti(C)rrez.[39] On January 18, 2014, Pope Francis met with Arturo Paoli, an Italian priest whom the Pope knew from Paoli's long service in Argentina. Paoli is recognized as an exponent of liberation theology avant la lettre and the meeting was seen as a sign of "reconciliation" between the Vatican and the liberationists.[41]
Miguel d'Escoto, a Maryknoll priest from Nicaragua, had been sanctioned with an a divinis suspension from his public functions in 1984 by Pope John Paul II, for political activity in the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Pope Francis lifted the suspension in August 2014, in response to a request by d'Escoto.[42]
At a 2015 press conference in the Vatican hosted by Caritas International, the federation of Catholic relief agencies, Guti(C)rrez noted that while there had been some difficult moments in the past dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, liberation theology had never been condemned. Although he saw an increasingly clear emphasis on Church teachings on the poor, he did not consider that liberation theology was undergoing a rehabilitation, since it had never been "dishabilitated".[43]
In January, 2019, during the World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis discussed changing attitudes to liberation theology during an extended discussion with a group of thirty Jesuits from Central America. He noted that he had a devotion to the martyred Salvadoran Jesuit priest, Rutilio Grande, even before he came to know 'scar Romero well. Francis commented that "Today we old people laugh about how worried we were about liberation theology. What was missing then was communication to the outside about how things really were."[44]
Accusations [ edit ] Communist era general of Romania's secret police, Ion Mihai Pacepa, claims that the KGB created liberation theology.[45] Commentators, notably John L. Allen of Crux on the left[46] and Damian Thompson of The Spectator on the right,[47] have suspected these claims are exaggerated.
[ edit ] In 1983 US vice president George H. W. Bush said he could not comprehend how Catholic theologians could harmonize Catholicism and Marxism and support revolutionaries in Central America. "I'm puzzled. I just don't understand it."[48]
Latin American integral mission [ edit ] Integral mission or holistic mission is a term coined in Spanish as misi"n integral in the 1970s by members of the evangelical group Latin American Theological Fellowship (or FTL, its Spanish acronym) to describe an understanding of Christian mission which embraces both the evangelism and social responsibility. Since Lausanne 1974, integral mission has influenced a significant number of evangelicals around the world.[49][50]
The word integral is used in Spanish to describe wholeness (as in wholemeal bread or whole wheat).[50] Theologians use it to describe an understanding of Christian mission that affirms the importance of expressing the love of God and neighbourly love through every means possible. Proponents such as C. Ren(C) Padilla of Ecuador,[51] Samuel Escobar of Peru,[52] and Orlando E. Costas of Puerto Rico[53] have wanted to emphasize the breadth of the Good News and of the Christian mission, and used the word integral to signal their discomfort with conceptions of Christian mission based on a dichotomy between evangelism and social involvement.
The proponents of integral mission argue that the concept of integral mission is nothing new '' rather, it is rooted in Scripture and wonderfully exemplified in Jesus' own ministry. "Integral mission" is only a distinct vocabulary for a holistic understanding of mission that has become important in the past forty years in order to distinguish it from widely held but dualistic approaches that emphasize either evangelism or social responsibility.[50]
Camilo Torres [ edit ] The priest Camilo Torres (a leader of the Colombian guerrilla group ELN)[54] celebrated the Eucharist only among those engaged in armed struggle against the army of the Colombian state. He also fought for the ELN.[55]
Black theology [ edit ] Black theology refers to a theological perspective which originated in some black churches in the United States and later in other parts of the world, which contextualizes Christianity in an attempt to help those of African descent overcome oppression. It especially focuses on the injustices committed against African Americans and black South Africans during American segregation and apartheid, respectively.
Black theology seeks to liberate people of color from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation and views Christian theology as a theology of liberation'--"a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ," writes James Hal Cone, one of the original advocates of the perspective. Black theology mixes Christianity with questions of civil rights, particularly raised by the Black Power movement and the Black Consciousness Movement.
Palestinian liberation theology [ edit ] Palestinian liberation theology is an expression of political theology and a contextual theology that represents an attempt by a number of independently working Palestinian theologians from various denominations'--mostly Protestant mainline churches'--to articulate the gospel message in such a way as to make that liberating gospel relevant to the perceived needs of their indigenous flocks. As a rule, this articulation involves a condemnation of the State of Israel, a theological underpinning of Palestinian resistance to Israel as well as Palestinian national aspirations, and an intense valorization of Palestinian ethnic and cultural identity as guarantors of a truer grasp of the gospel by virtue of the fact that they are inhabitants of the land of Jesus and the Bible. The principal figure in Palestinian liberation theology is the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.[56]
[ edit ] Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa[57]Dalit theology in IndiaLandless Workers' Movement in BrazilLavalas in Haiti[57]Jean-Bertrand AristideFSLN in Nicaragua (see The Catholic Church and the Nicaraguan Revolution)FMLN in El SalvadorChristians for Socialism (Cristianos por el socialismo)See also [ edit ] People [ edit ] Paulo Freire'scar RomeroTheologians [ edit ] Marcella Althaus-Reid, Argentina '' Scotland (1952''2009)Paulo Evaristo Arns, Brazil (1921''2016)Rubem Alves, Brazil (1933''2014)Naim Ateek, Palestine (b. 1937)Alan Boesak, South Africa (b. 1945)Leonardo Boff, Brazil (b. 1938)Robert McAfee Brown, US (1920''2001)H(C)lder Cmara, Brazil (1909''1999), Archbishop of Olinda and RecifePedro Casaldliga, Spain '' Brazil (b. 1928)Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaragua (1925''2020)Fernando Cardenal, Nicaragua (1934''2016)Jos(C) Severino Croatto [es; de] , Argentina (1930''2004)Miguel A. De La Torre, US CubanMiguel d'Escoto Brockmann, Nicaragua (1933''2017)Jean Marc Ela, Cameroon (b. 1936)Virgilio Elizondo, US (1935''2016)Ignacio Ellacur­a, S.J., Spain '' El Salvador (1930''1989)Marc H. Ellis, US (b. 1952)Giovanni Franzoni, Italy (b. 1928)Paul Gauthier, France (1914''2002)Ivone Gebara, Brazil (b. 1944)Gustavo Guti(C)rrez, Peru (b. 1928)Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Cuba (1943-2012)G(C)rard Jean-Juste, Haiti (b. 1947)Sebastian Kappen, India (1924''1993)Aloisio Leo Arlindo Lorscheider, Brazil (1924''2007)Ignacio Mart­n-Bar", S.J., Spain '' El Salvador (1942''1989)Johann Baptist Metz, Germany (b. 1928)J¼rgen Moltmann, Germany (b. 1926)Segundo Montes, S.J., Spain '' El Salvador (1933''1989)Ivan Petrella, Argentina (b. 1969)Rubin Phillip, South Africa (b. 1948)Samuel Ruiz, Mexico (1924''2011)Juan Luis Segundo, S.J., Uruguay (1925''1996)Jon Sobrino, S.J., Spain '' El Salvador (b. 1938)Dorothee S¶lle, Germany (1929''2003)George V. Pixley, US (b. 1937)Jung Mo Sung, Brazil (b. 1957)References [ edit ] ^ Dictionary of Historical Terms (1998), Second Edition, Chris Cook, ed., p. 203. ^ Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism (Harper Collins, 1994), chapter IV. ^ Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, First (Spanish) edition published in Lima, Peru, 1971; first English edition published by Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York), 1973. ^ Travis Kitchens (June 21, 2010). "Chomsky on Religion" . Retrieved October 17, 2017 '' via YouTube. ^ a b Wojda, Paul J., "Liberation theology," in R.P. McBrien, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia (Harper Collins, 1995). ^ a b Robert Pelton, "Latin America, Catholicism in" in R.P. McBrien, ed., The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Harper Collins, 1995. ^ According to Cardinal Alfonso L"pez Trujillo, liberation theology was simultaneously created by the Reflection Task Force of CELAM, and by Rubem Alves's book, Towards a Theology of Liberation (1968). However, Cardinal Trujillo had himself been general secretary of CELAM, and president of CELAM's Reflection Task Force. Cardinal Samor¨, who as leader of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America was in charge of relations between the Roman Curia and CELAM, was ordered to put a stop to liberation theology, which was judged antithetical to the Catholic Church's global teachings. ^ Vuola, Elina (2005). "Liberation Theology". New Dictionary of the History of Ideas . Retrieved January 15, 2015 . ^ a b c d Liberation Theology and Its Role in Latin America. Elisabeth Erin Williams. Monitor: Journal of International Studies. The College of William and Mary. ^ a b Curti, Elena (May 8, 2010). "Study in Scarlet". The Tablet. p. 4. ISSN 0039-8837. (Available upon request) ^ a b c "To members of the 3rd General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, Puebla '' Republic of Mexico (January 28, 1979) '' John Paul II". w2.vatican.va . Retrieved October 17, 2017 . ^ Smith, Christian. The Emergence of Liberation Theology ^ ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLES, Populorum Progressio, Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Paul VI promulgated on March 26, 1967 ^ Guti(C)rrez, Gustavo (1971). Teolog­a de la liberaci"n: perspectivas. Lima, Perº: Centro de Estudios y Publicaciones (CEP). ^ Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation(London: SCM Press,1974) 36f ^ Ratzinger, Joseph (February 21, 2008). "Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus". Speeches February 2008. The Holy See. ^ Gutierrez, Gustavo. The God of Life. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1991. (Original: El Dios de la vida. Lima: CEP, 1989.) p. 112 ^ Nickoloff, James B. ed. Gustavo Gutierrez: Essential Writings. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1996, p. 145 ^ Gutierrez, Gustavo. The Truth Shall Make You Free: Confrontations. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1990. (Original: La verdad los hara libres: confrontaciones. Lima: CEP, 1986) ^ Gutierrez, Gustavo. The Power of Poor in History. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1983. (Original: La fuerza historica de los obres: seleccion de trabajos. Lima: CEP, 1971.) ^ Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal (2007). "Liberation Theology: Preliminary Notes," in The Ratzinger Report. (2007). Reprinted in: J.F. Thornton and S.B. Varenne, eds., The Essential Pope Benedict XVI. Online version: Harper Collins. CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) ^ McBrien, R.P. "Catholicism" (Harper Collins, 1995), pp. 249''250. ^ Gutierrez, G. "Faith as Freedom," ''Horizons'' 2/1, Spring 1975, p.32 ^ "As Pope Heads to Brazil, a Rival Theology Persists" The New York Times May 7, 2007. ^ Liberation Theology Archived March 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Canada & the World, February 10, 2010 ^ a b c Pace, R (1992). "Social conflict and political activism in the Brazilian Amazon: a case study of Gurup". American Ethnologist. 19: 710''732. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.4.02a00050. ^ Claiming the Virgin:The Broken Promise of Liberation Theology in Brazil. Robin Nagle. New York: Routledge, 1997. xii+224 pp., addendums, notes, glossary, bibliography, index. ^ The Brazilian Popular Church and the Crisis of Modernity. Manuel A. Vasquez. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 302 pp. ^ Maranhao Piorsky Aires, Max (2012). "Legalizing Indigenous Identities: The Tapeba Struggle for Land and Schools in Caucaia, Brazil". The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 17 (2): 320''340. doi:10.1111/j.1935-4940.2012.01220.x. ^ a b c Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal (2007). "Liberation Theology: Preliminary Notes," in The Ratzinger Report. Reprinted in: J.F. Thornton and S.B. Varenne, eds., The Essential Pope Benedict XVI. Online version: Harper Collins, 2007. ^ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (September 13, 1984). "Instruction on certain aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation,'" Origins 14/13. Online version. Online version ^ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, . (April 17, 1986). "Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation," Origins 15/44. ^ Ratzinger, Cardinal (1985). op cit. ^ Kappen, Sebastian (1977). Jesus and Freedom. In 1980, the CDF asked the General of the Society of Jesus (of which Kappen was a member) to disavow this book. Kappen responded with a pamphlet entitled "Censorship and the Future of Asian Theology." No further action was taken by the Vatican on this matter. ^ a b Allen, John L. Jr. (April 12, 2013). "Hard questions about Francis in Argentina and a lesson from Chile". National Catholic Reporter. ^ Transcript of 2010 judicial inquiry, "Bergoglio Declara ante el TOF No 5 Archived June 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine," translated in Ivereigh, Austen (November 25, 2014), The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (Kindle ed.), New York: Henry Holt and Co. (published 2014), locations 1897''1903, ISBN 978-1-62779-158-8 ^ Bernstein, Dennis J. (March 19, 2013). "Liberation Theology Haunts New Pope". Consortium News. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (February 14, 2019), "Francis reveals he concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Muller and Gustavo Gutierrez", National Catholic Reporter , retrieved February 14, 2019 ^ a b Rocca, Francis X. (September 13, 2013). "Under Pope Francis, liberation theology comes of age". Catholic News Service . Retrieved January 25, 2014 . ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (September 25, 2013). "Pope meets with liberation theology pioneer". National Catholic Reporter . Retrieved January 25, 2014 . ^ Allen Jr., John L. (January 24, 2014). "Truisms in Catholic life and a rundown of Rome news". National Catholic Reporter . Retrieved January 25, 2014 . ^ "BBC News '' Pope reinstates suspended Nicaraguan priest D'Escoto". BBC News. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (May 12, 2015), "Updated: Guti(C)rrez: 'The Vatican Never Condemned the Theology of Liberation ' ", America, archived from the original on May 26, 2015 , retrieved May 25, 2015 ^ Pope Francis (February 14, 2019), Spadaro, Antonio (ed.), " ' Put your lives at stake': Pope Francis in dialogue with the Jesuits of Central America", La Civilit Catolica , retrieved February 14, 2019 ^ Former Soviet spy: We created Liberation Theology, Catholic News Agency, 1 May 2015. ^ Allen, John L. Jr. (May 5, 2015). "Did the KGB 'create' Latin America's liberation theology?". Crux . Retrieved March 14, 2017 . ^ Thompson, Damian (May 2, 2015). "Former Communist spy: KGB created Catholic liberation theology". The Spectator . Retrieved March 14, 2017 . ^ John M. Goshko, "Catholic Aid to Marxists Puzzles Bush," Washington Post, 1983 March 3 ^ Stanley, Brian (2013). The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Billy Graham and John Stott. Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press. pp. 151''180. ISBN 978-0-8308-2585-1. ^ a b c Kirkpatrick, David C. (2016). "The Widening of Christian Mission: C. Ren(C) Padilla and the Intellectual Origins of Integral Mission". In Sexton, Jason S.; Weston, Paul (eds.). The End of Theology: Shaping Theology for the Sake of Mission. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. pp. 193''210. ISBN 978-1-5064-0592-6. ^ Padilla, C. Ren(C) (2010). Mission Between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom. Carlisle: Langham Monographs. ISBN 978-1-907713-01-9. ^ Escobar, Samuel (2003). A Time of Mission: The Challenge for Global Christianity. Carlisle: Langham Global Library. ISBN 978-1-907713-02-6. ^ Costas, Orlando E. (1974). The Church and its Mission: A Shattering Critique from the Third World . Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8423-0275-3. ^ "Bienvenido/a a nuestra pgina Web '' Ej(C)rcito de Liberaci"n Nacional". Eln-voces.com. May 26, 2008 . Retrieved December 29, 2011 . ^ "Camilo Torres Restrepo 1929''1966". Filosofia.org . Retrieved December 29, 2011 . ^ Ateek, Naim (1989). Justice and only Justice. Orbis. ^ a b "Interactivist: Liberation Theology '' Abahlali baseMjondolo". abahlali.org. Further reading [ edit ] Lernoux, Penny, Cry of the people: United States involvement in the rise of fascism, torture, and murder and the persecution of the Catholic Church in Latin America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.Alves, Rubem, Towards a Theology of Liberation (1968).De La Torre, Miguel A., Handbook on U.S. Theologies of Liberation (Chalice Press, 2004).Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, "Liberation Theology" (preliminary notes to 1984 Instruction)Guti(C)rrez, Gustavo, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation, Orbis Books, 1988.Kirylo, James D. Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife. New York: Peter Lang, 2011.Nash, Ronald, ed. Liberation Theology. First ed. Milford, Mich.: Mott Media, 1984. ISBN 0-88062-121-4Smith, Christian, The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and the Social Movement Theory, University of Chicago Press, 1991.Marxism and Missions / Missions et Marxisme, special issue of the journal Social Sciences and Missions, Volume 22/2, 2009Pacepa, I. M. and Rychlak, R. J, "Disinformation," Washington, DC: WND Books, Inc., 2013.Stefan Silber / Jos(C) Mar­a Vigil (eds.): Liberation Theology in Europe / La Teolog­a de la Liberaci"n en Europa. Voices 40 (2017) 2, November-December, 304 pp., ISSN: 2222-0763 (pdf)External links [ edit ] Liberation Theology Video from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives.BBC Religion and Ethics theological obituary of Pope John Paul II: his views on liberation theologyCentre for Liberation Theologies, Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BelgiumPapal suspension against Miguel d'Escoto is liftedKey Concepts of Revolution Theology
Colorado amends coronavirus death count - says fewer have died of COVID-19 than previously reported | Fox News
Sat, 16 May 2020 11:58
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Colorado has made a stunning and significant change to the way it counts COVID-19 deaths that reduced the statewide figure from more than 1,000 to 878, according to a report.
