Bitcoin Is Worth Zero and Blockchain Is Not Useful: Nassim Taleb
Wed, 23 Jun 2021 14:07
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton "Black Swan" author Nassim Taleb said bitcoin is worth zero. He also said there is no evidence that blockchain is a useful technology. In a new paper, Taleb laid out four key arguments against the cryptocurrency. Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell. "Black Swan" author Nassim Taleb doubled down on his criticism against bitcoin '-- this time, saying the cryptocurrency is worth exactly zero, and that there is no evidence that blockchain is a useful technology.
In a recent six-page draft paper titled "Bitcoin, Currencies, and Bubbles," Taleb laid out four key arguments against the cryptocurrency, which he promoted to his 743,000 Twitter followers.
First, the author said that in spite of the hype, bitcoin failed to satisfy the notion of "currency without government." In fact, he said, bitcoin proved to not even be a currency at all.
"The total failure of bitcoin in becoming a currency has been masked by the inflation of the currency value, generating (paper) profits for large enough a number of people to enter the discourse well ahead of its utility," he said.
Taleb's second criticism said bitcoin can neither be a short nor long-term store of value. He used the famous juxtaposition of gold versus bitcoin '-- which he said was poor comparison '-- to illustrate his point.
"Gold and other precious metals are largely maintenance-free, do not degrade over a historical horizon, and do not require maintenance to refresh their physical properties over time," he said. "Cryptocurrencies require a sustained amount of interest in them."
His final two points argued that bitcoin is not a reliable inflation hedge, contrary to some analysts' views, and is not a safe haven for investments '-- whether meant to protect against government tyranny or other catastrophes.
"Not even remotely," he said, citing the March 2020 market panic when bitcoin sank lower than the stock market, as well as the recent ransom payments following the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, which authorities were able to track.
"Government structures and computational power will remain stronger than those of distributed operators who, while distrusting one another, can fall prey to simple hoaxes," he added.
Taleb has been a vocal critic of bitcoin, but the paper also slammed the underlying technology bitcoin relies on. The author pointed to what he sees as a lack of utility of blockchain technology."There is no evidence that we are getting a great technology '--unless 'great technology' doesn't mean 'useful.'"
He continued: "And we have done '--at the time of writing '--in spite of all the fanfare, still close to nothing with the blockchain."
In April, Taleb told CNBC that bitcoin is an open Ponzi scheme and a failed currency.
He hasn't always been a bitcoin bear, though. In 2017, Taleb wrote the foreword to "The Bitcoin Standard," a book by economist Saifedean Ammous.
Back then, Taleb wrote that bitcoin is "an excellent idea" as it "fulfills the needs of the complex system '... because it has no owner, no authority that can decide on its fate."
Bitcoin on Tuesday continued to tumble, falling as much as 10% to $29,333. It has now slid more than 50% from its all-time high of nearly $65,000 in April.
Analysts have said if the world's largest cryptocurrency prints consecutive daily closes decisively below the support level, it could see further downside to $20,000 '-- back to its level in December 2020.
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Amazon and Other Tech Giants Race to Buy Up Renewable Energy - WSJ
Wed, 23 Jun 2021 12:16
The race to secure electricity deals for power-hungry data centers has tech companies reshaping the renewable-energy market and grappling with a new challenge: how to ensure their investments actually reduce emissions.
Amazon.com Inc. said it planned Wednesday to announce commitments to buy 1.5 gigawatts of production capacity from 14 new solar and wind plants around the world as part of its push to purchase enough renewable energy to cover all of the company's activities by 2025.
Tech companies are wielding their balance sheets to finance solar, wind and other renewable-energy projects on an unprecedented scale. In some countries, developers say tech companies' willingness to spend upfront'--signing commitments to buy energy at a certain price for long periods'--has helped make corporations more important than government subsidies as the main drivers of renewable investment.
Amazon, Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are four of the top six corporate buyers of publicly disclosed renewable-energy- purchase agreements, accounting for 30%, or 25.7 gigawatts, of the cumulative total from corporations globally, according to the research firm BloombergNEF. Amazon is the largest corporate purchaser world-wide, with other top purchasers including the French oil company TotalEnergies SE and AT&T Inc.
''It's almost like a stampede for clean energy,'' said Michael Terrell, director of energy at Google.
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The scale of these investments is placing the tech companies under pressure to show that the projects actually add new renewable capacity to the energy grid instead of sucking up pre-existing supply. A thorny issue is whether tech companies' green-power purchases replace power generated from carbon-emitting plants or simply increase power generation to feed growing global energy consumption. That is important because the companies want to tell consumers and investors that they are helping to reduce absolute carbon output, not just shifting it around.
''Just because you put a clean electron on the grid doesn't necessarily mean you're displacing a carbon-based electron,'' said Brian Janous, general manager of energy and renewables at Microsoft. Mr. Janous said Microsoft is now analyzing power grids to determine at which locations and times of day additional renewable-energy production would replace the most production from existing fossil-fuel-powered plants to determine where to invest.
Amazon's latest projects, across seven U.S. states as well as Canada, Finland and Spain, have pushed the firm's signed commitments to a total of 10 gigawatts of renewable production, the company said. After the new deals, Amazon is the top all-time corporate purchaser of clean energy in the U.S., according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a group of companies that promotes renewable-power procurement. The new plants, which will supply company operations including Amazon's cloud-services arm, Amazon Web Services, are scheduled to come online in the next one to three years.
Nat Sahlstrom, director of energy at Amazon Web Services, said the company looks for projects where it can be first to set up a commercial template other companies can follow to help jump-start demand. He added that Amazon only selects projects based on whether its purchasing commitments are pivotal to the projects' viability. ''If not for our investments in these projects, they would not have gone forward,'' he said.
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Google, which said it matched its energy consumption with renewables beginning in 2017, says it now has a tougher goal: aligning its consumption with renewable energy not just annually but hour by hour. That means the company is trying to make sure there is sufficient carbon-free energy on electrical grids where it operates at the times when it is using power, including at night and at times of peak demand.
''I think the evolution is to focus not only on the quantity but also the quality of sourcing,'' Mr. Terrell of Google said.
Driving the purchases are skyrocketing data usage and computer processing. In the past decade, growing efficiency has largely offset rising usage, in part as companies shifted from on-premises computer servers to more-efficient cloud providers, according to the International Energy Agency. But while there is more efficiency to tap, according to researchers, it isn't clear for how much longer, particularly with the rise of 5G networks and as more of the world lives and works online.
''The data-center industry is one of the largest power consumers world-wide,'' said Stefan-J¶rg G¶bel, a senior vice president of wind and solar for the Norwegian energy company Statkraft AS. ''They're reshaping the demand side of the industry just from the pure physics of it.''
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Data centers were estimated to account for roughly 1% of global electricity use, according to a 2020 paper in the journal Science.
Big tech companies say they have built up in-house teams staffed with former deal makers at electrical utilities who can source deals directly with providers, often sidestepping an industry of middlemen and brokers that generally handle power deals. Firms such as Amazon often blanket a country where they have operations with requests for energy projects, according to developers.
''We'll say, hey, we want to go look at every potential project that could be in development in a country,'' Mr. Sahlstrom of Amazon said of his team that seeks out power-purchase agreements, or PPAs.
Developers of wind- and solar-energy projects say demand from big tech has encouraged a rise in demand for PPAs from other corporate buyers. Because the projects require heavy upfront investment that takes years to recoup, banks often won't finance them'--or will give less favorable terms'--unless the projects have an anchor purchaser promising to buy most or all of the production, according to developers and energy financiers.
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In Spain, where Amazon has committed to buying power from five solar plants, developers say multiple big tech companies are looking for new deals.
''We're talking to all of them,'' Martin Scharrer, who leads such negotiations for the renewable-energy producer Encavis AG , said of the tech companies. Mr. Scharrer previously struck a deal with Amazon to sell energy from a solar plant outside Seville, Spain.
Facebook said that it reached its goal of buying enough renewable energy to cover its global operations, including data centers, last year but that it is continuing to strike new power deals because its energy use is growing. Facebook's electricity use rose 39% in 2020, according to its annual sustainability report. ''It's showing that voluntary targets are really moving the market,'' said Urvi Parekh, director of renewable energy at Facebook.
Microsoft said it has power-purchase deals that it hasn't yet announced that will catapult it to near the top of the world's biggest green-energy buyers. Mr. Janous said his company focuses on shared environmental goals rather than rankings, but added: ''We know what the rankings are and, trust me, my boss knows what the rankings are, and any time there's a new one that comes out, I hear about it.''
Write to Sam Schechner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill, Dealing Blow to Biden and Democrats - The New York Times
Wed, 23 Jun 2021 12:13
All 50 G.O.P. senators opposed the sweeping elections overhaul, leaving a long-shot bid to eliminate the filibuster as Democrats' best remaining hope to enact legal changes.
Republicans thwarted Democrats' bid to counter a raft of voting restrictions being enacted in G.O.P.-led states around the country. Credit... Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times Published June 22, 2021 Updated June 23, 2021, 6:26 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON '-- Republicans on Tuesday blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation to come before Congress in a generation, dealing a blow to Democrats' attempts to counter a wave of state-level ballot restrictions and supercharging a campaign to end the legislative filibuster.
President Biden and Democratic leaders said the defeat was only the beginning of their drive to steer federal voting rights legislation into law, and vowed to redouble their efforts in the weeks ahead.
''In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line,'' said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. ''We will not let it go. We will not let it die. This voter suppression cannot stand.''
But the Republican blockade in the Senate left Democrats without a clear path forward, and without a means to beat back the restrictive voting laws racing through Republican-led states. For now, it will largely be left to the Justice Department to decide whether to challenge any of the state laws in court '-- a time-consuming process with limited chances of success '-- and to a coalition of outside groups to help voters navigate the shifting rules.
Democrats' best remaining hope to enact legal changes rests on a long-shot bid to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which Republicans used on Tuesday to block the measure, called the For the People Act. Seething progressive activists pointed to the Republicans' refusal to even allow debate on the issue as a glaring example of why Democrats in the Senate must move to eliminate the rule and bypass the G.O.P. on a range of liberal priorities while they still control Congress and the presidency.
They argued that with former President Donald J. Trump continuing to press the false claim that the election was stolen from him '-- a narrative that many Republicans have perpetuated as they have pushed for new voting restrictions '-- Democrats in Congress could not afford to allow the voting bill to languish.
Image Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, denounced any attempt to gut the filibuster. Credit... Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times ''The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,'' Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter. ''Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people's work.''
Liberal activists promised a well-funded summertime blitz, replete with home-state rallies and million-dollar ad campaigns, to try to ramp up pressure on a handful of Senate Democrats opposed to changing the rules. Mounting frustration with Republicans could accelerate a growing rift between liberals and more moderate lawmakers over whether to try to pass a bipartisan infrastructure and jobs package or move unilaterally on a far more ambitious plan.
But key Democratic moderates who have defended the filibuster rule '-- led by Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona '-- appeared unmoved and said their leaders should try to find narrower compromises, including on voting and infrastructure bills.
Ms. Sinema dug in against eliminating the filibuster on the eve of the vote, writing an op-ed in The Washington Post defending the 60-vote threshold. Without the rule there to force broad consensus, she argued, Congress could swing wildly every two years between enacting and then reversing liberal and conservative agenda items.
''The filibuster is needed to protect democracy, I can tell you that,'' Mr. Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.
In their defeat, top Democrats appeared keen to at least claim Republicans' unwillingness to take up the bill as a political issue. They planned to use it in the weeks and months ahead to stoke enthusiasm with their progressive base by highlighting congressional Republicans' refusal to act to preserve voting rights at a time when their colleagues around the country are racing to clamp down on ballot access.
Image Vice President Kamala Harris spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill trying to drum up support for the bill and craft some areas of bipartisan compromise. Credit... Erin Schaff/The New York Times ''Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression '-- to their enduring disgrace,'' Mr. Schumer said. ''This vote, I'm ashamed to say, is further evidence that voter suppression has become part of the official platform of the Republican Party.''
Democrats' bill, which passed the House in March, would have ushered in the largest federally mandated expansion of voting rights since the 1960s, ended the practice of partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, forced super PACs to disclose their big donors and created a new public campaign financing system.
It would have pushed back against more than a dozen Republican-led states that have enacted laws that experts say will make it harder for people of color and young people to vote, or shift power over elections to G.O.P. legislators. Other states appear poised to follow suit, including Texas, whose Republican governor on Tuesday called a special legislative session in July, when lawmakers are expected to complete work on a voting bill Democrats temporarily blocked last month.
After months of partisan wrangling over the role of the federal government in elections, the outcome on Tuesday was hardly a surprise to either party. All 50 Senate Democrats voted to advance the federal legislation and open debate on other competing voting bills. All 50 Republicans united to deny it the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster, deriding it as a bloated federal overreach.
Republicans never seriously considered the legislation, or a narrower alternative proposed in recent days by Mr. Manchin. They mounted an aggressive campaign in congressional committees, on television and finally on the floor to portray the bill as a self-serving federalization of elections to benefit Democrats. They called Democrats' warnings about democracy hyperbolic. And they defended their state counterparts, including arguments that the laws were needed to address nonexistent ''election integrity'' issues Mr. Trump raised about the 2020 election.
Image ''The filibuster is needed to protect democracy, I can tell you that,'' Senator Joe Manchin III said. Credit... Erin Schaff/The New York Times Senate Republicans particularly savaged provisions restructuring the Federal Election Commission to avoid deadlocks and the proposed creation of a public campaign financing system for congressional campaigns.
''These same rotten proposals have sometimes been called a massive overhaul for a broken democracy, sometimes just a modest package of tweaks for a democracy that's working perfectly and sometimes a response to state actions, which this bill actually predates by many years,'' said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader. ''But whatever label Democrats slap on the bill, the substance remains the same.''
His top deputy, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, also threw cold water on any suggestion the two parties could come together on a narrower voting bill as long as Democrats wanted Congress to overpower the states.
''I don't think there's anything I've seen yet that doesn't fundamentally change the way states conduct elections,'' he said. ''It's sort of a line in the sand for most of our members.''
At more than 800 pages, the For the People Act was remarkably broad. It was first assembled in 2019 as a compendium of long-sought liberal election changes and campaign pledges that had energized Democrats' anti-corruption campaign platform in the 2018 midterm elections. At the time, Democrats did not control the Senate or the White House, and so the bill served more as a statement of values than a viable piece of legislation.
The Battle Over Voting RightsAfter former President Donald J. Trump returned in recent months to making false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states have marched ahead to pass laws making it harder to vote and change how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.
A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become central issues in American politics. As of May 14, lawmakers had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the process of voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.The Basic Measures: The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.More Extreme Measures: Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.Pushback: This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate, including from Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would most likely face steep legal challenges.Florida: Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.Texas: Texas Democrats successfully blocked the state's expansive voting bill, known as S.B. 7, in a late-night walkout and are starting a major statewide registration program focused on racially diverse communities. But Republicans in the state have pledged to return in a special session and pass a similar voting bill. S.B. 7 included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting.Other States: Arizona's Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state's Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. And Iowa has imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day.When Democrats improbably won control of them, proponents insisted that what had essentially been a messaging bill become a top legislative priority. But the approach was always flawed. Mr. Manchin did not support the legislation, and other Democrats privately expressed concerns over key provisions. State election administrators from both parties said some of its mandates were simply unworkable (Democrats proposed tweaks to alleviate their concerns). Republicans felt little pressure to back a bill of its size and partisan origins.
Image Senator Amy Klobuchar, right, announced that she would use her gavel on the Rules Committee to hold a series of hearings on election issues. Credit... Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times Democratic leaders won Mr. Manchin's vote on Tuesday by agreeing to consider a narrower compromise proposal he drafted in case the debate had proceeded. Mr. Manchin's alternative would have expanded early and mail-in voting, made Election Day a federal holiday, and imposed new campaign and government ethics rules. But it cut out proposals slammed by Republicans, including one that would have neutered state voter identification laws popular with voters and another to set up a public campaign financing system.
Mr. Manchin was not the only Democrat keen on Tuesday to project a sense of optimism and purpose, even as the party's options dwindled. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, announced she would use her gavel on the Rules Committee to hold a series of hearings on election issues, including a field hearing in Georgia to highlight the state's restrictive new voting law.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who asked to take the lead on voting issues for Mr. Biden, spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill trying to drum up support for the bill and craft some areas of bipartisan compromise. She later presided over the vote.
''The fight is not over,'' she told reporters afterward.
Facing criticism from party activists who accused him of taking too passive a role on the issue, Mr. Biden said he would have more to say on the issue next week but vowed to fight on against the dawning of a ''Jim Crow era in the 21st century.''
''I've been engaged in this work my whole career, and we are going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again '-- for the people, for our very democracy,'' he said in a statement.
But privately, top Democrats in Congress conceded they had few compelling options and dwindling time to act '-- particularly if they cannot persuade all 50 of their members to scrap the filibuster rule. The Senate will leave later this week for a two-week break. When senators return, Democratic leaders, including Mr. Biden, are eager to quickly shift to consideration of an infrastructure and jobs package that could easily consume the rest of the summer.
They have also been advised by Democratic elections lawyers that unless a voting overhaul is signed into law by Labor Day, it stands little chance of taking effect before the 2022 midterm elections.
Both the House and the Senate are still expected to vote this fall on another marquee voting bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill would put teeth back into a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made it harder for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to enact voting restrictions, which was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2013. While it does have some modest Republican support, it too appears to be likely doomed by the filibuster.
''This place can always make you despondent,'' said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. ''The whole exercise of being a member of this body is convincing yourself to get up another day to convince yourself that the fight is worth engaging in. But yeah, this certainly feels like an existential fight.''
Jonathan Weisman, Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.
