MONEY IS NOT WEALTH
by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated April 3, 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)

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.

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

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

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."

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.

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

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

Yale Climate Opinion Maps, U.S. 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)

Scientists Are Pro-Testing (Science, 2017)

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

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

"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)

NEW: 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.

NEW: 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, ?? 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)

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.

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 Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report (U.S. House Intelligence Committee, December 3, 2019)

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.

NEW: 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.

NEW: 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.

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

NEW: 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.

Resources re Coronavirus pandemic:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization, latest status and advice
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)
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)
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.
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.
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

Hospitals, Universities Push For Treatment Using Plasma From Recovered COVID Patients. (NPR, April 3, 2020)
With few tools in their medical kit, doctors are turning to an old idea for treating COVID-19: using plasma from recovered patients to treat patients infected with the coronavirus. The idea is fairly straightforward: patients who have recovered from the virus must have mounted a robust immune response to the infection. Sharing the antibodies from that immune response that linger in their plasma could help others recover. The approach has been around since the 1890s. More recently it has been used to treat SARS and Ebola.
It's unlikely that using the plasma when patients are in extremis will be very helpful. Experience shows it is best to give it in the first few days of illness.
Heather Cox Richardson: The Trump administration wants to abandon responsibility for American citizens. (Letters From An American, April 2, 2020)
Behind the confusion and foot-dragging as the White House confronts the global pandemic is the administration’s desire to dismantle the federal government and give power to businesspeople.
The Trump administration has been clear that it does not want the federal government to assume responsibility for American citizens any longer. Trump has refused to issue a stay at home order from the federal government, insisting instead that governors make their own calls. He has refused to use the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to produce the masks and ventilators Americans so desperately need. He is refusing to tell manufacturers where to place their supplies. In place of government coordination, his administration officials are counting on business people to assume leadership.
Instead, the fifty states are trying to respond on their own. They are making their own decisions about what to shut down, when, and are bidding against each other for supplies. This piecemeal response to the pandemic crisis means we are not effectively cutting off the spread of the virus, or supporting the healthcare we will need.
Corporate Medicine to doctors and nurses: "We saw you were on fire, so we brought this gasoline..." (Daily Kos, April 2, 2020)
Corporate “medicine” is a malignancy.  And it grows like one, too.
Here is a chart, showing the number of jobs in the healthcare sector from 1970 to 2009. Now granted, this study is 10 years out of date, but I suspect the curves are pretty unchanged. Want to know where your healthcare dollars go? The red area is physicians. Not much growth in the time frame is there?
The yellow zone is healthcare ‘administrators’. Can you say ‘metastatic’?
Doctors Say Hospitals Are Stopping Them From Wearing Masks. (NPR, April 2, 2020)
Trump Administration Officials Weigh How Far to Go on Recommending Masks. (New York Times, April 2, 2020)
The expected change in position reflects concern over a worrisome rate of infection spread by people with no symptoms.
Georgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus. (The Hill, April 2, 2020)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), while announcing a statewide stay-at-home order, said Wednesday that he only recently became aware the coronavirus could be spread by asymptomatic people. "The reason I'm taking this action, like I've continued to tell people, I'm following the data. Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs, so what we've been telling people from directives from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home... Those individuals could've been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn't know that until the last 24 hours. And this is a game changer for us."
Public health officials have long warned the virus can be carried and passed on by people not displaying symptoms, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who became the first senator to test positive for the virus (announced March 22nd), reported that he had not experienced any symptoms before testing positive.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said earlier this week that up to a quarter of all cases do not show symptoms, telling NPR "This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country because we have asymptomatic transmitters and we have individuals who are transmitting 48 hours before they become symptomatic."
Coronavirus Live Updates: Job Losses in America Soar, Part of Global Economic Collapse. (New York Times, April 2, 2020)
More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. Federal stockpiles of medical supplies are running low as the death toll rises and global infections approach one million.
The Patriots’ team plane is delivering more than a million masks from China to Massachusetts. (Boston Globe, April 2, 2020)
The Patriots team plane is making its most important trip of the year before the season even starts.
A Ventilator Stockpile, With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work. (New York Times, April 1, 2020)
Federal officials revealed on Wednesday that their stockpile of medical gear was nearly depleted. FEMA has shipped 26 million surgical masks, 11.6 million respirator masks and more than five million face shields to states, setting off a race to obtain millions of recently produced masks from a variety of manufacturers at a moment of huge price spikes for respirators that previously sold for about 85 cents.
The bigger struggle, however, has focused on ventilators because states have asked for tens of thousands more than the approximately 9,400 that the U.S. government currently has in its stockpile. The Defense Department is also making 1,065 ventilators available, although those require special training and are not used as frequently in hospitals.
As White House officials have for the first time looked at a supply they had not thought about, they have discovered it is not only far smaller than what they need — it is also in constant need of maintenance. While President Trump has assured states that thousands of ventilators remain at the ready, thousands more are in storage, unmaintained or otherwise unusable.
As of Wednesday morning, FEMA had sent about 7,000 ventilators to a number of states, with 4,000 directed to New York. Mr. Trump said he wanted to hold the current stockpile in reserve until it was clear where new hot spots would emerge. Even with the federal help, states are scrambling for their own ventilators. They have flooded the few manufacturers in the country with orders, only to discover that the machines are largely made abroad, in China, Ireland, Switzerland and elsewhere.
Officials in Illinois say they asked for 4,000 and got 450. New Jersey sought 2,300 and got 300. New Mexico has only 370. Virginia requested 350 ventilators but has not received any. The governor of Illinois asked Vice President Mike Pence for 4,000 ventilators this week and was told the state would not need that many.
At the same time, states are trying to grab whatever else they can, converting anesthesia machines for use as ventilators and sometimes fashioning new valves on 3-D printers so that multiple patients can share the same machine. That has never been tested on a broad scale, and it carries some risks.
Every Vaccine and Treatment in Development for COVID-19 (Visual Capitalist, April 1, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: The USA has deprived our own health care workers while shipping masks and more overseas. (Letters From An American, April 1, 2020)
The United States has been sending medical supplies to other countries while our own health care workers don’t have masks or PPE (personal protective equipment). Politico revealed that an administration official called counterparts in Thailand to ask for PPE, only to be told by a confused official on the other end who said that the U.S. was shipping those very supplies to Thailand. One shipment had already arrived, and another was on its way. Vice President Mike Pence, who is in charge of the administration’s coronavirus task force, immediately halted the shipment. It appears that there has been no coordination between the administration and USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, so we have apparently been exporting the very supplies we need at home.
This created a furor over the fact that we also sent 17.8 tons of medical supplies, including masks, gowns, gauze, and respirators to China in February, after the severity of our own impending crisis was already clear. The administration has said these supplies were “donated,” but I have not been able to track down by whom.
Politico also broke the story that since March 12, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been in charge of his own coronavirus response team to get the private sector on board to fight the crisis. Trump has been reluctant to activate the Defense Production Act, a law that enables the government to encourage manufacturers to produce vital equipment and protects them from losses when they do. Bizarrely, the Trump administration—like all others since the law went into effect in the 1950s—uses this act all the time to respond to natural disasters, to move supplies around during emergencies, and so on, but refuses to do so now. Instead, it appears Trump has tapped Kushner to coordinate with private industry. In that capacity, he and his outside experts—including a number from the consulting firm McKinsey—are acting as a sort of independent cell without government oversight and are overruling the teams already in place.
Should You Be Wearing a Face Mask? Why Not? (People's Pharmacy, March 31, 2020)
Public health officials have told us wearing face masks are unnecessary. Were they wrong? Could wearing a face mask help you avoid catching COVID-19?
The Italian COVID-19 hospital where no medics have been infected. (Sky News, March 31, 2020)
What is really striking here is that the rules of separating infected environments and the clean areas are followed by everyone. But armed security guards are on every connecting corridor in case anyone forgets.
Everyone and anyone can get infected, not just the old. There are many young patients being treated here and interestingly they are finding that the middle classes are being infected the most. I asked why? The answer is obvious really - they travel.
Key ingredient in coronavirus tests comes from Yellowstone’s lakes. (National Geographic, March 31, 2020)Microbiologist Thomas Brock was tramping through Yellowstone in the 1960s when he stumbled upon a species of bacteria that would transform medical science. Brock was investigating the tiny life-forms that manage to eke out a living in the superheated waters of the park’s thermal pools. There, he and a student found golden mats of stringy growth in Yellowstone’s Mushroom Spring containing a microbe that produces unusual heat-resistant enzymes.
Today, those enzymes are a key component in polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a method used widely in labs around the world to study small samples of genetic material by making millions of copies. This technique, which would have been impossible without the discovery of heat-resistant bacteria more than half a century ago, is now being used to boost the signal of viruses in most of the available tests for COVID-19.
Captain of U.S. aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak, now in Guam, pleads for help from Navy. (San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2020)
The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier with more than 100 sailors (out of 4,000) infected with the coronavirus pleaded Monday with U.S. Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating. “This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.” In the four-page letter to senior military officials, Crozier said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded. Most of the crew remain aboard the ship, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
The Navy did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for comment Monday, but on Tuesday morning as the news spread, the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly spoke to CNN. “I heard about the letter from Capt. Crozier (Tuesday) morning, I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities,” Modly said. “We don’t disagree with the (captain) on that ship and we’re doing it in a very methodical way because it’s not the same as a cruise ship, that ship has armaments on it, it has aircraft on it, we have to be able to fight fires if there are fires on board the ship, we have to run a nuclear power plant, so there’s a lot of things that we have to do on that ship that make it a little bit different and unique but we’re managing it and we’re working through it,” he said.