The change came after Colorado's Department of Public Health admitted that its COVID-19 death toll was counting those who tested positive for the coronavirus but had died of other causes, Fox 31 Denver reported late Friday.
The department now says 1,150 Coloradoans who died had COVID-19 but only 878 of those deaths were ''due to'' COVID-19.
AS US CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL MOUNTS, SO DOES THE BELIEF BY SOME THAT IT IS EXAGGERATED
Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point while wearing a face mask with the logo of Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies during a news conference to update the state's efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus Friday, May 15, 2020, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP)
''We have been reporting at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or may not have been COVID-19,'' Dr. Eric France, the health department's chief medical officer told the station.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
''We started to hear stories about 'are these correct or are these incorrect?''' France said.
Fox News on Friday reported on one of those stories as part of a report that found that the hodgepodge way states counted COVID-19 deaths was a reason why some people believe the U.S. COVID-19 death figure was exaggerated.
The story involved a 35-year-old man from Montezuma County who died May 4 of alcohol poisoning but whose death was counted in Colorado's COVID-19 death toll.
CDC CHIEF REDFIELD PREDICTS CORONAVIRUS DEATHS TO TOP 100,000 IN JUNE
''The state is reporting that death as a COVID death, but our health department wanted to let people know that even though the person did have the virus, they did not die from it,'' the Montezuma County Health Department said about the man's death.
The national COVID-19 death toll climbed to 87,568 Saturday with the deaths of 1,662 more people due to the virus, John Hopkins University data showed. But that latest number does not take into account Colorado's amended figure, listing the death toll at 1,150.
France blamed the confusion on the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System that states use to report COVID-19 deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COLORADO MAN DIED OF ALCOHOL POISONING, BUT DEATH WAS LATER BLAMED ON CORONAVIRUS: REPORT
Hours before the health department lowered the death count a somber Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, had told a coronavirus news briefing that the state had reached a ''reflection point'' as the number of COVID-19 deaths had surpassed 1,000.
"It's important to remember that every number has a name," Polis said. "It's easy to say over 1,000 people. Each one of those is a person with friends, loved ones and family. If you're fortunate enough not to have known someone who was lost, take a moment and remember why we all need to do our part."
Fox 31 obtained a statement from Polis' office after the death count was reduced that said the governor fully supported efforts by the health department to specify how many deaths were specifically due to COVID-19 ''and not just specific to CDC guidelines that include people who died with Coronavirus but not necessarily from it.''
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''State epidemiologists believe that once the data is up to date then the number will, unfortunately, be higher,'' the statement concluded.
Polis will appear exclusively on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace Sunday morning.
Tesla Plans To Open New Factory In Texas As Musk Spurns "Fascist" California | Zero Hedge
Sat, 16 May 2020 09:22
Several days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk threatened to move out of California after a highly publicized spat with Alameda County over Musk's push to reopen Tesla's Fremont Plant and force workers to return despite questions about safety. Many longtime Tesla fans turned against the company as many accused Musk of placing Tesla's share price - not to mention his own personal gain - above the safety of his workers.
After President Trump spoke out in Musk's defense, Alameda County folded and Musk mostly got his way.
But apparently, the bad taste that the incident left in Musk's mouth has prompted him to leak a story about Tesla picking Austin, Texas as the site of its next Gigafactory. Tesla has three "gigafactories" - one in Nevada, one under construction in Berlin, and one in Shanghai.
The news was reported by Elektrek, a blog and frequent recipient of Tesla-related leaks, which it often reports uncritically, leading many to suspect that the blog's "extremely reliable source" is none other than Musk himself.
As Elektrek notes, while Musk has been leaning toward Texas for months, the timing of the announcement is "surprising" and the timelines is "surprisingly aggressive" (just like all of Musk's "timelines").
Giga Texas is expected to produce the new Tesla Cybertruck.
According to a reliable source familiar with the matter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is set on bringing the next Tesla Gigafactory, or now Terafactory, to Austin, Texas, or at least close to the city.
The people familiar with the project said that Musk has tasked the engineering team working at Gigafactory Nevada to start the process for the new factory, which is expected to make the Tesla Cybertruck electric pickup truck and the Model Y.
Tesla's CEO also reportedly wants to move extremely fast.
We are told that the decision for the site is not set in stone since Tesla was apparently given a few options in the greater Austin area, but Musk is said to want to start construction extremely soon and aims to have Model Y vehicles coming out of the plant by the end of the year.
It would be an even more aggressive timeline than Gigafactory Shanghai.
Tesla already has a small office in Austin, adding to the convenience of opening the factory in or near the city.
When Tesla started building a team of chip engineers for its Autopilot hardware 3.0, it hired several engineers from AMD's corporate offices in Austin and Tesla decided to open an office there for its Autopilot hardware engineers.
Recently, Musk has been talking about moving Tesla's California operations to Nevada and/or Texas due to the automaker's difficulties working with the local government to reopen the Fremont factory, where it currently produces most of its vehicles.
This project is not directly related to that announcement.
We are talking here about Tesla's previously announced plans to build a 'Cybertruck Gigafactory' in ''central US''.
Musk infamously accused California of "fascism" in a now-infamous Q1 earnings call where Musk bashed the Golden State for its restrictive stay at home order. The big question now: If Tesla puts down more roots in Texas, will Musk soon follow by moving his personal residence to the Lone Star State as well?
The Cabildo budgets '‚¬1 million for "firefighter sheep" to clear public land and combat forest fires - The Canary - News, Views & Sunshine
Sat, 16 May 2020 08:52
The island government, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, have allocated a budget of one million euros for utilising what they have termed as 'firefighter sheep' to help in the prevention of forest fires on Gran Canaria. The money will be used to support shepherds, on the basis that their livestock can be used as an important method of reducing flammable vegetation in the natural environment. GPS systems will be used to monitor flocks and fencing will help to protect repopulations. In addition to flocks and herds clearing an estimated 115 hectares of public lands, training will be provided, for adults and children, on the reality of forest fires on Gran Canaria.
Firefighting Sheep on the GC41 near Valsequillo
The package of measures was announced this week using a phrase echoed earlier in the month by actual firefighters who posted pictures on social networks to highlight this vital element of fire prevention on the island. The plan will be rolled out over the course of the next year and include other actions in coordination with the island government's Food Sovereignty policies, aimed at subsidising the cleaning and clearing of debris from around 4,600 ''abandoned'' private farmlands that occupy 536 hectares in high-risk areas. an especially important measure considering that the most recent large incidents on Gran Canaria started on private lands with enormous accumulations of dead vegetation and dry materials, that literally fuelled the rapid spread of the fires.
Controlled burning and roaming livestock herds are two of the main tools in fire prevention on Gran Canaria, for this reason the Cabildo has allocated a sum of '‚¬332,000 to incorporate sheep herds as allies in the official prevention measures, so that the herds can be strategically deployed to graze in high-risk areas, indicated by the administration, and participate in the creation of firewalls, a job that will be monitored using 70 geolocation devices.
' The provision includes boundaries created using 7,000 stock trees to make areas compatible with grazing' Livestock will be monitored using 70 GPS devices' A popular 136 page comic book, by local illustrator J. Morgan, and published last year by the Cabildo, will be reissued and distributed at more than 100 workshop talks about forest fire risk areas
The Cabildo has authorised 50 shepherds, tending to 7,000 head, to graze on nearly 3,500 hectares of public land designated Zones of High Risk of Forest Fire (ZARI), as well as another 2,000 hectares of private land, also in the areas of risk, totally 5,500 hectares of grazing lands that are either difficult or near impossible to reach in the event of a fire. The reduction of the vegetal load will help facilitate the tasks extinguishing fires that could occur
The Cabildo and local shepherds signed an historic agreement in 2018 to work together in the fight against forest fires by providing this important environmental service for which the pastors also receive a direct payment of between 40 and 180 euros per hectare, depending on the distance of moving their herd, the type of vegetation ''such as reed beds in ravines-, and the strategic importance of the place.
Controlled grazing is, in addition to being effective, an economic and ecological tool for the prevention of large forest fires, which are too often rooted in the excessive accumulations of dried vegetative debris resulting in the progressive abandonment of the more traditional rural life. This measure also has the advantage of contributing to the survival of grazing and the primary sector, necessary to create mosaic landscapes, which are seen as the true shields against forest fires.
China Admits Destruction of Early Coronavirus Samples
Sat, 16 May 2020 08:29
Chinese National Health Commission official Liu Dengfeng admitted on Friday that his government did indeed destroy early samples of the Wuhan coronavirus, as has long been alleged by skeptics.
Liu claimed this was done to ''prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens.''
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) noted that critics such as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for refusing to provide samples to the international medical community when the Wuhan outbreak began in late 2019 and for destroying those samples. Liu insisted there was nothing nefarious about the destruction:
''The remarks made by some US officials were taken out of context and intended to confuse,'' [Liu] said at a briefing in Beijing.
When the pneumonia-like illness was first reported in Wuhan, ''national-level professional institutes'' were working to identify the pathogen that was causing it, Liu said.
''Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II '' highly pathogenic '' and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,'' he said.
Liu added that this was in line with China's standard practice for handling highly pathogenic samples, which should not be done by labs that do not meet the requirements.
The SCMP quickly pointed out that Liu's statements were not accurate since it has been established by earlier reports that major Chinese virus labs were ordered to destroy their samples after correctly identifying the mysterious new disease that emerged in December as a member of the SARS family.
As the New York Post summarized in February:
In late December, several genomics companies tested samples from sick patients in Wuhan '-- the center of the coronavirus outbreak '-- and noticed alarming similarities between their illnesses and the 2002 SARS virus, the Sunday Times of London reported, citing Chinese business news site Caixin Global.
The researchers alerted Beijing of their findings '-- and on Jan. 3, received a gag order from China's National Health Commission, with instructions to destroy the samples.
Rather than hunkering down to contain the virus, Wuhan officials went ahead with their annual potluck dinner for 40,000 families.
The alleged cover-up continued when representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 8 visited Wuhan, where officials intentionally withheld information that hospital workers had been infected by patients '-- a telltale sign of contagion.
News of the virus' highly contagious nature didn't surface publicly until Jan. 20. Wuhan was locked down and a mass quarantine ordered three days later.
In early May, a leaked Western intelligence document described Chinese laboratories deliberately destroying evidence that the coronavirus could be transmitted between humans, including virus samples, during the early weeks of the outbreak when the CCP was eager to conceal that dangerous information. The document described China's actions as an ''insult to international transparency.''
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly produced an analysis at roughly the same time that said China wanted to keep the rest of the world from knowing how contagious the coronavirus was because Chinese companies were frantically buying up medical supplies and protective gear from other countries, and would have encountered difficulty making those bulk purchases if the other countries understood how rapidly the virus could spread.
The SCMP reported that Chinese National Health Commission officials on Friday also denied multiple statements by World Health Organization (W.H.O.) officials that they have been refused access to Wuhan and its virology institute, the lab frequently discussed as a possible source of the outbreak.
''The W.H.O. has never made a request to visit a certain laboratory, so the statement that the WHO was denied a visit to the Wuhan laboratory is untrue,'' said senior Chinese official Li Mingzhu.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Tuesday that the CCP is still stalling investigations into Wuhan, its notorious virus-spreading ''wet markets,'' and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Eyewitnesses in China confirmed they gathered data and physical evidence from Wuhan in December that is still hidden from the world by the Chinese government, despite its constant claims of transparency and cooperation.
The Chinese National Health Commission pointedly refused to answer the WSJ's questions about this evidence, responding with CCP political boilerplate about how ''the virus should not be linked to any particular country, region, or people'' and all nations should ''join forces and work together, rather than blaming each other and shirking responsibility.''
The WSJ also noted that despite China's denials that it has stymied W.H.O. investigations, W.H.O. officials confirmed that investigative data long promised by China still has not been delivered to the organization, and China is indeed still thwarting efforts by international investigators to visit the outbreak area in Wuhan.
First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States | NEJM
Sat, 16 May 2020 08:19
20 References481 Citing Articles Letters Related ArticlesSummaryAn outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that began in Wuhan, China, has spread rapidly, with cases now confirmed in multiple countries. We report the first case of 2019-nCoV infection confirmed in the United States and describe the identification, diagnosis, clinical course, and management of the case, including the patient's initial mild symptoms at presentation with progression to pneumonia on day 9 of illness. This case highlights the importance of close coordination between clinicians and public health authorities at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as the need for rapid dissemination of clinical information related to the care of patients with this emerging infection.
IntroductionOn December 31, 2019, China reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in people associated with the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, Hubei Province.1 On January 7, 2020, Chinese health authorities confirmed that this cluster was associated with a novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV.2 Although cases were originally reported to be associated with exposure to the seafood market in Wuhan, current epidemiologic data indicate that person-to-person transmission of 2019-nCoV is occurring.3-6 As of January 30, 2020, a total of 9976 cases had been reported in at least 21 countries,7 including the first confirmed case of 2019-nCoV infection in the United States, reported on January 20, 2020. Investigations are under way worldwide to better understand transmission dynamics and the spectrum of clinical illness. This report describes the epidemiologic and clinical features of the first case of 2019-nCoV infection confirmed in the United States.