Oxford University explores anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment | Reuters
Wed, 23 Jun 2021 09:20
A box of the drug Ivermectine, made by Biogaran, is pictured on the counter of a pharmacy, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Paris, France, April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
June 23 (Reuters) - The University of Oxford said on Wednesday it was testing anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19, as part of a British government-backed study that aims to aid recoveries in non-hospital settings.
Ivermectin resulted in a reduction of virus replication in laboratory studies, the university said, adding that a small pilot showed giving the drug early could reduce viral load and the duration of symptoms in some patients with mild COVID-19. read more
Dubbed PRINCIPLE, the British study in January showed that antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline were generally ineffective against early-stage COVID-19. read more
While the World Health Organization, and European and U.S. regulators have recommended against using ivermectin in COVID-19 patients, it is being used to treat the illness in some countries, including India. read more
"By including ivermectin in a large-scale trial like PRINCIPLE, we hope to generate robust evidence to determine how effective the treatment is against COVID-19, and whether there are benefits or harms associated with its use," co-lead investigator of the trial Chris Butler said.
People with severe liver conditions, who are on blood-thinning medication warfarin, or taking other treatments known to interact with ivermectin, will be excluded from the trial, the university added.
Ivermectin is the seventh treatment to be investigated in the trial, and is currently being evaluated alongside antiviral drug favipiravir, the university said.
Reporting by Shanima A in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Environmental, social and corporate governance - Wikipedia
Wed, 23 Jun 2021 09:02
Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) data refers to metrics related to intangible assets within the enterprise. Research shows that intangible assets comprise an increasing percentage of future enterprise value. While there are many ways to think of intangible asset metrics, these three central factors together, ESG, comprise a label that has been adopted throughout the United States financial industry. They are used for a myriad of specific purposes with the ultimate objective of measuring elements related to sustainability and societal impact of a company or business.
History Edit Historical decisions of where financial assets would be placed were based on various criteria, financial return being predominant. However, there have always been plenty of other criteria for deciding where to place money'--from political considerations to heavenly reward. It was in the 1950s and 60s that the vast pension funds managed by the trades unions recognised the opportunity to affect the wider social environment using their capital assets'--in the United States the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers invested their considerable capital in developing affordable housing projects, whilst the United Mine Workers invested in health facilities.
In the 1970s, the worldwide abhorrence of the apartheid regime in South Africa led to one of the most renowned examples of selective disinvestment along ethical lines. As a response to a growing call for sanctions against the regime, the Reverend Leon Sullivan, a board member of General Motors in the United States, drew up a Code of Conduct in 1971 for practising business with South Africa.[citation needed ] What became known as the Sullivan Principles attracted a great deal of attention and several reports were commissioned by the government to examine how many US companies were investing in South African companies that were contravening the Sullivan Code. The conclusions of the reports led to a mass disinvestment by the US from many South African companies. The resulting pressure applied to the South African regime by its business community added great weight to the growing impetus for the system of apartheid to be abandoned.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Milton Friedman, in direct response to the prevailing mood of philanthropy argued that social responsibility adversely affects a firm's financial performance and that regulation and interference from "big government" will always damage the macro economy. His contention that the valuation of a company or asset should be predicated almost exclusively on the pure bottom line (with the costs incurred by social responsibility being deemed non-essential), underwrote the belief prevalent for most of the 20th century (see Friedman doctrine). Towards the end of the century however a contrary theory began to gain ground. In 1988 James S. Coleman wrote an article in the American Journal of Sociology titled Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital, the article challenged the dominance of the concept of 'self-interest' in economics and introduced the concept of social capital into the measurement of value.
There was a new form of pressure applied, acting in a coalition with environmental groups: it used the leveraging power of its collective investors to encourage companies and capital markets to incorporate environmental and social challenges into their day-to-day decision-making.
Although the concept of selective investment was not a new one, with the demand side of the investment market having a long history of those wishing to control the effects of their investments, what began to develop at the turn of the 21st century was a response from the supply-side of the equation. The investment market began to pick up on the growing need for products geared towards what was becoming known as the Responsible Investor. In 1998 John Elkington, co-founder of the business consultancy SustainAbility, published Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business in which he identified the newly emerging cluster of non financial considerations which should be included in the factors determining a company or equity's value. He coined the phrase the "triple bottom line", referring to the financial, environmental and social factors included in the new calculation. At the same time the strict division between the environmental sector and the financial sector began to break down. In the City of London in 2002, Chris Yates-Smith, a member of the international panel chosen to oversee the technical construction, accreditation and distribution of the Organic Production Standard and founder of one of the City of London's leading branding consultancies, established one of the first environmental finance research groups. The informal group of financial leaders, city lawyers and environmental stewardship NGOs became known as The Virtuous Circle, and its brief was to examine the nature of the correlation between environmental and social standards and financial performance. Several of the world's big banks and investment houses began to respond to the growing interest in the ESG investment market with the provision of sell-side services; among the first were the Brazilian bank Unibanco, and Mike Tyrell's Jupiter Fund in London, which used ESG based research to provide both HSBC and Citicorp with selective investment services in 2001.
In the early years of the new millennium, the major part of the investment market still accepted the historical assumption that ethically directed investments were by their nature likely to reduce financial return. Philanthropy was not known to be a highly profitable business, and Friedman had provided a widely accepted academic basis for the argument that the costs of behaving in an ethically responsible manner would outweigh the benefits. However, the assumptions were beginning to be fundamentally challenged. In 1998 two journalists Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz had brought out the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, initially a listing in the magazine Fortune, then a book compiling a list of the best-practicing companies in the United States with regard to corporate social responsibility and how their financial performance fared as a result. Of the three areas of concern that ESG represented, the environmental and social had received most of the public and media attention, not least because of the growing fears concerning climate change. Moskowitz brought the spotlight onto the corporate governance aspect of responsible investment. His analysis concerned how the companies were managed, what the stockholder relationships were and how the employees were treated. He argued that improving corporate governance procedures did not damage financial performance; on the contrary it maximised productivity, ensured corporate efficiency and led to the sourcing and utilising of superior management talents. In the early 2000s, the success of Moskowitz's list and its impact on companies' ease of recruitment and brand reputation began to challenge the historical assumptions regarding the financial effect of ESG factors. In 2011, Alex Edmans, a finance professor at Wharton, published a paper in the Journal of Financial Economics showing that the 100 Best Companies to Work For outperformed their peers in terms of stock returns by 2''3% a year over 1984''2009, and delivered earnings that systematically exceeded analyst expectations.
In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative commissioned a report from the international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on the interpretation of the law with respect to investors and ESG issues. The Freshfields report concluded that not only was it permissible for investment companies to integrate ESG issues into investment analysis, it was arguably part of their fiduciary duty to do so. In 2014, the Law Commission (England and Wales) confirmed that there was no bar on pension trustees and others from taking account of ESG factors when making investment decisions.
Where Friedman had provided the academic support for the argument that the integration of ESG type factors into financial practice would reduce financial performance, numerous reports began to appear in the early years of the century which provided research that supported arguments to the contrary. In 2006 Oxford University's Michael Barnett and New York University's Robert Salomon published an influential study which concluded that the two sides of the argument might even be complementary'--they propounded a curvilinear relationship between social responsibility and financial performance. Both selective investment practices and non-selective could maximise financial performance of an investment portfolio, and the only route likely to damage performance was a middle way of selective investment. Besides the large investment companies and banks taking an interest in matters ESG, an array of investment companies specifically dealing with responsible investment and ESG based portfolios began to spring up throughout the financial world.
Many in the investment industry believe the development of ESG factors as considerations in investment analysis to be inevitable. The evidence toward a relationship between consideration for ESG issues and financial performance is becoming greater and the combination of fiduciary duty and a wide recognition of the necessity of the sustainability of investments in the long term has meant that environmental social and corporate governance concerns are now becoming increasingly important in the investment market. ESG has become less a question of philanthropy than practicality.
There has been uncertainty and debate as to what to call the inclusion of intangible factors relating to the sustainability and ethical impact of investments. Names have ranged from the early use of buzz words such as "green" and "eco", to the wide array of possible descriptions for the types of investment analysis'--"responsible investment", "socially responsible investment" (SRI), "ethical", "extra-financial", "long horizon investment" (LHI), "enhanced business", "corporate health", "non-traditional", and others. But the predominance of the term ESG has now become fairly widely accepted. A survey of 350 global investment professionals conducted by Axa Investment Managers and AQ Research in 2008 concluded the vast majority of professionals preferred the term ESG to describe such data.
Interest in ESG and sustainable investing runs strong for plan participants, according to Natixis' 2016 Survey of Defined Contribution Plan Participants2. In fact, more than six in ten participants agreed they would be more likely to contribute or increase their contributions to their retirement plan if they knew their investments were doing social good.
In January 2016, the PRI, UNEP FI and The Generation Foundation launched a three-year project to end the debate on whether fiduciary duty is a legitimate barrier to the integration of environmental, social and governance issues in investment practice and decision-making.
This follows the publication in September 2015 of Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century by the PRI, UNEP FI, UNEP Inquiry and UN Global Compact. The report concluded that "Failing to consider all long-term investment value drivers, including ESG issues, is a failure of fiduciary duty". It also acknowledged that despite significant progress, many investors have yet to fully integrate ESG issues into their investment decision-making processes.
Environmental concerns Edit Threat of climate change and the depletion of resources has grown, so investors may choose to factor sustainability issues into their investment choices. The issues often represent externalities, such as influences on the functioning and revenues of the company that are not exclusively affected by market mechanisms. As with all areas of ESG, the breadth of possible concerns is vast (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, waste management, water management) but some of the chief areas are listed below:
Climate crisis Edit The body of research providing evidence of global trends in climate change has led investors'--pension funds, holders of insurance reserves'--to begin to screen investments in terms of their impact on the perceived factors of climate change. Fossil fuel reliant industries are less attractive. In the UK, investment policies were particularly affected by the conclusions of the Stern Review in 2006, a report commissioned by the British government to provide an economic analysis of the issues associated with climate change. Its conclusions pointed towards the necessity of including considerations of climate change and environmental issues in all financial calculations and that the benefits of early action on climate change would outweigh its costs.
Sustainability Edit In every area of the debate from the depletion of resources to the future of industries dependent upon diminishing raw materials the question of the obsolescence of a company's product or service is becoming central to the value ascribed to that company. The long-term view is becoming prevalent amongst investors.
Edit Diversity Edit There is a growing belief that the broader the pool of talent open to an employer the greater the chance of finding the optimum person for the job. Innovation and agility are seen as the great benefits of diversity, and there is an increasing awareness of what has come to be known as 'the power of difference'.
Human rights Edit In 2006 the US Courts of Appeals ruled that there was a case to answer bringing the area of a company's social responsibilities squarely into the financial arena. This area of concern is widening to include such considerations as the impact on local communities, the health and welfare of employees and a more thorough examination of a company's supply chain.
Consumer protection Edit Until fairly recently, caveat emptor ("buyer beware") was the governing principle of commerce and trading. In recent times however there has been an increased assumption that the consumer has a right to a degree of protection and the vast growth in damages litigation has meant that consumer protection is a central consideration for those seeking to limit a company's risk and those examining a company's credentials with an eye to investing. The collapse of the US subprime mortgage market initiated a growing movement against predatory lending has also become an important area of concern.
Animal welfare Edit From the testing of products on animals to the welfare of animals bred for the food market, concern about the welfare of animals is a large consideration for those investors seeking a thorough understanding of the company or industry being analyzed.[citation needed ]
Corporate governance concerns Edit Corporate governance covers the area of investigation into the rights and responsibilities of the management of a company'--its board, shareholders and the various stakeholders in that company.[citation needed ]
ESG Corporate Governance from the Board of Director's view, Governance Lens watching over Corporate Behavior of the CEO, C-Suite, and employees at large includes measuring the Business ethics, anti-competitive practices, corruption, tax and providing accounting transparency for stakeholders.
MSCI puts in the Governance side of the bucket corporate behavior practices and governance of board diversity, executive pay, ownership, and control, and accounting that the board of directors have to oversee on behalf of stakeholders.
Management structure Edit The system of internal procedures and controls that makes up the management structure of a company is in the valuation of that company's equity. Attention has been focused in recent years on the balance of power between the CEO and the Board of Directors and specifically the differences between the European model and the US model'--in the US studies have found that 80% of companies have a CEO who is also the Chairman of the Board, in the UK and the European model it was found that 90% of the largest companies split the roles of CEO and Chairman.
Employee relations Edit In the United States Moskowitz's list of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For has become not only an important tool for employees but companies are beginning to compete keenly for a place on the list, as not only does it help to recruit the best workforce, it appears to have a noticeable impact on company values. Employee relations relate also to the representation of co-workers in the decision-making of companies, and the ability to participate in a union.
Executive compensation Edit Companies are now being asked to list the percentage levels of bonus payments and the levels of remuneration of the highest paid executives are coming under close scrutiny from stock holders and equity investors alike.
Employee compensation Edit Besides executive compensation, equitable pay of other employees is a consideration in the governance of an organization. This includes pay equity for employees of all genders. Pay equity audits and the results of those audits may be required by various regulations and, in some cases, made available to the public for review. Hermann J. Stern differentiates four methods to include ESG performance in employee compensation:
ESG Targets (Objectives for activities, projects and ESG results set by the company as a goal)ESG Relative Performance Measurement (compared to peers, on the basis of key figures the company considers relevant)ESG Ratings Agencies (Refinitiv, S&P Trucost and RobecoSam, Sustainalytics, ISS ESG, MSCI ESG, Vigeo Eiris, EcoVadis, Minerva Analytics, etc.)ESG Performance Evaluations (internal or independent performance assessment by means of expert opinions, based on internally and externally available objective and subjective facts)Responsible investment Edit The three domains of social, environmental and corporate governance are intimately linked to the concept of responsible investment. RI began as a niche investment area, serving the needs of those who wished to invest but wanted to do so within ethically defined parameters. In recent years it has become a much larger proportion of the investment market. By June 2020, flows into U.S. sustainable funds reached $20.9 billion, nearly matching 2019's flows of $21.4 billion. By the end of 2020, flows into U.S. sustainable funds surpassed $51 billion. Globally, sustainable funds held $1.65 trillion in assets at the end of 2020.
Investment strategies Edit RI seeks to control the placing of its investments via several methods:
Positive selection; where the investor actively selects the companies in which to invest; this can be done either by following a defined set of ESG criteria or by the best-in-class method where a subset of high performing ESG compliant companies is chosen for inclusion in an investment portfolio.Activism; strategic voting by shareholders in support of a particular issue, or to bring about change in the governance of the company.Engagement; investment funds monitoring the ESG performance of all portfolio companies and leading constructive shareholder engagement dialogues with each company to ensure progress.Consulting role; the larger institutional investors and shareholders tend to be able to engage in what is known as 'quiet diplomacy', with regular meetings with top management in order to exchange information and act as early warning systems for risk and strategic or governance issues.Exclusion; the removal of certain sectors or companies from consideration for investment, based on ESG-specific criteria.Integration; the inclusion of ESG risks and opportunities into traditional financial analysis of equity value.Institutional investors Edit One of the defining marks of the modern investment market is the divergence in the relationship between the firm and its equity investors. Institutional investors have become the key owners of stock'--rising from 35% in 1981 to 58% in 2002 in the US and from 42% in 1963 to 84.7% in 2004 in the UK and institutions tend to work on a long term investment strategy. Insurance companies, Mutual Funds and Pension Funds with long-term payout obligations are much more interested in the long term sustainability of their investments than the individual investor looking for short-term gain. Where a Pension Fund is subject to ERISA, there are legal limitations on the extent to which investment decisions can be based on factors other than maximizing plan participants' economic returns.
Based on the belief that addressing ESG issues will protect and enhance portfolio returns, responsible investment is rapidly becoming a mainstream concern within the institutional industry. By late 2016, over a third of institutional investors (commonly referred to as LPs) based in Europe and Asia-Pacific said that ESG considerations played a major or primary role in refusing to commit to a private equity fund, while the same is true for a fifth of North American LPs. In reaction to investor interest in ESG, private equity and other industry trade associations have developed a number of ESG best practices, including a due diligence questionnaire for private fund managers and other asset managers to use before investing in a portfolio company.
There was clear acceleration of the institutional shift towards ESG-informed investments in the second semester of 2019. The notion of "SDG Driven Investment" gained further ground amongst pension funds, SWFs and asset managers in the second semester of 2019, notably at the World Pensions Council G7 Pensions Roundtable held in Biarritz, 26 August 2019, and the Business Roundtable held in Washington, DC, on 19 August 2019.
Principles for Responsible Investment Edit The Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative (PRI) was established in 2005 by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the UN Global Compact as a framework for improving the analysis of ESG issues in the investment process and to aid companies in the exercise of responsible ownership practices. As of April 2019 there are over 2,350 PRI Signatories.
Equator Principles Edit The Equator Principles is a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in project finance. It is primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence to support responsible risk decision-making. As of October 2019, 97 adopting financial institutions in 37 countries had officially adopted the Equator Principles, the majority of international Project Finance debt in emerging and developed markets. Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs) commit to not provide loans to projects where the borrower will not or is unable to comply with their respective social and environmental policies and procedures.
The Equator Principles, formally launched in Washington DC on 4 June 2003, were based on existing environmental and social policy frameworks established by the International Finance Corporation. These standards have subsequently been periodically updated into what is commonly known as the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards on social and environmental sustainability and on the World Bank Group Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines.
ESG ratings agencies Edit Asset managers and other financial institutions increasingly rely on ESG ratings agencies to assess, measure and compare companies' ESG performance. More recently, data providers have applied artificial intelligence to rate companies and their commitment to ESG.[non-primary source needed ] Each rating agency uses its own set of metrics to measure the level of ESG compliance and there is, at present, no industry-wide set of common standards.
A strong ESG movement exists in Brazil and all of Latin America. More and more companies are aware of the importance of the best practices in environmental, social and governance issues.