So far, none of the infected sailors has shown serious symptoms, but the number of those who have tested positive has jumped exponentially since the Navy reported infections in three crew members on March 24, the first time COVID-19 infections had been detected on a naval vessel at sea. Senior military officials said last week that the entire crew of more than 4,000 will be tested. The carrier’s home port is San Diego. At the time, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly expressed confidence that they identified all the sailors who had been in contact with the trio of infected sailors and they had been quarantined.
Paul Krugman: We have always been at war with the Chinese virus. (New York Times, March 31, 2020)
Needless to say, the mounting coronavirus death toll hasn’t produced any apologies from pundits who previously claimed that the virus was a hoax, let alone admissions that the terrible, horrible, no-good mainstream media were actually giving accurate information. Perhaps more surprisingly, as far as I know there haven’t been any howls of protest from Fox viewers, or Rush Limbaugh listeners, who are now being told something completely different from what they were hearing three weeks ago. Their trust in Fox, their disdain for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and, above all, their faith in Donald Trump are apparently unshaken.
The parallels with George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” are obvious. Orwell wrote a great essay a few years before “Nineteen Eighty-Four” titled “Looking Back on the Spanish War.” In it he wrote of his vision of a “nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”
Well, a lot of Americans evidently already live in that nightmare world. And that scares me more than Covid-19.
New York Attorney General Looks Into Zoom’s Privacy Practices. (New York Times, March 30, 2020)
As the videoconferencing platform’s popularity has surged, Zoom has scrambled to address a series of data privacy and security problems.
Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a Pandemic. Instead, the Company Is Selling Versions of It Overseas. (ProPublica, March 30, 2020)
Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies.
This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each.
But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile. Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.
The contracted company was acquired by Covidien, in Ireland. A spokesman for the still-larger firm that acquired Covidien in 2015, Medtronic, said that the prototype ventilator created by Newport Medical “would not have been able to meet the specifications required by the government, nor at the price required.” In a statement responding to a story in The New York Times, Medtronic said it left the federal government with all the designs and equipment created in the project.
[See the Medtronic article, below!]
Medtronic is sharing its portable ventilator design specifications and code for free to all. (TechCrunch, March 30, 2020)
This move by Medtronic makes freely available everything needed to spin up new production lines at existing manufacturers around the world — without any costs or fees owed to Medtronic.
It is also intended to provide the resources necessary for anyone looking at what they can build today — a blueprint to spawn new and innovative ideas. Manufacturers might be able to look at Medtronic’s proven design and engineer something they can build at scale relatively quickly that offers the same or similar performance characteristics.
Coronavirus: Mercedes F1 to make breathing aid. (BBC News, March 30, 2020)
A breathing aid that can help keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week. University College London engineers worked with clinicians at UCLH and Mercedes Formula One to build the device, which delivers oxygen to the lungs without needing a ventilator.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices are already used in hospitals but are in short supply. China and Italy used them to help Covid-19 patients.
Forty of the new devices have been delivered to ULCH and to three other London hospitals. If trials go well, up to 1,000 of the CPAP machines can be produced per day by Mercedes-AMG-HPP, beginning in a week's time. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already given its approval for their use.
Debian Linux readies an anti-coronavirus hack-a-thon. (ZDNet, March 30, 2020)
Open-source developers are uniting to create and improve code and programs to help fight COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Virus May Have Been in Humans For Years, Study Suggests. (Physics & Astronomy Zone, March 30, 2020)
As COVID-19 has hitchhiked around the globe, causing lockdowns, pneumonia and fear, scientists have been racing to determine where the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has come from. While we don't have all the answers yet - including whether it came from an animal reservoir - a new analysis has definitively put to rest the conspiracies that claim it's a lab-made disease.
The study raises some interesting possibilities regarding the origin of the new coronavirus. One of the scenarios suggests the virus may have been circulating harmlessly in human populations for quite a while before it became the pandemic that's now stopped the world in its tracks. "It is possible that a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 jumped into humans, acquiring [new genomic features] through adaptation during undetected human-to-human transmission," the team from the US, UK and Australia writes in the study. "Once acquired, these adaptations would enable the pandemic to take off and produce a sufficiently large cluster of cases."
The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration (The New Yorker, March 30, 2020)
President Trump, who at one point called the coronavirus pandemic an “invisible enemy” and said it made him a “wartime President,” has in recent days questioned its seriousness, tweeting, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Trump said repeatedly that he wanted the country to reopen by Easter, April 12th, contradicting the advice of most health officials. (On Sunday, he backed down and extended federal social-distancing guidelines for at least another month.) According to the Washington Post, “Conservatives close to Trump and numerous administration officials have been circulating an article by Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution, titled ‘Coronavirus Perspective,’ which plays down the extent of the spread and the threat.”
The Meaning of Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Quackery (The New Yorker, March 29, 2020)
The President’s pronouncements are a reminder, if one was needed, of his scorn for rigorous science, even amid the worst pandemic to hit the U.S. in a century.
Trump’s Message to U.S. Intelligence Officials: Be Loyal or Leave. (The New Yorker, March 29, 2020)
The nomination of Representative John Ratcliffe is the clearest sign yet that powerful spy agencies are being politicized.
California proves that stay-in-place saves lives; Florida and Texas hurl toward 6-figures dead. (Daily Kos, March 29, 2020)
California, by far the largest state, is over 12% of the population of the United States. Any state that loses more people to COVID-19 than California—despite the state being an early foothold for the disease—has so mismanaged its response that its leadership deserves to be tar and feathered. That the states above still haven’t taken this disease seriously enough to issue shelter-in-place orders is downright criminal. Hundreds of thousands of people might die as a result.
Now, those numbers aren’t set in stone. The ActCovidNow.org models provide the dates upon which these states will hit their point of no return. For example, Tennessee still has three weeks before its hospitals are overloaded. Texas about two and a half weeks. Florida a little over two weeks. We can still avoid the worst of this disease if the leadership in those states acts.
The problem, of course, is that those states are all run by Republicans, Trump-loving Republicans. And if Trump is talking about opening up the country by Easter, which is Sunday, April 12, then they won’t want to do anything to undermine Trump’s “leadership” of the crisis. (Mississippi’s useless Republican governor even invalidated local stay-in-place orders from mayors!) The rot starts at the very top, with a president who only cares about the immediate message and PR, as opposed to listening to the experts on the long-term (very painful) solution.
[This graph of milestones isn't written in stone, but later adjusted versions should prove interesting.]
Fox News is worried about legal action after misleading viewers about coronavirus. (Media Matters, March 29, 2020)
Gabe Sherman (Vanity Fair): When I've been talking to Fox insiders over the last few days, there's a real concern inside the network that their early downplaying of the coronavirus actually exposes Fox News to potential legal action by viewers who maybe were misled and actually have died from this. I've heard Trish Regan's being taken off the air is, you know, reflective of this concern that Fox News is in big trouble by downplaying this virus and The New York Times reported days ago that the Murdoch family was privately taking the coronavirus seriously. The Murdochs, of course, own Fox News. So, they were taken personal steps to protect themselves while anchors like Trish Regan and Sean Hannity were telling viewers that it's a hoax and putting themselves in potentially mortal danger. So I think this is a case where Fox's coverage, if it actually winds up being proved that people died because of it, this is a new terrain in terms of Fox being possibly held liable for their actions.
Coronavirus Split-Screen: Pandemic Sends Presidential Candidates Toward Collision. (The Recount, March 28, 2020)
The Math Behind Social Distancing (Visual Capitalist, March 28, 2020)
Limbaugh Defends Trump Coronavirus Response: He ‘Has a History of Solving Problems’. (Breitbart, March 28, 2020)
“You know, we’ve talked about the deep state all these years since Trump was elected, the Trump-Russia collusion, the FBI — well the deep state extends very deeply. And the American people did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they have been at the job for a while, and they are at the CDC, and they are at the NIH. Yeah, they have been there, and they are there, but have there been any job assessments for them? They are just assumed to be the best because they are in government. These are all kinds of things I have been questioning. And I have been watching  people routinely accept whatever the authorities say.”
Defiant evangelicals are part of Trump’s death cult with Americans’ blood on their hands. (PoliticusUSA, March 28, 2020)
Trump says he won’t comply with key transparency measures in the coronavirus stimulus bill. (Vox, March 28, 2020)
The administration says it won’t provide documentation for audits into $500 billion in corporate bailout funds.
That bill also establishes a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) within the Treasury Department to audit and investigate half a trillion dollars in loans for large businesses. In his signing statement, Trump said that this provision raises “constitutional concerns,” adding that his administration would not comply with such an official’s request for documents. “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause,” part of Article II Section 3 of the Constitution that states a sitting president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This seems to suggest the administration believes it is the president’s duty and not that of an inspector general to ensure the funds are distributed as the law intends.
The special inspector general, as authorized within the bill, would be able to request information from government agencies and report on failures to comply with those information requests. In his signing statement, Trump essentially stated that he will not let such reports reach Congress without his approval, which many fear directly undermines the provision’s goal of maintaining transparency in how that fund is handled.
U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000 As Trump Demands Praise From Governors. (8-min. video; MSNBC, March 27, 2020)
As the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge across America, Trump took time at his briefing and on Twitter to go after the governors of Michigan and Washington as dire reports pour out of American hospitals. He no longer calls it a hoax, but is still passing out pens when trying to fight a virus pandemic?
The White House chose the week the USA became the epicenter of a historic pandemic to virtually stop policing big polluters, privatize a bedrock federal food safety job, advance a mining road through a pristine swath of northern Alaska and revive a regulatory rollback so difficult to defend that the administration [had] abandoned the effort last year at the peak of a high-profile fight. On Thursday, the EPA announced it would suspend enforcement of bedrock clean air and water laws, leaving the fossil fuel, chemical and agribusiness industries to police themselves amid a historic public health crisis.
Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Cases Top 100,000, Deaths 1,500; Trump Signs $2 Trillion Relief Bill. (New York Times, March 27, 2020)
President Trump, who had questioned the need for additional ventilators, pushes industry to make more. A new survey of mayors finds dire shortages of urgently needed medical supplies. And in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive.
President Trump on Friday evening lamented the loss of economic gains that he had often used to measure his success in office and that served as the heart of his re-election message until the coronavirus hit the United States. And he attacked Democratic governors for being insufficiently grateful for his efforts. “Think of it, 22 days ago we had the greatest economy in the world,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference. “Everything was going beautifully. The stock market hit an all-time high again for the over 150th time during my presidency.”