Case ReportOn January 19, 2020, a 35-year-old man presented to an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, with a 4-day history of cough and subjective fever. On checking into the clinic, the patient put on a mask in the waiting room. After waiting approximately 20 minutes, he was taken into an examination room and underwent evaluation by a provider. He disclosed that he had returned to Washington State on January 15 after traveling to visit family in Wuhan, China. The patient stated that he had seen a health alert from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and, because of his symptoms and recent travel, decided to see a health care provider.
Figure 1.
Figure 1. Posteroanterior and Lateral Chest Radiographs, January 19, 2020 (Illness Day 4). No thoracic abnormalities were noted.
Apart from a history of hypertriglyceridemia, the patient was an otherwise healthy nonsmoker. The physical examination revealed a body temperature of 37.2°C, blood pressure of 134/87 mm Hg, pulse of 110 beats per minute, respiratory rate of 16 breaths per minute, and oxygen saturation of 96% while the patient was breathing ambient air. Lung auscultation revealed rhonchi, and chest radiography was performed, which was reported as showing no abnormalities (Figure 1 ). A rapid nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) for influenza A and B was negative. A nasopharyngeal swab specimen was obtained and sent for detection of viral respiratory pathogens by NAAT; this was reported back within 48 hours as negative for all pathogens tested, including influenza A and B, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, adenovirus, and four common coronavirus strains known to cause illness in humans (HKU1, NL63, 229E, and OC43).
Given the patient's travel history, the local and state health departments were immediately notified. Together with the urgent care clinician, the Washington Department of Health notified the CDC Emergency Operations Center. Although the patient reported that he had not spent time at the Huanan seafood market and reported no known contact with ill persons during his travel to China, CDC staff concurred with the need to test the patient for 2019-nCoV on the basis of current CDC ''persons under investigation'' case definitions.8 Specimens were collected in accordance with CDC guidance and included serum and nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens. After specimen collection, the patient was discharged to home isolation with active monitoring by the local health department.
On January 20, 2020, the CDC confirmed that the patient's nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs tested positive for 2019-nCoV by real-time reverse-transcriptase''polymerase-chain-reaction (rRT-PCR) assay. In coordination with CDC subject-matter experts, state and local health officials, emergency medical services, and hospital leadership and staff, the patient was admitted to an airborne-isolation unit at Providence Regional Medical Center for clinical observation, with health care workers following CDC recommendations for contact, droplet, and airborne precautions with eye protection.9
On admission, the patient reported persistent dry cough and a 2-day history of nausea and vomiting; he reported that he had no shortness of breath or chest pain. Vital signs were within normal ranges. On physical examination, the patient was found to have dry mucous membranes. The remainder of the examination was generally unremarkable. After admission, the patient received supportive care, including 2 liters of normal saline and ondansetron for nausea.
Figure 2.
Figure 2. Symptoms and Maximum Body Temperatures According to Day of Illness and Day of Hospitalization, January 16 to January 30, 2020. On days 2 through 5 of hospitalization (days 6 through 9 of illness), the patient's vital signs remained largely stable, apart from the development of intermittent fevers accompanied by periods of tachycardia (Figure 2 ). The patient continued to report a nonproductive cough and appeared fatigued. On the afternoon of hospital day 2, the patient passed a loose bowel movement and reported abdominal discomfort. A second episode of loose stool was reported overnight; a sample of this stool was collected for rRT-PCR testing, along with additional respiratory specimens (nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal) and serum. The stool and both respiratory specimens later tested positive by rRT-PCR for 2019-nCoV, whereas the serum remained negative.
Treatment during this time was largely supportive. For symptom management, the patient received, as needed, antipyretic therapy consisting of 650 mg of acetaminophen every 4 hours and 600 mg of ibuprofen every 6 hours. He also received 600 mg of guaifenesin for his continued cough and approximately 6 liters of normal saline over the first 6 days of hospitalization.
Table 1.
Table 1. Clinical Laboratory Results. The nature of the patient isolation unit permitted only point-of-care laboratory testing initially; complete blood counts and serum chemical studies were available starting on hospital day 3. Laboratory results on hospital days 3 and 5 (illness days 7 and 9) reflected leukopenia, mild thrombocytopenia, and elevated levels of creatine kinase (Table 1 ). In addition, there were alterations in hepatic function measures: levels of alkaline phosphatase (68 U per liter), alanine aminotransferase (105 U per liter), aspartate aminotransferase (77 U per liter), and lactate dehydrogenase (465 U per liter) were all elevated on day 5 of hospitalization. Given the patient's recurrent fevers, blood cultures were obtained on day 4; these have shown no growth to date.
Figure 3.
Figure 3. Posteroanterior and Lateral Chest Radiographs, January 22, 2020 (Illness Day 7, Hospital Day 3). No acute intrathoracic plain-film abnormality was noted.
Figure 4. Figure 4. Posteroanterior Chest Radiograph, January 24, 2020 (Illness Day 9, Hospital Day 5). Increasing left basilar opacity was visible, arousing concern about pneumonia.
A chest radiograph taken on hospital day 3 (illness day 7) was reported as showing no evidence of infiltrates or abnormalities (Figure 3 ). However, a second chest radiograph from the night of hospital day 5 (illness day 9) showed evidence of pneumonia in the lower lobe of the left lung (Figure 4 ). These radiographic findings coincided with a change in respiratory status starting on the evening of hospital day 5, when the patient's oxygen saturation values as measured by pulse oximetry dropped to as low as 90% while he was breathing ambient air. On day 6, the patient was started on supplemental oxygen, delivered by nasal cannula at 2 liters per minute. Given the changing clinical presentation and concern about hospital-acquired pneumonia, treatment with vancomycin (a 1750-mg loading dose followed by 1 g administered intravenously every 8 hours) and cefepime (administered intravenously every 8 hours) was initiated.
Figure 5.
Figure 5. Anteroposterior and Lateral Chest Radiographs, January 26, 2020 (Illness Day 10, Hospital Day 6). Stable streaky opacities in the lung bases were visible, indicating likely atypical pneumonia; the opacities have steadily increased in density over time.
On hospital day 6 (illness day 10), a fourth chest radiograph showed basilar streaky opacities in both lungs, a finding consistent with atypical pneumonia (Figure 5 ), and rales were noted in both lungs on auscultation. Given the radiographic findings, the decision to administer oxygen supplementation, the patient's ongoing fevers, the persistent positive 2019-nCoV RNA at multiple sites, and published reports of the development of severe pneumonia3,4 at a period consistent with the development of radiographic pneumonia in this patient, clinicians pursued compassionate use of an investigational antiviral therapy. Treatment with intravenous remdesivir (a novel nucleotide analogue prodrug in development10,11) was initiated on the evening of day 7, and no adverse events were observed in association with the infusion. Vancomycin was discontinued on the evening of day 7, and cefepime was discontinued on the following day, after serial negative procalcitonin levels and negative nasal PCR testing for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
On hospital day 8 (illness day 12), the patient's clinical condition improved. Supplemental oxygen was discontinued, and his oxygen saturation values improved to 94 to 96% while he was breathing ambient air. The previous bilateral lower-lobe rales were no longer present. His appetite improved, and he was asymptomatic aside from intermittent dry cough and rhinorrhea. As of January 30, 2020, the patient remains hospitalized. He is afebrile, and all symptoms have resolved with the exception of his cough, which is decreasing in severity.
Methods Specimen CollectionClinical specimens for 2019-nCoV diagnostic testing were obtained in accordance with CDC guidelines.12 Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens were collected with synthetic fiber swabs; each swab was inserted into a separate sterile tube containing 2 to 3 ml of viral transport medium. Serum was collected in a serum separator tube and then centrifuged in accordance with CDC guidelines. The urine and stool specimens were each collected in sterile specimen containers. Specimens were stored between 2°C and 8°C until ready for shipment to the CDC. Specimens for repeat 2019-nCoV testing were collected on illness days 7, 11, and 12 and included nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs, serum, and urine and stool samples.
Diagnostic Testing for 2019-nCoVClinical specimens were tested with an rRT-PCR assay that was developed from the publicly released virus sequence. Similar to previous diagnostic assays for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), it has three nucleocapsid gene targets and a positive control target. A description of this assay13 and sequence information for the rRT-PCR panel primers and probes14 are available on the CDC Laboratory Information website for 2019-nCoV.15
Genetic SequencingOn January 7, 2020, Chinese researchers shared the full genetic sequence of 2019-nCoV through the National Institutes of Health GenBank database16 and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID)17 database; a report about the isolation of 2019-nCoV was later published.18 Nucleic acid was extracted from rRT-PCR''positive specimens (oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal) and used for whole-genome sequencing on both Sanger and next-generation sequencing platforms (Illumina and MinIon). Sequence assembly was completed with the use of Sequencher software, version 5.4.6 (Sanger); minimap software, version 2.17 (MinIon); and freebayes software, version 1.3.1 (MiSeq). Complete genomes were compared with the available 2019-nCoV reference sequence (GenBank accession number NC_045512.2).
Results Specimen Testing for 2019-nCoV Table 2. Table 2. Results of Real-Time Reverse-Transcriptase''Polymerase-Chain-Reaction Testing for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The initial respiratory specimens (nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs) obtained from this patient on day 4 of his illness were positive for 2019-nCoV (Table 2 ). The low cycle threshold (Ct) values (18 to 20 in nasopharyngeal specimens and 21 to 22 in oropharyngeal specimens) on illness day 4 suggest high levels of virus in these specimens, despite the patient's initial mild symptom presentation. Both upper respiratory specimens obtained on illness day 7 remained positive for 2019-nCoV, including persistent high levels in a nasopharyngeal swab specimen (Ct values, 23 to 24). Stool obtained on illness day 7 was also positive for 2019-nCoV (Ct values, 36 to 38). Serum specimens for both collection dates were negative for 2019-nCoV. Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal specimens obtained on illness days 11 and 12 showed a trend toward decreasing levels of virus. The oropharyngeal specimen tested negative for 2019-nCoV on illness day 12. The rRT-PCR results for serum obtained on these dates are still pending.
Genetic SequencingThe full genome sequences from oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal specimens were identical to one another and were nearly identical to other available 2019-nCoV sequences. There were only 3 nucleotides and 1 amino acid that differed at open reading frame 8 between this patient's virus and the 2019-nCoV reference sequence (NC_045512.2). The sequence is available through GenBank (accession number MN985325).16
DiscussionOur report of the first confirmed case of 2019-nCoV in the United States illustrates several aspects of this emerging outbreak that are not yet fully understood, including transmission dynamics and the full spectrum of clinical illness. Our case patient had traveled to Wuhan, China, but reported that he had not visited the wholesale seafood market or health care facilities or had any sick contacts during his stay in Wuhan. Although the source of his 2019-nCoV infection is unknown, evidence of person-to-person transmission has been published. Through January 30, 2020, no secondary cases of 2019-nCoV related to this case have been identified, but monitoring of close contacts continues.19
Detection of 2019-nCoV RNA in specimens from the upper respiratory tract with low Ct values on day 4 and day 7 of illness is suggestive of high viral loads and potential for transmissibility. It is notable that we also detected 2019-nCoV RNA in a stool specimen collected on day 7 of the patient's illness. Although serum specimens from our case patient were repeatedly negative for 2019-nCoV, viral RNA has been detected in blood in severely ill patients in China.4 However, extrapulmonary detection of viral RNA does not necessarily mean that infectious virus is present, and the clinical significance of the detection of viral RNA outside the respiratory tract is unknown at this time.
Currently, our understanding of the clinical spectrum of 2019-nCoV infection is very limited. Complications such as severe pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and cardiac injury, including fatal outcomes, have been reported in China.4,18,20 However, it is important to note that these cases were identified on the basis of their pneumonia diagnosis and thus may bias reporting toward more severe outcomes.
Our case patient initially presented with mild cough and low-grade intermittent fevers, without evidence of pneumonia on chest radiography on day 4 of his illness, before having progression to pneumonia by illness day 9. These nonspecific signs and symptoms of mild illness early in the clinical course of 2019-nCoV infection may be indistinguishable clinically from many other common infectious diseases, particularly during the winter respiratory virus season. In addition, the timing of our case patient's progression to pneumonia on day 9 of illness is consistent with later onset of dyspnea (at a median of 8 days from onset) reported in a recent publication.4 Although a decision to administer remdesivir for compassionate use was based on the case patient's worsening clinical status, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of remdesivir and any other investigational agents for treatment of patients with 2019-nCoV infection.
We report the clinical features of the first reported patient with 2019-nCoV infection in the United States. Key aspects of this case included the decision made by the patient to seek medical attention after reading public health warnings about the outbreak; recognition of the patient's recent travel history to Wuhan by local providers, with subsequent coordination among local, state, and federal public health officials; and identification of possible 2019-nCoV infection, which allowed for prompt isolation of the patient and subsequent laboratory confirmation of 2019-nCoV, as well as for admission of the patient for further evaluation and management. This case report highlights the importance of clinicians eliciting a recent history of travel or exposure to sick contacts in any patient presenting for medical care with acute illness symptoms, in order to ensure appropriate identification and prompt isolation of patients who may be at risk for 2019-nCoV infection and to help reduce further transmission. Finally, this report highlights the need to determine the full spectrum and natural history of clinical disease, pathogenesis, and duration of viral shedding associated with 2019-nCoV infection to inform clinical management and public health decision making.
Funding and Disclosures Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This article was published on January 31, 2020, at NEJM.org.
We thank the patient; the nurses and clinical staff who are providing care for the patient; staff at the local and state health departments; staff at the Washington State Department of Health Public Health Laboratories and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Viral Disease Laboratory; CDC staff at the Emergency Operations Center; and members of the 2019-nCoV response teams at the local, state, and national levels.
Author AffiliationsFrom the Epidemic Intelligence Service (M.L.H.), the National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases (A.C., L.F., A.P.), the Division of Viral Diseases (S.I.G., L.K., S.T., X.L., S. Lindstrom, M.A.P., W.C.W., H.M.B.), the Influenza Division (T.M.U.), and the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections (S.K.P.), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; and the Washington State Department of Health, Shoreline (M.L.H., C.D., S. Lindquist, K.H.L., J.W.), Snohomish Health District (H.B., C.S.), Providence Medical Group (K.E.), and Providence Regional Medical Center (S.W., A.T., G.D.), Everett, and Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle (C.S.) '-- all in Washington.
Address reprint requests to Ms. Holshue at the Washington State Department of Health Public Health Laboratories, 1610 NE 150th St., Shoreline, WA 98155, or at [email protected] .
A full list of the members of the Washington State 2019-nCoV Case Investigation Team is provided in the Supplementary Appendix, available at NEJM.org.
Supplementary Material References (20)1. World Health Organization. Pneumonia of unknown cause '-- China. 2020 (https://www.who.int/csr/don/05-january-2020-pneumonia-of-unkown-cause-china/en/).