In Latin America, it is the Latin American Quality Institute with headquarters in Panama and operations in 19 countries that leads the movement with more than 10,000 certifications issued.
Disclosure and regulation Edit The first ten years of the 21st century has seen growth in the ESG defined investment market. Not only do most of the world's big banks have departments and divisions exclusively addressing Responsible Investment but boutique firms specialising in advising and consulting on environmental, social and governance related investments are proliferating. One of the major aspects of the ESG side of the insurance market which leads to this tendency to proliferation is the essentially subjective nature of the information on which investment selection can be made. By definition ESG data is qualitative; it is non-financial and not readily quantifiable in monetary terms. The investment market has long dealt with these intangibles'--such variables as goodwill have been widely accepted as contributing to a company's value. But the ESG intangibles are not only highly subjective they are also particularly difficult to quantify and more importantly verify. A lack of clear standards and transparent monitoring has led to fears that ESG avowals mainly serve purposes of greenwashing and other company public relations objectives, while distracting from more substantive initiatives to improve environment and society.
One of the major issues in the ESG area is disclosure. Environmental risks created by business activities have actual or potential negative impact on air, land, water, ecosystems, and human health. The information on which an investor makes their decisions on a financial level is fairly simply gathered. The company's accounts can be examined, and although the accounting practices of corporate business are coming increasingly into disrepute after a spate of recent financial scandals, the figures are for the most part externally verifiable. With ESG considerations, the practice has been for the company under examination to provide its own figures and disclosures. These have seldom been externally verified and the lack of universal standards and regulation in the areas of environmental and social practice mean that the measurement of such statistics is subjective to say the least. As integrating ESG considerations into investment analysis and the calculation of a company's value become more prevalent it will become more crucial to provide units of measurement for investment decisions on subjective issues such as, for example, degrees of harm to workers, or how far down the supply chain for the production of a cluster bomb do you go.
One of the solutions put forward to the inherent subjectivity of ESG data is the provision of universally accepted standards for the measurement of ESG factors. Such organisations as the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) provide highly researched and widely accepted standards for many of the areas covered. Some investment consultancies, such as Probus-Sigma have created methodologies for calculating the ratings for an ESG based Ratings Index that is both based on ISO standards and externally verified, but the formalisation of the acceptance of such standards as the basis for calculating and verifying ESG disclosures is by no means universal.
The corporate governance side of the matter has received rather more in the way of regulation and standardisation as there is a longer history of regulation in this area. In 1992 the London Stock Exchange and the Financial Reporting Commission set up the Cadbury Commission to investigate the series of governance failures that had plagued the City of London such as the bankruptcies of BCCI, Polly Peck, and Robert Maxwell's Mirror Group. The conclusions that the commission reached were compiled in 2003 into the Combined Code on Corporate Governance which has been widely accepted (if patchily applied) by the financial world as a benchmark for good governance practices.
In the interview for Yahoo! Finance Francis Menassa (JAR Capital) says, that "the EU's 2014 Non-Financial Reporting Directive will apply to every country on a national level to implement and requires large companies to disclose non-financial and diversity information. This also includes providing information on how they operate and manage social and environmental challenges. The aim is to help investors, consumers, policy makers, and other stakeholders to evaluate the non-financial performance of large companies. Ultimately, the Directive encourages European companies to develop a responsible approach to business".
One of the key areas of concern in the discussion as to the reliability of ESG disclosures is the establishment of credible ratings for companies as to ESG performance. The world's financial markets have all leapt to provide ESG relevant ratings indexes, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the FTSE4Good Index (which is co-owned by the London Stock Exchange and Financial Times), Bloomberg ESG data, the MSCI ESG Indices and the GRESB benchmarks
There is some movement in the insurance market to find a reliable index of ratings for ESG issues, with some suggesting that the future lies in the construction of algorithms for calculating ESG ratings based on ISO standards and third party verification.
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Peter Daszak removed from UN commission investigating COVID after being exposed for Lancet letter | Daily Mail Online
Tue, 22 Jun 2021 14:53
British scientist Peter Daszak has been removed from the COVID commission looking at the origins of the pandemic after helping secretly denounce the lab leak theory while failing to mention his close ties to the same facility.
The scandal-hit scientist's departure from the UN-backed Lancet commission into the virus's origins was revealed on its website.
It added a sentence in brackets under his photo and above his biography, saying 'recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic.'
No further information on Daszak's departure was given - but he has faced conflict of interest claims after his close ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology were revealed last month.
Daszak, 55, president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, was one of 28 experts from around the world asked to analyze how best to respond to the pandemic.
The panel comprised leading global figures in public health, economics, philanthropy, diplomacy and politics.
It is organized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which, according to its website, 'operates under the auspices of the United Nations to mobilize scientific and technical expertise in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.'
On Monday the COVID commission updated their website to show that Daszak was recused
Daszak's presence on a number of bodies investigating the origins of COVID has proved controversial because he has links to the Wuhan Institute and its chief researcher Dr Shi Zhengli - dubbed 'Batwoman'.
He helped organize a letter published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet that was signed by 27 scientists, including Daszak himself, and denounced the lab leak claim as a 'conspiracy theory,' and 'nonscientific.'
Daszak has since faced conflict of interest claims over his ties to the lab investigators increasingly believe COVID may have leaked from.
Supporters of the theory say it is too much of a coincidence that the virus emerged in the same Chinese city that houses one of only three labs in the world studying bat coronaviruses, with the other two both based in the United States.
The conservation charity of which Daszak is the director, EcoHealth Alliance, has funneled money into the lab and research being done by Dr Zhengli.
Donald Trump was among the first to point the finger at the Wuhan lab as a source of the outbreak, but his suggestion was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory and a bid to distract from his own handling of the pandemic.
Daszak, a Ukrainian-born British zoologist, was an early voice denouncing 'lab leak' theories as 'conspiracies' in an open letter published in The Lancet last February - a reaction that has been likened to a cover-up.
They wrote at the time: 'We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.
'Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.'
Daszak is seen at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2020. His close ties to the lab, his fierce rejection of the idea that COVID-19 could have escaped from its walls, and his absolute rejection of the 'lab leak' theory have raised eyebrows
Daszak talks with the Ramapo police outside his home after DailyMail.com paid him a visit to seek comment
ORIGINS OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES US state officials have given momentum to the idea that COVID-19 either leaked from a lab or was man-made by China as some kind of weapon against humanity.
A Wuhan wet market was first thought to be the breeding ground of the virus, where the selling of live, wild animals would have given the perfect opportunity for it to naturally spread between species.
It is thought the virus first developed in bats before passing on to a creature such as a pangolin that then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.
Once it entered humans, the coronavirus is likely to have mutated to survive and then escalated out of control as a result of an unprepared population.
There are also theories that the virus was genetically engineered by scientists, or that it has actually been around for years and even killed people in the past.
Two high security laboratories in the city '' the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology '' have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.
President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology '' but he is not allowed to reveal it.
The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.
In April, Trump said: 'We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.'
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed in May there is 'enormous evidence' the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory '' but failed to provide any of the alleged evidence.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, said earlier this month that the Lancet letter was a disgrace.
'The scientists are tied to this lab,' Graham said.
'They were covering their a**. They put out a letter, not based on science, but a political document to trying to destroy people suggesting that it came out of a lab.
'Why does this matter? If Trump was right about the lab leak it would change the image the public had of Trump regarding the coronavirus.
'More importantly, if it came out of the lab in China, he was right it was the China virus, and the 2020 election would have been about who could hold China accountable, Trump or Biden.'
When DailyMail.com contacted The Lancet's editor, Dr Richard Horton, about the decision to publish and support the letter, both he and his office declined to comment.
Earlier this month one of the original authors of the controversial Lancet letter said he had changed his stance on whether the lab leak was possible.
Dr Peter Palese, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, signed the letter in the Lancet in February last year claiming the virus could only have been natural in origin and to suggest otherwise would create 'fear, rumors, and prejudice'.
The 'bullying' letter, orchestrated by Daszak was criticized by experts for ostracizing anyone offering different opinions on the virus' origins, dismissing them as conspiracy theorists.
It is only now, nearly 16 months after that letter was published in the world-renowned medical journal, that the theory COVID was accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan is being looked at seriously.
President Joe Biden ordered intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether COVID was man-made after all. But China immediately hit back and called the suggestion a 'conspiracy'.
Professor Palese, 77, made a significant U-turn, admitting all theories on how COVID came about now need proper investigating.
He told MailOnline: 'I believe a thorough investigation about the origin of the Covid-19 virus is needed.
'A lot of disturbing information has surfaced since the Lancet letter I signed, so I want to see answers covering all questions.'
Asked how he was originally approached to sign the letter and what new information had come to light specifically, Professor Palese declined to comment.
Professor Palese spoke out as America's leading pandemic expert Anthony Fauci continued to face fevered calls to resign after emails revealed that leading virus experts warned COVID could be man-made - even as he downplayed the possibility.
The emails also showed he communicated with Daszak.
Biden threw his support behind the embattled expert, saying: 'Yes I'm very confident in Dr Fauci.'
Another scientist who signed the letter, Dr Jeremy Farrar - director of the Wellcome Trust in London - declined to comment on the Fauci allegations but said it remains 'most likely' the virus came from an animal but 'there are other possibilities which cannot be completely ruled out and retaining an open mind is critical'.
Nevertheless, Daszak has remained staunch in his opinion that COVID originated in animals - most likely a bat - and then passed through an intermediary into people.
Daszak is seen on February 3 arriving at the Wuhan lab as part of a World Health Organization team to inspect the facility
Daszak was part of a group of scientists who in late January traveled to the Wuhan lab on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) to explore how the virus originated. The visit was documented by 60 Minutes.
The WHO report that he helped to author described animals as the 'most likely' source of the pandemic, and called for further investigation into it.
Suggestions that the virus leaked from any of the labs in Wuhan - including the Institute of Virology - were dismissed as 'extremely unlikely'.
Yet it later emerged that the WHO team was only given three hours in the lab and were not given access to all the documentation they needed - further darkening the cloud of suspicion about a 'whitewash'.
In April the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent Daszak 34 questions about his involvement with the lab.
Despite a deadline of May 17, Daszak failed to respond, a source close to the committee told DailyMail.com.
The questions were about his charity, its federal funding which went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China, and the work the U.S. nonprofit did with the Chinese lab.
Daszak - who last year earned more than $410,000 - lives with his immunologist wife Janet Cottingham in a five-bed, five-bath home in an affluent town in Rockland County, New York, 30 miles northwest of Manhattan. They bought the house, set on two acres of land, for a bargain $665,000 in 2015. It is now estimated to be worth around $1 million.
Rather than respond to the allegations that he 'bullied' other scientists into signing off on The Lancet letter - and that his ties to the lab led to such a conflict of interest that he should never have sat on two panels investigating the cause of COVID-19 - he told a DailyMail.com reporter: 'You need to remove your car from our drive right now, leave the area and never come back.
'Goodbye, I have no comment,' he added.
DailyMaill.com spotted Dr. Peter Daszak outside of his million dollar home in the affluent neighborhood in Rockland County, New York in early June
Daszak '-- who last year earned more than $410,000 '-- lives with his immunologist wife Janet Cottingham in a five-bed, five-bath home 30 miles northwest of Manhattan
Wearing a blue polo shirt, shorts and sandals, he went on to the porch of the house overlooking the Ramapo Mountains, sat down and started waving his arms around in apparent anger as he had an animated conversation on his phone
Rather than respond to the allegations that his letter 'bullied' other scientists and that his ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology led to such a conflict of interest that he should never have sat on two panels investigating the cause of Covid-19, he told a DailyMail.com reporter: 'You need to remove your car from our drive right now, leave the area and never come back'
Minutes later, wearing a blue polo shirt, shorts and sandals, he went on to the porch of the house overlooking the Ramapo Mountains, sat down and started waving his arms around in apparent anger as he had an animated conversation on his phone.
Soon afterwards, three police cruisers turned up at his house.
The Republican minority group of the committee launched an investigation in March into the origins of Covid-19 after a growing number of prominent scientists began voicing their concerns that the deadly virus may have escaped from the lab '' and could even have been created there.
Daszak and other EcoHealth scientists have been closely involved with the Wuhan lab for years, which was also conducting 'gain of function' experiments, where viruses are genetically engineered to be more infectious to test their effects on human cells.
In its April 16 letter, the congressional committee asked Daszak to provide details of what federal funds were passed on to the WIV, what information they have on bat viruses worked on at the lab that are closely related to Covid-19, and what his charity knows about a mysterious database of virus genomes held by the lab taken offline in 2019.
'Total silence. They seem to be refusing to acknowledge anything from us,' the source said.
'At least when we send a letter to a government agency we get a 'we got your letter, we're working on it' kind of thing. But from Eco? Zip.
'We would like them to cooperate with us and give us answers. We're not going out of our way to try to burn them. We just want answers on some of this stuff.
'They're the group that's been tied in with the WIV, and would have a lot of these answers, hopefully that would help out. But they refuse to be involved in that at all.'
Central Banks See No Way out of the Low Interest Rate Trap | Mises Wire
Tue, 22 Jun 2021 13:43
Since the 1980s, slower economic growth in the industrial countries has been accompanied by declining interest rates. They have even turned negative in more recent years. At the same time, investment, productivity, and real GDP growth all have slowed. Recession caused by lockdowns of the economy to fight the corona pandemic in 2020/21 has accelerated the demise of interest. Even as the world economy recovers, central bankers around the world have signaled that interest rates will be kept low for a long time to come. What is going on here? Various economists have provided different theoretical and empirical explanations for the global decline of interest rates.
The Keynesian perspective in the tradition of Alvin Hansen and Larry Summers has attributed secularly declining nominal and real interest rates'--and thus declines of the ''natural rate'''--to a global savings glut driven by aging societies, a declining demand for fixed capital investment, and a declining marginal efficiency of fixed capital.1 From this perspective, monetary policy has simply adjusted to these changes and lowered nominal and real interest rates. The corona crisis has only reinforced what has been going on for a long time before. Owing to the lockdowns, household and company incomes fell off a cliff, so the neutral rate has dropped even more, probably deeply into negative territory.2 In sum, central banks simply take account of exogenous forces, such as secular stagnation and the corona crisis, by aligning policy and market interest rates with a natural rate of zero or less.
By contrast, from the point of view of Austrian economic theory developed by Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, the deep plunge of interest rates has been policy driven.3 While central banks have aimed at stabilizing economic activity with strong interest rate cuts during crises, they have hesitated to lift interest rates during the recoveries following.4
From an Austrian perspective, negative interest rates are not possible under free market conditions. Human beings strive to achieve their goals earlier rather than later (i.e., have a positive time preference by nature), and they will take detours only when they are compensated for this (through interest in the case of saving).
The question of who is right in this debate is not only of academic interest, for if the ''Keynesians'' are right, a return to ''normal'' interest rates should be possible when circumstances change accordingly. Central banks would simply follow an increase in the ''natural rate,'' possibly resulting from the policies adopted to counter the pandemic. But if the Austrians are right, central banks face a dilemma: if they tighten monetary policy, they risk triggering another credit crisis, and if they leave monetary policy extremely easy, they risk debasing their money through an uncontrolled rise of inflation. Here we argue that the Keynesian view is flawed, both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective. Since it is the dominant view, this does not bode well for the future.
Figure 1: US Credit Impulse and Private Demand
Source: Macrobond. Credit impulse is calculated as the change in credit flows relative to GDP.5Let's start with a look at the Keynesian model. As it does not include a banking sector, it cannot explain money creation by banks and falls into the trap of assuming that savings are always equal to investments. Exogenous increases in money supply lower the interest rate and shift the LM (liquidity preference''money supply) curve along the IS (investment-savings) curve to achieve a higher level of production. Money drains operate in the opposite direction. But in our existing credit money system new investments are funded not only with existing money savings but also with money created by banks for the investors through credit extension. As an intermediator in the money market and lender of last resort to banks, the central bank steers the money market rate and thereby indirectly (normally) the credit rates. In our time of quantitative easing, the central bank exerts also a direct influence on longer-term credit rates. Thus, as money and credit are created by banks and the process is managed by central banks, interest rates are (ever more closely) tied to the monetary policy of the central banks.
Figure 2: Old-Age Dependency and Household Savings Rate in OECD Countries, 1995''2018
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Household savings rates in percent of GDP.And here comes Hayek into play. If the central bank knew at what interest rate existing money savings would be equal to the demand for funds by investors, all would be fine. But the central bank cannot know this rate. Nevertheless, it presumes to know. In vain attempts to set the market rate at the level of the unknown natural rate, the central bank follows an error-correction process, with rates either too low or too high. The result of this is a credit boom-bust cycle, shown for the US in figure 1, which is accompanied by fluctuation in real private demand.
But even if the Keynesian model is incomplete and therefore misleading, could the Keynesians nevertheless be supported by empirical facts? The answer is no. We could not find support to the view that ageing societies save more.6 In fact, as figure 2 shows, changes in the old-age dependency ratio in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries are not linked to systematic changes in household savings rates. If at all, households tend to save less when populations age. Moreover, we also fail to find a systematic decline in the marginal productivity of capital, as suggested by the secular stagnation theory (see figure 3).
Figure 3: Marginal Productivity of Capital of US, Japan, and Germany
Source: AMECO. Marginal productivity of capital defined as the absolute change of real output compared to the previous year divided by real investment of the current year.This evidence strongly supports the view that economic agents have adapted to the low-rate environment created by the central banks (and not the central banks to an environment of ''naturally'' low rates). One consequence of this is that inefficient firms are kept alive artificially. Based on firm-level data from fourteen advanced economies, Ryan Banerjee and Boris Hofmann find a rise in the share of zombie firms, defined as unprofitable firms with low stock market valuations, from 4 percent in the late 1980s to 15 percent in 2017.7 This implies that central banks have contributed to the low-growth environment by impeding productivity gains. Moreover, in attempts to reanimate growth, government debt has increased to levels last seen in times of major wars (see figure 4). As a result of the adaptation of economic agents, an exit from the low-rate environment most likely would be accompanied by major financial and economic disruptions. The last time a major central bank knowingly took the risk of disruption for the sake of ending a low-rate policy occurred in Japan in the late 1980s. Since then, no central banker has wanted to repeat this unhappy experience.