He singled out the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, and the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, for his primetime scorn. Mr. Inslee, he said, was “a failed presidential candidate” who was “constantly tripping and complaining.” Ms. Whitmer “has no idea what’s going on,” he said. He then said he told Vice President Mike Pence, his coronavirus coordinator, to stop calling Mr. Inslee and Ms. Whitmer: “Don’t call the woman in Michigan, doesn’t make any difference,” he said of Ms. Whitmer. “Very simple. I want them to be appreciative,” he said, saying his administration has “done a hell of a job.”
Mr. Trump said he planned to visit Norfolk, Va., to wave goodbye to the U.S.N.S. Comfort, the Navy hospital ship, on Saturday, despite the danger of making such a trip when any gatherings of more than ten people nationwide are still considered dangerous. “I have spirit for the country,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m not going to be jumping around in a huddle.”
House Debates $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package Amid Last-Minute Snag. (Time, March 27, 2020)
The House kicked off debate Friday on a $2.2 trillion package to ease the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating toll on the U.S. economy and health care system, even as a maverick conservative threatened to delay passage until most lawmakers return to Washington for a vote. That left many angry lawmakers scrambling to return to the nation’s capital amid a pandemic in which Americans have been urged to self-quarantine or keep their distance from one another.
President Donald Trump vented his anger as well, on Twitter. Shortly after the House opened, Trump called Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who had threatened to try to force a roll call vote, “a third rate Grandstander” who “just wants publicly.”
No, the entire GOP is not being blackmailed. (Teri Kanefield, March 27, 2020)
There’s a theory on Twitter (and perhaps elsewhere) that the GOP bows to Trump and does his bidding because they are being blackmailed. Proponents of this theory point to the fact that the Russians also hacked the GOP computers but never released stolen information. They point to Sen. Lindsay Graham’s abrupt turnaround after a golfing meeting with Trump.
People. This theory gives way too much credit to the GOP. They prefer Trump’s politics to the Democrats.
If there is dirt, the dirt would be the extent of their willingness to work with Putin. But you know what? Their hardcore supporters wouldn’t even care about that. Wanna know why? They not only prefer Trump’s politics to the Democrats, they also prefer Putin’s Russia to liberal democracy.
Want proof? Buckle your seat belts. Here we go.
Thinking You Had the Virus Is Going Viral. (Medium, March 27, 2020)
People are playing a dangerous game online by speculating they had the coronavirus.
Thousands Turn Out in Melee on Bridge Linking Hubei, Jiangxi as Lockdown Eases. (Radio Free Asia, March 27, 2020)
The clashes came as travel restrictions on Hubei and its capital Wuhan were lifted after more than two months after the emergence of the coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan late last year. Jiangxi police on a checkpoint on the bridge had allowed a group of migrant workers stranded during the lockdown to pass, but had refused to allow Hubei residents through. After angry disputes broke out, Jiangxi police sent in riot police to seal off the entrance to Jiujiang.
Video footage posted to YouTube showed thousands of people marching up the approach road to the bridge, shoulder to shoulder with uniformed police from Hubei, shouting "Go Hubei! Go Hubei!"
A local resident who gave only his surname He said the past few months have seen people from Hubei -- who can be identified by their birthplace on their national ID cards -- being denied entry to places across China, including accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. "All the other provinces are discriminating against people from Hubei right now; stopping them from coming in," He said. "Everyone has been cheering Wuhan and Hubei during the epidemic, but they are very discriminatory towards them when they try to travel to where they are, and demand that they be isolated."
Estimates Show Wuhan Death Toll Far Higher Than Official Figure. (Radio Free Asia, March 27, 2020)
As authorities lifted a two-month coronavirus lockdown in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, residents said they were growing increasingly skeptical that the figure of some 2,500 deaths in the city to date was accurate.
Since the start of the week, seven large funeral homes in Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains of around 500 people to their families every day, suggesting that far more people died than ever made the official statistics. "It can't be right ... because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?" an Wuhan resident surnamed Zhang told RFA on Friday.
A new FDA-authorized COVID-19 test doesn’t need a lab and can produce results in just 5 minutes. (TechCrunch, March 27, 2020)
There’s a new COVID-19 test from healthcare technology maker Abbott that looks to be the fastest yet in terms of producing results, and that can do so on the spot right at point-of-care, without requiring a round trip to a lab. This test for the novel coronavirus causing the current global pandemic has received emergency clearance for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and will begin production next week, with output of 50,000 per day possible starting next week.
The new Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test uses the Abbott ID NOW diagnostics platform, which is essentially a lab-in-a-box that is roughly the size of a small kitchen appliance. Its size and that it can produce either a positive result in just five minutes or a negative one in under 15 mean that it could be a very useful means to extend coronavirus testing beyond its current availability to more places including clinics and doctor’s offices, and cut down on wait times both in terms of getting tested and receiving a diagnosis.
The coronavirus test that wasn’t: How federal health officials misled state scientists and derailed the best chance at containment. (USA Today, March 27, 2020)
From its biggest cities to its smallest towns, America’s chance to contain the coronavirus crisis came and went in the seven weeks since U.S. health officials botched the testing rollout and then misled scientists in state laboratories about this critical early failure. Federal regulators failed to recognize the spiraling disaster and were slow to relax the rules that prevented labs and major hospitals from advancing a backup.
The nation’s public health pillars — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration — shirked their responsibility to protect Americans in an emergency like this new coronavirus, USA TODAY found in interviews with dozens of scientists, public health experts and community leaders, as well as email communications between laboratories and hospitals across the country. The result was a cascading series of failures now costing lives.
The FDA, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, regulates according to laws passed by Congress and guidance laid out by the administration. Yet Trump has blamed the initial approach on the prior administration, which he said created barriers that made it difficult to rapidly ramp up testing. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” he said at a news conference two weeks ago. The White House did not respond to requests for comment and directed USA TODAY to the health department, which also did not respond.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who served as commissioner of the FDA under former president Barack Obama and helped oversee the agency’s response to the H1N1 flu outbreak, said there was nothing stopping the administration from acting sooner. “I’ve been confused by those characterizations of the FDA’s inability to move swiftly in a crisis,” Hamburg said.
Hundreds of Volunteers Are Working to Create Open-Source Ventilators to Fight Coronavirus. (Medium, March 27, 2020)
The goal is to create one million devices that cost less than $200 and operate with little to no power.
Trump Demands GM, Ford Produce Ventilators 'Immediately'. (International Business Times, March 27, 2020)
US President Donald Trump demanded Friday that automakers Ford and General Motors start making ventilators to help ease the growing pressure on hospitals to care for coronavirus patients. "General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!" Trump tweeted. "FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!" he added.
According to The New York Times, the White House had been planning this week to announce a joint venture between GM and Ventec Life Systems to jointly manufacture some 80,000 ventilators, as many areas of the country already report a dire shortage of the machines necessary to help COVID-19 victims continue breathing. GM had been expected to retool a mothballed car plant for the production.
But the announcement of the deal was cancelled at the last minute, the Times wrote, due to the substantial, $1 billion cost involved.
Trump though promised Friday that more ventilators were coming.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, the US region most heavily impacted so far by the coronavirus, has repeatedly pleaded with the government for more ventilators to be able to contend with patient needs as infections soar. Cuomo said he expects the epidemic won't peak in his region for another three weeks.
Coronavirus Ventilator Shortage: Trump Says GM Won't Meet Need Despite Promises. (International Business Times, March 27, 2020)
President Trump criticized General Motors Friday, saying it will be able to deliver only 6,000 of the 40,000 ventilators initially promised to help victims of coronavirus – and that won’t happen for another month. “As usual with this General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” Trump tweeted, blaming CEO Mary Barra.
GM had said it would retool its Kokomo, Indiana, plant to produce ventilators with technology from Ventec Life Systems. The company said it would put several hundred million dollars upfront to get production started but the effort would cost more than $1 billion.
‘I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators’: Trump questions New York’s plea for critical equipment. (Washington Post, March 27, 2020)
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity in a phone interview. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
The president’s comments came shortly after the New York Times reported that the White House had abruptly called off a plan to announce this week that General Motors and Ventec Life Systems would be partnering to produce as many as 80,000 ventilators, citing concerns with the deal’s $1 billion price tag.
As Coronavirus Crisis Unfolds, Sanders Sees a Moment That Matches His Ideas. (New York Times, March 26, 2020)
With the odds of winning long, some Democrats wonder why Bernie Sanders is still in the presidential race. He’s still pushing his agenda, though it’s not clear who’s listening.
2019 saw over 60 gigawatts of wind power installed. (Ars Technica, March 27, 2020)
Slower growth likely as attention shifts and pandemic adds uncertainty.
Ring Doorbell App Packed with Third-Party Trackers. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, March 27, 2020)
Ring isn't just a product that allows users to surveil their neighbors. The company also uses it to surveil its customers.
An investigation by EFF of the Ring doorbell app for Android found it to be packed with third-party trackers sending out a plethora of customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). Four main analytics and marketing companies were discovered to be receiving information such as the names, private IP addresses, mobile network carriers, persistent identifiers, and sensor data on the devices of paying customers.
The danger in sending even small bits of information is that analytics and tracking companies are able to combine these bits together to form a unique picture of the user’s device. This cohesive whole represents a fingerprint that follows the user as they interact with other apps and use their device, in essence providing trackers the ability to spy on what a user is doing in their digital lives and when they are doing it. All this takes place without meaningful user notification or consent and, in most cases, no way to mitigate the damage done. Even when this information is not misused and employed for precisely its stated purpose (in most cases marketing), this can lead to a whole host of social ills.
Ring has exhibited a pattern of behavior that attempts to mitigate exposure to criticism and scrutiny while benefiting from the wide array of customer data available to them. It has been able to do so by leveraging an image of the secure home, while profiting from a surveillance network which facilitates police departments’ unprecedented access into the private lives of citizens, as we have previously covered. For consumers, this image has cultivated a sense of trust in Ring that should be shaken by the reality of how the app functions: not only does Ring mismanage consumer data, but it also intentionally hands over that data to trackers and data miners.
[Ring Inc. (formerly Doorbot) is a home security and smart home company owned by Amazon.]
Oil Price Crash Opens A Window Of Opportunity For Renewables. (Oil Price, March 26, 2020)
Just a month ago, companies and investors had a financial incentive to continue investing in new oil and gas projects despite the societal and environmentalist backlash against fossil fuels. Not anymore. In just a couple of weeks, the oil price crash made investments in renewable energy starting to look more attractive. Or at least as attractive as investment in oil and gas.   
The oil price collapse and the expected economic depression as a result of the coronavirus pandemic—as analysts are now warning of depression rather than recession in many major economies—could slow down the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs). Yet, history suggests that investments in renewable energy, especially wind and solar, are not expected to take a major hit during an oil price collapse, analysts say.
E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters. (New York Times, March 26, 2020)