2. World Health Organization. Novel coronavirus '-- China. 2020 (https://www.who.int/csr/don/12-january-2020-novel-coronavirus-china/en/).
3. Chan JF-W , Yuan S , Kok K-H , et al. A familial cluster of pneumonia associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus indicating person-to-person transmission: a study of a family cluster. Lancet 2020 January 24 (Epub ahead of print).
4. Huang C , Wang Y , Li X , et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020 January 24 (Epub ahead of print).
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 Novel coronavirus, Wuhan, China: 2019-nCoV situation summary. January 28 , 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html).
6. Phan LT , Nguyen TV , Luong QC , et al. Importation and human-to-human transmission of a novel coronavirus in Vietnam. N Engl J Med 2020 ;382: 872 - 874 .
7. Johns Hopkins University CSSE. Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) global cases (https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6).
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim guidance for healthcare professionals: criteria to guide evaluation of patients under investigation (PUI) for 2019-nCoV. 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/clinical-criteria.html).
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infection control. 2019 Novel coronavirus, Wuhan, China. 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/infection-control.html).
10. Mulangu S , Dodd LE , Davey RT Jr , et al. A randomized, controlled trial of ebola virus disease therapeutics. N Engl J Med 2019 ;381: 2293 - 2303 .
11. Sheahan TP , Sims AC , Leist SR , et al. Comparative therapeutic efficacy of remdesivir and combination lopinavir, ritonavir, and interferon beta against MERS-CoV. Nat Commun 2020 ;11: 222 - 222 .
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim guidelines for collecting, handling, and testing clinical specimens from patients under investigation (PUIs) for 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/guidelines-clinical-specimens.html).
13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Respiratory Viruses Branch, Division of Viral Diseases. Real-time RT-PCR panel for detection 2019-novel coronavirus. 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/rt-pcr-panel-for-detection-instructions.pdf).
14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Respiratory Viruses Branch, Division of Viral Diseases. 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) real-time rRT-PCR panel primers and probes. 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/rt-pcr-panel-primer-probes.pdf).
15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for laboratories. 2019 novel coronavirus, Wuhan, China. 2020 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/guidance-laboratories.html).
16. National Institutes of Health. GenBank overview (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genbank/).
17. GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data) home page (https://www.gisaid.org/).
18. Zhu N , Zhang D , Wang W , et al. A novel coronavirus from patients with pneumonia in China, 2019. N Engl J Med 2020 ;382: 727 - 733 .
19. Washington State Department of Health. Novel coronavirus outbreak 2020 (https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus).
20. Chen N , Zhou M , Dong X Jr , et al. Epidemiological and clinical characteristics of 99 cases of 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, China: a descriptive study. Lancet 2020 January 30 (Epub ahead of print).
Citing Articles (481) Letters
The Strange Tale of Remdesivir and a Black-Market Cat Drug - The Atlantic
Sat, 16 May 2020 07:35
Cat owners are resorting to China's underground marketplace to buy antivirals for a feline coronavirus.
Sarah Zhang May 8, 2020 Shutterstock / The AtlanticWhen Robin Kintz's two kittens, Fiona and Henry, contracted a fatal cat disease last year, she began hearing of a black-market drug from China. The use of the drug, known as GS-441524, is based on legitimate research from UC Davis, but the ways to get it seemed much less so. ''It was, 'If you want to save your cat, send me thousands of dollars, and I'll DHL you some unmarked vials,''' she says. And she did. Kintz transferred the thousands of dollars, got the unmarked vials from China, and then injected the clear liquid into her dying cats every day for months.
The first remarkable thing, given the nature of the transaction, is that Kintz says the vials actually worked. Henry lived for almost another year, and Fiona made a full recovery. She's still scampering around today, fluffy and alive'--a miracle considering that vets had long thought her disease, feline infectious peritonitis, to be incurable and 100 percent fatal. Kintz now runs a 22,000-member Facebook group that helps cat owners using GS-441524. Thousands of cats have reportedly been cured of FIP.
Read: Why the coronavirus is so confusing
The second remarkable thing is that GS-441524 is almost identical to a much buzzed-about human drug: remdesivir, the antiviral currently our best hope for treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Although early data suggest that the drug shortens recovery time at best, Anthony Fauci has touted remdesivir from the White House. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized it for emergency use. And Gilead Sciences, the company that makes remdesivir, is donating 1.5 million doses of the drug amidst the pandemic.
Henry (L) and Fiona (R) were both treated with GS-441524. Henry died earlier this year, but Fiona is still alive, which her owner Robin Kintz attributes to the drug. (Courtesy of Robin Kintz)Gilead invented and patented GS-441524, too. Its scientists co-authored the UC Davis studies showing effectiveness against FIP. But the company has refused to license GS-441524 for animal use, out of fear that its similarity to remdesivir could interfere with the human drug's FDA-approval process'--originally for Ebola. When that failed, and a global pandemic of a novel coronavirus later arose, the company began testing it against COVID-19. Remdesivir has a small but clever modification that makes it better at entering cells, but it and GS-441524 work in exactly the same way to inhibit viruses.
FIP is also caused by a coronavirus'--not the same one that causes COVID-19, but one that specializes in infecting cats. (Although humans may be able to pass COVID-19 to cats in rare cases, humans cannot get FIP from cats.) In most cats, this feline coronavirus, or FCoV, causes mild diarrhea or no symptoms at all. But in a small minority of cases, the virus infects white blood cells, and the immune system goes haywire into full-blown FIP. The disease comes in two forms, both fatal: wet, in which the cat's chest or belly swells with fluid, or dry, in which there is no fluid but the cat is still feverish and sick. Eventually, it dies. For decades, vets have had little to offer but euthanasia.
Then GS-441524 came along. Small trials at UC Davis published in 2018 and 2019 suggested that cats were not just having their life prolonged by days or weeks, but were seemingly cured. ''It really was a game changer,'' says Drew Weigner, a veterinarian and the president of the Winn Feline Foundation, which funded some of the UC Davis research. ''Three years ago, we told patients, 'Your cat is going to die.' Now we can tell them something else. It's quite a story.''
The story of a drug first tested against Ebola (that failed), whose close cousin became a groundbreaking treatment for a cat disease (but only illegally), and that has been resurrected in the pandemic of an entirely new virus underscores the vagaries of drug development. To be clear, while remdesivir is in clinical trials, GS-441524 has not been tested in humans for safety or efficacy against COVID-19. The black-market formulations of GS-441524 are also incredibly expensive. A 12-week regimen for cats can cost upwards of $10,000, depending on the brand, type of FIP, and weight of the cat. Plus, there is no legal way to buy GS-441524 as medicine'--not for cats, not for humans.
The drug probably would have never been tested in cats, if not for the fact that Niels Pedersen, a longtime FIP researcher at UC Davis, personally knew the former chief scientific officer of Gilead. The two met 30 years ago, when Gilead was testing antiviral HIV drugs in monkeys and Pedersen was working at a primate research center. But Pedersen's true love has always been cats. He grew up surrounded by them on a poultry farm. A colleague of his warned me, lovingly, that Pedersen was ''irascible,'' and he was difficult to get on the phone. But his voice softened when he talked about taming those barn cats and finding homes for their kittens.
Pedersen became fascinated with FIP in vet school in the 1960s, when it was still a mysterious disease with a mysterious cause. Over the decades, scientists would discover the feline coronavirus behind FIP and then spend years trying but failing to develop a working vaccine. Pedersen ended up devoting his career to the disease. And when the vaccines failed, he began thinking about antivirals, and he began thinking, again, of Gilead. The California-based company specializes in developing antivirals, including Tamiflu, Truvada, and a host of HIV and hepatitis C drugs.
Around five years ago, Pedersen got in touch with his Gilead contact, and the company sent him 25 or 30 molecules, drawn from the large library of drug candidates that pharmaceutical companies typically maintain. Two of the molecules worked marvelously in cat cells infected with the FIP virus: GS-441524 and GS-5734, the latter of which is now better known as remdesivir.
Read: Why some people get sicker than others
Both GS-441524 and remdesivir work by blocking viral replication. They are nucleoside analogues, meaning they mimic the nucleoside building blocks'--A, U, C, or G'--that make up the virus's genetic material. Specifically, they mimic ''A,'' and when the virus is tricked into incorporating a GS-441524 or remdesivir molecule instead of ''A'', the replication process gets jammed up. Eventually, no more letters can be added, and the virus cannot replicate. Where the two drugs differ is that remdesivir has an extra phosphate group, a small change that helps it enter a cell and get used in replication. This modification is commonly used to enhance the effectiveness of similar antivirals. ''It's just one of those really clever things that worked perfectly,'' says Katherine Seley-Radtke, an antiviral researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
For whatever reason, though, this modification did not make much difference in cat cells infected with the FIP virus. Both molecules were effective, so Pedersen decided to pursue the simpler one, GS-441524. He then infected 10 cats with FIP and dosed them with GS-441524. All 10 cats recovered.
''We almost fell out of our chairs,'' says Weigner.This is ridiculous, he remembers thinking. This can't work this well. Wait, wait, stop, go back? It did what? The initial study was small and under artificial conditions, but in a follow-up field trial of 31 pets with naturally acquired FIP, 25 ultimately made it'--an unheard-of recovery rate. Pedersen had previously tested another antiviral out of Kansas State University, but only seven out of 20 cats had gone into remission. Those results seemed impressive at the time, but GS-441524 appeared to be even better.
Pedersen is 76 now, and he has devoted 50 years of his career to FIP research. Finally, it seemed, a cure was at hand. ''I felt really good,'' he told me, ''and I thought this was a good capstone for my career.'' But the capstone never materialized, at least not in the way that he expected. Despite the success, Gilead refused to license GS-441524 for use in cats.
While Pedersen was testing GS-441524 in cats, a different virus'--a human virus'--was raging halfway around the world in West Africa: Ebola. The virus that causes Ebola is not a coronavirus, but remdesivir is unusually broad-acting for an antiviral, and early results against Ebola were promising. So promising, in fact, that the company was eyeing FDA approval of remdesivir in humans.
According to Pedersen, Gilead worried that the cat research could impede the approval process for remdesivir. Because GS-441524 and remdesivir are so similar, any adverse effects uncovered in cats might have to be reported and investigated to guarantee remdesivir's safety in humans. Gilead's caution about generating unnecessary cat data is standard industry practice. ''One of the rules in drug development is never perform a test you don't have to, if the results could be problematic,'' says Richard Sachleben, a retired pharma-industry researcher. (Gilead declined to comment for this story.)
For Pedersen, the explanation was hard to accept. ''It was a blow,'' he said. ''It hits you very hard, especially when you didn't see any reason for it.'' He still published the studies, as academic researchers do, and results became public in 2018 and 2019.
Jeremy Samuel Faust: Medication shortages are the next crisis
Not long after, Pedersen began hearing from people in China. One company wanted to license the drug from Gilead, he told me, and it asked Pedersen to be the intermediary. The company failed to get a license but started selling an FIP drug anyway, and its exact formula is unclear. Other companies explicitly advertise their formulations as GS-441524. China has a large base of pharmaceutical manufacturing, and raw GS-441524 is not particularly difficult to synthesize. FIP is also a growing problem in the country as cats'--especially purebred cats, which are more prone to the disease'--become more popular in China. A black market has sprung up to fill the vacuum left by Gilead.
The use of drugs from China was at first controversial in the FIP community. ''I got a lot of hate mail for it. I lost a lot of supporters,'' says Peter Cohen, an early supporter of the drugs. Cohen runs ZenByCat, a nonprofit that raises money for two groups funding FIP research, SOCK FIP and the Winn Feline Foundation's Bria Fund for FIP Research. Earlier iterations of Facebook support groups, such as FIP Fighters, initially banned any discussion of the black-market drugs too.
Susan Gingrich, a former administrator of that Facebook group, has focused on pressuring Gilead. Gingrich, whose brother is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is also the founder of the Bria Fund. Her cat Bria died of FIP in 2005, and she established the fund with donations from her brother and herself and her husband that same year. ''It would be so much easier if Gilead would have either marketed it or let another entity market it,'' she says. Gingrich bought stock in Gilead after early research into GS-441524 seemed promising. In June 2019, she wrote a letter to Gilead, as well as to President Donald Trump and her congressman and senators in Tennessee, imploring the company to allow animal use of the drug. She says she's received no response.
When Kintz was trying to save Fiona and Henry, she asked about GS-441524 in one of those Facebook groups that had banned discussion of the drug. Her post in the group went nowhere, but two women privately messaged her with advice. Kintz ended up starting a new group, now called FIP Warriors, so they could exchange tips and feedback on different brands. The group grown to 22,000 members on Facebook'--as well as 25 admins and 26 moderators. It has satellite groups in different countries and languages around the world. ''It feels like a global corporation sometimes,'' says Kintz, who is a design consultant in upstate New York when she's not running the Facebook group. If she is going to be offline for, say, six hours, she notifies her fellow admins and moderators. The Facebook group has morphed into a 24/7 international organization.
FIP Warriors also has a network of emergency group chats for every state. Because shipping from China can take a long time and because the earlier that GS-441524 treatment is started, the better, the emergency chats connect new members with those who have vials of extra GS-441524.
Zina Lemesh, a lawyer and cat breeder in New York, joined the group in February, when her cat Nora grew jaundiced and stopped eating, and her belly swelled up like a bowling ball. Lemesh recognized the signs of wet FIP, and she knew it as a hopeless disease. She was preparing to call her vet about euthansia when she came across the group in a frantic online search for a treatment. She posted an emergency plea for GS-441524. ''Within 10 minutes, I was in contact with someone,'' she told me. ''Within the next two hours, my cat already had shots.'' And within a couple days, Nora started eating again. She is almost done with her 84-day regimen. Her swollen belly is completely gone.
''This is a cat mom and an attorney speaking at the same time and I try to balance the two in my brain, which it's hard,'' Lemesh said. On one side is the cat mom who would go to great lengths to save her cat; on the other is the rules-minded lawyer who can't believe she injected her cat with unlabeled drugs from a stranger. But if it's between letting Nora die and a small chance at saving her, the choice was clear. Of course, Lemesh told me, she would rather go the legitimate route'--if that were an option. ''Do you think people would like to send $7,000 to $12,000 to some weird source?'' she said. ''Or would they prefer to pay their vet?''
The black-market availability of GS-441524 puts veterinarians in a bind. They can't prescribe the drug or legally buy it for cat owners. Some do agree to help owners with the injections, which can be difficult and painful for the cat. But others want nothing to do with the unapproved drug. Linda Pendergrass-Nethery, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, told me she ended up switching vets. Her first vet refused to help, she said. The second prescribed the sedative gabapentin to mellow out her cat, Sundance, for injections. So every afternoon, a couple hours before Sundance's daily injection, Pendergrass-Nethery and her husband give him a dose of gabapentin. When the time comes, they burrito him up into a white towel'--''like a mummy,'' she said'--and inject him with GS-441524. It's definitely a two-person job.