Figure 4: Public Debt Ratios
Source: OECD Economic Outlook.This leaves us with a quite skeptical outlook for the credit money system. Inflation is likely to get out of control and money will probably need to be reanchored one way or another. Central bank digital money could help to achieve this and preempt a monetary crash.8 But central bankers are probably too risk averse to try experimental therapy even in the face of death.
Grote bedragen opnemen gaat geld kosten, Nibud bezorgd over 'gebruikersboete' | NOS
Tue, 22 Jun 2021 13:05
Vanaf 1 juli wordt het voor sommige mensen duurder om contant geld op te nemen bij een automaat. Budgetinstituut Nibud is bezorgd over die ontwikkeling en spreekt van een 'gebruikersboete'.
ABN Amro is de eerste bank die het opnemen van contant geld duurder maakt. Als klanten binnen een jaar meer dan 12.000 euro aan contant geld hebben opgenomen, moeten ze voor elke volgende opname bij een geldautomaat een paar euro per keer plus een percentage van het opgenomen bedrag betalen. De Rabobank gaat na de zomer in bepaalde gevallen ook extra geld vragen.
Het Nibud vindt dat een zorgelijke ontwikkeling. "De Nederlandsche Bank zegt dat contant geld nog steeds een belangrijke maatschappelijke rol vervult. Dat geldt vooral voor mensen in de samenleving die moeite hebben met abstracties zoals het digitale betalingsverkeer of er beperkt toegang toe hebben. Denk daarbij aan de groep van 2,5 miljoen laaggeletterden in onze samenleving", zegt directeur Vliegenthart.
'Contant geld werkt beschermend'Ook is het voor veel mensen verstandig om alleen wat contant geld bij zich te hebben en geen pinpas, omdat ze dan niet meer kunnen uitgeven dan ze op dat moment in de portemonnee hebben. Voor die groep werkt contant geld beschermend, zegt het Nibud.
Verder vinden veel ouderen het nog steeds lastig om alles digitaal te betalen. Het is voor die groep al moeilijker geworden om contant geld op te nemen, omdat steeds meer bankfilialen zijn gesloten.
Ook zijn er geldautomaten verdwenen vanwege het toenemende aantal plofkraken en bij veel winkels kan bij het pinnen niet langer ook wat contant geld worden opgenomen. "Hierdoor zijn er mensen die aan hun naasten of mantelzorgers moeten vragen om voor hen te pinnen. Dat maakt hen extra kwetsbaar", zegt het Nibud.
Ook andere organisaties bezorgdVolgens het budgetinstituut moeten mensen niet worden gedwongen om digitaal geld te gebruiken als contant geld nog steeds een wettig betaalmiddel is. "Het gebruik van contant geld moet niet worden belast met een gebruikersboete."
De Consumentenbond en ouderenbonden hebben eerder al bezorgd gereageerd op de extra kosten voor het opnemen van contant geld.
ABN Amro herkent zich niet in de kritiek. De bank zegt dat ouderen en kwetsbare mensen niet worden geraakt door de maatregel. "Zij kunnen nog gewoon bijvoorbeeld hun maandelijkse AOW opnemen. We hebben naast de Seniorenlijn meer dan zeventig zorgcoaches in dienst die kunnen helpen en voorlichten over alternatieven. Zij komen op verzoek ook bij de mensen thuis."
'Saldinisten' zijn de klosVolgens de bank moet slechts anderhalve procent van de klanten extra gaan betalen voor het opnemen van contant geld. "Door de kosten bij de grootverbruikers neer te leggen, houden we het juist betaalbaar voor de massa."
Onder de grootverbruikers schaart de bank ook 'saldinisten': mensen die aan het einde van het jaar grote contante bedragen opnemen om die in het nieuwe jaar weer te storten op hun rekening zodat ze minder belasting hoeven te betalen.
Ook de Rabobank zegt dat niet iedereen hoeft te gaan betalen voor het opnemen van geld. Alleen klanten met de goedkoopste betaalpakketten moeten 75 cent per transactie gaan betalen als ze geld opnemen bij een automaat die geen Rabobankautomaat of Geldmaat is.
Companies Sign Bill Urging Senate to Pass Law to Nationalize Elections
Tue, 22 Jun 2021 12:26
Dozens of companies have signed a letter urging the Democrat-led Senate to pass the radical left's measure designed to nationalize U.S. elections, the For the People Act, as it will, they say, override ''abusive state laws.''
Over 70 companies signed the letter to express corporate America's support for the radical proposal, asserting that they have a responsibility to employees to ''ensure they can vote safely and without undue obstacles.''
''This is why we support the For the People Act'--one of the most significant pieces of legislation to strengthen our democracy since the Civil Rights era,'' they wrote.
The companies claim that states this year have introduced barriers to silence Americans' voices '-- minority voices, particularly.
''These bills work in stark contrast to our interests, and make it more difficult for Americans to have a say in key decisions from healthcare to the economy by limiting our ability to register to vote and cast a ballot early or by mail,'' they continued, contending it is not a ''partisan'' issue.
''The For the People Act is not about choosing one party or one issue over another, it is about common sense reforms that protect and expand our democracy, and put the power in the hands of the people,'' they claimed.
Signers include Ben & Jerry's, the Black Economic Alliance, Collaborative Solutions, Kangaroo Coffee, Legacy Vacation Resort, the National Hockey League, Patagonia, Social Goods, Tumblr, and dozens more.
The letter's assertion, that recent state election integrity measures are suppressive, is false. For example, Georgia's law '-- which prompted the MLB to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta '-- actually expanded voter access.
''The nuts and bolts of [the law] are this, it makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat,'' Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said during a March appearance on Breitbart News Daily:
The biggest '-- probably the top four things to me '-- is it replaces a signature match with a voter ID on absentee ballots. It secures ballot drop boxes around the clock. It also requires poll workers to continue tabulating ballots until all votes are counted and then it actually '-- contrary to what the national media and those that are profiting off of this whole exercise of not being truthful with people '-- expands voting access, especially on the weekends.
As Breitbart News extensively detailed, the For the People Act would nationalize U.S. elections by stripping states of their ability to implement basic election integrity safeguards, such as voter ID. It would also protect illegal aliens who are registered to vote, prevent states from purging their voter rolls, allow unlimited ballot harvesting, and make nationwide vote by mail without photo ID a reality.
Obama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election | TheHill
Tue, 22 Jun 2021 12:25
Former President Obama said Monday that Congress needs to pass voting rights legislation before the 2022 midterm elections, or American democracy could be at risk.
"We can't wait until the next election because if we have the same kinds of shenanigans that brought about Jan. 6, if we have that for a couple more election cycles, we're going to have real problems in terms of our democracy long-term," said Obama.
Speaking on a call with grassroots supporters alongside former Attorney General Eric Holder Eric Himpton HolderObama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election NYC voters set to decide Vance's replacement amid Trump probe Obama planning first post-2020 fundraiser MORE , Obama said debate over the voting rights bill, known as the For the People Act, was worth it for him to engage in political debate, even as a former president.
"Since I left office I've tried to make a policy not to weigh in on the day-to-day scrum in Washington," said Obama.
"But what's happening this week is more than just a partisan bill coming up or not coming up to a vote," he added.
The Democratic voting rights proposal passed the House in March and is due this week to come under consideration by the Senate.
The bill does not have enough support to overcome a filibuster, which would require 10 GOP senators to back it. No Republican senators are now supporting the measure, which they have cast as a Democratic power-grab.
Democrats are still pushing the bill through, in an effort to highlight Republican opposition, despite changes made to the bill at the request of Sen. Joe Manchin Joe ManchinSinema defends filibuster ahead of Senate voting rights showdown The Hill's Equilibrium '-- Presented by NextEra Energy '-- Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin MORE (W.Va.), the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus.
Obama said those changes were made by "the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, or maybe in Congress '-- Joe Manchin of West Virginia '-- to come up with common sense reforms that a majority of Americans agree with, that Democrats and Republicans can agree with."
While Manchin has not committed to supporting the bill, he released a laundry list of voting rights initiatives he supports, for which he received a generally positive response from the rest of the party.
The bill's original text focuses on an expansion of access to voting, with provisions to require states to enact a minimum of 15 days of early voting and simplifying registration.
The bill would also overhaul campaign finance and set standards for redrawing electoral maps.
Manchin has voiced support for several of the voting access provisions and the ban on partisan gerrymandering, but is on the record in opposition to the bill, which he said is too broad and lacks Republican support.
Still, he's opened the door to supporting an amended bill that includes Republican priorities, leaving the possibility of the bill going down in a 50-50 vote.
Left with few other options, Democrats are pushing for that result, which they believe will highlight Republican intransigence and potentially shake up gridlocked Senate politics.
"Despite what you may have heard, we believe there is a path forward for this bill to get passed," said Holder, who is now chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which organized the call.
Obama took shots at the filibuster, the Senate rule that mandates a 60-vote threshold for a bill to receive a final vote in the upper chamber.
Progressive calls to nix the rule have grown as Republican opposition has slowed President Biden Joe BidenMilitary must better understand sexual assaults to combat them The Hill's Equilibrium '-- Presented by NextEra Energy '-- Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE 's legislative agenda, while centrists like Manchin continue to defend the filibuster as a guarantor of political minority rights.
Obama said the filibuster is not in the Constitution, and it "allows a determined minority of senators to block legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans."
Extorted by ransomware gangs? The payments may be tax-deductible - CBS News
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 23:20
As ransomware attacks surge , the FBI is doubling down on its guidance to affected businesses: Don't pay the cybercriminals. But the U.S. government also offers a little-noticed incentive for those who do pay: If you pay a ransom, it may be tax deductible.
The Internal Revenue Sservice offers no formal guidance on ransomware payments, but multiple tax experts interviewed by the Associated Press said deductions of ransomeware payments as a cost of doing business are usually allowed under law and established guidance. Some called it a "silver lining" for ransomware victims.
Those looking to discourage payments are less sanguine. They fear the IRS deduction is a potentially problematic incentive that could entice businesses to pay ransoms against the advice of law enforcement. At a minimum, they say, the deductibility sends a discordant message to businesses under duress.
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"It seems a little incongruous to me," said New York Representative John Katko, the top Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Tac deductibility is a piece of a bigger quandary stemming from the rise in ransomware attacks, in which cybercriminals scramble computer data and demand payment for unlocking the files. The government doesn't want payments that fund criminal gangs and could encourage more attacks on the critical infrastructure that helps drive daily American life. But failing to pay can have devastating consequences for businesses and potentially for the economy overall.
A ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline last month led to gas shortages in parts of the United States. The company, which transports about 45% of fuel consumed on the East Coast, paid a ransom of 75 bitcoin '-- then valued at roughly $4.4 million. (The U.S. government later recovered much of the ransom .) An attack on JBS SA, the world's largest meat processing company, threatened to disrupt food supplies. The company said it had paid the equivalent of $11 million to hackers who broke into its computer system.
"[W]e felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers," JBS USA's CEO said in a statement to CBS News.
DOJ recovers millions in pipeline hack ransom...The list of victims also includes hospitals, school districts , cities and towns and even a newsletter company for Congressional offices.
Ransomware has become a multibillion-dollar business, and the average payment was more than $310,000 last year, up 171% from 2019, according to Palo Alto Networks. In response, the Biden administration is moving to mandate cybersecurity standards for pipelines as part of a push to bolster U.S. infrastructure.
"An ordinary and necessary expense"The companies that pay ransomware demands directly are well within their rights to claim a deduction, tax experts said. To be tax deductible, businesses expenses should be considered ordinary and necessary. Companies have long been able to deduct losses from more traditional crimes, such as robbery or embezzlement, and experts say ransomware payments are usually valid, too.
"I would counsel a client to take a deduction for it," says Scott Harty, a corporate tax attorney with Alston & Bird. "It fits the definition of an ordinary and necessary expense."
Don Williamson, a tax professor at the Kogod School of Business at American University, wrote a paper about the tax consequences of ransomware payments in 2017. Since then, he said, the rise of ransomware attacks has only strengthened the case for the IRS to allow ransomware payments as tax deductions.
"It's becoming more common, so therefore it becomes more ordinary," he said.
Critics say that's all the more reason to disallow ransomware payments as tax deductions.
"The cheaper we make it to pay that ransom, then the more incentives we're creating for companies to pay; and the more incentives we're creating for companies to pay, the more incentive we're creating for criminals to continue," said Josephine Wolff, a cybersecurity policy professor at the Fletcher School of Tufts University.
For years, ransomware was more of an economic nuisance than a major national threat. But attacks launched by foreign cybergangs out of reach of U.S. law enforcement have proliferated in scale over the past year, thrusting the problem onto the front pages.
FBI concerns over companies paying ransomIn response, top U.S. law enforcement officials have urged companies not to meet ransomware demands.
"It is our policy, it is our guidance, from the FBI, that companies should not pay the ransom for a number of reasons," FBI Director Christopher Wray testified this month before Congress. That message was echoed at another hearing this week by Eric Goldstein, a top official at the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
Officials warn that payments lead to more ransomware attacks. "We're in this boat we're in now because over the last several years people have paid the ransom," Stephen Nix, assistant to the special agent in charge at the U.S. Secret Service, said at a recent summit on cybersecurity.
It's unclear how many companies that pay ransomware payments avail themselves of the tax deductions. When asked at a congressional hearing whether the company would pursue a tax deduction for the payment, Colonial CEO Joseph Blount said he was unaware that was a possibility.
"Great question. I had no idea about that. Not aware of that at all," he said.
Negotiating with ransomware hackers Cyber insurance creates hurdlesThere are limits to the deduction. If the loss to the company is covered by cyber insurance '-- something that also is becoming more common '-- the company can't take a deduction for the payment that's made by the insurer.
The number of active cyber insurance policies jumped from to 3.6 million in 2019 from 2.2 million in 2016, a 60% increase, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm. Linked to that was a 50% increase in insurance premiums paid annually, rising to $3.1 billion from $2.1 billion.
At the same time, some major insurance companies are moving away from paying ransoms. Global insurance company AXA, one of Europe's five biggest insurers, said last month it would stop writing policies that pay ransoms for cybercrimes. The CEO of Swiss Re, the world's largest reinsurer, recently told CNBC that cyber-risk was "so big it's not insurable."
The Biden administration has pledged to make curbing ransomware a priority in the wake of a series of high-profile intrusions and said it is reviewing the U.S. government's policies related to ransomware. But it has not provided any detail about what changes, if any, it may make related to the tax deductibility of ransomware.
"The IRS is aware of this and looking into it," IRS spokesperson Robyn Walker told the AP.
Biden's Disastrous 'Infrastructure' Bill
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 20:41
Biden's Disastrous 'Infrastructure' Bill By F. William Engdahl2 June 2021 Image: Infrastructure: crumbling American bridge. Author: www.Futureatlas.com License: Some rights reserved https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Found on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/3494821106
The Biden Administration has proposed what it calls a $2.3 trillion ''infrastructure'' legislation which it calls the ''American Jobs Plan.'' Far from addressing the huge deficit in America's highway, bridges, railway, electric grid, water supply and such economically vital infrastructure that would address critical problems in the functioning of the economy, the Biden planners have cynically taken a politically popular word, ''infrastructure,'' and packed hundreds of billions of dollars into economically wasteful, destructive initiatives having more to do with the Green Agenda than rebuilding a healthy economy. If passed, it will have negative consequences for the world's once-leading economy with serious geopolitical implications. ''
In March Biden signed another huge extra-budget bill, the $1.9 trillion ''American Rescue Plan.'' That one was allegedly to aim at dealing with the impact of COVID. The bill dealt in fact with almost everything but COVID. The act is a grab bag of partisan pet projects. Among other things the act provided $12 billion for foreign aid; $15 billion for health care for illegal immigrants; $112 billion for welfare benefits and a generous $350 billion for Democrat-run states. Less than 10% was directed at COVID relief measures. In politics how you frame or package a bill is more important than the true content. Critics claim these huge spending bills are aimed at buying a future Democratic voter base with government handouts.
'Everything is Infrastructure'
No surprise then that now the Biden team has rushed another multi-trillion bill to Congress. The $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan is a bill where way less than half of the measures have to do with conventional infrastructure investment in roads, rails, electric grids, water supplies, ports or airports'--all the areas essential to the efficient functioning of the economy. A total of $750 billion or only 32% of the total actually goes for infrastructure such as highway or bridge repairs. Yet even that total includes only $115 billion of real infrastructure for highways, bridges, and surface streets. But the $750 transportation infrastructure section proposes $174 billion for more government subsidies for Green Agenda electric vehicles in what might be called a ''make Elon Musk richer'' subsidy. The White House fact sheet says that this will help make the US more competitive with China's electric cars. But the best selling E-car in China today is Musk's Tesla. That $174 billion is far more than the total $115 billion earmarked for real highway, bridge and transportation infrastructure spending. Yet the White House promotes the bill by referring to the need to address America's crumbling highways and bridges as though this was what the bill is focused on.
The Biden bill defines pretty much everything as ''infrastructure.'' His American Jobs Plan calls among other items for spending on what it terms ''care infrastructure.'' They define this as $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities and $400 billion expenditure on care for the elderly and disabled, spending which might be justifiable, but not as ''infrastructure.''
