MONEY IS NOT WEALTH
by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated August 10, 2020

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On the eve of USA's November 2008 national election, an urgent proposal for an unsecured $700-Billion, maybe $800-Billion loan to mismanaged banks and stockbrokers was generating understandable controversy. In its initial form the Bush Buddies Bailout was one more Weapon of Mass Deception, a (later, a two-step) public welfare program for wealthy people who game the system. But the problem remains.

What, exactly, went - and continues to go - wrong? What ARE reasonable goals, what are NOT, and how might a more populist government reach good ones?

Jill and I searched, asked friends, and found part of the discussion in the mainline U.S. Press. It is dominated by large corporations, and is quickly becoming a large corporation that reports with bias and too-often avoids reporting. We find the parts they don't want us to find - overseas, in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and in the Alternative Press. Some favorites are: Alternet, Campaign for America's Future, Common Dreams, Daily KOS, Demand Progress, Democracy Now, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, The Nation, Nation of Change, Dan Rather's News&Guts, Politico, The Raw Story, TruthOut, and Russ Baker's WhoWhatWhy.org. But we keep a sense of perspective; know which news is biased, and how.

The more we read, the more we realize that - as much as we want our money back - that is only one of many ways our country is becoming impoverished. Often by corporations, which most definitely are NOT people! (For one thing, these rapacious corporations have no shame.)



You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that, is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.
- Rahm Emanuel (Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview, Nov. 7, 2008)

Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis.
- Niccolo Machiavelli (Fifteenth Cent.Florentine writer and statesman)

Yes, as through this world I've wandered,
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

- Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads

What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?
- Bertolt Brecht

Yes, We're Corrupt.
-
A List of Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics

Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
- Jimmy Carter (1979, as U.S. President)

Cycling Is Bad For The Economy
A cyclist is a disaster for the country’s economy: He does not buy a car and does not take out a car loan. He does not buy car insurance
. He does not buy fuel. He does not send his car for servicing & repairs. He does not use paid parking. He does not become obese.
Healthy people are not needed for the economy. They do not buy drugs. They do not go to hospitals and doctors. They add nothing to the country’s GDP.
On the contrary, every new McDonald's creates at least 30 jobs: 10 cardiologists, 10 dentists, 10 weight-loss experts
apart from people working in McDonald's.
Choose wisely: A bike ride, or a Big Mac with cheese? Think about it!
P.S.
Walkers are even worse. They do not even buy a bicycle.
- NOT Sanjay Thakrar, CEO at Euro Exim Bank Ltd. (2018)

It is not particularly easy for one to climb up out of the working-class - especially if he is handicapped by the possession of ideals and illusions.
- What Life Means to Me, by Jack London (1905)

... peace was not in the interest of a stable society, that even if lasting peace "could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it." War was a part of the economy. Therefore, it was necessary to conceive a state of war for a stable economy. The government, the group theorized, would not exist without war, and nation states existed in order to wage war. War served the vital function of diverting collective aggression. They recommended "credible substitutes" and paying a "blood price" to emulate the economic functions of war. Prospective government-devised alternatives to war included reports of alien life-forms, the reintroduction of a "euphemized form" of slavery "consistent with modern technology and political processes", and - one deemed particularly promising in gaining the attention of the malleable masses - the threat of "gross pollution of the environment".
- Wikipedia's summary of The Report From Iron Mountain (1967)

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
- U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (April 16, 1953)

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
- John Adams, letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), The Works of John Adams, vol 9, p.511.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.
-- President Abraham Lincoln (1864 letter to William Fletcher Elkin), or faked in Caldwell Remedy Company pamphlet (May 10, 1888), or...
<http://abrahamlincolnassociation.org/Newsletters/1-1.pdf> (pp. 4-6)
<https://americanmissive.com/2009/03/20/did-abraham-lincoln-say-that/>

What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth. For the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish, and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs to him only?
- Massasoit

Only when the last tree has been cut down, only when the last river has been poisoned, only when the last fish has been caught, only then will you realize your money cannot be eaten.
- an old Cree saying? Maybe not; but good.

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.
- U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1938

Train communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule themselves.
- Walt Whitman

This planet has -- or rather had -- a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (1979)

The Fragile States Index (Fund For Peace)

US National Debt Clock, by Ed Hall

The Freecycle Network (Good. A grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.)

Time Trade Circle (Good. Time Banking in eastern Massachusetts.)

Buy Nothing Project (Bad?)
(See its Person-to-Person section - on Facebook - and then see Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life , below).

Calculated Risk (blog)

The Conscience of a Liberal (NY Times blog by Paul Krugman)

To Build A Better Ballot; an interactive guide to alternative voting systems, by Nicky Case, 2016)

OurFuture.org (Campaign for America's Future)

Lifton's Thought Reform, (ca. 1997; Changing Minds)
Milieu control, mystical manipulation, confession, self-sanctification through purity, aura of sacred science, loaded language, doctrine over person, dispensed existence.

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within (Molecular Expressions, 1998)
View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

The Market as God, by Harvey Cox (The Atlantic, 1999)
Living in the new dispensation.

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism, by Lawrence Britt (Free Inquiry magazine, 2003)

NEW: The Legacy of F.D.R. (Time, major series from 2009)
Franklin D. Roosevelt led the U.S. through a depression and a world war. By the time he died, the nation was profoundly changed — and we owe much of the change to him and his bold presidency.

Global surveillance disclosures (Wikipedia, 2013–present)
Ongoing news reports in the international media have revealed operational details about the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners' global surveillance of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. The reports mostly emanate from a cache of top secret documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America, by Peter Turchin (Cliodynamica, 2013)

Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life (Institute for Critical Digital Culture, 2018)
Every click on a website and every swipe on a smartphone may trigger a wide variety of hidden data sharing mechanisms distributed across several companies and, as a result, directly affect a person’s available choices. Digital tracking and profiling, in combination with personalization, are not only used to monitor, but also to influence peoples’ behavior. ...
"Facebook uses at least 52,000 personal attributes to sort and categorize its 1.9 billion users by, for example, their political views, ethnicity, and income. In order to do so, the platform analyzes their posts, likes, shares, friends, photos, movements, and many other kinds of behaviors.
"In addition, Facebook acquires data on its users from other companies. In 2013, the platform began its partnership with the four data brokers Acxiom, Epsilon, Datalogix and BlueKai, the latter two of which were subsequently acquired by the IT giant Oracle. These companies help Facebook track and profile its users even better than it already does by providing it with data collected from beyond its platform.

Help Us Cure Online Publishing of Its Addiction to Personal Data, by Doc Searls (Linux Journal, March 14, 2018)
(and The Big Datastillery that targets YOU)

It's Official: Watching Fox Makes You Stupider (The Nation, 2012)

Ten True Facts Guaranteed to Short-Circuit Republican Brains (Daily Kos, 2012)

ALEC Exposed (Center for Media and Democracy, 2011)

His Grief, and Ours: Paul Ryan's nasty ideal of self-reliance (New Republic, 2012)

We All Built This Great Nation Together: Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, and the Myth of Radical Individualism (Nick Gier)

The Foul Reign Of Emerson's "Self-Reliance (New York Times, 2011)

"A Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950 speech by U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (U.S. Senate, 1950)
(The beginning of the end for Senator Joe McCarthy but, unfortunately, not for McCarthyism.)

The Death Of God, by Friedrich Nietzsche (1885)

Losing my religion for equality (Jimmy Carter, 2009)
"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God."

Invented Symbols, by James Carroll (Boston Globe, January 3, 2006)
'Homo Sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority," Joyce Carol Oates once remarked, ''then forgets that symbols are inventions." This lesson applies across the human condition, although it shows up regularly in the realm of religion, where symbolism is the native language.
Now the church is acknowledging that the passion and authority once invested in limbo, however ''unofficially," can yield. Limbo is an invented symbol that can be left behind.
So is the nation-state. It is not religion that draws the most fervent investment of passion and authority in our time, but rather the politically autonomous entity for which humans have learned to kill and die. That the invented character of the nation-state is forgotten is revealed whenever God is invoked as its source and justification. ''For God and country" is an idolatrous slogan, and a dangerous one. It is scrawled on walls across the world.
The new invention was the United Nations. Far more than an organization, it, too, was a symbol in which passion and authority could be invested. Not only weaponry, but new modes of transport and communication, and then a revolution in information technology all forced a redefinition of the human condition, and the symbolic power of a cooperative world entity came ever more into its own. Not ''God and country" anymore, but Earth itself as holy.
But, in one of history's great ironies, the main inventors of the United Nations, the Americans, found it impossible to stop treating their own nationhood as an absolute value. There were, perhaps, reasons for this during the Cold War, but since then the United States, more than any other nation-state, has reiterated its narrow autonomy, repudiating treaties, promulgating unilateralism, making aggressive war, and treating the global environment as a private waste dump. The United States, in sum, has invested its national sovereignty with passion and authority proper to God, not to an invention of human beings.
The United Nations, where the United States is represented by a man who holds it in contempt, is now a symbol of the planet's new jeopardy. Just as the church is letting go of one limbo, America is condemning the world's best hope to another. 

RELIGION: What It Was For; What Went Wrong; How To Fix It, by Benjamin Becula

The New Populism (Campaign for America's Future, 2014)

Grokking Republicans: The Non-Cooperator's Dilemma (Daily Kos, 2014)
"To create More and Better Democrats means to increase cooperation. Punishing cooperation is the declared Republican mission. 'The Evolution of Cooperation', by Robert Axelrod, proposes a theory that says they lose, and recommends particular political strategies to make it happen faster.

Freethinkers and Libertarianism, by David Niose

EXXON: The Road Not Taken (Inside Climate News, 2015)
"This multi-part series describes how Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago and then, without revealing all that it had learned, worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.

The history of volcanic eruptions since Roman times (Past Global Changes Magazine, 2015)

What's Really Warming The World? (Bloomberg, 2015)

Vanishing: The Sixth Mass Extinction (CNN, 2016)
We're entering the Earth's sixth era of extinction -- and it's the first time humans are to blame. CNN introduces you to the key species and people who are trying to prevent them from vanishing.

Yale Climate Opinion Maps, U.S. 2016

The Legend of Hercules Mulligan (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, June 30, 2016)
We’re all familiar with the legendary heroes who fought to secure our independence from the British: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and his midnight ride. But there are many other influencers of the Revolutionary War whose names don’t immediately come to mind when reflecting on the birth of this great nation. Their efforts and contributions are no less significant or important to securing the freedoms we enjoy every day. The heroics of their lives and stories remain unsung, like many of those serving their country in the shadows today.
This Fourth of July, to celebrate the anniversary of our independence, we are shining the spotlight on one such hero, a man who risked his life to save General George Washington. Twice. A man who helped convert Alexander Hamilton from a Tory to a Patriot. A man who successfully ran his own New York City business and used that business to live among the British, befriending them and covertly acquiring information while overtly tarnishing his reputation with the Patriots. That’s right, Hercules Mulligan.

History of Boston's Water System (slide presentation; Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, October 6, 2016)

Earthquakes of the First 15 Years of the 21st Century (4-min. video; NOAA, December 2, 2016)

Why Excessive Consumption Limits your Creativity (Medium, May 2016)

Is the World Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income? (Freakonomics, 2016)

Scientists Are Pro-Testing (Science, 2017)

The Gerasimov Doctrine (Politico, 2017)
"It’s Russia’s new chaos theory of political warfare. And it’s probably being used on you.

We All Want Healthcare To Cost Much Less  -  But We Are Asking The Wrong Question, by Joe Flowers (Medium, 2017)
"Imagine this: Healthcare  -  the whole system  -  for half as much. Better, more effective. No rationing. Everybody in.

Kim Hill: Sustainability is Destroying the Earth: The Green Economy vs. The Planet (Deep Green Resistance News Service, May 25, 2017)
What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.

Thirteen things the public sector does better than the 'free' market (Daily Kos, October 1, 2017)

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer. (New York Times, November 7, 2017)

MichaelMoore.com

Our Revolution

Angry White House Staffer

GOP Rape Advisory Chart

The Loneliness of Donald Trump; On the Corrosive Privilege of the Most Mocked Man in the World, by Rebecca Solnit

Vote Sleuth: Investigating Democracy (Los Angeles Times, 2017)

The way Donald Trump is handling his job as president (Gallup Poll Daily Data)

PutinTrump.org

Donald Trump (Vice)

Obamacare 101: Here's what you need to know (Los Angeles Times, 2017)

Duty To Warn (Duty To Warn, 2017)
Duty To Warn is an association of mental health professionals and other concerned citizens who advocate Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment on the grounds that he is psychologically unfit.

The way Donald Trump is handling his job as president (Gallup Poll Daily Data)

"Who am I? Why am I here?" (#25thAmendmentNow)
A running thread of Trump not knowing where he is, how he got there, or the appropriate response to give in the moment. Some mental health professionals are concerned that he may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, but he might just be an idiot.

The Hamilton 68 Dashboard tracks Russian influence operations on Twitter. (Hosted by the Alliance for Securing Democracy.)

How Facebook’s destructive ethos imperils democracy (The Guardian, March 17, 2018)

Atlas Of Utopias (Transformative Cities, 2018)

CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD; Congressional Civil Liberties Record in the Trump Era ACLU, 2018)

Chart: The percentage of women and men in each profession (Boston Globe)

Smoking bans in private vehicles (Wikipedia)

Light Cycles, by Quinn Norton

States of Anarchy (New Republic, 2010)
America’s long, sordid affair with nullification.

"The Suffocation of Democracy", by Christopher R. Browning (New York Review Of Books, October 13, 2018)
If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments.
Trump's personal flaws and his tactic of appealing to a narrow base while energizing Democrats and alienating independents may lead to precisely that rare wave election needed to provide a congressional check on the administration as well as the capture of enough state governorships and legislatures to begin reversing current trends in gerrymandering and voter suppression. The elections of 2018 and 2020 will be vital in testing how far the electoral system has deteriorated.
Alongside the erosion of an independent judiciary as a check on executive power, other hallmarks of illiberal democracy are the neutralization of a free press and the steady diminution of basic human rights. On these issues, often described as the guardrails of democracy against authoritarian encroachment, the Trump administration either has won or seems poised to win significant gains for illiberalism. Upon his appointment as chancellor, Hitler immediately created a new Ministry of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, who remained one of his closest political advisers. In Trump’s presidency, those functions have effectively been privatized in the form of Fox News and Sean Hannity. The highly critical free media not only provide no effective check on Trump's ability to be a serial liar without political penalty; on the contrary, they provide yet another enemy around which to mobilize the grievances and resentments of his base. A free press does not have to be repressed when it can be rendered irrelevant and even exploited for political gain.

She Votes (NPR's special SERIES on women and the vote, October 20, 2018)

Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017 (ADL Center on Extremism, February 27, 2018)
Over the past 10 years (2008-17), domestic extremists have been responsible for at least 387 murders; of these, 274 (71%) were committed by right-wing extremists of one type or another.

Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter (ADL Report, May 7, 2018)

Why read Aristotle today? (Aeon, May 29, 2018)
Modern self-help draws heavily on Stoic philosophy. But Aristotle was better at understanding real human happiness.

The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready? (Atlantic, July 1, 2018)
The epidemics of the early 21st century revealed a world unprepared, even as the risks continue to multiply. Much worse is coming.
On average, in one corner of the world or another, a new infectious disease has emerged every year for the past 30 years: mers, Nipah, Hendra, and many more. Researchers estimate that birds and mammals harbor anywhere from 631,000 to 827,000 unknown viruses that could potentially leap into humans. Valiant efforts are under way to identify them all, and scan for them in places like poultry farms and bushmeat markets, where animals and people are most likely to encounter each other. Still, we likely won’t ever be able to predict which will spill over next; even long-known viruses like Zika, which was discovered in 1947, can suddenly develop into unforeseen epidemics.
One hundred years ago, in 1918, a strain of H1N1 flu swept the world. It might have originated in Haskell County, Kansas, or in France or China—but soon it was everywhere. In two years, it killed as many as 100 million people—5 percent of the world’s population, and far more than the number who died in World War I. It killed not just the very young, old, and sick, but also the strong and fit, bringing them down through their own violent immune responses. It killed so quickly that hospitals ran out of beds, cities ran out of coffins, and coroners could not meet the demand for death certificates. It lowered Americans’ life expectancy by more than a decade. “The flu resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death,” Laura Spinney wrote in Pale Rider, her 2017 book about the pandemic. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history—a potent reminder of the threat posed by disease.
Humanity seems to need such reminders often. In 1948, shortly after the first flu vaccine was created and penicillin became the first mass-produced antibiotic, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall reportedly claimed that the conquest of infectious disease was imminent. In 1962, after the second polio vaccine was formulated, the Nobel Prize–winning virologist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet asserted, “To write about infectious diseases is almost to write of something that has passed into history.”
Hindsight has not been kind to these proclamations. Despite advances in antibiotics and vaccines, and the successful eradication of smallpox, Homo sapiens is still locked in the same epic battle with viruses and other pathogens that we’ve been fighting since the beginning of our history. When cities first arose, diseases laid them low, a process repeated over and over for millennia. When Europeans colonized the Americas, smallpox followed. When soldiers fought in the first global war, influenza hitched a ride, and found new opportunities in the unprecedented scale of the conflict. Down through the centuries, diseases have always excelled at exploiting flux.
Humanity is now in the midst of its fastest-ever period of change. There were almost 2 billion people alive in 1918; there are now 7.6 billion, and they have migrated rapidly into cities, which since 2008 have been home to more than half of all human beings. In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs. Not coincidentally, the total number of outbreaks per decade has more than tripled since the 1980s.
Globalization compounds the risk: Airplanes now carry almost 10 times as many passengers around the world as they did four decades ago. In the ’80s, HIV showed how potent new diseases can be, by launching a slow-moving pandemic that has since claimed about 35 million lives. In 2003, another newly discovered virus, sars, spread decidedly more quickly. This is a new epoch of disease, when geographic barriers disappear and threats that once would have been local go global.
The United States has nationwide vaccination programs, advanced hospitals, the latest diagnostic tests. In the National Institutes of Health, it has the world’s largest biomedical research establishment, and in the CDC, arguably the world’s strongest public-health agency. America is as ready to face down new diseases as any country in the world.
Yet even the U.S. is disturbingly vulnerable—and in some respects is becoming quickly more so. It depends on a just-in-time medical economy, in which stockpiles are limited and even key items are made to order. Most of the intravenous bags used in the country are manufactured in Puerto Rico, so when Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, the bags fell in short supply. Some hospitals were forced to inject saline with syringes—and so syringe supplies started running low too. The most common lifesaving drugs all depend on long supply chains that include India and China—chains that would likely break in a severe pandemic. “Each year, the system gets leaner and leaner,” says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It doesn’t take much of a hiccup anymore to challenge it.”
Perhaps most important, the U.S. is prone to the same forgetfulness and shortsightedness that befall all nations, rich and poor—and the myopia has worsened considerably in recent years. Public-health programs are low on money; hospitals are stretched perilously thin; crucial funding is being slashed. And while we tend to think of science when we think of pandemic response, the worse the situation, the more the defense depends on political leadership.
When Ebola flared in 2014, the science-minded President Barack Obama calmly and quickly took the reins. The White House is now home to a president who is neither calm nor science-minded. We should not underestimate what that may mean if risk becomes reality.
American hospitals, which often operate unnervingly close to full capacity, likewise struggled with the surge of patients. Pediatric units were hit especially hard by H1N1, and staff became exhausted from continuously caring for sick children. Hospitals almost ran out of the life-support units that sustain people whose lungs and hearts start to fail. The health-care system didn’t break, but it came too close for comfort—especially for what turned out to be a training-wheels pandemic. The 2009 H1N1 strain killed merely 0.03 percent of those it infected; by contrast, the 1918 strain had killed 1 to 3 percent, and the H7N9 strain currently circulating in China has a fatality rate of 40 percent.
That the U.S. could be so ill-prepared for flu, of all things, should be deeply concerning. The country has a dedicated surveillance web, antiviral drugs, and an infrastructure for making and deploying flu vaccines. None of that exists for the majority of other emerging infectious diseases.
The Hospital Preparedness Program is a funding plan that was created in the wake of 9/11 to help hospitals ready themselves for disasters, run training drills, and build their surge capacity—everything that Shelly Schwedhelm’s team does so well in Nebraska. It transformed emergency planning from an after-hours avocation into an actual profession, carried out by skilled specialists. But since 2003, its $514 million budget has been halved. Another fund—the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program—was created at the same time to help state and local health departments keep an eye on infectious diseases, improve their labs, and train epidemiologists. Its budget has been pruned to 70 percent of its $940 million peak. Small wonder, then, that in the past decade, local health departments have cut more than 55,000 jobs. That’s 55,000 people who won’t be there to answer the call when the next epidemic hits.
These sums of money are paltry compared with what another pandemic might cost the country. Diseases are exorbitantly expensive. In response to just 10 cases of Ebola in 2014, the U.S. spent $1.1 billion on domestic preparations, including $119 million on screening and quarantine. A severe 1918-style flu pandemic would drain an estimated $683 billion from American coffers, according to the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health. The World Bank estimates that global output would fall by almost 5 percent—totaling some $4 trillion.
The U.S. is not unfamiliar with the concept of preparedness. It currently spends roughly half a trillion dollars on its military—the highest defense budget in the world, equal to the combined budgets of the next seven top countries. But against viruses—more likely to kill millions than any rogue state is—such consistent investments are nowhere to be found.
Organizing a federal response to an emerging pandemic is harder than one might think. The largely successful U.S. response to Ebola in 2014 benefited from the special appointment of an “Ebola czar”—Klain—to help coordinate the many agencies that face unclear responsibilities. In 2016, when Obama asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika, Congress devolved into partisan squabbling. Republicans wanted to keep the funds away from clinics that worked with Planned Parenthood, and Democrats opposed the restriction. It took more than seven months to appropriate $1.1 billion; by then, the CDC and NIH had been forced to divert funds meant to deal with flu, HIV, and the next Ebola.
At some point, a new virus will emerge to test Trump’s mettle. What happens then? He has no background in science or health, and has surrounded himself with little such expertise. The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, a group of leading scientists who consult on policy matters, is dormant. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has advised presidents on everything from epidemics to nuclear disasters since 1976, is diminished. The head of that office typically acts as the president’s chief scientific consigliere, but to date no one has been appointed. Other parts of Trump’s administration that will prove crucial during an epidemic have operated like an Etch A Sketch. During the nine months I spent working on this story, Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services after using taxpayer money to fund charter flights (although his replacement, Alex Azar, is arguably better prepared, having dealt with anthrax, flu, and sars during the Bush years). Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down as CDC director after it became known that she had bought stock in tobacco companies; her replacement, Robert Redfield, has a long track record studying HIV, but relatively little public-health experience. Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, a veteran malaria fighter, was appointed to the National Security Council, in part to oversee the development of the White House’s forthcoming biosecurity strategy. When I met Ziemer at the White House in February, he hadn’t spoken with the president, but said pandemic preparedness was a priority for the administration. He left in May.

ADL H.E.A.T. Map (ADL, August 9, 2018)

Mapped: How every part of the world has warmed – and could continue to warm (Carbon Brief, September 26, 2018)

The Future Of Electric Cars Is China (Quartz, series beginning December 10, 2018)
The world awaits an electric-car future, but that future is rapidly becoming the present in China. The country is on track to sell more than 1 million electric vehicles in 2018, nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. And with tens of billions of dollars already invested to build up an electric-car infrastructure (and tens of billions more on the way), China is not letting up in its pace to become the world leader in EVs.

The Great Filter - the most important question in history (Daily Kos, November 3, 2018)

NEW: Trump’s Hidden Powers (Brennan Center for Justice, December 5, 2018)
A vast array of obscure presidential powers spans everything from the military to criminal law, and some are ripe for abuse. They need to be re-examined.
Building on previous research in this area, the Brennan Center has identified 123 statutory powers that may become available to the president when she declares a national emergency. An additional 13 statutory powers become available when a national emergency is declared by Congress. We created a database that assembles these 136 powers by subject matter, specifies the conditions triggering their use, and lists the occasions, if any, on which they have been invoked. (The methodology we used to compile the database is available here.) We have also developed a running list of national emergencies declared since the National Emergencies Act went into effect.
These resources are eye-opening in many ways: in the nature of the powers provided, in how easily the executive can access them, and in how they have been used (or misused).

NEW: In Case Of Emergency: What Can a President Do During a State of Emergency? (The Atlantic, January-February  2019)
From seizing control of the internet to declaring martial law, President Trump may legally do all kinds of extraordinary things.
More is at stake here than the outcome of one or even two elections. Trump has long signaled his disdain for the concepts of limited presidential power and democratic rule. During his 2016 campaign, he praised murderous dictators. He declared that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be in jail if he were president, goading crowds into frenzied chants of “Lock her up.” He hinted that he might not accept an electoral loss. As democracies around the world slide into autocracy, and nationalism and antidemocratic sentiment are on vivid display among segments of the American populace, Trump’s evident hostility to key elements of liberal democracy cannot be dismissed as mere bluster.

Voices From The Field; FBI Agent Accounts of the Real Consequences of the Government Shutdown (FBI Agents Assn., January 2019)
If the FBI and Dept. of Justice are not funded, the Agents will continue to face challenges in carrying out our mission to protect the nation.

50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency (The Atlantic, January 21, 2019)

Tracking Trump: The President’s Standing Across America (Morning Consult)
On a daily basis, Morning Consult is surveying over 5,000 registered voters across the United States on President Trump. Each month, we’ll update this page with the latest survey data, providing a clear picture of Trump’s approval and re-election prospects.

Russia Investigation Summary (Teri Kanefield, continuing)
Muller Probe Overview: Documents Filed, Crimes, etc.

A Timeline of Earth's Average Temperature Since The Last Ice Age Glaciation (xkcd)

Global Climate Change; Vital Signs Of The Planet (NASA, current)

Climate Change (United Nations)

Bernie Sanders: The Green New Deal (2019)

Sizing Up the Carbon Footprint of Cities (NASA, April 11, 2019)
Large and wealthy cities have the biggest carbon footprints.

Earthquake and Volcano Activity, Worldwide, 2001-2015 (NASA, NOAA)

Nancy Pelosi, by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Time100, 2019)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by Elizabeth Warren (Time100, 2019)
Greta Thunberg, by Emma González (Time100, 2019)

The Privacy Project (New York Times, 2019)

Zero Waste: Our country has a waste problem. It’s time for new solutions, and a renewed commitment to move toward zero waste. (MassPIRG, 2019)

50 Days to the Moon (Fast Company, 2019)

On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt (Princeton University)
I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis.

It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, by Chris Hughes (New York Times, May 9, 2019)
Mr. Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute:
"Mark Zuckerberg’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes - the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention - dominate the headlines.
Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms - Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.
"Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them. The government must hold Mark accountable."

Demand an impeachment inquiry (Common Cause, July 25, 2019)
No American, especially not the President, is above the law.

Leading Civil Rights Lawyer Shows 20 Ways Trump Is Copying Hitler’s Early Rhetoric and Policies (Common Cause, August 9, 2019)
Burt Neuborne questions whether federal government can contain Trump and GOP power grabs.
Many recent presidents have been awful, but then there was Donald Trump, the only president in recent American history to openly despise the twin ideals—individual dignity and fundamental equality—upon which the contemporary United States is built. When you confront the reality of a president like Trump, the state of both sets of brakes—internal [constitutional] and external [public resistance]—become hugely important because Donald Trump’s political train runs on the most potent and dangerous fuel of all: a steady diet of fear, greed, loathing, lies, and envy. It’s a toxic mixture that has destroyed democracies before, and can do so again.
Give Trump credit. He did his homework well and became the twenty-first-century master of divisive rhetoric. We’re used to thinking of Hitler’s Third Reich as the incomparably evil tyranny that it undoubtedly was. But Hitler didn’t take power by force. He used a set of rhetorical tropes - codified in Trump’s bedside reading - that persuaded enough Germans to welcome Hitler as a populist leader. The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It fell into their hands as the fruit of Hitler’s satanic ability to mesmerize enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism. It could happen here.

United States Of Plastic (The Guardian, August 2019)

100 Photos - The Most Influential Images of All Time (Time Magazine, 2016)
Explore the stories behind 100 images that changed the world, selected by TIME and an international team of curators.
Top 100 Photos of 2018 (Time Magazine)

Globalization Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Evolving (Bloomberg, July 23, 2019)
We are entering a new era in which data is the new shipping container and there are far more disruptive forces at work in the world economy than Trump’s tariffs. New manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and the automation of factories are reducing the economic incentives to offshore production. The smartphones we carry with us are not just products of globalization but accelerants for it. For good or bad, we are more exposed to a global culture of ideas than we have ever been. And we are only becoming more global as a result.

The 1619 Project (The New York Times, August 14, 2019)
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. In the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.

"Tending Soil", by Emma Marris (Emergence Magazine, October 2019)
In almost every culture, Earth is female: Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, Terra, Prithvi - goddesses that, like the soil, have the power to create new life. The mystery of working with soil is that the best way to make it more fertile - more life-giving - is to mix in dead things. Soil is the medium through which death becomes life. It is the liminal stuff that exists after death and rot but before sprouting life, growth, and nourishment.

Millionaires Surtax: A Winning Issue In 2020 (Surtax, October 2019)

WMO Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 (World Meteorological Association, December 3, 2019)

Global Transport of Smoke from Australian Bushfires (2-min. video; NASA)

The Deep Sea (Neal Agarwal)

The 21st-Century American Axis Of Evil (Jonathan Gordon, 2019)

The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report (U.S. House Intelligence Committee, December 3, 2019
Also, here is CNN's annotated version.

Impeachment in the United States (Wikipedia)

President Trump House Impeachment Brief (U.S. House of Representatives, January 18, 2020)

Tracking President Trump's Unprecedented Conflicts of Interest (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

Environmental voter guide (Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, 2020)
We graded the 2020 Democratic candidates on four key environmental areas, and produced this environmental report card.

100th Anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, January 2020)
"So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy." - ACLU founder Roger Baldwin
When a roomful of civil liberties activists - led by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver - formed the ACLU in 1920, the Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim. Activists languished in jail for distributing anti-war literature. State-sanctioned violence against African-Americans was routine. Women won the right to vote only in August of that year. And constitutional rights for LGBT people were unthinkable.
The ACLU was founded to ensure the promise of the Bill of Rights and to expand its reach to people historically denied its protections. In our first year, we fought the harassment and deportation of immigrants whose activism put them at odds with the authorities. In 1939, we won in the Supreme Court the right for unions to organize. We stood almost alone in 1942 in denouncing our government's round-up and internment in concentration camps of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans. And at times in our history when frightened civilians have been willing to give up some of their freedoms and rights in the name of national security, the ACLU has been the bulwark for liberty.

There isn’t a simple story about looting. (Vox, June 2, 2020)
“The question you have to ask yourself is: Why are there so many people in our society who don’t have a lot to lose?” says sociologist Darnell Hunt.

Neo-Völkisch (Southern Poverty Law Center)
Born out of an atavistic defiance of modernity and rationalism, present-day neo-Völkisch, or Folkish, adherents and groups are organized around ethnocentricity and archaic notions of gender.

Political Coordinates Test (Individual Differences Research, 2020)
This free political observance test will allow you to obtain your scores on the two major political scales found in Western democracies. Though there are several other "political coordinates" and "political observance" tests in existence, these tests have commonly been criticized for seeking to trick the respondent into answering in a certain way, for example by applying spin to the questions or framing them in such a way as to provoke emotional reactions in the respondent. By contrast, this test attempts to simply confront you with the questions without any coating or spin.

Benjamin Franklin and the Power of Long-Term Investing (Edelman Financial Engines, 2020)
Remembered for being a publisher, scientist, diplomat and inventor, he was also the first truly long-term investor.

Shoshana Zuboff: You Are Now Remotely Controlled. (New York Times, January 24, 2020)
The belief that privacy is private has left us careening toward a future that we did not choose. Surveillance capitalists control the science and the scientists, the secrets and the truth.

The Day Democracy Died (9-min. YouTube video sung by The Founding Fathers, February 8, 2020)

White-Collar Crime (Huffington Post, February 10, 2020)
Over the last two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to look around the country and not get the feeling that elites are slowly looting it.
And why wouldn't they? The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. The rich are enjoying a golden age of impunity unprecedented in modern history. Elite deviance has become the dark matter of American life, the invisible force around which the country's most powerful legal and political systems have set their orbit.

A Short History Of Arson (Phys.org, December 5, 2014)
Arson has evolved from a wrongful individual act into an effective means of collective violence.

Opinion Polls (Civiqs)

The Long-Term Impact of DACA: Forging Futures Despite DACA’s Uncertainty (Harvard University, 2019)
The experiences of our respondents over the last seven years powerfully highlight the importance and success of DACA—the results are indisputable. DACA has given its beneficiaries and their families a giant boost and they have achieved significant social mobility. It has also powerfully shaped personhood and agency. Nevertheless, the temporary and partial nature of DACA leaves many issues unaddressed and has created some new dilemmas. The findings of this report have clear implications for U.S. immigration policy and community practice.
In the last section, we offer a set of recommendations for policymakers, stakeholders, and educators. Ultimately, we believe that a broader immigration reform that includes a pathway to legalization would resolve most challenges experienced by DACA beneficiaries and their families. However, we also acknowledge that needs are urgent, and that a range of community stakeholders may be able to address many issues locally and immediately.

Joe Biden's Vision For America (Biden for President, July 4, 2020)

NEW: Animated Map: The History of U.S. Counties (Visual Capitalist, July 31, 2020)
This quick-moving animation shows how the U.S. county map has evolved since the 17th century.

Resources re Coronavirus pandemic:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization, latest status and advice)
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.
Inside the Coronavirus (Scientific American, July 2020 Issue)
What scientists know about the inner workings of the pathogen that has infected the world.
Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker (New York Times)
Researchers around the world are developing more than 155 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 23 vaccines are in human trials. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.
What’s the Best Material for a Mask? (New York Times, June 20, 2020)
Scientists are testing everyday items to find the best protection from coronavirus. Pillow cases, flannel pajamas and origami vacuum bags are all candidates.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at atomic resolution (2-min. video; Vimeo, May 11, 2020)
From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level. (Michigan Live, June 8, 2020)
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, May 6, 2020)
Comprehensive COVID-19 reporting (by Seattle-area 17-year-old Avi Schiffman)
Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve (Visual Capitalist)
The 7 Best COVID-19 Resources We’ve Discovered So Far (Visual Capitalist)
Coronavirus Worldwide Graphs (Worldometers)
COVID-19 Global Visualizer (Carnegie Mellon University)
Rt Covid-19 Curves for U.S. States (June 6, 2020)
These are up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person.
How to Talk About the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, March 31, 2020)
Four ways to help those around you be better informed about the pandemic.
Epidemic Calculator (GitHub)
U.S. Projected hospital resource use based on COVID-19 deaths, assuming continued social distancing until the end of May 2020 (IHME Group at the Washington Univ. St. Louis)
Daily Coronavirus Briefing (New York Times)
What Is Coronavirus? (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Coronavirus Myths and Facts (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic (Wikipedia)
We Need to Talk About Ventilation. (The Atlantic, July 30, 2020)
How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?
Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
How to Wear a Face Mask Correctly: Common Mistakes to Avoid (NBC Boston, April 22, 2020)
Here’s What We Know about the Most Touted Drugs Tested for COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 16, 2020)
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Research and Statistics (Our World In Data)
Coronavirus Resource Hub (Consumer Reports)
Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Massachusetts Department of Public Health)
2020 coronavirus pandemic in Massachusetts (Wikipedia)
Information about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Stanford CA Hospital)
Coronavirus is most contagious before and during the first week of symptoms. (Science News, March 13, 2020)
People stop making infectious virus once the body’s antibody response kicks in. All symptoms may not appear, and NO symptoms may appear until after most contagious period.
Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD: Safety tips for grocery and take-out shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic (14-min. video; YouTube, March 28, 2020)
Michael Osterholm on the Coronavirus pandemic (1.5-hour video; Joe Rogan Experience #1439, March 10, 2020)
Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. Look for his book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs" for more info.
Doctors and nurses demonstrate breathing techniques proven to help with coronavirus symptoms. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2020)
How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus (New York Times, March 15, 2020)
He could have taken action. He didn’t. Instead, he has continued many of his old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country.
'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline (The Guardian, April 14, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax”. (Letters from an American, February 28, 2020)
Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax,” as Trump said, perpetrated by Democrats eager to tank his presidency. That would explain the dramatic drop of the stock market this week as nothing but an emotional reaction to “fake news.” It would mean that the strong economy Trump has hyped as his major contribution to the country—he denies that his predecessor Barack Obama had anything to do with it, although economic numbers under Obama were as good or better than today’s—remains intact, so long as people will ignore those dastardly Democrats... the Democrats that Donald Trump, Jr. says are hoping the coronavirus “comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.”
This is one heck of a gamble, and it reveals the corner into which the administration’s reliance on a false narrative has painted it. Under Trump, the country is great again… so the virus can’t be a problem. The rising stock market has proved that the economy is brilliant and Trump gets all the credit for it… so the falling stock market must be fake, or else the fault of jealous Democrats.
But the virus isn’t playing Trump’s game. It is spreading. Today, after we learned there are more than 85,000 known cases in the world and more than 2,900 known deaths, the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program warned “every government on the planet” to “wake up. Get ready. You have a duty to your citizens. You have a duty to the world to be ready.”