In the meantime, FIP Warriors has grown prominent enough that Chinese sellers are now approaching the group to market their GS-441524. They seem to pop up and then disappear. ''It's hard to say if they're companies or sort of backdoor dealers,'' Kintz says. But the group has tried to institute a small measure of accountability. It had, at one point, tested a few popular brands to verify the concentration and content of their GS-441524 vials. When new sellers approach, the group asks for samples to send to cat rescues, which might not be able to afford GS-441524 for kittens that would otherwise certainly die of FIP. ''That's generally how we determine if it works and if it's going to be okay,'' Kintz says. But the group is also rife with disclaimers about not being able to verify any particular drug.
Case in point: This January, a popular brand of GS-441524 appeared to kill cats that had been given the drug. When the group started noticing a pattern, admins began collecting data and warning against the brand's most recent batch. The man who had been selling it online disappeared, with several members of the group posting that he still owes them money. Rumor was that he and his wife had divorced acrimoniously; she had been the brains behind the operation and he had tried and failed to continue the business. Then a new brand of GS-441524 popped up'--reportedly made by his wife. It's all impossible to verify half a globe away. ''It's truly like the Wild West,'' Kintz says.
The recent surge of interest in remdesivir could change some of this dynamic. After Ebola trials found little benefit, remdesivir became a drug in search of a (human) disease. Should remdesivir ever be granted proper FDA approval beyond emergency use for COVID-19, and if it becomes common enough to prescribe through pharmacies, then vets could legally use it extra-label in cats. ''It may be five years down the road, and COVID is a distant memory, and then it is used for FIP,'' Weigner says. For now, at least, the cat-specific data on remdesivir is still lacking.
Kintz hopes that GS-441524 can, one day, be legally available for cats. Then, she says, ''no one would need me anymore, but that's okay.''
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.
Sarah Zhang is a staff writer at
The Atlantic.
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Sat, 16 May 2020 07:28
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Sat, 16 May 2020 07:27
John Ruskin helps shed light on what it means to have an economy that demands we die for it
''There is no wealth but life.''
'-- John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1860)
A chilling experiment is underway in America, with plenty of unwilling human guinea pigs.
Many parts of the country are reopening for business against the warnings of medical experts, flying in the face of grim predictions of sharply rising body counts. Two-thirds of Americans fear that the restart is happening too quickly, and the President himself acknowledges that by easing restrictions, ''there'll be more death.'' Yet he presses on, even as his own White House suffers a viral outbreak.
News screens flash with tallies of death and tallies of wealth: New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared that lives must be saved ''whatever it costs,'' insisting that for Americans the choice ''between public health and the economy'' is ''no contest.'' But he did not ask celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who some weeks ago expressed his view that reopening schools could give the country its ''mojo back,'' and perhaps ''only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. (2% sounds conveniently small compared to its equivalent in human lives, 6,560,000. Oz later apologized after public outrage).
Meanwhile Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, offered his own assessment of the trade-off between capitalism and the lives of America's senior citizens, explaining, ''there are more important things than living.''
Since the days of Adam Smith, free market capitalists have held that human beings are rational actors who pursue economic gain for self-interested motives. But here is Patrick, a free marketer if there ever was one, talking about a gift-sacrifice economy model in which people '' some people, at least '' lay down their lives to keep the economic engines revved.
Patrick's words reveal an unspoken truth about capitalism. For the system to work smoothly, there have always been requirements of human sacrifice '-- a certain portion of the population was expected to act not as self-serving homo economicus, but self-sacrificing homo communis, focused upon what benefits the collective at their own expense. If these people can't social distance at the workplace, they are expected to show up anyway. If there isn't enough safety equipment, they are declared essential workers who must put their lives and that of their families at risk for the greater good.
But for whom and for what is this sacrifice intended? How much dying will be figured into state budgets and gross domestic product (GDP)? When ranked by GDP, the U.S. is the wealthiest economy in the world, but is a country's wealth something totally separate from, or even contrary to, the health and life the majority of its citizens?
Wealth v. ''illth''
To help us navigate these questions, it is useful turn to someone who offered potent challenges to the economic calculus of his day: John Ruskin, the 19th-century art critic-turned-political economist. He was one of the most outspoken critics of capitalism and prevailing economic ideas of the Victorian era, and his work presciently points to shortcomings that have followed us into the present day.
Ruskin questions the premises on which free market capitalism is based, returning to first principles: what is wealth? What do we value? How should we understand the relationship between people, the economy, and the state?
In his view, economies are, above all, social systems whose true end is to benefit the people, and not, as the Texan politician would have it, the other way around. Anticipating the behavioral economics of our own day, Ruskin rejected the idea advocated by such economists as John Stuart Mill that there could be a deductive science of economics based on the assumption that the human being is ''a covetous machine'' that when applied to actual situations could take ''the social affections,'' the non-rational aspects of human behavior, into account. Ruskin recognized that such a system implicitly removed the marketplace from the constraints of religion and morality that are supposed to apply to all human behavior. He compared it to an assumption that humans are essentially a skeleton with flesh, blood and consciousness as add-ons founding ''an ossifiant theory of progress on this negation of a soul.''
Ruskin defined wealth quite differently from many of his contemporaries, and ours. For him, wealth is anything that supports life and health, from the supplies in your storeroom to the song in your heart: ''There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.'' (Unto this Last).
By that definition, America is looking increasingly impoverished. And it is not a virus which is stealing our wealth away.
Playing on the root of the word ''wealth'' from the Old English word ''weal,'' signifying health, Ruskin proposed that while wealth was anything life-supporting that could be used and enjoyed, it had a dark counterpart that he called ''illth'' from the Old Norse word for bad '' the things that make people ill, their lives stunted and despairing, their environment polluted. Wealth cannot be produced without illth, but great fortunes have been made by extracting the means of wealth without paying the cost of illth. To take a Ruskinian example, a factory that pollutes the water it uses, fouls the air and pays its workers below what a healthy life requires will be more profitable than a business that cleans up after itself and pays a living wage, but its illth becomes a form of national debt expressed in damage to the health of others and the environment. Think of something like a toxic Superfund site.
Economists have a term for Ruskin's concept of illth, referring to it as ''negative externalities,'' even though they are not external to the capitalist economic system, but intrinsic to it. The most daunting problems of the current age, environmental disaster and inequality, are fueled by illth.
The Covid-19 crisis has merely amplified trends of rising illth, of despair, sickness, and alienation, which have been on the rise for decades as globalization, money-driven politics, decimated workers' rights, and privatization have tipped the economic balance far in favor of the very few. If we are to judge a country's health not by GDP, which rises in the face of a massive oil spill, but according to the criteria of the World Happiness Report (WHR), which measures things like social trust and faith in institutions, America is in bad shape when it comes to the ratio of wealth to illth. Scandinavian countries top the WHR, while the U.S. ranks a dismal 19th.
According to the Columbia University study of the 2020 WHR report, the key factors that account for the relative happiness of Scandinavian countries '-- what makes them wealthy in Ruskin's terms '-- are precisely those that have been under pressure or cut back in the U.S. since the rise of neoliberalism: ''emancipation from market dependency in terms of pensions, income maintenance for the ill or disabled, and unemployment benefits'' together with labor market regulation such as a high minimum wage. Of course, no one likes to pay taxes, but Scandinavian ''citizens' satisfaction with public and common goods such as health care, education, and public transportation that progressive taxation helps to fund,'' meets with approval at all income levels.
Pandemics are exacerbated by illth. We can see it in communities of color where the coronavirus strikes down those whose resources and access to health care have been limited by discriminatory policies and high contact employment. We can see it in factory farms where broken supply chains have caused farmers to euthanize livestock and plow under crops while people across the country go hungry. Airlines got immediate stimulus aid in the U.S., but there has been no subsidy for the restaurant supply chain that could be diverted for distribution by food banks and favorably located restaurants thus sustaining at least some of our much-vaunted small businesses. No one has to fly, but everyone must eat.
We sense illth accumulating in the comments of Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman, who, in her eagerness to get the casinos back in business, told an astonished Anderson Cooper on CNN that she would offer up the city's workers as a ''control group'' in a reopening experiment. If they weren't able to social distance, Goodman was unconcerned: ''In my opinion, you have to go ahead,'' she said. ''Every day you get up, it's a gamble.''
Ruskin saw the capitalists of his day as gamblers heedless of the costs they foisted onto ordinary people: ''But they neither know who keeps the bank of the gambling-house, nor what other games may be played with the same cards, nor what other losses and gains, far away among the dark streets, are essentially, though invisibly, dependent upon theirs in lighted rooms.'' (Unto This Last).
In other words, not only do capitalists gamble with other peoples' lives; they are oblivious to the fact that there are other ways to arrange society, to deal the cards differently, more fairly.
Witness the post-Covid reality imagined by Governor Cuomo. Instead of focusing on what changes could better support the health and lives of ordinary people, he has called in Google CEO Eric Schmidt to head a commission to reimagine New York state with more technology permanently inserted into every dimension of civic life. A better deal for Silicon Valley, to be sure. But what is in the cards for everyone else? When educational platforms and health protocols are mapped by gigantic and unaccountable corporations, who gets lost? Surely the answer is those who can least afford it.
President Trump says that it is time to move on from the coronavirus and get on with economy. Ruskin would have recognized the deity worshipped by country's leader, which he called the ''Goddess of getting on.'' Only Ruskin recognized that she tended to favor ''not of everybody's getting on '' but only of somebody's getting on,'' '-- what he called a ''vital, or rather deathful, distinction.'' For capitalists, getting on post-Covid means executives working remotely while the rank and file return to the factory floor without adequate face masks, and large corporations, not public input, determines the blueprints for our lives.
The issue of worker safety does matter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but not because he fears that some will get sick or die, but for a potential ''epidemic of litigation.'' In the next pandemic relief legislation, McConnell is looking to solve the problem of worker safety by shielding corporations from lawsuits rather than supporting Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mandated regulations that would both promote safety and sort out what is and is not actionable.
The Visible Hand
Instead of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, Ruskin advocated a Visible Hand of reasoned management, a government which could allocate resources effectively and create stores of what citizens most needed in a crisis. In our day this need not be a literal storehouse but surge capacity. The Obama administration, for example, contracted with Halyard Health to design a machine that could turn out 1.5 million N95 masks per day. They were ready to build the machine in 2018 when the Trump administration cancelled the program.
In Ruskin's view, the Visible Hand was the guardian of the lives of the citizens, especially the poor, whose health and lives were their essential property. Ruskin actually defined an economy as the wise management of labor, applying labor, carefully preserving what it produces, and wisely distributing those products. A country's wealth is in the people's strength and health, not their illness and death.
Ruskin's concepts of wealth and illth help us understand the centrality of ethics and responsibility to economic activity, and how economies are not an assemblage of atomistic human units but whole systems of people interacting, where the activities of some impact the lives of all. His work indicates the need for a whole systems approach to a crisis in which what happens on the beaches of Georgia impacts a nursing home in North Carolina, and visitors to New York City or New Orleans can carry the infection home. The decisions of one business in a complex international supply chain can impact the fate of millions.
In unregulated capitalism, Ruskin sussed out what Sigmund Freud might have recognized as the death drive. Decisions about the economy, he held, must be informed by the essential biologic basis of life itself: ''The real science of political economy, which has yet to be distinguished from the bastard science, as medicine from witchcraft, and astronomy from astrology, is that which teaches nations to desire and labour for the things that lead to life; and which teaches them to scorn and destroy the things that lead to destruction'' (Unto This Last).
The Covid crisis has exposed contradictions in market and America First ideology. Without federal aid to state and local governments, essential personnel are being laid off even as we declare them heroes. Employer based insurance is failing, but few American politicians are willing to fully embrace single payer insurance. Meat plant workers are declared essential, but still subject to deportation, as if famed Revolutionary patriot Nathan Hale had said, ''I only regret that you have but one life to give for my country.''
Ultimately, the most dangerous pestilence that threatens the country is not a packet of RNA called Covid-19 but an economic and political system that does not value true wealth, and promotes the life of the few while condemning the many to literal sickness unto death.
Moncef Slaoui | Medicxi
Sat, 16 May 2020 07:11
Moncef is a Partner at Medicxi and has been with the firm since September 2017. He currently serves on the board of Divide & Conquer, Monopteros and has an active role in several other Medicxi portfolio companies to support their development.
Prior to Medicxi, Moncef was GlaxoSmithKline's Head of Pharmaceutical R&D and Chairman of its Vaccines division. From this leadership role, Moncef spearheaded a profound overhaul of GSK's pharmaceutical R&D, resulting in a substantial improvement in productivity, a late-stage pipeline comprising more than 30 phase 3 programmes and a totally redesigned discovery organisation comprising 38 highly focused and accountable Discovery Performance Units. During his career at GSK, he also headed the development of a robust vaccines pipeline, including Rotarix to prevent infantile gastroenteritis, Synflorix to prevent pneumococcal disease and Cervarix to prevent cervical cancer.
Outside of his role at Medicxi, Moncef is chairman of the board at Galvani Bioelectronics, chairman of the board at SutroVax and sits on the boards of Artisan Biosciences, Human Vaccines Project and Moderna Therapeutics.
Moncef received a PhD in Molecular Biology and Immunology from the Universit(C) Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and completed postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston. He was a professor of Immunology at the University of Mons, Belgium and has authored more than 100 scientific papers and presentations. A citizen of Morocco, Belgium and the USA, he is fluent in English, French and Arabic.
Trump to name former pharma exec Moncef Slaoui as vaccine czar
Sat, 16 May 2020 07:10
Moncef Slaoui
Jodi Gralnick | CNBC
President Donald Trump is set to name a former pharmaceutical executive to lead his administration's all-out effort to produce and distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.
Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, will lead "Operation Warp Speed," Trump's push to accelerate the vaccine development process for Covid-19, according to an administration official. Slaoui is to serve in a volunteer capacity, and will be assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command.
The move comes as the president and White House aides hope to produce vaccines for the coronavirus faster than what many scientists believe is realistic. The administration is aiming to have 300 million doses to distribute to Americans by the end of the year, believing a reliable vaccine is the only way to promote an economic rebound.
"Operation Warp Speed" is operating largely independently of the existing White House coronavirus task force, which is also shifting its focus toward vaccine development.
The initiative is being promoted by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and involves officials from the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.
On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said a vaccine would not be available by the beginning of the next academic year.
"The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far," he said, "even at the top speed we're going."
Steve Linick: Trump fires state department inspector general - BBC News
Sat, 16 May 2020 07:08
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Steve Linick was appointed by Barack Obama, to oversee spending and detect mismanagement at the state department The US state department's inspector general, Steve Linick, has become the latest senior official to be fired by US President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump said Mr Linick no longer had his full confidence and that he would be removed in 30 days.
Mr Linick had begun investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for suspected abuse of office, reports say.
Democrats say Mr Trump is retaliating against public servants who want to hold his administration to account.
'Ousted' US vaccine expert to file complaint The White House revolving door: Who's gone?"It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general," Mr Trump is quoted as saying in a letter sent late on Friday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, US media report.
Not long after Mr Linick's dismissal was announced, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Mr Linick had opened an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"This firing is the outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the secretary of state, from accountability," Eliot Engel, a Democrat, said in a statement.
"I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr Linick's firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation."
Mr Engel did not provide any further details about the content of this investigation into Mr Pompeo.
Congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, have been quoted in different media as saying that Mr Linick was examining complaints that Mr Pompeo may have improperly used staff and asked them to perform personal tasks.
Mr Linick, a former prosecutor, was appointed by Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, to oversee spending and detect mismanagement at the state department.
'Retaliation'Democrats have been reacting to the move. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr Linick was "punished for honourably performing his duty to protect the constitution and our national security".
"The president must cease his pattern of reprisal and retaliation against the public servants who are working to keep Americans safe, particularly during this time of global emergency," she added in a statement.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee needed to learn more about the dismissal.
This is the latest in a series of dismissals of independent government watchdogs.
Last month, Mr Trump dismissed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community.
Mr Atkinson first alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint that led to Mr Trump's impeachment trial.
Cernovich on Twitter: "HUGE. The FBI will no longer be giving intelligence-based threat briefings to candidates, those briefings will now be handled by the U.S. Intelligence Community. This is a polite way of saying that the FBI is no longer trusted. http
Sat, 16 May 2020 01:20
Tokak @ Propaga32344514
9h Replying to
@Cernovich All career employees of the FBI must be immediately fired. The entire organization is compromised. Burn it down and start from scratch, with appropriate legislation. The American people must know they can trust our nation's largest law enforcement agency.
View conversation · We Don't Know the Denominator @ nnnanceee
9h Replying to
@Propaga32344514 @Cernovich We have city, county and state police forces. We don't need a national police force. Ruby Ridge and Waco prove the FBI does more harm than good.
View conversation · William @ fore7iron
9h Replying to
@Cernovich Fallen Bureau of Investigation
View conversation · Adam Lawson @ cigarsandlegs
9h Replying to
@fore7iron @Cernovich Also works with "Fake" and "Fraudulent".
View conversation · JC Denton @ JD3nt0n
9h Replying to
@Cernovich I don't think the FBI is salvageable at this point....it needs to be abolished and we need a lifetime ban on any current and former FBI from working in law enforcement at any level
View conversation · Steven Raposeiro @ stvrap79
9h Replying to
@JD3nt0n @Cernovich That may be a little harsh on some of the low level agents. The agency and it's leadership are corrupt as hell, but there are many honest agents who are working the job for the right reasons.
View conversation · Max Dread @ MaxDread3
10h Replying to
@Cernovich I wonder why?
pic.twitter.com/6ZDYWJkRKI View conversation · Debra Garrett @ debragarrett
9h Replying to
@Cernovich @RichardGrenell @RichardGrenell taking care of business
View conversation · Chesty Puller's Ghost 🇺🇲 @ Priv_Sht_Lord
10h Replying to
@Cernovich @realDonaldTrump That is monumental, and I don't think I've ever heard of it happening in the past.Absolutely incredible.
@realDonaldTrump making history yet again.
View conversation ·
Notorious hacker group claims they have damaging info on Trump '-- and they're demanding $42 million
Sat, 16 May 2020 00:09
A notorious hacker group says they have obtained damaging information on President Donald Trump and they're going to release it if they don't receive what amounts to the biggest cyber-ransom recorded.
The group is known as Sodinokibi, and they have a history of successful cyber-attacks. In their most recent, they obtained the files of a prominent lawyer that represents celebrities including Lady Gaga, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.
That cyber-theft from the Grubman, Shire, Meiselas and Sacks law firm reportedly involved 756 gigabytes of sensitive information, some of which has been released on the dark web.
The original ransom was $21 million, but it doubled after it wasn't paid, according to a Forbes report.
"The next person we'll be publishing is Donald Trump," said a statement from the hacker group.
"There's an election race going on, and we found a ton of dirty laundry on time. Mr. Trump, if you want to stay president, poke a sharp stick at the guys, otherwise you may forget this ambition forever. And to you voters, we can let you know that after such a publication, you certainly don't want to see him as president," they continued.
"Well, let's leave out the details," they said. "The deadline is one week."
Here's more about the cyber-ransom: Entertainment firm hacked, and hackers want $42M or they'll release infowww.youtube.com
FDR wouldn't have fought the Axis the way Trump is fighting covid-19 - The Washington Post
Fri, 15 May 2020 23:42
The 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany got me thinking about how World War II might have turned out if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had acted like President Donald J. Trump.
Picture the scene a few months after Pearl Harbor. The first U.S. troops have arrived in England, and the Doolittle raiders have bombed Tokyo. But even though the war has just begun, the Trumpified FDR is already losing interest. One day he says the war is already won; the next day that we will just have to accept the occupation of France because that's the way life is. He speculates that mobilization might be unnecessary if we can develop a ''death ray'' straight out of a Buck Rogers comic strip. He complains that rationing and curfews are very unpopular and will have to end soon. He tells the governors that if they want to keep on fighting, they will have to take charge of manufacturing ships, tanks and aircraft. Trumpy FDR prefers to hold mass rallies to berate his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. He even suggests that Hoover belongs in jail along with the leading Republican congressmen '-- ''Martin, Barton and Fish.''
In reality, of course, Roosevelt focused with single-minded devotion on defeating the United States' enemies until the day of his death. Old political battles and agendas fell by the wayside. ''Dr. New Deal'' had been transformed, he explained, into ''Dr. Win-the-War.''
Trump, by contrast, cannot focus on a single subject for the length of a paragraph. So it is no surprise that he has already gotten bored with a war against the coronavirus that isn't going his way. He is taking his cues not from FDR but from Sen. George Aiken, the Vermont Republican whose plan for the Vietnam War was summed up as ''declare victory and get out.'' In Trump's case, that means getting Americans out of the home whether it's safe to do so or not.
Coronavirus deaths are surging past 86,000 and unemployment claims past 36 million, but Trump sounded on Monday as if the pandemic is already over. ''We have met the moment and we have prevailed,'' he declared. It's as if Roosevelt had declared Victory in Europe before D-Day.
Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic
Medical experts argue that it's necessary to dramatically ramp up testing, but Trump has no national plan to do so, and said on Thursday that testing might be ''frankly overrated.'' ''When you test you find something is wrong with people,'' he declared. ''If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases.'' The mind reels. This is akin to FDR saying that if no one reported the attack on Pearl Harbor, it wouldn't have happened.
Rather than turn into ''Dr. Defeat the Virus,'' Trump has become Dr. Demento trying to distract the public by replaying golden oldies. Have you heard the one about Joe Scarborough killing an aide (who actually collapsed because of a heart problem)? Play it again, Sam.
And rewind ''Obamagate'' while we're at it. ''This is the greatest political scam, hoax in the history of our country. ... People should be going to jail for this stuff,'' Trump thundered on Thursday, even though a few days earlier he was unable to explain what law President Barack Obama supposedly violated. ''You know what the crime is,'' he told a Post reporter. ''The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.''
Actually no one knows what the crime is, because there isn't one. As the Bulwark's Tim Miller explains, Trump's theory seems to be that a high-level cabal framed him for colluding with Russia but neglected to make the information public before the election when it could have helped Hillary Clinton. When stated so concisely it sounds preposterous '-- so Trump prefers not to spell it out. Instead he darkly suggests that routine occurrences '-- such as Obama officials ''unmasking'' surveillance transcripts that revealed future national security adviser Michael Flynn speaking with the Russian ambassador '-- are worse than Watergate.
The scandal is not that Flynn was unmasked or prosecuted. It is that Attorney General William P. Barr is now trying to drop charges to which Flynn already pleaded guilty and acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell is releasing information about the unmasking requests. They are politicizing the Justice Department and the intelligence community to save Trump from his own misconduct '-- which included (lest we forget) welcoming Russian interference in the U.S. election.
The Opinions section is looking for stories of how the coronavirus has affected people of all walks of life. Write to us.
It remains to be seen whether the ''very stable genius'' will succeed in distracting the public. He has definitely distracted himself. The Post reports: ''Trump has been distracted recently from managing the pandemic by fixating on Flynn and related matters, ranting in private about the Russia investigation, complaining about Comey and others in the FBI and making clear he wanted to talk in the run-up to the election about law enforcement targeting him, according to one adviser who spoke with the president last week.''
If FDR had taken Trump's approach, this column would be in German.
Watch the latest Opinions video:
Read more:
Henry Olsen: America needs a new FDR. Trump is not him.
Greg Sargent: The 'wartime president' has gone AWOL. More Americans will die.
Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent: No, Trump is not going to suddenly become FDR
Dana Milbank: Trump calls the pandemic 'worse than Pearl Harbor' '-- and declares a cease-fire
Michael Beschloss: What Trump can learn from real wartime presidents
Tom Toles: Donald Trump, you're no FDR
Balaji S. Srinivasan on Twitter: "The person responsible for this decision is Jeffrey Shuren, director of CDRH. On his watch: - labs were told to stop doing emergency COVID-19 testing - at-home tests were blocked - and now Gates' test is being yanked Jour
Fri, 15 May 2020 23:11
Log in Sign up Balaji S. Srinivasan @ balajis The person responsible for this decision is Jeffrey Shuren, director of CDRH. On his watch:- labs were told to stop doing emergency COVID-19 testing- at-home tests were blocked- and now Gates' test is being yankedJournalists, you can reach him here.
fda.gov/about-fda/fda-'... twitter.com/ByMikeBaker/st'... pic.twitter.com/Uw7bJzMGZO 4:03 PM - 15 May 2020 Twitter by: Balaji S. Srinivasan @balajis Steven Waterhouse(7) @ deseventral
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@balajis What do you expect? The plan is to lockdown until there is a vaccine right?
View conversation · Tyler Winklevoss @ tylerwinklevoss
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@deseventral @balajis Can someone remind me how many vaccines have been discovered for any COVID strain?
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@balajis FDA thought it was just a surveillance study but they were returning results to patients as well. That's a whole different type of study. ''test results are being used not only by researchers for surveillance of the virus..but that the results are also being returned to patients''
View conversation · 4tian @ 4tian
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@balajis Given as true. What explains this
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@balajis This is no more numbers, never wanted numbers and Jack Ma assault. Guy is taking material off the board at each opportunity
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@balajis twitter.com/MichaelHawaii/'... View conversation · '‚rad Wears A Mask - #Masks4All 🧠🇺🇸 - ''¤¸'‚/ðŸ' @ b05crypto
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Vice Media CEO slams Big Tech as 'great threat to journalism'
Fri, 15 May 2020 22:38
Nancy Dubuc, chief executive officer of Vice Media
Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Vice Media is laying off around 155 employees globally as the coronavirus pandemic continues to strain the media industry, according to multiple reports.
It's just the latest in a string of cuts across publishing companies such as Buzzfeed, Conde Nast, Meredith, Vox and others.
But in an unusual move, CEO Nancy Dubuc is placing the blame not only on coronavirus, but on Big Tech companies taking the lion's share of digital advertising growth.
In a memo announcing the layoffs, which was obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, Dubuc wrote that "Big Tech" poses a "great threat to journalism."
"We grew our digital business faster than anyone at a time when we believed that as more pies were baked, we'd keep getting a slice," she wrote.
"But we aren't seeing the return from the platforms benefiting and making money from our hard work. Now, after many years of this, the squeeze is becoming a chokehold. Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie... 36,000+ lost jobs in journalism is enough to take your breath away," she added.
Dubuc echoes complaints from other publishers, notably News Corp, which has publicly blamed Google and Facebook for hurting the newspaper industry by publishing (or allowing users to share) excerpts from news stories without sharing a fair portion of ad revenues. The two companies account for about 60% of all digital advertising spend, according to estimates from eMarketer.
Dubuc's memo said that 55 employees in the United States will be cut Friday, and approximately 100 people will be laid off globally in the coming weeks. The company will be providing severance pay and outplacement aid as they search for new jobs, and will receive extended health benefits coverage through 2020, she added.
Disclosure: CNBC parent company NBCUniversal is an investor in Buzzfeed and Vox.
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Who can the Flynn leaker be?
Fri, 15 May 2020 22:27
May 14, 2020 | 10:19pm
Who leaked to The Washington Post the fact that Michael Flynn had spoken to the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition? The phone call was not unusual '-- but leaking information about it was a felony.
That there were 49 requests made by dozens of Obama officials during a period from November 2016 to January 2017 to ''unmask'' Flynn's identity in transcripts of foreign-intelligence intercepts is evidence of a massive espionage campaign targeting Donald Trump's closest adviser.
Joe Biden sits at the top of the list of senior Obama officials who spied on Trump's then-incoming national s­ecurity adviser.
But on closer inspection, the list declassified Wednesday goes higher than Biden. Barack Obama is in there, too. But he's hidden behind senior staff who would have done the spying to keep the former president's hands clean.
One obvious route by which ­Obama would have been briefed on unmaskings of US persons was through Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. The list of Obama officials who asked for Flynn's name shows that McDonough made one request on Jan. 5, 2017.
However, according to a former senior White House official I spoke with, Obama's requests for unmaskings likely took a different route. Michael Dempsey is identified on the list of Flynn's unmaskers as the deputy director of national intelligence for intelligence integration. Dempsey was also responsible for the President's Daily Brief (PDB), a highly classified document produced by the DNI with input from the intelligence community's 17 agencies that is given to the president each morning.
''This is how Obama would have made his unmasking requests,'' said the source. ''He's shown a summary of a report, which in Flynn's case would have said something like 'senior transition official.' Obama wants to know exactly who it is, so he asks the person giving him the PDB to ­request an unmasking.''
The list shows that Dempsey made a request for Flynn's identity on Jan. 7. According to an FBI interview with former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Obama knew by Jan. 5 about the intercept of the phone call between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Why then request information the president already had? ­Perverse curiosity?
Michael Flynn arrives for his sentencing hearing at US District Court in 2018. AFP via Getty ImagesThe answer may lie in the names notably absent from the unmasking list, like Obama deputies National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. The PDB is shared with senior officials of the president's choosing and the source explains that this is likely why those names aren't on the unmasking list.
''They would have gotten the unmaskings through the PDB or they sat in on the meeting,'' said the former White House official. By the second week of January 2017, numerous administration officials knew that Flynn had spoken with the Russian ambassador.
A former journalist who worked the national-Security beat told me that after Washington Post columnist David Ignatius published his Jan. 12 story with Flynn's name leaked from a transcript, he was stunned to see how quickly colleagues were able to confirm an account typically difficult, if not impossible, to confirm.
Did the White House play a part in the criminal leak of a classified intercept? There are certainly plenty of suspects.
Lee Smith is author of the bestselling book ''The Plot Against the President.''