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.
The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak. Issued by the E.P.A.’s top compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements.
Gina McCarthy, who led the E.P.A. under the Obama administration and now serves as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called it “an open license to pollute.” She said that while individual companies might need flexibility, “this brazen directive is nothing short of an abject abdication of the E.P.A. mission to protect our well being.’’
Cynthia Giles, who headed the E.P.A. enforcement division during the Obama administration, said: “This is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules. It is so far beyond any reasonable response I am just stunned.”
COVID-19 Crash: How China’s Economy May Offer a Glimpse of the Future (Visual Capitalist, March 26, 2020)
Zoom iOS App Sends Data to Facebook Even if You Don’t Have a Facebook Account. (Motherboard, March 26, 2020)
Zoom's privacy policy isn't explicit about the data transfer to Facebook at all.
Surging Traffic Is Slowing Down Our Internet. (New York Times, March 26, 2020)
With people going online more in the pandemic, internet traffic has exploded. That’s taking a toll on our download speeds and video quality.
In late January, as China locked down some provinces to contain the spread of the coronavirus, average internet speeds in the country slowed as people who were stuck inside went online more and clogged the networks. In Hubei Province, the epicenter of infections, mobile broadband speeds fell by more than half.
In mid-February, when the virus hit Italy, Germany and Spain, internet speeds in those countries also began to deteriorate.
And last week, as a wave of stay-at-home orders rolled out across the United States, the average time it took to download videos, emails and documents increased as broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent from the previous week. Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose, Calif., and 24 percent in New York. Company officials said they had never seen such a steep, sudden surge. The chief technology officer at Telefónica, a Spanish telecommunications company, said: “In just two days we grew all the traffic we had planned for 2020.” As the use of YouTube, Netflix, Zoom videoconferencing, Facebook calls and videogaming has surged to new highs, the stress on internet infrastructure is starting to show in Europe and the United States — and the traffic is probably far from its peak.
The demand has pushed up failure rates delivering video conferencing. “I don’t know if we’ll soon see a peak, not for weeks to come,” he said. “The reason I say that is because we aren’t seeing traffic in Asia slow down even now.”
To head off problems, European regulators have pushed streaming companies such as Netflix and YouTube to reduce the size of their video files so they don’t take up as much bandwidth. In the United States, regulators have given wireless carriers access to more spectrum to bolster the capacity of their networks. YouTube, which is owned by Google, said this week that it would reduce the quality of its videos from high to standard definition across the globe. Disney delayed the start of its Disney Plus streaming service in France by two weeks, and Microsoft’s Xbox asked gaming companies to introduce online updates and new releases only at certain times to prevent network congestion.
'For Common Benefit of All,' Ireland Nationalizes Hospitals for Duration of Coronavirus Crisis, Sparking Demand for US to Follow Suit. (Common Dreams, March 26, 2020)
"For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people," Ireland's Health Minister Simon Harris announced Tuesday. "There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic."
'I won't survive': Iranian scientist in US detention says ICE will let Covid-19 kill many. (The Guardian, March 26, 2020)
Although he was exonerated, Dr Sirous Asgari remains locked up and tells the Guardian ‘inhumane’ jail is denying detainees masks and hand sanitizer.
Dr. Fauci: "You don't make the timeline; the virus does." (11-min, video; CNN, March 26, 2020)
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci explains the reality of crafting a timeline to reopen parts of the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
USNS Comfort prepares for deployment to NYC. (5-min. video; MSNBC, March 26, 2020)
Naval ship, the USNS Comfort, is expected to depart from Virginia for New York City where, early next week, it will serve as a 1,000-bed hospital for non-COVID-19 patients so other area hospitals can focus their attention on the coronavirus.
In same video: US military orders no troop movements to or from overseas for 60 days.
The coronavirus threat to public health is no time to restrict abortion access. (Washington Post, March 26, 2020)
Texas, Ohio and Mississippi have halted abortion services during the coronavirus outbreak — and they’re unlikely to be the last states to institute such restrictions. Some policymakers are using the pandemic as an excuse to try to achieve a political, and perhaps moral, goal that is not currently supported by law. The facts are clear: Abortion is legal. The procedure is usually carried out in facilities that do not also take care of people with respiratory illnesses, which means it does not take up needed hospital beds. The right to an abortion is guaranteed under the law.
Pastor Who Claimed Covid-19 ‘Hysteria’ Was Plot Against Trump Dies From Virus. (Patheos, March 26, 2020)
On his Facebook page Spradlin shared a misleading meme attempting to minimize COVID-19, comparing the virus to the swine flu, and suggesting that the response to the coronavirus pandemic was media created “mass hysteria” to damage Trump.
The Ibuprofen Debate Reveals the Danger of Covid-19 Rumors. (Wired, March 26, 2020)
An online furor over whether it’s safe to use the fever reducer reveals how people are sharing incomplete—and sometimes bad—information.
Inside One Distillery’s Pivot to Hand Sanitizer (Atlas Obscura, March 26, 2020)
The small Massachusetts outfit supplies local police, firefighters, and hospitals.
Biden's new ad attacks Trump for repeatedly downplaying the coronavirus outbreak, using the president's own words against him. (MSN, March 26, 2020)
Biden's new video mirrors a similar ad by Priorities USA Action, a Democratic political action committee, which superimposes Trump's words over a graph that shows reported U.S. coronavirus cases increasing.The Trump campaign called for that ad to be taken down in a cease-and-desist letter to television networks, claiming it was "patently false, misleading, and deceptive" because it appeared to stitch together two soundbites that made it sound like Trump was calling coronavirus a hoax at a February 28 rally in North Carolina. Trump's rally remarks actually claimed that the Democrats were were politicizing the rally, in the manner that he claims they politicized impeachment. "Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right?" Trump said. "Coronavirus. They're politicizing it ... They tried the impeachment hoax ... and this is their new hoax." 
Heather Cox Richardson: The questions raised by this life-changing crisis are open… and so, suddenly, is America’s future. (Letters From An American, March 25, 2020)
Trump is using his daily briefings on the coronavirus in place of his rallies, and media channels are trying to figure out how both to cover the briefings and to avoid spreading disinformation that will hurt Americans’ ability to respond to the crisis. It is clear Trump is relishing the constant television coverage, and is using it to advance his reelection campaign. In the process, he is playing fast and loose with the truth. Media channels are aware that Trump got scads of free press coverage by engaging in shocking behavior, and are trying to cover the news without repeating that mistake. Today an NPR station in Seattle announced that it will no longer cover his briefings because they disseminate misleading or false information.
Increasingly, the reality is that Trump is outside the real action in the fighting against the pandemic. As the federal government has dropped the ball, state governors and local leaders have stepped in. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who leads the National Governors Association, dismissed out of hand the idea of ending the national lockdown by Easter, as Trump has suggested, and Republican and Democratic governors both have prioritized public health over the national economy.
Similarly, Trump played little if any role in drafting and passing the stimulus packages, leaving the largest stimulus bill in history in the hands of Congress and his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, while he tweeted (incorrectly) that “the United States has done far more ‘testing’ than any other nation, by far!” and that the “LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!”
The country is reordering itself as we hunker down for this crisis. Already our work habits, our social habits, our shopping habits, and our personal lives have been knocked into new grooves. It is a mistake, I think, to imagine that when we finally get a handle on this disease, America will go back to what it was before coronavirus. Observers cannot help but note that such profound dislocation presents a perfect opening for an authoritarian power grab. The Department of Justice’s recent attempt to get Congress to pass legislation permitting the arrest and detention of defendants at will during a time of emergency is a troubling step in that direction. During past crises, a number of Americans have welcomed such authoritarianism, hoping to ditch the slow messiness of democracy in favor of quick, strong fixes. Notably, during the Depression, fascism didn’t strike everyone as a bad idea.
But while it is imperative for citizens of a democracy to watch for and resist the rise of such authoritarian power during a crisis, these times are also open for a redefinition of the nation, not only of our government, but also of how we live. We are learning that many of us can work from home—how will that change our urban and rural spaces? We are learning that our lives depend on a strong government response to pandemics and economic dislocation—how will that change our government? We are learning that our families and friends are even more important than even we knew—how will that change our priorities?
The questions raised by this life-changing crisis are open… and so, suddenly, is America’s future.
After Caving on ‘Orphan Drug’ Designation, Gilead Must Commit to Licensing and Mass Production. (Public Citizen, March 25, 2020)
It was outrageous that Gilead ever sought an “orphan drug” designation for remdesivir, which aims to treat a patient population that easily may number in the tens of millions in the U.S. alone. That designation would confer a special seven-year monopoly on the drug. Thankfully, under pressure, the company has backed down. There’s no doubt that the prospect of an enormous public backlash is what made the difference.
Here’s the story of a corporate profiteering scheme thwarted:
- Gilead Sciences makes an experimental medication that might prove effective in treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
- The company — which saw its revenue top $22 billion last year — rushed to acquire special monopoly privileges meant to spur development of medications that treat rare diseases.
- A disease qualifies as “rare” if it afflicts fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. at the time a company seeks the monopoly privileges.
- Those privileges stay in place even if the patient population later exceeds 200,000.
- And, as we all know, it is entirely possible that tens of millions of people will contract COVID-19.
- Public Citizen and allies jumped into action, denouncing Gilead’s unconscionable effort to exploit the coronavirus crisis.
And yesterday, Gilead backed down, rescinding its immoral monopoly claim.
But today’s action is not enough. If remdesivir proves to be a viable treatment for COVID-19, then the world cannot afford to have one manufacturer maintain a monopoly over it, particularly given the huge amount of public investment that has gone into the drug. Gilead must do more than make vague promises of reasonable pricing. It should commit right now to license the right and needed know-how to manufacture remdesivir to all qualified producers, in exchange for a modest royalty. If the drug proves viable as a COVID-19 treatment, the U.S. and the world will need the product available at a low price that reflects both the public health need and the potentially enormous market – with production at an unprecedented scale.
Gilead Sciences requests FDA rescind 'orphan drug' status for potential coronavirus treatment. (The Hill, March 25, 2020)
The federal agency awarded Gilead special status over its drug remdesivir, prompting backlash.
Gilead Must Relinquish Monopoly on Potential Coronavirus Treatment. (Public Citizen, March 25, 2020)
51 Groups Warn Gilead Against Profiteering Off the Pandemic.Senate Approves $2-Trillion Stimulus After Bipartisan Deal. (New York Times, March 25, 2020)
The plan would provide direct payments to taxpayers, jobless benefits and a $500 billion fund to assist distressed businesses, with oversight requirements demanded by Democrats. The measure, which the Senate approved unanimously just before midnight on Wednesday, amounts to a government aid plan unprecedented in its sheer scope and size, touching on every facet of American life with the goal of salvaging and ultimately reviving a battered economy. Its cost is hundreds of billions of dollars more than Congress provides for the entire United States federal budget for a single year, outside of social safety net programs. Administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater, as much as $4 trillion.
The deal is the product of a marathon set of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and Mr. Trump’s team that nearly fell apart as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections, more funds for hospitals and state governments, and tougher oversight over new loan programs intended to bail out distressed businesses. The perils of the pandemic, which by Wednesday had spread within the marble halls of the Capitol to infect lawmakers themselves, prompted Republicans to put aside their usual antipathy for big government and spearhead an effort to send cash to American families, while agreeing to astonishingly large additions to the social safety net. Democrats, for their part, dropped their routine opposition to showering tax cuts and other benefits on big corporations — all in the interest of getting a deal.