   
Pertinent Posts

Suspension dropped for teen who took photo of crowd at Georgia high school. (2-min. video; CNN, August 8, 2020)
The mother of a student who was suspended after posting a photo on Twitter that showed her high school's crowded hallways this week tells CNN that her daughter's suspension has been reversed. The School Superintendent explained, "Wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them."
[Who will suspend HIM?]
These are the problems with Covid-19 testing accuracy. (3-min. video; CNN, August 8, 2020)
CNN's Randi Kaye reports on the problems with the rapid coronavirus testing and what contributes to the inaccurate results.
'Stunning': Dr. Gupta reacts to video at Trump's club. (2-min. video; CNN, August 8, 2020)
A crowd of people at President Trump's country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, gathered to hear his speech. Many people in the audience were not wearing masks despite masks being required in the state of New Jersey.
Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies. (New York Times, August 8, 2020)
Last year, intelligence officials gathered to write a classified report on Russia’s interest in the 2020 election. An investigation from the magazine uncovered what happened next.
The document discussed Russia’s ongoing efforts to influence U.S. elections: the 2020 presidential contest and 2024’s as well. The N.I.E. began by enumerating the authors’ “key judgments.” Key Judgment 2 was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president: Donald Trump.
The intelligence provided to the N.I.E.’s authors indicated that in the lead-up to 2020, Russia worked in support of the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as well. But this reflected not a genuine preference for Sanders but rather an effort “to weaken that party and ultimately help the current U.S. president.” To allay any speculation that Putin’s interest in Trump had cooled, Key Judgment 2 was substantiated by current information from a highly sensitive foreign source described by someone who read the N.I.E. as “100 percent reliable.”
On its face, Key Judgment 2 was not a contentious assertion. In 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the umbrella entity supervising the 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies, released a report drawing on intelligence from the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency that found Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election and aspired to help Trump. At a news conference with Trump in Helsinki in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin of Russia denied interfering in the election. But when asked by a reporter if he had wanted Trump to win, he replied bluntly: “Yes, I did.”
Yet Trump never accepted this and often actively disputed it, judging officials who expressed such a view to be disloyal. As a former senior adviser to Trump, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told me, “You couldn’t have any conversation about Russia and the election without the president assuming you were calling his election into question. Everyone in the White House knew that, and so you just didn’t talk about that with him.”
New postmaster general overhauls USPS leadership amid probe into mail delays. (The Hill, August 7, 2020)
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced an overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on Friday, removing the top two officials in charge of day-to-day operations as Democrats in Washington call for an investigation into changes that have slowed mail delivery. According to a new organizational chart released by USPS, 23 postal executives were reassigned or displaced and five staffers joined the agency’s leadership from other positions.
“This organizational change will capture operating efficiencies by providing clarity and economies of scale that will allow us to reduce our cost base and capture new revenue,” said DeJoy. “It is crucial that we do what is within our control to help us successfully complete our mission to serve the American people and, through the universal service obligation, bind our nation together by maintaining and operating our unique, vital and resilient infrastructure.” DeJoy announced there would be a hiring freeze and a request for voluntary early retirements. The USPS will also configure itself into three “operating units” of retail and delivery, logistics and processing, and commerce and business solutions and will cut back from seven regions to four.
The reshuffling comes as Democrats clamor for an investigation into USPS amid concerns over the agency’s ability to handle what is expected to be a flood of mail-in ballots this year. Lawmakers have warned that changes DeJoy has made, including reducing overtime and adjusting delivery policies, may leave the agency even more unprepared.
The reshuffling comes as Democrats clamor for an investigation into USPS amid concerns over the agency’s ability to handle what is expected to be a flood of mail-in ballots this year. Lawmakers have warned that changes DeJoy has made, including reducing overtime and adjusting delivery policies, may leave the agency even more unprepared. “We believe these changes, made during the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, now threaten the timely delivery of mail — including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers, and absentee ballots for voters — that is essential to millions of Americans. While it is true that the Postal Service has and continues to face financial challenges, enacting these policies as cost-cutting or efficiency measures as the COVID-19 public health emergency continues is counterproductive and unacceptable,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to DeJoy on Thursday.
‘If We Get It, We Chose to Be Here’: Despite Virus, Thousands Converge on Sturgis for Huge Rally. (New York Times, August 7, 2020)
Tens of thousands of motorcyclists roared into the western South Dakota community of Sturgis on Friday, lining Main Street from end to end, for the start of an annual rally that kicked off despite objections from residents and with little regard for a public health emergency ravaging the world.
It could have been any other past summer rally in Sturgis, with herds of R.V.s, bikers and classic cars converging for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a 10-day affair that was expected to attract roughly 250,000 enthusiasts this year — about half the number who attended last year but a figure that puts it on track to be among the country’s largest public gatherings since the first coronavirus cases emerged in the spring. Save for a few hard-to-spot hand-sanitizer stations, it could have been any other major festival in pre-pandemic times. “Screw Covid I went to Sturgis,” read a black T-shirt amid a sea of Harley Davidson and Trump 2020 outfits sported by the throng of people walking along Main Street. Their gear did not include face masks, and social distancing guidelines were completely ignored.
South Dakota is among several states that did not put in place a lockdown, and state officials have not required residents to wear masks, giving attendees who rode in from outside the state fewer restrictions than they may have had back home.
Attendance on Friday was on par with previous years, said Dan Ainslie, City Manager for Sturgis. “It’s kind of like a typical rally,” Mr. Ainslie said of the number of people coming into town, “and the crowds are still building.”
While the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines do not suggest a specific limit for the number of attendees at gatherings or community events, they encourage organizers to maintain a capacity conducive to reducing the spread of the virus. The agency encourages people to socially distance at six feet apart and wear masks. “Attendees will be asked to be respectful of the community concerns by practicing social distancing and taking personal responsibility for their health by following C.D.C. guidelines,” the news release said.
But on Friday, throngs of ralliers parked their bikes and walked shoulder to shoulder along the downtown streets, nary a mask in sight. Police officers stationed at the intersections also were not wearing masks.
Bruce Labsa, 66, drove from North Carolina last week to be among the first in town. This was the first year he would be able to attend the rally since retiring, and he did not want to miss it. On Friday, he was not wearing a mask, and he said he had no concerns about catching the coronavirus. “I don’t know anyone who’s had it,” Mr. Labsa said.
ICE rejected COVID-19 testing for all detainees at facility because it would be too much trouble. (Daily Kos, August 7, 2020)
There’s really no bottom when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison profiteers join forces—just consider the latest example. Internal emails obtained through an ongoing lawsuit show the mass detention agency and private prison operator GEO Group rejected a plan to test all detained people at one California facility for COVID-19 “because they would be unable to adequately isolate those who tested positive,” a coalition of groups said in a statement.
Covid 19 coronavirus: US Government issues New Zealand travel warning due to its '23 active cases'. (New Zealand Herald, August 7, 2020)
Despite the US recording more than 2 million cases and 160,000 deaths, the US Government has warned its citizens to be very cautious about traveling to New Zealand because of our "23 active cases" of Covid-19. "As of August 7, 2020, New Zealand has had 1,569 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 within its borders. Currently, there are 23 active cases in New Zealand," the post states.
The website, however, doesn't explain all 23 active cases are in managed isolation. However, New Zealanders need not worry about Americans entering the country given only New Zealand citizens or residents with valid travel conditions can currently enter.
Canada’s last fully intact Arctic ice shelf collapses. (Arctic Today, August 7, 2020)
The Milne Ice Shelf lost some 40 percent of its area — and the last known epishelf lake in the northern hemisphere — over two days, late last month. The Milne Ice Shelf is at the fringe of Ellesmere Island, in Nunavut.
“Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter when it announced the loss on Sunday.
The shelf’s area shrank by about 80 square kilometers. By comparison, the island of Manhattan in New York covers roughly 60 square kilometers.
The Arctic has been warming at twice the global rate for the last 30 years, due to a process known as Arctic amplification. But this year, temperatures in the polar region have been intense. The polar sea ice hit its lowest extent for July in 40 years. Record heat and wildfires have scorched Siberia. Summer in the Canadian Arctic this year in particular has been 5 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average. That has threatened smaller ice caps, which can melt quickly because they do not have the bulk that larger glaciers have to stay cold. As a glacier disappears, more bedrock is exposed, which then heats up and accelerates the melting process.
A 2017 study predicted the ice caps were likely to disappear within five years. The ice caps were believed to have formed several centuries ago.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says chance of coronavirus vaccine being highly effective is ‘not great’. (CNBC, August 7, 2020)
Scientists are hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, but 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable, too, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Q&A with the Brown University School of Public Health. “The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach. You’ve got to think of the vaccine as a tool to be able to get the pandemic to no longer be a pandemic, but to be something that’s well controlled.”
U.S. intelligence report on Trump-Biden election meddling reveals who Russia, China and Iran want to win. (CNBC, August 7, 2020)
Russia is trying to “undermine” presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s candidacy, a leading U.S. intelligence official said Friday.
But China and Iran want President Donald Trump to lose the election, said William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
Evanina warned that “foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures” to affect the presidential election.
Trump long has relied on nondisclosure deals to prevent criticism. That strategy may be unraveling. (Washington Post, August 7, 2020)
For decades, Donald Trump has relied on broadly worded nondisclosure agreements as a powerful weapon against anyone who would say something critical of him. Among those who have signed agreements are a porn star, two ex-wives, contestants on “The Apprentice,” campaign workers and business associates.
But this key element of Trump’s corporate and political strategy has shown signs of unraveling, even as his campaign spends heavily to enforce such agreements. He and his allies recently have lost initial rounds in legal battles to stop damaging books by former top White House officials and his niece Mary L. Trump.
Now, in one of the most sweeping efforts by a former associate to undo nondisclosure agreements, the Trump campaign’s former Hispanic outreach director last week filed her latest effort in a class-action suit to void all such campaign contracts. She says they are so broad that they deny individuals their First Amendment right to say anything critical of the president — even as he routinely takes to Twitter to mock and deride his critics.
In a motion for summary judgment in the case, the former campaign worker, Jessica Denson, said the campaign sought a $1.5 million claim against her for violating an NDA. She said that came after she filed a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination by campaign officials. (That separate case is ongoing.) “These NDAs are representative of the levers of fear that this campaign and administration wield over people,” Denson told The Washington Post. “And if this lever of these NDAs is lifted, it is significant not only for the direct effect it has on people who have signed it, but for a general environment of people who are afraid to speak out.”
Billionaires, country clubs and celebrities like Kanye West received loans from PPP program. (1-min. video; CNBC, August 7, 2020)
Billionaires, country clubs and celebrities were among those businesses that applied for and received small business loans of $150,000 or greater. Here’s a look at some of the notable names.
Sen. Sanders proposes one-time tax that would cost Bezos $42.8 billion, Musk $27.5 billion. (2-min. video; CNBC, August 6, 2020)
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Thursday introduced the “Make Billionaires Pay Act,” which would tax tech’s top leaders tens of billions of dollars in wealth made during the pandemic.  The “Make Billionaires Pay Act” would impose a one-time 60% tax on wealth gains made by billionaires between March 18, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021. The funds would be used to pay for out-of-pocket health-care expenses for all Americans for a year.
The last of the Zoroastrians (The Guardian, August 6, 2020)
A funeral, a family, and a journey into a disappearing religion.
Two cats test positive for coronavirus in Texas. (The Hill, August 6, 2020)
Texas A&M University researchers said both cats were asymptomatic and lived with people who have also tested positive, according to a statement from the university. The results suggest transmission is possible for pets in “high-risk” environments, researchers said.
The statement comes the same week Louisiana officials confirmed a dog has tested positive for the virus. The Bronx Zoo reported in May that several tigers and lions had contracted the virus after contact with an asymptomatic person who had the disease. The first dog in the U.S. to test positive for the virus died in July.
Kansas House speaker was hospitalized for COVID-19. Governor criticizes what he did next. (Wichita KS Eagle, August 6, 2020)
Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman disclosed Thursday he had been hospitalized for the coronavirus, prompting Gov. Laura Kelly to criticize his decision to attend a July meeting where Kelly and other officials were present without revealing his diagnosis. Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, is the highest-ranking Kansas official known to have caught the virus. He worked with other lawmakers to craft a compromise with the Democratic governor in June that limited her power over the summer to close businesses and limit mass gatherings to slow the spread of the virus.
“Speaker Ryckman’s decision to attend the State Finance Council meeting after being released from the hospital, while concealing his diagnosis from those of us in the room and taking his mask off, was reckless and dangerous,” Gov. Kelly said in a statement. “As elected officials, we have a unique responsibility to set the right example for the people of Kansas, and to follow the commonsense guidance from medical experts. While I’m dismayed by his actions, I wish Speaker Ryckman good health and I’m glad he’s on the road to recovery.”
Biden Says He Wouldn't Stand In The Way Of A Trump Prosecution. (3-min. video; NPR, August 6, 2020)
Joe Biden says that he believes prosecuting a former president would be a "very unusual thing and probably not very ... good for democracy," but he would not stand in the way of a future Justice Department pursuing criminal charges against President Trump after he leaves office. "Look, the Justice Department is not the president's private law firm. The attorney general is not the president's private lawyer. I will not interfere with the Justice Department's judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue the prosecution of anyone that they think has violated the law," Biden told NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Biden made clear that any future prosecution against Trump would not be directed by him if he's elected president. "In terms of saying, 'I think the president violated the law. I think the president did this, therefore, go on and prosecute him' — I will not do that," he said. "If [a case] prove[s] to be a criminal offense, then in fact, that would be up to the attorney general to decide whether he or she wanted to proceed with it. I am not going to make that individual judgment," Biden added.
Trump has been connected with alleged illegal activity by his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and investigators working for former special counsel Robert Mueller. What isn't clear is whether federal authorities are investigating the president or whether prosecutors might take action against Trump if he no longer enjoyed the privileges that protect him from being indicted as a sitting president.
Trump claims Biden is 'against God' and will 'hurt the Bible'. (2-min. video; The Hill, August 6, 2020)
President Trump on Thursday claimed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, is "against God" as he levied a stream of attacks on his likely opponent in the November election. "Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything," Trump said, standing behind a podium with the presidential seal. "Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy."
Biden was among those who chastised Trump for clearing out peaceful protesters near the White House in early June before the president walked across the street to pose for a photo outside the damaged St. John's Episcopal Church. Trump did not speak outside the church, instead holding a Bible in the air while surrounded by administration officials.
"Joe Biden's faith is at the core of who he is; he's lived it with dignity his entire life, and it's been a source of strength and comfort in times of extreme hardship," Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement. "Donald Trump is the only president in our history to have tear-gassed peaceful Americans and thrown a priest out of her church just so he could profane it - and a Bible - for his own cynical optics as he sought to tear our nation apart at a moment of crisis and pain," Bates added. "And this comes just one day after Trump's campaign abused a photo of Joe Biden praying in church to demean him, in one of the starkest expressions of weakness throughout this whole campaign."
Commission on Presidential Debates rejects Trump campaign call for earlier debate. (1-min. video; The Hill, August 6, 2020)
The Commission on Presidential Debates is rejecting the Trump campaign’s request to modify the presidential debate schedule so the first debate occurs before states begin early voting.
The commission rebuffed the campaign’s argument that the current debate schedule would deprive voters of seeing the candidates debate one another before the first ballots are cast. “You state that such a debate is necessary because some states begin sending out mail-in ballots before the first scheduled debate. There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates,” wrote co-chairs Frank Fahrenkopf, Dorothy Ridings and Kenneth Wollack in the letter to Giuliani Thursday. “In 2016, when the debate schedule was similar, only .0069% of the electorate had voted at the time of the first debate. While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity,” the letter continued.
The commission also rejected the campaign's list of reporters to moderate the debates.
Facebook removes troll farm posing as African-American support for Donald Trump. (NBC News, August 6, 2020)
Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump and QAnon supporters. It also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S. The foreign pro-Trump troll farm was based in Romania and pushed content on Instagram under names like “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and on Facebook under “We Love Our President.”
Facebook took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media. Troll farms — groups of people that work together to manipulate internet discourse with fake accounts — are often outsourced and purchased by foreign governments or businesses to push specific political talking points.
Americans are struggling more than people in other wealthy nations during the coronavirus pandemic. (The Hill, August 6, 2020)
The United States is No. 1 in the world for coronavirus cases, but — or perhaps as a result — falls below a number of other wealthy nations in a new analysis of mental health and economic consequences. Research by the Commonwealth Fund compared responses from adults in the United States to those from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. One-third of U.S. adults reported stress, anxiety and great sadness that was difficult to cope with by themselves, compared to about a quarter or less in other countries.
The mental toll of the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbated by harsh economic realities for many Americans. More than 30 percent of U.S. respondents said they have struggled economically and were unable to pay for basic necessities, used up all their savings, or borrowed money, according to the survey. In Canada, 24 percent said the same, followed by 21 percent in Australia, but on the other end, only 6 to 7 percent of respondents reported the same in Germany and the Netherlands.
Despite their trademark patriotism, Americans aren’t too happy about how their country has handled the coronavirus pandemic either. Only 33 percent of U.S. adults said President Trump has done either a “good” or “very good” job in his handling the coronavirus pandemic, compared to between 49 percent and 95 percent of respondents in other countries who approved of how their president or prime minister has dealt with the crisis. But the one common feeling across countries was an appreciation for health care workers’ response to the pandemic, with 78 percent to 96 percent of all countries saying that hospitals, nurses and doctors had done a good or very good job.
“As our country struggles with the surging number of cases and the economic havoc that the pandemic is wreaking, people in other countries are living a different, better, reality. Americans should realize that our country can do better, too. We can start by ensuring everyone can get and afford the health care they need, and by implementing public health measures, like mask-wearing, social distancing, and robust testing and tracing that can help us stop COVID-19 as so many others have effectively accomplished,” said David Blumenthal, President of the Commonwealth Fund.
Coronavirus: Fujitsu announces permanent work-from-home plan. (BBC News, August 6, 2020)
Technology firm Fujitsu has said it will halve its office space in Japan as it adapts to the "new normal" of the coronavirus pandemic. It says the "Work Life Shift" programme will offer unprecedented flexibility to its 80,000 workers in the country. Staff will be able to work flexible hours, and working from home will be standard wherever possible.
This is what coronavirus will do to our offices and homes. (BBC Visual and Data Journalism Team, August 6, 2020)
One day, the virus will subside. It could be eradicated. But even then, life will not simply return to the way it was before Covid-19. Spurred on by the coronavirus crisis, architects have been rethinking the buildings we inhabit. Scroll down to find out how the future might look.
Coronavirus: Los Angeles to shut off water and power to party houses. (BBC News, August 6, 2020)
The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has said the city will be authorised to shut off water and power to properties where large parties and gatherings are held despite restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus. He said house parties had become "nightclubs in the hills" and that the focus would be on gatherings "posing significant public dangers". The rule comes into force on Friday.
California is the worst-affected US state with over 532,000 Covid-19 cases. State authorities have also reported 9,872 deaths resulting from coronavirus. Los Angeles county continues to report the highest number of infections in the state - 197,912 as of Wednesday.
How a ship abandoned by its owner brought deadly cargo to Beirut. (Irish Times, August 6, 2020)
The countdown to catastrophe in Beirut started six years ago when a troubled, Russian-leased cargo ship made an unscheduled stop at the city’s port. The ship was trailed by debts, crewed by disgruntled sailors and dogged by a small hole in its hull that meant water had to be constantly pumped out. And it carried a volatile cargo: more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a combustible material used to make fertilisers – and bombs – that was destined for Mozambique.
The ship, the Rhosus, never made it. Embroiled in a financial and diplomatic dispute, it was abandoned by the Russian businessman who had leased it. And the ammonium nitrate was transferred to a dockside warehouse in Beirut, where it would languish for years, until Tuesday, when Lebanese officials said it exploded, sending a shock wave that killed more than 130 people and wounded another 5,000.
The Rhosus, which flies the flag of Moldova, arrived in Beirut in November 2013, two months after it left the Black Sea port of Batumi, Georgia. The ship was leased by Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman living in Cyprus. Prokoshev, the captain, joined the ship in Turkey after a mutiny over unpaid wages by a previous crew.
In Lebanon, public rage focused on the negligence of the authorities, who were aware of the danger posed by the storage of 2,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse on the Beirut docks yet failed to act.
Senior customs officials wrote to the Lebanese courts at least six times from 2014 to 2017, seeking guidance on how to dispose of the ammonium nitrate, according to public records posted to social media by a Lebanese lawmaker, Salim Aoun. “In view of the serious danger posed by keeping this shipment in the warehouses in an inappropriate climate,” Shafik Marei, the director of Lebanese customs, wrote in May 2016, “we repeat our request to demand the maritime agency to re-export the materials immediately.” The customs officials proposed a number of solutions, including donating the ammonium nitrate to the Lebanese army or selling it to the privately owned Lebanese Explosives Co. Marei sent a second, similar letter a year later.
The judiciary failed to respond to any of his pleas, the records suggested. Lebanese judicial officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Satellite Images Show Aftermath Of Beirut Blast. (NPR, August 5, 2020)
Several warehouses appear to be flattened and a cruise ship called the Orient Queen can be seen listing to one side. Heavy damage extends for over half a mile into the city. The blast killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more.
Reports suggest that the incident was triggered yesterday when a fire in one section of the port reached an enormous cache of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that had been offloaded months earlier. The explosion was so large that the U.S. Geological Survey registered it as a magnitude 3.3 earthquake.
Dr. Fauci: My family gets death threats. (2-min.video; CNN, August 5, 2020)
Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that he has had to get security protection after his family received threats and harassment.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal Tweets an Ominous Message - Time for a Leak. (Daily Kos, August 4, 2020)
"In advance of the classified briefing I’ll hear later today, I reviewed classified documents this morning. They are chilling. Declassify this information. Americans deserve & need to know about ongoing foreign interference (even sabotage) in our election system."
[See Pelosi et al, below on July 24, 2020.]
Federal judge basically begs the Supreme Court to overturn qualified immunity. (Daily Kos, August 4, 2020)
The Supreme Court has drawn the doctrine of qualified immunity so broadly that police officers can almost never be held accountable in civil court for their abuses on the job. Since what the Supreme Court says, goes, lower-court judges are forced to let violent or racist or violent and racist police off the hook time after time. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is apparently sick of that, and made it very clear in a new 72-page decision—even as he granted qualified immunity to an officer who violated the Constitution.
Outrage pours out of every line from the judge forced to make an unjust decision. “Let us not be fooled by legal jargon,” Reeves wrote. “Immunity is not exoneration. And the harm in this case to one man sheds light on the harm done to the nation by this manufactured doctrine.”
Judge Reeves goes deep on the sordid history of qualified immunity, before taking the traffic stop at issue before him step by step and concluding both that it involved “an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment” involving involuntary, coerced consent—and that McClendon is protected by qualified immunity until the Supreme Court overturns it. His decision is a sustained plea to the court to do exactly that, concluding “I do not envy the task before the Supreme Court. Overturning qualified immunity will undoubtedly impact our society. Yet, the status quo is extraordinary and unsustainable. Just as the Supreme Court swept away the mistaken doctrine of ‘separate but equal,’ so too it should eliminate the doctrine of qualified immunity.”
A majority of voters want to end qualified immunity. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Justin Amash have sponsored legislation to end it. But for now—until either Congress or the Supreme Court acts—it gives police the right to commit gross abuses against civilians, abuses that in many cases are obviously and outrageously racist. It must go.
Satisfaction with state of the US at 9-year low. (The Hill, August 4, 2020)
National satisfaction amid the COVID-19 pandemic has dipped considerably since the virus arrived stateside. New data from Gallup reveals that just 13 percent of U.S. adults are satisfied with the current state of the nation.
Previously, national satisfaction registered a higher 20 percent in early June, falling seven percentage points. The metric has consistently fallen from its 15-year high, which was 45 percent in February.
Satisfaction has not been this low since November 2011, when it was about 12 percent. Contextually, 2011 was the year U.S. credit dropped as the country worked to manage its debt accumulation. The satisfaction rating also stands 6 percentage points above the lowest national satisfaction rate ever recorded by Gallup, 7 percent in October of 2008, amid The Great Recession.
“Americans have rarely been less satisfied with the state of the nation than they are now,” the report authors write.
On a deeper demographic level, data suggests that the drop in national positivity primarily occurred among Republicans. Gallup notes that among respondents who identified as Republican, satisfaction looms around the 20 percent mark, roughly half of last month’s reading of 39 percent satisfaction. 
Interestingly, despite broad dissatisfaction among Republicans, party support of President Trump is still remarkably high, with Gallup noting a 91 percent approval rating, although this sentiment is not shared by Democrats or Independents, who reported a 4 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
This balances out to an overall national approval rating of 41 percent for President Trump.
Researchers propose that given the party’s general approval of Trump, dissatisfaction may stem more from the regional outbreaks of the coronavirus, the subsequent economic contraction and discussion of systemic racism that has entered the national spotlight following the police killing of George Floyd. 
Remarks at Media Availability with Leader Schumer Following Meeting with Trump Administration on Coronavirus Relief Legislation (Nancy Pelosi, August 4, 2020)
Leader Schumer: We spent an hour and a half.  We really went down issue by issue by issue, slogging through.  They made some concessions, which we appreciated.  We made some concessions, which they appreciated.  We are still far away on a lot of the important issues, but we’re continuing to go at it.
In my view, the fundamental disagreement is the scope and depth of the problem and its solution.  This is the greatest crisis America has faced in 75 years economically, in a hundred years health-wise.  We believe it needs a big, bold solution.
They are still wrapped in this idea that the government shouldn’t do much and leave it to the private sector.  And it just doesn’t work.  They’re also not unified.  They admit that there are a large number of the Republicans in the Senate will not vote for anything.  And we don’t exactly know where Donald Trump is.  He says a different thing every day.
But we’re still slogging through step by step by step, and we’re making progress.  It’s not easy, but we’re going to keep at it until we get the kind of bill the American people demand and need, which is a bold, strong bill.
Speaker Pelosi: To that end, a bold, strong bill, we agree that we want to have an agreement, and in that case, we then say that’s our goal, let’s engineer back from there as to what we have to do to get that done.
Now, Leader Schumer and I are legislators, with long experience in writing legislation.  We know that the devil is in the details.  So are the angels.  And it’s very important that we have a complete understanding of each other of what we are agreeing to.  It’s not a conversation, it’s a legislative interaction.
So, this takes time, and it takes specificity.  And you call each other back, ‘Well, you bring more of your information tomorrow.  We’ll bring more of ours,’ so that we have the clearest understanding of what is going to be in the bill and what the consequences are – what are the ramifications of that.
This is a different legislative negotiation than any we’ve been engaged in because there’s a fuse out there of people being infected and dying because we have not had an effective strategic plan.  The Administration has resisted that.  We’re insisting on that, in terms of a strategic plan for testing, tracing, treatment, isolation, masks, sanitation, all that it takes to hold this in check until, God-willing and science-providing, we have a vaccine soon.
So, this is – it’s hard.  In some cases we’re inching along, in others, we’re making more progress, but it takes time and we’ll take more time tomorrow.
Census Cuts All Counting Efforts Short By A Month. (NPR, August 3, 2020)
These last-minute changes to the constitutionally-mandated count of every person living in the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade. With roughly 4 out of 10 households nationwide yet to be counted, and already delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the bureau now has less than two months left to try to reach people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents and other members of historically undercounted groups who are not likely to fill out a census form on their own.
Democrats in Congress and many census advocates have become increasingly concerned that the White House is pressuring the bureau to stop counting soon in order to benefit Republicans when House seats are reapportioned and voting districts are redrawn.
Tucker: ‘Probably Illegal’ for Biden to Only Consider a Black Woman VP. (Daily Beast, August 3, 2020)
Carlson, who is currently facing the ire of his own colleagues over his racist rhetoric, devoted his opening monologue to calling Black female veep candidates unqualified.
NASA astronauts aim for Florida coast to end SpaceX flight. (1-min. video; Associated Press, August 2, 2020)
The first astronauts launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company departed the International Space Station on Saturday night for the final and most important part of their test flight: returning to Earth with a rare splashdown. NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken bid farewell to the three men left behind as their SpaceX Dragon capsule undocked and headed toward a Sunday afternoon descent by parachute into the Gulf of Mexico. Despite Tropical Storm Isaias’ surge toward Florida’s Atlantic shore, NASA said the weather looked favorable off the coast of Pensacola on the extreme opposite side of the state.
It will be the first splashdown for astronauts in 45 years. The last time was following the joint U.S.-Soviet mission in 1975 known as Apollo-Soyuz.
Trump's Germany troops pullout may be his last gift to Putin before the election. (CNN, August 2, 2020)
Since he came to office, US President Donald Trump has obsessively picked at the ties that bind America to its allies.
This week in one apparently wanton yank, he ripped one of those cords by announcing a plan to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany. This thin green thread of forces, woven through Germany's historic towns, rolling fields and dense forests, has for three generations helped ensure peace in Europe, embodying an unbreakable commitment between the former foes.
The relationship now though, particularly if Trump is reelected later this year, is in freefall, destination unknown.
His decision, if his tweets have been correctly divined, seems to be to punish Germany. His undiplomatic data grenades were tossed out in a few moments in the middle of the night, but it could take years to undo the damage German officials fear it will inflict on the military alliance.
Trump is the gift that keeps on giving for the Kremlin: his unpredictability, while often a pain, for them is continual grist for their propaganda mill.
It has taken America's 45th president almost four self-serving and destructive years to reach this point, but in pulling the trigger on withdrawing troops from Germany, one-third of the total stationed in the country, he has signaled an end to what Franklin D. Roosevelt, America's 32nd president, conceived as a post-World War II order based on common interest and collective aspirations. Roosevelt and other leaders of his generation witnessed the worst of times as the great powers collided, propelled by a few evil self-possessed men; assuming Trump is not completely ignorant, he has chosen to ignore this obvious fact.
Perhaps a new American president will be elected this November with enough time and persuasive powers to repair the rift Trump has caused with his country's allies. It won't be easy, as Trump's trust deficit is compounded by all those who stood by his side.
GOP: Renomination of Trump to be held in private! (Associated Press, August 2, 2020)
The vote to renominate President Donald Trump is set to be conducted in private later this month, without members of the press present, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Convention said, citing the coronavirus.
[And if you believe THAT...]
While Trump called off the public components of the convention in Florida last month, citing spiking cases of the virus across the country, 336 delegates are scheduled to gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Aug. 24 to formally vote to make Trump the GOP standard-bearer once more.
Nominating conventions are traditionally meant to be media bonanzas, as political parties seek to leverage the attention the events draw to spread their message to as many voters as possible. If the GOP decision stands, it will be the first party nominating convention in modern history to be closed to reporters.
Trump: "Joe Biden's A Secret Radical Leftist." (16-min. video; The Young Turks, August 1, 2020)
Just in time for school, 2 new studies conclude small kids carry and transmit COVID-19 just fine. (Daily Kos, August 1, 2020)
Donald Trump and his billionaire heiress and non-educator Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue their relentless push for school reopenings, even threatening to cut off federal funds to those schools that hesitate to throw open their doors, exposing millions of public school children, parents and teachers to the potentially lethal effects of COVID-19. One of their loudest talking points has been the supposedly low rate of transmission of the virus by children.
New research indicates that, although they don’t suffer the same degree of ill effects as adults, children aged 5-17 are actually bastions of COVID-19 contagion to other children, as well as adults such as parents, grandparents, and teachers.
‘Assume the monster is everywhere’: Health experts urge dramatic reset to halt virus. (Washington Post, August 1, 2020)
The coronavirus is spreading at dangerous levels across much of the United States, and public health experts are demanding a dramatic reset in the national response, one that recognizes that the crisis is intensifying and that current piecemeal strategies aren’t working.
This is a new phase of the pandemic, one no longer built around local or regional clusters and hot spots. It comes at an unnerving moment in which the economy suffered its worst collapse since the Great Depression, schools are rapidly canceling plans for in-person instruction and Congress has failed to pass a new emergency relief package. President Trump continues to promote fringe science, the daily death toll keeps climbing and the human cost of the virus in America has just passed 150,000 lives.
Lawmaker With COVID: My Health Choices Are Up To Me. Critics: That’s What Women Assert. (Huffington Post, August 1, 2020)
Rep. Louie Gohmert, who believes women should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, is suddenly all about (his) freedom of choice.
With law enforcement out of sight, Portland sees second peaceful night of protest. (Washington Post, August 1, 2020)
Unlike Thursday evening, when there was an air of celebration, the tone of the protest on Friday evening seemed more somber and, at times, conflicted.
Without the federal officers sent by the Trump administration to rally against — not to mention the threat of tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests they brought with them — the protesters tackled more complicated questions among themselves. Some favored a confrontation, setting off firecrackers or throwing projectiles at the still-fenced-off courthouse. Others argued that a more measured approach was needed. When a group of black-clad protesters set an American flag on fire, a group of mothers quickly moved to extinguish it and sparked a shouting match. “You’re on the same side!” one protester on the sidelines yelled, trying to de-escalate the situation as a small group nearby sang: “There’s no such thing as a bad protester.”
DHS official to be reassigned after intelligence collection on journalists. (CNN, August 1, 2020)
The Department of Homeland Security official who oversaw the intelligence division at the department is being reassigned after it was revealed his office had gathered intelligence reports on two US journalists, according to a source familiar with the matter. Brian Murphy, who served as the acting under secretary for the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, was summoned to acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf's office Friday night. Murphy is a career official who filled the position after the Senate-confirmed Under Secretary David Glawe left DHS earlier this year.
On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that DHS had sent Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies summarizing tweets sent by two journalists -- New York Times reporter Mike Baker and Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of the blog Lawfare -- who had published leaked unclassified government documents while covering the unrest in Portland, Oregon.
The collection and dissemination of information on journalists was carried out by lower level officials acting on broad guidance, the source told CNN, adding that Murphy was not fully aware until after the fact.
Wolf, who has led the department in an acting capacity since last November, sought to distance himself from the incident. "In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice, and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter," the DHS spokesperson said in a statement earlier this week.
NEW: Animated Trump Battles Ghost of Reagan in New Rap Cartoon. (7-min. video; Hollywood Reporter, July 31, 2020)
As part of a new political initiative by Meme2020 — a collective of social media content creators founded by Jerry Media CEO Mick Purzycki — the group has released an animated short film today in which President Donald Trump engages in a rap battle with the ghost of Ronald Reagan. The seven-minute piece, funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, is the first of a half dozen rap cartoons — all poking fun at Trump — that will be rolled out over the course of the next few weeks, says Beau Lewis, the founder and CEO of Rhyme Combinator, which conceived and produced Reagan vs. Trump Debate. The videos are part of a larger Meme2020 campaign that began rolling out social media content this week with a focus on promoting vote-by-mail registration. (Trump has repeatedly criticized widespread voting by mail and made unfounded claims that it leads to voter fraud.
Pitched it seems mostly to Republican audiences (and some independents), the first video delves into questions of political legacy and loyalty within the party, as debated by caricature versions of the current and former presidents, with animated cameos by Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pence.
Citing Election Delay Tweet, Influential Trump Ally Now Demands His Re-Impeachment. (NPR, July 31, 2020)
After voting for President Trump in 2016 and staunchly defending him in conservative publications, a Federalist Society leader appears to be having some very public buyer's remorse. Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the powerful conservative legal organization, is now calling on the House of Representatives to do again what it has already done once this year: impeach Trump. In a scathing opinion piece in The New York Times published online Thursday, the Northwestern University law professor points to what ignited his newfound ire with the president: a tweet Trump sent out shortly after news broke Thursday morning that the U.S. economy had suffered its biggest recorded contraction ever last quarter.
Calabresi declared himself "appalled" by the tweet, which he characterized as "seeking to postpone the November election." "Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats' assertion that President Trump is a fascist," the conservative legal scholar wrote. "But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president's immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate."
It was a remarkable turnaround for a man who as recently as November had accused House Democrats of conducting an "unconstitutional" and "Kafkaesque 'trial' " in their Trump impeachment proceedings.
Calabresi also had some stern advice for Republican lawmakers, many of whom have routinely approved conservative judicial nominees endorsed and promoted by the Federalist Society. "President Trump needs to be told by every Republican in Congress that he cannot postpone the federal election. Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history," Calabresi warned. "Anyone who says otherwise should never be elected to Congress again."
Calabresi's public distancing from the 45th president was applauded by other conservatives critical of Trump. "Steve Calabresi, welcome to the Resistance," tweeted Washington attorney George Conway, the famously Trump-bashing husband of senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
Trump holds mini-rally at Florida airport. (1-min. video; The Hill, July 31, 2020)
The president landed in Tampa, where he is participating in a fundraiser, and was greeted by dozens of supporters who had gathered along barricades. Few were seen wearing masks.
The president, who was flanked by local law enforcement officials, painted a dystopian picture of the country should presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win election in November. "If Joe Biden is elected president, the chaos and bloodshed will spread to every community in our land. You’ll have a Portland everywhere," he said, referencing clashes between protesters and federal agents deployed to Oregon. "There will be no safety, no security, no peace, no justice, no one to protect you and no one to defend the American way of life. People like the ones standing behind me will not be considered primetime. With me, they're considered primetime."
The president made only a fleeting mention of the coronavirus pandemic during his 30-minute remarks, even though Florida is the new epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Florida has reported more than 470,000 cases, the second-most of any state, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Roughly 70,000 of those cases have been reported in the last seven days, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a staunch Trump ally, has been forced to roll back some business reopenings to try and contain the virus. Trump spoke about the border and boasted of investments in the military. But most of his focus was on his support for law enforcement, attempting to paint Biden as a candidate who will cave to the left wing of his party and oversee chaos in the streets.
The persistent pandemic has forced Trump to forgo his standard rallies in large arenas with thousands of people packed together. He held a rally last month in Tulsa, Okla., but attendance was underwhelming and local officials cited the event as a cause for a subsequent increase in virus cases. A scheduled rally in New Hampshire earlier this month was scrapped, with campaign officials citing a poor weather forecast. But sources close to the campaign acknowledged that turnout was expected to fall short of expectations, much like in Oklahoma.
Biden issued a statement earlier Friday condemning Trump's handling of the pandemic and criticizing his agenda while he's in the Sunshine State. "While Floridians, including our frontline health care workers, continue to struggle every day with the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives, Donald Trump comes to Florida with no apparent intention of addressing these issues and instead is there to raise money for his campaign with his Mar-a-Lago crowd," Biden said. "Throughout this pandemic, Donald Trump has ignored the problem, blamed others, tried to shield the magnitude of the pandemic, rewarded his friends while American families are struggling, and actively tried to divide our country," he added. "This isn’t the behavior of a leader."
DHS compiled ‘intelligence reports’ on journalists who published leaked documents. (Washington Post, July 30, 2020)
The Department of Homeland Security has compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of American journalists covering protests in Portland, Ore., in what current and former officials called an alarming use of a government system meant to share information about suspected terrorists and violent actors.
Over the past week, the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has disseminated three Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists — a reporter for the New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare — and noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about DHS operations in Portland. The intelligence reports, obtained by The Washington Post, include written descriptions and images of the tweets and the number of times they had been liked or retweeted by others.
NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red Planet. (NASA, July 30, 2020)
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is on its way to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples to send back to Earth. Humanity's most sophisticated rover launched with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 7:50 a.m. EDT (4:50 a.m. PDT) Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The ULA Atlas V's Centaur upper stage initially placed the Mars 2020 spacecraft into a parking orbit around Earth. The engine fired for a second time and the spacecraft separated from the Centaur as expected. Navigation data indicate the spacecraft is perfectly on course to Mars.
The Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission is to seek out signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the diverse geology of its landing site, Jezero Crater, and demonstrate key technologies that will help us prepare for future robotic and human exploration.
"Jezero Crater is the perfect place to search for signs of ancient life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Perseverance is going to make discoveries that cause us to rethink our questions about what Mars was like and how we understand it today. As our instruments investigate rocks along an ancient lake bottom and select samples to return to Earth, we may very well be reaching back in time to get the information scientists need to say that life has existed elsewhere in the universe."
"There is still a lot of road between us and Mars," said John McNamee, Mars 2020 project manager at JPL. "About 290 million miles of them. But if there was ever a team that could make it happen, it is this one. We are going to Jezero Crater. We will see you there Feb. 18, 2021."
[With many interesting Perseverance links, here.]
NEW: As it happened: Nasa rover launches on Mars life mission. (various videos and links; BBC, July 30, 2020)
Nasa's Perseverance heads for Mars.
We Need to Talk About Ventilation. (The Atlantic, July 30, 2020)
How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?
Trump Might Try to Postpone the Election. That’s Unconstitutional. He should be removed unless he relents. (New York Times, July 30, 2020)
Stephen Calabresi, past Trump advisor, co-founder of the Federalist Society, and a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.:
"I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.
"But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate."
How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air” (Vanity Fair, July 30, 2020)
Experts are now warning that the U.S. testing system is on the brink of collapse. “We are at a very bad moment here,” said Margaret Bourdeaux. “We are about to lose visibility on this monster and it’s going to rampage through our whole country. This is a massive emergency.”
First, "the White House" (NOT an authorized government purchaser) apparently ordered $52M of test kits from a United Arab Emirates company; they proved to be contaminated, and have not yet been paid for.
This spring, a team working under the president's son-in-law produced a plan for an aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that could have brought the pandemic under control. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a shambolic 50-state response?
A new Rockefeller Foudation plan sought to do exactly what the federal government had chosen not to: create a national infrastructure in a record-short period of time. “Raj doesn’t do non-huge things,” said Andrew Sweet, the Rockefeller Foundation’s managing director for COVID-19 response and recovery. In a discussion with coalition members, Dr. Anthony Fauci called the Rockefeller plan “music to my ears.”
Reaching out to state and local governments, the foundation and its advisers soon became flooded with calls for help from school districts, hospital systems, and workplaces, all desperate for guidance. In regular video calls, a core advisory team that includes Shah, former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan, former National Cancer Institute director Rick Klausner, and Section 32’s Mike Pellini worked through how best to support members of its growing coalition.
Schools “keep hitting refresh on the CDC website and nothing’s changed in the last two months,” Shah told his colleagues in a video meeting in June. In the absence of trustworthy federal guidance, the Rockefeller team hashed out an array of issues: How should schools handle symptomatic and asymptomatic students? What about legal liability? What about public schools that were too poor to even afford a nurse?
(Last week, the CDC issued new guidelines that enthusiastically endorsed reopening schools and downplayed the risks, after coming under heavy pressure from President Trump to revise guidelines that he said were “very tough and expensive.”)
It may seem impossible for anyone but the federal government to scale up diagnostic testing one hundred-fold through a painstaking and piecemeal approach. But in private conversations, dispirited members of the White House task force urged members of the Rockefeller coalition to persist in their efforts. “Despite what we might be hearing, there is nothing being done in the administration on testing,” one of them was told on a phone call.
Despite the Rockefeller Foundation’s round-the-clock work to guide the U.S. to a nationwide testing system essential to reopening, the foundation has not yet been able to bend the most important curve of all: the Trump administration’s determined disinterest in big federal action. Shah delivered a stark warning: “We fear the fall will be worse than the spring.” He added, putting it bluntly: “America is not near the top of countries who have handled COVID-19 effectively.”
Just three days later, news reports revealed that the Trump administration was trying to block any new funding for testing and contact tracing in the new coronavirus relief package being hammered out in Congress. As one member of the Rockefeller coalition said of the administration’s response, “We’re dealing with a schizophrenic organization. Who the hell knows what’s going on? It’s just insanity.”
On Friday, July 31, the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, which is investigating the federal response, will hold a hearing to examine the “urgent need” for a comprehensive national plan, at which Dr. Fauci, CDC director Robert Redfield, and Admiral Brett Giroir will testify. Among other things, the subcommittee is probing whether the Trump administration sought to suppress testing, in part due to Trump’s claim at his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally in June that he ordered staff to “slow the testing down.”
The gamble that son-in-law real estate developers, or Morgan Stanley bankers liaising with billionaires, could effectively stand in for a well-coordinated federal response has proven to be dead wrong. Even the smallest of Jared Kushner’s solutions to the pandemic have entangled government agencies in confusion and raised concerns about illegality.
Irregularities in COVID Reporting Contract Award Process Raise New Questions. (NPR, July 29, 2020)
Among the findings of the NPR investigation:
- The Department of Health and Human Services initially characterized the contract with TeleTracking as a no-bid contract. When asked about that, HHS said there was a "coding error" and that the contract was actually competitively bid.
- The process by which HHS awarded the contract is normally used for innovative scientific research, not the building of government databases.
- HHS had directly phoned the company about the contract, according to a company spokesperson. 
- TeleTracking CEO Michael Zamagias had links to the New York real estate world — and in particular, a firm that financed billions of dollars in projects with the Trump Organization.
'I failed my fellow Americans.': the white women defecting from Trump (The Guardian, July 29, 2020)
After four years of tumult, there are signs Trump hasn’t been able to hang on to college-educated white women in crucial swing states.
Apparently, Trump wants to lose by even more. (Daily Kos, July 28, 2020)
Conservatives are livid at the “betrayals” they see in Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch after a term that delivered brutal conservative defeats on topics like LGBTQ rights, immigration, and abortion rights. Therefore, they aren’t just cheering Trump’s promises to release a “list” of future judicial candidates: They are demanding it be whittled down through a purity filter.
There are lots of ways to illustrate the GOP’s suburban collapse, but none communicates the dynamic better than this one simple stat: 38 of the 41 House seats Democrats picked up in 2018 were suburban districts. It was suburban voters (again, mostly women) who helped Democrats win 2019 governor races in blood-red Kentucky and Louisiana. Those formerly Republican women aren’t swinging back. Instead, they’ve put Trump deep in the hole, created an opportunity for a massive Democratic landslide in the Senate, and shored up both those 2018 House pickups while giving Democrats several dozen new opportunities.
And what do those suburban female voters want? A NARAL poll on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections showed that on choice, what they want is certainly not aligned with “hardline conservatives.”
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that 78% of women across all political parties in suburban swing Congressional districts polled said they don’t believe government should prevent a woman from having an abortion, while just 20% of those polled said they think abortion should be illegal,” according to the polling memo. “A majority of suburban women in swing districts -52%- say they are also more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports reproductive freedom, including access to abortion. Only 29% of suburban women said they would be less likely to support a candidate who supports reproductive freedom.”
How about immigration? A Priorities USA (Democratic Super PAC) poll found that “while Trump’s record and rhetoric on immigration, border security, race relations and corruption are top issues for Trump’s base to support him, they are also reasons for a majority of suburban voters to vote for somebody else.” Indeed, those 2018 Democratic victories came after a concerted effort by Trump and his party to ramp up anti-immigrant hysteria.
The third issue in which the Supreme Court “betrayed” those “hardcore conservatives” was LGBTQ rights, and once again, those conservatives are on the wrong side of the suburbs. On same-sex marriage, a great proxy for questions revolving around equality issues, suburban Americans approved  59-39, not too far off from the 63-35 numbers among urban Americans. It was 46-52 in rural America, home to the dwindling number of “hardcore conservatives.”
So in the suburbs, key to the GOP’s electoral collapse, voters are pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-immigration, and pro-choice. And the Republican response is to weed out any conservatives who might harbor any such sympathies?
I’ve been arguing that Trump is incapable of doing the things he needs to do to win. Throw this in the pile of evidence that when it comes to charting a path toward Election Day, Trump and his party are still incapable of broadening their coalition. They don’t want to do it, and so they won’t.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
NEW: GOP tucks $8 billion for military weaponry in virus bill. (Associated Press, July 28, 2020)
A new $1 trillion COVID-19 response package by Senate Republicans is supposed to give the government more weapons to battle the surging coronavirus pandemic. But GOP lawmakers have more than just the “invisible enemy” in mind. The Republican measure includes billions for F-35 fighters, Apache helicopters and infantry carriers sought by Washington’s powerful defense lobby. Overall, the proposal stuffs $8 billion into Pentagon weapons systems built by defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics — corporate titans that sit atop the Washington influence industry.
“They turned the appropriations portion of the bill into a spending spree on weapons systems and a new federal building designed to block competition to the president’s hotel,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. “It’s clear to me that amphibious ships don’t feed hungry children.”
How NASA found the ideal hole on Mars to land in (New York Times, July 28, 2020)
Jezero Crater, the destination of the Perseverence rover, is a promising place to look for evidence of extinct Martian life.
Sixteen years ago, Caleb Fassett, then a graduate student at Brown University, spotted an intriguing hole in the ground on Mars. Mars today is cold and dry, but it was not always that way. Here was one of the places with clear signs that liquid water flowed when the planet was warmer and wetter. The image, taken by NASA’s Odyssey orbiter, showed a sinuous dried-up river channel leading into one side of the crater. On the other side of the crater, part of the rim has collapsed, as if it had been swept away by flowing water. In between these two features was a large circular depression. “The only way that could form geometrically was for it to be a lake,” said Dr. Fassett, now a planetary scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
This one-time lake named Jezero, a crater close to 30 miles wide, is the next stop on NASA’s search for possibilities of life elsewhere in the solar system. On July 30, the space agency’s new Mars rover, Perseverance, is scheduled to launch on a six-and-a-half-month trip to the red planet, arriving at Jezero in February.
National Guard officer says Trump and AG Barr are lying about his botched Bible photo op. (Daily Kos, July 27, 2020)
An Army National Guard officer is contradicting everything Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and U.S. Park Police have told Americans about their disastrous effort to forcefully clear protesters away from the White House last month so Trump could hoist an upside-down Bible over his head for the cameras.
The protesters were "behaving peacefully,” says Adam DeMarco, an Iraq War vet and major in the D.C. National Guard, and the Park Police deployed an "excessive use of force" against them, according to a written statement provided to the Natural Resources Committee.
Heather Cox Richardson: Attorney General William Barr - de facto leader of the Executive Branch - will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow for the first time. (Letters From An American, July 27, 2020)
The Attorney General of the United States is, of course, not the president’s lawyer. The AG is supposed to be the attorney for the United States, protecting the rule of law.
Today conservative commentator Tom Nichols noted that Barr has emerged as the de facto leader of the Executive Branch, since Trump is “functionally incapacitated.” It is, Nichols says “a total collapse of constitutional order within the Executive branch” as Barr is using federal law enforcement officers against U.S. citizens. Nichols urges courts, state attorneys general, and state authorities to step into Barr’s way.
Nichols is an advisor to The Lincoln Project, which is hammering on Trump’s mental incapacity to perform the duties of the president. It must be acknowledged that Trump is giving them plenty to work with.
Tomorrow, as Barr testifies, a new book about him by Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings, will come out. It examines how Barr’s misleading summary of Mueller’s report derailed the public inquiry into the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, because no one wanted to believe the new Attorney General would “be willing to sacrifice his reputation for the sake of Trump. Now,” Eisen said in an interview with Just Security, “over a year and many lies later, we know much better.” Eisen says that Barr’s summary made Americans think—incorrectly—that Mueller had exonerated Trump, when in fact, the opposite was the case.
In a piece in Newsweek today, Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) expanded on this idea. He noted Barr’s lies about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election; his attempts to dismiss the charges against Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and lighten the sentence against Trump’s friend Roger Stone; as well as his firing of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman… and concluded that Barr has simply taken the place of Michael Cohen as Trump’s fixer.
Paul Krugman: The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America. (New York Times, July 27, 2020)
The right has made irresponsible behavior a key principle. America’s response to the coronavirus has been a lose-lose proposition.
The Trump administration and governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis insisted that there was no trade-off between economic growth and controlling the disease, and they were right — but not in the way they expected. Premature reopening led to a surge in infections: Adjusted for population, Americans are currently dying from Covid-19 at around 15 times the rate in the European Union or Canada. Yet the “rocket ship” recovery Donald Trump promised has crashed and burned: Job growth appears to have stalled or reversed, especially in states that were most aggressive about lifting social distancing mandates, and early indications are that the U.S. economy is lagging behind the economies of major European nations.
So we’re failing dismally on both the epidemiological and the economic fronts. But why?
For one thing, people truly focused on restarting the economy should have been big supporters of measures to limit infections without hurting business — above all, getting Americans to wear face masks. Instead, Trump ridiculed those in masks as “politically correct,” while Republican governors not only refused to mandate mask-wearing, but they prevented mayors from imposing local mask rules.
Also, politicians eager to see the economy bounce back should have wanted to sustain consumer purchasing power until wages recovered. Instead, Senate Republicans ignored the looming July 31 expiration of special unemployment benefits, which means that tens of millions of workers are about to see a huge hit to their incomes, damaging the economy as a whole.
So what was going on? Were our leaders just stupid? Well, maybe. But there’s a deeper explanation of the profoundly self-destructive behavior of Trump and his allies: They were all members of America’s cult of selfishness.
You see, the modern U.S. right is committed to the proposition that greed is good, that we’re all better off when individuals engage in the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest. In their vision, unrestricted profit maximization by businesses and unregulated consumer choice is the recipe for a good society. Support for this proposition is, if anything, more emotional than intellectual. I’ve long been struck by the intensity of right-wing anger against relatively trivial regulations, like bans on phosphates in detergent and efficiency standards for light bulbs. It’s the principle of the thing: Many on the right are enraged at any suggestion that their actions should take other people’s welfare into account.
This rage is sometimes portrayed as love of freedom. But people who insist on the right to pollute are notably unbothered by, say, federal agents tear-gassing peaceful protesters. What they call “freedom” is actually absence of responsibility.
Rational policy in a pandemic, however, is all about taking responsibility. The main reason you shouldn’t go to a bar and should wear a mask isn’t self-protection, although that’s part of it; the point is that congregating in noisy, crowded spaces or exhaling droplets into shared air puts others at risk. And that’s the kind of thing America’s right just hates, hates to hear.
Indeed, it sometimes seems as if right-wingers actually make a point of behaving irresponsibly. Remember how Senator Rand Paul, who was worried that he might have Covid-19 (he did), wandered around the Senate and even used the gym while waiting for his test results?
Anger at any suggestion of social responsibility also helps explain the looming fiscal catastrophe. It’s striking how emotional many Republicans get in their opposition to the temporary rise in unemployment benefits; for example, Senator Lindsey Graham declared that these benefits would be extended “over our dead bodies.” Why such hatred? It’s not because the benefits are making workers unwilling to take jobs. There’s no evidence that this is happening — it’s just something Republicans want to believe. And in any case, economic arguments can’t explain the rage.
Again, it’s the principle. Aiding the unemployed, even if their joblessness isn’t their own fault, is a tacit admission that lucky Americans should help their less-fortunate fellow citizens. And that’s an admission the right doesn’t want to make.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that Republicans are selfish. We’d be doing much better if that were all there were to it. The point, instead, is that they’ve sacralized selfishness, hurting their own political prospects by insisting on the right to act selfishly even when it hurts others.
What the coronavirus has revealed is the power of America’s cult of selfishness. And this cult is killing us.
Trump thinks tweeting mean things about him is 'illegal'. (Daily Kos, July 27, 2020)
Million Unmasked March comes up about 999,850 marchers short. (Capitol Fax, July 27, 2020)
A group of about 150 people gathered outside the Illinois Capitol Complex Saturday for the “Million Unmasked March.” The group of parents and guardians argue their children shouldn’t be forced to wear masks to attend school this fall.
An organizer of the event said Americans have the right to choice and children shouldn’t be “tortured” with masks. “This is a free country. If I don’t want to live in Illinois, I can move,” said Michael Rebresh. “But no state owns my child. I’m not an indentured servant to the state. They don’t get to tell me what to do.”
The Coronavirus Unleashed Along the Amazon River (New York Times, July 26, 2020)
Brazil now has the second-highest death toll in the world, second only to the USA. The pandemic is taking an exceptionally high toll on the Amazon region.
America’s global standing is at a low point. The pandemic made it worse. (Washington Post, July 26, 2020)
Under Trump, the United States retreats from collaborative leadership at a time of global crisis. America’s standing in the world is at a low ebb. Once described as the indispensable nation, the United States is now seen as withdrawn and inward-looking, a reluctant and unreliable partner at a dangerous moment for the world. The coronavirus pandemic has only made things worse.
President Trump shattered a 70-year consensus among U.S. presidents of both political parties that was grounded in the principle of robust American leadership in the world through alliances and multilateral institutions. For decades, this approach was seen at home and abroad as good for the world and good for the United States.
In its place, Trump has substituted his America First doctrine and what his critics say is a zero-sum-game sensibility about international relationships. America First has been described variously as nationalistic, populistic, isolationist and unilateralist. The president has demeaned allies and emboldened adversaries such as China and Russia.
"Every Trump Foreign Policy Scandal In One Tweet" (Daily Kos, July 26, 2020)
That is a new Twitter thread by Seth Abramson, drawing on the research he did for his 3 books on Trump. That’s one tweet per scandal. There are 20 Tweets covering issues with the EU and some two-dozen-plus individual nations.
It is disgusting. It includes some of his stupidity as President; e.g., N. Korea, Iran nuclear agreement, Covid-19... There are so many grounds for impeachment, and probably for indictments as well. There are more than enough grounds to reject not only Trump’s re-election, but that of his enablers in the House and Senate. Take a look.
The Battle for Local Control Is Now a Matter of Life and Death. (The Atlantic, July 26, 2020)
Why states won't let cities save themselves; the coronavirus has raised the stakes of a long-simmering conflict between red states and blue cities. “We are about to see a shit storm of state and federal preemption orders, of a magnitude greater than anything in history,” Mark Pertschuk of Grassroots Change, which tracks such laws through an initiative called Preemption Watch, told me in 2016. The storm has arrived, carried in on the ill winds of a pandemic.
This week, Governor Brian Kemp pleaded with Georgians to cover their faces in public. “Today, I am encouraging all Georgians—from every corner of our great state—to do four things for four weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “If Georgians commit to wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing their hands regularly, and following the guidance in our executive order and from public-health officials, we can make incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19.”
This request would be unremarkable on its own, but it came just days after Kemp sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city council for attempting to enact their own mask mandate. Atlanta’s mandate defied an order from Kemp banning cities from creating rules stricter than his own.
Viewed in narrow terms, Kemp’s battle with Bottoms is strange and self-defeating. The governor wants residents to wear masks, yet he is litigating against an attempt to require them to do so in the state’s most populous city.
But the fight in Georgia is not unique. Across the nation, and in particular in the South and the Sunbelt, there have been a string of skirmishes like this between local and state governments. Typically, Republican governors have couched their crackdowns on strict city ordinances as a defense of liberty and personal responsibility: They want people to wear masks, but believe that mandating it oversteps government’s bounds.
These conflicts really are about citizens’ right to make choices for themselves, just not in the way the governors claim. They test whether residents of red-state cities, more minority-heavy and liberal than the state overall, should be able to make their own choices about governance. Over the past decade, there’s been a sharp increase in cases of states preempting city rules on everything from Happy Meals to bike lanes to vaping. While the stakes of coronavirus mask ordinances are more immediate, the clashes over masks are the logical extension of that steadily building conflict.
Kemp’s suit against Atlanta’s leaders comes after weeks of building tensions. In April, he issued an order on COVID-19 that blocked enforcement of any local or city rules that were “more or less restrictive” than his own. At that early stage in the pandemic, before masks were a common topic of discussion, this sort of preemption occasioned mostly grumbling from local authorities.
But as the virus spread—exacerbated in part by Kemp pushing a hasty, premature reopening of the state, over the objections of leaders in Georgia cities—masks came to the fore, and the ban started to become more contentious. At the beginning of July, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson announced a mask mandate despite of Kemp’s order. A week later, leaders in Clarke County, home to Athens, instituted a mask mandate. The next day, July 8, Bottoms signed an executive order requiring masks. Other local leaders have done the same.
Initially, Kemp held his fire. But on July 15, President Trump visited Atlanta’s airport, where—as per his practice—he did not wear a mask. Bottoms told CNN that Trump had broken the law by defying the mandate. That evening, Kemp, a close Trump ally, issued a new order that explicitly preempted local mask ordinances. The following day he filed suit over Atlanta’s order.
Local leaders are furious. “It’s officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us,” said Savannah’s Johnson. Bottoms said her order remained in effect. Atlanta seem to be banking on tying up the discussion in litigation for as long as possible, buying time for mask mandates to do their work. (Helpfully for the dilatory strategy, two judges have already recused themselves from the case.)
NEW: Portland is Not Burning. Portlanders Are Pissed. (Daily Kos, July 25, 2020)
Portland Oregon is alive and well. The city is not burning. The protests are not out of control. Yes, there are some people bent on destruction of property. They are a minority and do not represent the vast majority of Portlanders or protestors.
The mayhem covers a small area of downtown Portland. It is not widespread. It is not out of control. It is nothing like many of the images shown in the media portray. Portland may have no shortage of problems, but we love the city and love living here. We are a city filled with people of conscience. A city filled with ordinary Americans who are politically astute, fiercely independent and heavily community oriented. Take a closer look at the number of moms in yellow shirts who have come out to stand between the the hodgepodge of Federal agents borrowed from Federal prisons, ICE and Border Patrol and the protestors who assemble to reject their intrusion into the city and continue to call for racial justice. There are more moms and dads in these protests than agents. Many more than the few unwelcome vandals and anarchists who distract from the BLM protests that have been taking place nightly for almost two months.
Federal agents in Portland amount to a goon squad. They are indiscriminate about who they attempt to attack or beat up. We have witnessed the same thing across the country since the murder of George Floyd. Police across the country have responded to the right to assemble and protest like berserkers or a Viking horde that has lost all sense of decency and humanity and that only by maiming and crippling people who stand in front of them will their own fears and thirst for blood be quenched. Portland has received the dregs of Federal law enforcement. Bashing innocent Americans, causing grievous harm physically and psychologically with their excessive violence and unwarranted beatings is out of control, but not due to Portland protestors.
Federal Agents Push Into Portland Streets, Stretching Limits of Their Authority. (7-min. videos; New York Times, July 25, 2020)
Federal agents are venturing blocks from the buildings they were sent to protect. Oregon officials say they are illegally taking on the role of riot police.
Peaceful protests were already happening for weeks in Portland, when federal officers arrived on July 4. Our video shows how President Trump’s deployment ignited chaos: Federal officers in military gear … … clouds of tear gas … … crowd control munitions … [shots fired] … and locals who want those officers gone. “What are you guys protecting?” “Get the [expletive] out of our city!”
In just over a week, the chaotic scenes in Portland grabbed the nation’s attention and raised questions about whether the U.S. government is exceeding its authority and violating civil rights. The officers came because of an executive order signed by President Trump in late June to protect federal property from destruction. “If we didn’t take a stand in Portland, you know, we’ve arrested many of these leaders. If we didn’t take that stand, right now you would have a problem like — they were going to lose Portland.”
So what’s going on here? And what methods are the officers using to protect federal sites?