Rick Bright - Wikipedia
Fri, 15 May 2020 15:01
American immunologist and whisteblower
Rick Arthur Bright is an American immunologist and public health official.[1][2] Bright is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, leading the authority from 2016 to 2020. In May 2020, he filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that his early warnings about the 2019''20 coronavirus pandemic were ignored and that he was moved to a new position and ousted from his role.[3][4][5]
Early life and education Bright was born and raised in Hutchinson, Kansas.[6]
In 1984, Bright graduated from Hutchinson High School.[6] After a few years at the University of Kansas, Bright received a Bachelor of Science (magna cum laude[7]) in 1997 with a double-major in Biology (medical technology) and Physical Science (chemistry) from Auburn University-Montgomery.[8][9] His undergraduate academic advisor was Jeff Barksdale.[7] In 2002, Bright earned a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis (virology) from the Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.[10][8] His dissertation was titled, Studies on pathogenicity and control of H5N1 influenza A viruses in mice.[7] Bright's doctoral advisor was Jacqueline Katz.[7] In 2010, Bright completed the Advanced Course in Vaccinology (ADVAC) from the Fondation M(C)rieux and University of Geneva in Annecy, France.[8]
Career After high school, from 1990 to 1992, Bright worked as a product manager in the Research & Development Department of Osborn Laboratories in Olathe, Kansas. During college, from 1994 to 1995, he was a research assistant in the Flow Cytometry Department of the Alabama Reference Lab in Montgomery, Alabama.[8] After college, from 1997 to 2000, Bright worked at the Emory University Department of Microbiology and Immunology and in the Vaccine Research Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia.[8]
From 1998 to 2002, Bright worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, in the Influenza Branch, Immunology and Viral Pathogenesis Section, where he studied Influenza A virus subtype H5N1.[8]
From 2002 to 2003, Bright shifted to working at the pharmaceutical company, Altea Therapeutics (a subsidiary of Nitto Denko) in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a senior research scientist in their Vaccine and Immunology Programs.[8][11]
In 2003, Bright rejoined the CDC as an immunologist/virologist in their Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza Division,Strain Surveillance Branch in Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked on their influenza antiviral drug program and focused on avian influenza. He held that position until 2006.[8][12]
From 2006 to 2008, Bright returned to working in the private sector of the biotechnology industry at Novavax in Maryland, where he was vice president of their global influenza programs as well as of their vaccine research and development. During this time, he participated in World Health Organization committees on vaccine development and pandemic preparedness.[8][11][13]
In February 2008, Bright worked at the non-profit PATH on a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant funded project as the director in vaccine manufacturing capacity building in Viet Nam. He was also the scientific director of the influenza vaccine project as well as the global vaccine development program, a position he held until October 2010.[8]
In 2010, Bright joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) governmental agency Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). He was the program lead of BARDA International Programs, then in June 2011 became acting chief of the influenza antiviral drug advanced development program, a position he held until December 2011. From June 2011 to December 2015, he was both deputy director and acting director of BARDA's Influenza and Emerging Diseases Division, eventually serving as director of the division from December 2014 to November 2016. From February 2016 to November 2016, he was an incident commander in the ASPR/BARDA Zika Response.[8][14]
On November 15, 2016, President Obama appointed Bright to the position of Director of BARDA.[10][15] Bright succeeded founding director Robin Robinson. In addition to his role as Director of BARDA, Bright was also Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).[13][16]
On April 20, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Bright was reassigned to the National Institutes of Health.[17] An HHS spokesperson said Bright's new role will be to help "accelerate the development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms".[18] Bright characterized his transfer as a retaliatory demotion and asked the HHS Inspector General to investigate it.[19] As of May 5, Bright had not reported to NIH to start his new assignment.[20]
COVID-19 whistleblower complaint On May 5, 2020 Bright filed a whistleblower complaint,[21] alleging that his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored.[22] In his complaint, delivered through videoconference, Bright asked to be reinstated as director at BARDA, accusing the Trump Administration of firing him in retaliation for his warnings about the virus and his opposition to off-label use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. He also suggested that the administration was prioritizing "cronyism over science".[19][23][24][25][26][27] On May 8, 2020, the United States Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency which protects whistleblowers, reported that it found reasonable grounds for an investigation, and said he should be reinstated as head of BARDA while the investigation is undertaken. However, the recommendation is not binding on HHS.[28] On May 14, 2020 he testified before the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In a written statement issued the day before, he warned that 2020 could be "the darkest winter in modern history" if the country does not undertake a vigorous response to fight the virus. "Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities," he said[29]
Selected works and publications Selected works Bright, Rick Arthur (2002). Studies on pathogenicity and control of H5N1 influenza A viruses in mice (PhD thesis). Emory University. Crawford, PC; Dubovi, EJ; Castleman, WL; Stephenson, I; Gibbs, EP; Chen, L; Smith, C; Hill, RC; Ferro, P; Pompey, J; Bright, RA; Medina, MJ; Johnson, CM; Olsen, CW; Cox, NJ; Klimov, AI; Katz, JM; Donis, RO (21 October 2005). "Transmission of equine influenza virus to dogs". Science (New York, N.Y.). 310 (5747): 482''5. doi:10.1126/SCIENCE.1117950. PMID 16186182. Wikidata ()Bright, RA; Shay, DK; Shu, B; Cox, NJ; Klimov, AI (22 February 2006). "Adamantane resistance among influenza A viruses isolated early during the 2005-2006 influenza season in the United States". JAMA. 295 (8): 891''4. doi:10.1001/JAMA.295.8.JOC60020. PMID 16456087. Wikidata ()Bright, Rick A.; Carter, Donald M.; Daniluk, Shannon; Toapanta, Franklin R.; Ahmad, Attiya; Gavrilov, Victor; Massare, Mike; Pushko, Peter; Mytle, Nutan; Rowe, Thomas; Smith, Gale; Ross, Ted M. (May 2007). "Influenza virus-like particles elicit broader immune responses than whole virion inactivated influenza virus or recombinant hemagglutinin". Vaccine. 25 (19): 3871''3878. doi:10.1016/J.VACCINE.2007.01.106. PMID 17337102. Wikidata ()Deyde, Varough M.; Xu, Xiyan; Bright, Rick A; Shaw, Michael; Smith, Catherine B.; Zhang, Ye; Shu, Yuelong; Gubareva, Larisa V.; Cox, Nancy J.; Klimov, Alexander I. (15 July 2007). "Surveillance of Resistance to Adamantanes among Influenza A(H3N2) and A(H1N1) Viruses Isolated Worldwide". The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 196 (2): 249''257. doi:10.1086/518936. PMID 17570112. Wikidata ()Bright, Rick A.; Carter, Donald M.; Crevar, Corey J.; Toapanta, Franklin R.; Steckbeck, Jonathan D.; Cole, Kelly S.; Kumar, Niranjan M.; Pushko, Peter; Smith, Gale; Tumpey, Terrence M.; Ross, Ted M.; Rodrigues, Mauricio (30 January 2008). "Cross-Clade Protective Immune Responses to Influenza Viruses with H5N1 HA and NA Elicited by an Influenza Virus-Like Particle". PLoS ONE. 3 (1): e1501. doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0001501. PMC 2200794 . PMID 18231588. Wikidata ()Sheu, Tiffany G.; Deyde, Varough M.; Okomo-Adhiambo, Margaret; Garten, Rebecca J.; Xu, Xiyan; Bright, Rick A.; Butler, Ebone(C) N.; Wallis, Teresa R.; Klimov, Alexander I.; Gubareva, Larisa V. (September 2008). "Surveillance for Neuraminidase Inhibitor Resistance among Human Influenza A and B Viruses Circulating Worldwide from 2004 to 2008". Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 52 (9): 3284''3292. doi:10.1128/AAC.00555-08. PMC 2533500 . PMID 18625765. Wikidata ()Selected publications Bright, Rick (10 May 2019). "Building New Models To Support The Ailing Antibiotics Market". Forbes. Bright, Rick (24 September 2019). "A Newly FDA-Licensed Vaccine for the Prevention of Smallpox". U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Bright, Rick (22 April 2020). "Read: Statement from leader of federal vaccine agency about his reassignment". CNN. References ^ Brangham, William; Kane, Jason (19 June 2019). "Why the race to stop the next flu outbreak starts at state fairs and the beach". PBS NewsHour. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (5 May 2020). "Who is Rick Bright? The Coronavirus Whistle-Blower Who Said the Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies // Virus Whistle-Blower Says Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies". The New York Times. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Haberman, Maggie (22 April 2020). "Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster". The New York Times. ^ Collins, Kaitlan; Diamond, Jeremy; Liptak, Kevin (5 May 2020). "Ousted vaccine director files whistleblower complaint alleging coronavirus warnings were ignored". CNN. ^ Florko, Nicholas (5 May 2020). "Vaccine expert says demotion followed criticism of coronavirus response". STAT. ^ a b Booker, Ashley (15 November 2016). "Hutchinson native selected for two Health and Human Services positions". The Hutchinson News. ^ a b c d Bright, Rick Arthur (2002). Studies on pathogenicity and control of H5N1 influenza A viruses in mice (PhD thesis). Emory University. ProQuest 276273683. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Witness Disclosure Requirement, CV: Rick A. Bright, PhD" (PDF) . Committee on Energy and Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives. 6 March 2018. ^ Archibald, John (8 May 2020). "Scientist at odds with Trump Admin has Alabama roots". AL.com. ^ a b "Rick Bright Selected as New BARDA Director". Global Biodefense. 15 November 2016. ^ a b "BIO 2019 '' Profile '' Dr. Rick Bright". 2019 BIO International Convention. 2019. ^ Savage, Neil (18 September 2019). "The push for better flu therapies". Scientific American. ^ a b "R&D Blueprint: Rick A. Bright". World Health Organization, Scientific Advisory Group members. May 2016. ^ Owens, Brian (1 February 2018). "Zika vaccine development: two years on from the outbreak". The Pharmaceutical Journal. ^ "Director Rick Bright Moves to NIH to Head COVID-19 Testing R&D". Xconomy. 21 April 2020. ^ "Biography: Rick A. Bright, Ph.D." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Archived from the original on 4 April 2020. ^ Segers, Grace (23 April 2020). "HHS ousts vaccine expert who pushed back on COVID-19 treatment". CBS News. ^ Diamond, Dan (22 April 2020). "Ousted vaccine expert battles with Trump team over his abrupt dismissal". Politico. ^ a b Rupar, Aaron (22 April 2020). "The HHS official overseeing coronavirus vaccine development says he was ousted after his objections to hydroxychloroquine". Vox. ^ Abutaleb, Yasmeen; McGinley, Laurie (5 May 2020). "Ousted vaccine official alleges he was demoted for prioritizing 'science and safety ' ". The Washington Post. ^ "U.S. Office of Special Counsel Complaint & Disclosure Form: R Bright Complaint (redacted). Addendum to the Complaint of Prohibited Personnel Practice and Other Prohibited Activity by the Department of Health and Human Services Submitted by Dr. Rick Bright" (PDF) . Katz Marshall & Banks. 5 May 2020. ^ Bright, Rick (22 April 2020). "Read: Statement from leader of federal vaccine agency about his reassignment". CNN. ^ Adams, Ben (23 April 2020). "Ex-BARDA chief decries science taking back seat to politics, demands investigation into Trump administration". FierceBiotech. ^ " ' Ousted' US vaccine expert to file complaint". BBC News. 24 April 2020. ^ "Dr. Bright: I was pressured to let politics, cronyism drive decisions over science". MSNBC. 5 May 2020. ^ Mangan, Dan (22 April 2020). "Top vaccine doctor says his concern about Trump's coronavirus treatment theory led to ouster from federal agency". CNBC. ^ Diamond, Jeremy; Collins, Kaitlan; Hoye, Matthew (23 April 2020). "Bright's ouster shines light on months of HHS turmoil". CNN. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (8 May 2020). "Federal Watchdog Says Coronavirus Whistle-Blower Should Be Reinstated as It Investigates". The New York Times. ^ Diamond, Jeremy; Collins, Kaitlin (May 13, 2020). "Rick Bright will warn Congress of 'darkest winter in modern history' without ramped up coronavirus response". CNN. External links Appearances on C-SPANScientific Integrity in the COVID-19 Response. Written Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Health, May 14, 2020
The sun has entered a 'lockdown' period, which could cause freezing weather, famine
Fri, 15 May 2020 10:58
By Chris Pollard, The Sun
May 14, 2020 | 2:58pm | Updated May 15, 2020 | 8:29am
Our sun has gone into lockdown, which could cause freezing weather, earthquakes and famine, scientists say.
The sun is currently in a period of ''solar minimum,'' meaning activity on its surface has fallen dramatically.
Experts believe we are about to enter the deepest period of sunshine ''recession'' ever recorded as sunspots have virtually disappeared.
Getty ImagesAstronomer Dr. Tony Phillips said: ''Solar Minimum is underway and it's a deep one.''
''Sunspot counts suggest it is one of the deepest of the past century. The sun's magnetic field has become weak, allowing extra cosmic rays into the solar system.''
''Excess cosmic rays pose a health hazard to astronauts and polar air travelers, affect the electro-chemistry of Earth's upper atmosphere and may help trigger lightning.''
NASA scientists fear it could be a repeat of the Dalton Minimum, which happened between 1790 and 1830 '-- leading to periods of brutal cold, crop loss, famine and powerful volcanic eruptions.
Temperatures plummeted by up to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over 20 years, devastating the world's food production.
On April 10, 1815, the second-largest volcanic eruption in 2,000 years happened at Mount Tambora in Indonesia, killing at least 71,000 people.
It also led to the so-called Year Without a Summer in 1816 '-- also nicknamed ''eighteen hundred and froze to death'' '-- when there was snow in July.
So far this year, the sun has been ''blank'' with no sunspots 76 percent of the time, a rate surpassed only once before in the Space Age '-- last year, when it was 77 percent blank.
Buried in N.Y. Budget: Legal Shield for Nursing Homes Rife With Coronavirus - The New York Times
Fri, 15 May 2020 10:22
In New York, 5,300 nursing home residents have died of Covid-19. The nursing home lobby pressed for a provision that makes it hard for their families to sue.
Family members visiting Vera Scheer, 94, at a Long Island nursing home. Credit... Stephen Speranza for The New York Times In the chaotic days of late March, as it became clear that New York was facing a catastrophic outbreak of the coronavirus, aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo quietly inserted a provision on Page 347 of New York's final, voluminous budget bill.
Many lawmakers were unaware of the language when they approved the budget a few days later. But it provided unusual legal protections for an influential industry that has been devastated by the crisis: nursing home operators.
The measure, lobbied for by industry representatives, shielded nursing homes from many lawsuits over their failure to protect residents from death or sickness caused by the coronavirus.
Now, weeks later, more than 5,300 residents of nursing homes in New York are believed to have died from the outbreak, and their relatives are finding that because of the provision, they may not be able to pursue legal action against the homes' operators over allegations of neglect.
Several state lawmakers, besieged by complaints that poor staffing and shoddy conditions allowed the virus to spread out of control in the homes, said they were blindsided by the provision. At least one called for it to be repealed.
Mr. Cuomo's aides said nursing homes were not singled out for protection, noting that the provision also shields hospitals and other health care facilities. As New York anticipated a surge of patients, officials wanted other facilities, including nursing homes, to take in Covid-19 patients and expand bed capacity, they said. Their goal was to protect health care workers from litigation during an emergency.
''This legislation is not intended to shield any bad-acting facilities during this tragic time, but rather to ensure facilities could continue to function in the face of potential shortages and other evolving challenges the pandemic presented,'' said Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo.
As the coronavirus has ravaged nursing homes, killing more than 29,100 residents and staff members as of Wednesday, lobbyists across the country have pushed for immunity from lawsuits over how the homes have responded to the crisis.