Buried in the text of the bill's $100 billion to go to electric grid modernization and another $27 billion for something called a ''clean energy and sustainability accelerator,'' is a proposal that would extend generous tax credits to promote solar and wind energy alternatives to reach ''zero carbon'' electricity by 2035, a ruinous idea. It has been estimated that to make US electricity 100% carbon free, it would require a staggering 25% to 50% of all land in the United States. Today's coal, gas and nuclear grid requires 0.5 percent of land in the United States. Clearly Biden's Green jobs plan is hiding a far more sinister agenda.
What the Administration also hides is the fact that it would be a huge boon to China which has a global near-monopoly on production of solar panels, and Denmark or Germany which make most windmill turbines today. Those do not create American jobs as Biden Climate Czar John Kerry once claimed. Ironically, the Biden Administration sees Germany as the model, the place where the Merkel green energy program has created the highest electric costs in all Europe.
Then the Biden bill proposes $10 billion to create something called a ''Civilian Climate Corps,'' something that deliberately sounds like Roosevelt's Depression era Civilian Conservation Corps, but with Green New Deal politically correct ''woke''update. The White House says that it will ''put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience (?), and advancing environmental justice (whatever that means-w.e.) through a new Civilian Climate Corps.'' No doubt in Biden-Harris America that has something to do with race and gender, but not with infrastructure.
Another $20 Billion should go ''to Advance Racial Equity and Environmental Justice.'' Apparently that means destroying existing highway infrastructure in cities where it is claimed to divide neighborhoods racially. Further an impressive $213 Billion will go to build or retrofit 2 Million Houses and Buildings. Then it adds another $40 billion for public housing, arguing this will ''disproportionately benefit women, people of color, and people with disabilities.'' For anyone familiar with America's inner-city public housing ghettoes, this is hardly positive for the people who should live in the places.
In one of the most curious ''infrastructure'' proposals, Biden would spend $100 billion for New Public Schools and Making School Lunches ''Greener.'' This comes just after the COVID bill in March gave an unprecedented $128 billion for public schools. The American system gives control over education to local municipal governments and not the Federal government, leading some to suggest the agenda of the Biden crew is imposing a stealth Federal government takeover of public school education. What the Biden people mean by ''green lunches'' includes ''reducing or eliminating the use of paper plates and other disposable materials.'' Presumably that includes eliminating plastic knives and forks, leaving the children perhaps to eat with their fingers?
And, for good ''infrastructure'' measure, more billions will go to ''Eliminate 'Racial and Gender Inequities' in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) research and development.'' How that helps America's crumbling basic infrastructure is not made clear.
All this $2.3 billion grab bag of mainly Green Agenda projects will be financed by the largest tax increases since the 1990's as well as a wider Federal deficit.
The Real Infrastructure Deficit
The entire Green New Deal and UN Agenda 2030 is a fraudulent cover to deliberately deindustrialize not only the United States, but also Europe and the entire industrialized world. No economy in history outside of damages of war or depression has deliberately gone from a more energy efficient infrastructure to a lower one. Notably China, while pledging agreement, also says it will comply with Net Zero Carbon, but only ten years after the US and EU, by 2060. Right now they are adding new coal plants at a rapid pace.
The real infrastructure deficit in the US economy is in hundreds of thousands of miles of national Interstate highways. As well, a deteriorating electric grid is made more vulnerable by forced purchase of high-cost unreliable solar or wind energy.
In March the American Society of Civil Engineers released its analysis of US infrastructure, before the Biden $2.3 billion proposal. The report evaluates the state of bridges, roadways, public transit, ports, airports, inland waterways, water supplies. It does so every four years. They estimate that a total of at least $6 trillion is needed to repair or fix America's deteriorated infrastructure. This is basic infrastructure, not Green Agenda. The report notes that infrastructure that brings clean water to major cities, as well as thousands of miles of wastewater pipelines, sewer systems built decades ago, are badly in need of renewal. The report adds that the drinking water infrastructure system, some 2.2 million miles of underground pipes, is ageing and badly in need of renewal. Local water utilities are replacing some 1% to 5% a year, far too little, due to lack of funding.
The ASCE report notes that of the 617,000 bridges across the United States, ''42% are at least 50 years old, and 46,154, or 7.5% of the nation's bridges, are considered structurally deficient, meaning they are in ''poor'' condition.'' Alone the backlog of urgently needed bridge repair would require $125 billion. And they estimate that over 40% of the nation's roads and highways are in poor or mediocre condition.
This is just a partial indication of the huge deficit in real economic infrastructure needed to maintain and improve the economic performance of the US economy. The fact that the Green Agenda of the pro-global warming Biden Administration is misusing popular calls for maintaining this basic necessary infrastructure in favor of inefficient and destructive Green and other schemes will mean that the economic foundation of the United States will weaken at an accelerated pace. Some influential circles such as BlackRock apparently want this. Biden's two senior economic advisers are from BlackRock. Brian Deese, head of green or sustainable investment (ESG) at BlackRock, is director of the National Economic Council, and Adewale ''Wally'' Adeyemo, former chief of staff to BlackRock's CEO Larry Fink, is Deputy Treasury Secretary under former Fed head Janet Yellen. BlackRock, the world's largest investment firm with more than $9 trillion under management, is a lead player in the Davos World Economic Forum Great Reset agenda and clearly, in the Biden ''infrastructure'' agenda.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine''New Eastern Outlook''
A Sinister Agenda Behind California Water Crisis?
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 20:33
A Sinister Agenda Behind California Water Crisis? By F. William Engdahl10 June 2021 Image: Image by Lisa Redfern from Pixabay. Pixabay License. https://pixabay.com/de/photos/d%C3%BCrre-california-dry-lake-bergsee-3803688/
In recent months a crisis situation in the USA food supply has been growing and is about to assume alarming dimensions that could become catastrophic. Atop the existing corona pandemic lockdowns and unemployment, a looming agriculture crisis as well could tip inflation measures to cause a financial crisis as interest rates rise. The ingredients are many, but central is a severe drought in key growing states of the Dakotas and Southwest, including agriculture-intensive California. So far Washington has done disturbingly little to address the crisis and California Water Board officials have been making the crisis far worse by draining the state water reservoirs'...into the ocean. ''
So far the worst hit farm state is North Dakota which grows most of the nation's Red Spring Wheat. In the Upper Midwest, the Northern Plains states and the Prairie provinces of Canada winter brought far too little snow following a 2020 exceedingly dry summer. The result is drought from Manitoba Canada to the Northern USA Plains States. This hits farmers in the region just four years after a flash drought in 2017 arrived without early warning and devastated the US Northern Great Plains region comprising Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the adjacent Canadian Prairies.
As of May 27, according to Adnan Akyuz, State Climatologist, ninety-three percent of the North Dakota state is in at least a Severe Drought category, and 77% of the state is in an Extreme Drought category. Farm organizations predict unless the rainfall changes dramatically in the coming weeks, the harvest of wheat widely used for pasta and flour will be a disaster. The extreme dry conditions extend north of the Dakota border into Manitoba, Canada, another major grain and farming region, especially for wheat and corn. There, the lack of rainfall and warmer-than-normal temperatures threaten harvests, though it is still early for those crops. North Dakota and the plains region depend on snow and rainfall for its agriculture water.
Southwest States in Severe Drought
While not as severe, farm states Iowa and Illinois are suffering ''abnormally dry'' conditions in 64% for Iowa and 27% for Illinois. About 55% of Minnesota is abnormally dry as of end May. Drought is measured in a scale from D1 ''abnormally dry,'' D3 ''severe drought'' to D4, ''exceptional drought.''
The severe dry conditions are not limited, unfortunately, to North Dakota or other Midwest farm states. A second region of very severe drought extends from western Texas across New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and deep into California. In Texas 20% of the state is in ''severe drought,'' and 12% ''extreme drought.'' Nearly 6% of the state is experiencing ''exceptional drought,'' the worst. New Mexico is undergoing 96% ''severe drought,'' and of that, 47% ''exceptional drought.''
California Agriculture is Vital
The situation in California is by far the most serious in its potential impact on the supply of agriculture products to the nation. There, irrigation and a sophisticated water storage system provide water for irrigation and urban use to the state for their periodic dry seasons. Here a far larger catastrophe is in the making. A cyclical drought season is combining with literally criminal state environmental politics, to devastate agriculture in the nation's most important farm producing state. It is part of a radical Green Agenda being advocated by Gov. Gavin Newsom and fellow Democrats to dismantle traditional agriculture, as insane as it may sound.
Few outside California realize that the state most known for Silicon Valley and beautiful beaches is such a vital source of agriculture production. California's agricultural sector is the most important in the United States, leading the nation's production in over 77 different products including dairy and a number of fruit and vegetable ''specialty'' crops. The state is the only producer of crops such as almonds, artichokes, persimmons, raisins, and walnuts. California grows a third of the country's vegetables and two thirds of the country's fruits and nuts. It leads all other states in farm income with77,500 farms and ranches. It also is second in production of livestock behind Texas, and its dairy industry is California's leading commodity in cash receipts. In total, 43 million acres of the state's 100 million acres are devoted to agriculture. In short what happens here is vital to the nation's food supply.
California Crisis Manmade: Where has the water gone?
The water crisis in California is far the most serious in terms of consequences for the food supply, in a period when the US faces major supply chain disruptions owing to absurd corona lockdowns combined with highly suspicious hacks of key infrastructure. On May 31, the infrastructure of the world's largest meat processor, JBS SA, was hacked, forcing the shutdown of all its US beef plants that supply almost a quarter of American beef.
The Green lobby is asserting, while presenting no factual evidence, that Global Warming, i.e. increased CO2 manmade emission, is causing the drought. The NOAA examined the case and found no evidence. But the media repeats the narrative to advance the Green New Deal agenda with frightening statements such as claiming the drought is, ''comparable to the worst mega-droughts since 800 CE.''
After 2011, California underwent a severe seven year drought. The drought ended in 2019 as major rains filled the California reservoir system to capacity. According to state water experts the reservoirs held enough water to easily endure at least a five-year drought. Yet two years later, the administration of Governor Newsom is declaring a new drought and threatening emergency measures. What his Administration is not saying is that the State Water Board and relevant state water authorities have been deliberately letting water flow into the Pacific Ocean. Why? They say to save two endangered fish species that are all but extinct'--one, a rare type of Salmon, the second a Delta Smelt, a tiny minnow-size fish of some 2'' size which has all but disappeared.
In June 2019 Shasta Dam, holding the state's largest reservoir as a keystone of the huge Central Valley Project, was full to 98% of capacity. Just two years later in May 2021 Shasta Lake reservoir held a mere 42% of capacity, almost 60% down. Similarly, in June 2019 Oroville Dam reservoir, the second largest, held water at 98% of capacity and by May 2021 was down to just 37%. Other smaller reservoirs saw similar drops. Where has all the water gone?
Allegedly to ''save'' these fish varieties, during just 14 days in May, according to Kristi Diener, a California water expert and farmer, ''90% of (Bay Area) Delta inflow went to sea. It's equal to a year's supply of water for 1 million people.'' Diener has been warning repeatedly in recent years that water is unnecessarily being let out to sea as the state faces a normal dry year. She asks, ''Should we be having water shortages in the start of our second dry year? No. Our reservoirs were designed to provide a steady five year supply for all users, and were filled to the top in June 2019.''
In 2008, at the demand of environmental groups such as the NRDC, a California judge ordered that the Central Valley Water project send 50% of water reservoirs to the Pacific Ocean to ''save'' an endangered salmon variety, even though the NGO admitted that no more than 1,000 salmon would likely be saved by the extreme measure. In the years 1998-2005 an estimated average of 49% of California managed water supply went to what is termed the ''environment,'' including feeding into streams and rivers, to feed estuaries and the Bay Area Delta. Only 28% went directly to maintain agriculture water supplies.
This past January Felicia Marcus, the chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, who oversaw the controversial water policies since 2018, left at the end of her term to become an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) one of the most powerful green NGO's, with a reported $400 million in resources to wage legal battles to defend ''endangered species'' such as the California salmon and the Delta Smelt.
Appointed by green Gov. Jerry Brown as chair of the State Water Board in 2018, Marcus is directly responsible for the draining of the reservoirs into the ocean after they filled in 2019, using the claim of protecting endangered species. In March 2021 with Marcus as attorney, the NRDC requested that the State Water Resources Control Board Marcus headed until recently, take ''immediate action'' to address perceived threats to listed salmon in the Sacramento River watershed from Central Valley Project (''CVP'') operations. This as the state is facing a new drought emergency?
In 2020 Gov. Gavin Newsom, a prot(C)g(C) of Jerry Brown, signed Senate Bill 1, the California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act, which would send billions of gallons of water out to the Pacific Ocean, ostensibly to save more fish. It was a cover for manufacturing the present water crisis and specifically attacking farming, as incredible as it may seem.
The true agenda of the Newsom and previous Brown administrations is to radically undermine the highly productive California agriculture sector. Gov. Newsom has now introduced an impressive-sounding $5.1 billion Drought Relief bill. Despite its title, nothing will go to improve the state reservoir water availability for cities and farms. Of the total, $500 million will be spent on incentives for farmers to ''re-purpose'' their land, that is to stop farming. Suggestions include wildlife habitat, recreation, or solar panels! Another $230 million will be used for ''wildlife corridors and fish passage projects to improve the ability of wildlife to migrate safely.'' ''Fish passage projects'' is a clever phrase for dam removal, destroying the nation's most effective network of reservoirs.
Then the Newson bill allocates $300 million for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, a 2014 law from Jerry Brown amid the previous severe drought to prevent farmers in effect from securing water from drilling wells. The effect will be to drive more farmers off the land. And another $200 million will go to ''habitat restoration,'' supporting tidal wetland, floodplains, and multi-benefit flood-risk reduction projects'--a drought package with funding for floods? This is about recreating flood plains so when they demolish the dams, the water has someplace to go. The vast bulk of the $500 billion is slated to reimburse water customers from the previous 2011-2019 drought from higher water bills, a move no doubt in hopes voters will look positively on Newsom as he faces likely voter recall in November.
The systematic dismantling of one of the world's most productive agriculture regions, using the seductive mantra of ''environmental protection,'' fits into the larger agenda of the Davos Great Reset and its plans to radically transform world agriculture into what the UN Agenda 2030 calls ''sustainable'' agriculture'--no more meat protein. The green argument is that cows are a major source of methane gas emissions via burps. How that affects global climate no one has seriously proven. Instead we should eat laboratory-made fake meat like the genetically-manipulated Impossible Burger of Bill Gates and Google, or even worms. Yes. In January the EU European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), approved mealworms , or larvae of the darkling beetle, as the first ''novel food'' cleared for sale across the EU.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine''New Eastern Outlook''
Port Delays in Shenzhen, China, Snarl Global Trade - The New York Times
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 16:58
Business | Chinese port difficulties amid a Covid outbreak further snarl global trade. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/21/business/shenzhen-port-delays.html The Yantian port in Shenzhen, China, last year. Efforts to control an outbreak of coronavirus have caused big delays for vessels seeking to pick up goods for North America, Europe and elsewhere. Credit... Martin Pollard/Reuters June 21, 2021, 11:12 a.m. ET SHANGHAI '-- Dozens of huge container ships have been forced to drop anchor and wait. Freight rates have surged. Stores in the United States and Europe find themselves with understocked shelves, higher prices or both.
The blockage of the Suez Canal in March? No, there is another disruption in global shipping. This time, the problem lies in Shenzhen, a sprawling metropolis adjacent to Hong Kong in southeastern China.
Global shipping has been disrupted by the pandemic for months, as Western demand for goods made in Asia has outstripped the ability of exporters to get their containers onto outbound vessels. But the latest problem in Shenzhen, the world's third-largest container port after Shanghai and Singapore, is making the difficulties even worse.
The shipping delays are related to the Chinese government's stringent response to a recent outbreak of the virus. Shenzhen, a metropolis of more than 12 million, has had fewer than two dozen locally transmitted coronavirus cases, which city health officials have linked to the Alpha variant, which was first identified in Britain.
Shenzhen has responded by ordering five rounds of coronavirus testing of all 230,000 people who live anywhere near Yantian container port, where the first case was detected on May 21. All further contact between port employees and sailors has been banned. The city has required port employees to live in 216 hastily erected, prefabricated buildings at the docks instead of going home to their families every day.
The port's capacity to handle containers plummeted early this month. It was still running at 30 percent below capacity last week, the port announced, and state-controlled media said on Monday that full recovery may require the rest of June.
''A few weeks into a very substantial port congestion in Yantian caused by a Covid-19 outbreak, supply chain disruptions continue to be very present in global trade,'' Maersk, the world's largest container shipping line, said in a statement on Thursday.
Long lines of container ships awaiting cargo bound for North America, Europe and elsewhere have had to anchor off Shenzhen and Hong Kong as captains now wait as long as 16 days to dock at Yantian. Small vessels mounted with their own cranes have been ferrying many containers straight from riverfront factory docks in the Pearl River Delta to container ships near Hong Kong, as exporters try to bypass delays at Yantian.
''It looks like rush hour '-- there's a lot of ships waiting,'' said Tim Huxley, the chairman of Mandarin Shipping, a container shipping line based in Hong Kong. He predicted that sorting out all of the shipping delays at Yantian and elsewhere could take the rest of this year.
The Suez Canal was blocked for almost a week by the Ever Given container ship in March, while Yantian coincidentally halted all loading of export containers for six days early this month. But Yantian's problems have now dragged on much longer. Simon Heaney, the senior manager for container shipping research at Drewry Maritime Research in London, said that the global transportation disruption caused by the Yantian port problems was similar to the Suez Canal blockage, although differences between the two incidents make any statistical comparison difficult.
The average cost of shipping a 40-foot container from East Asia to Europe or North America has roughly quadrupled in the past year. Rates have soared upward this month with the Yantian difficulties.
Opinion | The Strange Death of Liberal Russophobia - The New York Times
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 15:08
June 19, 2021
President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Geneva on Wednesday. Credit... Pool photo by Denis Balibouse Last August, I predicted that Donald Trump's electoral defeat would encourage a lot of Republican politicians to embrace Don Draper's mantra from ''Mad Men,'' his explanation of how easy it is to bury an inconvenient piece of your own past: ''This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.''