The protests against racism and police brutality, which started in May, had largely been peaceful and were held across Portland. But after federal officers arrived in the city on July 4, demonstrations became centered around this U.S. District courthouse and this building housing federal agencies. Both are property of the U.S. government. The buildings have clearly been vandalized, and the Department of Homeland Security has a mandate to protect them. That’s usually done by officers from the Federal Protective Service. But on the ground in Portland, we have seen a new task force, including U.S. Marshals … … BORTAC, a unit of Customs and Border Protection … … and a special response team from ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
According to a government memo leaked to The Times, these units are insufficiently trained to perform crowd control. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Night after night, videos show these officers emerging from the two federal buildings as protesters draw near. Hundreds of videos reviewed by The Times show that although protesters were antagonistic, officers often responded with disproportionate force. They blanketed streets with tear gas. They struck protesters with batons … … and used flash bangs, pepper balls and other less-lethal munitions to clear the streets. Their actions often appeared to escalate rather than de-escalate matters. And in some instances, they attacked when there was no apparent threat. On July 11, protester Donavan La Bella was at the federal courthouse when an officer appears to have fired at his head in retaliation for tossing a spent tear gas canister. Later that night when field medics sought officers’ help for a wounded protester, they were aggressively cleared away. On July 18, a Navy veteran was batoned and pepper-sprayed in another unprovoked attack. His right hand was broken, and he needs surgery. Sometimes members of the press were hit.
In the middle of all this, protesters were detained in ways that alarmed civil rights advocates and former Homeland Security officials. “Can your people identify themselves as law enforcement?” On July 15, several federal officers were filmed driving in unmarked vehicles in the blocks around the courthouse. “How are we supposed to know who you are? How are we supposed to know you’re not kidnapping us and you’re civilians kidnapping us?” One protester was detained at this location nearby. Federal officers wouldn’t identify themselves, but patches on the right and left sides of their uniforms match those used by members of BORTAC, the tactical unit from Customs and Border Protection. They drove the protester away in an unmarked car. D.H.S. says federal officers have made 43 arrests since July 4. Agents do have the authority to make arrests if they believe that a federal crime has been committed, like damaging federal property or attacking officers.
In recent days, the controversy mobilized a larger and more diverse crowd of protesters. A so-called wall of moms led marches through Portland’s streets and to the federal courthouse where officers cleared them away.
On Wednesday, July 22, Portland’s mayor joined the protests and was caught in a cloud of tear gas. “This is a egregious overreaction on the part of the federal officers. This is not a de-escalation strategy. This is flat-out urban warfare.” At around the same time, a Customs and Border Protection plane was spotted circling overhead. C.B.P. officials told The Times it was sending a live video feed of the crowd to law enforcement on the ground.
Protesters and local officials say this is all a case of federal overreach. Oregon’s attorney general has sued the federal government to stop arresting people. The president has doubled down, promising to send more federal officers to cities governed by his political rivals. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore, and all of these — Oakland is a mess — we’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.” The results could look like a national police force acting under presidential orders, able to ignore local demands and arrest residents. In Portland, it has been a recipe for chaos.
Anatomy of an Election ‘Meltdown’ in Georgia (New York Times, July 25, 2020)
Regarding the hazards of voting in a pandemic-challenged election year, consider Georgia where, as one poll worker put it, a “complete meltdown” took place during the state’s June primary. Voters waited for hours, only to be met with malfunctioning equipment.
A Times examination found that Georgia’s top elections official, the secretary of state, remained passive despite repeated warnings about the roll-out of a highly complex voting system. Questions have also emerged about the accuracy of the vote count.
Can America Benefit from Covid? Ask 14th-Century Florence. (Politico, July 25, 2020)
We may be getting some of the most positive lessons of plagues wrong.
The F.B.I. Pledged to Keep a Source Anonymous. Trump Allies Aided His Unmasking. (New York Times, July 25, 2020)
After a Russia expert who had collected research on Donald Trump for a disputed dossier agreed to tell the F.B.I. what he knew about it, law enforcement officials declassified a road map to identifying him. The Justice Department has said that Attorney General William P. Barr determined that declassifying the report about an F.B.I. interview was in the public interest.
2020 Crises Confront Trump With An Outage In The Power Of Positive Thinking. (NPR, July 25, 2020)
President Trump has long been a champion of what's been called positive thinking — the power to make things that you want to see happen actually happen. "Affirm it, believe it, visualize it, and it will actualize itself." Such mantras have characterized much of the Trump story from his childhood when he first absorbed it from the man who first spoke it, Norman Vincent Peale. Peale was a minister and author much admired by Trump's father. His most famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, sold millions of copies in multiple languages and helped spawn a self-help movement and industry that has flourished ever since.
The Trumps attended Peale's Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and Peale officiated at the first of Donald Trump's three marriage ceremonies.
It has been argued that Trump stands as the single most successful practitioner to date of Peale's philosophy. Surely his careers as a builder and businessman, TV reality show star and media-dominating politician seemed to prove what Peale preached: "What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve."
Emulating Peale's ferocious focus on attitude probably helped Trump plow ahead when his presidential prospects seemed hopeless just weeks before Election Day in 2016. The candidate appeared behind in polls and a now-infamous audio recording revealed his toxic comments about women. But "there are no hopeless situations," Peale had counseled, "only people who take hopeless attitudes." Obstacles, Peale taught, should never be a deterrent: "You will find they haven't half the strength you think they have."
Until this year, it is possible Trump took this literally. Arguably, he was getting away with it far more often than not. He seemed to have been experimenting with this parallel universe approach all his life. It was not just the ups and downs of his business and personal life. It was his dogged insistence that there had only been ups and never any downs. He seemed to be demonstrating that an individual truly could ignore obstacles, defy norms and scoff at official rules and still succeed.
Even impeachment was not a wall that stopped him but rather a hurdle he managed to clear — with the help of his party in the Senate.
Still, never is a long time, and the year 2020 has ultimately brought greater challenges than impeachment. Our present moment compounds the coronavirus pandemic, ensuing quarantines and economic strains and the moral crisis prompted by the nationally witnessed killing of George Floyd by police.
For months, Trump has tried to deny or minimize the gravity of all of these events. Yet they loom as large as ever — and perhaps larger.
In an insightful Politico essay in October 2017, political analyst Michael Kruse found Peale's imprint on every phase of Trump's career. But near the end, Kruse noted that Trump's success story remained unfinished, like a study in which some results have yet to be counted. "From a scientific perspective," Kruse wrote, "Trump is an incomplete experiment." Kruse then quoted the self-help author Mitch Horowitz, who called Trump's story an example of what, in at least the short run, "you can attain through self-help, through self-assertion and people's willingness to believe what they think that they see." To which Kruse added: "Trump's version of his own reality, some insist, ultimately will crash against something more real." And that something might well be the COVID-19 crisis and the sequence of events that has followed.
Watching the president this week as he renewed his late-afternoon briefings on the virus, we all saw a man much altered from the one who convened similar sessions in the early spring. For one thing he was alone, no longer surrounded by a posse of doctors and research scientists and responsible officials arrayed on stage in the White House briefing room. Beyond that, the lone figure of the president seemed besieged and becalmed. He admitted the situation would get worse before it got better. He gave ground on the mask requirement. He canceled the Republican National Convention's final night speeches and celebration in Jacksonville, Fla. — a concession to the persistence of the virus he'd earlier hoped would go away by Easter and insisted had passed its peak in April.
So what happens when positive thinking fails? What happens when the power goes out? In common experience, when the power goes out, it gets darker.
Donald Trump Is the Best Ever President in the History of the Cosmos. (New York Times, July 25, 2020)
That’s no more fantastical than the rest of his re-election campaign.
It’s no longer interesting, or particularly newsworthy, to point out that Donald Trump lies. It stopped being interesting a long time ago. He lied en route to the presidency. He lied about the crowd at his inauguration. His speech itself was one big lie. And the falsehoods only metastasized from there.
Why? We’ve covered that, too, most recently in all the chatter about “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Mary Trump, who is not only his niece but also a clinical psychologist. He lies because he grew up among liars. He lies because hyperbole and hooey buoy his fragile ego. He lies because he is practiced at it, is habituated to it and never seems to pay much of a price for it.
What intrigues me is that last part: the impunity. I want to understand how he has gotten away with all of the lying, because I’m desperate to know whether he’ll continue to.
That’s the question at the heart of his re-election bid, because his strategy isn’t really “law and order” or racism or a demonization of liberals as monument-phobic wackadoodles or a diminution of Joe Biden as a doddering wreck. All of those gambits are there, but they spring from and burble back to a larger, overarching scheme. His strategy is fiction. His strategy is lies.
He got away with lies in 2016 because of social media, because show business and politics had finally fused to the point where one was indistinguishable from the other, and because many Americans had grown so skeptical of traditional candidates that an utterly untraditional one seemed more trustworthy on some level. Trump was the diet that hadn’t yet failed them. They were ready to believe.
But to believe now is to ignore the receipts. About 150,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Tens of millions have tumbled into financial ruin or are on the precipice of it. Racial tensions are at a palpable boil. And Trump keeps having to double back to correct his predictions and retrace his missteps. Charlotte, Jacksonville, Charlotte: I’ve lost track of where the Republicans are convening next month and of who’s on board, though I remain primed for Trump’s remarks. He alone can fictionalize it.
So while this election is indeed a contest between two men with two visions, it’s also something else. It’s the tallest tale Trump has ever scaled, the greatest story ever told. It’s a referendum on the reaches of his persuasion. It’s a judgment of the depths of Americans’ gullibility.
Have we cut the cord to reality? Then Trump has a chance. And America hasn’t a prayer.
[The Lyin' King.]
Coronavirus ravaged Florida, as Ron DeSantis sidelined scientists and followed Trump. (Washington Post, July 25, 2020)
As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor's schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.
"I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results," said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. "But I did hear the governor say the models were wrong about everything."
DeSantis (R) this month traveled to Miami to hold a roundtable with South Florida mayors, whose region was struggling as a novel coronavirus hot spot. But the Republican mayor of Hialeah was shut out, weeks after saying the governor "hasn't done much" for a city disproportionately affected by the virus.
As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives. The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration, which has no unified plan for addressing the national health emergency but has pushed for states to reopen.
U.S. Coronavirus Cases Soar as 18 States Set Single-Day Records This Week. (New York Times, July 25, 2020)
Friday was the fourth day running that the United States reported over 1,100 deaths. New research sheds light on male vulnerability to severe Covid-19.
How the U.S. Compares With the World’s Worst Coronavirus Hot Spots (New York Times, July 24, 2020)
With its cases surging since mid-June, the United States is squarely in the top 10.
One vaccine is already a sure loser, and also a sure winner, in the race to inoculate the world. (Daily Kos, July 24, 2020)
While Phase 1/2 trial results on Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford vaccines showed over 90% of people developing high levels of neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 proteins, with China's CanSino that number was just 59%. Meaning that almost half the people might not be getting any real immunity from the vaccine. The overall level of antibody production also appears to be significantly lower than that seen with other leading vaccines.
CanSino is never going to provide the level of coverage that would be needed to provide herd immunity. Still, expect this vaccine to be used, at minimum, millions of times. That’s in part because CanSino is being developed in conjunction with China’s Central Military Commission, which has already approved the vaccine for use in the armed forces. As Reuters reported in June, it’s unclear whether using the vaccine will be “mandatory or optional,” but expect it to be used. China has selected two different vaccine candidates for use by other parts of the government.
There’s another reason why Chinese vaccines like CanSino may get widespread use around the world even if they prove to be significantly less effective than other leading candidates. As CNN reported on Thursday, China announced a $1 billion loan to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean expressly for them to buy Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines. With vaccines in high demand, and nations like the United States already laying out billions for access to the Oxford, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines, the availability of these leading candidates may be months away for much of the world. So China is offering a bargain candidate to other countries—with low, low financing. A 50% effective vaccine doesn’t sound so bad, if it’s the only vaccine you can afford.
Eco-fascism's spread may be a greater challenge for environmentalists than climate denial. (Daily Kos, July 24, 2020)
Fake 'Extinction Rebellion' fliers were part of a campaign by British eco-fascists to disguise their agenda within the climate-change movement.
U.S. officials take over Chinese consulate in Houston. (Houston TX Chronicle, July 24, 2020)
U.S. officials took over the Chinese consulate in Houston on Friday afternoon, less than an hour after the eviction deadline ordered by the Trump Administration earlier this week amid accusations of espionage activity.
Forty minutes after the 4 p.m. eviction deadline passed, a man believed to be a State Department official entered the consulate, along with others, after a small back door was pried open. Officials had earlier tried three separate entrances, but were not able to gain entry. Security teams, wearing shirts emblazoned with the words U.S. Department of State, stood watch at the back entrance. The fire department also entered and exited the consulate.
Moments before the eviction deadline, Houston police had set up barricades at the compound, closing off streets near the building the Chinese government has occupied for four decades. Within minutes of the deadline, three white vans pulled out of the consulate, at least two of which had consul plates.
The Trump Administration confirmed the closure on Wednesday, citing a need to protect American intellectual property and private information. The Chinese government threatened to retaliate and early Friday announced the closure of a U.S. consulate in Chengdu.
NEW: Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff, Warner Joint Statement Following ODNI Announcement Regarding Election Security and Foreign Threats (Nancy Pelosi, July 24, 2020)
Almost exactly four years ago, we first observed the Russians engaging in covert actions designed to influence the presidential race in favor of Donald Trump and to sow discord in the United States.  Now, the Russians are once again trying to influence the election and divide Americans, and these efforts must be deterred, disrupted and exposed.
The statement just released by NCSC Director William Evanina does not go nearly far enough in arming the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers are seeking to influence our political process. The statement gives a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together. The statement, moreover, fails to fully delineate the goal, nature, scope and capacity to influence our election, information the American people must have as we go into November. To say without more, for example, that Russia seeks to ‘denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment' in America’ is so generic as to be almost meaningless. The statement omits much on a subject of immense importance.
In our letter two weeks ago, we called on the FBI to provide a defensive briefing to the entire Congress about specific threats related to a concerted foreign disinformation campaign, and this is more important than ever.  But a far more concrete and specific statement needs to be made to the American people, consistent with the need to protect sources and methods.  We can trust the American people with knowing what to do with the information they receive and making those decisions for themselves. But they cannot do so if they are kept in the dark about what our adversaries are doing, and how they are doing it.  When it comes to American elections, Americans must decide.
NEW: Statement by NCSC Director William Evanina: 100 Days Until Election 2020. (U.S. Office of National Intelligence, July 24, 2020)
Election security remains a top priority for the Intelligence Community and we are committed in our support to DHS and FBI, given their leadership roles in this area. In recent months, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has been providing robust intelligence-based briefings on election security to the presidential campaigns, political committees, and Congressional audiences. In leading these classified briefings, I have worked to ensure fidelity, accountability, consistency and transparency with these stakeholders and presented the most timely and accurate information we have to offer.
With just over 100 days until the election, it is imperative that we also share insights with the American public about foreign threats to our election and offer steps to citizens across the country to build resilience and help mitigate these threats. We will strive to update Americans on the evolving election threat landscape, while also safeguarding our intelligence sources and methods.
A Judge Won’t Force Federal Officers In Portland To Identify Themselves When Making Arrests. (BuzzFeed, July 24, 2020)
The judge found the Oregon attorney general’s office could not bring a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the federal presence in Portland.
A federal judge on Friday denied a request by the Oregon attorney general’s office for an order that would require federal law enforcement officers in Portland to identify themselves when making arrests and place limits on the detention and arrests of protesters. US District Judge Michael Mosman found that state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum lacked standing to bring a lawsuit on behalf of Oregon residents because her office hadn’t articulated any specific state interest beyond the constitutional rights of individuals.
Trump's convention cancellation is costing GOP donors millions. (NBC News, July 24, 2020)
Of the $38 million raised by the host committee for Charlotte, North Carolina, most has been spent, according to Republicans familiar with the finances.
Following President Donald Trump’s whipsaw decisions to first move the Republican National Convention’s in-person main events, then to cancel them, the president’s team is searching not only for a new stage from which he can deliver a speech accepting his party’s nomination for a second term, but also a way to appease Republicans who have nothing to show for their donations.
President Trump Cancels Jacksonville Component Of Republican National Convention. (NPR, July 23, 2020)
The Jacksonville, Fla., component of the Republican National Convention has been canceled, President Trump announced on Thursday, as cases of the coronavirus continue to spike across that state.
"I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It's just not right with what's been happening," Trump said at the daily coronavirus briefing.
"They said 'Sir, we can make this work very easily.' ... I said there's nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe, whether it's from the China virus or the radical left mob."
[A tall lie, even for Trumpelstiltsken! The version in the USA is the TRUMP virus, Trump's deadly "hoax".]
The president said that Florida officials had not asked him to cancel the convention. A joint statement by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams thanked Trump for calling it off.
Red vs. Red in Texas, With Republicans Battling One Another After Mask Order (New York Times, July 23, 2020)
The virus has heightened long-simmering friction in the largest Republican-led state in the country, with Gov. Greg Abbott under attack from within his own party.
NEW: Lockdown was the longest period of quiet in recorded human history. (MIT Technology Review, July 23, 2020)
The months of March through May presented scientists with a unique opportunity to listen to our planet.
The risks of herd immunity to Trump’s corruption (Washington Post, July 22, 2020)
Trump has been involved in so many scandals and says so many reprehensible things that our country has developed a kind of herd immunity to the outrage that just one of his actions would have called forth in any previous administration. We have allowed Trump to fend off one scandal with . . . another scandal.
The key is seeing that Trump’s entirely selfish approach to the presidency has a measurable and material impact on the lives of citizens and on the policies he pursues — to the extent that he is interested in policy at all. He cares above all about his own finances, his ego, his ratings and escaping accountability. Everything else falls by the wayside.
Trump’s opponents cannot assume, as they did in 2016, that if they drive home just how awful Trump is personally, voters will recoil in horror. This year, it is essential to make the case that Trump’s corruption means that most of the time he pays no attention to governing. And when he does, he governs in a way that subordinates the public interest to his own interests — and the interests of those who keep him in power.
This is classic influence-peddling under the shroud of an anti-government ideology. But it underscores how Trump’s claim that he would govern on behalf of “the forgotten men and women of our country” was false — unless corporate CEOs were the “forgotten” people he had in mind.
Beyond the direct costs to Trump’s all-about-himself government, the indirect costs are just as large. Trump’s obsession with his interests pushes the consequential things aside. It was astonishing that Trump thought he was saying a good thing when he declared at Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing that “we are in the process of developing a strategy.” Really? The president is “in the process” of working on this after five months of catastrophe and more than 140,000 deaths?
And more than two months after Democrats passed an economic recovery bill in the House, Republicans in the Senate were in chaos this week as they tried to formulate an alternative. One reason, The Post reported, was “the White House’s failure to go into the talks with a preset strategy or a list of proposals they knew GOP lawmakers would rally behind.” Trump touts his economic genius but offers no leadership as the economy languishes.
Portland Attorney Says Feds Did Not Read Her Rights, Identify Themselves. (2-min. video; Newsweek, July 23, 2020)
Attorney Jennifer Kristiansen, 37, was arrested after participating in a protest outside a federal courthouse in Portland, as city officials continued to demand the agents leave the area. Kristiansen was at the protest as part of the "Wall of Moms," a group of mothers who are attempting to act as a human shield blocking officers from assaulting protesters participating in ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice.
Kristiansen said that the agents who arrested her wore badges that read "Police DHS" but refused to provide any other identifying information. She later reportedly discovered that the agents were from the U.S. Marshals Service.
After being arrested, Kristiansen was criminally charged with assaulting an agent and failing to obey their orders, while also being issued an order to not return to the protest area. She pled not guilty to the charges, saying that an assault did take place but insisting she was the victim rather than the perpetrator. Kristiansen said she was injured and left badly bruised when she was assaulted physically, and possibly sexually, by one of the agents arresting her.
Earliest humans stayed at the Americas' "oldest hotel" in Mexican cave. (2-min. video; St. John's College, Univ. of Cambridge, July 22, 2020)
Chiquihuite Cave is the first site that dates the arrival of people to the continent to around 30,000 years ago - 15,000 years earlier than previously thought. Painstaking excavations of Chiquihuite Cave, located in a mountainous area in northern Mexico controlled by drugs cartels, uncovered nearly 2000 stone tools from a small section of the high-altitude cave. Archaeological analysis of the tools and DNA analysis of the sediment in the cave uncovered a new story of the colonisation of the Americas. The results, which have been published in Nature today (July 22, 2020), challenge the commonly held theory that the Clovis people were the first human inhabitants of the Americas 15,000 years ago.
The earliest human DNA from the Americas currently remains at 12,400 years ago, Dr Ardelean explained: "We have shown the previously long-held date of human presence is not the oldest date for populating the Americas, it is the explosion date of populating the Americas. The implications of these findings are as important, if not more important, than the finding itself. This is only the start of the next chapter in the hotly-debated early peopling of the Americas."
Heather Cox Richardson: Today Trump announced that he will send federal agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, as part of his push to advance the idea that he is a “LAW & ORDER” president. (Letters From An American, July 22, 2020)
Trump insists that “violent anarchists” allied with “radical left” Democrats have launched “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.” “This bloodshed must end,” he said. “This bloodshed will end.”
To hear the president tell it, the country is at war against a leftist enemy that is destroying us from within. But his dark vision is simply not true.
What has changed in the last few months, though, is Trump’s strategy for the 2020 election. It is notable how desperate he appears to be to win reelection. While all presidents running for a second term want to win, most of them are also willing to lose if that’s what voters decide. Trump, though, has withheld military funding from an ally to try to rig the election—that was what the Ukraine scandal was about—and, according to John Bolton, begged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to make a trade deal to help get Trump reelected. The insistence that he absolutely must win sets the stage for the federal troops in our cities.
[Here, Heather provides a specific list of Trump's astonishing misdirections and misdeeds.]
So, Trump’s campaign is trying to rally voters with the idea that American cities run by Democrats are seething with violence. And to create that violence, the administration is sending in uniformed [and ununiformed!] law enforcement officers that belong to departments within the executive branch of the government.
[Could they be private Blackwater troops (Trump again diverting public money to private - White House! - pockets)?]
Trump announces increase in federal law enforcement in more U.S. cities. (Washington Post, July 22, 2020)
President Trump announced Wednesday that he is sending more federal law enforcement agents into Chicago and Albuquerque, casting the effort as one meant to help fight crime while delivering a speech that appeared designed to score political points against Democratic leaders and burnish his law-and-order image. Appearing at an event with top federal law enforcement officials and the family members of crime victims, Trump delivered fiery talking points that took direct aim at those who have advocated redirecting funding from law enforcement to other endeavors. He blamed the recent increases in violence in some cities on leaders who have endorsed such steps and said he planned to increase federal law enforcement’s presence to reduce crime.
Barr said more cities could be added to the operation in coming weeks. He said the federal government had sent more than 200 agents to Kansas City. Chicago, he said, would get a similar number, and more than 35 agents would be sent to Albuquerque. They will be added to existing anti-violence crime task forces, Barr said. Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, said that although the operation will be led by the Justice Department, investigators from the Department of Homeland Security will also contribute.
Local officials often welcome federal help and resources to fight violent crime. Police officers frequently work together with agents from the FBI, the DEA and ATF on task forces focused on gangs, drugs or guns, and state officials often give their federal counterparts authority to help with local law enforcement.
But in large part because of the Trump administration’s aggressive, militarized response to protests over racism and police brutality, that normally cooperative relationship has been strained. The tension became particularly acute in recent days after Customs and Border Protection agents were caught on camera clubbing protesters and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles in Portland, Ore., and Trump threatened to send federal law enforcement agencies into Democratic-run cities, including New York and Chicago.
In Portland, A 'Wall Of Moms' And Leaf Blowers Against Tear Gas (1-min. video clips; NPR, July 22, 2020)
As protests for racial justice in Portland have continued for more than 50 nights, striking new images and tactics have emerged – particularly in resistance to the federal law enforcement officers whose actions have earned the ire of Oregonians who want them to leave.
A group of women who call themselves the Wall of Moms has drawn national attention, clad in bike helmets and goggles. They link arms to form a protective barrier between law enforcement and Black Lives Matter protesters who took to the streets after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
In a recent moment captured on video, a large crowd of the yellow-garbed women sing as if a lullaby, "Hands up, please don't shoot me."
Trump’s Portland crackdown is controversial. The man spearheading it might be doing so illegally. (Washington Post, July 22, 2020)
Tom Ridge, who served as the first Homeland Security secretary under George W. Bush, said Tuesday that DHS “was not established to be the president’s personal militia,” and added, “It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities.” Former DHS official Paul Rosenzweig called the operation, which has come to be known as Operation Legend, “lawful but awful.”
What’s also problematic here — and perhaps even illegal — is the man calling the shots. This controversial effort is being spearheaded not by a duly confirmed DHS secretary, but by acting secretary Chad Wolf, whose long-running service in that role runs afoul of the law, according to experts.
Pentagon Troubled By Overly Militarized Federal Agents in Portland. (US News, July 21, 2020)
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has raised concerns within the administration about President Donald Trump’s decision to deploy forces who look like soldiers to protest sites.
Christian Conservative Speaker of the Ohio House arrested in $60 million bribery case. (Raw Story, July 21, 2020)
Ohio’s Republican Speaker of the House Larry Householder was just arrested by federal authorities in a $60 million bribery and conspiracy case. Householder ran for office in 2018, saying: “I’m a Pro-Gun, Pro-Life, Christian Conservative with the highest NRA rating in Ohio’s history.” Also arrested were an advisor to the Speaker, the state’s former GOP chairman, a former Ohio Civil Rights commissioner, a consultant, and Neil Clark, who boasts of being “one of the best-connected lobbyists in Columbus” on his company’s website. A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the case as a “public corruption racketeering conspiracy involving $60 million".
Paul Krugman: The Paranoid Style in Pandemic Politics (New York Times, July 21, 2020)
When Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump, “How will you regard your years as President of the United States?” Trump didn’t cite a single achievement. Instead, he went immediately into grievance mode, declaring that “I’ve been very unfairly treated, and I don’t say that as paranoid.” Actually, Mr. President, that is paranoid. But while Trump couldn’t cite any achievements, one thing he has achieved is defining paranoia down.
In another administration it would be a days-long scandal that the president is trying to appoint an insane conspiracy theorist, who claims that the former head of the C.I.A. plotted the president’s assassination, to the #3 position in the Pentagon. These days it barely registered on the news cycle.
But if the Trump administration and its allies, both in Congress and the media, were paranoid before Covid-19, things have gotten much worse over the past few months. Peter Navarro, the administration’s trade czar, got a lot of grief for his op-ed attacking Anthony Fauci; if you think he did that without a go-ahead from his boss, I have a degree from Trump University you might want to buy. But his claim a few days earlier that Covid-19 was a “weaponized virus” sent by China to hurt the U.S. economy was much crazier, and would have been a major international incident if the Chinese, like everyone else, hadn’t become blasé about insane Trumpist rants.
And what can you even say about people like Rush Limbaugh — who Trump gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom? A few months ago he was calling Covid-19 a hoax, no worse than the common cold, which was being “weaponized” (they do love that word) against his president. Now he says we should emulate the Donner Party, which turned to cannibalism when the going got tough.
There are a couple of reasons the pandemic has amplified the right’s paranoia. One is that it has transformed the electoral landscape. Even in February Trump was generally a bit behind in national polls. But the Electoral College worked in his favor, and as late as April people on Wall Street were sure he would win. Now he’s at a huge disadvantage, for all the right reasons.
Beyond that, however, Trump’s failure on Covid-19 has been so comprehensive, so total, that his supporters can’t process it. But responding to national emergencies is very much the president’s responsibility. Nor can Trump and his supporters credibly claim that he did as well as anyone could have expected: U.S. performance has fallen so far short of what other wealthy countries have managed — we’re dying 10 times faster than Europeans, and we’re going back into lockdown as other countries return to more or less normal life — that it’s hard to make excuses.
Think about what this means if you’re a Trump supporter. To admit seeing what’s right in front of your eyes means admitting that you’ve been a fool: Everything Trump’s critics said, everything they warned about, has turned out to be true, and you were blind to the obvious.
There may be a few people able to face this reality, learn from it, and move on. But most people can’t handle it. Someday they may manage to convince themselves that they never supported Trump in the first place. For now, however, their only recourse is to insist that it’s all lies, that there’s a vast deep state conspiracy to get their hero.
Paranoia strikes deep, especially when it’s all you’ve got.
Fauci responds to Trump: 'I consider myself more a realist than an alarmist'. (1-min. video; CNN, July 21, 2020)
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the nation's top infectious disease expert. His comments follow a tense stretch with the President that saw the White House make a concerted effort to discredit him as he became increasingly vocal about his concerns over reopening the country amid a national surge in coronavirus cases.
N.Y., N.J., Connecticut Now Say Travelers From 31 Hot Spot States Must Quarantine. (NPR, July 21, 2020)
People traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from 31 other states are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days, after 10 states with significant community spread of the coronavirus — including Virginia, Maryland, Indiana and Alaska — were added to a travel advisory Tuesday.
"As infection rates increase in 41 other states, our numbers continue to steadily decline, thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers" and a cautious approach to reopening, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "Yesterday, we had our lowest death toll since the pandemic began — and with no fatalities in New York City," Cuomo added, after his state reported just two deaths from COVID-19.
NEW: What is the most challenging part of Mars mission – "7 minutes of terror"? (2-min. video; CGTN, July 20, 2020)
2020 is called the year of Mars. The UAE has just successfully launched their Mars probe. In the next few days, China and the U.S. also plan to launch their Mars probes respectively. Many are wondering why all these three countries launch at the same period of time? What is the biggest challenge for Mars mission? Why human beings are so fascinated about exploring Mars? CGTN's Wu Lei made three episode videos about the Mars exploration.
Besides millions of kilometers long travel distance, scientists say one of the biggest challenges for Mars mission is the seven minutes of terror. That is, the Mars probe needs to reduce speed from 20,000 kilometers per hour to zero in seven minutes during the re-entry, descent and landing process (the EDL).
To make a soft landing on Mars has never been an easy job. Since 1960, humans have carried out Mars exploration activities 44 times, but around half of them failed. Humans have launched over 40 spacecrafts, but so far, only eight rovers have landed on the Mars surface.
Big Polling Leads Tend to Erode. Is Biden’s Edge Different? (New York Times, July 20, 2020)
As his advantage endures well into its second month, it becomes harder to assume that it’s just another fleeting shift.
Some People 'Have The Sniffles': Trump Downplays The Coronavirus's Severity. (NPR, July 19, 2020)
More than 3.7 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, and more than 140,000 Americans have died, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. Cases and hospitalizations are spiking in many parts of the United States. While the number of tests conducted has risen, new confirmed cases are rising at a faster rate than tests.
But on Fox News today, Trump again falsely asserted that testing is to blame for the spike in identified infections. Told by Chris Wallace that he could appear to be downplaying the coronavirus, Trump called it "serious" but added that the U.S. has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. Many nations, including Italy and France, have higher case-fatality rates than the U.S., but many other countries, like Australia, have lower rates.
Wallace pointed out that hundreds of Americans a day are dying from the virus. "Excuse me, it's all too much," Trump retorted, before blaming China. "There shouldn't be one case. It came from China. They should have never let it escape; they should have never let it out, but it is what it is."
Oregon Sues Federal Agencies For Grabbing Up Protesters Off The Streets. (NPR, July 18, 2020)
Protests in Portland, Ore., continued through early Sunday morning, following the Oregon Department of Justice's announcement it would be suing several federal agencies for civil rights abuses in the state. Demonstrations have taken place in the city for weeks following the police killing of George Floyd in May.
Tear gas and flash bangs were used on protesters and arrests were made, according to videos and photos from the scene posted on social media.
The Oregon Department of Justice announced Saturday it would be suing several federal agencies for civil rights abuses, and state prosecutors will potentially pursue criminal charges against a federal officer who seriously injured a protester. The federal lawsuit names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, the United States Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Protective Service, agencies that have had a role in stepped-up force used against protesters since early July. The state filed the lawsuit late Friday night. It lists defendants as John Does 1-10 because the "identity of the officers is not known, nor is their agency affiliation," the lawsuit states. According to Oregon DOJ spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson, the suit accuses the agencies of engaging "in unlawful law enforcement in violation of the civil rights of Oregon citizens by seizing and detaining them without probable cause." It is also asking that federal agents and officers identify themselves and their agencies before detaining or arresting any person, explain to the person why they're being arrested or detained, and not arrest any person without probable cause or a warrant.
The lawsuit, which is the second announced against federal authorities on Friday, comes after reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting that revealed federal agents have detained peaceful protesters using unmarked vehicles, with little explanation or indication of which agency they belong to or why people are being taken into custody. "I share the concerns of our state and local leaders — and our Oregon U.S. Senators and certain Congressional representatives — that the current escalation of fear and violence in downtown Portland is being driven by federal law enforcement tactics that are entirely unnecessary and out of character with the Oregon way. These tactics must stop," Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. Because the federal agents were not identified and their vehicles were unmarked, the lawsuit states that Oregonians could be at risk of kidnapping by "militias and other civilian 'volunteers' taking it onto themselves to pull peaceful protesters into their cars, in a manner that resembles the federal actions described."
City, state and congressional leaders have criticized the federal force's use of weapons against protesters and have demanded their departure. "The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement," Rosenblum said in a statement. "Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere."
‘I’m scared!’ (Washington Post, July 18, 2020)
Black people — many of them immigrants — make up less than 2 percent of Maine’s population but almost a quarter of its coronavirus cases.
Police keep using ‘excited delirium’ to justify brutality. It’s junk science. (Washington Post, July 18, 2020)
Across the United States, police officers are routinely taught that excited delirium is a condition characterized by the abrupt onset of aggression and distress, typically accompanying drug abuse, often resulting in sudden death. One 2014 article from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin describes “excited delirium syndrome” as “a serious and potentially deadly medical condition involving psychotic behavior, elevated temperature, and an extreme fight-or-flight response by the nervous system.”
How often is excited delirium invoked? It’s unclear, but in Florida at least 53 deaths in police custody were attributed to it over the past 10 years. One study showed that 11 percent of sudden unexplained deaths in police custody in Maryland from 1990 to 2004 were attributed to excited delirium. The American College of Emergency Physicians published a controversial position paper in 2009 stating its consensus that excited delirium is a valid disease, associated with a significant risk of sudden death.
But excited delirium is pseudoscience. It’s not a concept recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychiatric Association. It isn’t a valid diagnosis; it’s a misappropriation of medical terminology, and it doesn’t justify police violence.
Trump doesn't think US needs a national mask mandate. (CNN, July 18, 2020)
President Donald Trump said he would not consider a national mandate on mask wearing in a new interview with Fox set to air on Sunday.
When asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace whether he would consider instituting a mandate, Trump responded, "No, I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that, no."
As part of a hour-long sit-down interview, Trump also said that he disagrees with the assessment by Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said at a news conference this week that "if all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground."
"I don't agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask everything disappears," Trump said. "Dr. Fauci said don't wear a mask, our Surgeon General, terrific guy, said don't wear a mask. Everybody was saying don't wear a mask. All of a sudden everybody's got to wear a mask, and as you know, masks cause problems too, with that being said, I'm a believer in masks. I think masks are good."
Trump wore a face mask - for the first time in public since the pandemic began - last Saturday, while visiting wounded service members at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. Ahead of his visit, Trump teased he would wear a face covering, emphasizing that it was needed in a hospital setting.
"I think when you're in a hospital especially in that particular setting, where you are talking to a lot of soldiers, people that in some cases just got off the operating table. I think it's a great thing to wear a mask. I've never been against masks, but I do believe they have a time and a place," Trump told reporters ahead of his visit last Saturday.
Georgia Gov. Sues Atlanta Over Face Masks. Here's What To Know. (Time, July 18, 2020)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (Rep.) filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging restrictions implemented by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (Dem.), including her ordinance mandating residents wear masks to help stem the spread of COVID-19. It is the latest step in a growing clash between the governor and local municipalities over who has authority over how the state handles the ongoing pandemic.
On July 10, Bottoms said in a statement that she rolled back reopening measures “[b]ased upon the surge of COVID-19 cases and other data trends, adding that “Georgia reopened in a reckless manner and the people of our city and state are suffering the consequences.” Georgia was one of the first states to reopen parts of its economy at the end of April and it has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks.
The Meanings Of Masks: A collective cry for justice, by Anthropologist Graham Jones (MIT, July 18, 2020)
Today's cloth masks to minimize virus transmission reflect traditions of masks used in sacred rituals.
One in an MIT series, The Meanings Of Masks. As we adjust to a world in which wearing protective masks may be a new normal for some time to come, questions are emerging about what this might mean for both our personal and civic lives, and for society as a whole. In this series of commentaries — inspired by ideas from Associate Professor of Literature Sandy Alexandre — scholars in MIT's humanistic disciplines explore the history and meanings of masks over cultures, times, and circumstances. Their insights offer a wide and creative range of ways to think about masks and the masking practices currently needed to keep our communities healthy.
Tens of Thousands of Protesters Challenge the Kremlin in Far East Russian City. (Time, July 17, 2020)
Ship Shape: Who is Scott Borgerson and What Does Ghislaine Maxwell See in Him? (Greg Olear, July 17, 2020)
One of the details that emerged from this week’s Ghislaine Maxwell bail hearing is that Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime paramour and pimp was married—and not to her partner in crime. Kirby Sommers, the survivor and author who follows the Epstein story closely, suggested that the mystery spouse might be a man named Scott Borgerson. He monitors the otherwise-secretive shipping industry, courts oligarchs, has big money, and wants to be President of the USA.
The power couple no one knew about, and what they have in common.
NEW: 'Things': Trump lays out second-term agenda with usual clarity and focus. (2-min. video; Daily Kos, July 17, 2020)
Here’s what we have to look forward to:
“So we have many exciting things that we’ll be announcing over the next eight weeks, I would say? Things that nobody has even contemplated, thought about, thought possible, and things that we’re gonna get done, we have gotten done, we started in most cases. But it’s gonna be a very exciting eight weeks, a, uh, eight weeks like, I prob, I think Mike, we can honestly say, nobody’s ever going to see eight weeks like we’re gonna have. Because we really have." And more...
The Trump campaign is the grift that keeps on grifting. (Washington Post, July 17, 2020)
There has long been an element of grift to political campaigns. But there has never been anything quite like the racket that President Trump appears to have going.
The horror story of how the Trump administration has handled PPP loans. (Washington Post, July 17, 2020)
A Post in-depth analysis of data on $517 billion in emergency small-business loans handed out by President Trump’s team at the Small Business Administration uncovered errors so numerous that White House boasts of the PPP’s economic impact are nothing more than spin and hot air.
The analysis found the SBA claimed that many companies had “retained” far more workers than they actually employed. “In some cases,” the article said, “the agency’s jobs claims for entire industries surpasses the total number of workers in those sectors.” Looking closely at more than 875,000 of the borrowers, the analysis found that “zero” jobs were supported, or no information was listed at all.
So Trump’s claim that 51 million jobs were “supported” by the PPP is unsupported by facts. To the contrary, his Small Business Administration may be reporting fiction.
What Accounts For High Coronavirus Positivity Rates Among Florida Kids? (NPR, July 17, 2020)
Amid all the COVID-19 figures released by Florida's Department of Health, one number might come as a head-scratcher: A whopping 31.1% coronavirus positivity rate among those under 18 who are tested for the virus, according to the state's most recent pediatric report.
Meanwhile, Florida's overall positivity rate is currently 18.1%. What gives? Are kids really getting the virus at a higher rates than adults?
There are a few likely explanations. One is that children have so far not been a big focus of testing. Two, kids who do get tested are often those who show symptoms of the disease. It's not like 31% of 100% of the children in the state [of Florida] have COVID. It's more of a reflection of 31% of the children with illness probably would have COVID.
So what do the data so far tell us in general about children and the coronavirus? Clearly children are getting the virus, though they are less likely than adults to experience a severe course of the disease. Florida residents age 19 or under account for about 10% of all cases in the state – but only 1.6% of all hospitalizations, and four deaths.
Testing people of all ages is crucial to getting the virus under control. Florida should be commended on testing a lot of kids, and they should keep testing a lot of kids and a lot of adults because that's how we find where this virus is, help those people to stay away and not transmit. That is one of our main tools to fight the pandemic right now.
New explosive materials to bring nontoxic ammunition. (Phys.org, July 17, 2020)
Every time a gun fires, lead leaches into the air. A scientific advancement could provide a comparable replacement for lead-based explosive materials found in ammunition, protecting soldiers and the environment from potential toxic effects. Purdue University researchers, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory, developed two new lead-free materials that function as primary explosives, which are used to ignite powder inside a gun cartridge.
"Right now, whenever you are shooting, you're going to be spreading lead into the air around you," said Davin Piercey, a Purdue assistant professor of materials engineering and mechanical engineering. "Any use of lead is going to end up polluting the environment in small amounts. The more lead you remove, the better it is for the environment." A past study found that people who have been shooting a lot could have elevated lead levels. But so far, the use of lead in explosives has been inevitable.
What enables the materials to be lead-free is a chemical structure that has not been used in primary explosives before. One material is made of silver salts while the other material contains no metal at all—just the basic ingredients for an explosive. These ingredients include carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. "Toxicity-wise, silver is an improvement over lead, but it's still a little toxic. So we also made a nonmetal material that does not have heavy metal toxicity associated with it. Metal is dead weight, energetically speaking, and doesn't contribute much to an actual explosion," Piercey said. The chemical structure used in these materials makes them very dense, meaning that only a small amount of either material would be needed to create an explosion.
"At PERC, our theme is 'molecules to munitions.' Our labs can do everything from designing and testing molecules to formulating and manufacturing those molecules into a useful compound," said Steve Beaudoin, director of PERC and a Purdue professor of chemical engineering. "Our partners can then take that useful compound and put it into a warhead, missile, rocket or whatever it needs to be."
[Annihilation, si; contamination, no.]
Researchers develop new materials for energy and sensing. (MIT News, July 16, 2020)
A team of researchers from MIT and Northwestern University has demonstrated the ability to fine-tune the electronic properties of hybrid perovskite materials, which have drawn enormous interest as potential next-generation optoelectronic materials for devices such as solar cells and light sources.
The materials are classified as “hybrid” because they contain inorganic components like metals, as well as organic molecules with elements like carbon and nitrogen, organized into nanoscale layers. In a paper published online this week in Nature Chemistry, the researchers showed that by strategically varying the composition of the organic layers, they could tune the color of light absorbed by the perovskite and also the wavelength at which the material emitted light. Importantly, they accomplished this without substantially changing the inorganic component.
“Until now, most experimental and theoretical evidence indicated that the organic layers simply act as inert spacers whose only role is to separate the electronically active inorganic layers,” says Will Tisdale, the ARCO Career Development Professor in Energy Studies at MIT and co-corresponding author on the paper. “These new results show that we can teach the organic layer to do much more.”
Charlie Russell, Grizzly Whisperer (CounterPunch, July 16, 2020)
Charlie Russell had a magical way with grizzly bears.  In his presence, wild grizzlies seemed to shed their wariness of humans, some even napping beside him or leaving their offspring with him to tend. In the latest Grizzly Times podcast  Dr. Gay Bradshaw, author of Talking with Bears: Conversations with Charlie Russell, reminded me why bears had so much faith in Charlie. He spoke bear, and I think he was part bear himself. Perhaps too he had a tad of Saint Francis of Assisi thrown in.
Republicans are being eaten from within by the QAnon cult, and no one can stop it. (Daily Kos, July 16, 2020)
The bizarre and otherworldly QAnon cult—the conspiracist Donald Trump fanatics who believe that liberal Democrats and their allies have been secretly operating a global pedophilia ring that is going to end in mass arrests called “The Storm”—has not only been spreading farther and deeper into mainstream conservative politics, but the entire Republican Party appears on the verge of being completely consumed by it.
Trump himself retweets QAnoners’ authoritarian paeans to his presidency and its attacks on his critics. His former national security adviser posted video of himself and a group of friends taking the “QAnon Oath.” Trump’s son Eric tweets out open support of the “Q” conspiracy theories. Trump’s favorite cable-news channel features reporters who openly embrace the theories. Dozens of Republican candidates openly spout QAnon claims and rhetoric, and GOP organizations have used their Facebook accounts to promote QAnon theories.
Georgia Gov. Kemp explicitly blocks cities from requiring masks, for the worst possible reason. (Daily Kos, July 16, 2020)
On Wednesday, the United States reported over 1,000 COVID-19 deaths for the first time since June 9 as the spiking cases across the South reversed the trend generated when numerous states issued stay-at-home orders in April and May. With a better understanding of how the disease is spread, it’s become clear that use of face coverings is critical to reducing the rate of transmission. Short of a new, even broader stay-at-home order, masks are the most effective action the nation can take to break the back of the pandemic. So naturally masks have become a political point, with right-wing media and Republican politicians doing everything they can to send not just mixed messages, but spread the idea that wearing a mask is somehow, in an undefined way, a threat to “freedom.”
Even so, Republican governors pinned between overcrowded hospitals, rising cases, and having to reverse themselves on statewide lockdowns have been revising their mask positions. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went from preventing local governments from issuing mask orders to issuing his own statewide requirement, complete with fines for those who refuse. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey didn’t issue a statewide order, but he did reverse himself and allow cities and counties to issue local orders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis … did nothing, because he’s Ron DeSantis, and that’s just how he rolls. But it’s Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp who is really outstanding in his field in the worst possible way. Because on Wednesday, Kemp issued a new executive order to block mask requirements at every level.
What changed was certainly not an improvement in the local situation. Georgia made its way to the #4 slot on the chart of states with the most new cases on Wednesday, with hospitalizations and deaths predictably rising in their wake. What changed was that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms—who has herself tested positive for COVID-19—issued a mask mandate for her city.
That’s why Kemp issued his new order. It’s not about blindly continuing to push for reopening despite the certain knowledge that this will result in misery for, at a minimum, thousands of people. It’s about deliberately putting those thousands on the line so that Kemp can put his finger in the eye of a mayor widely known to be on the short list for Democratic vice presidential nominee.
Heather Cox: For Trump, it's the money with CDC reporting, too. (Letters From An American, July 16, 2020)
As the coronavirus continues to ravage the country, the way the government will collect data about Covid-19 cases changed today. On March 29, Vice President Mike Pence asked hospital administrators to report data about coronavirus through three different systems: the network provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), HHS Protect, and TeleTracking. Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that, beginning today, hospitals should report daily information about coronavirus cases not through the CDC system, which has been in place for 15 years, but rather through the other two.
This move has met with widespread condemnation as observers worry that Trump is trying to take control of information about the coronavirus in order to conceal it. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has hidden information this way, and Trump has made it clear he believes that if only he downplays the numbers, he can convince people to go back to work and resurrect the economy.
But there is another angle to this change that seems to me likely to be at least as attractive to the president as control over data information. That primary issue is money.
HHS Protect is developed by Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm that works with the Pentagon and law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Peter Thiel, a billionaire Trump supporter, co-founded the company, which last week confidentially filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. An initial public offering (IPO) would have made bucketloads of money in any case, but a federal contract to compile coronavirus information is a sweet addition to its portfolio.
The TeleTracking system also raises suspicions of a financial deal. On June 3, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) wrote to the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Robert P. Kadlec, to ask why HHS had awarded a $10 million no-bid contract to create this data system that duplicated the one the CDC already had. Why indeed?
There is, in the letter shifting data collection, a peculiarly nasty stick. Underlined on the first page of the instructions is that “We will no longer be sending out one-time requests for data to aid in the distribution of Remdesivir or any other treatments or supplies. This daily reporting is the only mechanism used for the distribution calculations, and the daily [sic] is needed daily to ensure accurate calculations.”
[Also see item from "(U.S. Senate Newsroom, June 3, 2020)", below.]
The Cybersecurity 202: Twitter breach is another warning shot for election security. (Washington Post, July 16, 2020)
This time, the massive Twitter hack yesterday was seemingly just a petty scam to raise bitcoin — at least based on what's known so far. But next time, it could be far more serious.
The unknown hackers held the Twittersphere in thrall last night as they seized control of high-profile accounts and sent phony tweets from Joe Biden, Barack Obama and a who’s who of top companies and business and entertainment leaders. It took Twitter hours of work and an unprecedented shutdown of all verified accounts to halt the operation.
U.S. adversaries that gained that sort of power could sow mass chaos on Election Day by tweeting out phony information about voter fraud or polling locations shut down by the coronavirus or terrorist attacks. And because the breach targeted Twitter controls, over which campaigns are powerless, they might have no power to stop the stream of phony tweets from flowing. If Twitter once again shut down verified accounts' ability to tweet while it investigated a breach, that would also cut off a key avenue for campaigns, government officials and law enforcement to correct misinformation.
Such an attack could be particularly disastrous during a close election if people don't vote because of the confusion. “Russia’s most dangerous play is how do you inflict the maximum amount of chaos on Election Day,” Clint Watts, a distinguished research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who tracks Russian influence operations, told me. “They want to further erode confidence in democracy, and this is emblematic of a way they can do that.” Rachel Tobac, chief executive of SocialProof Security, called the breach very concerning. “We are extremely lucky that these attackers are monetarily motivated and not sowing mass chaos all over the world,” she said.
It’s unclear how much information the hackers were able to cull from the Twitter accounts they compromised. If they were able to access the accounts’ direct messages, they might have stolen information they could leak later to embarrass the victims or to sow chaos during the 2020 election or another major event, said Theresa Payton, chief executive of the cybersecurity company Fortalice Solutions and a former White House technology official.
It's also possible the hackers stole information from accounts that they didn't use as part of the bitcoin scam that they could later leak or sell to someone with political motivations. For example, President Trump has among the most closely watched Twitter accounts in the world but his account wasn't used in the scheme.
NEW: Election 2020: Russia Cares, China Doesn’t. (Foreign Policy Research Institute, July 15, 2020)
Foreign influence: What America should worry about this year and next.
In September 2018, President Trump claimed that China had been interfering in the 2018 elections. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade,” he said during a United Nations Security Council meeting. The assertion came without evidence and has since elicited an endless string of queries, all centered on the same question: What is China doing to interfere in the election?
The claim of Chinese election interference and subsequent focus on China in 2020 is a distraction from Russian election interference, which remains a clear and present danger to American democracy. In short, when it comes to November’s election, Russia cares and China doesn’t.
Trump has been pretty great for Russia. The President nearly always comes to the Kremlin’s defense, he’s solidified Putin’s positions in Crimea and Ukraine, surrendered Syria, ignored aggressions in Libya, turned a blind eye to GRU assassinations in Europe, denied electoral interference in 2016, and allegedly overlooked bounties placed on American troops in Afghanistan while pushing for Russia to re-enter the G7 (formerly the G8).
But the polls don’t look good for President Trump at the moment, and a Biden victory will most assuredly result in backlash toward Russia. Despite the Kremlin’s infiltration into the left and right of American politics, there’s so much American-made disinformation this summer it’s been difficult for Putin’s minions to break through the noise. Fake news alone may not produce a meaningful impact on November’s outcome. This leaves but two options: hacking and subversion.
Allegations of Russia hacking of Ukrainian gas company Burisma surfaced this past January. From the Kremlin’s perspective, it was a smart play. Cyberattack a Ukrainian company outside of U.S. defenses during the impeachment hearing to confirm a narrative already being advanced by Putin’s preferred candidate. Any kompromat uncovered at Burisma could be dumped into the media ecosystem—President Trump and the U.S. mainstream media would do the rest of the work for the Kremlin. The scheme hasn’t played out as of yet, although Putin’s team will continue trying to advance this anti-Biden narrative until votes are cast. Now, post-impeachment—and amid a flurry of disinformation related to the pandemic and protests—it’s difficult to conceive of a hack-and-dump operation by Russia that would change the outcome of the election. It’s probably too late and the polls too far apart to make such a risky gamble.
The Kremlin’s more appealing strategy appears to be the pursuit and sustained subversion of the upcoming election and American democracy as a whole. On the propaganda and disinformation front, they’ve already ramped up predictions of widespread election rigging and fraud via mail-in balloting, building on the election rigging narratives they’ve promoted since the Iowa caucuses. GRU hackers might, like 2016, take shots at voter rolls and election machines, but this seems less likely in the face of an American cyber response this time around.
This leaves Election Day. If the polls aren’t close, and a Biden victory seems likely, the Kremlin could get really evil. Having watched the chaos in the Iowa caucuses and recent Georgia primaries, Russia could conduct pin-prick hacks in key battleground states to muddy the voting results either at polling places or amongst reporting media outlets. Maybe shut off the power, disabling poll sites in key battleground states. Simultaneously, they could instigate witting and unwitting allies in America to storm polling places, incite violence or contest election results—Kremlin operatives were connected to a similar scenario during Montenegro’s 2016 parliamentary election. Meanwhile, the Kremlin may overtly encourage President Trump to remain in the White House post-inauguration even if defeated in November.
Russia and China will collectively seek to undermine confidence in U.S. democracy, but headed into the polls in November, the biggest threats on election day 2020 will be domestic rather than foreign. As noted last year, what could Russia or China do at this point that America is not already doing to itself? For Putin and Xi, it’s easier to ride the American tide of democratic destruction than to make the wave.
Biden, billionaires and corporate accounts targeted in Twitter hack. (1-min. video; Washington Post, July 15, 2020)
The high-profile accounts posted about bitcoin deals in a major security breach. Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other high-profile Twitter account holders were the targets of a widespread hack to offer fake bitcoin deals on Wednesday in one of the most pronounced security breaches on a social media site. Accounts for former president Barack Obama, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, musician Kanye West and both Uber and Apple also posted similar tweets, all instructing people to send cryptocurrency to the same bitcoin address. The tweets were removed throughout the afternoon, shortly after being posted.
Twitter Says It Was The Victim Of A 'Coordinated Social Engineering Attack'. (3-minute audio; NPR, July 15, 2020)
Twitter says it was the victim of a "coordinated social engineering attack" by unspecified individuals who targeted Twitter employees with access to sensitive internal administrative systems. The breach implicated the accounts of some of the richest and most famous people on the social media platform, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kanye West and others.
As Twitter investigates what appears to be the largest and most coordinated hack in Twitter's history, the company has vowed to examine what "other malicious activity" the hackers may have committed. "Internally, we've taken significant steps to limit access to internal systems and tools while our investigation is ongoing," Twitter said in a series of tweets.
Earlier, hundreds of popular figures' accounts told millions of followers that in the spirit of generosity, they would double anyone's Bitcoin "for the next 30 minutes." Some were duped, sending Bitcoin payments and expecting a double return that never arrived.
Cybersecurity experts described the ploy as a garden variety social media scam, a petty and transparent ruse. But what distinguishes it is the number of well-known names and major companies that sent versions of the same message simultaneously after intruders gained access to the accounts that presumably have enhanced security protections.
Now is the time to build a better internet. The coronavirus pandemic has shown we have a long way to go. (Independent, July 15, 2020)
Long ago we voiced the expectation that one day online life would become indivisible from real life – we have reached that point, writes Mitchell Baker, the CEO and chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation.
A crisis upends the world as we know it, and change happens so fast it can feel disorienting. Whether the course of change is positive or negative depends on how quickly we apply our collective will. From fever tracking to contact tracing, crowd-sourced science to online learning, we cannot rise to meet our current challenges without the internet.
In this crisis, we’ve seen an internet where humanity shines. It’s also shined a light on the ways our system has tipped towards misinformation, consolidation of power, increased surveillance, and online scapegoating. Accountability is lacking, and the power of technology is too often aimed at manipulating people into actions that are profitable for a few but damaging to many. This cannot stand.
You’re Doomscrolling Again. Here’s How to Snap Out of It. (New York Times, July 15, 2020)
The experience of sinking into emotional quicksand while bingeing on doom-and-gloom news is so common that there’s now internet lingo for it: “doomscrolling.” Exacerbating this behavior, shelter-in-place orders leave us with little to do other than to look at our screens; by some measures, our screen time has jumped at least 50 percent. In a pandemic that forces us to stay home, bingeing on doom-and-gloom news feels irresistible. These health experts offer ways to break the habit.
NPR Radio Ratings Collapse As Pandemic Ends Listeners' Commutes. (NPR, July 15, 2020)
Broadcast ratings for nearly all of NPR's radio shows took a steep dive in major markets this spring, as the coronavirus pandemic kept many Americans from commuting to work and school. The network's shows lost roughly a quarter of their audience between the second quarter of 2019 and the same months in 2020.
People who listened to NPR shows on the radio at home before the pandemic by and large still do. But many of those who listened on their commute have not rejoined from home. And that threatens to alter the terrain for NPR for years to come.
In a first, astronomers watch a black hole’s corona disappear, then reappear. (MIT News, July 15, 2020)
For the first time, astronomers at MIT and elsewhere have watched as a supermassive black hole’s own corona, the ultrabright, billion-degree ring of high-energy particles that encircles a black hole’s event horizon, was abruptly destroyed.
The cause of this dramatic transformation is unclear, though the researchers guess that the source of the calamity may have been a star caught in the black hole’s gravitational pull. Like a pebble tossed into a gearbox, the star may have ricocheted through the black hole’s disk of swirling material, causing everything in the vicinity, including the corona’s high-energy particles, to suddenly plummet into the black hole.
The result, as the astronomers observed, was a precipitous and surprising drop in the black hole’s brightness, by a factor of 10,000, in under just one year. “We expect that luminosity changes this big should vary on timescales of many thousands to millions of years,” says Erin Kara, assistant professor of physics at MIT. “But in this object, we saw it change by 10,000 over a year, and it even changed by a factor of 100 in eight hours, which is just totally unheard of and really mind-boggling.”
Following the corona’s disappearance, astronomers continued to watch as the black hole began to slowly pull together material from its outer edges to reform its swirling accretion disk, which in turn began to spin up high-energy X-rays close to the black hole’s event horizon. In this way, in just a few months, the black hole was able to generate a new corona, almost back to its original luminosity.
Maine to use ranked-choice voting in presidential election after GOP veto effort fails. (Bangor ME Daily News, July 15, 2020)
Maine will be the first state to ever use ranked-choice voting in a presidential election in November after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap ruled Wednesday that a Republican-led people’s veto effort did not have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The Maine Republican Party gathered just over 61,000 signatures, which was roughly 2,000 shy of what was needed to get the challenge on the ballot, Dunlap’s office said in a statement. The party faced a shortened and complicated signature-gathering season due to the coronavirus.
The decision is a surprise and a huge blow to Republicans, who have resisted the voting method particularly since the 2018 election in which U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, ousted incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin.
The effort would have brought Maine’s third referendum on ranked-choice voting in four years. It was also a nationally backed bid to shield President Donald Trump from the voting method in 2020, since getting the measure on the ballot would have delayed the law’s effective date. The Republican president won the 2nd District in the 2016 election.
With Dueling Environmental Events, Trump and Biden Define the Race. (New York Times, July 15, 2020)
President Trump traveled on Wednesday to the new political battleground of Georgia to blast away at one of the nation’s cornerstone conservation laws, vowing to speed construction projects by limiting legally mandated environmental reviews of highways, pipelines and power plants.
One day earlier, his Democratic presidential rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., took a different tack, releasing a $2 trillion plan to confront climate change and overhaul the nation’s infrastructure, claiming he will create millions of jobs by building a clean energy economy.
In that period, the major party candidates for the White House displayed in sharp relief just how far apart they are ideologically on infrastructure and environmental matters of vital importance to many American voters, particularly in critical battleground states, including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Mr. Biden is trying to win over young voters and supporters of his vanquished rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, by showing an aggressive awareness of climate change and promising to move urgently to combat it. At the same time he has sought to maintain his promised connection to white, working class voters, especially in the Upper Midwest, who swung to Mr. Trump four years ago and are leery of what they see as threats to their livelihood, especially jobs in the oil and gas industry.
The president, in contrast, is pretty much where he has been for more than a decade: intermittently acknowledging global warming and calling it a hoax; making spurious accusations that windmills cause cancer, energy efficient appliances are “worthless” and zero-emissions buildings “basically have no windows.” At every turn and on every regulatory decision the administration embraces business over environmental interests.
These States’ Leaders Claim to Be ‘Pro-Life.’ So Why Are So Many of Their Citizens Dying of COVID-19? (Time, July 15, 2020)
As the coronavirus surges across the U.S., states across the South and West have reported sharp increases in their daily number of new cases. While the initial outbreaks in New York and Seattle reflected where community spread of the disease began in the U.S., these more recent surges in Florida, Texas, Arizona and some two dozen other states reveal more about our capacity to respond. Many Asian and European countries that experienced their first cases and initial outbreaks at the same time we did have successfully suppressed the virus and returned to semi-normal life. Meanwhile, COVID spreads across the U.S. like contrast dye on an MRI, highlighting a malignancy in our body politic.
When we look closely at the data, the regions where the coronavirus is currently surging are precisely the places where white people have been manipulated by a distorted moral narrative for decades. Ironically, the governors who are most willing to watch their citizens die are the ones who have used “pro-life” rhetoric to compel people of faith to support the narrow interests of corporate greed and white political power. COVID has revealed how the “pro-life” movement is killing us.
For the past 40 years, this narrative has been reinforced through a coordinated network of independent media, private school curricula, pulpits and political operatives. As investigative journalist Anne Nelson describes in her book Shadow Network, conservative Christians have increasingly come to live in a self-reinforcing wraparound culture of propaganda. When that network of information demonized efforts to address the current pandemic by staying at home, even from church, they resisted public health advice in the name of religious liberty.
In their book Taking America Back for God, sociologists Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead describe this way of seeing the world—where anything that challenges traditional values, including science, is viewed as threat—as “Christian nationalism.” While their analysis suggests that less than 20% of all Americans fully embrace this narrative, they say more than 30% have accommodated it in some way. This is especially true among white Christians and, in particular, in the South and Midwest.
Idaho COVID-19 hospitalization data goes dark under Trump directive, at least for now. (5-min. video; Idaho Statesman, July 15, 2020)
The Trump administration issued a directive that will make it hard for Idaho to keep track of how many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized around the state and how many hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators are available. “This new directive was issued abruptly and presents some significant challenges for Idaho to continue to monitor the number of hospitalizations in the state,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesperson Niki Forbing-Orr said. “We’re in the process of reviewing the details of the new process to determine exactly how it will impact our ability to view and report the information on coronavirus.idaho.gov for the public to view, but it will certainly have a short-term impact on our awareness of the number of people in hospitals, in the ICU and on ventilators.”
Health and Welfare, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both were publishing daily counts of Idaho hospital patients with known or suspected COVID-19. Those numbers ranged from lows in the teens and 20s in May, to record highs in the mid-100s in the past week.
The directive was issued quietly last Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services. It told hospitals to stop using the NHSN as of Wednesday. They were directed to start using a new, private system that flows to HHS. That system is managed by TeleTracking, a health data firm based in Pittsburgh, according to the New York Times.
“We were stunned,” Idaho State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn said Wednesday on Idaho Matters. “That data right now is our most valuable ... indicator to show the public and decision-makers how severe this outbreak is getting in Idaho.”
We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has. (Washington Post, July 14, 2020)