On Wednesday afternoon, four Republican senators said they were concerned the new benefits would be larger than some people’s wages, prompting employers to lay off workers and some employees to prefer staying home and collecting unemployment payments. The Republicans’ threat to hold up the bill because of the issue prompted Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and a Democratic presidential contender, to issue his own warning that he, too, would seek to block the legislation for being too lenient on corporations. Later, in a speech on the floor, Mr. Sanders said he would support the bill despite his many reservations.
The agreement came together after a furious final round of haggling between administration officials led by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mr. Schumer after Democrats twice blocked action on the measure as they insisted on concessions. In the end, though, not a single senator voted “no.”
And even as they prepared to approve it, lawmakers were already discussing the likelihood that they would soon have to consider yet another package to respond to the pandemic and the toll it was taking on the United States. Some states said they needed far more government aid than it planned to provide. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, whose state is battling by far the largest outbreak of the virus in the United States, said Wednesday that the package was “terrible” for New York, and that the $3.1 billion earmarked to help the state with its budget gap was not nearly enough.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California endorsed the deal, and planned to push it through the House on Friday by voice vote — meaning that no roll call would be taken — given that the chamber is in recess and its members are scattered across the country, some in places that have imposed travel restrictions and quarantines.
Paul Krugman: Is Density Deadly? (New York Times, March 25, 2020)
New York is in a class of its own, with the average resident living in a census tract with more than 31,000 people per square mile. (My own neighborhood has about 60,000 people per square mile.) That’s two-and-a-half times the density in San Francisco or L.A., four times the density of Chicago.
$2 Trillion Senate Stimulus Deal Reached. House to weigh in - No $ For Trump. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2020)
In Fiery Floor Speech, Senator Bernie Sanders Rips GOP for Relentless Efforts to 'Punish' Poor People. (2-min. video; Common Dreams, March 26, 2020)
"Meanwhile, these very same folks had no problem a couple years ago voting for a trillion dollars in tax breaks for billionaires and large profitable corporations. Not a problem."
How the Pandemic Will End (The Atlantic, March 25, 2020)
The White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.
Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared. “Much worse,” said Ron Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014. “Beyond any expectations we had,” said Lauren Sauer, who works on disaster preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “As an American, I’m horrified,” said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.”
Man Suspected of Planning Attack on Missouri Hospital Is Killed, Officials Say. (New York Times, March 25, 2020)
According to officials, the man had expressed racist and anti-government sentiments.
Trump sends cease, desist letter on ad featuring one giant sound bite of his mad coronavirus musings. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2020)
Donald Trump is angry. The Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA assembled a 30-second TV ad that features the sound bites of Trump and Trump only, and guess what? Turns out he’s an unhinged maniacal liar who’s gotten everything about the coronavirus wrong. That may not be news to you, but it is apparently news to Trump. And his dangerously factless musings on the coronavirus over the past several weeks have not worn well.
So on Wednesday, a Trump campaign attorney released a cease and desist letter demanding that TV stations across the nation pull the ad immediately. “On behalf of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., President Trump’s principal campaign committee, this letter notifies you that your station is airing a patently false, misleading, and deceptive advertisement,” wrote Alex Cannon, special counsel to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. “Because [the] ad’s central point is deliberately false and misleading, your station has an obligation to cease and desist from airing it immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements, to serve the public interest, and to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.” Um, yeah, the ad simply regurgitates all Trump’s falsehoods on the virus, sound bite by sound bite. So if it’s “patently false” and “misleading,” that’s because Trump narrates the entire thing in his own words.
Why Trump's plan is more than just sacrificing old people. It's guaranteed to destroy the nation. (Daily Kos, March 25, 2020)
Donald Trump is suggesting that we should rescind efforts at coronavirus suppression in order to “save” the economy, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas calls on patriotic grandparents to sacrifice themselves to drive up the Dow. Across the pond, the U.K. government already mulled over the idea of allowing that nation to become a viral incubator until it reached the level required for “herd immunity”—though at least their plan called for sequestering the vulnerable while the nation sweated things out, rather than tossing them all into the Save the Stock Market National Patriotism Volcano.
There’s another name for the daring plan now being promoted by the right: It’s called “doing nothing.” It’s called letting the disaster play out, or allowing the disease run to its course, or simply permitting the wildfire to burn unchecked. But the problem is that when it’s done, what they get would not be a nation going “back to normal.” It would be ashes.
Catastrophic earthquake, oil rig blowout, fire, storm or pandemic: Thinking about the unthinkable (Temblor, March 25, 2020)
 In the U.S., we were unprepared, flat-footed and arrogant in response to this pandemic. We had nowhere near enough test kits and still don’t; we had nowhere near enough respirators and still don’t; and nowhere near enough hospital beds and still don’t. New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the National Guard to turn the Javits Center into a huge, 1,000-bed field hospital. It’s a good idea, but who could have imagined it. Cuomo says it’s the first of four: a proportionate response.
We could have and should have been better prepared for the virus. But the notion of prediction that we are so invested in as natural scientists in seismology, climatology and volcanology has no place here. Preparing for the unprecedented is really tough, but not impossible. Viruses have ravaged humanity for centuries. We learn from them and we put them out of our minds in the belief—hope, really—that something so terrible will not repeat itself in the modern world. Then they do, and here we are, wondering again how to respond and how to prepare for the next time.
How to Help Scientists Without Leaving Home (Atlas Obscura, March 25, 2020)
Gaze out the window or at your computer, in the name of data.
The therapeutic value of the garden in trying times. (Washington Post, March 24, 2020)
If someone were to say I must self-isolate in the garden for the next few weeks, I would shake him or her by the hand. If I could. Here’s a thumbs up from a distance of six feet or more. The neighborhood sidewalks and nature trails are thronged with the cabin-fevered, so what better place to be outdoors and yet away from others than in your backyard and garden?
Announcing a National Emergency Library to Provide Digitized Books to Students and the Public (Internet Archive, March 24, 2020)
The Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.
Can low-cost, open-source ventilator designs help save lives? (MIT Technology Review, March 24, 2020)
An MIT team is racing to publish designs it hopes could help as the escalating pandemic strains supplies of the machines. The team recently launched a website unveiling the MIT Emergency Ventilator Project, or E-Vent, which now states the device "is being submitted" to the Food and Drug Administration for rapid review under an “Emergency Use Authorization.” “At present, we are awaiting FDA feedback," one member of the team told MIT News. “Ultimately, our intent is to seek FDA approval. That process takes time, however.”
Silver lining: Could COVID-19 lead to a better future? (The Conversation, March 24, 2020)
It’s an uncomfortable but inescapable historic fact that great pandemics often bring about social reform.
Historians note that the most fatal iteration of the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, from 1347 to 1351 resulted in improved working and living conditions for low-income workers of that era, which in turn led to healthier diets and better resistance to later recurrences of the disease. The 1854 cholera epidemic in London allowed pioneering epidemiologist John Snow to establish the link between clean drinking water and the disease, which eventually led to government infrastructure investments in water and sanitation.
The influenza epidemic of 1918-19, like the bubonic plague and cholera, was a “crowd disease” that fed on social inequalities. People living in overcrowded homes or in the trenches of the First World War who were poorly fed and cold were more susceptible. In the aftermath of the pandemic 100 years ago, many countries recognized the importance of universal health care and better housing. In the United States, where the male workforce was decimated due to the absence of “social distancing,” women workers gained a measure of financial independence, which furthered the suffrage movement.
Best-Case Scenario: August Peak For Virus In Middlesex County, Massachusetts (Patch, March 24, 2020)
If everyone in Middlesex County adheres to social distancing, the virus may not peak until late summer, according to a recent analysis. Under the best-case scenario, including strict imposition of measures like closing schools, banning mass gatherings, and testing and quarantining sick people and their contacts, the peak of infection could be pushed past July 31, with as few as 32,000 cases — just 2 percent of the county population.
If severe control measures including strict social distancing are NOT put in place, coronavirus infections could top 900,000 in Middlesex County by early May - 60 percent or more of the population.
Governor Charlie Baker stressed the importance of social distancing Monday as he explained his new stay-at-home advisory. But social distancing in the U.S. isn't as easy as telling everyone to stay home, said Mary Travis Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. "The United States has particular vulnerabilities that make it possible that we'll have the worse coronavirus epidemic of all," Bassett said, citing the country's health, economic and social inequalities. "These inequalities... mean that we are both more susceptible and more likely to have people who are not going to follow the public health advice of social distancing, hand-washing and seeking prompt medical care because they risk their livelihood," Bassett said. She added that many low-wage workers in the health care sector can't afford to miss a day of pay or take a sick day. "The infusion of financial support to people who are no longer working is absolutely critical," Bassett said, "People are not going to stay home and not feed their families."
COVID-19 news: GOP floats 'sacrifice the elderly' trial balloon; U.S. becomes new world hotspot. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
Rachel Maddow: Mardi Gras, coronavirus make 'perfect storm' crisis in Louisiana. (6-min. video; MSNBC, March 24, 2020)
Dr. Rebekah Gee, CEO of LSU Healthcare Services, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the skyrocketing spread of the coronavirus in Louisiana threatens to overwhelm hospital resources there, not just the bed capacity but the staffing resources as well.
Cuomo to Feds: ‘You Pick the People Who Are Going to Die’; WH Tells Those Recently in NYC to Self-Quarantine. (ABC News, March 24, 2020)
NY COVID-19 Cases Doubling Every 3 Days; 50% of All New U.S. Cases Coming From Metro Area, Feds Say.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his loudest alarm yet on New York's coronavirus crisis Tuesday, warning the curve was showing no signs of flattening out and was in fact rising faster and more dangerously than projected. He said last week that peak infection was 45 days out; now, he says, the state may see it in two weeks.
Cuomo initially projected the state would need 110,000 hospital beds at the peak of the crisis. Now he believes New York will need up to 140,000 hospital beds. That's more than double current capacity. The intensive care situation is worse; the state has 3,000 ICU units and may need up to 40,000, Cuomo said.
The federal government has sent supplies, including masks and gowns and another 400 ventilators that arrived in New York City this week. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city needs 15,000 — the state needs double that, on top of the 7,000 it already has procured. The governor's frustration boiled over Tuesday. "What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators," Cuomo said.
McConnell's toxic, partisan game has wasted 10 days of critical coronavirus response time. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
Trump privately says he's facing pressure over refusal to use Defense Production Act. (CNN, March 24, 2020)
Trump himself has caused confusion over the process. In a briefing Friday, he argued he had already used the act, though aides later clarified he had only signed it and the status had remained unchanged, which his FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor confirmed during an interview on CNN Sunday. "If it comes to a point we have to pull the lever, we will," Gaynor said.