New York is one of at least 15 states that have granted some form of legal protection to nursing homes and other health care facilities since the beginning of the pandemic. This immunity does not cover willful or criminal misconduct or gross negligence. But it would most likely cover harm that arose from a shortage in staffing or protective equipment.
The nursing home industry's push for immunity comes as businesses nationwide lobby the Trump administration and Congress to protect American companies from a range of potential lawsuits, including those from customers or employees who contract the virus and accuse the business of being the source of the infection.
Nursing home operators said they were not to blame for the terrible losses caused by the outbreak, emphasizing that they faced a formidable challenge that taxed them in ways they could not have foreseen. Many homes said they struggled to obtain testing kits for coronavirus and basic protective gear like gowns and N95 masks, leaving them powerless to stop the contagion.
''People need to know that they're not going to be sued as a result of going to work,'' said Jim Clyne, chief executive of LeadingAge New York, a group that represents nonprofit nursing homes and that lobbied for New York's law. ''Providers need to feel safe to take care of people.''
But in recent weeks, reports of horrific scenes within nursing homes have emerged: severe staffing shortages as workers became sick, terrified residents pleading to the outside world for help, the bodies of dead residents piling up in makeshift morgues.
Some homes run by for-profit companies had been previously cited by regulators for poor infectious-disease control and chronic understaffing. Families said they had difficulties prying even basic information from the facilities '-- like how many residents had died or had been infected with Covid-19.
Family members of those who died said they were dismayed that they might not be able to sue the homes for neglect. Vivian Rivera-Zayas said a Long Island, N.Y., nursing home waited until her mother, who had tested positive for Covid-19, was gasping for breath with a collapsed lung before transferring her to a hospital next door. Her mother died two days later.
Image Ana Martinez, left, and her daughter, Vivian Rivera-Zayas''They can't just shrug their shoulders and say, 'It's a pandemic,''' said Ms. Rivera-Zayas, who plans to sue the nursing home. ''There has to be accountability.''
Advocates for nursing home residents said there were three longstanding safeguards against bad homes: family members who frequently visit; regular inspections by government regulators; and, as a last resort, lawsuits that can hold negligent homes accountable. But families can no longer visit. Regulators have largely stopped inspecting.
''All of the systems there to protect people are gone,'' said Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy. ''To me, the combination '-- rules are waived, protections are waived, nobody is going in to check. And now immunity? That is a lethal combination.''
New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin have also passed new measures to shield health care facilities, including nursing homes, from liability.
Image Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center II, in New Jersey, was the site of an outbreak of fatal coronavirus infection among residents. Credit... Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times Governors in at least nine other states '-- Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Vermont '-- issued executive orders shielding health care facilities from most lawsuits related to their response to the pandemic.
Nursing homes are pressing for legal protections in other states, including Florida, Pennsylvania and California.
At the epicenter of the outbreak, New York decided early to protect staff members at health care facilities, including nursing homes, from lawsuits. Mr. Cuomo issued an executive order on March 23 that shielded the workers '-- but not facilities '-- from most lawsuits related to their handling of coronavirus cases.
At the same time, the state required nursing homes to take Covid-19 patients from hospitals and also loosened record-keeping requirements for patient care, which would be crucial to any lawsuit. Almost a month later, Mr. Cuomo clarified at a press conference that nursing homes had to accept Covid-19 patients '-- but only if they could do so safely.
Image ''I miss you! Why can't you come inside?'' Laurel Witting, 74, asked her son Greg Guinard during a Mother's Day visit at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at South Point on Long Island. Credit... Chang W. Lee/The New York Times Lobbyists wanted Mr. Cuomo to do more. The Greater New York Hospital Association, an influential lobbying group for hospitals (some of which also run nursing homes), drafted legislation calling for hospitals, as well as workers, to be shielded from most civil and criminal liability during the pandemic.
LeadingAge New York, one of several nursing home lobbying groups in the state, also asked the Cuomo administration to include nursing homes in the immunity protections.
''If the worker has immunity, the next thing you'd do is sue the provider, so you need to extend the liability to the facility as well,'' Mr. Clyne said.
The legal provision on immunity was stuck in the middle of a seemingly unrelated piece of legislation '-- concerning education, labor and family assistance '-- in an omnibus bill typically referred to as ''the big ugly.''
On April 2, the Legislature approved the budget, which included the immunity provisions shielding hospitals and nursing homes from lawsuits over Covid-19 care, as long as the facilities were acting in good faith. The immunity does not protect the homes from intentional criminal misconduct or gross negligence.
Several lawmakers said they did not know about the immunity provisions and worried they went too far.
''It's very troubling,'' said Richard N. Gottfried, the chairman of the Assembly's health committee, who voted for the budget bill but said he did not have a chance to thoroughly review the immunity provisions. ''There's a very long history of abuse and neglect of nursing home residents. And to add to that a reduction in the ability of patients and family members to seek relief in the courts is very scary.''
Ron Kim, a Democratic assemblyman from Queens, a borough that has been particularly hard-hit by nursing home deaths, said he was deeply concerned by the protections, which he learned about from The Times. He introduced a bill Monday that would strike the immunity provisions altogether.
Image Sapphire Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing of Central Queens, in Flushing, has been hard-hit in the outbreak. Credit... Hilary Swift for The New York Times ''For us to change the liability standard without any discussion is borderline criminal,'' said Mr. Kim, who voted against the budget for other reasons. ''It's ridiculous. Why would anyone comply with rules if they felt like they couldn't be touched?''
The spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo's office said lawmakers had ample opportunity to weigh in on the provisions and denied that outside lobbyists influenced the immunity decision.
''This bill was not done in the dark, and elected officials cannot be blindsided by language in a bill, unless they don't read it,'' Ms. Lever said.
Realizing the extent of the crisis, Mr. Cuomo announced that the state attorney general would investigate homes over their handling of coronavirus cases. And last weekend, Mr. Cuomo issued an executive order that hospital patients had to test negative for Covid before being discharged to nursing homes, rolling back an earlier directive.
Ms. Rivera-Zayas, whose mother contracted Covid in Our Lady of Consolation Nursing & Rehabilitative Care Center, a Long Island nursing home, said she wants answers. She said she felt the home failed to provide her mother with proper medical care until it was too late.
She spent her first Mother's Day without her mother, protesting in front of the home with other families who lost loved ones. At least 39 other residents with Covid-19 died.
Image Vivian Rivera-Zayas, right, protested on Mother's Day in front of the Long Island nursing home where her mother contracted Covid-19.Being barred from suing, she said, would be a final indignity. ''Cuomo may have tied our hands,'' she said.
A spokeswoman for Catholic Health Services, which runs the Our Lady of Consolation home, said the facility ''takes great care of each and every patient.''
''We are vigilant in monitoring staff and residents for any Covid-19 symptoms and immediately take appropriate steps, if symptoms should appear,'' said Chris Hendricks, the spokeswoman.
Brett Leitner, a New York lawyer who over the years has brought hundreds of cases against nursing homes for abuse and neglect, said he had received more than 100 calls from families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 in nursing homes.
While he is still taking on clients for future cases, he said the immunity law would make it harder to hold negligent homes accountable.
''It will be an uphill battle,'' he said.
Michael Rothfeld, John Leland, J. David Goodman and Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting. Susan Beachy contributed research.
I've reported on war for years. I'm more afraid now than I've ever been.
Fri, 15 May 2020 10:13
Angry and armed protesters shout down authorities and call for the imprisonment of a democratically elected leader.
In a neighboring state, another irate gathering is marching on a capitol and demanding change, or else.
I've seen episodes like these while reporting on conflict and unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and elsewhere.
But I never expect to see it in Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, like we have in recent days. Protesters furious with the shutdown orders and social distancing, some waving Trump flags and others bearing swastikas.
For years I kept one eye on the hysteria and extremism that's been brewing in America while I covered atrocities half a world away.
Now that I spend more time in the states covering the Rust Belt and Appalachia, I must admit: I'm more afraid now than I ever was in a war zone.
Let me be clear: I'm not afraid of being killed in a gun battle or bombing on American soil, although by the looks of some of those protesters with the semi-automatic, military-style weapons, they appear to be itching for armed insurrection. They may just be waiting for some supreme conspiracy theorist, like QAnon or the president, to give them the green light.
Warzone deaths, while horrible, can at least be instantaneous and painless.
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Nowadays, I'm afraid that America's demise, (not to mention my own), will be slow, agonizing and too much to bear.
The last four-plus years of U.S. happenings have been fraught with the kind of anti-intellectualism and hatred of ''outsiders'' I've seen peddled by inept, tinpot dictators the world over and those with cruel acumen to sustain their tyrannical rules.
I've seen some of what's playing out in America in countries riddled with bullet holes and craters where suicide bombers drove into a crowded market. Before they were destroyed, some of them were pretty nice, stable places.
I'm afraid this hatred of reason and logic that pervades Trump's daily televised rallies from the White House is just the beginning of our slow painful decay into one of those nations that ''once was'' much more than it is now.
I'm afraid this country's decline into economic shambles will drive some to act on their darkest instincts.
I'm afraid too many people still think it ''can never happen here,'' even though I assure them it already is.
I'm afraid it's too late to halt the unraveling of the sometimes grand ''American Experiment'' led by a president seemingly hell bent on accelerating it with the help of his well-armed sycophants.
I'm afraid that as an American, I will be persona non grata around the world for months or years to come because my country is struggling to contain the virus, which brings me to my greatest fear.
My 3-year-old daughter Francesca is in Croatia, where I split my time. I was looking forward to being with her again, until my flight was cancelled last month.
Every day I video chat with her and her mother. But it's no substitute for being there and hugging my daughter. Instead, I watch from afar as her hair gets longer, her drawings get better and her reading improves. I also watch her endure this hardship without her daddy.
Now, Croatian leaders are saying they won't accept people from countries, like say the United States, to keep their own infection rate low.
I'm afraid I may not be with my little girl for a very long time.
That's what scares me the most.
Carmen Gentile is a longtime conflict reporter and author of ''Blindsided by the Taliban,'' the story of his injury in Afghanistan, recovery and return to front line reporting.

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All Clips

Joe Biden Says He Would Not Pardon President Donald Trump [MSNBC Last Word Special].mp3
Joe Biden with Stacy Abrams whos soul dies live on TV - AKWARD [MSNBC Last Word Special].mp3
NA 512 Adam's Dream of Joe Biden as President May 12 2013.mp3
Biden 85000 jobs billions of lives.mp3
DNC comms director - Convention WILL happen no coronation.mp3
Kick their Balls ISO.mp3
Local restaurant owner appears to be mocking Pa. Secretary of Health gets cancelled [Waynes world Parody].mp3
New Zeaand parliment - PM now has power to enter your home.mp3
NY Tennis Balls.mp3
Unfortunate audio glitch during NZ Health Minister's speech picked up by international media.mp3
CBS report on Trump vs Fauci.mp3
City of Austin releases color-coded health advisory for COVID-19 conditions.mp3
Drew Social Distncing vs Shutdown.mp3
FDA halts Bill Gates coronavirus testing program.mp3
Sir Joel, the skinny trucker, Battle Born Black Baron of Northern Nevada - earthquake report.mp3
Clapper on CNN frozen screen on leaking clas info to press.mp3
Clapper on CNN vaccination before testifying.mp3
John Solomon with Lou Dobbs - 1000's of sealed indictments update re-Flynn.mp3
Brennan Not Guilty until alleged-ISO.mp3
Chris Hayes - Brennan -2- Calls out the fall guy Christopher Wray.mp3
Chris Hayes - Brennan accuses Trump of using Intelligence against political foes [proecting much].mp3
Biden event with the govs blather zweo.mp3
Biden event with the govs blather.mp3
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bright testimony confusion 2 Walden.mp3
bright testimony confusion.mp3
checkmate ISO.mp3
COVID Brazil PBS.mp3
COVID China.mp3
COVID Eu update Greece emphasis.mp3
COVID New Jersey.mp3
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Judy Smear report on Bidens conference.mp3
pandemic ISO.mp3
PBS research oin Biden One.mp3
PBS research oin Biden Three.mp3
PBS research oin Biden two.mp3
pelosi bill plus reopening report ONE.mp3
pelosi bill plus reopening report TWO.mp3
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shields and brooks on PBS research note.mp3
shields on reopening sees battle PBS.mp3
Tony VAZ follow up.mp3
worst commencement speech hanks.mp3
WUHAN p4 Lab report NTD.mp3
Alan Dershowitz on forced vaccinations.mp3
Arkansas no sleter in place gov CSPAN.mp3
bankruptcies PBS.mp3
Biden event with the govs blather one whao.mp3
Drew Models and Social Distancing.mp3
cloth masks dont stop spread of transmission.pdf
Colorado Coroner Says State Mischaracterized COVID Death.mp3
Tensions rise between the White House and CDC as Birx critiques virus tracking [CNN vs FOX].mp3
Chicago Mayor Lightfoot wants new world order - [debunked].mp3
Victor Davis Hansen on the propaganda against Trump.mp3
Greta Thunberg with Sanjay and Pooper and she's a science expert.mp3
Fox Sports - If NFL games don't have spectators, Fox might add CGI fans, crowd noise to broadcasts.mp3
Rick Bright ousted director of vaccine agency warns that administration lacks centralized, coordinated plan.mp3
Trump “If they want the vaccine”..m4a
  • 0:05
    adam curry
  • 0:06
    john c divorce it's sunday may 17th 2020
  • 0:09
    this is your award-winning kitmo nation
  • 0:10
    media assassination episode 1243.
  • 0:13
    this is no agenda
  • 0:26
    and from northern silicon valley i
  • 0:29
    believe adam's turned into a democrat
  • 0:31
    i'm john cena buzzkill
  • 0:34
    in the morning yeah i figured i'd try
  • 0:38
    and see how it works with the mask
  • 0:39
    seeing as that
  • 0:40
    is what we're going to be coerced into
  • 0:43
    no matter what
  • 0:44
    we want
  • 0:47
    well i've read these orders and none of
  • 0:51
    them say you have to be wearing a mask
  • 0:52
    all the time correct
  • 0:54
    you do not so why are people wearing the
  • 0:56
    mask all the time they're wearing him in
  • 0:58
    their car
  • 0:59
    i'm wearing him at home yeah yeah i have
  • 1:02
    done some
  • 1:03
    investigative work on this and um
  • 1:07
    unfortunately this is a result
  • 1:12
    of the i would say the
  • 1:16
    the society that we've created certainly
  • 1:18
    younger people
  • 1:19
    and it goes like this
  • 1:22
    you have to wear a mask to keep
  • 1:25
    me safe okay
  • 1:28
    you have to wear the mask to keep me
  • 1:31
    safe so if you're not wearing a mask
  • 1:33
    but i'm wearing a mask i'm keeping you
  • 1:36
    safe
  • 1:37
    but you're a douchebag and
  • 1:40
    that's the bottom line you're not going
  • 1:43
    to get away from it
  • 1:44
    people are mad they're angry
  • 1:47
    and i think that if we want to just open
  • 1:50
    up i have a suggestion
  • 1:52
    it's completely optional so wherever you
  • 1:55
    go a store
  • 1:56
    doesn't have to force you to wear masks
  • 1:58
    but they can't and if they do
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