As America begins the formidable task of getting our kids back to school and all of us back to work safely amid a pandemic that is only getting worse, public health experts face two opponents: covid-19, but also administration political leaders and others attempting to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk.
Trump Administration Strips C.D.C. of Control of Coronavirus Data. (New York Times, July 14, 2020)
Hospitals have been ordered to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all patient information to a central database in Washington, raising questions about transparency.
NEW: Verizon's alternative to layoffs: Retraining 20,000 workers (CNN, July 14, 2020)
Verizon hasn't laid off any of its 135,000 employees during the pandemic. Instead, the company has retrained around 20,000 workers for new careers.
It's part of Verizon's (VZ) responsible business plan announced Tuesday. Dubbed Citizen Verizon, the plan includes a pledge to prepare 500,000 mostly lower-wage people for jobs of the future by 2030 through skills training and job advancement tools.
While it's an expensive endeavor as other companies cut costs — millions of Americans are now collecting unemployment because of the unprecedented health crisis — Verizon (VZ) chose to focus on retraining workers, CEO Hans Vestberg told CNN Business in an exclusive interview. "Verizon, as a large corporation, needs to take actions and be responsible here," said Vestberg, who became CEO two years ago, later adding, "Large corporations have far bigger impacts than governments even, sometimes. We feel that responsibility as a corporation."
The Power and Importance of Leadership in a Crisis. (New England Journal of Medicine, July 14, 2020)
Health care aleaders are increasingly looking at internal talent in combination with a continued focus on external leaders, and are revisiting their organizational assessment, promotion, and succession plans as well. In addition, as a shift to virtual interviewing and on-boarding is becoming embraced, leaders are sharpening their focus on reference checks and certain leadership qualities.
First Coronavirus Vaccine Tested in Humans Shows Early Promise. (New York Times, July 14, 2020)
The vaccine, developed by government scientists and Moderna, a Massachusetts biotech company, appeared safe and provoked an immune response in 45 people in a study.
NEW: How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—and Open Minds (New Yorker, July 13, 2020)
The plague marked the end of the Middle Ages and the start of a great cultural renewal. Could the coronavirus, for all its destruction, offer a similar opportunity for radical change?
Coronavirus Sparks New Interest In Using Ultraviolet Light To Disinfect Indoor Air. (NPR, July 13, 2020)
Research already shows that germicidal UV can effectively inactivate airborne microbes that transmit measles, tuberculosis and SARS-CoV-1, a close relative of the novel coronavirus.
As the U.S. grapples with how to interrupt the spread of the highly infectious virus, UV is being used to decontaminate surfaces on public transit and in hospitals where infectious droplets may have landed as well as to disinfect N95 masks for reuse. But so far using this technology to provide continuous air disinfection has remained outside of most mainstream, policy-setting conversations about the coronavirus. Experts attribute this to a combination of factors: misconceptions about UV's safety, a lack of public awareness and technical know-how, concerns about the costs of installing the technology, and a general reluctance to consider the role of aerosols in the spread of the coronavirus.
Now, with concern mounting that the coronavirus may be easily transmitted through microscopic floating particles known as aerosols, some researchers and physicians hope the technology can be recruited yet again to help disinfect high-risk indoor settings.
Trump's 'occupying army' in Portland critically injure peaceful protester. (Daily Kos, July 13, 2020)
A Portland, Oregon peaceful protester was critically injured Saturday night by one of the federal officers Donald Trump ordered into the city to "protect" federal property. Donovan LaBella was shot in the head by a federal officer. He had been standing across the street from the federal courthouse holding a speaker, standing alone and not provoking anything, according to videos posted to social media. An officer threw a canister at LaBella, who tossed it back toward the cops and then was immediately shot in the head by a "non-lethal" projectile. LaBella's mother spoke with reporters and said his face and skull were fractured and he had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery Sunday.
Trump issued an executive order on June 26 to protect federal property and monuments, and to authorize Department of Homeland Security to deploy officers from around the country and from at least half a dozen different federal agencies and departments. They've converged on Portland as part of Trump's "law and order" campaign. Portland's Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis made clear that his department did not ask for federal troops, have not coordinated with them, and do not appreciate this incursion.
Portland police are banned from using tear gas by a recent restraining order, as well as being barred from using impact munitions—the supposedly non-lethal rubber bullets and plastic projectiles—against peaceful protesters. Portland police were already restricted from shooting these projectiles at people's heads, necks, and throats "unless deadly force is authorized," or to use them for crowd control unless there's a threat of death or serious injury. Federal officers, who aren't subject to those restrictions, have also been using tear gas against the largely peaceful protesters.
Oregon officials have responded en masse to condemn Trump and his actions.
NEW: Super-rich call for higher taxes on wealthy to pay for Covid-19 recovery. (The Guardian, July 13, 2020)
Group of 83 wealthy individuals demands ‘immediate, substantial and permanent’ higher taxes ‘on people like us’.
The super-rich members, including Ben and Jerry’s ice cream co-founder Jerry Greenfield and Disney heir Abigail Disney, called on “our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently”. “As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world,” the millionaires said in a letter shared with the Guardian. “No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door. But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.”
The group warned that the economic impact of coronavirus crisis will “last for decades” and could “push half a billion more people into poverty”.
TikTok a privacy threat? Sure, but so are most of your smartphone apps. (NBC News, July 13, 2020)
Analysis: The reality of TikTok's threat is far more mundane and not particularly unique, experts say.
China has a well-chronicled appetite for Americans’ data. Meanwhile, the popular, China-based video app TikTok collects significant information on its users. That confluence has made the app a focus of concern among privacy watchdogs, culminating last week in reports that the U.S. is positioning itself to ban TikTok. The app has become the subject of widespread concern and paranoia, even reaching into the world of esports, with the popular gamer known as Ninja tweeting that he was deleting the app over privacy worries. The bank Wells Fargo told its workers to delete the app. Amazon ramped up the scrutiny of TikTok on Friday after a leaked internal email said company employees needed to remove the app from their phones. Amazon later clarified that no such edict had actually been issued.
But the reality of TikTok's threat is far more mundane and not particularly unique, experts say. While users should be skeptical of the app's data collection and handling, the attention paid to the app owes more to how TikTok has ended up in the middle of the growing societal concern about data privacy and increasing paranoia about the threat of China. TikTok has had major privacy concerns flare up in the past and is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission for potentially failing to adequately delete videos from users who are 13 and under, as required by law.
That doesn’t mean the company is unique in how it handles user data, said John Davisson, counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a think tank that advocates for online privacy for consumers. “I think TikTok's actions are alarming, and it is good that federal regulators are paying close attention to it,” Davisson said. “But it is ultimately one of many platforms that collect, and use, and analyze, and rely on, and profit off of personal data.”
Like practically all tech platforms, TikTok stores not only the content that users create on it, but significant metadata on them — and will turn that information over to law enforcement if legally compelled to do so. According to a leaked document provided to police and reported by Business Insider, for TikTok that can mean usernames, how and when users signed up for the service, phone numbers and device types, and significant location data. While that kind of information may seem invasive, it’s the norm for phone apps to track it, especially location data — and that kind of information is bought and sold on a daily basis in markets that China has access to.
China does have a proven track record of hoovering up Americans’ personal information. Many of the biggest breaches in U.S. history — the hacks of Equifax, several insurance companies, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — are widely accepted as the work of Chinese intelligence. Those hacks were part of a massive operation to steal and process Americans’ data, FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a livestreamed talk Tuesday. “The data China stole is of obvious value as they attempt to identify people for secret intelligence gathering,” Wray said. “On that front, China is using social media platforms, the same ones Americans use every day to stay connected or find jobs, to identify people with access to our government’s sensitive information and try to target those people to try to steal it.”
“It all comes down to the argument that no Chinese tech company can resist the demands of the Chinese Communist Party or government for data,” Segal said. “We have no evidence those demands have been made or the company would need to follow through. I don’t know what's unique about TikTok data,” he added. "Especially because it's primarily teens.”
Portland Place couple who confronted protesters have a long history of not backing down. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 12, 2020)
[Meet the latest GOP-hero defenders of property rights - their property rights on others' property.]
When Black Lives Matter protesters marched up Kingshighway on June 28 and turned through an iron gate into the magnificent private street of Portland Place, they encountered a couple who have for years, nearly constantly, sued other people and ordered people off their property. Personal-injury attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey became instant national figures when they intercepted protesters marching past their marble-faced palazzo at One Portland Place, aimed guns at them and demanded they get out.
Americans saw the story they wanted to see. Some saw respected professionals fearing for their safety, reasonably exercising their Second Amendment rights to defend their home from violent trespassers. Others saw an overwrought, older affluent couple, recklessly pointing their weapons and asserting their white privilege.
But public records and interviews reveal a fuller picture than emerged two weeks ago. They show the McCloskeys are almost always in conflict with others, typically over control of private property, what people can do on that property, and whose job it is to make sure they do it.
Russia far east protest over Khabarovsk governor's arrest. (BBC News, July 11, 2020)
An estimated 40,000 people have taken part in protests in Russia's far east over the arrest of a regional leader. They marched to the regional government in Khabarovsk shouting slogans against President Vladimir Putin.
Khabarovsk governor Sergei Furgal was detained on Thursday, accused of having ordered the killing of several business people 15 years ago. Mr. Furgal defeated the candidate of Mr. Putin's United Russfia party in elections two years ago. His party, the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democrat Party of Russia, is usually seen as loyal to the Kremlin.
But correspondents say Mr. Furgal's victory was seen as a blow to United Russia's grip on power in the regions, and he is a popular figure in the far east.
NEW: Kamala Harris: Stone commutation and Breonna Taylor case show 'two systems of justice'. (Louisville KY Courier Journal, July 11, 2020)
A longtime confidant of Trump, Stone is a Republican operative who was convicted of lying to Congress to protect the president's campaign from an investigation into Russian election interference.
Trump's decision to grant clemency came days before Stone was set to report to prison for a 40-month sentence handed down in February. "Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place," Trump tweeted Saturday morning. "It is the other side that are criminals, including Biden and Obama, who spied on my campaign - AND GOT CAUGHT!"
Harris and other congressional Democrats slammed the move, which wiped out Stone's sentence but left his conviction in place.
Harris compared the commutation of Stone, who is white, with the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed Black woman fatally shot by Louisville police officers inside her apartment during a March drug raid. No drugs were recovered from Taylor's apartment, and the deadly incident has since touched off lawsuits, independent investigations, mass protests around Louisville and the firing of one of the involved officers.
Roger Stone: Critics blast Trump for commuting ex-adviser's jail term. (BBC News, July 11, 2020)
Leading Democrats have condemned US President Donald Trump's decision to commute the prison sentence of his former adviser and friend Roger Stone. Presidential contender Joe Biden's spokesman accused Mr. Trump of abuse of power and "laying waste" to US values.
The move - sparing Stone from jail but not a pardon - came just after a court denied Stone's request to delay the start date of his 40-month prison term. He was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The 67-year-old had been due to report to a federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, next Tuesday.
The president has been accused by political critics of undermining the justice system by criticising criminal cases against Stone and other former aides. Stone was the sixth Trump aide found guilty on charges linked to a justice department probe that alleged Russia tried to boost the Trump 2016 campaign.
The White House said Stone was the victim of an attempt by opponents to undermine the presidency.
[Lest we forget, BBC News back on February 20, 2020: Speaking in her Washington DC court on Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone had engaged in "threatening and intimidating conduct" towards her. She said Stone "knew exactly what he was doing" when he posted an image on social media last year of a gun's crosshairs next to her head. Stone had claimed he thought the crosshairs were a Celtic cross.]
How to Reopen Schools: What Science and Other Countries Teach Us (New York Times, July 11, 2020)
The pressure to bring American students back to classrooms is intense, but the calculus is tricky with infections still out of control in many communities.
As school districts across the United States consider whether and how to restart in-person classes, their challenge is complicated by a pair of fundamental uncertainties: No nation has tried to send children back to school with the virus raging at levels like America’s, and the scientific research about transmission in classrooms is limited.
The World Health Organization has now concluded that the virus is airborne in crowded, indoor spaces with poor ventilation, a description that fits many American schools. But there is enormous pressure to bring students back — from parents, from pediatricians and child development specialists, and from President Trump. I’m just going to say it: It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff,” said Robin Cogan, a nurse at the Yorkship School in Camden, N.J., who serves on the state’s committee on reopening schools.
Though children are at much lower risk of getting seriously ill from the coronavirus than adults, the risk is not zero. A small number of children have died and others needed intensive care because they suffered respiratory failure or an inflammatory syndrome that caused heart or circulatory problems.
The larger concern with reopening schools is the potential for children to become infected, many with no symptoms, and then spread the virus to others, including family members, teachers and other school employees. Most evidence to date suggests that even if children under 12 are infected at the same rates as the adults around them, they are less likely to spread it. The American Academy of Pediatrics has cited some of this data to recommend that schools reopen with proper safety precautions. But the bulk of the evidence was collected in countries that were already in lockdown or had begun to implement other preventive measures. And few countries have systematically tested children for the virus or for antibodies that would indicate whether they had been exposed to the virus.
Trump wears mask in public for first time during pandemic. (Associated Press, July 11, 2020)
President Donald Trump wore a mask during a visit to a military hospital on Saturday, the first time the president has been seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the novel coronavirus.
The president was a latecomer to wearing a mask during the pandemic, which has raged across the U.S. since March and infected more than 3.2 million and killed at least 134,000. Most prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, endorsed wearing masks as the coronavirus gained ground this summer. Republican governors have been moving toward requiring or encouraging the use of masks as the pandemic has grown more serious in some states in the South and West. Trump, however, has declined to wear a mask at news conferences, coronavirus task force updates, rallies and other public events.
Questions remain whether Trump will wear a mask with any regularity. The wearing of masks became another political dividing line, with Republicans more resistant to wearing them than Democrats. Few masks were seen at recent Trump campaign events in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phoenix and South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
A spokesman for the Biden campaign cast the president’s action as too little, too late. “Donald Trump spent months ignoring the advice of medical experts and politicizing wearing a mask, one of the most important things we can do to prevent the spread of the virus,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “Rather than taking responsibility and leading, he wasted four months that Americans have been making sacrifices by stoking divisions and actively discouraging people from taking a very basic step to protect each other.”
A plasma shot could prevent coronavirus. But feds and makers won’t act, scientists say. (Los Angeles Times July 10, 2020)
It might be the next best thing to a coronavirus vaccine. Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months. Using technology that’s been proven effective in preventing other diseases such as hepatitis A, the injections would be administered to high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home patients, or even at public drive-through sites — potentially protecting millions of lives, the doctors and other experts say. The two scientists who spearheaded the proposal — an 83-year-old shingles researcher and his counterpart, an HIV gene therapy expert — have garnered widespread support from leading blood and immunology specialists, including those at the center of the nation’s COVID-19 plasma research.
But the idea exists only on paper. Federal officials have twice rejected requests to discuss the proposal, and pharmaceutical companies — even acknowledging the likely efficacy of the plan — have declined to design or manufacture the shots. The lack of interest in launching development of immunity shots comes amid heightened scrutiny of the federal government’s sluggish pandemic response.
Scientists who question the delay argue that the immunity shots are easy to scale up and should enter clinical trials immediately. They say that until there’s a vaccine, the shots offer the only plausible method for preventing potentially millions of infections at a critical moment in the pandemic. “Beyond being a lost opportunity, this is a real head-scratcher,” said Dr. Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic researcher who leads a program sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration to capitalize on coronavirus antibodies from COVID-19 survivors. “It seems obvious.”
The use of so-called convalescent plasma has already become widespread. More than 28,000 patients have already received the IV treatment, and preliminary data suggest that the method is safe. Researchers are also looking at whether the IV drip products would prevent new infections from taking root.
As Trump Demanded Schools Reopen, His Experts Warned of ‘Highest Risk’. (New York Times, July 10, 2020)
A briefing packet for federal emergency response teams details the steps schools should take to reopen safely. The 69-page document, obtained by The New York Times and marked “For Internal Use Only,” was intended for federal public health response teams to have as they are deployed to hot spots around the country. But it appears to have circulated the same week that Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would release new guidelines, saying that the administration did not want them to be “too tough.” It is unclear whether Mr. Trump saw the document, nor is it clear how much of it will survive once new guidance is completed.
What is clear is that federal health experts are using a road map that is vastly different from what Mr. Trump wanted. On Friday, after repeating threats of cutting off federal funding from schools that do not fully reopen — which he does not have the authority to do — Mr. Trump lashed out again. “Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, virtual learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning,” he wrote on Twitter. “Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall.”
NEW: The Lingering Legacy of America’s First Cookie-Cutter Suburb. (Atlas Obscura, July 10, 2020)
In Levittown, inequality was built-in.
Facebook’s software kit is to blame for popular apps crashing. (Associated Press, July 10, 2020)
Friday’s widespread crashes of popular apps running on the iPhone’s iOS operating system — including Tinder, Spotify and Pinterest — serve as a reminder that Facebook is still tracking you through your phone using sophisticated software, even if you’re not browsing the social network.
Biden campaign hires first top cybersecurity official to protect against digital threats. (Washington Post, July 10, 2020)
The campaign's decision to delegate security to an industry heavy hitter reflects the intense pressure to avoid a repeat of the Russian hacking and leaking operation that upended Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort four years ago. 
Those needs are perhaps only more critical as the campaign faces unprecedented security and technology challenges from staff and volunteers working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records. (New York Times, July 9, 2020)
Two rulings clear the way for prosecutors in New York to seek President Trump’s financial records, but the justices stopped Congress for now.
Domestic terrorism database of the Trump years shows how the radical right has gone on a rampage. (Daily Kos, July 9, 2020)
Donald Trump’s reign of error has been remarkable on a historic level in a variety of ways: COVID-19, the destruction of our traditional overseas alliances and open appeasement of Russia, the increasingly open embrace of white nationalism.
To that list we must now add something with similarly long-term consequences: the stark surge of domestic terrorism committed by right-wing extremists—many of whom act on the belief they are supporting, defending, and enabling Trump and his agenda. Data gathered from 2017 through 2019—and published today—by a team I led at Type Investigations and Reveal News shows that far-right domestic terrorism now dramatically eclipses all other forms of terrorist threat in the United States, both in raw numbers of events and in sheer lethality. It’s as though Trump lifted the lid off the Pandora’s Box of far-right violence and the demons promptly flew out.
To explore the database, spend some time in the interactive graphic entitled “The new domestic terrorism.” It contains each of the individual cases, including links to substantiating articles and documents. You can view it both in terms of raw numbers as well as via a map of the United States.
Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Native American Rights in Oklahoma. (New York Times, July 9, 2020)
A 5-4 decision declaring that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation could reshape criminal justice in the area by preventing state authorities from prosecuting Native Americans. The case was steeped in the United States government’s long history of brutal removals and broken treaties with Indigenous tribes, and grappled with whether lands of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had remained a reservation after Oklahoma became a state. The decision, potentially one of the most consequential legal victories for Native Americans in decades, could have far-reaching implications for the people who live across what the court affirmed was Indian Country. The lands (see map) include much of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city.
Seoul Mayor Is Found Dead After Harassment Complaint Is Filed. (New York Times, July 9, 2020)
Mayor Park Won-soon, who vanished after leaving a cryptic message for his daughter, had faced a newly filed complaint from his secretary.
What are the CDC school guidelines Trump wants changed amid COVID-19? These are the highlights. (USA Today, July 9, 2020)
Trump tweeted Wednesday that he disagrees with the CDC's "very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools" as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and Vice President Mike Pence said the agency would be issuing new guidelines next week.
However, Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, said Thursday no change was coming but that instead "additional reference documents" would be issued.
To better understand any possible update, USA TODAY reviewed several documents and guidelines on the CDC's website of the guidance already issued to K-12 schools. The CDC says these documents should supplement but not replace state and local guidance, laws and other regulations. Throughout the guidelines, the CDC also says that schools should be in regular contact with state and local health officials on their plans and review local laws and rules.
The CDC establishes a set of guiding principles to start its guidelines that broadly lays out the risks of three scenarios. The lowest risk is school returns in a virtual-only setting in which students and teachers meet for classes, activities and events online. More risk is associated with small, in-person classes, activities and events. Under this general scenario, students are divided into small groups that don't mix, stay six feet apart and don't share items. The scenarios with the most risk is a return to school as it was before: Full, in-person classes, mixing of groups, no distancing, and shared objects.
The CDC guidelines also describe basic cleanliness and safety procedures that schools should follow. They are similar to what public health officials say all people should follow. Wash hands regularly, stay six feet apart and wear a mask. "Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult," the CDC says.
Tearful WHO director calls for global unity to fight the virus following U.S. pullout. (Washington Post, July 9, 2020)
An emotional World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded Thursday for international unity to fight the pandemic devastating the world in the wake of President Trump’s announced intention to quit the organization. With tears in his eyes, Tedros said the true enemy was not the virus itself “but the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global level.”
“How difficult is it for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately?” he asked. “Can’t we understand that the divisions and cracks between us are to the advantage of the virus?” Tedros warned that in most of the world, “the virus is not under control; it’s getting worse.” And he pointed out that the health systems of some of the world’s wealthiest countries have been upended, whereas nations of more modest means have had success.
Federal workers are returning to the office. Some members of Congress say they shouldn’t be. (Washington Post, July 9, 2020)
Senators representing Maryland and Virginia emphasized their concern over the possible coronavirus exposure of 2.1 million federal employees, about 85 percent of whom work outside the D.C. metro area. With the number of coronavirus cases increasing across much of the country, leading members of Congress on civil service issues are challenging orders by federal agencies for teleworking federal employees to return to their regular worksites.
“I think we have to press the pause button immediately,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee, said in an interview. “There is no data that could make one comfortable that it is safe to return fully to work and to the status quo. In fact, all of the data suggest the opposite.”
Robinhood Has Lured Young Traders, Sometimes With Devastating Results. (New York Times, July 8, 2020)
Its users buy and sell the riskiest financial products and do so more frequently than customers at other retail brokerage firms, but their inexperience can lead to staggering losses.
‘Disturbing and cruel.’ Universities blast new visa rule for international students. (Science, July 8, 2020)
A new U.S. immigration policy announced Monday, which threatens to revoke visas for certain international students if they are not taking in-person classes, is stirring panic and confusion and causing some universities to push back with lawsuits. The policy states that international students who are currently enrolled in online-only programs will need to leave the country immediately or transfer to a school with in-person classes to legally continue their education. The announcement doesn’t explicitly distinguish undergraduate and graduate students—creating uncertainty among science and engineering graduate students who are focused on research and had no plans to enroll in courses this fall.
The policy “is cruel to international students and damaging to America’s scientific leadership,” Sudip Parikh—CEO of AAAS (the publisher of Science Careers)—said in a statement released today. “We urge the administration to reconsider and rescind this guidance.”
New Clues To ALS And Alzheimer's Disease From Physics (Science, July 8, 2020)
The same process that causes dew drops to form on a blade of grass appears to play an important role in Alzheimer's disease and other brain diseases. The process, known as phase transition, is what allows water vapor to condense into liquid water, or even freeze into solid ice.
What Taylor found was gene mutations that caused abnormal phase transitions in cells. And he found evidence of similar mutations in other neurodegenerative diseases. This research earned Taylor the 2020 Potamkin Prize, a big deal in Alzheimer's research. And it got a lot of biotech companies thinking about ways to fix problems with phase transitions inside cells. "I think it's probably safe to say that you'll see some of these types of therapies within the next couple of years," Taylor says.
Neurodegenerative diseases are an appealing target because the physics behind the problem is now clear, and because cells already contain mechanisms to regulate phase transition.
NEW: Signs of Covid-19 may be hidden in speech signals. (MIT News, July 8, 2020)
Processing vocal recordings of infected but asymptomatic people reveals potential indicators of Covid-19.
If Trump wants to reopen schools, here’s what his administration needs to do. (Washington Post, July 8, 2020)
Vice President Pence says it is “absolutely essential that we get our kids in the classroom for in-person learning.” His remarks Wednesday followed President Trump’s announcement that “we’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools” — and a follow-up tweet threatening to cut off funding if schools remain closed. Pence and Trump are right about the importance of in-person instruction. But the Trump administration can’t just set a timeline without committing to the necessary work to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers and their families.
The single most important requirement for resuming in-person instruction is suppressing the level of covid-19 infections in the community. Imagine if schools tried to open now in areas undergoing massive surges, including Houston, Miami and Phoenix. Groups of children gathering indoors would add fuel to the flame and worsen the crisis. This is why the White House’s own guidelines prohibit schools from reopening until the community has reached Phase 2 — defined, at minimum, as recording a consistent decline in new infections. Right now, more than 40 states have increasing cases. To reverse this trend, governors will need to reimpose restrictions and make difficult tradeoffs. Some businesses, such as bars and nightclubs, may need to stay closed for the summer to keep virus levels low enough for schools to be open in the fall. The Trump administration needs to support these actions rather than cast doubt on the severity of the current surge.
Another urgent and long overdue step: The administration needs to implement a national testing strategy and substantially ramp up testing capacity. Some schools in Germany require students and staff to pass self-administered covid-19 tests every four days. This would be an option that many U.S. parents and teachers will want, and some proposals, such as pooled testing, may offer a path to do so.
Trump Threatens to Cut Funding if Schools Do Not Fully Reopen. (New York Times, July 8, 2020)
Disregarding the advice of his own health experts, President Trump also attacked the C.D.C.’s reopening guidelines as onerous and expensive.
Mr. Trump’s attack on the C.D.C. underscored his growing impatience with public health experts he considers obstacles to his ambitions of reopening the country after months of lockdown. As he significantly trails Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in most polls, the president has brushed off warnings and pushed states to reopen businesses in hopes of reviving the crippled economy before the election on Nov. 3, a goal that would be hamstrung if parents had to remain at home with their children this fall.
During a coronavirus task force briefing later Wednesday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the C.D.C. would issue new recommendations next week.
NEW: Analysis: How A COVID-19 Vaccine Could Cost Americans Dearly (Kaiser Health News, July 8, 2020)
The United States is the only developed nation unable to balance cost, efficacy and social good in setting prices.
Yes, of course, Americans’ health is priceless, and reining in a deadly virus that has trashed the economy would be invaluable. But a COVID-19 vaccine will have an actual price tag. And given the prevailing business-centric model of American drug pricing, it could well be budget breaking, perhaps making it unavailable to many.
The last vaccine to quell a global viral scourge was the polio inoculation, which ended outbreaks that killed thousands and paralyzed tens of thousands each year in the United States. The March of Dimes Foundation covered the nominal drug cost for a free national vaccination program. It came in the mid-1950s, before health insurance for outpatient care was common, before new drugs were protected by multiple patents, before medical research was regarded as a way to become rich. It was not patented because it was not considered patentable under the standards at the time.
Now we are looking for viral deliverance when drug development is one of the world’s most lucrative businesses, ownership of drug patents is disputed in endless court battles, and monopoly power often lets manufacturers set any price, no matter how extraordinary. A new cancer treatment can cost a half-million dollars, and old staples like insulin have risen manifold in price to thousands of dollars annually.
And the American government has no effective way to fight back.
Recent vaccines targeting more limited populations, such as a meningitis B vaccine for college students and the shingles vaccine for older adults, have a retail cost of $300 to $400 for a full course.
If a COVID-19 vaccine yields a price of, say, $500 a course, vaccinating the entire population would bring a company over $150 billion, almost all of it profit.
Drug companies deserve a reasonable profit for taking on this urgent task of creating a COVID-19 vaccine. But we deserve a return, too. So before these invaluable vaccines hit the market, we should talk about an actual price. Otherwise, we will be stuck paying dearly for shots that the rest of the world will get for much less.
Arizona Is #1, Bahrain Is #4. (New York Times, July 8, 2020)
The virus outbreak in the U.S. Sunbelt is worse than in any country. And Trump is pressuring schools to reopen in the Fall.
Florida man loses job after Costco mask meltdown went viral amid coronavirus pandemic. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, July 8, 2020)
In Costco’s case, the president and CEO of the company, Craig Jelinek, noted in a statement back in May that while “some members may find this inconvenient or objectionable,” this is “not simply a matter of personal choice; a face covering protects not just the wearer, but others too.” The store does provide exemptions for children under two years old, as well as people with certain medical conditions.
Of course, this is far from the first mask-related incident to happen amid the pandemic. For example, two men were caught on video breaking a Target employee’s arm after being asked to wear masks. And a security guard at a Dollar General store was shot and killed after asking a woman who tried to enter the store to wear a mask.
Coronavirus Surge in Tulsa ‘More Than Likely’ Linked to Trump Rally. (New York Times, July 8, 2020)
Dr. Bruce Dart, the director of the Tulsa Health Department, said Tulsa County had reported nearly 500 new cases of Covid-19 in the past two days. The county has more infections right now than any other in Oklahoma, and “we’ve had some significant events in the past few weeks that more than likely contributed to that,” he added. Dr. Dart spent much of the news conference pleading with Tulsans to wear face masks — which most attendees at Mr. Trump’s rally did not — and said the department would recommend requiring masks “if we continue to see an exponential rise in cases, which frankly we expect over the next few days.”
Brazil’s Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus. (Washington Post, July 7, 2020)
Bolsonaro, an outlier among world leaders in his skepticism of both the coronavirus and preventive measures intended to curb it, was tested Monday evening after developing symptoms that included a fever. “There’s no problem,” he told reporters Tuesday. “It’s natural. There’s no dread. It’s life.”
The result adds one more case to what has become the world’s second-worst coronavirus outbreak, after that of the United States. Brazil has reported more than 1.6 million cases and 65,000 deaths — both believed to be undercounts — an escalating disaster that scientists and health officials say has been exacerbated by Bolsonaro’s frequent dismissal of it.
Bolsonaro, 65, has described covid-19, the disease the virus causes, as a “little cold,” repeatedly waded into crowds of supporters, threatened to host a large barbecue to defy health measures, and as recently as last week attended a Fourth of July party at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia without wearing a mask. A Brazilian court last month ordered Bolsonaro to wear a mask while in public.
“I’m good, relaxed,” he said. “Let’s be cautious with people who are older and have co-morbidities. And for people who are younger, if you get the virus, stay calm. Because for you, the chance of it being more grave is practically zero.”
But data scientists say the situation in Brazil is much more complicated. Among the young, Brazil has a significantly higher mortality rate than those of its developed peers. In Rio de Janeiro state, more than two-thirds of hospitalizations are of people younger than 50.
Mary Trump’s Book Accuses the President of Embracing ‘Cheating as a Way of Life’. (New York Times, July 7, 2020)
Mary L. Trump, President Trump’s niece, plans to publish a tell-all family memoir next week, describing how a decades long history of darkness, dysfunction and brutality turned her uncle into a reckless leader who, according to her publisher, Simon & Schuster, “now threatens the world’s health, economic security and social fabric.” The book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” depicts a multigenerational saga of greed, betrayal and internecine tension and seeks to explain how President Trump’s position in one of New York’s wealthiest and most infamous real-estate empires helped him acquire what Ms. Trump has referred to as “twisted behaviors” — attributes like seeing other people in “monetary terms” and practicing “cheating as a way of life.”
As a high school student in Queens, Ms. Trump writes, Donald Trump paid someone to take a precollegiate test, the SAT, on his behalf. The high score the proxy earned for him, Ms. Trump adds, helped the young Mr. Trump to later gain admittance when he transferred as an undergraduate to the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton business school. Mr. Trump has often boasted about attending Wharton, which he has referred to as “the best school in the world” and “super genius stuff.”
Fred Trump, Jr. died in 1981 from an alcohol-induced heart attack when he was 42, and Ms. Trump tells the story in her book about how his family sent him to the hospital alone on the night of his death. No one went with him, Ms. Trump writes. His younger brother Donald, she added, went to see a movie.
Maryanne Trump was particularly baffled by support for her brother among evangelical Christians, according to the book. “The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there,” Ms. Trump quotes her aunt as saying. “It’s mind boggling. But that’s all about his base. He has no principles. None!”
“The fact is,” she writes, “Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neurophysical tests that he’ll never sit for.” At another point she says: “Donald has been institutionalized for most of his adult life, so there is no way to know how he would thrive, or even survive, on his own in the real world.”
Like other critics of the president, Ms. Trump takes issue in the book with the notion that Mr. Trump is a strategic thinker who operates according to specific agendas or organizing principles. “He doesn’t,” she writes. “Donald’s ego has been and is a fragile and inadequate barrier between him and the real world, which, thanks to his father’s money and power, he never had to negotiate by himself.”
Why Isn’t the ‘Southern Strategy’ Working? (New York Times, July 7, 2020)
The basic bet has been that Republicans win when voters focus on race. Steve Bannon, who helped run President Trump’s campaign, described the flip side of the idea, in 2017: “The Democrats,” Bannon said, “I want them to talk about racism every day.”
Sure enough, Trump has put race at the center of his re-election message. He did so in two aggressive speeches over the weekend and defended the Confederate flag yesterday. “Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment,” Maggie Haberman writes.
And yet this time seems different: The strategy isn’t working. Trump’s poll numbers are slumping, and some of his 2016 supporters cite racial issues as a reason they plan to vote for Joe Biden.
Why is the Southern strategy suddenly flailing? I count four main reasons.
In A World First, Hyundai Fuel Cell Semis Ship To Customers. (Clean Technica, July 7, 2020)
The first ones are now in shipment to Switzerland. Meanwhile, neither Nikola or Tesla have delivered a single truck. And, depending on who you believe, one of those companies hasn’t even built one yet. That’s what makes the Hyundai fuel cell truck real news, I think. It’s real! “XCIENT Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project,” says In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor. “By putting this groundbreaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society.”
The Hyundai XCIENT semi trucks is powered by a 190-kW hydrogen fuel cell system with dual 95-kW fuel cell stacks. They’re fed by an array of large hydrogen tanks storing about 32 kg (approx. 70 lbs.) of hydrogen. That makes each XCIENT Fuel Cell good for about about 400 km (250 miles) of range. Crucially, the trucks can be topped off with hydrogen in 8-20 minutes.
Hyundai Motor is also planning a long-distance tractor unit capable of traveling 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles) on a single charge that will be aimed at the North American and continental European markets. For the moment, however, Hyundai is focused on Switzerland. That’s largely because the Swiss LSVA road tax on commercial vehicles doesn’t apply to zero-emission trucks, nearly equalizing the hauling costs per kilometer of the fuel cell truck compared to a regular diesel truck, while allowing the ZEVs access to city centers that diesels are no longer allowed in.
Cybersecurity pros are uniting in a battle to save encryption. (Washington Post, July 7, 2020)
Cybersecurity and privacy advocates are rallying to defend strong encryption, which is facing its harshest assault in decades from the Trump administration and Congress. A coalition of dozens of top cybersecurity and Internet freedom groups, academics and experts sent a blistering letter this morning to the sponsors of an anti-encryption Senate bill they say would make hundreds of millions of Americans more vulnerable to hacking.
The bill, called the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, is the harshest among a number of efforts to weaken encryption across the Justice Department and Congress. It would effectively require tech companies to weaken access to their secure systems to ensure law enforcement with a warrant can track terrorists, sexual predators and other criminals. But that would also make it far easier for cybercriminals and adversary nations to hack into troves of government, financial and health records, the authors write. They include the Internet Society, the Wikimedia Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology as well as experts at the American Civil Liberties Union, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
NEW: Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? (Harvard Magazine, July 6, 2020)
What if Trump loses but insists he won? (Washington Post, July 6, 2020)
On his present trajectory, President Trump is heading for a whopping defeat in November. The Economist says there’s nearly a 99 percent chance that Joe Biden will win more popular votes and around a 90 percent chance that he will win more electoral college votes. But what if Trump won’t concede defeat? That is a nightmare scenario for our democracy that could make the 2000 showdown over Florida’s hanging chads seem like a grade-school dispute by comparison.
Trump is already laying the foundation to dispute the election outcome with his incessant claims that “Mail-In Ballots will lead to MASSIVE electoral fraud and a RIGGED 2020 Election.” Election officials label such concerns as “preposterous” and “false.” But they will serve as an excuse for the Republican Party to purge voter-registration rolls, limit mail-in ballots, close polling stations in minority areas and challenge in-person voting by minorities. Whatever it takes to win.
It’s doubtful that anything Trump does will produce a popular-vote victory; he lost by nearly 3 million votes in 2016 and will probably lose by a greater margin this year. But it won’t matter if, by election night, he is within spitting distance of an electoral college victory.
It is impossible to write off such concerns as far-fetched given how many seemingly far-fetched things have already occurred in the past four years.Trump got himself impeached by trying to blackmail a foreign country into helping his reelection campaign. He will stop at nothing to avoid the stigma of being branded a “loser.” Unless Biden wins by an electoral college margin that no one can credibly dispute, our democracy may be imperiled as never before. We had better start thinking now about how we would handle such an electoral crisis.
Former Melania Trump Confidante to Release an ‘Explosive’ Tell-All Before the Election. (Daily Beast, July 6, 2020)
Did Gov. DeWine find a brilliant legal strategy in ceding control of coronavirus regulations to Ohio's  local governments? (The Plain Dealer, July 6, 2020)
Is Ohio Governor Mike DeWine bold or wishy-washy with his decision to turn Ohio’s coronavirus battle over to local governments? That may depend on who you ask. After months of thoughtful leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, DeWine created a county-by-county risk ranking tool so local leaders can see how much danger they face and encouraged them to take the actions they deem necessary.
NEW: Sound, Fury and Prescription Drugs (New York Times, July 6, 2020)
Nothing typifies the failures of health care in the United States like prescription drugs. Americans pay more for their medications — including those developed in America, with taxpayer dollars — than residents of any other country in the world. So many patients are rationing or outright skipping essential medications that stories of people dying for want of basic drugs — or fleeing the country to avoid that fate — have become commonplace. And despite years in the spotlight, the issue is no closer to being resolved: Prescription drug prices rose four times faster than inflation in the past six months alone.
Consider seizing patents: Two statutes enable the federal government to override patents on F.D.A.-approved medications and produce them at cost. The first, known as Section 1498, works as a sort of eminent domain and allows the government to override any patent if the patent holder is compensated fairly. The provision was invoked frequently in the 1950s and ’60s to obtain crucial medications at a discount. Its use waned in later decades as the drug industry’s influence over government grew. The second statute, known as march-in rights, allows the federal government to take similar action on any product invented with government money. The United States has never used this power for a prescription drug, but a growing number of policy experts and consumer advocates are pressing the federal government to use it now, for drugs like Truvada (the only drug approved to prevent infection with H.I.V.), which the government funded and holds some patents on.
Involve the Federal Trade Commission: The F.D.A. has attempted to name and shame drug makers who use dubious tactics to prevent generic medications from coming to market, though it’s not clear how well those measures have worked. The F.D.A. has approved some 1,600 generic drugs in the past two years — an uptick from the final two years of the Obama administration, according to Kaiser Health News. But many of those drugs still aren’t available in the United States, and experts say that anti-competitive practices are at least partly to blame. The administration could help combat such practices by directing the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on drug companies that employ them. The threat of investigations and steep fines — which the F.T.C. can levy — may finally succeed where shame has failed. 
Fauci Says Virus Cases ‘Never Got Down to Where We Wanted to Go; Avoid Crowds’ as Deaths Pass 130,000. (New York Times, July 6, 2020)
Texas and Idaho set daily records for new cases. Two Texas sheriffs say they won’t enforce the governor’s order requiring residents to wear masks in public.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned on Monday that the country was still “knee-deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, as U.S. deaths passed 130,000 and cases neared three million, while Texas and Idaho set daily records for new cases. “I would say this would not be considered a wave,” Dr. Fauci said. “It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline that really never got down to where we wanted to go.” Dr. Fauci said that the more than 50,000 new cases a day recorded several times in the past week were “a serious situation that we have to address immediately.”
He pleaded with viewers to maintain social distancing strictures, as new outbreaks have been traced to large, indoor gatherings. “Avoid crowds,” he said. “If you’re going to have a social function, maybe a single couple or two — do it outside if you’re going to do it. Those are fundamental, and everybody can do that right now.”
Paul Krugman: The pandemic depression is on track. (New York Times, July 4, 2020)
The coronavirus led to a plunge in output and employment. This plunge, however, was a feature, not a bug. If we had stayed the course, this period of pain could have set the stage for a rapid recovery. But it was obvious early on that mishandling the situation — failing to stay the course on social distancing, failing to use the time to develop enough testing and contact tracing to gradually resume normal life while keeping a lid on new outbreaks — could extend the pain, turning a short, sharp recession into a prolonged depression, a long period of very high unemployment.
Well, it’s no longer a nightmare scenario; it’s just reality. The New York area, after a terrible start, has done what most advanced countries have done, and crushed the curve.
But Covid-19 is now exploding in the Sun Belt. Arizona is in full-blown crisis. So is Texas, especially big cities like Houston, where hospitalizations have soared. Florida, which has been suppressing data on hospitalizations, is probably similar. All three states have Republican governors who enthusiastically lifted stay-at-home orders and, in Arizona and Texas, at first even prevented local governments from requiring that people wear masks. Even now, they’re dithering, taking only baby steps toward restoring social distancing as the pandemic rages.
Biden builds lead as Trump goes from trailing to flailing. (Politico, July 4, 2020)
Biden’s polling lead over Trump is significant, though not unprecedented.
As recently as one month ago, Donald Trump was merely losing. Now he is flailing, trudging into the Independence Day weekend at the nadir of his presidency, trailing by double digits in recent polls and in danger of dragging the Republican Senate down with him.
But there are still four months before the election — and any number of ways for Biden to blow it. “If there’s one thing we learned from ’88, Biden is capable of screwing up big time,” said John J. Pitney Jr., who helped on Bush’s campaign in 1988 and wrote a book about that election last year.
That said, the underlying environment may be historically bad for Trump — so bad he may not only get flattened in November, but he might become the proximate cause of a wholesale shift in the American electorate. Seniors and suburban voters, two longtime pillars of the Republican coalition, are defecting to Joe Biden. Once-red states suddenly seem competitive, and children of Reagan Democrats are marching in the streets.
“The tectonic plates are shifting,” said Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House staffer who helped to manage the turmoil surrounding that president’s impeachment proceedings. “On June 1, if I had told you that by July 1 the flag would be down in Mississippi, Woodrow Wilson would be off the wall at Princeton, Juneteenth would be a national holiday for companies, Black Lives Matter would reflect the great, not so silent majority, you would question my sanity. That’s all happened in 30 days.”
Biden: "Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We're all created equal." (6-min. video; MSNBC, July 4, 2020)
Joe Biden sends an optimistic Fourth of July message in response to President Trump’s 'dystopia of fascism' Mount Rushmore speech. He warns President Trump could dismantle democracy if he is re-elected.
Biden focuses on racial justice in July 4 message. (Politico, July 4, 2020)   
“We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country,” Biden says in the Independence Day video.
Trump seeks to claim the mantle of history in fiery Mount Rushmore address. (Politico, July 4, 2020)
The president’s speech, part of a July 4 weekend celebration, comes after weeks of protests against racism and police brutality that have forced broader discussions over America's monuments. South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem said the roughly 3,700 people who attended the event did not need to wear masks or social distance. Like attendees of the president's June rallies in Tulsa, Okla., and Phoenix, Ariz., thousands crammed shoulder-to-shoulder to listen to Trump’s speech, his third campaign-style event since the beginning of the pandemic. The event also featured fireworks and a flyover by Air Force One, Marine One and military aircraft.
Trump has come under fire for speaking at Mount Rushmore, a national landmark honoring Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln with a history that has been scrutinized amid the nationwide protests. Native American groups — who consider the land on which the monument was built sacred — staged protests outside, clashing at times with the National Guard.
New video ad: "Benedict Donald" (1-min. video; Vote Vets, July 3, 2020)
Vote Vets keeps up its pressure.
How Fauci, 5 other health specialists deal with covid-19 risks in their everyday lives (Washington Post, July 3, 2020)
Q: When and where do you wear a mask?
A: Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: It dominates everything I do. The only time I don’t wear one is when I am alone, when I am home with my wife, or when I am speaking in public — provided there is 6 feet between me and the people to whom I am speaking, as was the case when I answered questions at the recent Congressional hearings.
How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President (Newsweek, July 3, 2020)
Something like the following scenario is not just possible but increasingly probable because it is clear Trump will do anything to avoid the moniker he hates more than any other: "loser."
Trump actually tweeted on June 22: "Rigged 2020 election: millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others. It will be the scandal of our times!" With this, Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for the step-by-step process by which he holds on to the presidency after he has clearly lost the election.
So what do we do as citizens to face the impending reality of The Plot Against America? We must "out" this scenario—and do so loudly and consistently. We have an imperative to build a "people's firewall" that reaches deeply across the country and reflects public revulsion at the potential for Trump to undermine our entire democratic system of governance.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, should immediately ask the Judiciary, Commerce, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees to hold hearings on how steps can be taken to safeguard against this scenario, especially how to confront any invocation of emergency powers by the president.
There needs to be an outpouring at all levels of society that this will not be tolerated—from government officials and lawmakers at all levels; to civic associations and civil rights groups; to business groups and trade associations, who have to recognize the economic chaos that would result from this kind of coup; to lawyers, academics and student groups practiced in resisting government policies; and, of course, to the editorial voices of the press, both local and national.
NEW: Covid-19 could improve work forever -- if we make this one change. (Inverse, July 3, 2020)
"Companies and industries are capable of making changes that they thought were impossible."
[All true. However, their 4-day work week falls far short of my own Miller Three-Day Work Week.]
NEW: The invention of satanic witchcraft by medieval authorities was initially met with skepticism. (The Conversation, July 2, 2020)
Church inquisitors, active against religious heretics since the 13th century, and some secular courts were looking to expand their jurisdictions. Having a new and particularly horrible crime to prosecute might have struck them as useful.
How Police Secretly Took Over a Global Phone Network for Organized Crime. (Motherboard, July 2, 2020)
Police monitored a hundred million encrypted messages sent through Encrochat, a network used by career criminals to discuss drug deals, murders, and extortion plots.
“What Do I Do? What Do I Do?”: Trump Desperate, Despondent as Numbers Crater, “Loser” Label Looms. (Vanity Fair, July 2, 2020)
“They probably won’t have” the Jacksonville convention. The Joni Ernst campaign is angry at Trump’s horrible numbers. Meadows and Kushner are at loggerheads over Parscale. And if things don’t turn around by Labor Day, GOP defections may begin.
Herman Cain hospitalized with 'serious' COVID-19 symptoms after attending Trump's Tulsa rally. (Dialy Kos, July 2, 2020)
On June 20, 2012 Republican presidential contender Herman Cain attended Trump's mask-optional rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Twelve days later, the tenders of Cain's Twitter account announced that Cain has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently hospitalized with "serious" symptoms. As campaign surrogate, Cain has been contemptuous of mask usage and dismissive of pandemic dangers. He tweeted from within the arena on June 20, with few masks to be seen in the crowd. Just yesterday, Cain bragged that masks "will not be mandatory" for Trump's Friday event at Mt. Rushmore, tweeting "PEOPLE ARE FED UP!"
Because of Cain's travel schedule, is not completely clear whether Cain was infected with the virus at Trump's Tulsa rally or at other events: "I realize people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling the past week, including to Arizona where cases are spiking," wrote HermanCain.com editor Dan Calabrese. A less gracious interpretation of that statement would be that Cain has been sufficiently indifferent to travel precautions as to be unable to trace his own contacts, and may have possibly himself spread the virus to others before becoming symptomatic enough to require hospitalization.
Trump's Tulsa campaign event was intentionally structured to ignore pandemic safety recommendations, even as Oklahoma cases began to escalate. At least eight Trump staffers involved with the event also tested positive for the virus. Trump and Pence have continued to ignore those precautions in trips to new pandemic hot spots Texas, Arizona, and Florida.
NEW: FDA warns consumers of risk of methanol contamination (blindness, hospitalization and death) in certain hand sanitizers. (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, July 2, 2020)
FDA is warning consumers and health care providers that the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested.
The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.
Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects. FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is ongoing. The agency will provide additional information as it becomes available.
[As of July 17th, this on-going report listed 71 products!]
Did a Mutation Turbocharge the Coronavirus? Not Likely, Scientists Say. (New York Times, July 2, 2020)
A preliminary report posted online claimed that a mutation had made the virus more transmissible. Geneticists say the evidence isn’t there.
"Who Made the Plague?", by Quincy Saul (CounterPunch, July 2, 2020)
Paul Krugmann: The Legacy of Our Original Sin (New York Times, July 2, 2020)
Non-American friends sometimes ask me why the world’s richest major nation doesn’t have universal health care. The answer is race: we almost got universal coverage in 1947, but segregationists blocked it out of fear that it would lead to integrated hospitals (which Medicare actually did do in the 1960s.) Most of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, even though the federal government would bear the great bulk of the cost, are former slave states.
The Italian-American economist Alberto Alesina suddenly died on March 23; among his best work was a joint paper that examined the reasons America doesn’t have a European-style welfare state. The answer, documented at length, was racial division: in America, too many of us think of the beneficiaries of support as Those People, not like us.
The Thru-Hikers Who Finished the Appalachian Trail During the Pandemic (Outside, July 1, 2020)
After months of trespassing and hiding from rangers, two hikers completed the Appalachian Trail in June. Their sagas raise questions about what it means to be outdoors in the United States right now.
Given a pandemic that has prompted global travel bans, and a domestic foment stemming from centuries of racial oppression and inequality, Underwood’s decision to press on along the Appalachian Trail highlights questions of privilege and pride that have long plagued the outdoor industry. “By hiking now, you have created a narrative that says, ‘My personal needs and desires outweigh a greater societal mission. At the end of the day, what’s really important is what I want,’” says Sandi Marra, the ATC’s president and CEO.
For Marra, the pandemic and concurrent protests over racial injustice are timely reminders of entrenched patterns in the thru-hiking community—it remains, overwhelmingly, the domain of educated white men. (Rahawa Haile has written sharply about surviving those stereotypes for Outside.) Marra hopes the current national turmoil inspires potential hikers to reflect on how they can make outdoor spaces more inclusive and diverse. Part of that, she thinks, is cultivating an image that the AT is not a land of lawlessness, some place of unchecked white male privilege.
“What are you out there for? People say it’s the experience or the trail or their mental health. But that comes with an obligation to treat the resource appropriately,” Marra says. “We have to start taking responsibility for something outside of our own immediate desires.”
‘Ghost fleas’ bring toxic mercury up from the depths of prairie lakes. (Science, July 1, 2020)
How toxic mercury moves through the environment—and accumulates in the fish that people eat—has been known for decades. Now, scientists have discovered an unexpected way that the neurotoxin circulates in lakes, hitching a late-night ride inside small predatory crustaceans dubbed “ghost fleas.” The finding helps explain why some lake fish contain surprising amounts of mercury. It also suggests researchers who sample lakes only during the day might be missing important clues to how those ecosystems work.
Is the hydrogen tech 'revolution' hope or hype? (BBC News, July 1, 2020)
The digger with the long-toothed bucket bites into a pile of stones, tilts up and flexes its sturdy mechanical arm. The digger with the long-toothed bucket bites into a pile of stones, tilts up and flexes its sturdy mechanical arm. It’s a beast of a machine and from the front it looks like a normal excavator.
But from the back you can see its tank full of dirty diesel has been replaced with a hydrogen fuel cell. The excavator is the latest in a generation of vehicles powered by the lightest element on Earth. The compendium of vehicles powered by hydrogen now stretches from diggers to micro-taxis, trucks, boats, vans, single-deck and now double-decker buses – and even small planes. It works by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity. The only direct emission is water.
So at last, the long-awaited hydrogen revolution is here. Or is it? Back in the early 2000s, backers of hydrogen thought it would dominate the clean automobile market. But the promised “hydrogen highway” never materialised, for a couple of crucial reasons. Firstly, hydrogen power needed a new infrastructure, whereas rival battery cars could be charged off the near-ubiquitous electricity grid. Secondly, high-powered batteries at that time were already well-advanced for other uses such as computers, but hydrogen was not. So hydrogen lost the head-on battle for the motor car. But now it’s back in the frame for the sort of transport, industry and heating tasks that batteries are struggling to fulfil.
Take our large mechanical digger, a prototype from JCB. It has a little battery-powered cousin – small enough to squeeze through a doorway and work in a building. But JCB say the big digger would need a battery weighing five tonnes, and take hours to refuel. Hydrogen on the other hand, is lighter than air and takes minutes to fill a tank. Lorries [large trucks] fall into the same category as diggers – sometimes the battery would be as heavy as the payload. The same applies to buses.
That still leaves the issue of charging infrastructure – but that can be solved by providing hydrogen pumps on motorways for long-distance truckers. Buses could use hydrogen stored at depots.
The EU Commission wants a slice of the action, too. The website Euractiv reported that it plans to publish a hydrogen strategy soon. A leaked draft floated the idea of making the Euro the currency for international hydrogen trades, as the US Dollar is for oil. The UK government also intends to announce a hydrogen strategy before the Parliament closes for the summer, as part of its economic recovery package. It’s being spurred on by rebukes that the UK lost the battle for battery technology to China – so it mustn't let the hydrogen bandwagon escape. The government is advised by its Committee on Climate Change to start large-scale trials in the early 2020s.
Indeed, within weeks from now, Britain’s first hydrogen train – developed by Birmingham University - will be tested on regular tracks.
NEW: Hyundai Launches ‘County Electric’ Minibus In South Korea. (Inside IVs, June 30, 2020)
The Hyundai County Electric can be configured for 15 to 33 seats; with a 128 kWh battery, it can drive up to 250 km (155 miles) on a single charge. Besides the obvious advantages over diesel, like zero-emissions and silence, the electric minibus is also around 30% quicker in the important speed range of 50-80 km/h (31-50 mph). AC charging (on-board) takes 17 hours, while DC fast charging (using a 150-kW charger takes 72 minutes.
The public sector of Bühl, Gernany uses Free Software. (Free Software Foundation Europe, June 30, 2020)
We have developed an open video conferencing platform, based on the Free Software Jitsi Meet, called Palim! Palim!. This offers video telephony to all Bühl citizens at no charge and, of course, beyond the town limits. We support families, groups of friends, associations, initiatives, and also companies in their efforts to be able to meet digitally in an uncomplicated and low-threshold manner. It does not require more than an up-to-date browser to stay in touch. No need to register or collect sensitive metadata. Since the launch of our platform at the beginning of April, we have seen many interesting use cases: for example, the digital children's leisure program for doing handicrafts together or the long-awaited reunion between nursing home residents and their families.
The Free Software project Jitsi Meet was exactly the software we were looking for. It offers a very easy access for our target group to video conferencing, is easy to administer and the active community quickly finds a solution to any problems that may arise. Furthermore, we had the possibility to customise the software exactly according to our ideas, for example to include the urban design.
The feedback has been amazing! At no time did we expect such a great response. Many citizens express their personal thanks to us and we have stopped counting how many municipalities have approached us with great interest. I believe that Free Software is currently experiencing an incredible boost and that the sensitivity for data sovereignty is growing rapidly.
We had been searching for a long time for a simple solution to make the minutes of meetings and discussions available to all participants in a bundled form and to be able to track important tasks. With the Free Software project 4Minitz we found a strong candidate that met almost all our requirements. The only catch: the interface was completely in English at that time and there was a risk of insufficient acceptance within the various specialist offices. With a total of more than 11,000 lines of changes to the code base, we initiated the development of internationalisation and localisation. It is very important to us not only to use Free Software, but also to give something back to the community. By now 4Minitz can be used in 18 different languages.
NEW: Minutes after new law, pro-democracy voices quit. (MSN News, June 30, 2020)
On Tuesday morning, the news started to break from Beijing: China had passed a new security law in Hong Kong. The law criminalises any act of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.
And within minutes, the effect was obvious. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong began to quit, fearful of the new law, and the punishment it allows.
Here is some of the reaction from them, other governments, and campaign groups.
Data on Financial Transfers Bolstered Suspicions That Russia Offered Bounties. (2-min. video; New York Times, June 30, 2020)
Analysts have used other evidence to conclude that the transfers were likely part of an effort to offer payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
NEW: Most People With Coronavirus Won’t Spread It. Why Do a Few Infect Many? (New York Times, June 30, 2020)
Growing evidence shows most infected people aren’t spreading the virus. But whether you become a superspreader probably depends more on circumstance than biology.
They created a model for the spread of the virus through five counties and estimated how many people each person infected. The researchers found many superspreading events. Just 2 percent of people were responsible for 20 percent of transmissions.
A study from Japan this month found clusters of coronavirus cases in health care facilities, nursing homes, day care centers, restaurants, bars, workplaces, and musical events such as live concerts and karaoke parties.
Since most transmission happens only in a small number of similar situations, it may be possible to come up with smart strategies to stop them from happening. It may be possible to avoid crippling, across-the-board lockdowns by targeting the superspreading events. “By curbing the activities in quite a small proportion of our life, we could actually reduce most of the risk,” said Dr. Kucharski.
NEW: Welcome to the United States of ‘Idiocracy, by Max Boot’. (Washington Post, June 30, 2020)
[Max Boot is a conservative columnist who resigned from the GOP four year ago.]
In other wealthy democracies, coronavirus cases have been plummeting. In the United States, they have risen 80 percent over the past 14 days. On Monday, the United States reported more than 40,000 new cases, while the European Union, which is more populous, had fewer than 6,000. The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in the United States is approaching 130,000, more than twice as many as in any other country.
It is easy, and correct, to blame this epic failure on abysmal leadership. We have an irrational, incompetent president who spent months denying the reality of the disease (remember when he claimed it would “miraculously” go away by April?), while suggesting cures including a risky malaria drug and bleach injections. Now President Trump is holding rallies in places such as Tulsa, where the disease is surging; campaign aides even removed signs from the arena urging rallygoers to practice social distancing. Trump is planning a Republican convention in a state, Florida, that has become a new hot spot of the disease. How idiotic can you get?
The presidency’s idiocy is matched by that of Republican governors in states such as Florida (where coronavirus cases increased by 277 percent in the past two weeks), Texas (+184 percent) and Arizona (+145 percent). They were slow to declare lockdowns and quick to end them. They also refused to impose statewide mask mandates — and, in the case of Texas and Arizona, tried to prevent municipalities from imposing their own rules — even though studies show that wearing masks can reduce transmission by as much as 85 percent.
This toxic imbecility is getting people killed. But recall the adage that “every nation gets the government it deserves.” Trump and the Trumpy governors did not seize power by force. They were elected by constituents who, in some cases, see masks as the spawn of the devil.
The US has 4% of the world's population but 25% of its coronavirus cases. (CNN, June 30, 2020)
The United States has long prided itself as the world's shining beacon. But its current status is a much darker one: the globe's leader in coronavirus cases.
More than 125,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, and more than 2.5 million Americans have been infected. American life has been irrevocably altered by the worst pandemic in a century. And as the country struggles to reopen, cases of Covid-19 have surged again -- this time in young people and in states that had previously avoided the brunt of the virus.
Here, in dollars, percentages and — most tragically — lives, is the pandemic's devastating toll on the US.
Fauci says U.S. could reach 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day. (2-min. video; 142-min. video; PBS, June 30, 2020)
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health. Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing COVID-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
Leaders in several states implemented new shutdowns and ordered residents to wear masks in public in a dramatic course reversal amid an alarming resurgence of coronavirus cases nationwide.
Jacksonville FL to require face masks to slow rising coronavirus cases less than 2 months before GOP convention. (CNN, June 29, 2020)
The convention is slated for August 24-27 in Jacksonville and Charlotte, North Carolina. The party moved parts of the convention out of Charlotte after Trump said the state's Democratic governor was "unable to guarantee" that the arena where the convention was to be held could be filled to capacity. Gov. Roy Cooper maintained that the state of the pandemic would dictate whether Republicans were able to fully gather. Cooper's office said Trump had called the governor and insisted on a full convention with no face masks or social distancing, and that Cooper expressed concern and suggested a scaled-back event.
Trump is now set to accept the nomination at the city-owned VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, which holds 15,000 people. Republicans are obligated to hold some portion of the convention in Charlotte because of a contract the party signed, but the celebration will be held in Jacksonville.
"The RNC is committed to holding a safe convention that fully complies with local health regulations in place at the time," Republican National Committee National Press Secretary Mandi Merritt said in a statement. "The event is still two months away, and we are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available PPE, aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available Covid-19 testing," Merritt said. "We have a great working relationship with local leadership in Jacksonville and the state of Florida, and we will continue to coordinate with them in the months ahead."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that Trump, who has resisted wearing a mask in public, told her he "has no problem with masks. It's the personal choice of any individual as to whether to wear a mask or not. He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety, but he did say to me he has no problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you."
Trump did not wear a mask at his recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and did not require attendees of the event at the indoor arena to wear masks.
Washington (CNN)The city of Jacksonville said Monday that it would adopt a face mask requirement for public and indoor locations and where social distancing is not possible, less than two months before President Donald Trump is set to accept the Republican nomination in the Florida city.
The new mandate, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, raises the possibility that attendees could be required to wear face masks at the GOP convention. It comes just weeks after Republicans announced that the President would make his speech in the city.
The convention is slated for August 24-27 in Jacksonville and Charlotte, North Carolina. The party moved parts of the convention out of Charlotte after Trump said the state's Democratic governor was "unable to guarantee" that the arena where the convention was to be held could be filled to capacity. Gov. Roy Cooper maintained that the state of the pandemic would dictate whether Republicans were able to fully gather.
Cooper's office said Trump had called the governor and insisted on a full convention with no face masks or social distancing, and that Cooper expressed concern and suggested a scaled-back event.
Jacksonville's mandatory face mask requirement comes after a spike in coronavirus cases in the state. Florida reported 9,585 new cases Saturday, a single-day record. The next day, Florida's Department of Health reported another 8,530 new cases. Beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach will be closed forFourth of July weekend as officials keep a cautious eye on the rapidly rising number of new coronavirus cases in the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked by CNN's Natasha Chen on Sunday if he has assured Trump that the convention can take place without mask requirements, after DeSantis said residents should stay away from closed spaces, crowds and close contact -- what he calls "the three C's." DeSantis responded, "It's a work in progress. We're going to try to get to yes. ... Obviously we're in a dynamic situation."
Swine flu strain with human pandemic potential increasingly found in Chinese pigs. (Science Magazine, June 29, 2020)
The new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4. The virus is a unique blend of three lineages: one similar to strains found in European and Asian birds, the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, and a North American H1N1 that has genes from avian, human, and pig influenza viruses. The G4 variant is especially concerning because its core is an avian influenza virus—to which humans have no immunity—with bits of mammalian strains mixed in. “From the data presented, it appears that this is a swine influenza virus that is poised to emerge in humans,” says Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who studies pathogens. “Clearly this situation needs to be monitored very closely.”
Influenza viruses frequently jump from pigs to humans, but most do not then transmit between humans. Two cases of G4 infections of humans have been documented and both were dead-end infections that did not transmit to other people. “The likelihood that this particular variant is going to cause a pandemic is low,” says Martha Nelson, an evolutionary biologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center who studies pig influenza viruses in the United States and their spread to humans. But Nelson notes that no one knew about the pandemic H1N1 strain, which jumped from pigs to people, until the first human cases surfaced in 2009.
NEW: A COVID-19 survivor's tale (26-min. video; Healthcare Finance, June 29, 2020)
A 60-year-old doctor spent more than 100 days as an isolated coronavirus patient - 45 of those days while kept unconscious with "Milk of Amnesia". While lucky to have survived in good condition, he noted the general suffering from institutionalized loneliness/depression from enforced lack of contact with caretakers or others. Even photos of the masked caretakers would have helped. "Wear a mask!"
Global death toll from coronavirus surpasses half a million; 10 million cases; U.S. is worst affluent country. (Washington Post, June 29, 2020)