Two people familiar with the President's thinking said he's now languishing in a place where neither side is satisfied by his moves on Defense Production Act. Those who wanted him to sign the act aren't pleased because he did but isn't using it. And the people who didn't want him to sign it aren't because he did, while holding out hope he won't actually use it.
Fox News sneered at coronavirus, but owner Rupert Murdoch isn't taking chances with his own health. (Daily Kos, March 24, 2020)
Trump wants ‘the country opened,’ but easing coronavirus restrictions now would be disastrous, experts say. (Washington Post, March 24, 2020)
A growing debate pits the health of the U.S. economy against the health of its people. With President Trump saying he wants “the country opened” by Easter to salvage the U.S. economy, a fierce debate is now raging among policymakers over the necessity of shutting down vast swaths of American society to combat the novel coronavirus. Health experts point to overwhelming evidence from around the world that closing businesses and schools and minimizing social contact are crucial to avoid exponentially mounting infections. Ending the shutdown now in America would be disastrous, many say, because the country has barely given those restrictions time to work, and because U.S. leaders have not pursued alternative strategies used in other countries to avert the potential deaths of hundreds of thousands.
“To be a week into these restrictions and already be talking about abandoning them is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Removing restrictions now would allow the virus, he said, to “spread widely, rapidly, terribly, and could kill potentially millions in the year ahead with huge social and economic impact.”
While not mentioning the president by name, Bill Gates — who co-founded Microsoft and now leads a global health foundation — rebuked Trump’s approach in a Tuesday interview with TED: “There really is no middle ground, and it’s very tough to say to people: ‘Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.’”
Trump Doesn’t Have the Attention Span to Fight Coronavirus. (New York Times, March 24, 2020)
He already seems to be losing interest. Look elsewhere for hope. The deep problem with Trump is that he completely squandered whatever remained of the moral capital of the presidency long before any of us had heard of the coronavirus. So even if he were getting everything right — and he hasn’t — he would be failing at his task because he inspires zero trust with at least half the country.
The federal government needs to create some kind of mechanism that can provide low-interest loans to every business that needs one, without political demands or heavy paperwork in order to speed the transmission of funds. Another idea, suggested by a friend who is savvy in these matters, is to use the tax laws to impose a four-month moratorium on interests and rents, since rent and interest are often the biggest expenses for many businesses. Congress could pass a 100 percent tax on rental and income interest during this period to enforce compliance without needing to void contracts.
My own brainstorm (not deeply thought through, so I’ll be grateful for reader comments on this) is to hand every American adult in a lockdown zone a government-backed credit card — call it a CovidCard — so that they can cover their essential expenses now and begin repayment, at zero-interest, starting in 2023, or at a gradually rising rate later on. Obviously there would have to be a fairly strict maximum limit to keep people from bankrupting themselves, but if the government worked with the credit card companies it should be relatively easy to do from a technical standpoint.
Trump Lashes Out as Americans Remain Under Lockdown: A Closer Look (17-min. video; Late Night with Seth Meyers, March 23, 2020)
Top Senate Democrat and Treasury Secretary Say They Are Near a Stimulus Deal. (New York Times, March 23, 2020)
The Treasury secretary and the top Senate Democrat said late Monday that they were on the brink of a deal on a nearly $2 trillion emergency economic aid measure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after a marathon day of talks as Democrats demanded stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.
Paul Krugman: Republicans Add Insult to Illness. (New York Times, March 23, 2020)
Greed, germs and the art of no deal. If you want a quick summary of the state of play over fiscal stimulus legislation, here it is: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need.
Let’s talk about the nature of the economic crisis we face. At the worst point in the 2007-2009 recession, America was losing around 800,000 jobs per month. Right now, we’re probably losing several million jobs every week. What’s causing these job losses? So far it’s not what usually happens in a recession, when businesses lay off workers because consumers aren’t spending enough. What we’re seeing instead are the effects of social distancing: restaurants, entertainment venues and many other establishments have been closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.And we neither can nor should bring those jobs back until the pandemic has faded. What this tells us is that right now our highest priority isn’t job creation, it’s disaster relief: giving families and small businesses that have lost their incomes enough money to afford necessities while the shutdown lasts. Oh, and providing generous aid to hospitals, clinics and other health care providers in this time of incredible stress.
Now, while social distancing is currently driving employment destruction, there will eventually be a second, more conventional round of job losses as distressed families and businesses cut back on spending. So there is also a case for stimulus to sustain overall spending — although helping Americans in need will provide much of that stimulus, by also helping them continue to spend.
If legislation is stalled, as it appears to be as I write this (although things change fast when we’re on Covid time), it’s because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is holding needy Americans hostage in an attempt to blackmail Democrats into giving Donald Trump a $500 billion slush fund.
Funny, isn’t it, how helping ordinary Americans is always framed as a “Democratic demand”? And even there the legislation includes poison pills, like a provision that would deny aid to many nonprofit institutions like nursing homes and group homes for the disabled. And it also includes that $500 billion slush fund for corporations that the Trump administration could allocate at its discretion, with essentially no oversight. This isn’t just terrible policy; it’s an insult to our intelligence. It would be hard to justify giving any administration that kind of power to reward its friends and punish those it considers enemies. It’s almost inconceivable that anyone would propose giving such authority to the Trump administration.
Remember, we’ve had more than three years to watch this administration in action. We’ve seen Trump refuse to disclose anything about his financial interests, amid abundant evidence that he is profiting at the public’s expense. Trump’s trade war has been notable for the way in which favored companies somehow manage to get tariff exemptions while others are denied. And as you read this, Trump is refusing to use his authority to require production of essential medical gear.
Cronyism aside, there’s also the issue of competence. Why would you give vast discretionary power to a team that utterly botched the response to the coronavirus because Trump didn’t want to hear bad news? Why would you place economic recovery efforts in the hands of people who were assuring us just weeks ago that the virus was contained and the economy was “holding up nicely”?
Finally, we’ve just had a definitive test of the underlying premise of the McConnell slush fund — that if you give corporations money without strings attached they will use it for the benefit of workers and the economy as a whole. In 2017 Republicans rammed through a huge corporate tax cut, which they assured us would lead to higher wages and surging business investment. Neither of these things happened; instead, corporations basically used the money to buy back their own stock. Why would this time be any different?
As I write this, Republicans are ranting that Democrats are sabotaging the economy by refusing to pass McConnell’s bill — which is a bit rich for those who remember the G.O.P.’s scorched-earth opposition to everything Barack Obama proposed. But in any case, if McConnell really wants action, he could get it easily either by dropping his demand for a Trump-controlled slush fund or by passing the stimulus bill House Democrats are likely to offer very soon. And maybe that will happen within a few days. As I said, we’re now living on Covid time. But right now Republicans seem dead set on exploiting a crisis their own president helped create by his refusal to take the pandemic seriously.
The Senate Is Mad. Tempers flare as the chamber tries to close out a $2 trillion coronavirus deal. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
Early Sunday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a procedural vote for the roughly $2 trillion stimulus package that Senate Republicans and Democrats had been negotiating over the weekend. Democrats hadn’t signed off on the deal, though, and were still pushing for increased benefits for the unemployed, hospitals, and states, as well as stronger guardrails and oversight of the roughly $500 billion fund for large corporations, disbursement of much of which would otherwise be largely left to the treasury secretary’s discretion.
So Senate Democrats successfully filibustered. An unusually mad McConnell blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who flew back to D.C. from San Francisco on Saturday, for blowing up the negotiations by bringing with her a new wish list of demands. Later in the night, when McConnell tried to schedule a do-over on the same procedural vote for 9:45 Monday morning—15 minutes after the stock markets opened, in an effort to terrify Democrats—Democratic leader Chuck Schumer objected. The Senate opened at noon on Monday instead.
The coronavirus isn’t alive. That’s why it’s so hard to kill. (Washington Post, March 23, 2020)
The science behind what makes this coronavirus so sneaky, deadly and difficult to defeat
How Singapore waged war on coronavirus (Irish Times, March 23, 2020)
Singapore reported its first two deaths from the pathogen only this weekend, despite being one of the first countries to be hit by the outbreak outside China two months ago. That has made it one of the safest places in the world for patients of the disease, which has already killed almost 13,000 people globally. The city’s success in dealing with the outbreak is attributed to the government’s speed in imposing border controls soon after the disease first erupted in China, meticulous tracing of known carriers, aggressive testing, a clear public communication strategy and a bit of luck.
Before Trump called for reevaluating lockdowns, they shuttered six of his top-earning clubs and resorts. (Washington Post, March 23, 2020)
President Trump’s private business has shut down six of its top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, potentially depriving Trump’s company of millions of dollars in revenue.
Those closures come as Trump is considering easing restrictions on movement sooner than federal public health experts recommend, in the name of reducing the virus’s economic damage. In a tweet late Sunday, Trump said the measures could be lifted as soon as March 30. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he wrote on Twitter.
In his unprecedented dual role as president and owner of a sprawling business, Trump is facing dual crises caused by the coronavirus. As he is trying to manage the pandemic from the White House, limiting its casualties as well as the economic fallout, his company is also navigating a major threat to the hospitality industry. That threatens to pull Trump in opposite directions, because the strategies that many scientists believe will help lessen the public emergency — like strict, long-lasting restrictions on movement — could deepen the short-term problems of Trump’s private business, by keeping doors shut and customers away.
The latest MAGA nonsense: “Grandparents would be willing to die to save the economy for their children.” (Teri Kanefield, March 23, 2020)
Sending People Back to Work Now Will Not Save the Economy. It Will Doom It. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
President Donald Trump is already having second thoughts about telling Americans to stay at home in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, because he is worried about how badly it will hurt the economy (and, presumably, the Dow). The president reportedly began talking privately about “reopening” the country as early as last week. He’s also being nudged in that direction by conservative pundits, advisers within his own administration, and Wall Street figures who have urged a quick return to normalcy, in order to limit the blow to businesses and workers.
Trump Already Trying to Find a Way Out of His Own Inadequate, Mostly Made-Up Lockdown. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
Democrats Are Getting What They Bargained for Out of Joe Biden. (Slate, March 23, 2020)
Which is maybe just enough to get by.
Young Voters Know What They Want. But They Don’t See Anyone Offering It. (New York Times, March 22, 2020)
The oldest of them were just out of college on 9/11; the youngest were not yet born. Over the two decades that followed, they all came of age under storm clouds: of war, of recession, of mass shootings, wildfires and now a pandemic. The result is perhaps the most profound generational gap since the 1960s: between the Generation X, baby boomer and Silent Generation voters who remember one world, and the millennial and Generation Z voters for whom that world never existed.
In November, for the first time, the new generations will have enough electoral clout to seriously compete with the old. But, with Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign barely clinging to life, many feel more disillusioned than empowered.
Lost Sense of Smell May Be Peculiar Clue to Coronavirus Infection. (New York Times, March 22, 2020)