You can definitely see the Draper method at work in the let's-just-not-talk-about-Trump wing of the G.O.P. these days. But what's equally striking are the ways that liberals are practitioners as well. This week, for instance, Joe Biden held a summit with Vladimir Putin '-- a banal event in the context of past Democratic administrations, but a remarkable one in the context of the world as the liberal Resistance interpreted it from 2016 through 2020.
In that world, Putin was a figure of extraordinary menace, the leader of an authoritarian renaissance whose tentacles extended everywhere, from Brexit to the N.R.A. He had hacked American democracy, placed a Manchurian candidate in the White House, sowed the internet with misinformation, placed bounties on our soldiers in Afghanistan, extended Russian power across the Middle East and threatened Eastern Europe with invasion or subversion. In this atmosphere every rumor about Russian perfidy was pre-emptively believed, and the defense of liberal democracy required recognizing that we had been thrust into Cold War 2.0.
Now comes Biden, making moves in Russia policy that are essentially conciliatory '-- freezing a military aid package to Ukraine, ending U.S. sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Germany to Russia, a return of ambassadors '-- and setting up a summit that can reasonably be regarded as a modest propaganda coup for Putin. And suddenly almost everyone wants to act as though the Trump years never happened: Not just the Republicans accusing Biden of being soft on Moscow, but the Democrats who have apparently decided that it's fine to hand concessions and photo ops and promises of ''stability'' to the regime that just yesterday was the Great Reactionary Enemy, the liberal order's greatest threat.
But this isn't actually a column about liberal amnesia or hypocrisy. It's a column about the wisdom of the Biden administration, in recognizing that certain Trump-era hysterias within its party can be safely put to sleep.
Some of those hysterias belong to the progressive left, and plenty has been written about Biden's refusal to let woke Twitter set all his political priorities. But the Russia hysteria was a paranoia of the center, an establishment overreaction, so it's notable to see Biden and his team steer away from it as well.
In this case, what the White House seems to grasp is that pieces of Trumpist foreign policy are worth preserving: not the dodgy business ties (well, depending on where Hunter Biden resurfaces) and the weird man-crushes on dictators, but the general idea of a U.S. foreign policy reoriented away from Europe and the Middle East and reorganized to contain the threat of China, with late-1990s fantasies about the inexorable expansion of the liberal order left behind.
This reorientation does not require friendship with Putin, which would be morally undesirable and strategically unlikely. But it requires treating Russia policy primarily as the management of a weak and therefore mischief-making competitor, rather than a grand crusade against a number-one geopolitical adversary. Hence the summit and its talk of ''strategic stability,'' hence the conciliatory moves that if Trump had made them would have headlined every hour on MSNBC.
Notably, Biden can get away with this '-- meaning his stiff-arms to the center-left Resistance as well as the woke left '-- not just because of the power of Draper-ish partisan amnesia, but because his core support within the Democratic Party didn't belong to either of the groups he's stiff-arming.
In his new book, ''Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal,'' George Packer portrays an American liberalism divided between two competing tribes, each blinkered in their way '-- what Packer calls ''Smart America,'' which is basically meritocratic elites, and ''Just America,'' which is basically the younger activist left. But as New York magazine's Eric Levitz pointed out in a response to Packer, the Biden presidency was made possible by Democratic voters who don't belong to either group: blue-collar whites, culturally conservative African-Americans, less-educated and religious voters.
This base gives Bidenism a genuine opportunity for Democrats to escape from Packer's binary '-- from the ''smart'' liberalism that wanted to blame all its own failures on Russian disinformation and the ''just'' liberalism that thinks justice lies in making sure everyone says ''Latinx'' and ''birthing people.''
But Biden is old and his constituencies aren't powerful among the party's young cadres and future elites, where Packer's groups predominate. (There's a reason language like ''birthing people'' creeps into administration documents.) So for liberalism's longer run, it isn't enough for this president to eschew the mix of wokeness and Russophobia that became his party's organizing theories in the Trump era. He would need to establish Bidenism as something coherent in its own right, with its own young adherents and consistent theory of the world.
Otherwise the opportunity will fade, the suppression will weaken, and the hysteria that's been opportunistically forgotten will probably return.
REVEALED: Granddaughter of legendary singer Nina Simone says Kamala Harris bullied her mother to 'almost killing herself' | The Post Millennial - News, Politics, Culture, and Lifestyle
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 15:03
The granddaughter of legendary singer Nina Simone made a shocking claim on Friday that Vice President Kamala Harris bullied her mother to the point of her wanting to take her own life when Harris was the attorney general of California.
ReAnna Simone Kelly accused Vice President Kamala Harris of dragging her family's name in the media and giving away their family estate to white people, in a taxing battle after their grandmother's passing in 2003.
"Nina's granddaughter here," ReAnna Simone Kelly wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "My family doesn't run her estate anymore. It was taken away from us [and] given to white people. Our family name was DRAGGED in the media. We get NO royalties, nothing. Wanna hold someone accountable? Ask Kamala Harris why she came for my family."
"As I said before, Ask her why she separated my family," she continued. "Ask her why my grandmothers estate is in SHAMBLES now. Ask her why we as her family no longer own the rights to anything. Ask her why she bullied my mother in court and my mom almost killed herself from the depression."
A 2016 settlement regarding the Nina Simone Charitable Trust referred to Harris multiple times for her "primary responsibility for supervising charitable trusts in California" as state attorney general.
"The Attorney General asserts that [Lisa Simone] Kelly breached her fiduciary duty to the Estate and to the Charitable Trust and wrongfully diverted Estate assets. The Attorney General seeks to surcharge Kelly for amounts totaling $5,937,749.42 plus over $2.5 million in interest, which the Attorney General contends is far more than one-half of the Estate's value during [Lisa Simone] Kelly's administration of the Estate," the settlement read.
A settlement from 2016 in the state of California mentions Vice President Harris as having the "primary responsibility for supervising charitable trusts in California" as state attorney general, Fox News reported.
"The Attorney General asserts that [Lisa Simone] Kelly breached her fiduciary duty to the Estate and to the Charitable Trust and wrongfully diverted Estate assets. The Attorney General seeks to surcharge Kelly for amounts totaling $5,937,749.42 plus over $2.5 million in interest, which the Attorney General contends is far more than one-half of the Estate's value during [Lisa Simone] Kelly's administration of the Estate," the settlement read.
The legendary singer's granddaughter said VP Harris' in humane treatment of her mother led to her being "slandered" in the media.
"I'm going to leave it at that for now. Do your research if you like, but know that there is A LOT of slander out there on my mother. There was a lot of false information put out there that is NOT TRUE. Listen. WE LIVED IT. We are still living in the aftermath of this," she wrote.
"OH WAIT, While we're asking Kamala questions ask her why after all of this pain and suffering she put us through a Nina Simone song was sang at the inauguration to swear her in as VP?! She knew what she was doing," ReAnna Simone Kelly continued.
The Office of Vice President Kamala Harris has yet to address the accusations.
Opinion | Anthony Fauci on the Lab Leak Theory and Emailing Mark Zuckerberg - The New York Times
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 14:13
archived recording(SINGING) When you walk in the room, do you have sway?
kara swisherI'm Kara Swisher, and you're listening to ''Sway.'' In the past year and a half, Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a hero to some, including the owners of a deli in my neighborhood that sells a cocktail called the Fauci Pouchy. But he's become a villain to others, people who hang on his every word to discredit him and question his motivations. To them, he's ''Dr. Flip Flopci,'' the leader of ''faucism.''
Those types have gotten some fuel after BuzzFeed and the Washington Post published thousands of Fauci's emails from the early days of the pandemic. I find the emails mostly anodyne, but the right and conspiracy theorists are using them as more fodder, saying that Fauci lied about the need to wear masks and downplayed the Wuhan lab leak theory. To parse the politics from the science, I invited him to speak with me today. Dr. Fauci, welcome to ''Sway.''
anthony fauciThank you. It's good to be with you.
kara swisherSo let's just start with the news, the most recent thing, which is the lab leak theory, which posits that Covid-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. The theory has become deeply politicized, muddled with former President Trump's anti-China and really anti-Chinese rhetoric. It became a thing that some on the right glommed on to and the left kind of dismissed outright. In April of last year, President Trump announced that his administration had evidence that proves the lab leak theory, but never put it forth. Did you see any evidence?
anthony fauciI mean, I haven't seen it because I'm not sure it exists. What we're seeing right now is a major increase in incidents of interest '-- that is, of tweeting, of speculation '-- but no real increase in definitive data or evidence whatsoever. And I think the people who look carefully at that really come away with saying, well, what is different now than what was known or being said a year ago?
There is this so-called intelligence that three members of the human lab were ill, requiring hospitalization. And I really wonder what the strength of that intelligence is, what the confidence in it is. It certainly has gotten bantered around. And I have said that if the intelligence is firm and real, then you should make sure we find out what the health records of those sick people are. But if it's very weak, flimsy intelligence, then there's nothing there. I always keep an open mind. I feel, as do the overwhelming majority of scientists who have knowledge of virology and knowledge of evolutionary biology, that the most likely explanation for this is a natural leap from an animal reservoir to a human.
kara swisherA zoonotic leap.
anthony fauciRight, exactly.
kara swisherSo what is the Biden administration now doing? Because one of it will require investigation.
anthony fauciWell, I'm really not sure, Kara, exactly, to be quite honest with you. I don't know exactly what the nature of that intelligence. Because the president has asked the intelligence community to look into this and given them 90 days to come back with information. I mean, it's important. I support what the president's done, and we all do because we all want to find out, really, what the origins were. But again, I get back to saying if you talk to the scientists with knowledge about viruses '-- because we hear a lot of people making statements that are really completely debunked.
kara swisherWell, there's a lot of expert virologists on Twitter. No, I'm teasing. But there are some reputable scientists, including epidemiologists like Dr. Ralph Baric and Dr. Marc Lipsitch, seem to think it's possible it originated in a lab, or at least, they think the theory is worth checking out, which is what you're saying here. But what makes you think the lab leak theory is improbable?
anthony fauciYeah, I mean, I think if you look at the history of how viruses evolve '-- look at SARS-CoV-1, look at MERS, look at Ebola. We still haven't found the natural source of Ebola. And that's been since 1976. So this is what happens. Look at influenza. Look at bird flu, H5N1, H7N9 that jumped species. This is a very, very natural thing. And if you look at the virus itself '-- again, I'm not an evolutionary virologist, but those who are look at the virus, and they say it's absolutely totally compatible with something that evolved from bat viruses because of the closeness to. But we don't have that extra link that's come in, but there's nothing they see in there that makes you think it was something that came from a lab.
kara swisherSo you support the investigation into this, correct?
anthony fauciI think we should definitely try. Indeed, I have said that. As a scientist, I have always kept an open mind about things until they were definitively proven. So if an investigation gets us closer to that, then I certainly am in favor of that. The one thing that I feel we need to do, we better make sure that any investigation includes people who have real scientific knowledge about this and get the political aspects out of it. And also, there needs to be a combination of diplomacy together with scientific investigation, together with, I guess I would call forensics. They've all got to be together because if you go in an accusatory way, you will put the Chinese off even more than they are right now.
kara swisherWell, they haven't been particularly forthcoming on lots of issues.
anthony fauciI mean, even when they're not hiding anything, they act that way. I mean, if you look at the first SARS in 2002, they were not particularly forthcoming in what was going on. And what it was, was proven of being a natural occurrence. Yet if you look the way they acted early on, that's the nature of the way the Chinese, when they have something that goes on in their own country, they just act in a very put-offish way. They're not forthcoming with information. Does that mean that they're really lying and hiding something? I don't know.
kara swisherSo, Dr. Shi Zhengli, who's a top virologist at the Wuhan Institute, claims her lab never held any source of the new coronavirus before the pandemic erupted. It's not entirely clear if that's the case. Do you believe her?
anthony fauciI don't know her. In fact, I've never met her. But I've talked to virologists who interact with her, and they say she's a scientist who's very talented, has a high degree of integrity, and is someone whose major purpose is to prevent outbreaks from occurring. As a matter of fact, she is one of the investigators who discovered the ultimate connection of SARS-CoV-1 to the animal kingdom. I don't think very many people recognize that. And she is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology. So she is a very well recognized scientist.
kara swisherSol do you believe her on this? I mean, because they have pressures in China, and the government does shut things down.
anthony fauciKara, I don't know her. I can tell you from her reputation, her reputation would have people believe her.
kara swisherOK, all right. And do you ever think we're going to find the source, given the Chinese are not being cooperative, it's politicized here in this country?
anthony fauciI hope so. If you look at the definitive proof that SARS-CoV-1 was the cause of the SARS outbreak in 2002, 2003, that took several years of scouting around in bats and other animals that come into the wet market to finally see the connection. It may take years. And here's the thing when I say if we're going to get the answer, we have to do it with some degree of diplomacy. Because if we want to be part of the team that goes out there and finds out is there a connection with an animal that might have been brought in for many, many, many miles away into the Wuhan markets, we're going to have to do that in collaboration with the Chinese.
kara swisherMm-hmm. The mainstream media reported on this theory with a lot of skepticism, calling it a conspiracy theory and using words like ''debunked,'' saying there's virtually no chance it could be true. Did the media add to this mess?
anthony fauciYeah, I think what's happened now, this certainly has become political. And again, I want to repeat, Kara, because what I said, I gave you the reason why. I want to make sure '-- and you'll have to excuse me for that '-- because there's a lot of people just waiting on every word to pounce, OK? And it's a lot of it is anti-science '-- and I've said that before, and I'll say it right now.
The fact is, I just gave you the reasons from speaking with and dealing with knowledgeable virologists and evolutionary biologists for years and years and years. Still, I do keep an open mind that it's a possibility. So that's the reason why you say, well, this person says it's a possibility. And that person says there's a possibility, almost in the context that I'm disagreeing with them. I'm not. I'm saying it is a possibility. I think it's a very, very, very, very remote possibility. But it's a possibility.
kara swisherMm-hmm, right. And so as the theory's being re-examined with more credibility, say, in the media, and then it enters into politics '-- Republicans like Marco Rubio have accused you of downplaying the idea of a lab leak. Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul sent you a letter, demanding answers. What's your response to them? Is that it's a possibility, I'm happy to look at it, or a remote possibility?
anthony fauciYeah, of course. No, I say that. I say it over and over again. If you look back at the Jan. 31 when I was approached by some virologists, saying, there's a possibility that this may '-- we haven't looked at it as carefully as we should. He says, ''We really want to let you know. What should we do?'' They were asking my advice. And I said, ''Well, let's keep an open mind.''
So from the very beginning, I called a group together of international people. One of them was a good friend and a very established scientist. Jeremy Farrar was with us. We asked him to go and contact the W.H.O. to let them know. I let the Department of Health and Human Services know, the leadership. So that's the reason why I get frustrated when people say, well, he was hiding it from the public. Look at the facts. The facts say I was not.
kara swisherOne of the things that did happen is people dismissed Tom Cotton, who very early on pointed to the possibility. I mean, when you actually go look at what he said, he wasn't particularly being political. He was talking about the possibility. Did he get pulled into the same thing?
anthony fauciI don't actually recall exactly the circumstances of when he came out and said that, but I think when a person in good faith comes out and says, ''I have some doubts, and I would like to pursue this further,'' that's nothing incompatible with what we're saying. Right now, the way you're presenting it, Kara, I have no problem with what Cotton said when he said, let's look into it. It's when they get it into the political arena and say, ah, you were lying about this. It has to be this. It's unquestionably this. They don't know what they're talking about when they say that. That becomes a political issue.
kara swisherOK, so I'm going to move on to your emails. Thousands of your emails dating from January to June of 2020 have recently been released by BuzzFeed and the Washington Post that's giving your critics, particularly on the right, more material to work with. Your redacting of Mark Zuckerberg have added fuel to the fire. Representatives Jim Jordan and James Comer and Senator Marsha Blackburn have alleged that you worked with Facebook to censor speech. And you're just laughing at me, right?
anthony fauci[LAUGHTER} No, no, the reason I'm laughing, Kara, because every single one of those emails can be explained in a way that is perfectly normal, perfectly innocent, and completely above board.
kara swisherWere you trying to get help with your Instagram? What was happening?
anthony fauciNo, no. Well, I don't know who redacted that. When people ask for my emails, I don't look through my emails and say, ''OK, I'll give you this one and redact this.'' It's completely out of my control. So you want to know what the email was really about? Hey, big scoop. Here we go. Mark said, hey, is there anything that we can do to help out to get the messages out, the right public health messages? I have a very important medium here in Facebook. Can I help? And as a matter of fact, if you guys don't have enough resources and money to do some of the things you want, just let us know. It was about as friendly and innocent an email as you could possibly imagine.
kara swisherSo not about whether to censor speech related to Covid, anything else.
anthony fauciOh, absolutely 100%. And any thought of that is total conspiracy theory and total flight of fantasy.
kara swisherDid you sense that these emails were going to be released before they were published?
anthony fauciI actually get so many FOIA requests for things. I mean, it's just a big institution. We're a very visible group. Quite frankly, I didn't know that there were thousands and thousands of emails that got sent out. I didn't even know that. So I didn't get worried about it because I never '-- I didn't say anything in the email that I was worried about.