That tally is just the latest reminder of the pandemic’s brutal toll. Over the weekend, the number of coronavirus cases reported worldwide soared past 10 million. Earlier in the day, the total number of coronavirus cases reported in the United States topped 2.5 million amid worsening outbreaks in Florida, Texas and Arizona.
[The United States now is by far the worst wealthy nation in coronavirus cases per million of population. (The curves for China and South Korea are similar to that for Japan.)]
Pelosi on Trump and Russia: ‘This Is as Bad as it Gets’. (New York Times, June 29, 2020)
A Times investigation, published Friday, found that Trump was briefed on an intelligence report three months ago showing that Russia had offered cash rewards to Islamic militants launching attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But the White House still hasn’t taken any steps to retaliate or make the Russians stop.
“This is as bad as it gets,” Nancy Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week,” pointing out that Trump denied having been briefed on the intelligence. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and our allies — some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan — had been briefed and accept this report.”
Joe Biden weighed in: “His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale. It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”
VoteVets Ad: Don't Thank Us, Traitor. (30-sec. video; VoteVets, June 28, 2020)
If Donald Trump wants to act like a traitor, he doesn't get to thank us for our service.
Trump’s articles of impeachment — updated (Washington Post, June 28, 2020)
Imagine that the Senate had simply postponed its impeachment vote — and that we had the opportunity now to update the articles of impeachment. Based on Trump’s behavior this year, and what we’ve learned of his prior actions, would we have anything to add? Where to start?
Changing the state flag is not about forgetting Mississippi’s past. It’s about acknowledging it. (Washington Post, June 28, 2020)
In a development that many Mississippians had longed for but never really expected to happen in our lifetimes, the state’s House and Senate on Saturday began the process of changing the flag adopted in 1894 as a backlash against Reconstruction. The way has been cleared for legislation, which Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has said he would sign, to introduce a new state flag that, finally, would represent all Mississippians.
With Flights Banned, Son Sails Solo Across Atlantic to Reach Father, 90. (New York Times, June 28, 2020)
An Argentine man stuck in Portugal because of the virus travels for 85 days the only way he could: in a small boat.
‘They Want to Kill Me’: Many Covid Patients Have Terrifying Delirium. (New York Times, June 28, 2020)
Paranoid hallucinations plague two-thirds of coronavirus patients in I.C.U.s, an experience that can slow recovery and increase risk of depression and cognitive issues.
White House Blames Rise in Virus Cases on More Testing, as Experts Dispute the Claim. (New York Times, June 28, 2020)
Vice President Mike Pence and the nation’s top health official, Alex M. Azar II, continued to assert on Sunday that reopenings in many states were not causing the sharp rises in coronavirus cases.
Heather Cox Richardson: White House lies again and again - and so poorly. (Letters from an American, June 27, 2020)
How The World Missed COVID-19's Silent Spread (New York Times, June 27, 2020)
Symptomless transmission makes the coronavirus far harder to fight. But health officials dismissed the risk for months, pushing misleading and contradictory claims in the face of mounting evidence.
After Asking Americans to Sacrifice in Shutdown, Leaders Failed to Control Virus. (New York Times, June 27, 2020)
As Covid-19 cases surge, it is clear many governors underestimated the coronavirus and rushed to reopen before their states were ready.
Arizona AG sends cease & desist order to Phoenix church with magic air that hosted Trump. (Daily Kos, June 27, 2020)
In its Comments thread:
"They certainly are lawsuit-vulnerable. In fact, the Arizona AG’s order includes the requirement that all written and electronic Dream City facility rental documents be preserved due to the possibility of consumer fraud litigation. The AG (who’s Republican!) notes that the order was issued because the church rents the space out on a regular basis (as they did for Trump’s rally) so it falls under the consumer protection laws of the state. It’s really quite a good action, especially for a red state AG."
"I’m sure this voids any validity the Covid waivers had."
"Yes, and: if a participant carries the received virus to a third party, that party has a cause of action, as well."
"As VP Pence so wisely reminded us, it’s all about the people’s First Amendment Rights to peaceably assemble. And not, of course, about anybody’s responsibilities to prevent the spread of a deadly epidemic. Americans have rights, not responsibilities."
As coronavirus cases surge, Texas governor says he let bars reopen too early. (Washington Post, June 27, 2020)
Biden’s Best Veep Pick Is Obvious. (New York Times, June 27, 2020)
She, more than anyone, can get under Trump’s skin.
Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says. (New York Times, June 26, 2020)
The Trump administration has been deliberating for months about what to do about a stunning intelligence assessment.
Heather Cox Richardson: Worst pandemic day in USA; and White House withholds Russian scandal from Congress (Letters from an American, June 26, 2020)
Today the United States registered 44,702 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record. Six states-- Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, and Utah-- also set new single-day highs. In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, officials in Florida and Texas, where governors have been aggressive about reopening, have both reversed course, announcing that bars must close immediately.
Incredibly, that’s not the day’s biggest story.
This evening, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both broke extraordinary news. Months ago, American intelligence officials concluded that during peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, a Russian military intelligence group offered to Taliban-linked fighters bounties for killing American troops. They paid up, too, although it is unclear which of the twenty U.S. deaths happened under the deal.
The military intelligence unit officials judge to be behind this program, the G.R.U., is the same one that is engaged in a so-called “hybrid war” against America and other western countries, destabilizing them through disinformation, cyberattacks, and covert military operations and assassinations. Urging deadly attacks on American and other NATO troops is a significant escalation of that hostility. New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz tweeted “it’s hard to overstate what a major escalation this is from Russia. Election meddling and the occasional poisoning are one thing. Paying the Taliban to kill American troops, that’s something entirely new.”
According to the New York Times, the National Security Council discussed the intelligence finding in late March and came up with a range of responses, none of which has been deployed. The NSC can include a number of different officials, but by law it includes the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. It usually also includes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, and Director of National Intelligence, who in March was acting DNI Richard Grenell (it is now John Ratcliffe).
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to Twitter to note that Congress had not been informed of the information. “Congress should have been told,” he said. “And not just leadership or the Intel Committee.”
Instead of addressing this extraordinary intelligence, Trump strengthened various U.S. ties to Russia, which have been rocky since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
For example, on June 15 news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. The removal leaves 25,000 troops there.
All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020. But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers.
This news is bad, bad enough that it apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.
Neutrinos Reveal Final Secret of Sun’s Nuclear Fusion. (Scientific American, June 25, 2020)
The detection of particles produced in the sun’s core supports long-held theory about how our star is powered.
A Burst of Light Unlike Any Captured Before (The Atlantic, June 25, 2020)
Astronomers say they have captured an unexpected spark from a collision of two black holes.
Trump believes anyone who dies from Covid-19 is a 'loser'. (Daily Kos, June 25, 2020)
The mass psychosis  of denial that we are witnessing in Republican-governed states is a direct consequence of Trump's "macho" attitude towards "winning" or "beating" the pandemic.
The Trump Referendum: He still has no second term message beyond his own grievances. (Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, June 25, 2020)
President Trump may soon need a new nickname for “Sleepy Joe” Biden. How does President-elect sound? On present trend that’s exactly what Mr. Biden will be on Nov. 4, as Mr. Trump heads for what could be an historic repudiation that would take the Republican Senate down with him.
[A comment about the above, from Political Wire: "Murdock is messaging GOP senators. WH is gone. If the billionaires lose the senate, they may be treated like ordinary Americans and that is intolerable."]
NEW: Ranked choice voting can promote equality. (CommonWealth, June 25, 2020)
Ranked choice voting is key to addressing some of the political hurdles that creates the dysfunctional “us vs. them” political system, which is exactly what is standing between this movement and real change in our neighborhoods. Voters have resigned themselves to a system that allows extreme partisanship to dominate our electoral process. Candidates then conduct themselves in a similar fashion once they’re governing because, well, it helped them get into office (often without a majority) and they’ll need to win again in the future.
With ranked choice voting, candidates need to speak more universally because they need to appeal to a true majority to win. It would make candidates focus on their constituencies more universally. Black voters represent a small portion of the population in relative terms, but are perhaps the defining voting constituency of our time and need to be heard.
NEW: Barr says, without citing evidence, that an election done predominantly by mail would not be secure. (6-min. video; CNN, June 25, 2020)
Attorney General William Barr dismissed the possibility of a predominantly mail-in election being secure, echoing a stance promoted by President Donald Trump and dismissed by nonpartisan election experts. When asked during an interview with NPR if he thought an election conducted mainly by mail could be secure, Barr said, "Personally, no. We just mailed out checks under this program. I heard something like 20% or something were misdirected," Barr said, referring to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday that stated more than $1 billion in stimulus funding was sent to people who are deceased.
The process for mailing absentee ballots and stimulus checks differs in key ways. The stimulus checks were sent automatically to people who had direct deposit information on file with the US Treasury and those who didn't have that information on file were sent their checks in the mail. Absentee ballots are not simply sent to individual voters; most people who vote by mail have to apply to vote absentee before receiving a ballot.
"I know things can happen like that," Barr added when asked if he thought the same thing could happen with mail-in ballots. "Because I know people move, a very high percentage in the United States, people move all the time. And I also know that you can easily take things out of mailboxes."
There are also not widespread reports of individuals removing absentee ballots from mailboxes, as Barr suggested was possible.
Barr's comments come as public health experts in Trump's own administration have encouraged voting by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic and in the absence of any evidence of widespread or rampant fraud in US elections.
The President has claimed, without evidence, that there is systemic cheating with mail-in ballots and has made false accusations against states that are expanding absentee and mail-in options, despite voting by mail himself. Numerous studies suggest that voter fraud is all but nonexistent in the US, and the President's own voter fraud commission disbanded without finding any evidence to back up his claims.
It’s almost as if Trump is determined to destroy the Republican Party. (Washington Post, June 25, 2020)
Let me summarize the Republican platform for the coming election:
We are the party of white racial grievance. We believe those marching in Black Lives Matter protests are “thugs.” We see the term “systemic racism” as an unfair attack on white people. We support keeping Confederate monuments on their pedestals, and we have no idea why anyone would consider Confederate flags a problem. We are equal-opportunity racists. We see Latino immigrants as “bad hombres.” And we believe that using the racist term “kung flu” to describe covid-19 is hilarious, not least because we are convinced the covid-19 pandemic is basically over, anyway. Who cares what pointy-headed “experts” might say — we know in our hearts that patriotic Americans don’t wear masks.
NEW:  Why Trump’s focus on falling death rates could be dangerous. Politico, June 25, 2020)
Death rates tell nothing about the current spread of the virus and only offer a snapshot of where the country was roughly three weeks ago.
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.
CDC broadens guidance on Americans facing risk of severe Covid-19. (STAT, June 25, 2020)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday broadened its warning about who is at risk of developing severe disease from Covid-19 infection, suggesting even younger people who are obese or have other health conditions can become seriously ill if they contract the virus. The new advice, timed to influence behavior going into the July 4 weekend, came as CDC Director Robert Redfield acknowledged serology testing the agency has conducted suggests about 20 million Americans, or roughly 6% of the population, has contracted Covid-19. Redfield said for every person who tests positive, another 10 cases have likely gone undiagnosed.
As the rest of the world recovers, the United States heads toward a singular disaster. (Daily Kos, June 25, 2020)
Around the globe, the story of the pandemic is changing. As nation after nation brings local outbreaks under control, more and more this isn’t the story of a global disease. It’s a story about the utter failure of the United States … a disaster that may genuinely reshape the planet. It’s not just that new U.S. cases of COVID-19 are now greater than they were at their previous peak in April: it’s that they’re increasing at a rate equal to that of the previous climb in March.
[See the second graph.]
If there’s anything that’s been front and center throughout Donald Trump’s residency in the White House, it’s been the utter and absolute destruction of the United States’ role as a world leader. Trump has seen to it that U. S. policy is vindictive, trite, and petty—utterly unconcerned with issues such as human rights or the environment, and absolutely focused on playing golf, eating cake, and exchanging “beautiful” letters with autocratic tyrants. Trump is far more concerned about where he gets to stand in pictures of NATO leaders than he is about the policies of NATO toward neighboring nations.
But if Trump’s handling of foreign affairs made the United States a laughingstock, his mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic is making the nation a pariah state. Donald Trump has achieved this singular accomplishment in the same way that he has bumbled between so many failures in the past: an absolute inability to realize that he does not know everything. Trump is not smarter than all the generals. He doesn’t know more about energy than all the engineers. He doesn’t understand the environment better than all the scientists. And he absolutely does not understand how to manage a pandemic better than all the epidemiologists and health care experts at his disposal.
It’s absolutely true that the United States has access to the best experts and unmatched resources. That’s exactly what makes this such a tragedy. Thanks to Donald Trump—thanks to Matt Gaetz, and Jim Jordan, and Devin Nunes, and Mitch McConnell, and Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and Bill Barr, and every other damn Republican who has patted Trump on the back every time he has claimed some kind of special genius that allows him to ignore the actual experts—the United States is not just hurtling toward an epic disaster, it has already taken the kind of fall usually reserved for mythological figures.
How many Americans will die is still to be seen. But the “American Century” is dead and buried.
Everything you need to know about Saharan dust (AccuWeather, June 25, 2020)
A hazy red twilight took over the area as the dust thickened, car headlights soon becoming the only source of light. Within just a few seconds, day had turned into night. The wet season had begun, bringing with it one of the two dust seasons that the West African nation, along with others in the region, face annually.
Before the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) had reached the Caribbean Sea earlier this week, thermal lows near the West African coast churned up dust that would contribute to the traveling plume, but not before hitting West African cities and towns.
Every year, around 2 billion tons of dust enters the atmosphere, globally, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), leading to sand and dust storms that can affect the weather, the environment and people's health. Among the health concerns that the dust can bring are respiratory problems and heart disorders. Dust storms can also spread diseases such as meningitis, according to the WMO.
The team found bacteria that are linked with respiratory diseases, including Micrococcus, Burkholderia and Pseudomonas in the dust they collected. The article states additional analysis using genomic techniques would better assist in identifying bacteria and potential pathogens carried by the dust, which could cause health impacts in West Africa and, downstream of the SAL, the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast, South America and Europe.
The Pyramid of Equity Returns: Almost 200 Years of U.S. Stock Performance (Visual Capitalist, June 25, 2020)
The year-to-date performance of the S&P 500 sits at -4.7%, which falls within the normal historic range.
The Black-White Wage Gap Is as Big as It Was in 1950. (New York Times, June 24, 2020)
That’s remarkable. Despite decades of political change — the end of enforced segregation across the South, the legalization of interracial marriage, the passage of multiple civil rights laws and more — the wages of black men trail those of white men by as much as when Harry Truman was president. That gap indicates that there have also been powerful forces pushing against racial equality.
Before getting into the causes, though, I want to explain the difference between the best-known wage statistics and the more accurate version. The traditional numbers are incomplete in a way that many people do not realize: They cover only workers. People who don’t work are ignored. This group includes students, full-time parents, people who have given up on finding work and people who are incarcerated.
NEW: A Decade Of Sun (61-min. video; Solar Dynamics Observatory, June 24, 2020)
Our greatest invention was the invention of invention itself. (Psyche, June 24, 2020)
There is a mental ability we possess today that must have emerged at some point in our history, and whose emergence would have vastly enhanced our ancestors’ creative powers. The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other possibilities. This is the key to sustained innovation and creativity, and to the development of art, science and technology. Archaic humans, in all probability, didn’t possess it. The static nature of their lifestyle suggests that they lived in the present, their attention locked on to the world, and their behaviour driven by habit and environmental stimuli. In the course of their daily activities, they might accidentally hit on a better way of doing something, and so gradually acquire new habits and skills, but they didn’t actively think up innovations for themselves.
How did hypothetical thinking develop?
Boston becomes the biggest East Coast city to ban face recognition. (Fast Company, June 24, 2020)
Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports. “Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.
Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.
Google will now auto-delete location and search history by default for new users. (The Verge, June 24, 2020)
A compromise between privacy and ad-targeting data.
Google’s auto-delete feature applies to search history (on web or in-app), location history, and voice commands collected through the Google Assistant or devices like Google Home. Google logs that data in its My Activity page, where users can see what data points have been collected and manually delete specific items. Historically, Google has retained that information indefinitely, but in 2019, the company rolled out a way to automatically delete data points after three months or 18 months, depending on the chosen setting.
Starting today, those settings will be on by default for new users. Google will set web and app searches to auto-delete after 18 months even if users take no action at all. Google’s location history is off by default, but when users turn it on, it will also default to an 18-month deletion schedule.
The new defaults will only apply to new users, and existing Google accounts won’t see any settings change. However, Google will also be promoting the option on the search page and on YouTube in an effort to drive more users to examine their auto-delete settings. Auto-delete can be turned on from the Activity Controls page.
The system also extends to YouTube history, although the default will be set to three years to ensure the broader data can be used by the platform’s recommendation algorithms.
Can We Call Trump a Killer? (New York Times, June 24, 2020)
It seems that in every possible way throughout this coronavirus pandemic, Trump has willfully and arrogantly put more Americans at risk of getting sick and dying, and the results have been inevitable: More Americans got sick and died. There is no way to remove Trump’s culpability in this. If your feeble effort saves two lives when an earnest, robust, science-driven effort would have saved four, are you not responsible for the two deaths?
At this point, how do we not label Trump a killer of American citizens by negligence, ignorance and incompetence?
[See "Depraved-Heart Murder" in Wikipedia.]
U.S. Sets Record for Daily New Cases as Virus Surges in South and West. (New York Times, June 24, 2020)
Public health officials in the United States reported 36,880 new cases on Wednesday. Houston’s intensive-care units are running out of available beds, the mayor said.
The Unfathomable Stupidity of Rich White Men (Daily Kos, June 24, 2020)
Barack Obama didn’t want to ruin you, you dumbasses!  He wasn’t out to confiscate your estates, kill your grandmas, and force you into re-education camps!   All he wanted was a more humane, less cruel, less racist version of the system that made you rich.  You should have wanted that too!  Not because you care about other people -- for your own good!   But you were too stupid.
What’s At Risk: An 18-Month View of a Post-COVID World (Visual Capitalist, June 24, 2020)
How the pandemic will reshape the job market (Axiom, June 23, 2020)
Global economy to shrink 'disastrous' 4.7% in 2020 amid post-pandemic scarring, Bloomberg economists forecast. (Business Insider, June 23, 2020)
Output won't fully rebound until the second quarter of 2021 as unemployment lingers and consumer confidence remains suppressed, the economists said.
Axios-Ipsos poll: Catching up when the virus comes. (Axios, June 23, 2020)
People in mostly red states where coronavirus cases have been rising the fastest are developing a heightened sense of risk and taking steps to dial back their exposure, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
These patterns are playing out comes as Americans across the nation brace for a resurgence in infections:
- 85% worry about a second wave.
- 70% now say going back to their "normal" pre-coronavirus life would be a large to moderate risk, up from 64% a week earlier and 57% two weeks ago.
- 71% worry their community will reopen too soon, also the highest share in a month.
Between the lines: Americans are looking to institutions they trust for cues about how to behave. About eight in 10 said they would stay home and avoid others if either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their governor told them to, or if local cases spiked, hospitals reported being full or people they knew tested positive.
Heat and Fire Scorches Siberia. (NASA, June 23, 2020)
In a report about the remarkably warm temperatures in Siberia, European scientists examined historical temperature data in their global ERA5 reanalysis, finding that temperatures have been unusually warm in the region since January 2020. Since the ERA5 data begins in 1979, the European team also looked to GISTEMP, a NASA temperature record with data through 1880. They could not find any other examples in either dataset of such an intense heat wave in this part of Siberia persisting for such an extended period.
The persistent high-pressure atmospheric pattern that brought the extreme heat has exacerbated wildfires, prompting dozens to burn in the region’s forest and shrub ecosystems. Some of those ecosystems grow on top of carbon-rich layers of peat and permafrost.
The GOP’s impossible choice on Trump’s coronavirus testing comments: He’s dangerous, or he’s lying. (Washington Post, June 23, 2020)
Among the things President Trump has forced his fellow Republicans to defend him on, few have risen to the level of him saying he asked for slower coronavirus testing. Whatever bonkers theories exist about the novel coronavirus, no serious person thinks less testing would be a good thing — unless, of course, you’re more worried about the numbers being a political liability than you are about lives. So, multiple White House officials said he was joking. And then Trump on Tuesday, as has often been the case, assured the opposite. “I don’t kid,” he said.
That leaves Republicans with an uneasy choice: suggest Trump is lying, or suggest he’s actually pushing for the unthinkable. They appear to be going with the former.
Fauci, Citing ‘Disturbing Surge,’ Tells Congress the Virus Is Not Under Control. (New York Times, June 23, 2020)
The testimony of the nation’s top infectious disease expert countered President Trump’s upbeat assessment, describing a “mixed bag” of some bright spots amid worrying trends and unknowns.
Trump just froze work visas during a time when a record number of immigrant-founded companies are generating record amounts of revenue. (Business Insider, June 23, 2020)
NEW: Top Pentagon nominee pushed conspiracy theories that former CIA director tried to overthrow Trump and even have him assassinated. (CNN, June 23, 2020)
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who was nominated to become the under secretary of defense for policy at the Department of Defense, promoted conspiracy theories that John Brennan, the former CIA director, wanted to oust Trump from office, and pushed a bogus conspiracy theory that Brennan sent a coded tweet to order the assassination of Trump in 2018.
CNN's KFile reviewed dozens of Tata's radio and television appearances and found that he also spread conspiracy theories that a "deep state cabal" of officials would rather see Trump fail than succeed in office, a sentiment echoed by the President and his allies, using extreme rhetoric. Tata also said then-President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama engaged in "borderline treasonous" behavior by expressing their dismay over a Trump presidency during the transition period.
The retired general's nomination to the third-highest position at the Pentagon faces jeopardy after Democratic senators spoke out against his nomination following CNN's KFile reporting last week on Tata's history of Islamophobia and derogatory comments and tweets, including falsely calling Obama a Muslim and "terrorist leader." At least two high-profile retired generals have pulled their support for Tata since his tweets were reported. Tata has since deleted dozens of his tweets, screenshots of which were captured by CNN.
If confirmed by the Senate, Tata would oversee the Pentagon's policy on everything from Afghanistan, China, Iran and Russia to nuclear deterrence and missile defense policy. He would also closely advise the secretary of defense on national security and support the Pentagon's program and budget decisions.
A US defense official confirmed that Tata still works as a senior adviser in the Pentagon.
Tata's nomination comes as the White House seeks to install loyalists to key positions throughout the administration.
His newly surfaced comments appear to mimic what the President and his allies have long maintained -- that the "deep state" has sought to undermine Trump's presidency and that his opponents would rather see the country fail than see him succeed -- without citing specific evidence.
Trump family seeks to block book by president’s niece that calls him ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’. (Washington Post, June 23, 2020)
President Trump’s brother on Tuesday petitioned a New York court to block the publication of a book by Mary L. Trump that describes the president, her uncle, as the “world’s most dangerous man.” Presales of the book, slated for publication on July 28, have soared to the top of bestseller lists on the basis of a description from publisher Simon & Schuster that it will reveal decades of family secrets, including a “nightmare of traumas” that explain the psychology of the man who is now president.
The darker side to TikTok’s Trump rally trolling (Washington Post, June 23, 2020)
Think Russia spreading WikiLeaks information under the guise of everyday concerned U.S. citizens. Think right-wing provocateurs masquerading as antifa as protests roared across the country, tricking rural communities to fear attacks were imminent. Or think of information warfare that isn’t technically coordinated inauthentic behavior and yet still can be insidious: conspiracy theorists taking advantage of, say, the way Twitter’s trending topics list is set up to push fringe ideas such as QAnon or Pizzagate into mainstream conversation.
We may smile to see members of a rising generation employ these tricks in service of progressive values. After all, those who pioneered them and who exploit them today often take pride in valuelessness — bowing down to chaos and crafting a world where we can believe nothing and everything at the same time. Surely it is better to troll to disrupt racism than to promote it.
Yet celebrating some manipulation and condemning others is an unsustainable tack for anyone who wants to untangle our world wide web of lies. The whole story is cute and clever, but more than that it’s sad — sad that this is the activism that feels most normal and most natural to those who grew up in the Internet age, sad that many believe it’s the activism most likely to succeed in a battlefield already full of falsehoods, and sadder still that they may be right.
How you can help unleash the new global university (University of Cape Town SA, June 23, 2020)
On Monday, 29 June, the University of Cape Town (UCT) will host the first of a series of virtual events: Unleashing the New Global University.
This time of extraordinary global crisis – combining the pandemic with protests about race and gender inequality – presents an opportunity to rethink how we can do things differently as a university. Not just within our current geographical space but around the world.
Universities around the world have had their international activities brought to a halt by COVID-19. International students have returned home, conferences have been cancelled or postponed, research that required travel has seen at least a pause, if not a complete rethink.
But this model of internationalisation was already failing because it reinforced inequality. Which groups of people are most able to travel around the world to attend academic conferences and meetings? Which kinds of students are able to take up the exciting and career-advancing opportunities of international experiences? It is surely those from wealthier backgrounds and institutions, mostly in the global north, mostly without primary childcare responsibilities. The current model also has an impact on the planet. While most universities claim to value sustainability, few have translated that into action when it comes to travel.
These issues of inequality and sustainability are at the heart of UCT’s values and our proposed Vision 2030 for UCT. We are well placed to lead this conversation: while we are far more challenged by the requirements of internationalisation than our wealthier partners in the global north, we are better able to play in these international waters than most other institutions in the country and on the continent.
Truth is that we can’t solve the problems alone. We need to persuade our partners to see the challenges for what they are, to help us think through solutions, and to have the political will to change with us.
Segway, the most hyped invention since the Macintosh, ends production. (Fast Company, June 23, 2020)
The Segway brand will no longer make its two-wheeled, self-balancing namesake.
Privacy-Focused Tails OS Wants to Know How Facebook and the FBI Hacked it. (Vice, June 23, 2020)
The developers of Tails and a video player, targeted by Facebook and the FBI in an operation to catch a child predator, are still in the dark about how the feds hacked the software.
Should Facebook, the FBI, of the cybersecurity firm, have alerted Tails or GNOME after Buster Hernandez was safely behind bars? “They should have been notified,” a current Facebook employee, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not allowed to speak to the press, told Motherboard. According to several privacy and security experts, the answer is a resounding yes as well. In fact, many think Facebook should not have gotten involved in making and paying for the hacking tool in the first place.
“The fact that Facebook or any private company would think they had the right to commission the creation of malware against another software entity is so incredibly arrogant,” said Katie Mossouris, who used to lead the vulnerability research teams at Microsoft and Symantec and is one of the world’s most well-known experts on coordinated disclosure. “Security professionals worth their salt are worried about governments not making the right call when it comes to making decisions in the Vulnerability Equities Process, and we’re all supposed to be fine with that kind of decision resting in Facebook’s hands?” According to Moussouris, what Facebook did in this case “is more evidence that Facebook is out of control at best and is making the world less safe for people who need anonymity to survive.”
Harlo Holmes has been developing tools for journalists and activists for years, and now helps media organizations set up SecureDrop and trains their journalists to use tools such as Tails. Holmes said that Facebook needs to be more transparent as to what the vulnerability was exactly, and what the agreement with the FBI was. "What was in that contract? Was it a one time use license against this one actor? Or did they just hand it over to the FBI and be like 'now this is in your arsenal now'?" Holmes said in a phone call. “Those are very, very key questions.” Moreover, she said that it’s hard to understand how Facebook thought it would be OK to help the FBI hack a child molester, while the company is also suing the spyware maker NSO Group for using WhatsApp to help their customers hack targets. "The hypocrisy is absolutely wild," she said. “More hackers should learn about the ethics of what we do, and this is a textbook example.
NEW: This is the most succinct -- and brutal -- Republican rejection of Donald Trump that you will ever read. (2-min. video; CNN, June 23, 2020)
"Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had. And I don't say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day where Barack Obama left office."
Trump Kills US. (1-min. video; MeidasTouch, June 23, 2020)
[Pass it on.]
Ahead of Trump Visit, Church Makes Unproven Claim of Virus-Killing Technology. (New York Times, June 23, 2020)
An Arizona megachurch hosting President Trump on Tuesday misleadingly claimed that its new air purification system “kills 99.9 percent of Covid within 10 minutes” but then backtracked shortly before the president spoke. Mr. Trump visited Dream City Church in Phoenix, one of the nation’s biggest megachurches, to speak to thousands of Arizona college students gathered to support his re-election. With coronavirus cases sharply increasing in the state, some public health experts said the gathering had the potential to be a disaster.
The president went to Phoenix to speak to a group of student supporters. Even as Arizona is seeing some of the steepest increases in cases and deaths in the country, thousands of residents have packed bars and restaurants in recent weeks, trying to escape both heat and boredom. Until last week, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, prevented Democratic mayors in the state from requiring face masks. After calls to restrict or cancel the Trump appearance, Mr. Ducey told reporters, “we’re going to protect people’s rights to assemble in an election year.” He attended the event on Tuesday.
Mayor Kate Gallego of Phoenix, a Democrat, repeatedly criticized the event, saying on Monday that “it does not abide by C.D.C. guidelines during Covid-19.” “Public health is a group effort, not a partisan issue,” she added. “It requires the participation of every resident and every level of government.”
Photos of the event taken inside the church showed the crowd shoulder to shoulder, with very few people appearing to wear masks. Anyone who registered for the event was required to sign a waiver. “By attending this convention, you and any guest voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Turning Point Action, their affiliates, Dream City Church, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” it said.
Problem solved? The Phoenix Arizona church hosting a Trump rally claims it can kill COVID-19. (AZCentral, June 22, 2020)
Opinion: Dream City Church says it has found a technology to wipe out almost all traces of COVID-19? That's too good and convenient to be true.
Privacy experts say many coronavirus apps aren't doing enough to safeguard users' information. (Washington Post, June 22, 2020)
Governments across the world are leaning on an array of coronavirus technologies, such as contact-tracing apps and smart thermometers, to make decisions about reopening. But experts are warning that their security and privacy protections are lacking — which could make it easier for hackers to compromise peoples' personal information. Developers of the apps did not implement strong digital protections that are standard on other technology that deals with sensitive personal or health information And many are siphoning data to third parties — which means peoples' private information could be used for targeted advertising or to track them across other, non-related apps.
President Trump Just Suspended the Tech Industry's Favorite Visa. (Wired, June 22, 2020)
The administration said the move will give US workers access to an additional 525,000 jobs. But sectors with lots of H-1B visas tend to have low unemployment.
Trump knows he is losing, and he's prepared to tear the nation apart when it happens. (Daily Kos, June 22, 2020)
Donald J. Trump may have some sanity problems, but even he has to recognize that the crowds are smaller, the polling data is worsening every day, and his re-election looks shakier with every passing week. There are a few standards that Presidents are expected to commit to in our country. One of those standards is the peaceful transition of power. Donald J. Trump, however, is not one of those presidents. Instead, President Trump is busy laying out a case, now, for unbridled civil unrest and ‘let’s end democracy’ acts should he fail to win in November. Why? Because Trump is already calling the 2020 election a fraud.
'Uhhhhh' Trump falters as reporter pins him down on whether he slowed COVID-19 testing. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, June 22, 2020)
 Donald Trump used a whole lot of words to refuse to say “no” when asked if he really told his administration to slow down coronavirus testing. During his flop of a Tulsa rally Saturday, Trump had bragged about doing exactly that, saying “testing is a double-edged sword” and “when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people; you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please.” White House officials had claimed Trump was joking, except that it sure didn’t look like he was, and the statement was in line with other things he’s said about the negatives he perceives in testing.
Asked about it on Monday, Trump tried to deflect and dodge. But it was Trump, so he also fumbled and stumbled and confirmed that his view is that testing causes cases. “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you wanna know the truth. We’ve done too good of a job,” he ultimately said.
But it was what came immediately before that line that was the most telling. Trump had been rambling on about how “Every time you do a test, it shows more and more cases” and “You’re showing people that are asymptomatic, you’re showing people that have very little problem, you’re showing young people that don’t have a problem.” The reporter finally moved to pin him down: “But did you ask to slow it down?”
And the most telling moment, more telling than the flood of words that had come before, was the “Uhhhhh” Trump started his response with, before moving on to the non-denial of “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you wanna know the truth. We’ve done too good of a job.”
Watch that “Uhhhh.” It’s at 44 seconds into the video. More than 120,000 people are dead and he says “We’ve done too good a job.”
NEW: Qualified Immunity Must End so Healing Can Begin. (The Justice Collaborative, June 22, 2020)
Polling shows that a majority of voters (53%) want to end qualified immunity, a doctrine that protects law enforcement from legal accountability for their actions, even when they’re egregious. Less than a third of likely voters (30 percent) oppose ending this policy that insulates police from the consequences of their actions and denies victims justice.
Hack Brief: Anonymous Stole and Leaked a Megatrove of Police Documents. (Wired, June 22, 2020)
The so-called BlueLeaks collection includes internal memos, financial records, and more from over 200 state, local, and federal agencies.
DDOSecrets has published the files in a searchable format on its website, and supporters quickly created the #blueleaks hashtag to collect their findings from the hacked files on social media. Some of the initial discoveries among the documents showed, for instance, that the FBI monitored the social accounts of protesters and sent alerts to local law enforcement about anti-police messages. Other documents detail the FBI tracking bitcoin donations to protest groups, and internal memos warning that white supremacist groups have posed as Antifa to incite violence.
DDOSecrets notes that none of the files appear to be classified, and Best concedes that they may not show illegal behavior on the part of police. But the group argues that the documents instead reveal legal but controversial practices, as well as the tone of police discussions around groups like Antifa—for instance, describing white nationalists like Richard Spencer as anti-Antifa, rather than acknowledging that Antifa expressly opposes groups like those who follow Spencer.
"The underlying attitudes of law enforcement is one of the things I think BlueLeaks documents really well," Best writes. "I've seen a few comments about it being unlikely to uncover gross police misconduct, but I think those somewhat miss the point, or at least equate police misconduct solely with illegal behavior. Part of what a lot of the current protests are about is what police do and have done legally."
Trump says niece "not allowed" to write book because of nondisclosure agreement. (Axios, June 21, 2020)
The TikTok/K-pop stan let’s-troll-Trump operation, and specifically about the brilliant data-gathering aspect of it. (Claire Ryan, June 21, 2020)
If you’ve been keeping up with the whole MO of the Trump campaign - Cambridge Analytica, micro-targeting of demographics on social media, etc. - you’ll know that gathering people’s info in order to shill for donations is a HUGE revenue stream. AFAIK that was the reason he ran. To campaign, get donations from the MAGAts, funnel vast lakes of money into his businesses. It was just that simple. Doesn’t take much to feed racists the messaging they want to hear and suck money out of them.
The Russians/GOP/various other factors caused him to win, which was not in the plan, but anyway Trump at least knows that firing up the base = MONEY. Yes yes, donations from big GOP donors, but you have to understand - there was a vast lake of untapped racist small donations that Trump plugged a hose into back in 2016. And that hose is powered by data.
Part of the reason that FaceBook is so big isn’t because it’s any good; it’s because you can advertise to users based on their bio details and their Likes. Having those signals to determine how likely a person is to buy a product is the stuff of an advertiser’s dreams. Google works the same way, to be honest, but at least Google’s core functionality is useful.
The thing about this stuff is that it runs on ACCURATE data. The worst thing about data analysis is when your data is corrupted or inaccurate, and you have no way of filtering it out. It means insights derived from the dataset are 100% junk.
So the troll operation in this case, by all accounts, used fake emails and temp Google Voice numbers. And listen, people: you don’t know how very genius this is. I will bet a month’s salary that some poor database admin is now staring at a dataset of over a million ticket reservations that they were going to use to shill for donations and feeling sick. 
TikTok Teens and K-Pop Stans Say They Sank Trump Rally. (New York Times, June 21, 2020)
Did a successful prank inflate attendance expectations for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla.?
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump's Tulsa debacle and other White House losses (Letters from an American, June 20, 2020)
Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma was designed to jumpstart his campaign and reunite him with the crowds that energize him. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, along with the president himself, has spent days crowing that almost a million tickets had been reserved, and the campaign had built an outside stage for overflow crowds.
But far fewer than the 19,000 people Tulsa’s BOK Center could hold showed up: the local fire marshal said the number was just under 6,200. Young TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music (so-called “K-Pop stans”), along with Instagram and Snapchat users, had quietly ordered tickets to prank the campaign. The technological savvy of their generation has turned political: they knew that the Trump campaign harvests information from ticket reservations, bombarding applicants with texts and requests for donations. So they set up fake accounts and phone numbers to order the tickets, then deleted the fake accounts. They also deleted their social media posts organizing the plan to keep it from the attention of the Trump campaign.
The poor turnout after such hype was deeply embarrassing for the campaign. Trump’s people took down the outside stage and Trump blamed “protesters” who had kept supporters out of the venue for the small size of the rally, but there were few reports of any interactions between Trump supporters and protesters and no one was turned away.
The rally itself did not deliver the punch Trump’s people had hoped. The speech was disjointed as the president rambled from one topic to another, rehashing old topics that no longer charged up the crowd, many of whom were caught on camera yawning or checking their phones. It was clear that The Lincoln Project’s needling of his difficulty raising a glass to his mouth and walking down a ramp at last week’s West Point graduation has gotten under Trump's skin: he spent more than ten minutes pushing back on those stories—the ramp was “like an ice skating rink,” he claimed-- which, of course, only reinforced them.
Much more damning, when discussing coronavirus, he told the audience falsely that the recent spikes in infections are because there has been more testing: “When you do more testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases. I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”
Far from energizing Trump’s 2020 campaign, the rally made Trump look like a washed-up performer who has lost his audience and become a punchline for the new kids in town. A Trump campaign staffer said that Biden “should have to report our costs to the [Federal Election Commission] as a contribution to his campaign.
The President’s Shock at the Rows of Empty Seats in Tulsa (New York Times, June 21, 2020)
President Trump’s attempt to revive his re-election bid sputtered badly as he traveled to Tulsa for his first mass rally in months but found a small crowd and delivered a disjointed speech. The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium.
Mr. Trump eventually entered the arena for a meandering performance in which he excoriated the “fake news” for reporting on health concerns before his event, used racist language to describe the coronavirus as the “Kung Flu” and spent more than 15 minutes explaining away an unflattering video clip of him gingerly descending a ramp after his commencement speech at West Point.
When he landed back at the White House and walked off Marine One, his tie hung untied around his neck. He waved to reporters, with a defeated expression on his face, holding a crumpled red campaign hat in one hand. (1-min. CNN video)
Exactly what went wrong was still being dissected on Sunday. But a broad group of advisers and associates acknowledged to one another that Mr. Trump had not been able to will public opinion away from fears about the spread of the coronavirus in an indoor space. And they conceded that myriad polls showing Mr. Trump’s eroded standing were not fake, and that he might be on course to lose to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in November.
Sick staff and empty seats: How Trump's triumphant return to the campaign trail went from bad to worse (6-min video; CNN, June 21, 2020)
By the time President Donald Trump was gliding in his helicopter toward Joint Base Andrews on Saturday, destined for what he'd once hoped would be a triumphant packed-to-the-rafters return to the campaign trail, things were already looking bad.
Scanning cable news coverage earlier in the day, Trump was disappointed to see pictures not of massive lines forming outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa but of Geoffrey Berman, the federal prosecutor Trump's attorney general had attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss the night before, a person familiar with his response said.
Hours later, the President was informed six campaign staffers in Tulsa had tested positive for coronavirus ahead of his scheduled arrival -- an unfortunate reminder of an ongoing pandemic Trump's critics say he is ignoring. After initially dismissing the revelation, a source familiar with his reaction said Trump erupted when it was subsequently reported in the media -- overtaking coverage of the rally itself.
Still, a determined Trump was intent on breathing new life into his staggering campaign. He took off for Tulsa, convinced large swaths of his supporters would be waiting for him there.
Things did not improve once Air Force One lifted off. The President received a report that only about 25 people were assembled in the overflow space the campaign had reserved for a crowd Trump claimed five days earlier would top 40,000.
Trump Rally Fizzles as Attendance Falls Short of Campaign’s Expectations. (1-min. video; New York Times, June 20, 2020)
President Trump’s attempt to revive his re-election bid sputtered badly as he traveled to Tulsa for his first mass rally in months but found a small crowd and delivered a disjointed speech.
Trump berates media and uses racist language about Covid-19 at Tulsa rally. (81-min. video; The Guardian, June 20, 2020)
Trump coronavirus 'Death Clock' truck enters Tulsa ahead of rally. (The Hill, June 20, 2020)
‘Racial Hate’: A famed folk singer, Trump’s dad and angry lyrics at a Tulsa landmark (Washington Post, June 20, 2020)
Black Tulsans, With a Defiant Juneteenth Celebration, Send a Message to Trump. (New York Times, June 19, 2020)
The president arrives in a city that is in the midst of addressing long-ignored racist history. People there believe the country as a whole could learn a lot from them.
Here Comes Your 19th Nervous Breakdown: the Mental State of Donald Trump. (CounterPunch, June 19, 2020)
Only a few stories in the mass media have gone beyond mention of narcissism as people use it in common parlance to quote medical authorities who speak of narcissism in a real pathological sense. A sampling of their remarks shows how seriously doctors regard Trump’s mental illness.
“Trump has no policy on any issue because his mental impairment means he cannot think strategically or in abstract terms,” tweeted John M. Talmadge, MD, a physician and clinical professor of psychiatry at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center. “He cannot weigh options, assess risk, or foresee consequences. Concepts like fairness, justice, honor, and integrity quite literally do not register. You can see this in every interview or press encounter. He never states an abstract thought or idea. Instead he falls back on simple adjectives: disgraceful, horrible, low-intelligence, perfect, innocent, nasty, stupid, fake, etc. He’s driven by negative emotion, often paranoid and often insulting, vulgar, vitriolic.”
Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, suggested that Trump should be detained involuntarily to assess his mental health. It followed a tweet by Trump in which he claimed he would “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” if Turkey did anything that “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.” “Am I the only psychologist who finds this claim and this threat truly alarming? Wouldn’t these normally trigger a mental health hold? Right and Left must set aside politics and agree that there is a serious problem here,” Gilbert wrote on Twitter.
Given Trump’s downward mental spiral—which is accelerated by the very crises he exacerbates—his impending exit seems certain. But how will that happen? How will that be accomplished? How will his mental disorder affect even that? If Trump loses the election Joe Biden has rightly expressed concern that he will not accept the result. Biden has spoken of the possibility that the military may have to remove him from the White House. Here Biden shows himself more perceptive than most of the media pundits. This is not idle chatter or sound bytes for his campaign. Biden hardly needs to campaign. Trump’s relentlessly negative campaign has begun—and it’s against himself.
'The damage is done': Judge denies Trump administration request to block Bolton book. (Politico, June 19, 2020)
The judge, Royce Lamberth, said an injunction would be "toothless," but he warned the former national security adviser could face criminal charges.
Bolton lawyer Chuck Cooper praised Lamberth’s conclusion that no injunction should be issued, but noted disagreement with the rest of the judge’s order and suggested it was far from the final word in the dispute. “We welcome today’s decision by the Court denying the Government’s attempt to suppress Ambassador Bolton’s book,” Cooper said in a statement. “We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue. The full story of these events has yet to be told—but it will be.”
NEW: Texas Justices Hand Exxon Setback in California Climate Cases. (Inside Climate News, June 19, 2020)
The court, while sympathetic, held that the oil giant lacked jurisdiction to compel California officials to divulge documents. Although the three justices ruled against Exxon, they made it clear they were wholly on the company's side, even taking a swipe at California courts they suggested would tip the judicial scale in favor of the cities and counties on a "lawfare battlefield." "Being a conservative panel on a conservative intermediate court in a relatively conservative part of Texas is both blessing and curse: blessing, because we strive always to remember our oath to follow settled legal principles set out by higher courts and not encroach upon the domains of the other governmental branches; curse, because in this situation, at this time in history, we would very much like to follow our impulse instead," the opinion said.
It continued, "In the end, though, our reading of the law simply does not permit us to agree with Exxon's contention." The setback in the Texas court comes just weeks after a federal appeals court handed Exxon and other oil companies a critical loss in their fight to have the cases heard in federal court, where the companies have prevailed in prior climate cases. 
W.H.O. Warns of ‘Dangerous Phase’ of Pandemic as Outbreaks Widen. (New York Times, June 19, 2020)
Beijing and Seoul have had a recent surge in coronavirus cases, and businesses are recoiling in America as infections sharply increase in Southern and Western states.
NEW: Meet the Groundswell of Open Source COVID-19 Efforts. ITPro Today, June 19, 2020)
As the global pandemic continues, the number of open source COVID-19 software and hardware projects – developed by diverse open source communities – continues to grow.
NEW: It’s time to rethink the global university. (University of Cape Town SA, June 19, 2020)
The pandemic has disrupted higher education international activities and the financial models on which universities increasingly depend. But the previous model was already problematic, contributing to global warming and benefitting rich universities more than poor. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is hosting a series of virtual events that will seize the moment to rethink global collaborations for a sustainable and equitable planet. What can we do differently, and what can we not afford to lose?
"If we don’t step into our discomfort zone, we’ll stay in the same place while the world changes around us."
NEW: “He’s the Chosen One to Run America”: Inside the Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church and He Is the Gospel. (Vanity Fair, June 18, 2020)
Trump’s rallies—a bizarre mishmash of numerology, tweetology, and white supremacy—are the rituals by which he stamps his name on the American dream. As he prepares to resume them for the first time in months, his followers are ready to receive.
We Will Be Living With the Coronavirus Pandemic Well Into 2021. (Bloomberg, June 18, 2020)
Most experts believe a vaccine won’t be ready until next year. It’s time to reset our expectations and change our behavior.
The virus is winning. That much is certain more than six months into a shape-shifting pandemic that’s killed more than 454,000 people worldwide, is gaining ground globally and has disrupted lives from Wuhan to Sao Paulo. If, as most experts believe, an effective vaccine won’t be ready until well into 2021, we’ll all be co-existing with the coronavirus for the next year or longer without a magic bullet. And this next phase of the crisis may require us to reset our expectations and awareness and change our behavior, according to public-health professionals. In their view, success isn’t defined as returning to life as it was in 2019. Rather, it’s about buying time and summoning the staying power and policy flexibility to limit the destructive capacity of an expanding pandemic, which may result in global deaths of more than one million according to one estimate, until there are medical tools to effectively treat and immunize against the virus.
Not all the news is grim. In the first half of the year, governments worldwide resorted to emergency measures like forced business closures, stay-at-home rules and bans on large gatherings. The moves slowed infection, saved lives and gave leaders time to stockpile medical equipment and supplies. Yet that progress came at the cost of economic contraction, soaring unemployment and trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus measures. Governments are likely to be reluctant to resort to wholesale lockdowns again in anything short of a catastrophe.
Leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson or Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have seen their poll numbers crumble at least in part because of high infection rates and deaths from Covid-19, the disease spawned by the virus. In many instances, messages from the top have seemed to conflict with the advice of experts, or drowned out the guidance of government agencies. That has created confusion and mistrust and invited people to view public-health information through a partisan lens.
The high number of asymptomatic infections is having a huge impact. This is the worst pandemic in 100 years. 1918 didn't have 30% of people who were infected who didn't know it. It’s the stealth infection thing that adds to the mix.
U.S. officials and scientists have launched an accelerated program that aims to have a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 by the first half of 2021, but White House health adviser Anthony Fauci has cautioned that it could take longer. The World Health Organization hopes there will be about 2 billion doses of a handful of effective vaccines available by the end of next year. But that’s enough for less than one-third of the world’s population. Future vaccines that do arrive on the scene may not provide long-term immunity. If SARS-CoV-2 is like other coronaviruses, including some that cause the common cold, individuals may need annual booster shots to ward off subtle changes.
People are fatigued. They mistakenly feel that things are going away. We’re going to have to figure out a way to live with this.
You May Have Antibodies After Coronavirus Infection. But Not for Long. (New York Times, June 18, 2020)
The question has haunted scientists since the pandemic began: Does everyone infected with the virus produce antibodies — and if so, how long do they last?
Not very long, suggests a new study published Thursday in Nature Medicine. Antibodies — protective proteins made in response to an infection — may last only two to three months, especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected. The conclusion does not necessarily mean that these people can be infected a second time, several experts cautioned. Even low levels of powerful neutralizing antibodies may still be protective, as are the immune system’s T cells and B cells. But the results offer a strong note of caution against the idea of “immunity certificates” for people who have recovered from the illness, the authors suggested.
Antibodies to other coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS, are thought to last about a year. Scientists had hoped that antibodies to the new virus might last at least as long. Several studies have now shown that most people who are visibly ill with Covid-19 develop antibodies to the virus, although it has been unclear how long those antibodies last. The new study is the first to characterize the immune response in asymptomatic people.
‘Dreamers’ Are Elated After Getting a Reprieve on DACA. (New York Times, June 18, 2020)
Thousands of young people who were in the country illegally as children have been caught in legal limbo. A new Supreme Court ruling gave them a temporary win.
[Also see: The Long-Term Impact of DACA: Forging Futures Despite DACA’s Uncertainty (Harvard University, 2019)]
The Cybersecurity 202: D.C., Georgia reflect divergent Democratic and Republican approaches to mail ballots. (Washington Post, June 18, 2020)
As Georgia and the District of Columbia struggle to recover from disastrous primaries marred by long lines, poor training and machines that didn't operate as planned, they are taking drastically different approaches to voting by mail.
Georgia plans to scuttle its primary system of mailing absentee ballot request forms to registered voters, which was a way of encouraging them to vote by mail during the pandemic, the state’s top election official Brad Raffensperger (R) announced. Instead, it will allow voters to request absentee ballots online — a move critics warn will make the process harder for people without Internet access and could create new avenues for hacking or technical malfunctions that undermine the contest.
The District, meanwhile, is doubling down on mail voting. The Board of Elections plans to send mail ballots directly to the city's 500,000 registered voters without making them request the ballots first, a move that some Republicans say invites voter fraud.
The divergence is representative of an emerging trend in which state-level Republicans are shrinking back from mail voting after the primaries while Democrats embrace it during the pandemic. It's deepening as President Trump and some Republican allies have savaged mail voting broadly, without evidence, as prone to widespread fraud. The Republican push against mail voting often isn’t coming from election officials.
World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert. (The Guardian, June 18, 2020)
The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned. “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
Governments are planning to spend $9tn (£7.2tn) globally in the next few months on rescuing their economies from the coronavirus crisis, the IEA has calculated. The stimulus packages created this year will determine the shape of the global economy for the next three years, according to Birol, and within that time emissions must start to fall sharply and permanently, or climate targets will be out of reach. “The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”
Ancient yet cosmopolitan (Aeon, June 18, 2020)
Art, adornment and sophisticated hunting technologies flourished not only in prehistoric Europe but across the globe. There is no basis for any claim for European distinction in innate intelligence, behaviour or morals. Europeans are no more ‘evolved’ than any other living people.
One reason that we see a wealth of artifacts some 40,000 years ago in Europe is because those sites have been studied more extensively over the past centuries than sites in much of Africa – we can’t find where we don’t look. This is beginning to change and, in the process of exploring new sites, we’re discovering remarkable cultural treasures from Australia to Chad. Another reason for the disproportionate numbers of finds from Eurasia is that the archaeological sites are cooler, drier, protected environments – often caves – where ancient material preserves better in comparison with the humid tropics.
The most important decider seems to be group size: usually, the bigger the group, the bigger the diversity of cultural practices. Those that are particularly successful at increasing a society’s population – such as practices that improve nutrition, fertility or reduce infant mortality – will, of course, produce more carriers of that practice, so spread faster and further. This is how technologies fundamental to survival, such as fire-making, rapidly became universal. Practices less crucial to survival, such as artworks, require a large enough group to support practitioners with food and other resources. But, once group size increases enough, cultural innovation accelerates, because the group then holds a diversity of cultural practices that can be combined to produce further practices, and so on exponentially. In other words, a tipping point is reached whereby larger, connected populations experience cultural explosions.
The reason for these bursts in cultural activity is not to do with changes in our ancestors’ individual brains but in their collective brains – changes resulting from human demography and networks. Humans have a unique form of culture that is cumulative, and evolves in diversity and complexity over time.
The great flowering of culture we enjoy from our Cro-Magnon ancestors was not evidence of a cleverer, ‘more evolved’ people but because the demographic, social, environmental and cultural changes that occurred at this time in Europe drove cultural complexity. Geneticists recently discovered that the greatest population boom in prehistory occurred 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, which helps to explain a swathe of cultural explosions seen at this time, from present-day Germany to Indonesia.
Cultural complexity takes time to build up, so generally the trend is towards a greater number of technologies and practices. This is not a reflection of the individuals’ biology or intellectual capabilities, but rather the complexity of their societies.
Astronomers detect regular rhythm of radio waves, with origins unknown. (MIT News, June 17, 2020)
Signal from 500 million light years away is the first periodic pattern of radio bursts ever detected.
Letter regarding MIT's initial decisions about the Fall semester. (MIT, June 17, 2020)
Undergraduates have overwhelmingly expressed how much they value being on campus; we aim to give as many students as possible the opportunity to return safely this year. However, because we judge that physical distancing requires using doubles and triples as single-occupancy rooms, our undergraduate residential population in the fall will be much less than our normal capacity – conceivably as high as 60 percent, but likely much lower. Exactly how many students can return at any point depends on several factors, some beyond our control.
Obviously, we cannot control the trajectory of the pandemic this fall, either here in Massachusetts or in the places around the world our students call home. We also have no control over the government response. We must accept these as unknowns and be ready to adapt.
However, we do have significant control over MIT’s ability to provide Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and quarantining. No matter how careful we all are, we must anticipate that we will face Covid-19 cases in the fall. Therefore, we want to be confident that we have the capacity to spot an outbreak quickly and limit its spread.
Trump asked China’s Xi to help him win reelection, according to Bolton book. (2-min. video; Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
The 592-page memoir, obtained by The Washington Post, is the most substantive, critical dissection of the president from an administration insider so far, coming from a conservative who has worked in Republican administrations for decades and is a longtime contributor to Fox News. It portrays Trump as an “erratic” and “stunningly uninformed” commander in chief, and lays out a long series of jarring and troubling encounters between the president, his top advisers and foreign leaders.
Justice Dept. Escalates Legal Fight With Bolton Over Book. (New York Times, June 17, 2020)
The Trump administration asked a judge to order the former national security adviser to stop publication of his memoir even as explosive details emerged. Mr. Trump said this week that he considered “every conversation with me as president highly classified,” suggesting that Mr. Bolton was breaking the law.
In a declaration attached to the lawsuit, Michael J. Ellis, the senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, said he had reviewed the manuscript and determined that it contained classified information — including a particularly restricted form of top-secret data — related to a broad category that included military plans, foreign governments, intelligence activities or foreign relations. He said he was offering the judge six specific examples of material in the book that was properly classified and whose disclosure could damage national security in a classified declaration accompanying his public filing.
Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, has denied that the manuscript contains any legitimately classified information. In an op-ed last week in The Wall Street Journal vowing to go forward, he said Mr. Bolton had worked closely with Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for prepublication review of materials written by council personnel, in an “intensive four-month review.” After many changes, she told him in late April she had no more edits to ask of him, he said.
In a statement, Simon & Schuster dismissed the threat. “Tonight’s filing by the government is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility,” the publisher said. “Hundreds of thousands of copies of John Bolton’s ‘The Room Where It Happened’ have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.”
“As is often the case with the Trump administration, this motion is all hat and no cattle,” said Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The audience for this filing is not the court; it’s the president.”
How secure are electronic pollbooks and vote reporting tools? This new program aims to find out. (Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
Voting machines get most of the attention when it comes to election security. But officials are now trying to tackle myriad ways adversaries could undermine U.S. elections aside from directly rigging ballots.
A new pilot project run by a top cybersecurity nonprofit group and the Election Assistance Commission aims to look for bugs in the many other machines that hackers could exploit to throw an election into chaos, such as electronic poll books and systems for reporting unofficial election night results. Most states currently don’t have a formal process for ensuring they're secure. “Most of our adversaries aren’t looking to affect the outcome of an election as much as they want to affect our confidence in that outcome,” Aaron Wilson, senior director of election security at the Center for Internet Security, which is running the project, told me. “All of these technologies could have a really big impact on voter confidence and in some cases on the vote itself.”
A cyberattack that modified voter information in e-poll books, for example, could make it difficult or impossible for many people to cast ballots.  An attack that changed election night results could create confusion about the winner and degrade faith in the real result.
And, unlike voting machines which are almost always scrupulously segregated from the Internet, these systems are often online and connected to cloud-based storage, opening up numerous avenues for hackers. Election officials have relied mostly on their IT staffs and on companies that sell the tools to ensure their software is properly patched and the right security protections are in place. But that system probably isn’t secure enough for the post-2016 era when Russia and other U.S. adversaries are eager to find any route to upend U.S. elections.
Before the pandemic, top contractor Emergent BioSolutions received billions from government to help prepare the nation for biowarfare. (Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
As it races to create a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the Trump administration this month announced that one of its largest pandemic-related contracts would go to a little-known biodefense company named. The $628 million deal to help manufacture an eventual vaccine cemented Emergent’s status as the highest-paid and most important contractor to the HHS office responsible for preparing for public health threats and maintaining the government’s stockpile of emergency medical supplies. Emergent has long been the government’s sole provider of BioThrax, a vaccine for anthrax poisoning. But over the past decade, the company has acquired biodefense competitors and treatments for smallpox, botulism and other threats for which there is no market outside of government.
A Washington Post examination found that Emergent’s strategy has been rewarded with a series of large contracts as the Trump administration focused on biodefense over preparations for a natural pandemic. But Emergent’s dominance has fueled new risks for national health preparedness, according to documents and former government officials.
“Consolidation of many important assets into a single or small handful of companies creates substantial risk since it creates the potential for a single-point of failure,” said the December 2018 report by the Mitre Corp., a consulting firm. “From a pricing perspective, the lack of competition creates a system in which companies have no incentive to keep prices low.”
Emergent, a publicly traded company, negotiated price increases from the federal government for some stockpiled medicines after it bought them from competitors, according to contracting records and interviews. Emergent’s advocacy for biodefense spending over more than a decade was aided by influential allies in Washington and tens of millions of dollars in lobbying campaigns, documents show.
Get Rid of the Presidency. (Counterpunch, June 17, 2020)
Every four years, because of a document drawn up more than two hundred years ago, the United States puts into its highest office men of stunning incompetence and low cunning, who over time have managed to turn the office of the presidency into what it is today—a violent reality show that has brought you Vietnam, Watergate, the USA Patriot Act, and Barack Obama’s “necessary war” in Afghanistan.
Benjamin Franklin (with the emotional support of Thomas Jefferson from Paris) and others favored a federal council, something closer to the Swiss model, in which the powers of the chief magistrate would be devolved to a committee, not on one person.
NEW: Why Trump Should Resign (CounterPunch, June 17, 2020)
Donald Trump should resign as president in light of a profile of disgrace about him by his onetime national security adviser, John Bolton.
Bolton’s allegations raise questions about the character and intelligence of a president who would sacrifice the interests and integrity of his country for the sake of his personal gain, assuredly a blatant violation of his oath of office, which states: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
How can Trump be trusted to safeguard and advance the interests of the United States and its 300 million-plus people if he is willing to sell us short by putting his personal interests first? Where does it stop?
One thing is certain: Bolton’s book, when added to all of Trump’s ignorance, incompetence, racism, a blanket refusal to lead the country through the pandemic, his insistence that active duty soldiers break up recent peaceful demonstrations, his withdrawals from major arms control and other treaties, his departure from invaluable U.N. organizations, his repeated demands for U.S. abandonment of NATO, his cozying up to the world’s most brutal dictators, his continual fomenting of chaos in the White House, his constant firings of senior officials and inspectors general, his weakening of major government agencies, his careless wonton deregulation of environmental protections, his denial of climate change and his flagrant abuses of power as detailed in the House impeachment trial helps serve notice to the American people that this would-be pretender to a throne is totally unfit to be president of the United States.
His resignation would be a welcome and blessed relief.
NEW: Zoom works to make service more secure, even for free users. (Washington Post, June 17, 2020)
The company has re-decided to make end-to-end encryption available to all customers, including nonpaying users, after pressure to expand security.
[A victory, when/if true. But be aware of Zoom's past and continuing problems.]
NEW: Zoom is Making Privacy and Security a Luxury. (Mozilla, June 16, 2020)
Over the past several months, the video call app Zoom has garnered millions of new users: More and more people are relying on the service to stay connected amid the pandemic. Then, earlier this month, Zoom made a controversial announcement: It will offer end-to-end encryption, but only to those who pay. End-to-end encryption means only those who are part of the call can ever access the call’s content. Without end-to-end encryption, the call’s content is only encrypted client-to-server, and your data becomes readable when it passes through a company’s servers.
We believe all users should have access to the strongest privacy and security, regardless of their ability to pay. And we’re not alone in that belief. A coalition of tech organizations, nonprofits, and tens of thousands of internet users rebuke Zoom for making end-to-end encryption a premium feature.
This is a decisive moment in terms of safety both on and offline. Zoom implementing end-to-end encryption could be one of the single most important things any company could do to keep people safe right now. End-to-end encryption saves lives.
What Should the Punishment Be for the Crime of Weaponizing a Virus for Political Purposes? (Common Dreams, June 16, 2020)
Let's be very, very clear: the president is willing to take specific, willful, intentional actions that will lead to the deaths of other people in order to get what he wants, even when they are members of his own family.
Every other country in the world that is not run by a strongman dictator and has a functioning government is executing a specific plan to protect their citizens from this deadly virus. Trump and Republicans are not only ignoring the need for a plan but are actively working against the advice of their own scientists, putting politics and Trump’s ego above the lives of American citizens. The cruel and willful brutality of Trump and Scalia’s strategy is shocking, and the rest of the world looks at us with horror. Yet the Republican Party seems to think that this is all just fine.
Weaponizing a virus for political purposes is a crime against humanity, and it is being committed right in front of our own eyes against our friends and neighbors, coworkers and family members.
NEW: We Can Protect the Economy From Pandemics. Why Didn't We? (Wired, June 16, 2020)
A virologist helped crack an impossible problem: how to insure against the economic fallout from devastating viral outbreaks. The plan was ingenious. Yet we're still in this mess. It's called the cycle of panic and neglect.
America could have 'herd immunity' tomorrow ... if everyone would just put on a mask. (Daily Kos, June 16, 2020)
How the Law Harms Public Health (Democracy Journal, June 16, 2020)
The pandemic highlights the urgent need to change the legal paradigm from individual responsibility to social solidarity.
States have an incentive to reduce benefits (to avoid high taxes that might drive businesses to less generous states), and employers have an incentive to fight their workers’ claims (to avoid higher premiums in the future). The results have been predictable. States have gutted their systems for administering unemployment insurance, creating delays and obstacles to obtaining coverage and deterring new claims. Although Congress temporarily expanded unemployment insurance in its stimulus legislation, these administrative burdens have significantly blunted the impact of Congress’s action.  The Economic Policy Institute estimates that they kept between 8.9 and 13.9 million people from filing for unemployment insurance in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. And as Georgetown University law professor Brian Galle wrote last year in the Arizona State Law Journal, “employers have grown considerably more skilled and aggressive than in the past, resulting in more workers being found ineligible or cut off from benefits before those benefits expire.” Although it is too soon to see concrete evidence, this development is bound to affect workers who claim unemployment during the pandemic.