Doctor groups are recommending testing and isolation for people who lose their ability to smell and taste, even if they have no other symptoms.
Anosmia, the loss of sense of smell, and ageusia, an accompanying diminished sense of taste, have emerged as peculiar telltale signs of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and possible markers of infection. On Friday, British ear, nose and throat doctors, citing reports from colleagues around the world, called on adults who lose their senses of smell to isolate themselves for seven days, even if they have no other symptoms, to slow the disease’s spread. The published data is limited, but doctors are concerned enough to raise warnings.
Tormented Italy tries to get to grips with coronavirus epidemic. (Irish Times, March 22, 2020)
Initial hesitation and failure to grasp scale of the threat were likely factors in the sharp rise in deaths. Covid-19 had been circulating in Europe since December. It took too long to recognise all the atypical cases of pneumonia that arrived in hospitals between January and February. We should have had a more open mind and think that Chinese coronavirus would become Italian, French, Irish and so on.
Fox News' COVID-19 Lies Are DANGEROUS. (6-min. video; The Young Turks, March 22, 2020)
A mashup of clips from right-wing media compiled by TYT's Jayar Jackson makes a compelling case that Fox News and other similar outlets have consistently downplayed the threat from Covid-19, blamed Democrats and the media for using the coronavirus to attack Trump, encouraged viewers to continue going out, traveling and patronizing bars and restaurants, and even suggested that the virus may have been unleashed on the US by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Seeing the poll figures, Francesca expresses genuine frustration and anger at Fox and other news outlets for misleading their audience over a matter of life and death on a global scale.
U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak. (Reuters, March 22, 2020)
The American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases. As an American CDC employee, Quick was in an ideal position to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the United States and other countries on the coronavirus outbreak, and might have alerted them to the growing threat weeks earlier.
No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Quick left in July, according to the sources. An embedded expert can often get word of outbreaks early, after forming close relationships with Chinese counterparts.
Restoration Hardware Sees Itself As ‘Critical Infrastructure’ During Coronavirus Outbreak. (Huffington Post, March 22, 2020)
Employees at the company’s California call center have been told to continue working despite a statewide shelter-in-place order.
Workers at Restoration Hardware were given a letter to show police this week if they were stopped on their way to work in California. The letter argues that employees of the upscale furniture company can work despite a statewide shelter-in-place order prompted by the coronavirus outbreak because they are part of “critical infrastructure.” Restoration Hardware sells high-end furniture, bedding, bath fixtures and lighting through its stores and website. It’s not clear how the company is part of what the state of California describes as “functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”
The company had concluded after a legal review that its customer call center was an essential service. Cassidy said customers may be wondering what happened to their orders and the company needs to be able to let them know. Asked if it was essential that a customer receive a Restoration Hardware order during a pandemic, Cassidy said that if the company’s orders don’t continue to move out of the ports, it could affect the movement of critical items like food and toilet paper.
Shocking video captures Trump supporter buying Dollar Tree store out of toilet paper during coronavirus crisis. (Raw Story, March 21, 2020)
DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic. (Politico, March 21, 2020)
One of the requests to Congress would allow the department to petition a judge to indefinitely detain someone during an emergency. The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. Already, he has cited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims. He has also pushed for further tax cuts as the economy withers, arguing that it would soften the financial blow to Americans. And even without policy changes, Trump has vast emergency powers that he could legally deploy right now to try and slow the coronavirus outbreak.
White House Won’t Say When More Masks Will Be Available To Health Care Workers. (Huffington Post, March 21, 2020)
During Saturday’s coronavirus task force update, Trump once again blamed his administration’s bungled response on Obama.
COVID-19 By the Numbers: The View of a 20-Year Veteran of Pandemic Preparedness. (Daily Kos, March 21, 2020)
Italy is the canary in the coal mine. Don’t count cases (testing rate is still too low/spotty). Count deaths per day. It is a lagging indicator, but the most solid trend for decision making.
U.S. FDA approves first rapid coronavirus test with 45 minutes detection time. (Reuters, March 21, 2020)
The test’s developer, California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, said on Saturday it had received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for the test, which will be used primarily in hospitals and emergency rooms. The company plans to begin shipping it to hospitals next week, it said.
The diagnostic test for the virus that causes COVID-19 has been designed to operate on any of Cepheid’s more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert Systems globally, the company said. The systems do not require users to have special training to perform testing, and are capable of running around the clock, Cepheid President Warren Kocmond said in the statement. The company did not give further details or say how much the test will cost.
The Emissions Impact of Coronavirus Lockdowns, As Shown by Satellites (Visual Capitalist, March 21, 2020)
Impact of coronavirus on Census could weaken democracy for a decade. (Daily Kos, March 21, 2020)
Lawmakers and civil rights groups are warning that the novel coronavirus crisis could devastate minority communities for the next decade if the outbreak upends the 2020 census, which normally takes place in Spring.
How It All Came Apart for Bernie Sanders (New York Times, March 21, 2020)
The Sanders campaign appeared on the brink of a commanding lead in the Democratic race. But a series of fateful decisions and internal divisions have left him all but vanquished.
Twitter Suspended Cory Doctorow For Putting Trolls On A List Called 'Colossal Assholes'. (TechDirt, March 20, 2020)
Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. Mistakes will always be made, or even "legitimate" decisions will appear "wrong" to many, many people.
The latest example: Twitter -- which has received criticism for being both too aggressive in shutting down accounts and not nearly aggressive enough (sometimes by the same people) -- suspended Cory Doctorow's account earlier this week. The reasoning for the suspension? He would put various trolls onto a Twitter list called "colossal assholes" before muting them, and Twitter claimed this violated its policies (though the company only told him well after it suspended him).
NEW: A Home-Grown Response to Insect Population Collapse (NOFA/Massachusetts, March 20, 2020)
In this time of the Anthropocene, when human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment, stories about biodiversity loss have become heartbreakingly common. Once limited to the occasional report of a notable megafauna—the endangerment of pandas, snow leopards, elephants—today our awareness of species engagement extends to those small and oft-taken-for-granted service workers of earth’s ancient plant propagation engine: pollinators.
[Plant these for bees.]
Meet the Ecologist Who Wants You to Unleash the Wild on Your Backyard. (Smithsonian Magazine, March 20, 2020)
Fed up with invasive species and sterile landscapes, Douglas Tallamy urges Americans to go native and go natural.“The little things that run the world are disappearing,” he says. “This is an ecological crisis that we’re just starting to talk about.”
Hospitals and doctors are wiping out supplies of an unproven coronavirus treatment. (Washington Post, March 20, 2020)
Lack of definitive evidence has not stopped exploding demand for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two old anti-malarial drugs. The sudden shortages of the two drugs could come at a serious cost for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who depend on them to alleviate symptoms of inflammation, including preventing organ damage in lupus patients.
Call Trump’s News Conferences What They Are: Propaganda. (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
Then contrast them with the leadership shown by Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel.
In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president’s news conferences for what they are: propaganda.
We may as well be watching newsreels approved by the Soviet Politburo. We’re witnessing the falsification of history in real time. When Donald Trump, under the guise of social distancing, told the White House press corps on Thursday that he ought to get rid of 75 to 80 percent of them — reserving the privilege only for those he liked — it may have been chilling, but it wasn’t surprising. He wants to thin out their ranks until there’s only Pravda in the room.
Coronavirus Could Overwhelm U.S. Without Urgent Action, Estimates Say. (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
The coronavirus has infected far more people in the United States than testing has shown so far, and stringent measures to limit social contact in parts of the country not yet seeing many cases are needed to significantly stem the tide of illness and death in the coming months. The estimates are inherently uncertain, and they could change as America adopts unprecedented measures to control the outbreak. But they offer a stark warning: Even if the country cut its rate of transmission in half — a tall order — some 650,000 people might become infected in the next two months.
The growth is driven by Americans with mild symptoms who are carrying and spreading the virus without being aware that they have it, the researchers say. The number of undetected cases — 11 times more than has been officially reported, they estimate — reflects how far behind the United States has fallen in testing for the virus. We’re looking at something that’s catastrophic on a level that we have not seen for an infectious disease since 1918. And it’s requiring sacrifices we haven’t seen since World War II. There are going to be enormous disruptions. There’s no easy way out.
Senate Republicans’ cash assistance plan is far too limited. (Vox, March 20, 2020)
Too little help for children, low-income people, and those hit hard by the crisis.
Forecasts worsen as experts say trillions of dollars needed to stimulate economy back to health. (Daily Kos, March 20, 2020)
Senate Republicans are pushing what chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow calls more than a $2 trillion injection. But that huge amount—$1.3 trillion more than the 2009 Obama stimulus that only three congressional Republicans supported—won’t be enough if the COVID-19 plague takes longer to conquer than a few months, which many health experts say is possible, and even likely. Said Yale’s Andrew Metrick, a leading expert on economic crises: “If it lasts a year, it's going to be several trillion they have to spend to keep people from starving."
In 2008, Richard Burr Also Told The Public Not To Panic While He Cashed Out. (Huffington Post, March 20, 2020)
During the 2008 financial crisis, he withdrew as much money as possible from the ATM. This time, he dumped his stocks before the coronavirus crisis fully took hold. In 2012, Burr was one of three senators who opposed the STOCK Act, legislation that bars members of Congress and their staff from using nonpublic information to make financial trades.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her NYSE owner CEO husband defend stock sales after her coronavirus briefing. (CNBC, March 20, 2020)
Republican senators who dumped stocks ahead of pandemic take withering fire from their own party. (Daily Kos, March 20, 2020)
A massive new scandal unfolded Thursday when ProPublica reported that Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina had sold as much as $1.72 million in stock holdings just before the markets tanked as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Later that same evening, the Daily Beast reported that Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia had similarly liquidated her assets and even bought shares in a teleworking company that has seen its price tick up.
At least three other senators, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, and Georgia Republican David Perdue, also recently sold stock in large quantities, but none of the sales appear timed to have taken advantage of any possible foreknowledge of the downturn.
Burr, however, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had been receiving intelligence briefings on the threat posed by the virus and had offered reassurance to the public, even saying on Feb. 7 that "the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus."
But in private, as NPR separately reported earlier on Thursday, Burr was issuing dire alarms about the disease. "It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he told members of a high-priced North Carolina social club, according to a secret recording from Feb. 27. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic." He urged travelers to Europe to instead stay home and warned that school closures would be forthcoming—two weeks before the Trump administration or local officials took either step. Burr, it appears, believed what he was telling wealthy donors rather than ordinary Americans: On Feb. 13, he sold a large portion of his stock portfolio in more than 30 separate transactions. That included hospitality companies like Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, whose share prices have since collapsed, saving Burr considerable sums.