But once I knew that it got out there and it was going to get very carefully scrutinized by very far-right, radical people who clearly are trying to discredit me '-- no doubt about that '-- that's political. It's clear. It's anti-science, and it's anti-me. I said to myself, it is likely, I know, that you can pull out sentences from emails or take emails out of context or take an email that is perfectly innocent, followed up by an explanation, and only show one aspect of it. We know that's being done.
kara swisherRight, so in 2020 in February, you advised Sylvia Burwell, the former Health and Human Services Secretary, that she did not need to wear a mask while traveling, especially since she was flying to a low risk location. That is something that people are focusing in on. And let me just be clear, my brother, who's a doctor, said the same thing to me at that time, like probably it's not going to help, and this and that. And you should save them for health care workers, was his '-- he's an anesthesiologist. So did you worry at the time in hindsight that you should have waited before commenting on these issues?
anthony fauciOK, so Kara, allow me to explain that, plus one other thing that gets thrown around by people who all they want to do is give ad hominems and, quite frankly, have no idea what they're talking about. Back early on, when we were talking about masks and whether you should wear masks was at a time that there were very, very few infections here. And there were three aspects that dictated that discussion. One, we were told right in the situation room that there would be a shortage of masks because everybody went out and bought a mask, because people were going to buy N95s. And given the personal protective equipment, we did not want to create a situation where healthcare providers who absolutely needed masks wouldn't get it. Point number two, at the time, there was no real evidence that masks worn outside of the setting of the hospital actually worked to protect you. And number three, we did not know at the time that about half or maybe more of infections were transmitted by people who had no symptoms. So those are three things. Hold on to that.
At the time that I said to Sylvia that you don't necessarily need to wear a mask and where I even said publicly you don't need to wear a mask, you know who agreed with me? The entire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the C.D.C, and the Surgeon General of the United States. Yet that is being fashioned as an anti-Fauci thing. OK, now let's fast forward. What did we learn in the subsequent month or two when I changed and said, everybody should wear a mask? A, there was no shortage because we found out that cloth masks actually work. Number two, analyses that were published that showed, for the first time, that guess what? Outside of the hospital setting, masks actually work to protect you and to prevent you from spreading. And three, we learned to our horror that about 50% of the infections were being transmitted by people who didn't even know they were infected.
So that is the reason why I changed my mind. So the people who are giving the ad hominems are saying, ah, Fauci misled us. First, he said no masks, then he said masks. Well, let me give you a flash. That's the way science works. You work with the data you have at the time. It is essential as a scientist that you evolve your opinion and your recommendations based on the data, as it evolves. That is the nature of science. It is a self-correcting process. And that's the reason why I say people who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science. It was not a change because I felt like flip flopping. It was a change because the evidence changed. The data changed.
kara swisherRight, one of the things I was thinking about is that the idea of public health is things evolve, right? But that's impossible in this twitchy noisy culture now. Is there another way you're going to have to go through public health? Because the most part, people had trust in what you said. And if you say I made a mistake or things have changed, people accepted it. They don't accept it now. Do you think you can now, these days, be wrong in public health or not have enough information?
anthony fauciYou can be wrong if you're dealing with information that is evolving. I mean, if, all of a sudden, I started to say that smoking is not deleterious to your health, that would be dead wrong because all the data show it's highly deleterious to your health. But when you're dealing with a rapidly evolving pandemic, things change. So it isn't a question of being wrong. It's a question of going with the data as you have and being humble enough and flexible enough to change with the data. So if you want to say, was I wrong back then when I said, you don't necessarily need to wear a mask, well, based on what we know now, that definitely was wrong. But based on what we know then, it wasn't wrong.
kara swisherAnd when you're dealing with an evolving situation that has politics, it's even worse.
anthony fauciWell, politics clouds the whole thing. I mean, it's so obvious. I know, obviously, in this interview, you can't, in any way, take sides. But the nonsense that's going on now, the stuff that's being thrown around '-- criminal charges, blood on your hands. What in God's name are you talking about?
kara swisherAre you surprised? Did you think it was going to stop when President Trump left office?
kara swisherOr did you imagine it would get worse?
anthony fauciNo, I didn't think it was going to stop Bbcause the same people who are out there lying about other things, why should they stop lying now?
kara swisherYeah. Let me just be clear. Roger Stone recently compared you to Hitler. Governor Ron DeSantis is saying that Florida chose ''freedom over faucism.'' When you're talking about using ad hominem, what are your thoughts on the use of your name to denote notions of authoritarian control or mind control or whatever the heck they think you are up to?
anthony fauciKara, what I do is I'm a public health official and a scientist who's devoted my entire 50-year medical career, 40 of which have been in public health, to saving lives '-- and, in fact, saving millions of lives. So what I do is I concentrate on my job. And when I concentrate on my job, I put very little weight in the adulation and very little weight in the craziness of condemning me. Now, the other thing is that it gets preposterous. And the thing that bothers you most of all is the impact it has on your family. I mean, getting death threats and getting your daughters and your wife threatened with obscene notes and threatening notes is not fun. So I can't say that doesn't bother me. I mean, the more extreme they get, the more obvious how political it is. Fauci is like Hitler. Fauci has blood on his hands. Are you kidding me? I mean, anybody who is just thinking about this in a dispassionate way has got to say, what the heck are those people talking about? Here's a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives, and now you're telling me he's like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real.
kara swisherWe'll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You'll be able to catch up on ''Sway'' episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna, and you'll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Anthony Fauci after the break.
When you are out there as a public face of these things, in order to explain it to the public, is that too much of a cost for public health officials?
anthony fauciWell, I know several of my colleagues are now reticent to talk out about anything now. This is an organized '-- I mean, I'm telling you things that people with greater insight than I are convinced of, that this is an organized effort to be able to essentially discredit the truth. The truth has disappeared. And I mean, people who think that Jan. 6 was a friendly visit to the gift shop at the Capitol, I mean, come on. It's complete distortion of reality.
kara swisherSo when you're saying it's an organized effort to discredit the truth and especially about you, do you have proof that they're doing that? You're just watching it?
anthony fauciNo, I don't have any proof. No, I don't have any time. It just seems to me really rather strange that everyone says the same talking points. You have people who absolutely have no idea of what they're talking about with virology are talking about furin cleavage sites. Like, who gave you that talking point?
anthony fauciCome on.
kara swisherI'm old enough to be around for the whole AIDS crisis and your incredible work related to it, but you vehemently disagreed with the Reagan administration during the AIDS epidemic '-- and they were quite slow to move with this more marginalized group of people '-- and then with Trump during Covid. How do you compare them? Because that was a political time.
anthony fauciYeah, they're very different.
kara swisherTell me how.
anthony fauciI mean, it's black and white. I mean, back at the time during the Reagan administration, when he did not use the bully pulpit as much as I would have liked him to do to call attention to an emerging outbreak and had people around him who clearly were homophobic, it was a tough situation. It was by people who even though I disagreed with what they were doing, they never really were completely violating the tenets of the organization. They had respect for government. They had respect for the Congress. They had respect for the judicial branch. I mean, it was government working. You could disagree with them, but it wasn't the complete whatever it is that's going on right now. To me, that's scary for our democracy, quite frankly.
kara swisherSo, in the larger picture throughout the whole pandemic, the political divide has informed everything, from mask wearing to vaccine hesitancy. Do you think this divide is surmountable, or have we gone too far? What is your hope? Is it social media that has to be pulled back?
anthony fauciI'm not sure how we're going to get out of this situation. I do know that social media can be a way of spreading important positive information. But the junk that gets put on that is frightening because it's so distorted that you have people read it and they follow it. I understand people like it. I don't have a Twitter account so I don't know.
kara swisherDo you use Facebook?
anthony fauciNo, I don't. I mean, you're talking to the wrong person when it comes to social media.
kara swisherThere's a lot about you on it, just so you know. Just FYI.
anthony fauciYeah, so I hear. I mean, sometimes they put it in front of me, but now I just don't even want to look at it anymore. So for those of you who think you're affecting me with it, sorry, I'm not looking at it.
kara swisherI'm interested in your thoughts on medical disinformation on Facebook. Mark is asking you what he can do. With this medical disinformation, what should the platforms be doing?
anthony fauciAgain, Kara, I will get criticized if I make recommendations for things outside of my area of expertise. I'll stick to the science. I'll stick to the public health. I don't know how to correct misinformation on social media. I wouldn't know how to do that.
kara swisherI do think they need to do something more about it. It's a very difficult thing because they've been charged with running all of society. And they're very bad at it. So that's the problem we have, is that they are incapable to the task, Facebook in particular. I'm not sure what they should do '-- labels, fines. But they do stop people from getting the treatment they need. But when you're talking about what's coming next, there's something you're worried about, that you're watching for next?
anthony fauciYeah, 20 years ago, people would ask me the same question. And if you go back over the records, which is easy to do, you would see that I consistently gave the same answer. And that is the emergence of a new virus, a respiratory borne virus that would jump species from an animal host to a human that would have two characteristics. One, it would be highly efficient in transmissibility through the respiratory route. And two, it would have a very high degree of capability of morbidity and mortality for the human population. And unfortunately, we're living through my worst nightmare.
kara swisherWell, do you have a worse than worst nightmare?
anthony fauciNo, actually, right now, what I'm saying to myself is that if this happens now, which it is, that it can happen again. And it could even possibly be worse. This is an unusual virus because about a third to 40 percent of the people get no symptoms at all. Yet it's capable of killing 600,000 Americans. We've never had a situation like that where a virus that would be benign or almost half the people or 40 percent of the people and yet kill so many people.
So the possibility that can occur in the future that you could get a pandemic that would be, essentially, more uniform in its deleterious effect, we have two ways of preparing. You've got to prepare at the global level, have universal standards of communication, of surveillance, of those kinds of things, diagnostic capabilities. And you've got to make an investment in science. The investment in science that we have made over decades allowed us to do what some people would have thought was impossible '-- to go from the awareness of a new virus in January to a highly effective vaccine in December.
kara swisherAnd what about this vaccine technology, the use of mRNA, for example? How close are we to the same technology for flu or H.I.V. vaccines, a cancer vaccine?
anthony fauciOh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, one of the positive '-- the silver lining, if you want to call it that, of this is that we have been able to show the extraordinary power of certain vaccine platform technology. For sure, it's already being pursued in the realm of H.I.V., in the realm of influenza, in the realm of a variety of other infectious diseases. So the technology that was spectacularly successful with SARS-CoV-2 is absolutely going to put us a step ahead with other infections.
kara swisherRight. So one last question. If you could go back to February 2020, what's one thing that you would change that you did, right now, knowing what you know now? And I know that's an easy thing to say '-- even not knowing what you know now.
anthony fauciWell, no, knowing what I know now, Kara, back then '-- but I don't think it would have worked because I don't think I would have convinced anybody. So let's go back to the first case that we recognized was Jan. 21. There was a handful of cases as we got into '--
kara swisherPossibly even earlier.
anthony fauciYeah, that we didn't recognize, right. If we had said then, let's shut everything down, if I had said that, people would have looked at me like I was crazy. Are you talking about shutting down the government when you've had 17 cases? No way. But looking back, at would have might have stopped this a bit? It would have been that. But that would have been unacceptable to society. Even now, when we have absolute proof that this virus has killed 600,000 Americans, we still have people that don't want to get vaccinated.
kara swisherYep, one of my relatives. It's very disturbing. I don't even know what to say at this point. What do I say to this relative who is like, herd immunity, I'm not going to get sick? What do you say?
anthony fauciI mean, I think there's a lot of people '-- well, let me be clear, Kara. I believe that there are a lot of people who don't want to get vaccinated that there's absolutely nothing wrong with them at all. They just need more information. So you know what the best way to get to herd immunity is? Get vaccinated.
kara swisher''Sway'' is a production of New York Times Opinion. It's produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Daphne Chen; edited by Nayeema Raza and Paula Szuchman; with original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Erick Gomez; and fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Michelle Harris. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Kristin Lin, and Liriel Higa.
If you're in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you're listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of ''Sway'' delivered to you so you can listen to it as you sip on a Fauci Pouchy, download any podcast app, then search for ''Sway,'' and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.
Greg Abbott Defunds Texas Legislature After Democrats Stage Walk-Out, Block Election Reforms | The Daily Wire
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 12:42
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) vetoed funding for the state legislature on Friday, carrying out the threat he made last month after Democrats staged a walk-out to block legislation.
Democrats in the Texas House walked off the floor of the House chamber last month, breaking quorum and stopping Republicans from passing election reforms, as well as a bail reform legislation that Abbott in particular wanted, according to the Texas Tribune. After the walk-out, Abbott vowed to defund the legislative branch for ''abandon[ing] their responsibilities.''
''Texans don't run from a legislative fight, and they don't walk away from unfinished business,'' Abbott said in a statement Friday. ''Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session. I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations.''
Abbott vetoed Article 10 of the state budget approved by the legislature Friday. Article 10 not only funds lawmakers' salaries, but also the salaries of staff and maintenance workers, and it funds legislative agencies such as the Legislative Reference Library.
Abbott's veto of Article 10 is unprecedented, according to the Legislative Reference Library. Similarly, the Democrats' walk-out in May to stop legislation that was otherwise primed to pass is a move that has rarely been done in Texas politics.
Texas state Rep. Chris Turner (D), who chairs the Democratic caucus in the House, said that Abbott's action may be unconstitutional, and said he plans to take Abbott's administration to court over it.
''Texas has a governor, not a dictator or emperor. The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that Governor Greg Abbott is simply out of control,'' Turner said in a statement.
''Let's be clear '' vetoing the legislative branch will cause direct harm to Texans,'' he continued. ''Our constituent services are the lifeblood of our public service, something Abbott should try learning about. By placing a termination date on the employment of all legislative staff, the governor is cutting off services to millions of Texans.''
''Our caucus is exploring every option, including immediate legal options, to fight back against Greg Abbott's abuse of power,'' Turner said.
Abbott has called for legislators to join a special session of the state legislature to work on passing Abbott's legislative priorities.
''I expect legislators to have worked out their differences prior to arriving back at the Capitol so that they can hit the ground running to pass legislation related to these emergency items and other priority legislation,'' he said in a statement last month. ''During the special session, we will continue to advance policies that put the people of Texas first.''
''This session we passed legislation to: secure our border, support our police, expand 2A rights, defend religious liberty, protect life,'' he continued. ''It was one of the most conservative sessions our state has ever seen. But, there's more we must do to ensure a brighter future for Texas. Election integrity & bail reform were must-pass emergency items. I expect legislators to work out their differences before special session.''
The Daily Wire is one of America's fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.
Female athletes urged to boycott Tokyo Olympics as New Zealand accused of 'cheating' after trans weightlifter selected for Games '-- RT World News
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 12:35
New Zealand has been accused of undermining female athletics after tapping trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, with some even describing the decision as outright cheating.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) CEO Kereyn Smith said that Hubbard met the requirements to compete in the international games, and stressed that New Zealand's team has a ''strong culture of... inclusion and respect for all.'' Smith acknowledged that the decision was controversial, stating that ''human rights'' must be balanced with ''fairness on the field of play'' when it comes to gender identity in sports.
However, many took issue with the assertion that New Zealand had carefully weighed all the relevant factors before inviting Hubbard to compete.
Save Women's Sports Australia, which campaigns to keep female sports 'fair' in Australia and New Zealand, accused the IOC of ''betraying'' women.
''Women are not a hormone level, nor are we a self-declaration of a 'female gender identity'. Shame on them,'' the group wrote in response to the announcement.
The IOC betrays women. @iocmedia Middle aged male Laurel Hubbard is selected to compete in the female Olympic 87+ kg weightlifting category. Women are not a hormone level, nor are we a self-declaration of a "female gender identity".Shame on them. https://t.co/KCATnjQljK
'-- Save Women's Sports Australasia (@SWS_australasia) June 21, 2021Hubbard's history-making participation in the Games will set an ''abhorrent'' precedent that will cause immense harm to female sports in years to come, others warned.
One commentator claimed data suggests that ''mediocre'' male athletes would be champions if they were allowed to compete in female events, suggesting that Hubbard's selection was deeply unfair and undermines the integrity of women's sports.
Hubbard is a good example of why male inclusion in female sports is wrong.Look at the data.A mediocre male immediately becomes an off the charts sublime female.Do we prioritise one man's feelings or protect the integrity of women's sport? pic.twitter.com/gSmXcm5Zv8
'-- Nicholas ð¬ð§ðªðº #EFTA (@njstone9) June 20, 2021Others simply accused New Zealand of ''cheating'' by adding Hubbard to their team.
I'm loving the word "cheat" being used - because it should be. When these males compete in female sports chant "cheater" needs to be shouted from the rooftops by as many people as possible until trans people make their own leagues. #TokyoOlympics
'-- JustAnotherHandle (@HandleAnother) June 21, 2021This is cheating and does NZ's reputation massive harm globally. Forevermore known for unsportsmanlike behaviour and world cheats.
'-- Alison #IStandWithMarionMillar ð''ð¤ð' (@Alisdisgrace) June 21, 2021There were also calls for boycotts. Women should refuse to compete against Hubbard, outraged Twitter users said.
ALL women should turn their back on him. Refuse to compete against him. Let him take the trophy...he's a cheat...he'll have no problem taking it this way. Cheats gonna cheat. Women need to say NO, sit down and protest.
'-- les scot (@lesscot1) June 20, 2021''How the hell did the world get to this point? What happened to logic and common sense?'' asked one exasperated observer.
Some took the position that Hubbard's participation in the Tokyo Games was the inevitable result of ''feminists'' undermining their own interests, and noted the irony that female spaces are ''being taken over by men.''
''They will soon say trans women are employing patriarchy in female spaces,'' a commenter predicted.
NZOC announced on Monday that Hubbard would represent the country in the super-heavyweight 87kg category at the Tokyo Games, which are set to begin next month, making the 43-year-old the first transgender woman to compete in the international games. Hubbard, who will be the oldest lifter at the event, previously participated in men's weightlifting competitions before transitioning in 2013.
The athlete said in a statement she was ''humbled'' by the outpouring of support that she has received from her fellow New Zealanders.