States have also limited eligibility for benefits to ensure that workers do not obtain them when they can in fact work. Unemployment is generally available only to those who are “available and able to work,” and who did not voluntarily leave their previous positions. Workers who leave jobs for fear of being infected with the coronavirus or refuse to take particular jobs because of the same concern will often be disqualified by these provisions. Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has declared that, “If you’re an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that’s a voluntary quit.” Reynolds has urged employers to report to the state those workers who refuse to return. Even Ohio, which has been comparatively more aggressive in responding to the pandemic, has encouraged the reporting of employees who do not come back to work when their businesses reopen. The Trump Administration has supported these efforts, on the ground that they will “guard against fraud and abuse” of the unemployment system.
And there exists no other more general program of social assistance that will pick up the slack. Social Security Disability Insurance would be the most likely candidate. But the Social Security Act provides that workers cannot qualify unless they can demonstrate that they have a “severe impairment” that makes them unable to perform not only their past work but “any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.” Many people who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus will not satisfy that demanding standard. For those who can, the process can take months or even years—hardly timely for those who have lost their source of livelihood.
The voluntary-quit and available-for-work rules thus create a deadly dilemma for people who are especially vulnerable due to medical conditions.
Flushing the Toilet May Fling Coronavirus Aerosols All Over. (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
A new study shows how turbulence from a toilet bowl can create a large plume that is potentially infectious to a bathroom’s next visitor.
Thankfully, people can also easily prevent the spread of infections from the toilet plume. “Close the lid first and then trigger the flushing process,” Dr. Wang said, which he acknowledged isn’t always possible in public bathrooms. You should also wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially if you’re using a shared restroom where the toilet doesn’t have a lid or the flush is automatically triggered on standing up. Avoid touching your face, and keep your mask on in the bathroom, which could prevent some exposure to the coronavirus.
Dr. Wang hopes the new research will help lead to improvements in bathroom design, including increased attention to contactless dispensers for soap and paper towels, and toilets that flush only after they have been covered with a lid. Other experts are already considering indoor ultraviolet lights and automated disinfectant sprays that will zap the coronavirus and relieve some of the pressure on keeping public toilets clean.
An inexpensive drug reduces coronavirus deaths, scientists say. (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
Scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that they have identified what they called the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, after a 6,000-patient trial of the drug in Britain showed that a low-cost steroid could reduce deaths significantly for hospitalized patients. The steroid, dexamethasone, reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving only oxygen treatment, the scientists said. They found no benefit from the drug in patients who did not need respiratory support.
Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, said National Health Service doctors would begin treating patients with the drug on Tuesday afternoon. The government started stockpiling dexamethasone several months ago because it was hopeful about the potential of the drug, Mr. Hancock said, and now has 200,000 doses on hand. “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19,” said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, and one of the chief investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”
Professor Horby said that dexamethasone should now become the “standard of care in these patients,” noting that it is inexpensive, widely available and can be used immediately.
COVID-19 is on the rise across the South, as Republicans put dollars ahead of lives. (Daily Kos, June 16, 2020)
While Trump has fingered Jacksonville as the site for an unchecked and unlimited Republican convention, Florida surpassed its previous high number for daily cases on Friday, then broke that record on Saturday. Then, despite the usual decline that comes with weekends, Florida reported a Sunday number that would have been its record just two days earlier. There is absolutely no doubt that Florida is trending upward, both in the area about Miami and in the panhandle counties. And this is happening while Florida is still preventing county officials from accurately reporting causes of deaths. All of this came in the same week that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear that he wasn’t going to hold back on reopening, no matter how many cases, or deaths, he saw. Appearing at a press conference, and meeting with people in Jacksonville, DeSantis notably did not wear a mask.
It’s not just Trump’s convention that looks like it’s going to be a virus bath. In Tulsa, the public health director has begged Trump to cancel his event, and that’s despite being a Trump fan who feels “honored” to have the first pandemic rally in his hometown. The editors of Tulsa World are even less enthusiastic about the event. “We don’t know why he chose Tulsa,” they wrote in a Monday editorial, “but we can’t see any way that his visit will be good for the city.” They point out that Trump may come and go, but the city and the people will be left to deal with the aftereffects at a time when local cases are already on the increase.
The Supreme Court issues a surprising landmark ruling for L.G.B.T.Q. rights. (New York Times, June 16, 2020)
The Supreme Court currently has a reliable five-member conservative majority on many issues — like business regulation, campaign finance, voting rights and the death penalty. On several of these issues, the court has issued sweeping decisions that throw out earlier precedents. On other issues, however, the court does not lean so far to the right. The list includes immigration, antitrust and the census, all subjects on which at least one conservative justice has joined the court’s liberal members to issue liberal or moderate rulings.
After Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, it wasn’t clear which category L.G.B.T.Q. rights would fall into. Kennedy had written landmark opinions on gay rights, including the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage. And when Brett Kavanaugh replaced Kennedy in 2018, many civil-rights advocates were anxious.
Yesterday’s big Supreme Court decision — holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination — seems to answer the uncertainty: Even post-Kennedy, the court still leans left on L.G.B.T.Q. rights.
Paul Krugman: Market Madness in the Pandemic; why are investors rushing to buy junk? (New York Times, June 15, 2020)
Hertz’s stock price fell from more than $20 in February to less than $1 in early June. But then a funny thing happened: Investors suddenly piled into the stock, driving it up by more than 500 percent. And Hertz — in bankruptcy! — announced plans to raise money by selling more stock. The Hertz story was just one example of a broader phenomenon. The run-up in stock prices that took place between mid-May and Thursday’s sudden plummet was driven, to an important extent, by investors rushing into very dubious companies — what one observer called a “flight to crap.”
Stock markets never bear much relationship to the real economy, but these days they don’t seem to have much to do with reality in general. So what is going on in the market? Think of it as a play in three acts (so far).
The first act was the huge decline that markets experienced as the threat from Covid-19 became clear. This decline reflected justified concerns about future profits, but it also reflected a developing financial crisis: For a few weeks credit markets were seizing up pretty much the same way they did in 2008.
The Federal Reserve, however, has been there and done that. It moved quickly, buying bonds, establishing special lending facilities, and essentially doing whatever it took to lubricate markets and keep money flowing freely. The result was the second act of the play, a stock rebound that made up about half of the losses from the initial plunge.
Up to that point the behavior of stock prices generally made sense. But then came the third act, a surge in prices that eliminated most of the previous losses and drove the Nasdaq to a new high. And this surge bore all the usual signs of a bubble. Robert Shiller, the world’s leading expert on such things, has pointed out that asset bubbles are, in effect, naturally occurring Ponzi schemes. Early investors see big gains because later investors drive prices up, inducing more people to buy in, and so on; the party continues until something cuts off the flow of new money, and suddenly everything crashes.
So it was with the recent stock surge. Encouraged by the Fed-induced recovery of stocks from their March lows, some investors began buying. Their optimism became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as initial gains led more cautious investors to join in, driven by FOMO — fear of missing out. It looked a lot like the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, except on a vastly accelerated timetable. Most of the evidence suggests that a major role in this apparent bubble was played by small investors — “retail bros” — pursuing get-rich-quick dreams. Some of these exuberant investors were people who normally bet on sports and were looking for an alternative source of excitement. And as the Hertz example shows, they didn’t care much about quality.
Why didn’t large investors offset this apparent irrational exuberance by selling stocks? As John Maynard Keynes argued long ago, staid investors who usually stabilize the market tend to abdicate judgment in “abnormal times.” We are, you might say, in a time when the smart money lacks all conviction, while the dumb money is filled with a passionate intensity.
And now the bubble may — may — be bursting. But does any of this matter? In a direct sense, not much. Stock prices surely have some impact on business investment and consumer spending, but these effects are probably small.
But the Trump team sees stock prices as the ultimate measure of policy success. Back in 2007 — on the eve of the Great Recession — Larry Kudlow, who is now Trump’s top economist, declared that things were going great, because the market was up, and stock prices are “the best barometer of the health, wealth and security of a nation.” So the Trumpists took the rising market as validation for everything they were doing — their push for early reopening even though the coronavirus was by no means contained, their opposition to further relief for unemployed workers.
In other words, the irrational exuberance of the retail bros may have enabled the irresponsibility of an administration that didn’t want to deal with reality in the first place. And while falling stocks may provoke a reconsideration, a lot of damage has already been done.
Jesse Jackson: Too many African American children are born in shackles. (Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 2020)
Led by the passion of a young and diverse generation, the country must finally address the systemic inequality that increasingly endangers all of us. For African Americans, poverty should not be a prison and skin color should not be a cage. White supremacists disguised as police officers should not use us as target practice. So-called “qualified immunity” must not shield killers from the law. Those with a shield and a badge must be held to the highest standards.
It is time to fulfill America’s promise of equal justice under the law. As the demonstrations continue, the reality of the criminal injustice system that African Americans face every day keeps getting exposed.
At the same time, the pandemic has exposed the systemic racial gaps that scar our society. Police serve as an occupying force in poor communities of color because those communities exist — often created by red-lining — worsened by savage inequality of schools and health care and job opportunity. CNN recently detailed “Black-White Inequality in Six Stark Charts.” African Americans have barely 1/10th the median wealth of white families, a wider gap than at the beginning of the century. The disparity is primarily due to the differences in home ownership, where African Americans suffer from being locked out of so many neighborhoods for so long, and inheritance, where African Americans suffer the legacy of years of slavery and segregation.
Poverty, unemployment, low income, low savings all lead to vulnerability. African Americans are less likely to have adequate health insurance and more likely to have chronic illnesses. So African Americans, about 13.2% of the population, have suffered 23% of COVID-19 deaths.
Consider the shackles we put on too many African American children born into impoverished neighborhoods. Their mothers are less likely to have prenatal care; they are more likely to suffer death or injury at birth. They are less likely to have adequate nutrition; more likely to grow up in apartments with lead in the walls and pipes; less likely to have day care or pre-K. They go to public schools inequitable to those in the affluent suburbs. They walk dangerous streets, where police too often provide not protection but a separate threat. And if they rise above that and go to college, they graduate with far higher student debt, into a job market that will pay them less than their white peers.
All of this is well known. None of it is accidental. Solutions are known but not adopted.
Now change is in the air and, more importantly, in the streets. New possibilities are open. America is called once more, led by the passion of a young generation more diverse than ever, finally to begin to address the racism that increasingly endangers us all.
Court Cites George Floyd Killing While Denying Immunity To West Virginia Officers Who Shot A Black Man 22 Times As He Lay On The Ground. (TechDirt, June 15, 2020)
A Philly court supervisor was fired after video showed him tearing down signs and saying he doesn’t care about black lives. (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 15, 2020)
Republican who doesn't wear mask on floor of the House announces he and his family caught COVID-19. (Daily Kos, June 15, 2020)
Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina took to his Facebook page on Monday to announce that he, his wife, and his son had all tested positive for COVID-19. Calling it the “Wuhan Flu,” Rice said that his son got it the worst, with a high fever and coughing, but seemed “on the mend.” Rice said his and his wife’s cases were less severe, with his wife having it worse. According to him, his son first came down with symptoms last Sunday, which would be June 7. Rice himself says he came down with it on Monday, June 8, and his wife Wrenzie “got it on Thursday.” An important thing to distinguish here is that these dates aren’t necessarily when this family “got” or contracted the virus; they just represent the days that each of them started displaying symptoms.
CNN’s Manu Raju reported that Rep. Rice was in the House chambers and on the floor the week before his son showed symptoms. At that time, Rep. Rice did not wear a mask when he was on the floor. Raju asked him about this lack of precaution at the time and Rice explained that “I'm socially distancing. I'm staying six feet away from folks.” Rep. Rice did say he would wear the mask if he was in a space like an airplane where he couldn’t keep the distance between him and others.
And from its Comments thread: The SC Republican Party had a huge going away party for a staffer on June 5 in Horry County.  Tom Rice was there. Looking back at the news coverage, there were almost no face masks worn and lots of close contact, handshakes, hugs, and kisses.   TWO DAYS later, Tom Rice’s son has symptoms, followed by Rice the next day.  Its pretty good odds that Rice was either infected at the party or was himself infectious. ... Some of the other attendees were Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, plus many other of South Carolina’s “finest” repubs.
Heather Cox Richardson: Today was busy as the White House squared off against opponents. (Letters From An American, June 15, 2020)
The president has personified his administration to such an extent that it increasingly feels like it is less a clash of political parties that fuels today’s political animosities than it is him against the world.
Pence encourages state governors to lie to their citizens about spikes in Covid-19 infections. (Daily Kos, June 15, 2020)
Vice-President Pence, whose political future is as much on the line as Donald Trump’s this November, is now encouraging state governors to lie about the reasons why Trump’s push to reopen the country is now resulting in an alarming spike in Covid-19 outbreaks. Pence also urged governors to support Trump’s increasingly dismal re-election prospects by “encourag[ing] people with the news that we’re safely reopening the country.”
The reality is that the “information” Pence is so eager for state governors to peddle to their citizens is deliberately misleading.
Research sheds new light on intelligent life existing across the galaxy. (Science X, June 15, 2020)
["30 Civilizations exist." Calculated from a sole data point - and once again, it's us! If we can design Gods in our own image, why not Cosmos(es)?]
Former eBay Execs Allegedly Made Life Hell for Natick Critics. (Wired, June 15, 2020)
Surveillance. Harassment. A live cockroach delivery. US attorneys have charged six former eBay workers in association with an outrageous cyberstalking campaign.
NEW: CityHawk eVTOL flying car will run on hydrogen. (Wordless Tech, June 15, 2020)
Urban Aeronautics Ltd. (Urban Aeronautics), the pioneering Israeli hydrogen/electric-powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) developer, who recently announced its partnership with the Boeing Company, now joins forces with Asia’s tech-powered urban air mobility service Ascent Flights Global Pte. Ltd (Ascent), to bring the eVTOL CityHawk to market.
What moves people? (MIT News, June 15, 2020)
Associate Professor Jinhua Zhao, who will direct the new MIT Mobility Initiative, brings behavioral science to urban transportation. To understand urban movement, Zhao believes, we also need to understand people. How does everyone choose to use transport? Why do they move around, and when? How does their self-image influence their choices? “The main part of my own thinking is the recognition that transportation systems are half physical infrastructure, and half human beings,” Zhao says.
New Access MIT program offers free public transit to MIT employees. (MIT News, June 14, 2020)
Plan gives commuters flexibility to choose, day-to-day, how they get to campus.
Coronavirus ‘Ripped A Hole’ In N.Y.C.’s Black Community. This Funeral Director Knows. (8-min. video; New York Times, June 14, 2020)
In New York City, Covid-19 is disproportionately killing black and Latino residents. As the city reopens, a longtime funeral director in Harlem says, “It’s going to take a long time for people to heal.”
Coronavirus Cases Spike Across Sun Belt as Economy Lurches into Motion. (New York Times, June 14, 2020)
Arizona, Texas and Florida are reporting their highest case numbers yet. As of Saturday, coronavirus cases were climbing in 22 states amid reopenings.
The warning has echoed ominously for weeks from epidemiologists, small-town mayors and county health officials: Once states begin to reopen, a surge in coronavirus cases will follow.
For close to a month, much of the United States has looked like a nation open or beginning to open, and increasingly unfettered by restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. After months of warnings and isolation, many residents had stopped wearing masks and maintaining social distance out of sheer fatigue. “They’ve been asked for quite some time to not be around people they love, and that they want to spend time with. Wearing a mask is not pleasant. And I think people are tired.” With many government limits removed and people left to make individual choices about precautions, Americans have gone back to salons and restaurants, crowded into public parks and, in dozens of cities, joined large public demonstrations protesting police misconduct.
A black pastor in Virginia was arrested after he called 911 alleging an assault and threats. The sheriff has apologized. (Washington Post, June 14, 2020)
Pastor McCray said he was visiting an apartment property he owns in Edinburg, population 1,100, when he saw a man and a woman who did not live there dragging a refrigerator to his dumpster. They grew “irate” when confronted, McCray said, and the man left and returned with three others. McCray said the group surrounded, jostled and threatened him, “telling me that my black life and the Black Lives Matter stuff, they don’t give a darn about that stuff in this county, and they could care less and ‘We would kill you.’ ”
McCray drew a legally concealed handgun, he said, giving him time to call 911. But when sheriff’s deputies responded, he said, “I was not given the opportunity to tell what was going on.” Instead, he was “handcuffed in front of the mob,” the members of which were yelling racial epithets and threatening him, McCray said. An officer whom McCray said he has known for more than 20 years told him he did not agree with the order but had to arrest McCray for brandishing a gun.
“All this happened on my property,” McCray said. “I said, what about the trespassing and the assault?” McCray said he was driven away while the five stood with deputies “waving at me as I go down the road. You think about how disturbing that is.”
Two sheriff’s office supervisors have been placed on unpaid administrative leave over the incident, which occurred June 1, Sheriff Carter said. “As I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing,” Carter said in a video and written post on Facebook. “I want the people of Shenandoah County to know that I and the sheriff’s office staff appreciate and care about the minority communities, and especially our black community, in Shenandoah County.”
6-3, Supreme Court says gay, transgender workers ARE protected by law. (Associated Press, June 14, 2020)
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The decision was a defeat not just for the employers, but also the Trump administration, which argued that the law’s plain wording compelled a ruling for the employers. Gorsuch, a conservative appointee of President Donald Trump, concluded the opposite, and Trump said Monday he accepted the court’s “very powerful decision.”
Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal members. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s other Supreme Court pick, dissented, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. “The Court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous,” Alito wrote in the dissent. “Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity.’”
Big U.S. win for LGBT rights but fight’s not over in Pennsylvania. (Associated Press, June 14, 2020)
To be sure, LGBT rights advocates in Pennsylvania hailed the high court’s ruling as a historic victory. But the court’s ruling does not cover people who work for smaller employers, and it does not extend legal protection against discrimination to housing or public services, LGBT rights advocates in Pennsylvania said.
Michigan MAGAs burn their own absentee ballot applications to own the libs. (Daily Kos, June 14, 2020)
I have to admit, this is a strategy that never occurred to me: burning your own absentee ballot application to protest too much voting by the other side.
This should become a national movement. Show them what you’re made of, Trump fans. You’re no fools!
Trump supporters burn Michigan absentee ballot applications. (The Detroit News, June 13, 2020)
Health Care Advocates Push Back Against Trump’s Erasure of Transgender Rights. (New York Times, June 13, 2020)
A new rule narrows the legal definition of sex discrimination in the Affordable Care Act. Major health care providers actively oppose it.
Snakes have friends, too. (National Geographic, June 13, 2020)
The study is the latest in a growing body of evidence that animals form tight bonds—suggesting that they’re more like us than we thought.
Harvard study: Did coronavirus start in August 2019? (BBC News, June 13, 2020)
Spies Can Eavesdrop by Watching a Light Bulb's Vibrations. (Wired, June 12, 2020)
The so-called lamphone technique allows for real-time listening in on a room that's hundreds of feet away.
[With bare, unshaded filaments, yes. But why even more so with fluorescent and LED lights?]
Physicists Have Reversed Time on The Smallest Scale Using a Quantum Computer. (Science Alert, June 12, 2020)
[And ONLY on the smallest scale - because that does not extrapolate.]
Cybersecurity experts give a thumbs up to the Apple-Google coronavirus alert system. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
Except, 40% of them disagree.
NEW: VoteVets Ad: Traitor (45-sec. video; VoteVets, June 12, 2020)
The powerful message is the latest salvo in the push to change military base names honoring Confederate military leaders. The battle has gained steam in the wake of the national outcry after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died when a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith said in a statement Monday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy were “open to a bipartisan discussion” about renaming the bases. The Marines and the Navy both this week banned the display of the Confederate flag.
But the president declared Wednesday he “will not even consider” renaming the military bases, claiming it would be disrespectful.
Rage and Promises Followed Ferguson, but Little Changed. (New York Times, June 13, 2020)
Millions of dollars were spent to alter overly aggressive policing after the killing of Michael Brown in 2014, with little result. After the unrest that followed that fatal shooting, police departments spent tens of millions of dollars on body cameras, revised use-of-force policies and held training sessions in implicit bias and de-escalation. A presidential task force issued 153 recommendations and action items. The Justice Department forced seven troubled police departments into consent decrees with mandatory benchmarks aimed at reducing racial disparities and police brutality.
Six years after Mr. Brown’s body was left on the street for hours, the death of another African-American man, George Floyd, who begged for his life as a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on his neck, came down like a verdict: The plan to remake American policing has failed. Attitudes have changed, yes. Police critics have been elected to positions of power. Some departments have decreased arrests, rethought stop-and-frisk policies and reduced police shootings. There have been successful experiments with diverting people to social services instead of jail. But topline numbers, such as the overall count of people fatally shot by the police each year, have not budged. And even when departments pull back from aggressive policing, they often find that stark racial disparities linger — or worsen.
A federal after-action report found that the Ferguson police had escalated the tensions there by failing to understand the community’s problems and using “ineffective and inappropriate tactics” like the use of tear gas in unsafe conditions and without warning — tactics that now appear to have proliferated across the country. Despite the renewed urgency every time a black man or woman dies needlessly at the hands of law enforcement, activists have found that the pace of change ranges from slow to glacial.
Will George Floyd’s death be different?
Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record (Snopes, June 12, 2020)
The question of past arrests often surfaces among people who want to rationalize police officers' actions when Black men are killed in custody.
Biden says Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was ‘almost criminal’. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
Joe Biden ratcheted up some of his criticism of President Trump on Friday, saying that his handling of the coronavirus was “almost criminal,” that he has “bungled” the economic fallout, and that he has exacerbated racial tensions in the country.
During an hour-long town hall with the labor union AFSCME, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee warned that the U.S. will likely see a resurgence of the coronavirus and that Trump isn’t doing enough to prepare. “This is almost criminal, the way he’s handled this,” Biden said of Trump’s leadership on the coronavirus. “There’s going to be some form of second wave, I hate to tell you this,” he added later. Biden said Trump’s approach has led to more Americans deaths and a slower economic recovery. “Donald Trump has bungled everything,” he said. “He’s bungled us into the worst job crisis in over a century.”
Biden also attacked the president for his focus on reopening. “You have Trump saying, ‘Open up, open up, open up.’ Why do you want to open up?” Biden said. “He does not care about the public health. He wants to open up because he wants to say the economy’s growing and the stock market’s going up.”
Biden also criticized Trump for holding a rally next week and requiring attendees to sign a waiver that they will not sue if they are later diagnosed with coronavirus. The rally is taking place on Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the end of slavery. “Did you hear what he just did? He’s having a rally on Juneteenth,” Biden said. “All the people coming have to sign a piece of paper saying if they get covid in this, they will not sue the campaign. I mean, c’mon man.”
Referencing the waiver again later in the remarks, Biden said it showed that Trump knows that the virus is returning. “He knows it’s a problem. But he’s not doing a damn thing about it,” Biden said.
NEW: Best way to reduce coronavirus transmission is by wearing a face mask, study finds. (with short video clips; CNN, June 12, 2020)
The researchers calculated that wearing face masks prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9, and more than 66,000 infections in New York City between April 17 and May 9. "The current mitigation measures implemented in the United States, such as social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public," the researchers wrote.
Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181-page price tag. (Seattle Times, June 12, 2020)
CDC posts long-awaited tips for minimizing everyday risk. (Associated Press, June 12, 2020)
Take the stairs, not the elevator, down from your hotel room. Encourage people to bring their own food and drinks to your cookout. Use hand sanitizer after banking at an ATM. Call ahead to restaurants and nail salons to make sure staff are wearing face coverings. And no high-fives — or even elbow bumps — at the gym. These are some of the tips in long-awaited guidance from U.S. health officials about how to reduce risk of coronavirus infection for Americans who are attempting some semblance of normal life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidelines Friday, along with a second set for organizing and attending big gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, protests and political rallies. But the guidelines are not intended to endorse any particular type of event.
CDC issues new covid-19 guidelines at a time of protests and rallies. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
The CDC guidance includes a recommendation that organizers of large events that involve shouting, chanting or singing “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings. That is complicated by a push to reopen the country even as more than 2 million Americans have now been infected by the coronavirus.
Federal health officials on Friday said their guidance was aimed at keeping people safe as states reopen and communities plan and hold gatherings, such as concerts, festivals, conferences, parades, weddings and sporting events. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, sidestepped questions about whether the agency’s new guidance for large gatherings applies to campaign rallies, saying the recommendations speak for themselves.
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Friday that it is a “danger” and “risky” for people to be gathering in large groups — whether at a Trump rally or a protest. Speaking on ABC News’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Fauci said that if the gatherings take place, people should “make sure” to wear a mask.
Trump has repeatedly refused to wear a face covering in public, and recently moved the main part of his party’s nominating convention from North Carolina to Florida after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declined to promise he could speak to a packed arena. Trump has indicated he does not want to require participants to wear masks for his acceptance speech.
The dissonance comes as fears of a new wave of coronavirus surging in several regions, with a number of states reaching record-high cases in recent days.
The US government is spending millions to prevent a shortage of glass vaccine vials. (Quartz, June 12, 2020)
On Tuesday (June 9), BARDA awarded $204 million to the upstate New York-based company Corning to make glass vials needed to bottle and store vaccines. The money will help bring one of Corning’s New York factories to maximum capacity, and equip two others in New Jersey and North Carolina with the specialized hardware to do the same. The goal is to ensure that once a vaccine makes it through all three stages of clinical testing, it can be widely distributed. This means ramping up glass production now to support clinical trials and other research, and eventually distribution. The goal of the US Operation Warp Speed is to have 300 million Covid-19 vaccines ready by January.
Corning’s pharmaceutical glass, called Valor Glass, “was intentionally designed to have optimized properties—without boron,” says Schaut. It took years of tinkering to find a chemical composition that allowed essentially no reactivity at any temperature. Borosilicate glass could work to hold new vaccines and drugs, but Valor glass is an improved version. Both require more technical equipment and know-how than run of the mill soda-lime glass.
Once there’s a vaccine and the vials to transport the doses in, doctors will need enough supplies on hand to administer millions of shots. On Monday, BARDA awarded a $143 million to SiO2 Materials Science in Auburn, Alabama to expand its syringe production.
Melania Trump was in no rush to move into the White House. That’s when she renegotiated her prenup, a new book says. (Washington Post, June 12, 2020)
When Melania Trump stayed behind in New York after her husband’s presidential inauguration, she said it was because she didn’t want to interrupt their then-10-year-old son Barron’s school year. News stories at the time concentrated on an apparent frostiness between the first couple and on the exorbitant taxpayer costs to protect Melania and Barron away from Washington.
Those stories are true, but Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan reveals in The Art Of Her Deal that the first lady was also using her delayed arrival to the White House as leverage for renegotiating her prenuptial agreement with President Trump. For her book, Jordan conducted more than 100 interviews, with everyone from the first lady’s Slovenian schoolmates to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and she lays out an argument that Melania Trump is as devoted to her own myth-making as her husband is to his.
The Racial Wealth Gap in America: Asset Types Held by Race (Visual Capitalist, June 12, 2020)
Bank of England 'ready to act' as economy shrinks record 20%. (BBC News, June 12, 2020)
How come the other 80% is still standing? In large part, thanks to the extraordinary levels of state intervention propping it up. More than one in four UK workers - some 8.9 million - are now on the government's furlough scheme that allows them to receive 80% of their monthly salary up to £2,500. The scheme has cost £19.6bn so far, while a similar programme for self-employed workers has seen 2.6 million claims made worth £7.5bn.
Without these schemes, household consumption, which makes up nearly two-thirds of the UK's GDP, would have fallen even further.
World Bank: Recession Is The Deepest In Decades. (NPR, June 12, 2020)
A new World Bank report warns that the pandemic has plunged the global economy into a deep recession of historic proportions, and the recovery outlook is grim, particularly for developing countries. The report, Global Economic Prospects, published Monday, compares the current economic crisis to the 13 other recessions that have hit the global economy since 1870. This recession is the first to be triggered solely by a pandemic, and it is enormous. Here are five major takeaways from the report — four pessimistic and one guardedly optimistic:
1. Historically, this is the worst global recession in several ways.
2. Tens of millions of people will be pushed back into poverty.
3. Because rich countries are being hit, poorer countries will suffer more in the long run.
4. Even under the best-case scenario, the numbers are "devastating."
5. This crisis provides the opportunity to rebuild better.
Total U.S. debt surges to $55.9 trillion amid big increases in corporate and government borrowing. (1-min. video; CNBC, June 11, 2020)
Debt surged and household net worth tumbled in the first three months of the year as the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic hit, according to the Federal Reserve Bank. Total domestic nonfinancial debt jumped by 11.7% to $55.9 trillion, the report said. Debt had increased by 3.2% in the previous quarter.
The increases in debt and decrease in household worth came as the longest expansion in U.S. history came to an end. Earlier this week, the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that a recession started in February, following an 11-year expansion. The bull market in stocks ended the same month but turned around on March 23.
NEW: Faculty grow uneasy as universities scramble to bring students back to campus. (Boston Globe, June 11, 2020)
“People are upset,” Michaels said. “People get tired of being told by deans and provosts what the best thing to do is. If there’s anything we should be consulted about, it is how we do teaching.”
Faculty rebellions are simmering on campuses across the country, said Walter Benn Michaels, a member of the academic freedom committee at the American Association of University Professors and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Longtime professors fear that their age makes them more susceptible to the more serious effects of the virus. Younger professors worry about having child care options if schools and day cares aren’t fully in session. And professors without tenure or employment protections worry that if they don’t come to class, they could lose their jobs, he said.
NEW: Trump targets ICC with sanctions after court opens war crimes investigation. (The Guardian, June 11, 2020)
The Trump administration has launched an economic and legal offensive on the international criminal court in response to the court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan carried out by all sides, including the US.
The US will not just sanction ICC officials involved in the investigation of alleged war crimes by the US and its allies, it will also impose visa restrictions on the families of those officials. Additionally, the administration declared on Thursday that it was launching a counter-investigation into the ICC, for alleged corruption.
The ICC responded on Thursday night with a statement expressing “profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions. These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings. They are announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials in the context of the court’s independent and objective investigations and impartial judicial proceedings.”
An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.
Divided Democrats make Biden one of weakest primary winners in modern history. (Washington Times, June 11, 2020)
Joseph R. Biden may have sewn up the Democratic presidential nomination, but that has not translated into unity in a party where a sizable chunk of voters is still turning out to vote against him in primary elections.
NEW: Plastic dust is blowing into U.S. national parks—more than 1000 tons each year. (Science Magazine, June 11, 2020)
Man who claimed George Floyd and Derek Chauvin "bumped heads" changes story. (3-min. video; CBS News, June 11, 2020)
A man who worked at the same club with George Floyd and Derek Chauvin – and previously told CBS News the two had "bumped heads" – changed his story Wednesday, saying he had mistaken Floyd for another unnamed African-American employee.
Pinney had also described Chauvin as "extremely aggressive within the club," a characterization he stands by.
Top U.S. general apologizes for appearing in photo-op with Trump after forceful removal of protesters. (3-min. video; CNN, June 11, 2020)
America's top general has apologized for appearing in a photo-op with President Donald Trump following the forceful dispersal of peaceful protesters outside the White House last week. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a pre-recorded speech released on Thursday, that he regrets accompanying Trump on a walk from the White House to St. John's Church last week where he was photographed wearing his combat uniform and moving with the President's entourage through Lafayette Square. "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it." Milley also said that he was "outraged" by the killing of George Floyd and added that the protests it sparked spoke to "centuries of injustice toward African Americans."
The Armed Forces Shouldn't Have to Save Us From the President*'s Constitutional Abuses. (Esquire, June 11, 2020)
In the nation's capital last week, it was National Guard officers who safeguarded the right to protest.
Officers slashed tires on vehicles parked amid Minneapolis protests, unrest. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 11, 2020)
Two law enforcement agencies acknowledged Monday that officers patrolling Minneapolis during the height of recent protests knifed the tires of numerous vehicles parked and unoccupied in at least two locations in the midst of the unrest.
Video and photo images posted on the news outlet Mother Jones show officers in military-style uniforms puncturing tires in the Kmart parking lot at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue on May 30. Images from S. Washington Avenue at Interstate 35W also showed officers with knives deflating the tires of two unoccupied cars with repeated jabs on May 31. Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon confirmed that tires were cut in “a few locations.” “State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires … in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement,” Gordon said. Gordon said the patrol also targeted vehicles “that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks, concrete and sticks. “While not a typical tactic, vehicles were being used as dangerous weapons and inhibited our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe where violent protests were occurring,” he said. As in all operations of this size, there will be a review about how these decisions were made.”
All the Army troops prepared to move on D.C. protesters were armed with bayonets. (Daily Kos, June 11, 2020)
Aggressive Tactics by National Guard, Ordered to Appease Trump, Wounded the Military, Too. (New York Times, June 10, 2020)
D.C. Guard members, typically deployed to help after hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, say they feel demoralized and exhausted. More than 60 percent are people of color, and one soldier said he and some fellow troops were so ashamed in taking part against the protests that they have kept it from family members.
Amazon Is Suspending Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Tech For One Year. (BuzzFeed, June 10, 2020)
The company is joining IBM, but it doesn't mean Amazon is totally out of the facial recognition business.
Why it matters that IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business (Vox, June 10, 2020)
Researchers have for years warned about the problems with facial recognition. Now Big Blue is ditching the tech.
IBM is taking a stand against the development of technology that can lead to human rights abuses. Activists and researchers have sounded the alarm for years about facial recognition technology’s myriad problems, including its racial and gender biases and privacy risks. Some are hailing IBM’s announcement as a notable move, emphasizing that the major technology company’s resources will now be directed elsewhere. IMB’s decision to back away from facial recognition could also send a signal to other major sellers of this technology.
This was not a quiet announcement by IBM. In a letter to members of Congress, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said the company would no longer make general-purpose facial recognition and analysis software, citing concerns about the technology’s use by law enforcement agencies. He clarified that IBM “firmly opposes” the use of facial recognition “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.” The letter also outlined various efforts the company would take in response to ongoing anti-police brutality demonstrations, such as endorsing a federal registry for police misconduct.
The news follows extensive efforts by organizers and researchers highlighting how facial recognition can have baked-in racial and gender biases.
A Deadly Mosquito-Borne Illness Is Brewing in the Northeast. (Medium, June 10, 2020)
EEE kills almost half of its victims, and cases are on the rise.
Kamala Harris seizes the spotlight as Biden seeks a veep — but worries linger. (Washington Post, June 10, 2020)
U.S. House impeachment managers: Trump is as lawless and corrupt as ever. (Washington Post, June 10, 2020)
Four months ago, we tried President Trump for abusing the power of his office in ways that undermined our country’s national security, the integrity of U.S. elections and the constitutional structure of our republic. Trump’s efforts to coerce an ally to help him cheat in the upcoming election violated the public trust, went to the heart of his unfitness for office — and revealed that he prioritizes his interests over those of the nation.
The president was not changed by impeachment. He is as lawless and corrupt as ever. But his wrongdoing has far greater consequences given the acute challenges facing the nation, the failure of those around him to curb destructive impulses, and the continued unwillingness of many members of Congress to serve as a meaningful check and balance as the Founders intended.
In just the few months since the impeachment trial, more than 110,000 Americans have perished from a pandemic, tens of millions are unemployed, the world has turned away from America, and protests over police brutality and systemic racism have erupted nationwide. Yet Americans looking for leadership find none in the White House. Instead, this president and his administration take actions that rend the foundation of our democracy.
Outsider Tapped in Flynn Case Calls Justice Dept. Reversal a ‘Gross Abuse’ of Power. (New York Times, June 10, 2020)
A former federal judge said that the attorney general gave special treatment to a presidential ally, undermining public confidence in the rule of law.
Trump campaign demands CNN apologize for poll that shows Biden leading. (CNN, June 10, 2020)
President Donald Trump's campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker that contained numerous incorrect and misleading claims, was immediately rejected by the network. In the letter to Zucker, the Trump campaign argued that the CNN poll is "designed to mislead American voters through a biased questionnaire and skewed sampling. It's a stunt and a phony poll to cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the President, and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the President." The campaign formally requested that CNN retract the poll and publish a "full, fair, and conspicuous retraction, apology, and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions."
The CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released on Monday shows Trump trailing the former vice president by 14 points, 55%-41%, among registered voters. It also finds the President's approval rating at 38% -- his worst mark since January 2019, and roughly on par with approval ratings for one-term Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection years -- and his disapproval rating at 57%.
"We stand by our poll," said Matt Dornic, a CNN spokesman. David Vigilante, CNN's executive vice president and general counsel, told the campaign that its "allegations and demands are rejected in their entirety. To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN's polling results. To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media."
NEW: How to Grow Green (Bloomberg, June 9, 2020)
26 ways to launch a clean energy future out of the pandemic recovery.
‘What I saw was just absolutely wrong’: National Guardsmen struggle with their role in controlling protests. (Politico, June 9, 2020)
POLITICO spoke to 10 National Guardsmen who have taken part in the protest response across the country since the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.
Pvt. Si’Kenya Lynch, a member of the D.C. National Guard, was on duty at Lafayette Square near the White House last Monday when U.S. Park Police cleared the area of protesters ahead of President Donald Trump’s now-infamous photo op. Lynch said she supports the protests, and that her brother was among the demonstrators on the other side of the line, adding that “he coughed a lot” due to the tear gas fired into the crowd.
Trump accuses 75-year-old peace advocate assaulted by Buffalo police of being 'antifa provocateur'. (Daily Kos, June 9, 2020)
The police response to protests following the murder of George Floyd have included many other instances in which they have demonstrated they’re perfectly willing to commit more violence in front of a watching world. But few moments in the last two weeks have been more distressing than when the Buffalo police not only pushed 75-year-old peace activist Martin Gugino violently to the ground, but continued past him without offering assistance, even as blood poured from Gugino’s ear and puddled beneath his head.
But on Tuesday morning, Trump piled on Gugino in a second attack that isn’t just shocking, it’s an utter break with reality. In a tweet reacting to his new favorite propaganda outfit, OANN, Trump accused Gugino of being an “antifa provocateur,” of faking his fall, and of “scanning” the police with a non-existent device as part of a false-flag operation. And perhaps best of all, this story comes straight from a reporter whose last job was working for Russian state media.
Trump Camp Runs Ads on D.C. Cable to Ease the Boss’ Anxieties and Buck Up Congressional GOPers. (Daily Beast, June 9, 2020)
The president has been worried about his standing electorally. So his team gave him some content to watch on his favorite cable networks.
June 9, 2020 / 7:06 PM / 3 days ago
NEW: New Zealand eradicates coronavirus, at least for now. (CBS News, June 9, 2020)
Widespread mask-wearing could prevent COVID-19 second waves: study. (Reuters, June 9, 2020)
Population-wide face mask use could push COVID-19 transmission down to controllable levels for national epidemics, and could prevent further waves of the pandemic disease when combined with lockdowns, according to a British study on Wednesday. The research, led by scientists at the Britain’s Cambridge and Greenwich Universities, suggests lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but that even homemade masks can dramatically reduce transmission rates if enough people wear them in public. “Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” said Richard Stutt, who co-led the study at Cambridge.
The World Health Organization said on Friday it now recommends that everyone wear fabric face masks in public to try to reduce disease spread.
NEW: 5G Revolution: Unlocking the Digital Age (Visual Capitalist, June 8, 2020)
5G will go from promise to roll-out in 2020. What sets it apart from its predecessor?
For starters, 5G’s speed improvements are something to behold—it is up to 20x faster than 4G. On 4G, an average movie takes 6 minutes to download. With 5G, it will take less than 20 seconds.
In other benefits, 5G supports 10x more devices per square kilometer. As a result, 5G will be able to seamlessly handle many more devices, within the same area as before. This is pivotal for its use in the imminent Internet of Things (IoT).
Finally, latency is the delay (lag), or the time that it takes to send data from point A to point B. With 5G, latency plunges 25x compared to 4G. This results in almost instantaneous data transfers.
5G is one of the most anticipated technologies of our time, and with good reason. In the coming years, the partnership between 5G and the IoT could bring about a boom in smart tech, and this effect could trickle into growth for the economy and investor portfolios. The 5G network is the perfect backbone for the IoT—supporting increasing device numbers, facilitating growing data transfers, and improving response time among connected devices. 5G will likely speed up the mainstream adoption of the IoT across multiple industries:
1. Transport - 5G enables self-driving cars to make “split second” decisions, making them safer. These cars can also connect to buildings, street lights, other cars, and even pedestrians in smart cities—responding rapidly to any issues and improving traffic flow. These two use cases are estimated to bring a $170-$280 billion global GDP boost to the mobility sector by 2030.
2. Manufacturing - 5G could usher in high-tech industry, using AR/VR to boost productivity and precision. Analytics and advanced robotics in smart factories can streamline manufacturing processes, leading to efficiency gains and cost savings. Altogether, the impact could be a $400-$650 billion GDP boost to the industry by 2030.
3. Healthcare - While robotic surgeries are not new, 5G could allow these procedures to occur remotely. Wearables and other smart medical devices provide real-time updates on patients, and make accurate diagnoses. These two applications will contribute an additional $250-$450 billion in GDP to the healthcare space by 2030.
NEW: After Protests, Politicians Reconsider Police Budgets and Discipline. (New York Times, June 8, 2020)
Elected officials are exploring changes ranging from defunding police departments to requiring more accountability.
NEW: Officials respond to videos of state troopers puncturing and slashing reporters’ parked car tires. (Daily Kos, June 8, 2020)
As protesters hit the streets night after night last weekend and reporters followed to cover the events, law enforcement agencies went out to do their own type of vandalism: slashing and puncturing people’s tires. Mother Jones has published a video collection showing these brave American law enforcement apples systematically destroying reporters’ and protesters’ vehicles. “In the videos, officers puncture tires in a K-Mart parking lot on May 30 and a highway overpass on May 31. Both areas briefly turned into police staging grounds near protest hot spots.”
The Star Tribune says it has identified two law enforcement agencies as the perpetrators of this fascistic brand of vandalism. They’re state troopers and deputies from Anoka County. Sheriff’s Office Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon acknowledged the tire slashing and told news outlets: “State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires [...] in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement.”
The bottom's dropping out on Trump's approvals. (Daily Kos, June 8, 2020)
New polling is out and Donald Trump will be shocked to learn that gassing and violently beating peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment wasn't as popular as Attorney General Bill Barr likely told him it would be.
Trump's approval plummeted fully seven points since last month in the new CNN/SSRS poll conducted June 2-5, entirely in the aftermath of Trump's disastrous photo op last Monday. Just 38% of Americans approve of the way he's handling his job, while 57% disapprove—a nearly 20-point gap. As CNN notes, Trump is resting comfortably right alongside where Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection bids.
Mohamed El-Erian: I’m ‘uncomfortable’ betting on continued ‘huge recovery’ in the stock market. (5-min. video; CNBC, June 8, 2020)
Could Trump Turn a Vaccine Into a Campaign Stunt? (New York Times, June 8, 2020)
Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched. In a desperate search for a political boost in October, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.
There are 123 candidate Covid-19 vaccines in development, and 10 are in human trials. Many have not even been tested, or only perfunctorily tested, in animals. In July, the National Institutes of Health is planning to begin randomized phase III trials to test whether some of the 10 vaccines prevent infection with coronavirus. Researchers are expecting that it will be likely to take at least another eight to 12 months to determine whether these coronavirus vaccines are effective. Scientists have to wait until a sufficient number of patients are exposed to coronavirus to see if the vaccine really reduces the infection rate, as well as how many people develop uncommon side effects. For comparison, the effectiveness trial for the rotavirus vaccines took about four years and the human papillomavirus vaccine studies to prevent cervical cancer took seven years.
Cognizant of the fate of Rick Bright — the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, who was summarily demoted when he resisted the president’s wishes to ramp up purchase of hydroxychloroquine — the F.D.A. could issue an Emergency Use Authorization for one or more vaccines. These authorizations only require that the F.D.A. finds it “reasonable to believe” that a vaccine “may be effective” in preventing a life-threatening disease for it to be put on the market, without being formally licensed.
Thousands of Americans have already died as Donald Trump has perpetually postponed effective public health interventions and made poor therapeutic recommendations. We must be on alert to prevent him from corrupting the rigorous assessment of safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in order to pull an October vaccine surprise to try to win re-election.
Prof. Erin Bromage: How to Lower the Risk of Contracting Covid-19. (48-min. video; New York Times, June 8, 2020)
His recent blog post about the risks posed by coronavirus went viral, catapulting him to international fame. Professor Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist, and professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, joined us to share the latest data on how coronavirus spreads, and explore smart ways to live your life while staying safe. Hosted by Tara Parker-Pope, founding editor of Well.
Texas reports a record number of hospitalized coronavirus patients after state reopened early. (CNBC, June 8, 2020)
NEW:  John Oliver: US policing is 'a structure built on systemic racism'. (34-min. video; The Guardian, June 8, 2020)
The Last Week Tonight host traces the history of America’s police culture, one ‘deeply entwined’ with white supremacy, and what’s obstructing change.
On Sunday, John Oliver devoted the entire episode of Last Week Tonight to the nationwide protests against anti-black racism and police brutality sparked by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the fundamentally broken institution of law enforcement in the United States. “Look, if the police are trying to convince the public they’re not guilty of displaying excessive force, it’s probably not a good idea to repeatedly display excessive force on national television,” said Oliver after several clips of police beating peaceful protesters with batons, wantonly spraying pepper spray or, in New York, driving a police cruiser into a barricaded crowd.
BREAKING: Hell Freezes Over As Mitt Romney Marches in DC w/ Evangelicals For Black Lives Matter! (Daily Kos, June 7, 2020)
Milwaukee Attorney taken into Custody After Spitting on African American Minor. (2-min. video; Daily Kos, June 7, 2020)
A day of massive peaceful protests around Milwaukee ended with Attorney Stephanie Rapkin blocking a large group with her car & spitting in a young person's face. You can see it for yourself in this compilation. She was later arrested by the police.
Here’s the mugshot… from her SECOND arrest. She was initially charged with battery & disorderly conduct (for the spitting incident). Then the police went to her home to charge her for pushing another protester and she kneed the cop in the groin. I hope this lady has a good lawyer.
NEW: Videos Show Cops Slashing Car Tires at Protests in Minneapolis. (1-min. video; Mother Jones, June 6, 2020)
After long nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, some protesters, news crews, and medics in Minneapolis last weekend found themselves stranded: The tires of their cars had been slashed. In a city upended by protests about police brutality after the death of George Floyd, many assumed protesters were to blame. But videos reveal a different culprit: the police.
Neither the Minnesota State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests from Mother Jones. The Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota National Guard denied involvement.
Second autopsy of George Floyd reveals unreported injuries and positive COVID-19 diagnosis. (Daily Kos, June 6, 2020)
Critical differences in findings surfaced with a new autopsy report conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office and released by George Floyd’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, on Wednesday. Floyd’s violent death follows decades of police brutality faced by Black people in the U.S. The failure to prosecute Floyd’s killers resulted in protests worldwide against racism and police brutality. Floyd died when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite Floyd repeatedly pleading with the officer that he could not breathe. The death was ruled a homicide by experts hired by the family and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office; however, the cause of death was not agreed upon, CNN reported.
The new 20-page autopsy report concluded that Floyd died as a result of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” differing from the cause of death an independent examiner found as “asphyxiation from sustained pressure." While this final report does not mention asphyxiation, it did also find that Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 in April. The report compiled by Andrew M. Baker confirmed an April 3 diagnosis with a post-mortem nasal swab.
Arguments were formerly made by the county that Floyd was under the influence, therefore causing his own death. However, this report confirms the counterargument that these tests are not always reliable. “You can’t use a post mortem fentanyl level alone to determine that someone was under the influence. You have to look at the level in context of how they are behaving,” Andrew Stolbach, a medical toxicologist and emergency room physician, told Inside Edition Digital. “In the video, we see that this man is awake and walking enough to go buy something at a store before they took him into custody,” Stolbach added. “In this case, we have the benefit of video and we can see that he died because someone’s knee was on his neck and pinning him down. From the clinical scenario that we see with our own eyes, fentanyl is not what caused his death.”
Maine COVID-19 test swab factory destroys all swabs that were made during Trump's maskless visit. (Daily Kos, June 6, 2020)
As Trump touts increased production, coronavirus swabs made during his Maine factory tour will be tossed in the trash. (USA Today, June 5, 2020)
Coronavirus vaccine developers wary of errant antibodies. (Nature Research, June 5, 2020)
Concerns persist that COVID-19 vaccines could cause antibody-dependent enhancement, which can potentiate viral entry into host cells and worsen disease.
Poll Watch: Why Most Americans Support The Protests (New York Times, June 5, 2020)
The American public’s views on the pervasiveness of racism have taken a hard leftward turn over the past few years. Never before in the history of modern polling have Americans expressed such widespread agreement that racial discrimination plays a role in policing — and in society at large. Driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, this shift has primed the country for a new groundswell — one that has quickly earned the sympathy of most Americans, polling shows. As a result, in less than two weeks, it has already forced local governments and national politicians to make tangible policy commitments.
George Floyd death: China takes a victory lap over US protests. (BBC News, June 5, 2020)
As anti-racism protests sweep across the US, Beijing has seized upon them to hit back at Washington for supporting last year's Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations. Chinese state media have given extensive coverage to the protests, highlighting the chaotic scenes and alleged police brutality in America to claim that China enjoys greater social stability. Speaking to an international audience, Chinese diplomats are attempting to portray Beijing as a responsible global leader, standing in solidarity with other countries in condemning the racial disparity and injustice in the US.
George Floyd: Videos of police brutality during protests shock US. (BBC News, June 5, 2020)
There was one group behind the violence on Thursday night, and it sure as hell was not antifa. (various videos; Daily Kos, June 5, 2020)
What happened most notably on Thursday evening was that in multiple locations police used curfews as an excuse to come after nonviolent protesters with violence of an extraordinary, and in many cases sickening, degree. The images left behind were of genuine riots—police riots—and an incident that may be the very definition of “depraved indifference.”
But it wasn’t all violence. There were moments of cooperation … like the moment when a Salem, Oregon officer takes aside a group of gun-toting white supremacists to warn them before the police start gassing everyone else.
Episcopal bishop was blocked from vigil at church Trump commandeered ... then a good thing happened. (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
Jim Cramer: The pandemic led to ‘one of the greatest wealth transfers in history’. (CNBC, June 4, 2020)
“The bigger the business, the more it moves the major averages, and that matters because this is the first recession where big business … is coming through virtually unscathed,” the “Mad Money” host said. “I think we’re looking at a V-shaped recovery in the stock market, and that has almost nothing to do with a V-shaped recovery in the economy.”
Fox News poll has Trump cratering in key swing states, including one absolute zinger. (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
NEW: The 'Antifa' Protester Myth and the Truth About Trump's Voter Fraud Crimes (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
The Unpresidenting of Donald J. Trump: The CounterIntel Report Cometh. (Daily Kos, June 4, 2020)
McCabe’s stroke of genius was to bifurcate the investigation of Trump into two pieces: a criminal investigation by Robert Mueller, and a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI. The *trick* though was that McCabe apparently didn’t tell anyone there were two investigations. Everyone thought Mueller was conducting *both* a criminal and counterintelligence investigation, but he wasn’t. Mueller’s investigation was criminal only, and was a decoy for the FBI counterintelligence investigation.
Trump spent two years attacking the Mueller investigation, not realizing that he was attacking the *wrong* investigation. Mueller waited to drop the bomb on Trump until the FBI was almost done. Then he submitted his Report and revealed the truth: he was a decoy all along.
[Or is THIS theory more Russian disinformation?]
Officers Charged in George Floyd’s Death Not Likely to Present United Front. (New York Times, June 4, 2020)
Facing decades in prison and a bail of at least $750,000, two former Minneapolis officers blamed Derek Chauvin, and a third has cooperated with investigators, their lawyers said.
George Floyd death: Minneapolis to host first memorial event at 1PM local time today. (BBC News, June 4, 2020)
The Generals Are Speaking Up. Is That a Good Thing? (Defense One, June 4, 2020)
Over the past three days, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and all of the service chiefs, have issued messages to their troops — on racism, the Constitution, and the role of the military in America — that are starkly at odds with the language of the elected president of the United States. Their implicit differences with the commander in chief have been joined by explicit condemnation by several prominent retired four-stars, including Trump’s first defense secretary. On Wednesday, Jim Mattis excoriated the president over his handling of the crisis convulsing the nation following the death of George Floyd. Three other prominent retired generals — former Joint Chiefs chairmen Mike Mullen and Martin Dempsey, and retired Marine general John Allen — issued their own public missives condemning the militarized response to the protests and unrest.
Many of Trump’s critics — including at least one GOP lawmaker, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — have celebrated this upswell of military voices on Trump’s actions. Mattis’s words, she told reporters, were “true and honest and necessary and overdue.”
But some scholars of the appropriate relationship between civilian and military leadership in U.S. governance and society — known colloquially as “civ-mil relations” — said the weight being placed on the judgment of former uniformed military leaders is as dangerous as the use of uniformed officers to police civil unrest and lawful protest on American soil. “The generals won’t save us, and — if they do — we’re already lost, and even more lost than we realize,” tweeted Jim Golby, a combat veteran, former West Point professor, and civ-mil relations scholar. That’s because civilian control of the military is considered a bedrock principle of the U.S. form of government, explained Mara Karlin, a former Pentagon official who now directs strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Karlin said that system “is predicated on the notion that military leaders give advice but ultimately, civilians will be looking across a wide range of policy and political issues to make decisions on the use of force.”
“I think right now we need to juggle multiple contradictory ideas at once,” Karlin said. “It is far from ideal that retired military leaders are seen as more credible voices, and yet right now, given that that’s the case and that we are facing such extraordinary circumstances, unfortunately it’s incumbent on them to signal to the force that what’s happening right now is neither healthy nor good.” The next administration — whether in one year or four — will need to “reset” to a more healthy balance, Karlin said.
James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution. (The Atlantic, June 3, 2020)
In an extraordinary condemnation, the former defense secretary backs protesters and says the president is trying to turn Americans against one another.
NEW: Murray Demands Answers Regarding Non-Competitive, Multimillion Dollar Contract for Duplicative Health Data System. (U.S. Senate Newsroom, June 3, 2020)
Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, wrote to Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Robert Kadlec, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), demanding answers about the awarding of a non-competitive, multimillion dollar contract for a seemingly duplicative data collection system.
“I write to understand actions undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to collect hospital and health care provider data during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Clear, accurate, comprehensive data is desperately needed in our fight against COVID-19. Given the importance of collecting this data as quickly as possible, I have several questions about the Trump Administration’s decision to award a multimillion dollar contract on a non-competitive basis to create a seemingly duplicative data collection system,” Senator Murray wrote.
In her letter Senator Murray detailed how the contract seems to duplicate the work done by the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) by creating a second mechanism through which hospitals can report the same information already collected through NHSN. She also made clear that there are other pressing data needs that are still being unmet by the Trump Administration’s efforts, including regrading health disparities.  “The nation is facing an unprecedented public health crisis. Amid a pandemic that calls for robust data on both COVID-19 and the U.S. response to it, critical data remain out of reach to communities working to mitigate the pandemic and planning their response. For example, four months after COVID-19 arrived on U.S. shores, there still is no clear reporting on how many tests and supplies are available, what production and manufacturing gaps remain, and what specific steps are being taken to address shortfalls. There also are major gaps in data on the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, although available information suggests they have been hardest hit by the pandemic.  Yet, while these and other critical data remain out of reach of communities, scientists, and policymakers, it appears the establishment of the TeleTracking system – at significant cost – duplicates the collection of data that was already being reported,” Senator Murray wrote.
Senator Murray requested more information about the contract, how the new system created by it will relate to the existing NHSN system, and an explanation for why it was awarded on a non-competitive basis.
Evidence mounts of far-right extremists' violent chicanery at police protests around the nation. (Daily Kos, June 3, 2020)
Donald Trump may not want to believe it, but the evidence is beginning to mount around the nation that white supremacists and assorted far-right “Boogaloo Bois” are working overtime to leverage protests around the United States against police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd killing—not to merely join the protests, but to both inflict violence and property damage, as well as to threaten other communities with it, all in order to heighten political tensions around the protests.
The preponderance of evidence so far suggests that, as in Minneapolis last week, right-wing extremists are playing a powerful if not decisive role in the violence at the protests, particularly the kind taking place apart from police confrontations: interpersonal confrontations, as well as property damage. Moreover, there may be worse to come: On at least one Telegram channel, neo-Nazis could be found urging their comrades to attend protests and then shoot into the crowds.
Trump’s attempts to blame antifascists—who, in reality, are not a massive, dark conspiracy to destroy America, but rather a smallish, intense, but generally nonviolent movement that at the same time does not eschew it, and lacks the capability to commit the kind of organized attacks on communities that it’s depicted as planning—is part of the right’s long tradition of justifying violence against “the left” by painting it as inherently violent itself.
Black Voters Are Coming for Trump. (New York Times, June 3, 2020)
In Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, a young protester told a reporter that she just didn’t think voting is “how change happens.” “They’ve been telling us to do that for so long,” she added, “and we’ve done it — and look at everything that’s still going on.”
Fury over the cruel death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody, combined with fear of a deadly virus and its painful economic impact, make this a dark, dizzying moment in our national life. But African-Americans shouldn’t feel hopeless, because the black vote does matter — it has never mattered more. It is at the heart of the fight to take back America
The biggest story of 2020 politics is hard to ignore. But somehow it is being ignored. The black vote now defines American politics.
Joe Biden would be retired if not for the black vote. Black voters made him the Democrats’ presidential nominee. In November, the number of black voters who turn out in the crucial swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin is likely to be the deciding factor in the election. That means black voters, 12 percent of the national electorate, are set to pick our next president.
Mr. Biden went on to blow out the competition in South Carolina and easily win the rest of the South. Two top competitors with no traction among black voters, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, dropped out and endorsed him. The party’s sudden consolidation around Mr. Biden abruptly ended a confusing race that many feared was hurtling toward an open convention. Few had seen it coming. Mr. Biden looked boring in comparison with the impassioned Bernie Sanders and the furious Donald Trump. Yet polls consistently showed that in a general election matchup, it was Mr. Biden who held the highest margin of victory over Mr. Trump.
There are many reasons for black voters to like Mr. Biden — his record on judicial appointments and voting rights during his long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee; his work on federal stimulus spending after the recession and on Obamacare; and of course his service as vice president to the nation’s first black president. But beating Mr. Trump tops the list. For black voters, the prospect of four more years of this administration is about more than politics. It’s personal.
It is a reaction born of real fear — of the racism that led a white man to shoot Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and a white police officer to press his knee into the neck of George Floyd in Minnesota, of the racism that every day results in more black people dying of the coronavirus. African-Americans see this, and they see a president who does nothing to stop it. Contrary to the image created by news coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests, 43 percent of black voters are moderates. A quarter identify as conservatives. These are the black people in church on Sunday. They are proud members of a sorority or fraternity.
Russian trolls recognized the power of these voters. “No single group” was targeted more than African-Americans, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report on interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Russians wanted to drive down black enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. But they also worked to deepen the black-white divide to increase white turnout for the Republican Party. The strategy seems to have succeeded. In 2016, while white turnout went up, “the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election,” according to the Pew Research Center.
President Trump, too, recognizes the power of the black vote. After his upset win in 2016, he said: Blacks “didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out. And that was big — so thank you to the African-American community.”
Today he continues putting his attention and campaign money into diminishing the impact of black voters. If he can’t get them to vote for him, he’d like to keep them from voting at all. Mr. Trump is opposed to mail-in voting, even during the pandemic, saying it is fertile ground for fraud. But his real concern seems to be that making voting easier in any way means more members of minorities will vote, and vote for Democrats. In March he was explicit in saying “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” if mail-in voting were allowed. Last week he doubled down, tweeting that it would “lead to the end of our great Republican Party.”
Black Americans have had enough. They have an explosive, personal investment in defeating Mr. Trump in 2020. More than 80 percent of them say Mr. Trump is a racist. For them, defeating him is the civil rights movement of 2020. And it is not an empty threat.
NEW: The Latest: Thousands on New York City streets after curfew. (Associated Press, June 3, 2020)
Chaos in primary elections offers troubling signs for November. (Washington Post, June 3, 2020)
Sometimes-chaotic primary elections across eight states and the District of Columbia foreshadowed challenges that could undermine the security and legitimacy of the general election in November. There were signs of dangerous shortcuts and workarounds, especially in the District where officials couldn't get mail-in ballots out to everyone who requested them and resorted to accepting emailed ballots. Security experts warn such ballots are highly vulnerable to hacking because voters can't verify they were recorded accurately.
That was the biggest security concern on a night that was also marked by hours-long lines for in-person voting, last-minute extensions for absentee voting, and anxiety about going to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence, which prompted curfews in some places including Washington and Philadelphia.
NEW: Millions Of Americans Skip Payments As Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms. (NPR, June 3, 2020)
Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people's credit getting destroyed. Much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long.
As with many other aspects of the coronavirus outbreak, there are disparities along socioeconomic and racial lines. Panameño says her group did a national survey to see who was having trouble paying their bills after the pandemic struck. "Twenty-five percent of Latinos had already fallen behind with their payments," she says. "Twenty-eight percent of African Americans had fallen behind. That compares to 12% of whites that had fallen behind."
NEW: The Military and FBI Are Flying Surveillance Planes Over Protests. (Motherboard, June 3, 2020)
Motherboard tracked high-tech aircraft previously used in warzones, as well as flights from other agencies above protesting cities.
Zoom says free users won’t get end-to-end encryption so FBI and police can access calls. (The Verge, June 3, 2020)
Businesses, schools, and other paying customers will get it.
#BunkerBoy’s Photo-Op War (New Yorker, June 3, 2020)
Is this an authoritarian crackdown by Donald Trump or just another politicized spectacle?
NEW: ‘Bye, Mommy, I Love You’: Medics and Coronavirus Patients Make Hard Decisions. (10-min. video; New York Times, June 3, 2020)
The CDC Waited "Its Entire Existence For This Moment." What went wrong? (New York Times, June 3, 2020)
The technology was old, the data poor, the bureaucracy slow, the guidance confusing, the administration not in agreement. The coronavirus shook the world's premiere health agency, creating a loss of confidence and hampering the U.S. response to the crisis.
Free Resource to Help your Family Separate COVID Facts from Fiction (Tumblehome, June 3, 2020)
The best way to investigate a questionable scientific-sounding claim is to ask good questions. You can remember the following three sets of questions using the acronym SAP. A “sap” is a fool, and no one wants to be fooled by misinformation!
1. Sources:
    Are there good references provided so you know what experts think?
    Do well-qualified people have a different point of view than the one presented?
2. Author:
    Where did the claim come from?
    Is the claim made by a qualified scientist, a reputable group or website?
    Can you even tell who the author is?
3. Purpose:
    Why was the information made available?
    Is it because somebody is selling something? In which case we should be extra careful before believing what they say.
    Is the purpose to stir up your emotions, to change your vote, or to provide information?
    Do well-qualified people have a different point of view than the one presented?
Science is the pursuit of explanations of the natural world. It is deeply rooted in the minds of human beings, who for millennia have demonstrated a need to understand the world around them. A full discussion of the nature of science requires more than this one page.
However, if you want to more closely examine ‘science – fact or fiction,’ WGBH’s NOVA, Andy Zucker and our founder Penny Noyce created a FREE one-week unit for grades 6-12 called “Resisting Scientific Misinformation,” available HERE.
HERE is a list of organizations that might have reliable advice and answers to some of your questions.
Don’t be a SAP – stay informed…and stay safe.