Also on rt.com Blame IOC over transgender weightlifter at Tokyo Olympics, say experts '' as rival calls saga 'like a bad joke' for female athletes Hubbard has been eligible to participate in the Olympics since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that transgender athletes could compete in women's events so long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least one year before their first competition. However, critics of this decision have argued that the policy doesn't do enough to counter the physiological differences between biological men and women.
Hubbard's qualifications for the Olympics has been part of an ongoing debate over transgender athletes competing in women's events. Last month, Mark House, a US attorney and International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) technical official, argued that the New Zealander should not be allowed to participate in the Tokyo Games, but said that anger over her qualifying for the Olympics should be placed on the IOC, and not on the athlete herself.
''Her participation will seriously diminish the chances of having a rational discussion about transgender policies,'' House said, adding that he questioned whether the IOC's policy on the issue was actually backed by science.
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China tensions sink another submarine cable | total telecom
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 12:35
by Harry Baldock, Total TelecomMonday 21 June 21The East Micronesia Cable System, set to improve communications in the island nations of Nauru, Kiribati, and the Federated States of Micronesia, has been stalled due to concerns over Huawei's involvementThe story of the East Micronesia Cable System (EMC) goes back to around 2018, when the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank first agreed to co-finance a submarine network linking the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, and Nauru to a transpacific cable system connecting Australia and Hawaii.The cable was planned to help connect the Micronesian subregion to the rest of the world'...
The story of the East Micronesia Cable System (EMC) goes back to around 2018, when the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank first agreed to co-finance a submarine network linking the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, and Nauru to a transpacific cable system connecting Australia and Hawaii.
The cable was planned to help connect the Micronesian subregion to the rest of the world, providing faster and more stable internet to around 75,000 people that currently rely on satellite broadband.
By 2020, bids for the $72.6 million EMC contract were being made, with Huawei, Alcatel Submarine Networks (part of Finland's Nokia), and Japan's NEC all submitting proposals. According to sources, Huawei Marine's bid in the procurement process was more than 20% below that of their rivals.
However, it was around this time that fears over cybersecurity surrounding Huawei and China were at their height, with the US campaigning globally to see Chinese technology removed from national 5G networks and other key communication technologies. In July, the US sent a diplomatic note to the FSM, expressing strategic concerns about the EMC project due to Huawei Marine's perceived obligations to work with Chinese intelligence and security agencies.
These concerns over security are even more pressing due to the EMC's planned connection to the HANTRU-1 submarine cable, which lands at Guam, a key location for the US in the Pacific, housing military assets.
Now, it seems that these concerns over security have won out against cost-effective construction, with the procurement process itself being shelved.
''All three bids were considered non-compliant because there was no specific way to remove Huawei as one of the bidders,'' a source told Reuters.
Exactly what this means for the EMC's future remains to be seen, but for now there is little indication of plans to retender the contract.
This is not the first time that tensions over cybersecurity between China and the US have scuppered submarine cable plans. Back in 2020, Facebook and Google agreed to leave portions of their Pacific Light Cable Network linking the US to Hong Kong dormant after pressure from the US government suggested that a connection to China-dominated Hong Kong was unsecure. Earlier this year, Facebook cancelled its plans to build a transpacific Hong Kong Americas cable over similar concerns.
How is the politicisation of the telecoms industry affecting the submarine cable sector? Find out from the experts at this year's live Submarine Networks EMEA conference
Also in the news:Nokia selected for 5G RAN by Denmark's TTN joint ventureMicrosoft planning four Chinese data centresNokia brings liquid cooling tech to KDDI
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CORPORATE AMERICA FOR DEMOCRACY
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 12:32
To the U.S. Congress:
We write to you as business leaders who care deeply about our employees, communities, and this great nation. We believe businesses have a responsibility to their employees to ensure they can vote safely and without undue obstacles. This is why we support the For the People Act'--one of the most significant pieces of legislation to strengthen our democracy since the Civil Rights era.
This year, in state houses across the country, more than 360 bills in 47 states have been introduced to put up barriers to silence our fellow Americans' voices, especially the voices of Black, Brown, young, disabled, and working class voters. We can all agree a healthy democracy and vibrant economy depends on participation in our election system free from discriminatory practices. These bills work in stark contrast to our interests, and make it more difficult for Americans to have a say in key decisions from healthcare to the economy by limiting our ability to register to vote and cast a ballot early or by mail. Voting is a fundamental right in our country, and it is up to our elected officials to protect it.
Some of these undemocratic measures have already become law, with others surely to follow. And that's why we must rally behind the For the People Act, and other bills protecting our democracy like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Let's be very clear'--this is not a partisan issue. The For the People Act is not about choosing one party or one issue over another, it is about common sense reforms that protect and expand our democracy, and put the power in the hands of the people. It is about reaffirming our founding principle that we can chart our own course as a nation.
The For the People Act would override many of the abusive state laws that make it harder for millions to cast their ballots, and set national standards for free and fair elections. Among its provisions, the bill would:
Expand automatic voter registration;
Expand same-day and online voter registration for federal elections;
Allow for pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds;
Require two weeks of early voting for federal elections;
Make Election Day a national holiday;
Restore the right to vote for people with felony convictions, which disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities;
Strengthen federal criminal penalties for those who misinform and intimidate people at the polls;
Restore transparency and accountability in our government by creating stronger ethics and disclosure standards for elected officials once they are in office;
Overhaul our campaign finance system to give ordinary Americans a greater voice in the political process and a more diverse group of people the opportunity to run; and
Ban partisan gerrymandering and discriminatory voter purges.
We call upon our colleagues in corporate America to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for a democracy that is inclusive of all Americans, and we stand united with the American people to reimagine democracy for all. We applaud the House for passing the For the People Act, and urge the Senate to follow suit and do its part to protect our democracy. Together, we can ensure our employees and communities can safely and freely cast their ballots so every voice is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people.
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VITAMIN D3 RESEARCH - Calcifediol treatment and COVID-19-related outcomes | The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism | Oxford Academic
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 12:17
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Xavier Nogues , IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Centro de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica en Red de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES)
Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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Diana Ovejero , IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Centro de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica en Red de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES)
Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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Marta Pineda-Moncus , IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Centro de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica en Red de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES)
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Roger Bouillon , Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology, Department of Chronic Diseases and Metabolism, KU Leuven
, Herestraat, Leuven,
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Dolors Arenas , Department of Nephrology, Hospital del Mar-IMIM
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Julio Pascual , Department of Nephrology, Hospital del Mar-IMIM
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Anna Ribes , IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Centro de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica en Red de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES)
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Robert Guerri-Fernandez , IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Centro de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica en Red de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES)
Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital del Mar-IMIM
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Judit Villar-Garcia , Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital del Mar-IMIM
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Abora Rial , Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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... Show more Carme Gimenez-Argente , Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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Maria Lourdes Cos , Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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Jaime Rodriguez-Morera , Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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Isabel Campodarve , Internal Medicine Department, Hospital del Mar, Universitat Aut²noma de Barcelona
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Jos(C) Manuel Quesada-Gomez , Jos(C) Manuel Quesada-Gomez
Instituto Maim"nides de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica de C"rdoba (IMIBIC). Fundaci"n Progreso y Salud. CIBER de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES). Hospital Universitario Reina Sofa. Universidad de C"rdoba. Men(C)ndez Pidal s/n
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Natalia Garcia-Giralt IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), Centro de Investigaci"n Biom(C)dica en Red de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES)
Corresponding author: Natalia Garcia-Giralt, PhD, Postdoc Researcher in CIBER in frailty and healthy ageing, Associate Lecturer of University of Barcelona, e-mail:
email@example.com, ORCID: 0000-0001-6507-0147
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PDF Split View Article contents Figures & tables Video Audio Supplementary Data Cite CiteXavier Nogues, Diana Ovejero, Marta Pineda-Moncus, Roger Bouillon, Dolors Arenas, Julio Pascual, Anna Ribes, Robert Guerri-Fernandez, Judit Villar-Garcia, Abora Rial, Carme Gimenez-Argente, Maria Lourdes Cos, Jaime Rodriguez-Morera, Isabel Campodarve, Jos(C) Manuel Quesada-Gomez, Natalia Garcia-Giralt, Calcifediol treatment and COVID-19-related outcomes, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2021;, dgab405, https://doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgab405
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COVID-19 is a major health problem because of saturation of intensive care units (ICU) and mortality. Vitamin D has emerged as a potential treatment able to reduce the disease severity.
To elucidate the effect of calcifediol [25OHD3] treatment on COVID-19-related outcomes.
Observational cohort study from March to May, 2020.
Patients admitted to COVID-19 wards of Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain.
A total of 930 patients with COVID-19 were included. Ninety-two were excluded due to previous calcifediol intake.
Of the remaining 838, a total of 447 received calcifediol (532ug on day one plus 266ug on day 3, 7, 15, and 30) whereas 391 were not treated at the time of hospital admission (Intention-to-Treat). Of the latter, 53 patients were treated later during ICU admission and were allocated in the treated group in a second analysis. In healthy subjects, calcifediol is about 3.2-fold more potent on a weight basis than cholecalciferol.
Main Outcome Measures
ICU admission and mortality.
ICU assistance was required by 102 (12.2%) participants. Out of 447 patients treated with calcifediol at admission, 20 (4.5%) required ICU, compared to 82 (21%) out of 391 non-treated (p-value<0.0001). Logistic regression of calcifediol treatment on ICU admission, adjusted by age, gender, linearized 25OHD levels at baseline, and comorbidities showed that treated patients had a reduced risk to require ICU (OR 0.13 [95% CI 0.07;0.23]). Overall mortality was 10%. In the Intention-to-Treat analysis, 21 (4.7%) out of 447 patients treated with calcifediol at admission died compared to 62 patients (15.9%) out of 391 non-treated (p=0.0001). Adjusted results showed a reduced mortality risk with an OR 0.21 [95% CI 0.10; 0.43]). In the second analysis, the obtained OR was 0.52 [95% CI 0.27;0.99].
In patients hospitalized with COVID-19, calcifediol treatment significantly reduced ICU admission and mortality.
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In Rift With Biden, a Dramatic Show of Force by a Conservative Catholic Movement - The New York Times
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 11:24
A vote by the U.S. bishops was the most dramatic example of the conservative Catholic movement's reach since Joseph R. Biden was elected. But the contingent had been gaining strength throughout the Trump era.
President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, greeting a priest after attending Catholic Mass, at the St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. Credit... Tom Brenner for The New York Times June 20, 2021
WASHINGTON '-- Pope Francis and President Biden, both liberals, are the two most high-profile Roman Catholics in the world.
But in the United States, neither of these men is determining the direction of the Catholic Church. It is now a conservative movement that decides how the Catholic Church asserts its power in America.
That reality was unmistakably declared last week, when the country's bishops voted overwhelmingly to draft guidelines for the Eucharist, advancing a conservative push to deny Mr. Biden communion over his support for abortion rights.
''There is a special obligation of those who are in leadership because of their public visibility,'' Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who heads the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, said after the vote.
It was the most dramatic example of the conservative Catholic movement's reach since Mr. Biden was elected. But the contingent had been gaining strength throughout the Trump era, clashing with the Vatican, wresting influence away from Pope Francis' top representatives in the United States and further polarizing the Catholic faithful in the process. And now, American Catholics are facing an internal war over one of the church's most sacred rituals, the Eucharist, which represents the body and blood of Christ.
Leading U.S. allies of Pope Francis, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, sided with the Vatican's warning against proceeding with the eucharistic document, but they were ultimately drowned out. The measure passed with a vote of 73 percent who approved it compared with 24 percent who opposed it.
That 73 percent represents emerging conservative momentum, at odds with Pope Francis' broader range of priorities on issues like immigration, poverty and climate change, not only among bishops but in parishes across the country. Although the church has a hierarchical structure, bishops have significant autonomy in their own dioceses. Among the conservative movement's leaders: Bishop Rhoades, who chairs the bishops' committee on doctrine.
Bishop Rhoades, who, like Mr. Biden, grew up in Pennsylvania, was installed as the head of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., in 2010 and has publicly tangled with Mr. Biden in the past. In 2016, he criticized the decision by the University of Notre Dame to honor Mr. Biden, who was then vice president, citing his support for abortion rights and gay marriage, in violation of the church's teaching. ''I disagree with awarding someone for 'outstanding service to the Church and society' who has not been faithful to this obligation,'' he said at the time.
Catholics in his state have been at the forefront of anti-abortion activism, pushing abortion restrictions, defending them in court and pressuring elected officials to support former President Donald J. Trump's nominations to the Supreme Court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court's newest Catholic judge, hails from the University of Notre Dame, in Bishop Rhoades' diocese.
The rightward shift comes as conservative movements are rising in Christianity, pushing back against increasing secularism and the overall decline of Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic. The sex abuse crisis has also pushed many parishioners away from the church.
White Catholics are increasingly Republican: About six in 10 registered white Catholic voters are now Republican, compared with four in 10 in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. By contrast, about two-thirds of Hispanic Catholic voters have remained Democrats over the past decade.
Pope Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America, has taken on the rising conservatism in the United States, especially in public clashes with Mr. Trump on racism, immigration and what it means to be a true Christian.
The bishops' conference, held virtually last week, revealed a network of conservative church strongholds across the country, as bishop after bishop presented himself as a defender of the true faith, often in the face of what they described as persecution from liberal Christians, secular society and the news media.
Heroes of the Catholic right, including bishops long known for their ardent opposition to gay rights and contraception, were among the statement's most prominent supporters.
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco urged Catholics after the vote to ''remember the eucharistic martyrs who died to protect the Most Blessed Sacrament from profanation.''
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, who leads the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, criticized public officials who ''flaunt their Catholicity'' but whose policies the church does not support.
''We are at a new moment in the pro-life movement,'' he told the bishops. ''Those who advocate for abortion no longer talk in the language of choice '-- they talk about it as a right.''
The clerics ultimately endorsed a plan to draft a statement that could be used as theological justification to deny communion to Mr. Biden and Catholic politicians like him who support abortion rights.
Christians receive communion to remember the sacrifice made by Jesus in his death. For Catholics, the ritual is a sacrament and the central part of every Mass. Catholic teaching instructs that the bread and wine literally transforms into the body and blood of Christ during Mass. To be denied the Eucharist is to be denied the presence of Christ.
Conservative Catholics, not only evangelicals, had significant power in Mr. Trump's administration, especially in advancing his anti-abortion agenda and appointment of about 200 federal judges. Several top officials were conservative Catholics, including Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel; Mick Mulvaney, the former White House chief of staff; and Kellyanne Conway, a former counselor to Mr. Trump. Outside partners, like Leonard A. Leo of the Federalist Society and Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, also held influence.
Now, in the early months of the Biden administration, the bishops' actions have newly emboldened the conservative grass roots. CatholicVote, a conservative political group, began fund-raising off the decision within hours.
In Fort Worth on Saturday, the Rev. Jim Gigliotti drafted a letter to Representative Ted Lieu, a Catholic Democrat from California, writing ''your very soul is in jeopardy'' and informing him that he would be refused Communion if he happened to attend Mass at Mr. Gigliotti's parish.
''Confrontation is a ministry of caring,'' Father Gigliotti said.
Mr. Lieu, in a series of tweets after the bishops' vote, had called them ''hypocrites'' for not instructing former attorney general William P. Barr to abstain from the Eucharist because of his employment of the death penalty when he served under Mr. Trump. Mr. Lieu dared the bishops to deny him Communion, pointing out that he supports contraception, the right to same-sex marriage and ''a woman's right to choose,'' which are all violations of Catholic teaching.
In Oakdale, Minn., the Rev. Brian Lynch, associate pastor at Transfiguration Catholic Church, said he had discussed the bishops' conference from the pulpit and encouraged his congregants to write letters of support for the Eucharist statement before the vote.
To Father Lynch, the example that Mr. Biden is providing to ordinary Catholics is intolerable. ''The old-fashioned language would be that the current situation is scandalous: that someone can hold positions that are completely contrary to what the church teaches and publicly present themselves as a devout Catholic,'' he said. ''That's not the traditional meaning of 'devout.'''
Some conservative Catholics have felt disturbed watching Mr. Biden's evolution on the abortion issue over the course of his decades in Washington.
''Biden has just transformed himself into the most radical pro-abortionist,'' said John Hittinger, a philosophy professor at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution in Houston. If the bishops don't step in, he said, ''anything goes, and what does it even mean to be Catholic?''
Ryan T. Anderson, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative organization in Washington, said that bishops taking action on a contemporary political issue was simply a matter of obedience to church teaching, regardless of partisanship.
He pointed to the example of Joseph Francis Rummel, the archbishop of New Orleans in the 1950s, who proclaimed racial segregation ''morally wrong and sinful'' and eventually excommunicated three prominent church members who opposed him.
Outside observers, and even many lay Catholics, don't understand the deep sacredness of the Eucharist in church teaching and tradition, said Mary Hallan FioRito, a Catholic lawyer and commentator in Chicago.
If Ms. FioRito's children violate the church instruction to fast for one hour before receiving the Eucharist, she tells them not to receive it. She has friends who attend Mass frequently but do not even request the Eucharist because they were married outside the church and are therefore not in ''valid'' marriages. Mr. Biden, she said, should know better than to try to receive communion given his position on abortion.
''For Catholics, the Eucharist is not a symbol,'' she said. ''It's Christ himself.''
In Maine, Emily Holtzclaw attended Mass on Sunday morning for one of the first times since the beginning of the pandemic. She grew up in a liberal Catholic family and is married to a man who works for Planned Parenthood. It was a comfort and relief to return to the Eucharist in particular, she said.
The bishops' vote last week could lead to a slippery slope ''where eventually Catholics like me are going to be excluded,'' Ms. Holtzclaw said. But partaking of the sacrament on Sunday morning had strengthened her resolve to remain faithful to the tradition that she loves.
''They're going to have to take it away from me,'' she said.
Elizabeth Dias reported from Washington and Ruth Graham from Dallas.