What Your Youngest Employees Need Most Right Now (Harvard Business Review, June 3, 2020)
The long-term toll of the coronavirus is unknown, but its effects on our health care system and the economy have already been catastrophic. And while the immediate concerns of skyrocketing unemployment and a stalled economy must be addressed today, employers also need to begin considering how to rebuild for the employees returning to the workforce — or entering it for the first time.
This includes Gen Z, the youngest members of the workforce and those currently in secondary school or college. Many who were just beginning their career journey have been furloughed or fired. Those in school were suddenly confined to their homes. Collectively, they are experiencing the greatest national trauma since the Great Depression and World War II.
Incredible fossil find is the oldest known parasite. (1-min. video; Ars Technica, June 2, 2020)
510-million-year-old rocks in China preserve brachiopods and their parasites.
The medicalised life (Aeon, June 2, 2020)
Why do so many see vaccines and other medical interventions as tools of social control rather than boons to health?
Trust in institutions and belief in technological miracles are set against fears that institutional forms such as professional medicine can’t recognise individual singularity and specific human vulnerabilities, and might indeed be doing more harm than good.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
Unlike previous SARS viruses, which tended to settle deeper in the respiratory system, this one tends to settle in the upper respiratory system — in your nose and throat. That means that it tends to spread with your voice, in addition to coughs and sneezes. And when you look at where a lot of the major super-spreader events have occurred, it’s places like churches where folks are singing. It’s meatpacking plants where people have to talk really loud. It’s sports arenas. It’s call centers. And I realized, holy cow, this is a virus that is ideally adapted to human conversation.
All viruses make mistakes when they make copies of themselves, but this one doesn’t make as many mistakes, or mutations — around two a month on average. Which is good for us because we are working really hard to make vaccines and drugs that would target specific aspects of this virus. And we can be pretty confident that whatever we cook up won’t be outdated six months from now because the virus has mutated again and become resistant.
History Will Judge the Complicit. (The Atlantic, June 2, 2020)
Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president?
There isn’t a simple story about looting. (Vox, June 2, 2020)
“The question you have to ask yourself is: Why are there so many people in our society who don’t have a lot to lose?” says sociologist Darnell Hunt.
Park Police carried out illegal order, gassing Americans for a photo-op. Now they're lying about it. (Daily Kos, June 2, 2020)
On Twitter, WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein reports what is self-evidently lies from the Park Police involved in the gassing of protesters outside the White House last night. Augenstein reports that "Park Police didn't know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later," when clearing the crowd but did it because "water bottles" were being thrown. This is no doubt because at least some in the command structure now realize that the White House gave an illegal order, in using local and military police to clear a peaceful crowd assembled on the property of St. John's Church so that Donald Trump could use the grounds for a photo-op, and are attempting to now dodge responsibility. But the claim that the two events were not connected is an obvious and offensive lie.
We know the two events were coordinated because we saw the White House coordinating them, in real time, on television. "Given that the attorney general was just looking this scene over moments before it began, it’s safe to assume the administration wanted this backdrop," tweeted The New York Times' Maggie Haberman. And that is precisely what William Barr did.
The picture on this post is from Barr surveying the scene and speaking with military and/or police officials immediately before gas canisters, flash-bang grenades, and military police were used to forcibly clear both church property and the park between the White House and it. The Rose Garden speech was delayed for fifteen minutes—those fifteen minutes, when the television networks had assembled their reporters in the Rose Garden and were broadcasting from it, is when the operation began.
And Trump's last line of his speech was a line announcing that he would now be walking to the church. The church that had just been cleared for him by Park Police. The church whose priest had just been gassed and driven off by Park Police in the minutes, the minutes, before Trump announced on live television that he was now heading there.
This administration has lost all legitimacy. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley betrayed his country in abetting a clearly illegal act and must resign. William Barr, who from initial evidence may have been the very person to give the "green light" to begin the operation, must be forced to resign by Congress or through relentless public action. There is nobody left in this White House but traitors. They allowed an attack on peaceful Americans so that Trump could stage a belligerent television moment.
The Last Temptation of Trump (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
The president brandishes a Bible in front of a church, in search of a divine mandate that isn’t coming.
Bishop at DC church outraged by Trump visit: 'I just can't believe what my eyes have seen!' (3-min. video; CNN, June 1, 2020)
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said Monday evening that she is "outraged" after President Donald Trump visited her church without advance notice to share "a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus." Her pointed comments came after the President walked from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church, a house of worship used by American presidents for more than a century. Peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. It was all, apparently, so Trump could visit the church.
"I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John's, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now. And in particular, that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever -- anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred words. And who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love ... we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love. We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others," she continued. "And I just can't believe what my eyes have seen."
Beyond using the church as a backdrop, Budde criticized Trump's use of a Bible during the visit, which he held up as he posed for cameras. "Let me be clear: The President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus," she said.
The episode follows nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
Trump was surrounded by aides in front of the church, including national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
He remained at the boarded-up building for a matter of minutes before returning inside the White House. The exterior of the church had been defaced during protests outside the White House Sunday, and there had been a small fire in the parish house basement but church leaders said in a statement that the structure was largely untouched. The address came after he had been angered by news coverage depicting him holed up in an underground bunker amid protests in Washington. He told aides on Monday he wanted to be seen outside the White House gates, according to a person familiar with the matter, which is part of what drove the decision to stage the photo-op at St. John's Church.
But Budde stressed Monday that his presence in front of the church -- and his response to the nationwide protests -- were both unwelcome.
"What I am here to talk about is the abuse of sacred symbols for the people of faith in this country to justify language, rhetoric, an approach to this crisis that is antithetical to everything we stand for."
The Episcopal Church has repeatedly refuted Trump on a range of issues including proposed cuts to social services and the construction of a wall on the US southern border.
Michael Curry, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement Monday that Trump had "used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or heal us," Curry said.
And Greg Brewer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, tweeted that he was "shaken watching protestors in Lafayette Park gassed and cleared so that the President of the United States can do a photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church holding a Bible. This is blasphemy in real time."
One of my senators just called Trump's speech fascist; I couldn't be more proud. (Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
"The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens. I fear for our country tonight and will not stop defending America against Trump." --U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
Here’s some of what Wyden was responding to:
Trump: “Our country always wins. That is why I am taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America. I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the following measures are going into effect immediately. First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now. Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets, mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.” ...  “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them. I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital Washington, D.C. What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property. We are putting everybody on warning our 7 o’clock curfew will be strictly enforced. Those who threatened innocent life and property will be arrested, detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail.”
I fear this will end terribly. And clearing out peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets for a photo op? With apologies to Caligula and Mussolini, it sounds like something a mad dictator would do.
NEW: Facebook Employees Take the Rare Step to Call Out Mark Zuckerberg. (Wired, June 1, 2020)
Some workers at the social media giant are publicly criticizing decisions not to remove or flag misleading posts by President Trump.
Sooner or later, Zuckerberg has to deal with the larger issue of how Trump has been exploiting social media to spread the poison of division in the body politic. It is for that reason, and not a reposting of a tweet or two, that some of his employees are walking out, others say they are about to quit, and many more will turn down Facebook recruitment offers. And the problem will only get worse as Trump seems hell-bound to post ever more extreme pronouncements.
NEW: New ad hits Trump hard on hate and violence. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
Tear gas, rubber bullets unleashed on peaceful protesters outside White House for Trump photo op. (Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
Minutes before Donald Trump began a chest-thumping address in the Rose Garden Monday evening, federal law enforcement officers started aggressively clearing out peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House. Clearing a path so Trump could subsequently walk to a photo op, horseback mounted federal police and national guardsmen wielding military police shields pushed protesters off H Street, unleashing flash bangs, tear gas, and rubber bullets on them. MSNBC journalist Garrett Haake described the surreal scene minutes after it took place and said the protesters were entirely peaceful.
So he was literally hiding in a bunker... (Daily Kos, June 1, 2020)
Even by his own admission there was no need for Trump’s retreat into his bunker. Since the Secret Service isn’t going to tell us, we’ll probably never know whether the existence of a threat sufficient to prompt Trump to scurry into a bunker not used since the 9/11 attacks was based on any real evidence, a fiction created out of whole cloth to generate concern for his safety, or simply an unseemly act of cowardice. Either way it serves as a fitting metaphor for a president who has done nothing but run away at every opportunity from taking any responsibility for his actions.
[We think this cartoon is appropriate.]
NEW: White Supremacist Infiltration of US Police Forces: Fact-Checking National Security Advisor O’Brien (2-min. video; Just Security, June 1, 2020)
It’s more than “a few bad apples”.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Nicaragua has resisted imposing lockdown rules. Now the virus appears to be raging through the country. (New York Times, May 31, 2020)
As protesters flood streets across the country, officials worry that they could be spreading the virus. (New York Times, May 31, 2020)
Mass protests over police violence against black Americans in at least 75 U.S. cities have spurred concern that the gatherings will seed new outbreaks. The protests could increase infections in communities of color, which are already being disproportionately hit by the disease. Death rates among black Americans are double those of whites, and the economic toll of lockdowns has also inflicted disproportionate economic pain.
World alarmed by violence in U.S.; thousands march in London. (Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2020)
Nations around the world have watched in horror the days of civil unrest in the United States following the death Monday of a black man being detained by police. But they have not been surprised. Racism-tinged events no longer startle even America’s closest allies, though many have watched coverage of the often-violent protests with growing unease.
Burning cars and riot police in the U.S. were featured on newspaper front pages around the globe Sunday — bumping news of the COVID-19 pandemic to second-tier status in some places. George Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for eight minutes. It was the latest in a series of deaths of black men and women at the hands of police in America.
Microsoft has plans to use Artificial Intelligence to vet news stories for inclusion on the MSN web site, replacing a staff of human journalists. (The Guardian, May 30, 2020)
Dozens of journalists have been sacked after Microsoft decided to replace them with artificial intelligence software. Staff who maintain the news homepages on Microsoft’s MSN website and its Edge browser have been told that they will be no longer be required because robots can now do their jobs. Around 27 individuals employed by PA Media – formerly the Press Association – were told on Thursday that they would lose their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to select, edit and curate news articles on its homepages. Employees were told Microsoft’s decision to end the contract with PA Media was taken at short notice as part of a global shift away from humans in favour of automated updates for news.
What Happened in the Chaotic Moments Before George Floyd Died (New York Times, May 30, 2020)
The episode began with a report of a $20 counterfeit bill. It ended in a fatal encounter with the police, which the authorities have described in detail for the first time.
LA Times reporter recounts being hit with tear gas and rubber bullets by Minnesota police. (1-min. video; Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2020)
When Minnesota police advanced on peaceful protesters gathered at an intersection outside the Fifth Precinct late Saturday, I didn’t expect them to fire on reporters.
I was wrong. At about 8:30 p.m., a group of about two dozen Minneapolis police and sheriff’s deputies appeared from behind a chain link fence opposite protesters. They were in riot gear and grasping batons.
A young African American woman approached the police, arms raised. An officer sprayed her in the face with something that smelled like pepper spray, and the woman ran to seek help from fellow protesters. A young African American man approached the officers, outraged, but another man pulled him back to the main group. The police retreated back behind the fence. But moments later, a much larger phalanx of officers in riot gear emerged to block the street.
George Floyd Updates: ‘Absolute Chaos’ in Minneapolis as Protests Grow Across U.S. (1-min. video; New York Times, May 29, 2020)
Minnesota’s governor said the police and National Guard had been overwhelmed by protests, which raged even after a former police officer was charged with murdering George Floyd.
George Floyd Death Protests In Minneapolis And Around The U.S. (8-min. video; NBC News, May 29, 2020)
NEW: Why far-right protesters are wearing Hawaiian print (Independent, May 29, 2020)
From 4chan meme to Aloha shirts, armed Americans prepare for 'The Boogaloo'.
Where does the phrase 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts' come from? (3-min. video; NBC News, May 29, 2020)
Before Trump used it re Minneapolis, it was uttered by a Southern police chief during civil rights unrest in the 1960s.
NEW: George Floyd and officer who knelt on his neck had worked at same nightclub, former owner says. (NBC News, May 29, 2020)
The club's former owner said it appeared to her that Chauvin, who worked off duty on security, “was always very nervous,” especially on the venue’s “urban nights.”
What we know about George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody (NPR, May 29, 2020)
The police officer who was seen kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, the black man who died in custody on May 25 following the exchange with police, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. Derek Chauvin was fired following the incident, along with three other officers. A bystander video captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, despite his pleas that he could not breathe.
The account from Darnella Frazier, who filmed the now-viral video showing part of the police encounter and said she watched Floyd being suffocated, differs from that of the police, who said Floyd was stopped because he matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case, resisted arrest and then suffered “medical distress.”
The incident has prompted investigations from state and federal authorities, an apology from the city’s mayor and comparisons to other uses of deadly force against black Americans, particularly the death of Eric Garner. It has also sparked thousands to pour out into the streets of Minneapolis to protest, largely around the intersection where Floyd died. The gatherings were a rare sight amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept  most people in some form of isolation for weeks.
NEW:  Zoom plans to roll out strong encryption - only for paying customers. (Reuters, May 29, 2020)
Video conferencing provider Zoom (ZM.O) plans to strengthen encryption of video calls hosted by paying clients and institutions such as schools, but not by users of its free consumer accounts, a company official said on Friday.
NEW: Trump just said what Republicans have been trying not to say for years. (Washington Post, May 29, 2020)
The president revealed his real concern about mail-in voting: He’s worried Republicans will lose more elections.
NEW: You shouldn’t need a Harvard degree to survive birdwatching while black. (Washington Post, May 28, 2020)
Black people don’t owe anyone exceptionalism just to get respect — or to live. I am 17 years old, black and have served as a poet laureate. I plan on attending Yale University in the fall. I fit the bill of a young Christian Cooper, and it terrifies me to think that had I not found a passion for writing early in my life, or had I struggled in school, or if I’d chosen to skip college, my right to the presumption of innocence or concern for my physical welfare would somehow decrease on the scales of respectability politics. It terrifies me to know that some would only see me as human as long as I’m able to produce evidence of merit or meet a standard.
The World Is Still Far From Herd Immunity for Coronavirus. (New York Times, May 28, 2020)
 The coronavirus still has a long way to go. That’s the message from a crop of new studies across the world that are trying to quantify how many people have been infected. Official case counts often substantially underestimate the number of coronavirus infections. But in new studies that test the population more broadly, the percentage of people who have been infected so far is still in the single digits. The numbers are a fraction of the threshold known as herd immunity, at which the virus can no longer spread widely. The precise herd immunity threshold for the novel coronavirus is not yet clear; but several experts said they believed it would be higher than 60 percent.
Florida forced medical examiners to stop reporting death results, and now we know why. (Daily Kos, May 28, 2020)
With 52,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Florida is in the top ten states when it comes to infections. But the 2,300 recorded deaths is less than half of those from Michigan, a state with a similar number of cases. Considering the number of elderly residents and retirement communities, Florida’s relatively light death toll seemed somewhat miraculous, and DeSantis has been bragging both about the “success” of his policies and sneering at pundits that warned of potential disaster from his refusal to enforce social distancing guidelines.
But there’s still more evidence that “miracle” isn’t the right word. The correct word is “con.” Because it looks like DeSantis has been taking COVID-19 deaths out of one column and inserting them into another.
Trump's Executive Order Is a Blatant and Unconstitutional Attempt to Silence Critics and Fact Checkers. (Free Press, May 28, 2020)
Trump’s threat to use the executive branch’s power to punish internet companies for Twitter’s mild fact check of his statements is exactly the kind of abuse of power that the Constitution and our First Amendment were written to prevent. It’s undoubtedly the first step down an increasingly dark path of Trump using the power of his office to intimidate and silence media companies, journalists, activists and anyone else who criticizes or corrects him.
The FCC is supposed to be an independent agency, not the censorship or propaganda arm of the White House. That Brendan Carr, an FCC commissioner, would go on TV cloaking himself in the language of free speech while entertaining Trump’s authoritarian actions is shameful and antithetical to the rights and principles of a free society.
Trump could not be more wrong on the law, the facts and the scope of his power.
Trump’s Order on Social Media Could Harm One Person in Particular: Donald Trump. (New York Times, May 28, 2020)
President Trump, who built his political career on the power of a flame-throwing Twitter account, has now gone to war with Twitter, angered that it would presume to fact-check his messages. But the punishment he is threatening could force social media companies to crack down even more on customers just like Mr. Trump. The executive order that Mr. Trump signed on Thursday seeks to strip liability protection in certain cases for companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook for the content on their sites, meaning they could face legal jeopardy if they allowed false and defamatory posts. Without a liability shield, they presumably would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the boundaries — like the president’s.
That, of course, is not the outcome Mr. Trump wants. What he wants is the freedom to post anything he likes without the companies applying any judgment to his messages, as Twitter did this week when it began appending “get the facts” warnings to some of his false posts on voter fraud. Furious at what he called “censorship” — even though his messages were not in fact deleted — Mr. Trump is wielding the proposed executive order like a club to compel the company to back down.
It may not work even as intended. Plenty of lawyers quickly said on Thursday that he was claiming power to do something he does not have the power to do by essentially revising the interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law passed by Congress in 1996 that laid out the rules of the road for online media. Legal experts predicted such a move would be challenged and most likely struck down by the courts.
But the logic of Mr. Trump’s order is intriguing because it attacks the very legal provision that has allowed him such latitude to publish with impunity a whole host of inflammatory, harassing and factually distorted messages that a media provider might feel compelled to take down if it were forced into the role of a publisher that faced the risk of legal liability rather than a distributor that does not. “Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” said Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which instantly objected to the proposed order. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation and threats.”
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump tests what he can get away with, how far he can move the goalposts for his own campaign. (Letters From An American, May 28, 2020)
Today Trump’s reaction to Twitter fact-checking him was so extreme that #TrumpMeltdown trended on Twitter. This morning, to his audience of more than 80 million, he tweeted: “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices [sic]. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen….” Then he went on to reiterate that mail-in ballots would “be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots.”
This evening, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump would be signing an executive order pertaining to social media companies, although just what that might look like is unclear. Brian Fung, CNN’s technology reporter, says that the White House did not consult the Federal Communications Commission about the forthcoming executive order, suggesting that the order has not gone through the normal review process.
This means that any executive order he issues—if he issues one—is unlikely to withstand legal scrutiny. Rather than actually affecting the law, he is likely simply trying to pressure Twitter into leaving his own disinformation unchallenged. It is also likely he is eager to change the subject to anything other than our growing numbers of Americans dead of Covid-19. (None of his tweets today acknowledged our dead.)
Finally, he is seeing what can he get away with. Will he be able to bully Twitter’s moderators into leaving his own disinformation unchecked?
The question of what Trump can get away with, how far he can move the goalposts for his own campaign, was in the news tonight over another issue, as well. In the past two months, Trump has cleaned house of five inspectors general. By law, though, he cannot fire them cleanly; he has to give Congress thirty days notice so it can prevent the president from firing an inspector general because of an investigation.
The White House thumbs its nose at GOP critics of inspectors general purge. (Washington Post, May 27, 2020)
“There’s little they can do to actually prevent the president from removing a presidential appointee,” watchdog Walter Shaub recently told NPR. “But the purpose of the law was to give Congress 30 days to raise the stakes for the president, the idea being that they would either shame him publicly, and it would cause a public reaction that would cause him to back down. Or they would use more direct leverage, like refusing to confirm his nominees.”
That’s the leverage Congress has in this case, but only if it chooses to exercise it. With Cipollone practically shrugging off the whole thing and telling members like Grassley to pound sand, the ball is now in their court.
What’s even more remarkable about Cipollone’s letter is that Grassley essentially volunteered potential justifications for Linick’s firing, but Cipollone opted not to use them. It’s apparently an attempted power play — one in which Cipollone is daring these members to push harder and believes they ultimately won’t.
Either that, or the White House worries that delving into its actual justifications will inevitably point in the direction of retaliation — which Trump’s own comments certainly have.
The Trump administration may be turning a corner in its war with Huawei. (Washington Post, May 27, 2020)
The Trump administration has scored a major victory with the United Kingdom's decision to launch an emergency review of Huawei’s role in its 5G telecommunications networks. The review is expected to conclude that a series of increasingly harsh U.S. sanctions have made it impossible for the United Kingdom to work with the Chinese telecom.
Lawmaker told his GOP peers he had COVID-19, but waited a week to inform fellow Democrats. (Daily Kos, May 27, 2020)
“If it was known yesterday that members were either positive or in quarantine, we needed to know that yesterday. We absolutely need to know more. There needs to be transparency about this. These members are pushing us to reopen the state. The hypocrisy is astounding.”
NEW: Nearly Half of the Twitter Accounts Discussing 'Reopening America' May Be Bots. (Carnegie Mellon University, May 27, 2020)
CMU researchers say sophisticated, orchestrated bot campaigns aim to sow divide.
Trump’s mockery of wearing masks divides Republicans. (Washington Post, May 27, 2020)
A growing chorus of Republicans are pushing back against President Trump’s suggestion that wearing cloth masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus is a sign of personal weakness or political correctness. They include governors seeking to prevent a rebound in coronavirus cases and federal lawmakers who face tough reelection fights this fall, as national polling shows lopsided support for wearing masks in public. "Wearing a face covering is not about politics — it’s about helping other people,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Tuesday in a plea over Twitter, echoing comments by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) last week. “This is one time when we truly are all in this together."
The comments come as Trump continues to treat face masks as something to mock, refusing to wear one in public and joining his staff and family in ridiculing his Democratic rival Joe Biden for doing otherwise. White House staff members are required to wear masks in the building, though Trump is exempted from that rule.
a divide that recent polls show largely exists within the Republican Party, as clear majorities of Democrats and independents have embraced the need for mask wearing, in line with the scientific consensus that it is an effective method to slow the spread of the virus, potentially speeding a recovery of the economy.
A poll this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 89 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of independents report wearing a mask every time or most of the time when they leave home, compared with 58 percent of Republicans. Three recent public polls have found that between 64 and 72 percent of the public says Trump should wear a mask. Between 38 and 48 percent of Republicans say Trump should do so. That is an issue that divides Republicans and not anybody else.
When asked Tuesday by CNN if wearing a mask projected strength or weakness, Biden offered a third option, saying it projected leadership. He called Trump “an absolute fool” for his mockery of protective measures. “Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine,” Biden said. “It reminds me of the guys I grew up with playing ball. They would walk around with a ball, but they didn’t like to hit very much.”
George Floyd's death sparks large protests, confrontations with police. (10-min. video; CBS News, May 27, 2020)
Large crowds gathered Tuesday to protest at the site where a man was violently arrested the night before. George Floyd, who was black, repeatedly told a white police officer kneeling on his neck that he couldn't breathe. But despite Floyd's pleas for his life, the officer didn't let up for more than seven minutes, and Floyd died hours later. The incident was caught on video by an onlooker.
Minneapolis Mayor Frey To County Attorney: Charge Arresting Officer In George Floyd's Death. (19-min. video; WCCO/CBS Minnesota, May 27, 2020)
As of yet, no arrests have been made, which Frey said inspired him to speak out Wednesday afternoon.
Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo: 4 Police Officers Fired Following Death Of George Floyd. (CBS, May 26, 2020)
"Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated. This is the right call." — Mayor Jacob Frey
Trump Team Killed Rule Designed To Protect Health Workers From Pandemic Like COVID-19. (4-min. audio; NPR, May 26, 2020)
When President Trump took office in 2017, his team stopped work on new federal regulations that would have forced the health care industry to prepare for an airborne infectious disease pandemic such as COVID-19. That decision is documented in federal records reviewed by NPR.
Twitter Must Cleanse the Trump Stain. (New York Times, May 26, 2020)
The president is spreading a vile conspiracy theory on the platform. Maybe Twitter should finally hold him to its rules.
“Please delete those tweets,” the widower begged in a letter last week to Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey. “My wife deserves better.”
Yes, Twitter, Lori Klausutis certainly does deserve better, nearly two decades after she died in a tragic accident that has morphed into a macabre and continuing nightmare for her husband, Timothy Klausutis. The boogeyman plunging him and the family of his late wife into the very worst of memory holes is a conspiracy-theory-loving, twitchy-fingered and often shameless tweeter who also happens to be the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
Tweeting misinformation is not new for Mr. Trump, who uses the service as his political cudgel to govern, campaign, wage petty digital wars and, more recently, peddle dangerous medical advice about Covid-19. All of this Twitter has allowed, because it has deemed even the most inane of the president’s utterances as “newsworthy.” At least Mr. Trump is consistent in his lowering of the bar. As the number of Americans who have died from the coronavirus approached 100,000, the president declined to address the virus’s tragic toll and chose instead to keep up the series of tweets about Ms. Klausutis, all aimed at attacking Mr. Scarborough, who is now a high-profile MSNBC host.
Our Economy Was Just Blasted Years Into the Future. (Medium, May 26, 2020)
The crisis is compressing and accelerating trends that would have taken decades to play out.
Before the coronavirus, surveillance capitalism was already a big worry — Big Tech companies were vacuuming up data from laptops, front doors, appliances, kitchens, living rooms, and smartphones and selling the resulting market intelligence for hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Now, touchless technology suggests a new front in the age of around-the-clock commercialized surveillance, hackable by Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, or any number of private actors, well- or malignly intended. It is an unusual, once-in-a-lifetime, super-charging event for surveillance companies, rebranding themselves while becoming an answer for companies, offices, and agencies everywhere contemplating how to safely reopen. “It’s a one-time shift in technology. After this, it’s going to stay like this forever,” says Saurabh Bajaj, CEO of Swiftlane, a Silicon Valley touchless startup using facial recognition. He says that Covid-19 had enabled technology to leapfrog into an immediate future of touchless elevators, doors, and trash cans. The barriers, for the most part, are gone: “We will just move on into this new world.”
The auto industry is feeling its own mortality: Ford expects to lose $5 billion this quarter after a $2 billion loss in the first three months of the year. Fiat Chrysler also lost just under $2 billion the first quarter. GM made a little money — $294 million — but that was an 86% drop year-on-year. It has been the same abroad: VW’s earnings plunged by 75% in the first quarter, and Toyota says it expects its full-year profit to plummet 80%.
But the auto industry has also lost confidence that a fully autonomous, go-anywhere vehicle is possible any time soon. In a Wall Street Journal report on May 18, Uber — whose business model until recently centered entirely on mastering autonomy — was said to be reevaluating driverless research after burning through more than $1 billion. It was stunning news since just last year, Uber’s self-driving unit was valued at $7.25 billion. In addition to the major players, tens of millions of dollars of venture capital has gone into countless startups, among them Argo AI, Zoox, Aurora, and Voyage. No one is publicly giving up — that would be too much of a concession given the hit they would probably take from Wall Street. Rather than an admission of failure, look for one after the other to embrace lesser, limited autonomy such as lane changing, highway driving, and automatic parking.
A primary economic bright spot in 2019 was the lowest-paid tier of workers, whose wages rose by a dramatic 4.5% after decades of a shrinking share of the economic pie. The coronavirus has erased all of that, returning many of the newly hired workers to jobless status and making the prior year’s wage raises look hollow. According to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 42% of those laid off won’t get their jobs back. How most will ever regain what they have lost is not clear since the economy had almost no cushion for them, says Rick Wartzman, director of the Center for a Functioning Society at the Drucker Institute. “The progress that was finally beginning to be made in raising all boats is now sinking the smallest boats most rapidly,” says Josh Bolten, head of the Business Round Table and former chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
One reason for the doubts about the revival of gains for workers is yet another byproduct of the coronavirus: an accelerated automation of jobs. Some parts of the country were long fearful of the possibility of robots taking over swaths of the economy, and companies, big consultants, and thought leaders worked overtime to assure people that automation would help workers, not replace them.
But the moment of truth forced by the virus has seen worker-replacing automation even by companies that had not previously turned to robots. The trend is more pronounced in China, where investment in automation technologies is surging, but U.S. companies are trying out more robots, too. “Many companies are experimenting with automation in ways that they might not have today without necessity — from A.I. to replacing shut-down call centers in the Philippines and India to robots using ultraviolet light to sanitize,” says Karen Harris, managing director of Bain Macro Trends. “As we have a greater installed base of automation, the cost will come down, and the number of use cases will rise.”
One of the key buyers of these new robots are retail stores, already among the most disruption-stressed sectors on the planet. Since 2015, about 32,600 stores have shuttered across the U.S. as consumer taste shifted online. Since the virus, the industry’s implosion has sped up, with new bankruptcy filings this month by J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and J.Crew and forecasts of 100,000 more store closings over the next five years. Combined March and April sales fell a calamitous 24%, a record. Yet, look closer at the numbers: Leading up to Covid, just 15% of retail sales happened online. Now, during the coronavirus — with almost every store around the country shuttered, apart from groceries, pharmacies, and some other essential shops — the number rose to 25%, UBS said. That is, despite a majority of the country sheltering at home, captive to their computers with all those online websites, physical stores still rang up three-quarters of all sales.
What most of the biggest American companies will be able to count on is their own survival. For years, trends have favored so-called “superstar companies” — Big Tech and other mega-businesses that typically attract the best research talent, buy up the most valuable new patents, and cut the most advantageous deals. The Covid-19 age is entrenching their dominance, says Tania Babina, a professor at Columbia University. Babina is the co-author of a new paper called “Crisis Innovation” in which she describes how, during the Great Depression, the most important inventions, regardless of the creator, ended up in the hands of the largest companies, too. Not right away, but eventually. Under pressure, it turns out, future corporate behemoths may simply be faster, hardier versions of their current selves.
The Rabbi and the Pandemic (Psychology Today, May 25, 2020)
Hasidic rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810): “When a person must cross an exceedingly narrow bridge, the general principle and the essential thing is not to frighten yourself at all.”
Prepare for a Behavioral Disaster Wave: Resilience If and When COVID-19 Returns. (Psychology Today, May 25, 2020)
Psychological distress caused by disaster produces cycles lasting up to a year.
Scientists vs. politicians: The reality check for “warp speed” vaccine research (Ars Technica, May 25, 2020)
Hollywood-style messages from politicians about beating the pandemic downplay technical complexity.
NEW: For Memorial Day 2021, how about we get rid of the rest of the Confederate statues in the Capitol? (Daily Kos, May 25, 2020)
The living death: Memorial Day in America (AlterNet, May 25, 2020)
The United States likes to act as though it honors its dead. But if it did, there’d be a whole lot more people alive.
NEW: Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared. (Forbes, May 25, 2020)
The State Farm ad was a benign example of an important and dangerous new phenomenon in AI: deepfakes. Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do. A combination of the phrases “deep learning” and “fake”, deepfakes first emerged on the Internet in late 2017, powered by an innovative new deep learning method known as generative adversarial networks (GANs).
‘Everyone knows he’ll cheat’: Here are 5 ways Trump and his GOP allies could steal the 2020 election. (AlterNet, May 25, 2020)
President Donald Trump and his Republican allies appear to be cooking up some schemes for stealing the 2020 election — each one more worrisome than the last.
Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night. (New York Times, May 24, 2020)
A group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but also some anti-Trump Republicans — have been gaming out how to respond to various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election.
Changing the date of the election is not the main worry. The bigger threat is the possibility that the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people. Such events could serve to depress or discourage turnout in pockets of the country that reliably vote for Democrats.
To ward off such a scenario, multiple lawsuits aim at making it easier to cast absentee ballots by mail and making in-person voting more available, either on Election Day or in the preceding weeks.
Competitive birding turned me into a monster. (Boston Globe, May 24, 2020)
Isolation, hubris, binoculars: How Mass Audubon’s Bird-a-thon nearly broke our reporter.
[And from its Comments thread:
1. I’ve planted special flowers in various gardens, to attract certain birds. I don’t deadhead my flowers, so to leave for the birds. I don’t use chemicals on my lawn or in my gardens, so the birds can eat without worry!
2. Please remember to vote this November. Out of the approximately 11,154 known bird species, 159 (1.4%) have become extinct, 226 (2%) are critically endangered, 461 (4.1%) are endangered, 800 (7.2%) are vulnerable and 1018 (9.1%) are near threatened. There is a general consensus among scientists who study these trends that if human impact on the environment continues as it has one-third of all bird species and an even greater proportion of bird populations will be gone by the end of this century.  <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_extinction> ]
National Poll: How satisfied are you with the U.S. government’s current response to the coronavirus outbreak? (Civiqs, May 24, 2020)
Moody’s chief economist pours cold water on Trump’s boast he’ll bring the economy back quickly. (4-min. video; AlterNet, May 24, 2020)
It’s difficult for me to see this economy getting back on the rails until the other side of that vaccine. and then, John, even after that, it’s going to be a struggle because we’re going to see lots of businesses fail, bankruptcies, you can already see that in the headlines yesterday with Hertz filing for bankruptcy. It’s going to take a long time to get this economy back to where it was.
We’ve lost — peak to trough will lose 25 million jobs. of course, there’s tens of millions of more people who have lost hours and wages,” Zani explained. “But 25 million jobs? We’ll get half of those back by Labor Day. and the unemployment rate is going to remain around 10% until we get that vaccine. and it won’t be until mid-decade until the economy can adjust and we get those jobs back. The kind of jobs we’re going to get back are different than the ones we have now. We’re going to lose a lot of jobs in the retail sector, hospitality, we’re going to have a lot of work re-educating people to make sure they have the skills necessary to take the jobs.”
Trump on the golf course for a second day. (Daily KOS, May 24, 2020)
Nearly 100,000 Americans are dead. With no plan of in sight, church "rights" crusader Donald J. Trump is not going to church this fine Sunday on his way to golf.  Though he will likely drive by many large churches in McLean, Langley, Potomac, Ashburn and Sterling on the way to his sons' golf course.
The Project Behind a Front Page Full of Names. (New York Times, May 24, 2020)
A presentation of obituaries and death notices from newspapers around the country tries to frame incalculable loss.
Sweden 'was wrong' not to shut down, says former state epidemiologist. (The Guardian, May 24, 2020)
Scientist who oversaw Sweden's response to Sars says country has failed the vulnerable.
Nike refuses to allow county health inspector into facility after worker dies of COVID-19. (AlterNet, May 24, 2020)
The next day the inspector received a call from an administrator at the facility, who advised her that the company had installed plexiglass shields and painted  floor markings which separated and designated safe distances between Nike employees.
But the county employee was apparently properly intimidated. After Nike assured her that it had been taking measures to ensure social distancing at its facilities, the inspector didn’t go to determine whether Nike was telling the truth. Although she had the power to summon police to accompany her on a walk-through—the county had used that power previously—she did not follow-up, presumably because Nike is such a big and powerful corporation with such a massive “footprint” in the Memphis area.
In the space of the month that followed a total of twenty one more people employed at Nike’s five Memphis facilities tested positive for Covid-19, more than doubling the number testing positive three weeks earlier.  This suggests that literally hundreds of employees at these facilities may be carrying the Covid-19 virus home with them and into Tennessee’s reopened businesses, bars, gyms, hair salons and restaurants.
Nike Turned Away a Public Health Official From Its Warehouse Days After a Worker With COVID-19 Died. (ProPublica, May 23, 2020)
The Health Department received a complaint that a Nike warehouse wasn’t being cleaned thoroughly or allowing for social distancing. Its inspector wasn’t allowed inside. Twenty-one workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at Nike’s Memphis locations.
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
It has been around two months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But what's safe? We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to sharing a vacation house with another household.
"Think of transmission risk with a simple phrase: Time, Space, People, Place." The more time you spend and the closer in space you are to any infected people, the higher your risk. Interacting with more people raises your risk, and indoor places are riskier than outdoors.
"Always choose outdoor over indoor, always choose masking over not masking, and always choose more space for fewer people over crowding."
There's no such thing as a zero-risk outing right now. As states begin allowing businesses and public areas to reopen, decisions about what's safe will be up to individuals. It can help to think through the risks the way the experts do.
White Supremacist Groups Are ‘Thriving’ On Facebook, Despite Extremist Ban. (Huffington Post, May 23, 2020)
With many Americans vulnerable to fascist ideologies during the pandemic, Facebook could be fertile ground for recruitment.
Mass death and economic devastation in Sweden, and U.S. conservatives want to be like them. (Daily Kos, May 22, 2020)
New study shows Trump is racking up a second body count with his claims about hydroxychloroquine. (Daily Kos, May 22, 2020)
Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis (The Lancet, May 22, 2020)
In summary, this multinational, observational, real-world study of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation found that the use of a regimen containing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine (with or without a macrolide) was associated with no evidence of benefit, but instead was associated with an increase in the risk of ventricular arrhythmias and a greater hazard for in-hospital death with COVID-19. These findings suggest that these drug regimens should not be used outside of clinical trials and urgent confirmation from randomised clinical trials is needed.
Migration patterns reveal an Eden for ancient humans and animals. (Arizona State University, May 22, 2020)
Home to some of the richest evidence for the behavior and culture of the earliest clearly modern humans, the submerged shelf called the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP) once formed its own ecosystem. Teams of scientists worked for decades to reconstruct the locale back into the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. The researchers looked specifically at antelope migratory patterns at Pinnacle Point. This series of cave sites that sit on the modern South African coast offers archaeological materials from humans who were living and hunting there back to 170,000 years ago.
Mississippi Delta marshes in a state of irreversible collapse. (Tulane University, May 22, 2020)
Given the present-day rate of global sea-level rise, remaining marshes in the Mississippi Delta are likely to drown, according to a new Tulane University study. A key finding of the study, published in Science Advances, is that coastal marshes experience tipping points, where a small increase in the rate of sea-level rise leads to widespread submergence.
The loss of 2,000 square miles (5,000 km2) of wetlands in coastal Louisiana over the past century is well documented, but it has been more challenging to predict the fate of the remaining 6,000 square miles (15,000 km2) of marshland. The study used hundreds of sediment cores collected since the early 1990s to examine how marshes responded to a range of rates of sea-level rise during the past 8,500 years.
NEW: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World (Visual Capitalist, May 22, 2020)
From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world. In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. At the state level though, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis.
In the U.S., a 2016 study showed that already half of American adults were captured in some kind of facial recognition network. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its “Biometric Exit” plan, which aims to use facial recognition technology on nearly all air travel passengers by 2023, to identify compliance with visa status. Perhaps surprisingly, 59% of Americans are actually in favor of implementing facial recognition technology, considering it acceptable for use in law enforcement. Yet, some cities such as San Francisco have pushed to ban surveillance, citing a stand against its potential abuse by the government.
80% of Europeans are not keen on sharing facial data with authorities. Despite such negative sentiment, it’s still in use across 26 European countries to date. The EU has been a haven for unlawful biometric experimentation and surveillance. However, Belgium and Luxembourg are two of only three governments in the world to officially oppose the use of facial recognition technology.
In Russia, authorities have relied on facial recognition technology to check for breaches of quarantine rules by potential COVID-19 carriers. In Moscow alone, there are reportedly over 100,000 facial recognition enabled cameras in operation.
China is often cited as a notorious use case of mass surveillance, and the country has the highest ratio of CCTV cameras to citizens in the world—one for every 12 people. By 2023, China will be the single biggest player in the global facial recognition market. And it’s not just implementing the technology at home–it’s exporting too.
Oriented hexagonal boron nitride foster new type of information carrier. (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, May 22, 2020)
Today's computers use the presence or absence of charge (0s and 1s) to encode information, where the physical motion of charges consume energy and cause heat. A novel alternative is to utilize the wave quantum number of electrons by which information encoding is possible without physically moving the carriers. This study shows that manipulation of the wave quantum number is possible by controlling the stacking configuration and the orientation of different two-dimensional materials.
'It started as a joke': Animal Zoom calls are delighting a locked-down public. (The Guardian, May 21, 2020)
From throwing an alpaca party to adding a goat to a work call, video calling is providing a financial lifeline for businesses
Linux desktop org GNOME Foundation settles lawsuit with patent troll. (The Register, May 21, 2020)
Shotwell case ends with Rothschild Patent Imaging backing off for good.
Pelosi, Schumer ask Trump to lower flags when coronavirus deaths reach 100,000. (NBC News, May 21, 2020)
Their request comes as the U.S. death toll has surpassed 94,000.
Pelosi also took aim at the president’s physical appearance this week in response to his decision to take the drug hydroxychloroquine. “I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said. Elaborating on the comment Wednesday, Pelosi told reporters, “I gave him a dose of his own medicine. He's called women one thing or another over time, and I thought he thinks that passes off as humor in certain cultures, and I thought that was what that was.”
The FDA issued a warning last month that cautioned against the use of the medicine outside of a hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.
It looks like Donald Trump's finally lost patience with actual pandemic experts. Daily Kos, May 21, 2020)
'Ridiculous,' 'scary,' 'distraction': Whitmer berates Trump's threats to cut off Mich. funding. (2-min. video; NBC News, May 21, 2020)
Trump had threatened to "hold up" federal funding to Michigan for sending absentee ballot applications to millions of voters. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he “will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” and said, falsely, that Michigan was sending "absentee ballots" to 7.7 million voters. Trump said the move was done “illegally and without authorization from a rogue secretary of state." The president later corrected his tweet to refer to absentee ballot "applications."
Michigan's secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, also a Democrat, had said Tuesday that all registered voters in the state will be mailed applications for absentee ballots for the elections in August and November — not the absentee ballots themselves.
Trump, who has been battling Whitmer for weeks over her restrictive stay-at-home order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, later walked back his comments, telling reporters he didn't think it would be necessary to withhold funding from Michigan. Later Thursday, Trump was scheduled to visit a factory near Detroit that has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators — a trip that Whitmer pleaded not include any “petty political stuff.”
Whitmer said she and Trump had no plans to meet, but said she made the case to him in a phone conversation on Wednesday that “we all have to be on the same page here. We have to stop demonizing one another and really focus on the fact that the common enemy is the virus. This is what all the focus should be on,” she said, adding later, "We've got to be focused on doing the right thing right now on behalf of the people."
Critical dams shouldn’t be privately owned, Gov. Whitmer says after Michigan dam break caused record flooding. (Michigan Live, May 21, 2020)
Dams and other pieces of critical infrastructure shouldn’t be owned by private entities, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday after record-breaking flooding caused by a dam break forced thousands of Michigan residents to evacuate their homes. On Tuesday, May 20, the Edenville Dam collapsed after several days of heavy rain in the region. The resulting floodwaters destroyed bridges and overtopped the downstream Sanford Dam on their way to Midland, where the Tittabawassee River was cresting at about 35 feet on Wednesday evening. The crest tops the river’s 1986 all-time record level but falls short of the 38-foot mark predicted earlier.
Whitmer said during a Thursday news briefing the incident laid bare the need for increased investment in infrastructure, an issue she ran on during her candidacy for governor.
Michigan dam failures force 10,000 to evacuate and could leave one city under 9 feet of water. (3-min. video; CBS, May 21, 2020)
The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening urged anyone near the river to seek higher ground following "castastrophic dam failures" at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles downriver. The Tittabawassee River rose another four feet by Wednesday morning, to 34.4 feet in Midland. According to the National Weather Service, the height has set a new record for the river, beating the previous record of 33.9 feet set during flooding in 1986. Downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam, faced an especially serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.'s main plant sits on the city's riverbank.
"In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet of water," the governor said. "We are anticipating a historic high water level. It's hard to believe that we're in midst of a 100-year crisis, a global pandemic, and that we're also dealing with a flooding event that looks to be the worst in 500 years," she said.
A resident, Linda Chartrand, said she had to leave her Wixom Lake home. "Our whole life was in that house underwater. We called the insurance company and they said they won't cover anything," Chartrand said. "We're retired, this is all we have and now there's no help whatsoever."
In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, revoked the license of the company that operated the Edenville Dam, Boyce Hydro Power, due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity — essentially an overflow valve — and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible in the area.
In its revocation proposal, FERC wrote that Boyce had a "long history of non-compliance," and listed numerous offenses. The commission's "primary concern" however, was Boyce's "longstanding failure to address the project's inadequate spillway capacity." According to FERC's 2018 proposal, the spillway was only designed to handle "approximately 50 percent" of potential flooding. "(Boyce) failed to increase the capacity of spillways to enable them to pass the probable maximum flood (PMF) as required by Regional Engineer directives," FERC wrote. And further warned that "failure of the Edenville dam could result in the loss of human life and the destruction of property and infrastructure."
In response to the revocation, Detroit News reports that Boyce Hydro wrote in a request that the "odds of a 'probable maximum flood' event occurring in the next 5 to 10 years is 5 to 10 in one million," according to federal records. The Edenville Dam, which was built in 1924, was rated in unsatisfactory condition in 2018 by the state. The Sanford Dam, which was built in 1925, received a fair condition rating. Both dams are in the process of being sold.
Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said at a press conference Wednesday that the Edenville Dam failed. "The structure has been outright eroded and all of the water from Wixom Lake is going to be coming down the river valley and will come through the city of Midland," he said. The issue of the Sanford Dam, however, is less clear, he said, as water is running over the top of the structure. "It is what we consider — for our purposes — failed, because the water is coming at us, and that's close enough to call it a failure." He said they will not be able to determine what went wrong with the Sanford Dam until the water begins to recede. According to Kaye, the water is expected to rise another three feet from where it's currently at. "That is a tremendous extent of property, tremendous extent of area that will be covered by water," he said.
Pilot captures aerial footage of roaring water as Edenville Dam bursts in Midland County, Michigan. (1-min. video; Michigan Live, May 19-20, 2020)
If he could redo the pandemic response, Trump would change 'nothing'. (Rachel Maddow Show, May 21, 2020)
Trump has either convinced himself of a fantasy or he's peddling a falsehood that few will take seriously.
Warren pivots on 'Medicare for All' in bid to become Biden's VP. (Politico, May 21, 2020)
She's pitching herself as a governing partner to Biden, despite their past clashes over policy.
New poll puts Biden 11 points ahead of Trump nationally. (3-min. video; MSNBC, May 20, 2020)
As the candidates prepare for a digital campaign unlike any we've ever seen before, a new national poll shows Trump trailing fmr. Vice President Biden by double digits.
Trump has a new harebrained scheme to defeat Biden, and it's his dumbest yet. (Daily Kos, May 20, 2020)
Trump’s problem isn't that Biden—his actual opponent—is too beloved, it’s that he himself is loathed. That’s why double-haters are flocking to Biden. How does driving down Obama’s negatives help with that?
B-1 Bomber may become the new face of US military power in the Pacific. (We Are The Mighty, May 20, 2020)
Supercomputer model simulations reveal cause of Neanderthal extinction. (Institute for Basic Science, May 20, 2020)
Climate scientists from the IBS Center for Climate Physics discover that, contrary to previously held beliefs, Neanderthal extinction was neither caused by abrupt glacial climate shifts, nor by interbreeding with Homo sapiens. According to new supercomputer model simulations, only competition between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens can explain the rapid demise of Neanderthals around 43 to 38 thousand years ago.
Not Everyone Hates Remote Learning. For These Students, It’s a Blessing. (New York Times, May 20, 2020)
“At home, it seems to be a bit easier to focus on all the work,” said one eighth grader who was struggling in school. “Everything in general is easier.”
NEW: Zoom Fatigue: How to Politely Decline a Call During Quarantine. (New York Times, May 20, 2020)
The normal boundaries that once dictated social etiquette have essentially dissolved. So how do you disconnect?
Google pledges not to make custom software for oil and gas extraction. (Ars Technica, May 20, 2020)
Google, Microsoft, and Amazon cloud divisions have sought oil and gas business.
Google says that it will not "build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," the company announced on Tuesday. This represents a small but significant win for climate activists.
Google's comment coincided with the release of a new Greenpeace report highlighting the role of the three leading cloud-computing services—Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure—in helping companies find and extract oil and gas. Greenpeace notes that extracting known fossil fuel reserves would already be sufficient to push the world over 2 degrees of warming. Uncovering additional reserves will ultimately lead to even more warming. All three companies have actively courted business from oil and gas companies that will ultimately contribute to a warmer planet. Microsoft and Amazon both sponsored oil industry conferences last year. Until recently, all three companies had "oil and gas" sections on their cloud-computing websites touting the use of their machine-learning algorithms to find fossil fuel deposits.
What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? Evangelicals. (Washington Post, May 20, 2020)
there is something more to the partisan divide than the age-old contrast between conservative and liberal politics. But our reluctance to discuss religion beyond its basic political impact often results in skirting honest evaluations. Let’s try anyway.
It’s noted so often that evangelical Christians are a cornerstone of modern GOP support that the point is in danger of losing its impact. But it’s helpful to be reminded what, exactly, makes an evangelical, because to understand it helps to understand so many Republican positions. The National Association of Evangelicals has identified four statements that it says define evangelicals, the last of which is most pertinent for this discussion: “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” This literal belief in eternal salvation — eternal life — helps explain the different reactions to life-threatening events like a coronavirus outbreak.
What was somewhat surprising is how the beliefs of evangelicals compare to Catholics, another group that might be considered biblical literalists. According to Pew polls, 84 percent of evangelicals believe the Bible is the word of God, compared with 62 percent of Catholics. Fifty-five percent of evangelicals agree that the Bible should be interpreted literally — twice the percentage of Catholics.
Among those who hold literal biblical interpretations is the certainty that waiting at the end of this terrestrial journey is eternal life in Heaven. Evangelicals take it to heart when James reminds them, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” or when Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” or when Jesus asks, rhetorically, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
The coronavirus? Christian fundamentalism is often fatalistic. As far as many evangelicals are concerned, life passes quickly, suffering is temporary and worrying solves nothing. That’s not a view that comports well with long stretches of earthly time spent waiting out business closures or stay-at-home orders. It should be no surprise that a person’s deepest beliefs about the world influence how they measure the risks they’re willing to take. Former six-term Ohio Rep. Bob McEwen (R) is a longtime evangelical leader who serves as an advisory member of James Dobson’s Family Talk board of directors. McEwen told me this week that evangelicals aren’t rattled by covid-19, either the disease or the government’s response to the pandemic, because the Bible instructs them not to let earthly fears overwhelm them. “They steal your life, your liberty and your freedom by using fear,” said McEwen. “Man, on his own without God, will always be fearful,” he added. “But the Bible says, ‘Fear not.’”
Evangelicals aren’t just twiddling their thumbs until Heaven beckons, of course. Most of them aggressively pursue careers, enjoy television shows, cheer their favorite sports teams, and take pride in the achievements of family and friends. They do good things in their communities, and sometimes they do bad things, just like everyone else. They’re in no hurry to exit this world. But when ruminating over why there are millions of people who don’t seem to panic over a global pandemic or other life-threatening event, critics should remember that, right or wrong, it often involves a belief in something even bigger than people named Trump, Hannity or Limbaugh.
As lockdowns ease, a new surveillance reality awaits. (ZDNet, May 20, 2020)
Expect a surge in development of surveillance and crowd monitoring technologies post-pandemic.
Your face mask selfies could be training the next facial recognition tool. (C/Net, May 19, 2020)
Researchers are crawling the internet for photos of people wearing face masks to improve facial recognition algorithms.
NEW: Warren Harding Tried to Return America to ‘Normalcy’ After WWI and the 1918 Pandemic. It Failed. (Smithsonian Magazine, May 19, 2020)
The lessons from his presidency show that a quick retreat to the past can be just a mirage.
Elect me, Harding promised, and he would take America back to a bucolic pre-war, pre-pandemic time, a time of serenity. Mythic though it was, the vision worked. He won, in one of the largest political landslides in American history.
But history didn’t end there. Neither Harding nor normalcy would succeed. These failures, considered exactly a century later, hold lessons for those who seek restoration in our time of fear, disease and death. What Harding sought 100 years ago has much in common with what many of us say we seek today, and tomorrow, when the pandemic recedes. We want our lives back. We want to get away from the volatile and frightening economics of pandemic, to something that feels, well, normal. So did Harding. “If we put an end to false economics which lure humanity to utter chaos, ours will be the commanding example of world leadership today,” he pledged in that same speech.
But Harding-style restoration of economy meant, for many, freewheeling consumption and giddy speculation. As the stock market and the nation’s cities, began to roar in the exciting heedlessness of the Jazz Age, nary a caution was raised—except by the most astute observers. Lack of regulation was a virtue to Harding, a balm after all the rules and restrictions of war and disease. “The world needs to be reminded that all human ills are not curable by legislation,” Harding had said, again in the same speech, “and that quantity of statutory enactment and excess of government offer no substitute for quality of citizenship.”
Normalcy and restoration, to us as to Warren Harding, means and meant the return of a status quo of safety. Can’t our terrible vulnerability be ended? The Roaring Twenties might have been fun, but it left those who weren’t white or privileged more vulnerable to the tilt-a-whirl economy of the era. There was no net to catch them, and economic growth had no backstop or safety mechanism.
Harding led to Coolidge; Coolidge led to Hoover. It would take the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s anything-but-normal presidency to create the social protections of the New Deal.
As we now contemplate what a return to normal will look like, we need to face whether it will merely shore up old unfairness and maintain a ripped safety net, leaving the sick, the uninsured, the homeless, the unemployed, and the furloughed to mostly fend for themselves.
NEW: 'Ridiculous' to think another $1,200 stimulus check is enough: Expert Ric Edelman (7-min. video; Yahoo Finance, May 19, 2020)
Edelman Financial Engines Founder Ric Edelman joins Yahoo Finance's Zack Guzman to discuss the latest stimulus outlook as the House passes $3-trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
As Machines Get Smarter, How Will We Relate to Them? (Wired, May 19, 2020)
Millennia of evolution have left us ill prepared to crack open the black box of AI and peer inside.
Microsoft To Support GPU Acceleration, Linux GUI Apps On WSL2. (Phoronix, May 19, 2020)
Microsoft says that Linux GUI applications should "just work" under Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 without the need for any third-party software, unlike past work by the community on getting an X11 server working with WSL.
Could it be? Really? The Year of Linux on the Desktop is almost here, and it's... Windows-shaped? (The Register, May 19, 2020)
Windows Subsystem for Linux to gain out-of-the-box support for GUI apps, GPU chippery.
6 Ways Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Can Help Transition to Clean Energy (Visual Capitalist, May 19, 2020)
The world obsesses over battery technology and manufacturers such as Tesla, but there is an alternative fuel that powers rocket ships and is road-ready. Hydrogen is set to become an important fuel in the clean energy mix of the future.
NEW: Facebook is letting the Trump campaign publish at least 529 ads with false claims of voter fraud. (Media Matters, May 19, 2020)
Facebook's ad policy enables Trump to baselessly accuse liberals of “stuffing the ballot boxes with FAKE and FRAUDULENT votes”.
“With Obama He’s Going For the Jugular”: As Trump Goes After Obama, Some in Trumpworld See a “Big Risk”. (Vanity Fair, May 19, 2020)
Frustrated with his campaign (he “feels he’s doing it all alone”), Trump has settled on a campaign bank shot: hit Obama to destroy Biden. But there’s a problem: “Obama can’t be ‘softened’ up.”
“Trump hates Obama; he used to go around calling Obama a ‘child.’ --former Trump advisor
[More Trump projection of his failings onto others.]
The woman behind ‘Roe vs. Wade’ didn’t change her mind on abortion. She was paid. (1-min. video; Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2020)
When Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff in the landmark Roe vs. Wade case, came out against abortion in 1995, it stunned the world and represented a huge symbolic victory for abortion opponents: “Jane Roe” had gone to the other side. For the remainder of her life, McCorvey worked to overturn the law that bore her name.
But it was all a lie, McCorvey says in a documentary filmed in the months before her death in 2017, claiming she only did it because she was paid by antiabortion groups including Operation Rescue. “I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say,” she says in “AKA Jane Roe,” which premieres Friday on FX. “It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress.”
In what she describes as a “deathbed confession,” a visibly ailing McCorvey restates her support for reproductive rights in colorful terms: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”
Trump Allies Are Recruiting ‘Pro-Trump’ Doctors To Prescribe Rapid Reopening. (Huffington Post, May 19, 2020)
The Trump campaign communications director confirmed that an effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is underway.
NEW: Anti-lockdown protests in US may have helped spread coronavirus, phone data suggests. (Independent, May 18, 2020)
‘We can see protesters are going from a highly concentrated event and then dispersing widely.’
Iran Sees New Surge in Coronavirus Cases After Reopening Country. (New York Times, May 18, 2020)
Health experts say the government did not heed the warnings about easing restrictions too soon. Cases spike in eight provinces.
French Covid-19 Drones Grounded After Privacy Complaint. (Bloomberg, May 18, 2020)
French top judges banned the use of surveillance drones by police to monitor public compliance with coronavirus-related restrictions, citing privacy issues. The authorities’ use of drones to help contain the spread of Covid-19 “constitutes a serious and manifestly unlawful infringement of privacy rights,” the court said on Monday. The Paris-based Conseil d’Etat ruled that drones with cameras can no longer be used until the concerns are addressed, either via a privacy-friendly law or by equipping the drones with technology that makes it impossible to identify the people filmed.
Germany and France Propose $545 Billion Coronavirus Fund for Europe. (New York Times, May 18, 2020)
The U.S. sharply criticized the World Health Organization, while China pledged $2 billion to fight the pandemic. President Trump said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug against Covid-19.
Pompeo refused to cooperate with watchdog probe into $8B arms sale to Saudi Arabia. (CNN, May 18, 2020)
Trump’s purge just got much more corrupt. Here’s what’s coming next. (Washington Post, May 18, 2020)
President Trump’s abrupt decision to remove the inspector general of the State Department constitutes the latest in a string of corrupt efforts to remove public servants who prioritize real oversight and accountability over protecting Trump at all costs.
But in the case of Trump’s termination of Steve Linick, the State Department IG, this could end up looking far worse than we know. There’s a backstory here that has not yet gotten scrutiny — one that could make the firing appear even more corrupt. House Democrats have discovered that the fired IG had mostly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year. “I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement sent to me. “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”
Committee Democrats have also learned that the State Department was recently briefed on the IG’s conclusions in that investigation, aides say. They do not know what role this investigation — and its conclusions — played in Linick’s removal, if any. But the committee is now trying to establish what those conclusions were and what links they might have to the firing, the aides confirm. “We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Engel said in the statement to me.
The White House has confirmed Linick’s firing came at Pompeo’s request. Trump claimed he no longer has “confidence” in Linick, a thin justification that highlights Trump’s purging of officials exercising oversight on his administration. Many news organizations have reported that the fired IG had been examining charges that Pompeo had been directing a staffer to run errands for him. Some reported that Pompeo has undertaken abuses of taxpayer funds, including frequent visits to his home state of Kansas. It’s unclear whether these are linked to Linick’s firing.
But the fact that Linick has also mostly completed an investigation into the decision to fast-track arms to the Saudis adds another layer to this whole story. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — and its Senate counterpart — have launched an investigation into Linick’s firing.
Trump fired watchdog who was probing Saudi arms sales. (Reuters, May 18, 2020)
Trump announced the planned removal of Linick in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late on Friday. He was the fourth government inspector general that the Republican president has ousted in recent weeks.
Pompeo told the Washington Post he had asked Trump to fire Linick, while declining to describe specific concerns. Pompeo said no reason had to be given, contradicting Congress’ interpretation of the inspector general law. “I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department,” Pompeo said.
Another State official told the Post concern over Linick had grown because of leaks about investigations, although there was no evidence Linick was responsible.  Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez, ranking member on Senate Foreign Relations, said Linick had been investigating Trump’s declaration of a national emergency last year to clear the way for $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia. “I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing. His office was investigating - at my request - Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia,” Engel said in a statement. Engel called on the administration to comply with the probe and turn over records by Friday.
Congressional aides had said Linick was investigating whether Pompeo misused a taxpayer-funded political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife. Trump said Linick had been appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama, and that he knew nothing about him, but had the right to terminate him. “I just got rid of him,” he said.
Trump infuriated many members of Congress last May, including some Republicans, by declaring a national emergency related to tensions with Iran to sidestep congressional review and push ahead with $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia. The House and Senate passed resolutions to block the sales. But Trump, a staunch promoter of both arms sales and ties to Saudi Arabia, vetoed them. The Republican-led Senate upheld his veto.
Menendez said he believed Linick was close to coming to a conclusion in his investigation of the arms sales. He also introduced legislation to protect inspectors general.
Some Republicans also expressed concern. Senator Chuck Grassley wrote to Trump and asked for a detailed explanation of Linick’s removal by June 1. “Congress’s intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act,” Grassley said.
Activists Are Trying to Stop the FBI From Snooping on Your Web History. (Motherboard, May 18, 2020)
Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, the sweeping surveillance law that infamously expanded the U.S. security state in the aftermath of 9/11. The vote came after a failed bipartisan effort to change the law to explicitly forbid federal agencies from collecting Americans’ web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steven Daines (R-MT), failed by just one vote on the Senate floor, with several senators notably absent.
Now, activists are trying to push Democrats to add the privacy protections back into the bill when it returns to the House this week, preventing the Trump administration from gaining more internet surveillance powers in the middle of a global pandemic.
NEW: BP Smacks Exxon Upside Head With New Green Hydrogen Scheme. (Clean Technica, May 18, 2020)
Green hydrogen, also referred to as renewable hydrogen, can be produced from water by applying an electrical current. Source the electricity from renewable energy, and there you have sustainable hydrogen from renewable resources.
Green hydrogen has yet to plant its feet in the commercial market, but the technology has been improving and costs have been coming down, partly because the cost of renewable energy has been dropping. Renewable energy is already threatening gas in the power generation market, and if all goes according to plan renewable H2 will push gas out of the coveted industrial energy marketplace, too.
Back in 2017, BP revived its once-dormant interest in solar power by forming a 50/50 partnership with the solar company Lightsource to form Lightsource BP, and it seems that the partners are already looking beyond clean power to dip into the renewable hydrogen field. Last week BP Australia announced that it has been greenlighted to explore the idea of producing ammonia with renewable hydrogen at a facility in Geraldton.
NEW: Chattanooga software firm Transcard terminates employee after firestorm over Obama noose meme. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 17, 2020)
Microsoft president admits they were wrong on open source. (Gaming On Linux, May 16, 2020) 
How Many People Die Each Day? (Visual Capitalist, May 16, 2020)
While these numbers help provide some context for the global scale of COVID-19 deaths, they do not offer a direct comparison. The fact is that many of the aforementioned death rates are based on much larger and consistent sample sizes of data. On the flipside, since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, daily confirmed deaths have fallen in a wide range between 272 and 10,520 per day—and there is no telling what could happen in the future.
On top of this variance, data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths has other quirks. For example, testing rates for the virus may vary between jurisdictions, and there have also been disagreements between authorities on how deaths should even be tallied in the first place. This makes getting an accurate picture surprisingly complicated.
While it’s impossible to know the true death toll of COVID-19, it is clear that in some countries daily deaths have reached rates 50% or higher than the historical average for periods of time.
Hydroxychloroquine drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus ‘game changer’ increasingly linked to deaths. (Washington Post, May 15, 2020)
For two months, President Trump repeatedly pitched hydroxychloroquine as a safe and effective treatment for coronavirus, asking would-be patients “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Growing evidence shows that, for many, the answer is their lives.
'Not on our watch': Immigrant advocates lead car caravan protesting Trump's Pennsylvania stunt. (Daily Kos, May 15, 2020)
“Thousands of my constituents are sick, unemployed or dead. I don’t want a photo op, Mr. President. I want a plan,” state Rep. Mike Schlossberg said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “How are we going to give out PPE? How are we going to do mass testing? How are we going to protect front line workers or my most vulnerable constituents?”
Allentown, where the impeached president was headed for what was really a political rally amid a pandemic that has already infected over a million people in the U.S., has been particularly hard-hit, the group said. “Allentown, whose population is 52% Latino, has a per capita infection rate nearly 4.5 times higher than the rest of Pennsylvania. At least 3,943 Pennsylvanians have died from Coronavirus so far.”
In a tweet, the organization said, “Now he has the audacity to come to our state and ask for our votes. Not on our watch.”
Joe Biden Is Pivoting to the Left. What? Why? (Slate, May 15, 2020)
The conciliatory nominee-in-waiting has a grandiose belief in his own strengths and his place in the historical moment.
Zoom is Now Worth More Than the World’s 7 Biggest Airlines. (Visual Capitalist, May 15, 2020)
Zoom benefits from the COVID-19 virtual transition—but other industries aren’t as lucky. The app is now more valuable than the world’s seven largest airlines.
NEW: Vector in Chief, by Fintan O’Toole (NY Review of Books, May 14, 2020)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Donald Trump is no George Washington, but his descent from commander-in-chief to vector-in-chief is nonetheless dizzying. Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the coronavirus crisis, and they have been magnified rather than moderated in his surreal response to a catastrophe whose full gravity he failed to accept until March 31, when it had become horribly undeniable. The volatility of his behavior during the crucial weeks of February and March, when coherent action could have limited the subsequent loss of life—the veering between flippancy and rage, breezy denial and dark fear-mongering—may not seem to demand further explanation.
Even after he belatedly accepted the seriousness of the threat, the grotesque spectacle of his turning vital public information briefings into campaign rallies—with journalists serving as necessary objects of contempt and facts being indiscriminately jumbled with wild hunches and bitter invective—was, to his fans, a signal that nothing had really changed. Since the president had not altered his conduct, why should they? Since Trump simply carried on being Trump, his disastrous performance seems to require no further elucidation. It is his nature. Yet there is a mystery at its heart. For if there is one thing that Trump has presented as his unique selling point, it is “utmost Vigilance,” his endless insistence that, as he puts it, “our way of life is under threat.”
If the United States is to be run by a man who has perfected the paranoid style, the least its citizens might expect is a little of that paranoia when it is actually needed. But even on March 26, when the US had surpassed China and Italy to become the most afflicted country in the world, Trump continued to talk down the threat from the virus.
Why America Resists Learning From Other Countries (The Atlantic, May 14, 2020)
The pandemic may pose the greatest threat yet to the belief that America has little to learn from the rest of the world.
The United States had the advantage of being struck relatively late by the virus, and this gave [us] a priceless chance to copy best practices and avoid the mistakes of others. Instead, the United States squandered that advantage on many fronts. The Obama administration had developed a playbook for pandemic response that drew in part on lessons from other countries’ experiences, but the Trump administration disregarded it. When China began confining millions of people to their homes in January, the U.S. government should have gotten the message that the Chinese were grappling with a grave threat to the wider world, the Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis told me in March. “We lost six weeks” in the United States to prepare—“to build ventilators, get protective equipment, organize our ICUs, get tests ready, prepare the public for what was going to happen so that our economy didn’t tank as badly. None of this was done adequately by our leaders.” By one estimate, from the epidemiologists Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell, if social-distancing policies had been implemented just two weeks earlier in March, 90 percent of the cumulative coronavirus deaths in the United States during the first wave of the pandemic might have been prevented.
Amid all this, Trump has exhibited more hubris than humility. The president has repeatedly claimed that the United States is leading the world in testing, which in part is an unflattering reflection of the U.S. outbreak’s huge scale and also is not true on a per-capita basis. He has stated, referring to America’s coronavirus response, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and “so many” other world leaders, “almost all of them—I would say all of them; not everybody would want to admit it—but they all view us as the world leader, and they're following us.” Even after he has asked the South Korean government to send tests and medical equipment to the United States to help combat the coronavirus, Trump is insisting that the country cough up much more money for the privilege of stationing U.S. troops there. Trump’s proposal in April that people inject themselves with disinfectant, to the horror of scientists and laughter of people at home and abroad, marked an acceleration point for a post-American, post-coronavirus world … in which American opinions will count less.
The United States, of course, still has tremendous capacity to teach. But it also may need to emerge from this crisis recognizing that it has equal capacity to learn. To learn is to admit room for improvement, and thus to improve, especially in dealing with modern-day threats such as pandemics, which America doesn’t have much experience contending with as a superpower.
NEW: Israeli Scientist Invents One-minute Coronavirus Breath Test. (Haaretz, May 14, 2020)
Breakthrough device invented at Ben-Gurion University could reach market within months.
How does the breakthrough breath test for coronavirus work, anyway? “Particles from a simple breath test or throat and nose swabs – such as are already currently used for other tests – are placed on a chip, with a dense array of metamaterial sensors, which was designed specifically for this purpose,” Sarusi explains. "Metamaterial sensors” are nano-size antenna array on the electronic chip he invented, which is inside the Breathalyzer, he says. The system analyzes the biological sample and outputs a positive/negative result into a system connected to the cloud, which means the result can be shared with the authorities, making it easier to track viral spread.
Technically, it turns out that the coronavirus resonates in the terahertz spectral range, so it could theoretically be detected through terahertz spectroscopy. “We asked ourselves, since this virus is just like a nano-particle or a quantum dot with a diameter between 100nm to 140nm in terms of its size and electrical properties, can we detect it using methods from the worlds of physics, photonics and electrical engineering?” Sarusi says. “We discovered that the answer is yes, this virus resonates in the terahertz frequency, and spectroscopy in these frequencies reveals it promptly.”
Meanwhile, normal speech sprays infectious droplets that can remain in the air for minutes, doctors warn.
India made its contact tracing app mandatory. Now people are angry. (Wired UK, May 14, 2020)
India’s contact tracing app playbook comes straight from China. People are being forced to download the app – if they don’t, their freedoms are limited.
Secret NHS files reveal plans for UK's coronavirus contact tracing app. (Wired UK, May 13, 2020)
Documents left unsecured on Google Drive reveal the NHS could in the future ask people to post their health status to its Covid-19 contact tracing app
When Manhattan Was Mannahatta: A Stroll Through The Centuries (New York Times, May 13, 2020)
From lush forest to metropolis, the evolution of Lower Manhattan. Our critic walks with Eric W. Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
NEW: Biden Names Ocasio-Cortez, Kerry to Lead His Climate Task Force, Bridging Democrats’ Divide. (Inside Climate News, May 13, 2020)
Progressives applaud the former vice president’s embrace of Bernie Sanders’ climate advisors. One analyst called the panel “the Climate Dream Team for Democrats.”
NEW: Under Trump border rules, U.S. has granted refuge to just two people since late March, records show. (Washington Post, May 13, 2020)
Citing the threat to public health from the coronavirus, the Trump administration has suspended most due-process rights for migrants, including children and asylum seekers, while “expelling” more than 20,000 unauthorized border-crossers to Mexico under a provision of U.S. code known as Title 42.
Department of Homeland Security officials say the emergency protocols are needed to protect Americans — and migrants — by reducing the number of detainees in U.S. Border Patrol holding cells and immigration jails where infection spreads easily. But the administration has yet to publish statistics showing the impact of the measures on the thousands of migrants who arrive in the United States each year as they flee religious, political or ethnic persecution, gang violence or other urgent threats.
Lucas Guttentag, an immigration-law scholar who served in the Obama administration and now teaches at Stanford and Yale universities, said the border measures “are designed to pay lip service” to U.S. law and international treaty obligations “without providing any actual protection or screening. The whole purpose of asylum law is to give exhausted, traumatized and uninformed individuals a chance to get to a full hearing in U.S. immigration courts, and this makes that almost impossible. It’s a shameful farce.”
It Is Becoming Much Harder to Access Mental Health Support Anonymously. (Slate, May 13, 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a physical health crisis—it’s also a mental one. But online resources for mental health come with privacy risks.
Viral Japanese Video Shows How Easily Infection Can Spread Through Indirect Contact. (IFL Science, May 13, 2020)
NHK conducted an experiment to see how germs spread at a cruise buffet. They applied fluorescent paint to the hands of 1 person and then had a group of 10 people dine. In 30 min the paint had transferred to every individual and was on the faces of 3.
Democratic coronavirus bill shows how partisan election security has become. (Washington Post, May 13, 2020)
Democrats yesterday released their most ambitious and detailed plan yet to fundamentally reshape U.S. voting systems in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Their new virus stimulus bill includes $3.6 billion to run elections safely and securely during the pandemic. But it couples that money with a slate of new mandates for state and local election officials that will last long after the pandemic ends.
Many of those mandates are sure to irk Republican election officials at the state and county level — even those who broadly agree with Democrats’ goals of ramping up voting by mail and polling-place safety during the pandemic. And they're probably nonstarters with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has fiercely blocked such conditions in the past.
The bill comes as the brief moment of crisis-driven bipartisanship that helped rush through four earlier coronavirus relief bills is starting to wane. “While the first four bills were the result of urgent bipartisan compromise in the early days of the pandemic, now the two sides aren’t even talking and are moving in radically different directions. It’s unclear when they will come together to produce another bipartisan response, but some Republicans suggested it might not be anytime soon,” Erica Werner reports.
Trump broadly threatens criminal charges against his enemies; the press can't keep hiding from this. (Daily Kos, May 13, 2020)
Even in describing Trump's various false statements, the Post ignores the obvious dangers—the inherent threat to democracy—of an installed national leader threatening his political opponents and public critics alike with criminal prosecution. And again it is baffling, because any other nation's leader engaging in similarly punitive and authoritarian thinking would result in plain statements identifying it as such. Faced with this national leader, our press goes to great lengths to obscure the implications from their readers. Again, and again, and again, we learn that Trump is demanding his detractors and his investigators be locked up. Again, and again, and again, an American president calling for the jailing of his detractors and investigators is treated as a novelty, rather than an unforgivable sin against his nation.
As coronavirus roils the nation, Trump reverts to tactic of accusing foes of felonies. (Washington Post, May 12, 2020)
On a day when coronavirus deaths passed 80,000 and top government scientists warned of the perils of loosening public health restrictions too soon, President Trump used his massive public platform to suggest a talk-show host he has clashed with committed murder. His baseless charge capped a 48-hour stretch in which he accused scores of perceived opponents of criminal acts ranging from illegal espionage to election rigging.
Heather Cox Richardson: Why is Trump Administration not concerned about Democratic revenge after 2020 Election? (Letters From An American, May 12, 2020)
A lot happened today, but I am grappling with just two things tonight.
White House coronavirus task force medical expert Anthony Fauci testified remotely before a Senate health committee. He warned that reopening states too aggressively would lead to “needless suffering and death.” He also said the death toll from coronavirus—currently more than 80,000-- was “almost certainly” higher than known.
The other big event was that the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether Congress or state prosecutors can subpoena information from the president or from his accountants or his bankers. The questioning appeared to go poorly for Trump’s lawyers, who had to argue against precedent and in favor of the idea that the president can largely act without oversight, but we will not know for a while—until June, at least—how the court will decide.
To me, the two big stories from today were about what I see as a gamble on the part of Trump and his sycophants to grab power of the national government, and a surprising move on the part of a judge to undercut that power grab.
[One action] suggests that the Trump administration does not anticipate a Democratic presidency following this one, since it could expect any precedent it now sets to be used against its own people. That it is willing to weaponize intelligence information from a previous administration suggests it is not concerned that the next administration will weaponize intelligence information against Trump officials. That confidence concerns me.
But that’s only one side of the story with the Flynn case. The other side is just as interesting. The Justice Department’s move to drop the case against Flynn had to be approved by a judge. Tonight, that judge, Emmet G. Sullivan, moved… sideways. It was a really interesting move. Rather than deciding the issue at hand, the U.S. District Judge, who is known as a stickler for institutions, said he would receive briefs from interested third parties to offer opinions about the case. This means that the 2000 former Department of Justice employees (of both parties) who demanded Barr’s resignation over the Flynn case can now be heard. It will invite public scrutiny of the case, and means the case will not get swept under the rug. Flynn’s lawyers instantly cried foul. Not only do they not want more attention to the facts of the case, but also it is possible that Sullivan’s order will permit him to require both sides to revisit the case, producing evidence and calling witnesses. Rather than enabling Trump to turn the tables on the original Russia investigation and invert it so that it serves his purposes, Sullivan’s move could remind people that there was a reason for the Russia investigation in the first place and rehash some of the stories of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian operatives.
Both of these stories seem to me a preview of the 2020 election. Trump is going to attack his predecessor and argue that Obama officials engaged in an illegal underground campaign to weaken him. He might even try to prosecute officials who were part of the investigation into Russia’s actions in 2016. Sullivan’s unexpected move suggests that not everyone will let this attempt to sway the 2020 election go unchallenged.
Less momentous, but still eye-opening, was the president’s tweeted suggestion that MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough had murdered an aide in 2001 when he was a congressman from Florida. It’s mind boggling that a president would make this sort of unhinged allegation, but here we are.
NEW: Aircraft spies gravity waves being sucked into Antarctica’s polar vortex. (Science Magazine, May 12, 2020)
For about 2 decades, researchers have known that a region near 60° South, along the Drake Passage between the tip of South America and Antarctica, is the planet’s hot spot for these so-called gravity waves. They have long suspected that the waves (not to be confused with the gravitational waves rippling through space) are launched by the mountains of the southern Andes and the Antarctic Peninsula, which jut thousands of meters into westerly winds. But puzzlingly, the hot spot lies hundreds of kilometers away from the mountains. Now, a high-altitude aircraft has traced newborn gravity waves rising from the mountains and bending, or refracting, toward that hot spot.
The phenomenon helps explain why climate models predict unrealistically cold temperatures over the South Pole.
Credit card companies are tracking shoppers like never before: Inside the next phase of surveillance capitalism. (Fast Company, May 12, 2020)
In the battle between data brokers and privacy advocates, the latest front is the credit card. 
Where COVID-19 is Rising and Falling Around the World (Visual Capitalist, May 12, 2020)
For many of the world’s major economies, containing the spread of the virus has proven exceptionally difficult. Despite increased testing and lockdown measures, the United States still has one of the steepest infection trajectory curves. The UK also has a very similar new case curve.
Coronavirus: The lost six weeks when US failed to contain outbreak (7-min. video; BBC, May 12, 2020)
Having watched Asian and European countries struggle against Covid-19, the US was slow to ramp up testing and order its residents to stay at home. We look at this crucial time period and what exactly was done to prevent the outbreak.
NEW: Mysterious Blips Raise Questions About COVID-19 Timeline. (Psychology Today, May 11, 2020)
What was known and when was it known?
Trump’s Favorability Falls Among Seniors Amidst Pandemic. (PRRI, May 11, 2020)
The spread of the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis may have caused his favorability among seniors, the age group most vulnerable to the coronavirus, to fall substantially. In April just over four in ten (42%) seniors said they have a mostly or very favorable view of Trump compared to a 57% majority who are mostly or very unfavorable to the president. This represents a 14 percentage point drop since mid-March when a majority (56%) of seniors said they view Trump favorably.
Currently, seniors display a notable divide in their views on Trump based on age. Older Baby Boomers represent a majority (59%) of seniors, while 41% are ages 75 and over.[4] Members of the Silent Generation (ages 75 and over) are less likely than older Baby Boomers (ages 65-74) to hold a favorable view of Trump (34% vs. 45%, respectively). This stands in sharp contrast with previous findings where the Silent Generation and older Baby Boomers were in lockstep in their views on Trump in March (56% vs. 54%), February (46% vs. 43%), and 2019 (47% vs. 46%).
Fauci Says Reopening U.S. Economy Too Soon Could Lead to Needless Deaths. (New York Times, May 11, 2020)
The risks of reopening the country too soon will be a focus of government hearings tomorrow. The White House’s new mask requirement won’t apply to President Trump.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a central figure in the government’s response to the coronavirus, intends to warn the Senate on Tuesday that Americans would experience “needless suffering and death” if the country opens up too quickly. Dr. Fauci, who has emerged as perhaps the nation’s most respected voice during the coronavirus crisis, is one of four top government doctors scheduled to testify remotely at a high-profile hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
It will be his first appearance before Congress since President Trump declared a national emergency in March, and a chance for him to address lawmakers and the public without President Trump by his side. He has been largely out of public view since last week, when Mr. Trump abandoned his daily briefings with his coronavirus task force.
In an email late Monday night, Dr. Fauci laid out what he intended to tell senators. “The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” he wrote. “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”
Dr. Fauci was referring to a three-phase White House plan, Opening Up America Again, that lays out guidelines for state officials considering reopening their economies. Among its recommendations: States should have a “downward trajectory of positive tests” or a “downward trajectory of documented cases” of coronavirus over two weeks, while conducting robust contact tracing and “sentinel surveillance” testing of asymptomatic people in vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes. But many states are reopening without meeting those guidelines, seeking to ease the economic pain as millions of working people and small-business owners are facing ruin while sheltering at home. “We’re not reopening based on science,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”
The comments came as the United States has recorded more than 1.35 million infections and over 80,000 deaths, according to Reuters' figures, while worldwide the number is nearly 4.2 million infections and more than 285,000 deaths.
The much-feared second wave of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say. Instead, it may become a series of wavelets occurring unpredictably across the country.
Dr. Fauci himself is now in “modified quarantine,” he has said, after what he described as a “low risk” exposure to someone infected with the virus.
White House Orders Staff to Wear Masks as Trump Misrepresents Testing Record. (New York Times, May 11, 2020)
At a news conference, the president reiterated that he would not wear a mask himself and again exaggerated the availability of testing for the coronavirus.
Asked at a Rose Garden news conference whether he had ordered the change, Mr. Trump — who did not wear a mask and has repeatedly said he sees no reason to — said, “Yeah, I did.” But officials said the new requirement was not expected to apply to Mr. Trump or to Vice President Mike Pence.
White House officials have scrambled since last week’s positive diagnoses to keep the virus from spreading throughout 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue even as the president, Mr. Pence and many other senior administration advisers who may have come into contact with Ms. Miller and the valet declined to self-quarantine. Mr. Trump said on Monday that he and Mr. Pence had tested negative for the virus.
Three top public health officials have chosen to remain isolated for a period of time — Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Trump unveiled new props at bizarre COVID-19 briefing that spurred instant memes. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2020)
Donald Trump held a bizarre pep rally press conference type thing on Monday. Trump and others spoke in the Rose Garden with two identical posters hung on each side of Trump’s dumb head, boasting a lie about America’s primacy in testing for the novel coronavirus. Americans with even the smallest level of critical thinking could see what was happening. Trump is attempting to sell America Trump steaks made out of Grade Z beef.
The signs, in big sans serif lettering, said: “AMERICA LEADS THE WORLD IN TESTING.” This was a last-second deal and, as George Orwell’s 1984 has taught us, simple bold lettering is how you drive home propaganda. Of course, simple bold lettering on a blank white background is also wildly easy to photoshop.
Donald Trump explains how great his administration is doing on COVID-19 testing. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2020)
Donald Trump once again stood in the Rose Garden to brag about his administration’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the message was clear: Mission. Accomplished. With U.S. COVID-19 deaths having passed 80,000, Trump’s bragging centered on testing—so long a major failing of his response and only now, with the virus raging through the country, getting to the levels it needed to be at long ago.
Paul Krugman: How to Create a Pandemic Depression (New York Times, May 11, 2020)
Opening the economy too soon can backfire, badly.
Getting the virus under control doesn’t mean “flattening the curve,” which, by the way, we did — we managed to slow the spread of Covid-19 enough that our hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. It means crushing the curve: getting the number of infected Americans way down, then maintaining a high level of testing to quickly spot new cases, combined with contact tracing so that we can quarantine those who may have been exposed.
To get to that point, however, we would need, first, to maintain a rigorous regime of social distancing for however long it takes to reduce new infections to a low level. And then we would have to protect all Americans with the kind of testing and tracing that is already available to people who work directly for Donald Trump, but almost nobody else.
Crushing the curve isn’t easy, but it’s very possible. In fact, many other countries, from South Korea to New Zealand to, believe it or not, Greece have already done it. Bringing the infection rate way down was a lot easier for countries that acted quickly to contain the coronavirus, while the rate was still low, rather than spending many weeks in denial. But even places with severe outbreaks can bring their numbers down if they stay the course. Consider New York City, the original epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, where the numbers of new daily cases and deaths are only a small fraction of what they were a few weeks ago.
But you do have to stay the course. And that’s what Trump and company don’t want to do.
Fox offices staying closed for another month. (CNN Business, May 11, 2020)
Fox News stars are echoing President Trump's call to "reopen the country" and urging people to get back to work in the face of the coronavirus threat. But Fox's offices won't be opening up anytime soon.  A Friday memo from Fox Corp chief operating officer John Nallen extended the company's work from home directive through June 15. On that date, at the earliest, Fox Corp properties like Fox News will begin a gradual reopening of offices. The date could very well be delayed further.
Texas salon owner who was arrested for breaking quarantine admits she received $18,000 in funding. (Daily Kos, May 11, 2020)
While Shelley Luther  [see May 7th, below] claims she had “no choice” but to stay open and is being applauded by conservatives nationwide for her “selfless” act of defying the government to feed her family, many are forgetting that she did in fact receive government funding. During her court hearing, Luther argued that she had to stay open in order to feed her children in addition to supporting the hairstylists she had who “are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids.”
While Luther stood strong in her stance that her actions were unselfish and she needed to provide her workers with financial support, she later admitted on ABC’s The View that she received stimulus funds prior to her hearing. “You applied for small business loans and unemployment, and you did receive some aid from the government,” said The View host Sunny Hostin. “You received $18,000 from the government.” Hostin added: “So I understand why people feel so strongly about going back to work because they feel that the government isn’t doing its job and taking care of people, but in this instance, two days before you went to court, the money went into your account. So I’m troubled by that.”
Luther replied that while she understood why some may feel troubled by this revelation, she was unsure what to do with the money, claiming it appeared in her bank account with no instructions. Luther’s lie could not be more obvious—the funds were received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which distributes funds based on how many employees a business has and what their salaries are. Applicants must declare the information themselves during the vigorous application process, and it’s clearly explained what the funds can be used for. But of course, despite applying for the loan and certifying she understood the terms while doing so, Luther claimed she did not want to spend the money until she was sure how to do so without going into debt.
In addition, Luther added that the very hairstylists who she argued in court that she was supporting by staying open are not actually her employees. “And giving me $18,000 to spend when my stylists aren’t actual employees of mine, they’re actually subleasing,” she said. “So I wasn’t sure if I was even able to give them any of that money as employees because I don’t pay them.”
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the PPP program is designed for businesses to keep workers on the payroll. Employers are encouraged to apply for the loan in order to pay employees for at least eight weeks amid the current crisis, and the employers are rewarded with loan forgiveness for doing so. If Luther really does not have any employees, why did she receive $18,000 for a loan that represents at least 75% of employees’ salaries? As Luther’s lies continue, we wonder which Republican will come to her defense next.
Republican Congress members are upset because banks are dropping support for fossil fuels. (Ars Technica, May 11, 2020)
A letter to the president ignores some inconvenient facts: that wind and solar also employ people, that wind and solar generation have become cost-competitive with fossil fuels in most markets, that some of the resources now held as assets by fossil fuel companies will end up "stranded"—meaning the assets will turn out to have no value...
Our weird behavior during the pandemic is messing with AI models. (MIT Technology Review, May 11, 2020)
Machine-learning models trained on normal behavior are showing cracks —forcing humans to step in to set them straight.
With everything connected, the impact of a pandemic has been felt far and wide, touching mechanisms that in more typical times remain hidden. If machines are to be trusted, we need to watch over them.
Animation: The World’s Rapid Rise in Life Expectancy, in Just 13 Seconds (Visual Capitalist, May 11, 2020)
NEW: Come On and Zoom-Zoom. (The New Yorker, May 11, 2020)
Like the teleconferencing service, the original 1970s “Zoom” was screen-based and interactive, and it quickly evolved into a national obsession. But, unlike Zoom the online platform, “Zoom” was mostly the province of kids, primarily those in the tween cohort. Keen to foster more easygoing relationships between kids, Christopher Sarson of WGBH-TV in Boston came up with a general outline for a program in which a cast of children of preteen age would perform songs, sketches, and craft projects based on scripts and premises sent in by home viewers in the same age group. Onscreen and off, kids would learn from each other rather than from an adult authority figure. “If the emphasis is on learning rather than teaching, you achieve a lot,” Sarson said. “If the kids are learning rather than being taught, they’ll be more sure of themselves and enjoy life more. So, it was this [idea] of getting kids in a position where they could be thinking for themselves.”
The Vast Bettmann Photo Archive Is Hidden Inside a Cold, Heavily-Guarded Limestone Mine. (Atlas Obscura, May 11, 2020)
Over 11 million Getty images are on ice near Pittsburgh.
Coronavirus: How South Korea 'crushed' the curve (2-min. video; BBC, May 10, 2020)
As coronavirus spread outside China, South Korea was at risk of becoming among the world's worst affected countries. The country managed to avoid the peaks and fatalities seen elsewhere due to the government's implementation of an aggressive test, trace and contain policy.
Coronavirus: A Cape Cod ice cream shop reopened — and faced harassment so bad one staffer quit, owner says. (Washington Post, May 10, 2020)
NEW: A Failed Deception: The Early Days of the Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan (Der Spiegel, May 9, 2020)
On the morning of Dec. 20, 2019, the Chinese fish monger Chen Qingbo was cleaning out his stand at the market, completely unaware that he would soon become the focus of intense scientific research, that he was carrying a virus within him of a kind the world had never seen before. He was unaware that his fate was linked closely with that of all of humanity.
Mapped: The Geology of the Moon in Astronomical Detail (Visual Capitalist, May 9, 2020)
It is clear that there are resources earthlings can exploit. Hydrogen, oxygen, silicon, iron, magnesium, calcium, aluminum, manganese, and titanium are some of the metals and minerals on the Moon. Interestingly, oxygen is the most abundant element on the Moon. It’s a primary component found in rocks, and this oxygen can be converted to a breathable gas with current technology.
[OTOH, earthlings could stop exploiting and begin limiting their own greed.]
The real Lord Of The Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian, May 9, 2020)
The real Lord Of The Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other.
NEW: Found: Possibly the First Recorded Death-by-Meteorite (Atlas Obscura, May 8, 2020)
Call it a cold case from space.
NEW: A Brief History of TP, From Silk Road Hygiene to Pandemic Hoarding (Atlas Obscura, May 8, 2020)
An author’s end-game expertise has never been more timely.
NEW: Hackers Turned Virginia Government Websites Into Elaborate eBooks Scam Pages. (Vice, May 8, 2020)
Two subdomains of an official Virginia government website were hijacked and enrolled into a eBooks scam.
Hunger Pandemic: The COVID-19 Effect on Global Food Insecurity (Visual Capitalist, May 8, 2020)
While COVID-19 is dominating headlines, another kind of emergency is threatening the lives of millions of people around the world—food insecurity. The two are very much intertwined. By the end of 2020, authorities estimate that upwards of 265 million people could be on the brink of starvation globally, almost double the current rate of crisis-level food insecurity.
Will Antibodies After COVID-19 Illness Prevent Reinfection? (NPR, May 7, 2020)
It would have huge public health implications if it turns out people can still spread the disease after they've recovered. Studies from China and South Korea seemed to suggest this was possible, though further studies have cast doubt on that as a significant feature of the disease.
Nadeau is also trying to figure out what can be said about the antibody blood-tests that are now starting to flood the market. There are two issues with these tests. First, a positive test may be a false-positive result, so it may be necessary to run a confirmatory test to get a credible answer. Second, it's not clear that a true positive test result really indicates a person is immune and, if so, for how long.
Companies would like to be able to use these tests to identify people who can return to work without fear of spreading the coronavirus. "I see a lot of business people wanting to do the best for their employees, and for good reason," Nadeau says. "And we can never say you're fully protected until we get enough [information]. But right now we're working hard to get the numbers we need to be able to see what constitutes protection and what does not."
It could be a matter of life or death to get this right.
Shelley Luther, Who Was Jailed After Reopening Her Dallas Salon During Quarantine, Has Been Ordered Released. (BuzzFeed, May 7, 2020)
The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the release of Shelley Luther, a Dallas salon owner who was jailed on Tuesday after violating state and local stay-at-home orders by reopening her shop and flouting a judicial restraining order in front of television news cameras.
Luther’s release came after she had become a cause célèbre among conservative activists and politicians around the country who had been calling on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to take swift action to come to her aid. Abbott has modified his original executive order, explicitly saying local officials can no longer jail people who violate the state’s stay-at-home order. Previously, Abbott had said jailing offenders was an option for local officials but should be considered the last resort.
The state's lieutenant governor has also paid Luther's fine.
After Luther was jailed, Texas Republicans began calling for her immediate release.
“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in a statement on Wednesday. “That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order.”
Defenders of the sentence say Luther was not jailed just for violating state and local stay-at-home orders, but instead for contempt of court charges stemming from her decision to disobey a state judge’s temporary restraining order prohibiting her from continuing to operate her salon. Moyé offered to let Luther go with just a fine if she apologized for what he called her “selfish” actions. “Feeding my kids is not selfish,” she told the judge. “If you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon.”
In his decision, Moyé pointed out that Luther had “expressed no contrition, remorse or regret” for her actions. “The defiance of the court’s order was open, flagrant, and intentional.”
At least one Texas state legislator believes that she has received special treatment because she is white. “I wish Black and Brown people could be offered the chance to apologize instead of going to jail,” Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, said in a tweet on Wednesday. “I wish people wouldn't be put back into prison because they couldn't pay their fees or fines.”
On Thursday, a group of 12 Texas judges wrote to Paxton saying that his actions in the Luther case had violated state rules concerning judicial conduct.
Luther’s release comes as Texas is reopening large swaths of its economy even as the state has recorded some of its highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases in recent days. As of Friday, salons and barbershops will be allowed to reopen across the state.
In leaked audio from a call last week with Texas legislators, Abbott announced that “much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening…it actually will lead to an increase in spreads.”
NEW: Why Fake Video, Audio May Not Be As Powerful In Spreading Disinformation As Feared (NPR, May 7, 2020)
Sophisticated fake media hasn't emerged as a factor in the disinformation wars in the ways once feared — and may have missed its moment. Deceptive video and audio recordings, often nicknamed "deepfakes," have been the subject of sustained attention by legislators and technologists, but so far have not been employed to decisive effect.
NEW: 11 Cognitive Biases That Influence Political Outcomes (Visual Capitalist, May 7, 2020)
Humans are hardwired to make mental mistakes called cognitive biases. Here are common biases that can shape political opinion, and...
FFRF promotes ‘Day of Reason’ in provocative New York Times ad. (Free From Religion Foundation, May 7, 2020)
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is running a full-page ad in the national news section of the New York Times today that urges: “We need reason, not prayer, to combat the coronavirus.” FFRF’s ad notes that “Nothing fails like prayer. Prayer cannot stop a virus. Pious politicians should get off their knees and get to work.”
An eye-popping cartoon drawn by Steve Benson, formerly with the Arizona Republic, depicts Jesus being transported by gurney into an ambulance while asking: “Is there a doctor in the house?”
The ad deliberately coincides with the congressionally-mandated National Day of Prayer, occurring on the first Thursday in May (today), which requires the president to unconstitutionally enjoin citizens to “turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.” Ironically, the National Day of Prayer theme this year is “God’s glory across the Earth,” chosen by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical outfit that has hijacked the date to promote an exclusionary Christian viewpoint.
FFRF’s ad notes that House Resolution 947, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, calls on making today a “National Day of Reason,” because “irrationality, magical thinking, and superstition have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” “Science works,” FFRF asserts in the ad: “We’re all in this together — that’s why we need actions based on science, evidence and compassion, not prayer or ‘alternate facts.’ ” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is quoted as saying, “Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus. And what we do now, how we act, will dictate how the virus spreads.”
The ad concludes, “Our work to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government has never been more essential.”
[What better day than today, to join FFRF and to contribute to this effort? We did!]
Visualizing America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart (Visual Capitalist, May 6, 2020)
'Polar opposites:' May cold snap to leave eastern US chillier than parts of Alaska. (Accuweather, May 6, 2020)
NEW: Was COVID-19 Already in France Last December? (Psychology Today, May 6, 2020)
Revisiting the coronavirus timeline.
NEW: Coronavirus mutations: Scientists puzzle over impact. (BBC, May 6, 2020)
Researchers in the US and UK have identified hundreds of mutations to the virus which causes the disease Covid-19.
AI: Decoded: Cold winds are blowing around regulation — The ethics of contact-tracing — Doubts over AI to treat COVID-19 (Politico, May 6, 2020)
Experience has shown that many AI models, which work great in theory, don’t survive the process.
But these are not normal circumstances, and a pandemic leaves no time for that process. That’s why it’s becoming ever more important to share data and make sure researchers have access to decent data they can train their models with. The reasoning that ‘any model’ is better than nothing is not true.
Paul Krugman: The push from Trump and many others on the right to relax social distancing look even more irresponsible than it already did. (New York Times, May 5, 2020)
For the past couple of months one epidemiological model — the IHME model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — has played an outsized role in public discussion of Covid-19.
It’s not at all clear that it deserved this role. Among other things, its predictions have been highly unstable, sometimes revised sharply downward and sometimes sharply upward. Many epidemiologists have criticized the model as simplistic. But its very simplicity let it offer state-by-state predictions other models couldn’t. And the White House liked it, at least better than many other models, because it generally predicted a lower death toll than its rivals.
But the White House probably likes IHME less today than it did yesterday: the institute just drastically revised its projected death total upward, from 72,000 to 134,000. This is terrible news, and makes the push from Trump and many others on the right to relax social distancing look even more irresponsible than it already did.
But it also tells us something about the field of epidemiology. It turns out that epidemiologists often disagree, sometimes by a lot. Their forecasts are often wrong, sometimes very wrong indeed. They are, in fact, the worst people to rely on in a crisis — except for everyone else. In other words, they’re a lot like economists.
Here we are in a pandemic, a complex phenomenon that depends on human behavior as well as biology. Like financial crises, different pandemics share many common features but differ in detail, in ways that can create huge uncertainty. Nobody can forecast their course especially well, but you do much better listening to the professional epidemiologists than to law professors, politicians, or, yes, economists who claim to know better.
Heather Cox Richardson: There has been another leak from the White House, and this one is colossal. (Letters From An American, May 4, 2020)
The New York Times obtained a document suggesting that the administration has misrepresented the numbers of American deaths expected from this pandemic by pushing an artificially low estimate for close to a month.
Coronavirus model projects 134,000 deaths in US, nearly double its last estimate. (CNN, May 4, 2020)
An influential coronavirus model often cited by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of Covid-19 in the United States, nearly double its previous prediction. The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, had predicted 72,433 deaths as of Monday morning.
Relatedly, a Trump administration model projects a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in the weeks ahead, up to about 3,000 daily deaths in the US by June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times. Over the past week, about 2,000 people died daily in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
IHME director Dr. Christopher Murray said "I think the challenge for us all is to figure out what's the trajectory of relaxing social distancing on a measured pace that will protect us from big increases or even a full-scale resurgence." The projections make clear that these reopenings come with fatal risks.
"It's simple logic," CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said. "When you tell people, 'Hey, you can go to bars, you can get your nails done, you can go to a restaurant,' those numbers are going to go up."
The novel coronavirus's incubation period -- or the time from exposure to developing symptoms -- ranges from two to 14 days, according to the CDC, and the virus can even spread among people who show no symptoms at all. With widespread testing still limited, the consequences of these reopenings may not be evident for several weeks.
President Donald Trump had previously said he expected 65,000 Americans to die, but on Sunday night, he revised that estimated death toll up to 80,000-90,000 people. It may not be the last upward revision; Dr. Deborah Birx, a White House coronavirus task force official, said projections have shown between 100,000 to 240,000 American deaths, even with social distancing.The public pressure to ease restrictions is rising even in states with significant outbreaks. This weekend, thousands gathered in California to protest coronavirus restrictions, leading to 32 arrests at the state Capitol.
In Massachusetts, a few hundred demonstrators on Monday gathered outside the State House in Boston. Some of the hundreds of protesters wore masks as is required, but most did not.
Three people charged in Michigan killing of Family Dollar security guard over mask policy. (Washington Post, May 4, 2020)
The argument began when the security guard told a woman that customers needed to wear face masks in the store. She yelled at him, spit on him and drove off. About 20 minutes later, her car returned to the store, and her husband and her son, 44 and 23, stepped out and confronted the guard. The son pulled out a gun and shot the guard.
The COVID-19 Impact on App Popularity (Visual Capitalist, May 4, 2020)
This Pandemic Popularity Quadrant illustrates the types of apps that are either growing or slowing in popularity in North America.
NEW: Pandemic brings Trump's war on science to the boil – but who will win? (The Guardian, May 3, 2020)
Three years of hostility to evidence-based policy have led to a crisis in which the president’s ill-informed, self-serving ‘hunches’ have deadly consequences.
“Trump’s constant antics are a danger to the American people,” said John Holdren, a Harvard environmental scientist who was Barack Obama’s White House science adviser through both his presidential terms. Holdren told the Guardian the current approach to science and expertise within the Trump administration is a “shame on many levels. Trump’s talking nonsense risks misleading the public, and it distracts top scientists who spend emotional energy neutralizing the damage he causes when they should be tackling the virus.”
Three months into the pandemic, with the number of confirmed cases passing 1 million, the tension that has been simmering for months between Trump and the scientific world is at boiling point. His improvisation about injecting disinfectant encapsulated the sense of demoralization – of despair, almost – that many American scientists now feel about the drift from evidence-based leadership.
“They are doing everything they can to undermine science at a time when it is critically important, as are facts. We have come to an extreme level,” said Gina McCarthy, who led the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) until Trump’s accession in 2017. Science is so assailed at present that the situation raises a startling question: are we losing the fight for reason in the pandemic? McCarthy, who now heads the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said she frets America may prove incapable of withstanding the anti-science assault unleashed by Trump. “I have been worried that people wouldn’t notice the attack happening. These things are difficult to explain – they are not soundbites – and our country has for a long time taken for granted the fact that we make science-based decisions. That is simply not true any more.”
The accusation that in three short years Trump has succeeded in severing historic ties between the US government and science-based decision making is one of the more chilling charges leveled at his presidency. Science has after all been at the core of the American experiment, ever since Franklin Roosevelt created the White House Office of Scientific R&D in 1941. Not only was scientific endeavor instrumental in winning the second world war – through the atomic bomb and innovations such as radar and communications technology – it was also central to America’s postwar economic success. In recent times, Obama inherited that legacy and ran with it, promising on his first day in office in 2009 that “we will restore science to its rightful place”. In his first set of presidential appointments, Obama brought into his administration five science Nobel prizewinners and 25 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. They became known as the “dream team”.
By contrast, Holdren said, “Trump is the exact opposite. Science has played no role in virtually all the top appointments he has made.” The roll call of officials Trump has entrusted with protecting Americans from Covid-19 tells its own story. With no Nobel laureates in sight, Trump relied initially on Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who is a lawyer and former drug company boss; followed by Mike Pence, a career politician and evangelical Christian; and most recently Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, whose expertise lies in real estate.
Trump’s top team have in turn promoted individuals in their own mold. As Reuters has reported, Azar gave the job of coordinating the fight against coronavirus within HHS, to an individual whose job immediately before joining the Trump administration was as a dog breeder running a small business called Dallas Labradoodles.
7 open source alternatives to Skype (Red Hat, May 2, 2020)
Communicate without compromising your open source ethos or your computer data with these alternatives (Jitsi Meet and more) to Zoom and other proprietary web-conferencing software.
The FSF reveals the software it uses for chat, video, and more. (Free Software Foundation, May 1, 2020)
Take a look at the Free Software Foundation's recommended communications tools that respect your freedom, privacy, and security.
Incredible Map of Pangea With Modern-Day Borders (Visual Capitalist, May 1, 2020)
NEW: How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
“President Trump has, throughout this, seemed a little schizophrenic about his role,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who ran USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in the Obama administration, told me. “On the one hand, he clearly wants all the credit for it when things go right. On the other hand, he has furiously attempted to avoid having to take ownership for the success of the effort…he wants the credit without the accountability.”
The biggest difference between Obama’s approach and Trump has to do with science. “Traditionally, we have had a situation where the response is always scientifically, technically proven,” says a former government official. “Of course there are political considerations. But the options that are presented are fundamentally sound from a scientific perspective.”
The novel coronavirus is exposing the inadequacies of a cornerstone of Trump’s (and Kushner’s) governing philosophy. “The entire argument behind electing Donald Trump is that business can handle anything better than the government, right? So the entire philosophy, the entire ideology of every senior leader in the White House and that they’ve installed across the federal government is, ‘Get the private sector to do it. Government shouldn’t be picking winners or losers and coordinating these efforts,’” the former administration official told me. But the problem is, there are some things only the federal government can do, after all. “This is the crisis for this administration, just as every administration faces, that challenges its ideology and worldview to its core and cannot be effectively addressed with that worldview.”
“This president doesn’t make decisions based on objective criteria.”
Republican host let loose on her frustration with Trump. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, May 1, 2020)
"Where do we look?", Nicole Wallace asks as if throwing her hands up in the air. "We have a White House that is what it is. We have a liar-in-chief who's pushed hoax treatments, who's diminished his scientists. We have a VP who for some reason doesn't wear a mask because it obscures his vision or something. I mean, WHERE DO WE TURN!"
Trump's Nazification of the GOP is why there's serious discussion of killing off the 'unfit'. (Daily Kos, May 1, 2020)
Pence’s staff threatens action against VOA reporter who tweeted about visit to clinic without surgical mask. (Washington Post, April 30, 2020)
A copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post explicitly stated that masks are required for the visit and instructed reporters to wear them. “Please note, the Mayo Clinic is requiring all individuals traveling with the VP wear masks,” the document said. “Please bring one to wear while on the trip.”
The directive confirms that Pence’s staff was well aware of the need for masks, raising the possibility that none of his aides had alerted him to the requirement or that Pence had intentionally flouted it, perhaps to avoid being photographed in a mask. (Pence himself told reporters after the visit that because he doesn’t have the coronavirus — he is tested frequently — he decided he could “speak to these researchers, these incredible health-care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”)
Voice of America is a government-funded but independent news agency that has lately been the object of White House criticism. The Trump administration accused VOA this month of promoting Chinese government propaganda in its reporting about the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Pence wore a mask as he toured a General Motors auto plant in Indiana that has been converted into a factory making ventilators for hospitals around the country.
Texas reports record coronavirus deaths the day before stores open. But Gov. Greg Abbott sees hope in other metrics. (Texas Tribune, April 30, 2020)
Abbott is looking at two figures: the percentage of tests in the state that come back positive and the percentage of patients with COVID-19 who are hospitalized.
Animated Map: An Economic Forecast for the COVID-19 Recovery, 2020-21 (Visual Capitalist, April 30, 2020)
According to the most recent forecast from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it’s projected that the global economy will contract by 3% in 2020, followed by 5.8% growth in 2021. In today’s Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we take a look at the country-level economic forecast to highlight which areas may recover the fastest.
NEW: Coronavirus contact tracing apps were meant to save us. They won’t. (Wired UK, April 30, 2020)
With little evidence to show how effective such apps are and growing privacy concerns, there’s a risk they could do more harm than good.
Frontier’s Bankruptcy Reveals Why Big ISPs Choose to Deny Fiber to So Much of America. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 30, 2020)
Giant monopoly ISPs have had decades to bring America's Internet into the 21st century. They have been singularly terrible at delivering decent speed, reliable service, reasonable customer support, or competitive prices. The only thing these companies have demonstrated competence in is making money for their investors. And Frontier's bankruptcy reveals that even that core competence is vastly overrate).
It's long past time we gave up on waiting for Big Telco to do its job. Instead, America should look to the entities with proven track-records for getting fiber to our curbs:  small, private, competitive ISPs and local governments. These are the home of the "patient money" that doesn't mind ten-year payoffs for investments in fiber. Fiber is vastly superior to every other means of delivering high-speed Internet to our homes, schools, institutions, and businesses. Nothing else even comes close (not 5G, either).
NEW: An unlikely coronavirus hotspot in the US (3-min. video; BBC, April 29, 2020)
How poverty and economic inequality are threatening an entire generation of African Americans.
NEW: The Great Realisation (4-min. video; Probably Tomfoolery, April 29, 2020)
A bed time story of how it started, and why hindsight’s, uh, 2020.
[Wonderful!]
The environment won’t be helped by oil producers declaring bankruptcy. (Popular Science, April 29, 2020)
In the past, low oil prices have led consumers to use it more, not less. Some economists say that for this situation to be any different, regulators need to step in and help steer our society away from fossil fuel reliance. The present, extremely low oil prices are the result of a few things, but the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an “absolute collapse” in demand for petroleum. We’re staying at home, not driving, and spending much less money.
With a drop in revenue from oil due to low prices, companies will reap less profit and thus have less money to spend on expanding into clean energy. Fossil fuel interests have dragged their feet on addressing their contribution to climate change and have actively worked to crush measures to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Based on their history of committed fossil fuel extraction, it’s unlikely we’d see any meaningful change from energy companies now, even as their profits plummet.
If we want to steer towards a clean energy future, one place to start is putting a price on carbon. One method, a carbon fee and dividend program, could be just what America needs right now. It would take the carbon taxes from fossil fuel companies and issue the money back to households. That means you reduce the oil energy dominance and you’d be able to help people right now with a check.
A more radical solution would be to buy out the fossil fuel industry, coupled with a green stimulus program to support jobs. Right now, in theory, the government could buy the entire oil and gas industry for cheap, then dismantle it. Markets are bad at making these kinds of transitions themselves, so this massive purchase could be a way to end fossil fuel dominance for good.
Why Rooftop Wind Power Hasn't Really Worked—Until Now (Popular Mechanics, April 29, 2020)
The surprising secret to unlocking the energy's potential? Airfoils.
Link identified between dietary selenium and outcome of COVID-19 disease. (Science Daily, April 29, 2020)
Selenium is an essential trace element obtained from the diet (i.e. fish, meat and cereals) which has been found to affect the severity of a number of viral diseases in animals and humans. For example selenium status in those with HIV has been shown to be an important factor in the progression of the virus to AIDs and death from the condition. China is known to have populations that have both the lowest and highest selenium status in the world, due to geographical differences in the soil which affects how much of the trace element gets into the food chain.
Examining data from provinces and municipalities with more than 200 cases and cities with more than 40 cases, researchers found that areas with high levels of selenium were more likely to recover from the virus. For example, in the city of Enshi in Hubei Province, which has the highest selenium intake in China, the cure rate (percentage of COVID-19 patients declared 'cured') was almost three-times higher than the average for all the other cities in Hubei Province. By contrast, in Heilongjiang Province, where selenium intake is among the lowest in the world, the death rate from COVID-19 was almost five-times as high as the average of all the other provinces outside of Hubei. Most convincingly, the researchers found that the COVID-19 cure rate was significantly associated with selenium status, as measured by the amount of selenium in hair, in 17 cities outside of Hubei. The report states: "There is a significant link between selenium status and COVID-19 cure rate, however it is important not to overstate this finding; we have not been able to work with individual level data and have not been able to take account of other possible factors such as age and underlying disease."
NEW: Video Call Apps Get a Bit More Secure. (Mozilla, April 29, 2020)
On Tuesday, Mozilla published our latest edition of *Privacy Not Included, in which we outlined the privacy and security features and flaws of 15 popular video call apps. At the time of publication, three of those 15 apps did not meet Mozilla’s Minimum Security Standards: Discord, Doxy.me, and HouseParty.
Mozilla has been talking with all three apps, and as a result of those conversations, Discord now requires stronger passwords. With this update, Discord now meets our Minimum Security Standards. (Previously, Discord’s minimum password length was six characters, with no complexity detection. As recently as last week, our researchers found the password "111111" worked as a login.) In addition to strengthening its password requirements, Discord says it prevents users from choosing a password that has been compromised by another service. It also encourages two-factor authentication.
We’re pleased to see Discord prioritize consumers’ security, and thank them for their quick action.
Which Video-Call Apps Can You Trust? (Mozilla, April 28, 2020)
Right now, a record number of people are using video-call apps to conduct business, teach classes, meet with doctors, and stay in touch with friends. It’s more important than ever for this technology to be trustworthy — but some apps don’t always respect users’ privacy and security. So today, Mozilla is publishing a guide to popular video-call apps’ privacy and security features and flaws. Consumers can use this information to choose apps they’re comfortable with — and to avoid ones they find creepy.
How to Discover the History of Your Neighborhood, Without Leaving Home (CityLab, April 28, 2020)
Even during social distancing, you can time-travel back. Here's how I explored the history of my own street.
Why fighter jets are flying over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania today. (Popular Science, April 28, 2020)
The aircraft are F-16s and F/A-18s, flown by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels, the Air Force and Navy aerial demonstrations teams. The purpose of the flights is a chance “to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response.”
Here’s when and where you might see F-16s and other high-performance aircraft in the sky. The Air Force and the Navy say that more of these flights over additional cities will be happening over the “coming weeks.” (For a critical take on the operations, check out this post on the military-focused site Task & Purpose.)
UFO Pentagon video: Is it Aliens? 8 questions and answers. (1-min. video; Inverse, April 28, 2020)
The Pentagon formally released yesterday three videos taken by US Navy pilots that show an "unidentified aerial phenomenon." These videos were leaked back in 2017, and stirred up major UFO rumors. The footage shows a cluster of odd-looking aircraft flying over the East Coast with unidentified maneuvers, unlike anything the Navy pilots had seen before.
De Blasio Breaks Up Rabbi’s Funeral and Lashes Out Over Virus Distancing. (New York Times, April 28, 2020)
After overseeing the dispersal of hundreds of Hasidic mourners in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the gathering “absolutely unacceptable.”
NEW: Inside Donald Trump and Jared Kushner’s Two Months of Magical Thinking (Vanity Fair, April 28, 2020)
Obsessed with impeachment and their enemies and worried about the stock market, the president and his son-in-law scapegoated HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and treated the coronavirus as mostly a political problem as it moved through the country.
NEW: What Trump voters think of his handling of crisis (3-min. video; BBC, April 28, 2020)
"Dumbfounded" or "great job" - Americans who backed the president in 2016 rate his pandemic response.
Supreme Court requires government to pay health insurers under Affordable Care Act. (USA Today, April 27, 2020)
Paul Krugman: Peacocks and Vultures Are Circling the Deficit. (New York Times, April 27, 2020)
The government will be able to borrow that money at incredibly low interest rates. In fact, real interest rates — rates on government bonds protected against inflation — are negative. So the burden of the additional debt as measured by the rise in federal interest payments will be negligible. And no, we don’t have to worry about paying off the debt; we never will, and that’s OK.
The bottom line is that right now, the only thing we have to fear from deficits is deficit fear itself. In this time of pandemic, we can and should spend whatever it takes to limit the damage.
The Man Who Thought Too Fast (New Yorker, April 27, 2020)
Frank Ramsey—a philosopher, economist, and mathematician—was one of the greatest minds of the last century. Have we caught up with him yet?
It didn’t have to be this way. (Aeon, April 27, 2020)
A bioethicist at the heart of the Italian coronavirus crisis asks: why won’t we talk about the trade-offs of the lockdown?
Trump says he knows about Kim Jong Un's health 'but I can't talk about it now'. (Yahoo, April 27, 2020)
There have been multiple media reports in recent weeks that Kim, who is 36 and has ruled North Korea as “Supreme Leader” since 2011, is either dead or incapacitated after heart surgery. The rumors and speculation have been fueled by the fact that Kim hasn’t appeared in North Korean state media for two weeks and missed the April 15 birthday celebrations for his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founder of the repressive regime.
The president also said he didn’t think Kim made any statements over the weekend. However, the North Korean government did release a statement that purportedly came from Kim, but Trump was seemingly unaware of that communiqué. He cut off a reporter, and indicated it would not have been possible for Kim to have issued a statement. “He didn’t say anything last Saturday, nobody knows where he is, so he obviously couldn’t have said it."
Trump campaign lashes out over 'Don't defend Trump' memo. (Politico, April 27, 2020)
A strategy memo on coronavirus distributed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee infuriated Trump aides.
Earlier this month, the Senate Republican campaign arm circulated a memo with shocking advice to GOP candidates on responding to coronavirus: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China.”
The Trump campaign was furious. On Monday — just days after POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo — Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters.
McLaughlin responded by saying he agreed with the Trump campaign’s position and, according to two people familiar with the conversation, clarified that the committee wasn’t advising candidates to not defend Trump over his response.
The episode illustrates how the Trump political apparatus demands — and receives — fealty from fellow Republicans and moves aggressively to tamp down on any perceived dissent within the GOP. The president maintains an iron grip on his party, even as his poll numbers sag and he confronts fierce criticism from Democrats over his response to the coronavirus pandemic. During the conversation, McLaughlin called the line in the memo inartful in its wording and argued that the overall thrust of the document was about pushing candidates to go on offense over China — something that Trump has done frequently in recent days — and not to evade defending the president. “There is no daylight between the NRSC and President Trump,” McLaughlin said in a statement, adding: “Senate Republicans have worked hand in glove with the Trump administration to ensure a highly effective federal response to Covid-19.”
The 57-page memo, which was authored by a top GOP strategist, was perceived by Trump aides as giving candidates leeway to avoid backing the president on what could be the defining issue of the 2020 campaign. And they held a series of conversations on Friday and over the weekend figuring out how to respond. The memo urged GOP Senate candidates to stay relentlessly on message with attacks against China, where the coronavirus originated, when pressed about the pandemic on the campaign trail. When asked about Trump’s response to the pandemic, the document advised candidates to pivot to an attack on the authoritarian country rather than offer an explicit defense of Trump’s response.
But the Trump team didn’t take kindly to the guidance. Senior Trump campaign officials, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, political advisers Clark, Bill Stepien and Chris Carr, and communications director Tim Murtaugh, decided to reach out to the NRSC to convey the campaign’s displeasure. Top Republican National Committee officials were also involved in the deliberations and the White House was kept apprised of developments. Clark said in a statement that Republican candidates “who want to win will be running with the president. Candidates will listen to the bad advice in this memo at their own peril. President Trump enjoys unprecedented support among Republican voters and everyone on the ballot in November will want to tap into that enthusiasm. The president’s campaign, the RNC, and the NRSC are firmly on the same page here.”
Trump campaign officials said they were rankled by other passages in the memo, including one line that advised Republican candidates to say: “I wish that everyone acted earlier - that includes our elected officials, the World Health Organization, and the CDC.”
Presidential Swing State Polling Results (eBay Main Street, April 27, 2020)
New York Times Waves Off Hannity Threat: No Retraction Coming. (Daily Beast, April 27, 2020)
Sean Hannity and his lawyer allege the Times mischaracterized his coverage when it published columns claiming he downplayed the virus early on.
Despite Hannity’s protestations, the unofficial adviser to President Donald Trump repeatedly minimized and downplayed the pandemic during the critical early weeks of the crisis. The Fox News fixture spent weeks comparing the deadly coronavirus to the seasonal flu while insisting Democrats were “politicizing and actually weaponizing an infectious disease” to “bludgeon” Trump. He also suggested in early March that the outbreak was a “deep state” plot to destroy the economy, and Democrats’ concerns over the virus were a “new hoax” to take down the president.
In a letter delivered to Harder, New York Times newsroom lawyer David McCraw bluntly responded that there would be no retraction.
For Trump, Lying Is a Super Power. (New York Times, April 27, 2020)
He will use deception to keep his bungled response to Covid-19 from ruining his re-election chances.
After Donald Trump’s ridiculous and dangerous suggestion last week that household disinfectants injected into people’s bodies might be a treatment for Covid-19, Republicans intensified their hand-wringing over whether his daily briefings were doing more harm — to his political fortunes and theirs — than good.
The coronavirus has completely reshaped the coming election. The economy is in dire straits. Trump’s polls have taken a dip. People are anxious and afraid. The outlook isn’t good … at the moment.
The Republican Party see similarities to 2006: “In 2006, anger at President George W. Bush and unease with the Iraq war propelled Democrats to reclaim Congress; two years later they captured the presidency thanks to the same anti-incumbent themes and an unexpected crisis that accelerated their advantage, the economic collapse of 2008. The two elections were effectively a single continuous rejection of Republican rule, as some in the G.O.P. fear 2018 and 2020 could become in a worst-case scenario.”
But I would caution all those who take this fear as encouragement that Trump is weakened and vulnerable: Trump is not George W. Bush. This is not the Republican Party of 2006. This is not a cultural environment in which social media is in its infancy.
Trump, as a person and politician, is riddled with flaws. But he also has an ignominious super power: He is completely unencumbered by the truth, the need to tell it or accept it. He will do and say anything that he believes will help him. He has no greater guiding principles. He is not bound by ethics or morals. His only alliances are to those who would support and further his devotion to self-promotion.
I don’t look back to the 2008 campaign for parallels, but to the 2016 one. When the “Access Hollywood” tape, on which Trump bragged about groping and sexually assaulting women, came out, Republicans were worried. They began to openly reject him. Some called for him to drop out of the race. “But the image of Republicans running for the exits, a month before a presidential election, is as extraordinary as a party’s nominee using vulgar, violent language that seemed to reduce an entire gender to sexual anatomy. And this time, no amount of spin seems sufficient to control the damage Mr. Trump has wrought.”
But, as we now know, that damage was short-lived. The Republican Party would rally to Trump’s side. Indeed, the party would be completely remade by him, and become loyal to only him.
Testing Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States. (New York Times, April 25, 2020)
In both red and blue states, governors, health departments and hospitals are finding innovative ways to cope, but still lack what experts say they need to track and contain outbreaks. While the U.S. has made strides over the past month in expanding testing — about 1.2 million tests were done in one week alone — its capacity is nowhere near the level President Trump suggests it is.
NEW: Fintan O’Toole: The World Has Loved, Hated and Envied the U.S. Now, for the First time, we pity it. (The Irish Times, April 25, 2020)
Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.
However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestationof a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
We Need Herd Immunity From Trump and the Coronavirus. (New York Times, April 25, 2020)
It will take more care than the president is currently demonstrating to loosen restrictions but still protect the vulnerable.
With each passing day it becomes more obvious how unlucky we are that one of the worst crises in American history coincides with Donald Trump’s presidency. To get out of this crisis with the least loss of life and least damage to our economy, we need a president who can steer a science-based, nonpartisan debate through the hellish ethical, economic and environmental trade-offs we have to make.
We need a president who is a cross between F.D.R., Justice Brandeis and Jonas Salk. We got a president who is a cross between Dr. Phil, Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Seuss.
Sure, Trump isn’t the only one sowing division in our society, but as president he has a megaphone like no one else, so when he spews his politics of division, and suggests disinfectants as cures, he is not only eroding our society’s physical immunity to the coronavirus but also eroding what futurist Marina Gorbis calls our “cognitive immunity” — our ability to filter out science from quackery and facts from fabrications. As a result, the Trump daily briefing has itself become a public health hazard.
If we don’t have a president who can harmonize our need to protect ourselves from the coronavirus and our need to get back to work — as well as harmonize our need to protect the planet’s ecosystems and our need for economic growth — we are doomed. Because this virus was actually triggered by our polarization from the natural world. And it will destroy us — physically and economically — if we stay locked in a polarized, binary argument about lives versus livelihoods.
When you simultaneously hunt for wildlife and push development into natural ecosystems — destroying natural habitats — the natural balance of species collapses due to loss of top predators and other iconic species, leading to an abundance of more generalized species adapted to live in human dominated habitats. These are rats, bats and some primates — which together host 75 percent of all known zoonotic viruses to date, and who can survive and multiply in destroyed human-dominated habitats. As we humans have become more numerous and concentrated in cities, and as deforestation has brought these generalized species closer to us — and as countries like China, Vietnam and others in central Africa tolerated wet markets where these virus-laden species were mixed with domesticated meats — we’re seeing ever more zoonotic diseases spreading from animals to people. Their names are SARS, MERS, Ebola, bird flu, and swine flu — and Covid-19. Add globalization to this and you have the perfect ingredients for more pandemics. We need to find a much more harmonious balance between economic growth and our ecosystems.
The same kind of harmonic approach has to be brought to our current debate about reopening the economy. We’re having this important debate about our health and economic future in an incredibly uncoordinated way. Instead, we should have federal government experts on one team offering their approach — and a Team B of independent medical, economic, public health, data and strategic analysts offering an alternative approach. And then go for the best synthesis. For instance, if we concluded that an identified group of a quarter of the population face an unacceptable risk of death from coronavirus, but that for the other 75 percent, with appropriate precautions like social distancing and masks, face no greater risk than other risks of death we accepted before coronavirus, would it be possible to design a response that protected the most vulnerable while simultaneously reopening most of the economy for others?
The bottom line is that Mother Nature has been telling us something huge in this crisis: “You let everything get out of balance and go to extremes. You ravaged my ecosystems and unleashed this virus. You let political extremism ravage your body politic. You need to get back into balance, and that starts with using the immune system that I endowed you with.” Herd immunity, which kicks in after about 60 percent of the population is exposed to and recovers from the virus, has historically been nature’s way of ending pandemics. We need to bend with her forces, while concentrating our health services and social services on protecting those most vulnerable who need to stay sheltered until there is a vaccine.
Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking Senate With Him. (New York Times, April 25, 2020)
The election is still six months away, but a rash of ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the G.O.P. worried about a Democratic takeover.
Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies have often blamed external events for his most self-destructive acts, such as his repeated outbursts during the two-year investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia. Now, there is no such explanation — and, so far, there have been exceedingly few successful interventions regarding Mr. Trump’s behavior at the podium.
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said the president had to change his tone and offer more than a campaign of grievance. “You got to have some hope to sell people,” Mr. Cole said. “But Trump usually sells anger, division and ‘We’re the victim.’”
The White House tried to move a reporter to the back of the press room, but she refused. Then Trump walked out. (Washington Post, April 25, 2020)
NEW:  Private gain must no longer be allowed to elbow out the public good. (Aeon, April 24, 2020)
The logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.
Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.
Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing. Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people. But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious: every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment.
U.S. Navy leaders recommend Captain Crozier's reinstatement. (1-min. video; ABC News, April 24, 2020)
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned due to backlash after firing Navy Captain Crozier, who raised concerns over coronavirus spreading on the aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt. New Acting Secretary of the Navy James E. McPherson also is dragging his heels.
Trump Speech to Force 1,000 West Point Cadets Back to Campus. (New York Times, April 24, 2020)
The president’s off-again, on-again speech in June will bring back cadets who had scattered across the country to help counter the coronavirus.
The Naval Academy, for its part, decided it was too risky to recall its nearly 1,000 graduating midshipmen to Annapolis, Md., for a commencement. Those graduates will have a virtual event. But the Air Force Academy, in contrast to the other schools, sent home its underclassmen, locked down its seniors on campus, moved up graduation, mandated social distancing — and went ahead with plans for Vice President Mike Pence to be its speaker.
And so last Friday, the day before Mr. Pence was to speak at the Air Force ceremony in Colorado, Mr. Trump, never one to be upstaged, abruptly announced that he would, in fact, be speaking at West Point. That was news to everyone, including officials at West Point, according to three people involved with or briefed on the event. The academy had been looking at the option of a delayed presidential commencement in June, but had yet to complete any plans. With Mr. Trump’s pre-emptive statement, they are now summoning 1,000 cadets scattered across the country to return to campus in New York, the state that is the center of the outbreak.
NEW: Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump lies re internal disinfectants "sarcasm" and CNN calls it a lie. (Letters From An American, April 24, 2020)
Media outlets have been uncomfortable calling out Trump’s lies, instead using words like “untruths,” but Dale has fa ct-checked every Trump rally and speech in real time and regularly uses the word “lie” on Twitter. That the word is showing up more in news media suggests editors are rethinking how best to cover this president.
Their problem is that everything a president does and says is newsworthy, but reporting what a lying politician says without identifying it as false puts the media in the position of amplifying the skewed message, rather than delivering accurate information. This tactic was pioneered by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
Heather Cox Richardson: McConnell lies re "Blue State bail-out" but Cuomo corrects. (Letters From An American, April 23, 2020)
Today the House of Representatives passed a new $484 billion coronavirus relief bill by a vote of 388-5. The Senate passed it Tuesday. $381 billion is for small businesses left out in the cold when the money from the previous coronavirus relief package quickly ran dry. Republicans wanted to stop there, but Democrats demanded $75 billion for hospitals, and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, as well as a requirement that the administration figure out a strategy to get tests to states. The relief bill comes as more than 26 million Americans are out of work and almost 50,000 Americans have died of Covid-19.
But the Democrats did not get any more aid to states, crippled by the crisis, than the $150 billion previously provided. The bipartisan National Governors Association, headed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, has asked for $500 billion to help the states replace lost tax revenues. Democrats wanted such aid, but Republicans refused. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went on talk radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show on Wednesday and tried to make the question of state aid partisan. He said that he opposed granting money to states whose problems, he said, stemmed from their underfunded state pension plans. Instead, the states should consider bankruptcy. A document put out by McConnell’s office called aid to the states a “blue state bailout.”
McConnell has it wrong. States have not been overspending; their expenses for education and infrastructure are actually significantly below what they were in 2008, despite more inhabitants, and they have put about 7.6% of their budgets into rainy day funds, a historic high, up from the previous high of 5% they held in reserve in 2006 before the Great Recession. The problem is that states have to balance their budgets annually, and they depend on sales and income taxes for 70% of their revenue. The shutdowns have decimated tax revenues as shopping ends and people lose their jobs. At the same time, unemployment claims are climbing dramatically. States are looking at a $500 billion loss between now and 2022. States need money to avoid massive layoffs and deep spending cuts, actions that would make the economic crisis continue much longer than it would if they do not have to make them.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was blunt. “New York puts into that federal pot $116B more than we take out. Kentucky takes out $148B more than they put in,” he said at a press conference. “Senator McConnell, who’s getting bailed out here? It’s your state that’s living on the money that we generate.”
NEW: Stop Looking on the Bright Side: We’ll Be Screwed By the Pandemic for Years to Come. (Politico, April 23, 2020)
Unfortunately, the history of the past generation justifies pessimism about the next one.
NEW: Two Errors Our Minds Make When Trying to Grasp the Pandemic (The Atlantic, April 23, 2020)
Disappointment and uncertainty are inevitable. But we don’t have to turn them into suffering.
NEW: The Nuclear Ban Treaty and the Green New Deal (NuclearBan.US, April 22, 2020)
A Webinar on Wednesday, April 29th, from 7-9PM Boston time, featuring Timmon Wallis, PhD of NuclearBan.US and US Representative Jim McGovern. Register in advance for this webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Climate crisis, expanding nuclear arsenals, extreme inequality, and now a pandemic – the challenges confronting our species are beyond daunting. Yet with extreme threat and great loss come an opportunity to change priorities and construct a path toward a more sustainable and harmonious future. Our upcoming webinar shows how. An initiative of NuclearBan.US, Wallis’ report details what it will take to adequately address the climate crisis and where the needed funds and scientific and engineering expertise could come from: the nuclear weapons program. “These weapons threaten our very existence as a species. And so does the climate crisis. But if we eliminate nuclear weapons, we can convert an industry of death to an industry of life. We can shift massive amounts of money and scientific talent to green technologies we need to survive – and we can create millions of jobs.” – Timmon Wallis
So join us for an evening of practical hope. Warheads to Windmills: Wednesday, April 29th, 7-9PM.
UN warns of 'biblical' famine due to Covid-19 pandemic. (France 24, April 22, 2020)
World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council that even before COVID-19 became an issue, he was telling world leaders that “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” That’s because of wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, locust swarms in Africa, frequent natural disasters and economic crises including in Lebanon, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, he said.
Beasley said today 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135 million people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.”
The Economic Damage Is Barely Conceivable. (Nautilus, April 22, 2020)
In America, people who lose jobs don’t necessarily get them back.
France and COVID-19: Incompetence and Conceit (Counterpunch, April 22, 2020)
The French government’s mantra, that every minister and secretary of state is expected to chant in unison, is: “masks are useless, the tests are unreliable”. They all swear by handwashing and lockdowns. No reference is made to the way things had been handled in Seoul, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, where free masks were distributed and people were required to wear them, and large-scale testing was carried out, and where economic life goes on, in slow motion, but it goes on. Today, with 23 million inhabitants, Taiwan has recorded 6 COVID-19 deaths; Hong Kong, with 7 million inhabitants, has lost 4. As for the French doctors who were in Wuhan working alongside their Chinese colleagues and thus well informed, they were not even consulted.
The French police stop and fine transgressors, solitary walkers or joggers, while the metro, airports, trams, and buses are all operating and supermarkets and tobacconists are open for business. The police are themselves without masks and many fall victim to the virus, becoming potential carriers. The same is true of healthcare and administrative personnel, working without personal protective equipment in retirement homes. The authorities refused to report the number of victims among healthcare workers, citing “medical secrecy” concerns. The elderly die but are not counted in the official statistics. Nor are those who die at home. Now that their numbers are so high and can no longer be ignored, we discover that the residents of these retirement homes account for 40% of the deaths recorded in France. They are not hospitalized. Their treatment? Paracetamol for the mildly afflicted, morphine for the rest. Close to half of the nursing staff in retirement homes are affected by the epidemic. But the government is powerless: it does not have sufficient testing solution and will not allow tests to be conducted in retirement homes unless there is a confirmed case there. The borders remain open. President Macron refuses to close the border with Italy.
Sweden becomes the third European country to close its last coal power plant. (Electrek, April 22, 2020)
Just days after Austria shut its last coal power plant, Sweden has followed suit with the closure of Stockholm Exergi AB’s Värtaverket plant, two years ahead of schedule. Belgium shut down its last coal power station in 2016. The coal-fired cogeneration plant Värtaverket has been in operation and supplied heat and electricity to Stockholmers since 1989. Now it is closed down for good. Our goal is for all our production to come from renewable or recycled energy. Stockholm Exergi’s CO2 emissions will be reduced by about half.
[A happy note for the 50th Earth Day!]
On this 50th Earth Day, "On The Fifth Day" (Brain Pickings, April 22, 2020)
Jane Hirshfield wrote this poem for 2017's March For Science in Washington, D.C.
Forget About Zoom — Here are 3 Open Source Zoom Alternatives. (FOSS Post, April 22, 2020)
The Zoom developers were depending on security through obscurity. Their so-thought private chats and calls were discovered to be publicly accessible, and their claimed end-to-end encryption wasn’t actually an end-to-end encryption. Many other security vulnerabilities were discovered in their infrastructure, too. (Here’s a full list of them). All of this happened because Zoom was closed source, and no one was able to review its source code and confirm its claims.
You’ll be glad to know that there are many open source Zoom alternatives for video conferencing. And in today’s article, we’re gonna introduce 3 great ones.
Zoom: Former Dropbox staff say Zoom stalled on security fix. (C/Net, April 21, 2020)
Here's a timeline of every security issue uncovered in the video chat app.
Advancing high temperature electrolysis: Splitting water to store energy as hydrogen (Science X, April 21, 2020)
The reaction now happens faster and more efficiently, so the operating temperature can be reduced while maintaining good performance. The trick was figuring out how to add the element to the perovskite electrode material that would give it the triple-conducting properties—a process called doping. "We successfully demonstrated an effective doping strategy to develop a good triple-conducting oxide, which enables good cell performance at reduced temperatures," said an engineer at Idaho National Laboratory's Chemical Processing Group.
How Oil Prices Went Subzero: Explaining the COVID-19 Oil Crash (Visual Capitalist, April 21, 2020)
On April 20th, futures for crude oil's U.S. benchmark (WTI) went into negative territory - meaning for the first time in history, producers would pay traders to take oil off their hands.
NEW: Origins of human language pathway in the brain at least 25 million years old. (Science Daily, April 20, 2020)
The human language pathway in the brain has been identified by scientists as being at least 25 million years old -- 20 million years older than previously thought.
Open-source firmware turns CPAP machines into coronavirus ventilators. (ZDNet, April 20, 2020)
The Airbreak firmware is a big step toward transforming the Airsense 10 CPAP machine into a non-invasive ventilator.
The man leading U.S. COVID-19 testing was forced out of his last job. (Daily Kos, April 20, 2020)
Brett Giroir, the federal official overseeing coronavirus testing efforts, says that his experience working on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University helped prepare him for this historic moment. He once said that his vaccine effort was so vital that “the fate of 50 million people will rely on us getting this done.” But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired.  His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was “more interested in promoting yourself” than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a “team player.”
Giroir has worn a number of different hats in this administration.  As Assistant Secretary of Health, Giroir has worked to take away access to birth control and abortion—he is a forced birther.
Massachusetts self-employed, independent contractors, and ‘gig’ workers can now apply for state unemployment benefits. (Boston Globe, April 20, 2020)
NEW: Want to Ditch Zoom? Jitsi Offers an Open-Source Alternative. (Wired, April 20, 2020)
As we spend more time on videoconferences, concerns mount about trust. Emil Ivov says you shouldn't have to trust anyone.
Coronavirus pandemic has not stopped cyberattacks on hospitals and other vital infrastructure. (Washington Post, April 20, 2020)
Attempted cyberattacks against several hospitals and an airport in the Czech Republic show the coronavirus pandemic has not slowed down the West’s digital adversaries. While those attacks were successfully foiled, Czech leaders fear more attacks from highly sophisticated adversaries are on the way. The nation’s top cybersecurity agency has warned it expected imminent “serious cyberattacks” against its health-care sector aimed at disabling computers and destroying data.
Czech officials didn’t name the suspected attacker but the language they used suggested greater concern about hackers backed by a national government rather than criminals. The stakes are high: A cyberattack that takes the lives of coronavirus patients would likely prompt serious retaliation, Painter notes. That could draw countries into a conventional military conflict.
Nation-backed hackers are also trying to steal information from companies that are researching coronavirus treatments. The cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike has also tracked multiple government-linked hacking groups launching sophisticated data-stealing operations during the pandemic. Those include groups linked to China and North Korea, the company said.
Hacking by criminal gangs has also continued unchecked, though few thought criminals might temper their actions out of global health concerns.
Coronavirus: Will Covid-19 speed up the use of robots to replace human workers? (BBC News, April 19, 2020)
For better or worse the robots are going to replace many humans in their jobs, analysts say, and the coronavirus outbreak is speeding up the process.
"People usually say they want a human element to their interactions but Covid-19 has changed that," says Martin Ford, a futurist who has written about the ways robots will be integrated into the economy in the coming decades. "[Covid-19] is going to change consumer preference and really open up new opportunities for automation."
Companies large and small are expanding how they use robots to increase social distancing and reduce the number of staff that have to physically come to work. Robots are also being used to perform roles workers cannot do at home. Walmart, America's biggest retailer, is using robots to scrub its floors. Robots in South Korea have been used to measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitiser.
Food service is another area where the use of robots is likely to increase because of health concerns. Fast-food chains like McDonald's have been testing robots as cooks and servers.
In warehouses, like those operated by Amazon and Walmart, robots were already used to improve efficiency. The Covid-19 outbreak has both companies looking to increase the use of robots for sorting, shipping and packing. This may reduce the number of complaints by warehouse workers who say they cannot social-distance from their colleagues under the current conditions. But, according to technology experts, it would put some of them out of work.
Once a company has invested in replacing a worker with a robot it's unlikely the firm will ever rehire for that role. Robots are more expensive to create and integrate into businesses but once they are up and running, robots are typically cheaper than human workers.
According to the futurist Martin Ford, using robots in the post Covid-19 world also presents some marketing advantages. "People will prefer to go to a place that has fewer workers and more machines because they feel they can lower overall risk," he explains
What about service roles where a person is needed to offer a lesson or guideline? Artificial intelligence is being developed that can replace school tutors, fitness trainers and financial advisers. Big tech companies are expanding the use of artificial intelligence. Both Facebook and Google are relying on AI to remove more inappropriate posts since the companies' human content moderators can't review certain things from home.
Robot sceptics had believed humans would have an edge in those jobs. That could be changing as lockdowns have made humans more comfortable with the idea of connecting remotely. The instructor or adviser on the screen doesn't need to be a real person, it just needs to think and act like one.
A 2017 report by global consultants McKinsey predicted a third of workers in the US would be replaced by automation and robots by 2030. But events like pandemics have the potential to change all the timelines and experts say it's really up to humans to decide how they want to integrate this technology in the world.
Supporters Of Digital Currency Say Pandemic Bolsters Case For A New Approach. (NPR, April 19, 2020)
Direct-deposit economic relief money is expected to be weeks ahead of physical checks. Supporters of digital currency say that transaction could — and should — be even faster.
However, digital wallets, or software programs that store passwords to access funds, have often been the source of cryptocurrency hacks that have lost customers millions of dollars. The unbanked may not have the technology to keep their funds safe.
Regulation of digital currency has also been a concern. Facebook's proposed Libra coin faced congressional scrutiny last year when members raised questions about Facebook's trustworthiness after its issues with user privacy and misinformation. Facebook has since scaled back the project and decided to ditch the idea of becoming a global financial payment system after several of its supporters abandoned it last year.
The United States might be years away from developing the necessary infrastructure and helping people adapt to digital currency, but it might be a huge help for the next economic catastrophe.
The Coronavirus and Post-Traumatic Growth (Scientific American, April 19, 2020)
Surviving an awful experience can lead to some surprisingly positive psychological effects in many people.
A stark coronavirus reality: Sunday’s Boston Globe runs 16 pages of death notices. (Boston Globe, April 19, 2020)
Trump’s Two Horrifying Plans for Dealing With the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, April 19, 2020)
The administration has two plans for the next six months. It is implementing them at the same time. They reinforce each other, and each can replace the other if either fails. If he can’t confine the suffering to his opponents, he is prepared to incite a culture war to distract his supporters.
Plan A is Russia's old Chernobyl plan: trading higher human casualties in hopes of a triumph for the central state. By reopening some aspects of the U.S. economy in the next few weeks, Trump hopes to goose the stock market and restore jobs. It’s plainly impossible to return to full employment by November 2020, but Trump can hope that the trajectory of the economy will matter more than the economy’s absolute level. It did not have to be this way. If the Trump administration had not bungled testing, if it were not to this day jerking and lurching in obedience to the president’s latest ego demand, we could by now begin to see the way to a safer reopening in the next few weeks. As is, the testing regime remains bottlenecked and slow. Contact tracing barely exists. The United States will be nearly as blind in May as it was in March.
In the event of an early and partial reopening, the disparities can only widen. Those who can telecommute, who can shop online, or who work for health-conscious employers like public universities will be better positioned to minimize their exposure than those called back to work in factories, plants, and delivery services. The economy will be further divided along its widening class fault: those who can control their contacts with others, and those who cannot. To look at casualties as numbers on the curve is to misunderstand what the Fox talkers and the Trump donors are telling us. The political calculus of Trump’s Plan A depends less on containing the total number of casualties than on confining the casualties to people deemed expendable. From his entry into presidential politics, Trump has divided Americans into first class, second class, and third class. He has continued that politics of division into this pandemic. On Saturday, Trump retweeted an ugly insinuation that state governments were favoring Muslim Ramadan observance over Easter worship. The division is more than rhetorical. It shapes who gets economic assistance, who gets aid, and now, whose deaths are acceptable in order to put the country back to work.
But what if the calculus of Plan A is wrong? What if reopening leads to a surge in deaths that cannot be politically contained? In that case, Trump reverts to his Plan B: a culture war against Democratic governors and blue states. On April 16, Trump tweeted “Liberate Michigan!” in apparent support of protesters who blocked traffic around the state legislature in Lansing. To date, the great majority of Americans support the lockdown, according to polling by Pew. Twice as many fear that the lockdown will be ended too early than those who worry it will be ended too late. In the face of this decisive opposition to the president’s wishes, the president’s supporters are borrowing the tactics of the early Tea Party. They are protesting in aggressively obnoxious ways to entice the TV cameras to overlook their tiny numbers and fringe membership: Confederate-flag wavers, militia cosplayers, anti-vaxxers. The Lansing protesters used their cars to impede ambulances. They brandished guns on the steps of the step legislature. Behave obnoxiously enough, and the television cameras will disregard your scanty numbers. The Lansing protests have been joined by even smaller protests in California and North Carolina, each numbering fewer than 100 people. And of course, America’s most powerful cable-news network is more than a passive victim of disinformation. As with the Tea Party a decade ago, so now with the anti-lockdown protests: Fox News acts as the co-author of the pseudo-events staged for its cameras, as in this fanciful graphic showing half the United States colored red in protest, as if the whole country were aflame rather than a few hundred oddballs.
For Trump, it's win-win. Either he pushes the country to trade poor people’s lives for the pursuit of economic recovery, or he gets a cable-TV culture war to distract his supporters from the troubles he himself aggravated by his own negligence. President Trump’s bad leadership has inflicted terrible hardship on Americans. Trump’s Plan A is to use the pain of that hardship to justify more bad leadership. His Plan B is to use the pain as a way to shift odium: Don’t blame me, the guy who failed to prepare for the pandemic. Blame the governors who are now forced to respond to my failure. The tools entrusted to the administration to protect the country are being used by the administration to protect the president.
A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise. (New York Times, April 18, 2020)
Joe Joyce oversaw JJ Bubbles, a welcoming tavern in a conservative corner of Brooklyn, for 43 years until he died of Covid-19.
He was a Trump supporter who chose selectively from the menu of current Republican ideologies, freely rejecting what didn’t suit him. He didn’t want to hear how much you loved Hillary Clinton, as one regular at his bar put it to me, but he was not going to make the Syrian immigrant who came in to play darts feel as if he belonged anywhere else. Where these kinds of voters align is not in the right’s hatred of the marginalized but in its distrust of the news. If the “liberal” media was telling us that a plague was coming and that it would be devastating, why should anyone believe it? Joe Joyce had his skepticism.
On March 1, Joe Joyce and his wife, Jane, set sail for Spain on a cruise, flying first to Florida. His adult children — Kevin, Eddie and Kristen Mider — suggested that the impending doom of the coronavirus made this a bad idea. Joe Joyce was 74, a nonsmoker, healthy; four years after he opened his bar he stopped drinking completely. He didn’t see the problem. “He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,’’ Kristen told me.
Early in March Sean Hannity went on air proclaiming that he didn’t like the way that the American people were getting scared “unnecessarily.’’ He saw it all, he said, “as like, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.”
Eventually, Fox changed course and took the virus more seriously, but the Joyces were long gone by then. There was a way he might have avoided the trip, his daughter speculated. “If Trump had gone on TV with a mask on and said, ‘Hey this is serious,’ I don’t think he would have gone.”
Visualizing the Length of the Fine Print, for 14 Popular Apps (Visual Capitalist, April 18, 2020)
[For example, compare iffy Zoom's 7,243 lines and secret code to Jitsi Meet. Just one of the many reasons that MMS avoids all of these but YouTube. Hurray for FOSS - Free, Open-Source Software!]
A Sobering Astronomical Reminder from COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 18, 2020)
We must treasure all the good that nature gives us rather than take it for granted, because it can easily disappear. Over the next century, trillions of dollars could be lost not just from pandemics like COVID-19 but also from major solar flares or asteroid impacts. We’d better prepare protections for those before they hit us.
Life as we know it is merely an afterthought in the global scheme of the cosmos. The universe started off consisting mainly of hydrogen and helium. Heavy elements like carbon and oxygen, which enable the chemistry of life, are the “ashes” from nuclear burning in the hot cores of stars. Our transient existence has lasted for less than 10 one-billionths of cosmic history so far on a tiny rock we call Earth, surrounded by a vast lifeless space. We should be thankful for the fortuitous circumstances that allow us to exist, because they will surely go away one day, with or without COVID-19.
Warmest Oceans on Record Could Set Off a Year of Extreme Weather. (Bloomberg, April 18, 2020)
Parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans all hit the record books for warmth last month, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information. The high temperatures could offer clues on the ferocity of the Atlantic hurricane season, the eruption of wildfires from the Amazon region to Australia, and whether the record heat and severe thunderstorms raking the southern U.S. will continue.
Yes, you can still get a package delivered. Just wash your hands, expert says. (Boston Globe, April 18, 2020)
The Coronavirus In America: The Year Ahead (New York Times, April 18, 2020)
There will be no quick return to normal American life, but there is hope for managing the outbreak now and in the long term.
The lockdowns will end haltingly. Putting safety first could mean reopening only after coronavirus cases declined for 14 days, 90 percent of contacts of infected people could be traced, infections of health care workers were eradicated, recuperation sites existed for mild cases — and many other hard-to-reach goals.
It is not clear whether recovery from the virus and antibodies confer immunity. If they do, or are believed to, America could be split into two classes: those protected (or thought to be) and those still vulnerable.
The virus can be kept in check, but only with expanded resources like widespread testing. The U.S. needs to triple the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering before the country can reopen. And treatments are likely to arrive before a vaccine.
Germany was the first large democracy to contain the spread of the virus, and is now the first to methodically go about reopening its economy: It is aiming to test the entire population for antibodies in the coming months to assess the virus’s spread.
Stimulus check glitches: Why you’re having trouble and what you can do about it. (Washington Post, April 18, 2020)
Tens of millions of Americans got their stimulus payments, but many others reported receiving the wrong amount and frustrating online issues.
The key to getting your payment in the first batch sent out was whether the IRS had direct deposit information for you as a result of a refund. If you owed the IRS or did not get a refund in 2018 or 2019, the agency doesn’t have a way to send your money electronically. This does not mean you won’t get a payment. It means you need to either go to “Get My Payment” on the IRS website or wait for a paper check in the mail.
If you don’t get the money, you’ll have to wait for a letter from the IRS. The agency is required to mail a letter to your last known address 15 days after sending your payment. As described in the Cares Act, the notice from the IRS is supposed to indicate the method by which your payment was made, the amount of the payment and a phone number for the appropriate point of contact at the IRS to report any failure to receive the money.
Lots of people are worried that the message “Payment Status Not Available” means they may not get their stimulus money. It is very likely that the system hasn’t been able to process your information from a recently filed 2019 tax return. Or, it’s like a waiting room where you sit until you are called.
Many people have complained about a glitch that won’t allow them to move forward because they neither owed any money to the IRS nor received a refund for 2018 or 2019. Initially, IRS spokesman Eric Smith suggested that people type in zero for either answer. However, this does not work. Others tried using information from their 2018 return. That didn’t work either. “We are aware of the problem and we are working hard to find a solution,” Smith said. “In these very difficult times, we know how very much people need their money, and we are working hard to get it to them as quickly as we can.”
To prevent fraud, the “Get My Payment” portal will lock you out after multiple failed attempts to enter information. You may be locked out by no fault of your own. The information the IRS has on file may be outdated or wrong. Perhaps you moved and the IRS has an old address. A Social Security number may be incorrect in the system. If you get a message that your payment status can’t be determined, wait a day. Because information is updated once a day, overnight, there is no need to check back several times during the day.
The incredible shrinking president (Boston Globe, April 18, 2020)
As the country staggers through the coronavirus pandemic, Trump appears increasingly irrelevant.
Democrats confront Pence: 'I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life.' (CNN, April 17, 2020)
Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said to Pence and everyone on the call, "I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life." King called the administration's failure to develop a more widespread national testing regime a "dereliction of duty."
Access to testing has been uneven throughout the country amid the pandemic even with efforts to expand capacity -- and pressure is intensifying on the President and the administration to ensure adequate testing, which is widely viewed as a requirement to reopening the shuttered US economy.
Why We Don’t Know the True Death Rate for Covid-19 (New York Times, April 17, 2020)
Determining what percentage of those infected by the coronavirus will die is a key question for epidemiologists, but an elusive one during the pandemic.
NEW: Coronavirus Testing Needs to Triple Before the U.S. Can Reopen, Experts Say. (New York Times, April 17, 2020)
As some governors consider easing social distancing restrictions, new estimates by researchers at Harvard University suggest that the United States cannot safely reopen unless it conducts more than three times the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering over the next month.
Trump Encourages Protest Against Governors Who Have Imposed Virus Restrictions. (New York Times, April 17, 2020)
President Trump on Friday openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in states with stay-at-home orders, a day after announcing guidelines for how the nation’s governors should carry out an orderly reopening of their communities on their own timetables. In a series of all-caps tweets that started two minutes after a Fox News report on the protesters, the president declared, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed strict social distancing restrictions. He also lashed out at Virginia, where the state’s Democratic governor and legislature have pushed for strict gun control measures, saying: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
The president’s stark departure from his message on Thursday night, when he announced guidelines for governors to reopen their states and said they would “call your own shots,” suggested he was ceding any semblance of national leadership on the pandemic.
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (People For The American Way, April 17, 2020 update)
These Charts Put the Historic U.S. Job Losses in Perspective. (Visual Capitalist, April 17, 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the economic status quo, creating a situation that is incomparable to any previous downturn. Instead of a gradual economic transition to slower growth prospects, business operations have suddenly screeched to a halt with no clear window to resume. The Great Lockdown of the economy has been completely unprecedented, both in terms of the speed of the shutdown and its impact on jobs.
The New Fault Lines in a Post-Globalized World (Brave New Europe, April 17, 2020)
The coronavirus pandemic has upended the global economic system, and just as importantly, cast out 40 years of neoliberal orthodoxy that dominated the industrialized world. Forget about the “new world order.” Offshoring and global supply chains are out; regional and local production is in. Market fundamentalism is passé; regulation is the norm. Public health is now more valuable than just-in-time supply systems. Stockpiling and industrial capacity suddenly make more sense, which may have future implications in the recently revived antitrust debate in the U.S.
Biodata will drive the next phase of social management and surveillance, with near-term consequences for the way countries handle immigration and customs. Health care and education will become digitally integrated the way newspapers and television were 10 years ago. Health care itself will increasingly be seen as a necessary public good, rather than a private right, until now in the U.S. predicated on age, employment or income levels. Each of these will produce political tensions within their constituencies and in the society generally as they adapt to the new normal.
This political sea change doesn’t represent a sudden conversion to full-on socialism, but simply a case of minimizing our future risks of infection by providing full-on universal coverage. Beyond that, as Professor Michael Sandel has argued, one has to query the “moral logic” of providing “coronavirus treatment for the uninsured,” while leaving “health coverage in ordinary times… to the market” (especially when our concept of what constitutes “ordinary times” has been upended).
Internationally, there will be many positive and substantial international shifts to address overdue global public health needs and accords on mitigating climate change. And it is finally dawning on Western-allied economic planners that the military price tag that made so-called cheap oil and cheap labor possible is vastly higher than investment in advanced research and next-generation manufacturing.
Using Misinformation as a political weapon: COVID-19 and Bolsonaro in Brazil (HKS Misinformation Review, April 17, 2020)
With over 30,000 confirmed cases -as of April 16th- Brazil is currently the country most affected by COVID-19 in Latin America, and ranked 12th worldwide. Despite all evidence, a strong rhetoric undermining risks associated to COVID-19 has been endorsed at the highest levels of the Brazilian