Apparently Burr is a repeat offender. In 2008, Burr told his constituents not to panic to give himself time to get as much cash as possible before a run on the banks. In 2020, he told them there was nothing to worry about to give himself time to cash out his stocks before a market collapsed.
Republican Stimulus Plan Gives Less Money to Poor Households. (New York Magazine, March 20, 2020)
Last night, Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republicans’ economic rescue plan. The good news is that Senate Republicans have abandoned their Obama–era position that fiscal stimulus can’t work and the government should respond to tough times by cutting spending. The bad news is that they haven’t abandoned their long-standing belief in screwing over poor people just for the sake of it.
The coronavirus crisis shows what happens when a country puts its workers last. (Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2020)
In recent days, alarm about the economic effect of the novel coronavirus has turned conservatives who weeks ago were boasting about the shrinking of the U.S. government into raving Keynesians, proclaiming the virtues of deficit-financed economic stimulus. The same leaders who were pushing reductions in Social Security benefits, Medicare and other “entitlements” for the working class because they were supposedly unaffordable by the richest nation on Earth now call for a trillion-dollar pump-priming for American households and industries. Those who defended mortgage foreclosures and tenant evictions by pointing to the sanctity of contracts are now on board with legislation prohibiting both, at least for the duration of the emergency. And many who sounded the siren about the economic drag of government deficits and the national debt are saying, “Never mind.”
Meanwhile, Democrats and some business leaders are talking about the need to avoid the mistakes of the last major economic stimulus, in 2009, which shored up banks guilty of plying Americans with unaffordable loans while leaving the bankers free to impose punishing foreclosures on mortgage borrowers. As the federal government prepares to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to the private sector, the danger is that businesses will treat these new bailouts as they have before: as cash to give top executives raises and divert capital to shareholders, leaving the working class with empty hands.
Proponents of financial aid to industry are calling for strict oversight of how businesses use bailout funds. “We’re not writing blank checks to giant corporations,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted. In her view, companies receiving government assistance should be required to set their minimum wage at $15 an hour within a year of the emergency ending, be permanently barred from share repurchases, forbidden to pay dividends or executive bonuses for at least three years, be required to keep their union contracts in effect, and set aside at least one board seat for worker representatives.
The question is not merely whether the recognition that rank-and-file workers need immediate help, perhaps more than their employers, will take root rather than evaporate as the crisis ebbs. It’s also whether the crisis will awaken Americans to the folly of what has been a systematic dismantling of the public sector over the decades. The safeguarding of workplace rights and income has been privatized, ceded to employers who view their workforces as expense items, not assets to be invested in. The best evidence of that trend right now is the scarcity of paid sick leave for American workers.
The 5 Scariest Moments From Trump’s Coronavirus Briefing Today (New York Magazine, March 20, 2020)
President Trump has used his daily coronavirus press briefings to drive home two messages: He is in charge, and things are running smoothly. Unfortunately, the two messages are in direct conflict with each other. The only moments of success the administration has enjoyed in advancing its “things are running smoothly” message have come when Trump recedes into the background. But Trump himself places more value on the unsettling “Trump is in charge” message, which dominated today’s proceedings.
Trump Lies His Way Through a Pandemic. (New York Magazine, March 20, 2020)
The president who is leading this country into battle cares about no one but himself, continues to lie to Americans daily about the most basic imperatives of a public-health catastrophe, and presides over an administration staffed with incompetent, third-tier bootlickers and grifters. And I am not just talking about Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, and Wilbur Ross. There are now three college seniors serving in White House positions, thanks to a new purge of ostensibly disloyal staffers. Trump calls himself a “wartime president,” but his only previous wartime experience was partying during Vietnam, when he was spared military service because of “bone spurs.” If America rises to the occasion, it will be despite him, not because of him. We’re at the point where even if Trump were to start telling the truth, no one except the most mad-dog MAGA-ites would believe him.
Rachel Maddow slams Trump's COVID-19 lies in epic rant. (1-min. video; Indy100, March 20, 2020)
Maddow went through a litany of lies by the president, She points out that every press conference turns out to be one that tells the American population that the president is executing actions he is not.
Ranked: Global Pandemic Preparedness by Country (Visual Capitalist, March 20, 2020)
While there may be top performers relative to other countries, the overall picture paints a grim picture that foreshadowed the current crisis we are living through.
“It is likely that the world will continue to face outbreaks that most countries are ill positioned to combat. In addition to climate change and urbanization, international mass displacement and migration—now happening in nearly every corner of the world—create ideal conditions for the emergence and spread of pathogens.” – The Global Health Security Index, 2019
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California Orders 40 Million Californians to Stay at Home. (New York Times, March 20, 2020)
In making the announcement, Mr. Newsom has taken the most drastic step of any state leader to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Just 2 in 5 Americans canceled plans to be in crowds last week as coronavirus pandemic escalated, polls show. (CNN, March 20, 2020)
Photos of crowded beaches, packed bars and large crowds at amusement parks like Walt Disney World last weekend shocked many Americans who had decided to heed warnings to hunker down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
[What fools these mortals be!]
Almost half of coronavirus patients have digestive symptoms, Chinese study finds. (CBS News, March 19, 2020)
Clinicians must bear in mind that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, may be a presenting feature of COVID-19, and that the index of suspicion may need to be raised earlier in these cases rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge.
Newest Trump Attack Ad Is Scathing and It Was Done by Republicans. (Daily Kos, March 19, 2020)
White House itself is choosing which immigration courts get to close amid COVID-19. (Miami FL Herald, March 19, 2020)
According to an email obtained by the Herald, immigration court staffers and judges at a courthouse were told by court management on Wednesday that the decisions to close are out of their control. “Decisions for closure are beyond the agency level; but rather are forwarded to [the Department of Justice] and ultimately the White House,” the email said. “Please understand that decisions for court closures are based upon individual incidents at each respective court. I have not been privy to the incidents that ultimately led to the closure[s].”
“The politicization of the immigration courts has now infected the decision-making process of the agency as to the health and well-being of immigration judges, staff and all who appear before the court,” said A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the union that represents all U.S. immigration judges. The lack of communication during the global pandemic has made immigration judges, prosecutors and court staff anxious. Though the government recently canceled all preliminary hearings at all courtrooms, which has lowered attendance, judges are still concerned about their own health as well as their families’ because courthouses are still crowded by court goers and employees.
In almost a dozen letters, the employees have asked that the government consider their plight and at least explain why some courts are being prioritized over others. The DOJ and the White House have not responded to their various requests for a telephone meeting. According to three court staff members, employees have been told in meetings that the directive to shut down courthouses is coming “from the very top of the administration.”
Although the government has shut down a handful of courts across the country one by one, dozens remain open, despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the president's urging that the public avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. The government also issued a directive that all immigration courts take down CDC coronavirus posters, though it later rescinded that.
“The health of no one seems to be their primary concern,” Tabaddor said. “We are guessing that ‘incidents’ refers to potential exposure to coronavirus at the courts. We’ve heard that people in management were told that they can’t put anything relating to COVID-19 or coronavirus in any email unless it’s been cleared.”
Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time, March 19, 2020)
Public health experts predict that tens of thousands and possibly millions of people across the United States will likely need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future. And Congress has yet to address the problem. On March 18, it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers testing costs going forward, but it doesn’t do anything to address the cost of treatment.
‘At War With No Ammo’: Doctors Say Shortage of Protective Gear Is Dire. (New York Times, March 19, 2020)
The lack of proper masks, gowns and eye gear is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus — and putting their own lives at risk.
NEW: COVID-19 Shows Us a Green New Deal is Possible. (Medium, March 19, 2020)
The COVID-19 mitigation effort presents an unexpected blueprint for what rapid change in the face of a climate crisis might look like. In fact, the current situation should give us hope in our ability to cope with rapid change and encourage us to recognize our resilience.
Former Obama official: We knew we were due for a pandemic. (CNN, March 19, 2020)
Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Adviser to President Obama, said that the US government has been aware of the threat of a global health crisis for decades, and she personally briefed President Trump's then-incoming National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn on the matter during the transition.
The Staggering Rise in Jobless Claims This Week (New York Times, March 19, 2020)
As the accompanying charts show, jobless claims rose sharply in the vast majority of states. These figures come from state unemployment insurance offices tallying up the number of people newly applying for unemployment benefits.
The big picture is clear: When we write the history of the coronavirus recession, we’ll say the downturn started in early March. But don’t take these official numbers or the preliminary reports from individual states as providing precise signals: There are numerous anecdotal accounts of phone lines to unemployment offices that are jammed, offices that are closed, or websites that have crashed. The official data is on the number of claims filed, whereas the number eligible and attempting to file may be much larger.
The stark rise in jobless claims reflects the unusual nature of this recession. In a “normal” recession, the economy slows over a period of months, and joblessness rises over an even longer period as individual employers see the effect on their businesses. The resulting rise in initial unemployment claims tends to be spread over several months.The stark rise in jobless claims reflects the unusual nature of this recession. In a “normal” recession, the economy slows over a period of months, and joblessness rises over an even longer period as individual employers see the effect on their businesses. The resulting rise in initial unemployment claims tends to be spread over several months.
This is different. State government directives shut down many businesses, leading to an unusually rapid downturn. A rapid spike in jobless claims will also be an extremely large spike, as what would normally be a few months’ worth of job loss happens in a few weeks. As you look at what’s going on in your state, keep in mind that these numbers reflect developments last week, but that in most states, the more draconian changes in economic life were imposed this week.
Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness. (ProPublica, March 19, 2020)
Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s Feb. 13th selling spree was his largest stock selling day of at least the past 14 months, according to a ProPublica review of Senate records. Unlike his typical disclosure reports, which are a mix of sales and purchases, all of the transactions were sales.
On February 27th, Burr told wealthy attendees of the luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history ... It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” He warned that companies might have to curtail their employees’ travel, that schools could close and that the military might be mobilized to compensate for overwhelmed hospitals.
Weeks Before Coronavirus Panic, Intelligence Chairman Privately Raised Alarm, Sold Stocks. (NPR, March 19, 2020)
Intelligence Chair Richard Burr’s selloff came around the time he was receiving daily briefings on the health threat.
[Q: Why did Republicans call COVID-19 a hoax before the Stock Market crashed?  A: They were getting their money out before you could.]
Reports reveal what officials are being told about COVID-19 … and it's not what they are telling us. (Daily Kos, March 18, 2020)
Yes, the Internet can handle the coronavirus traffic jam, with hiccups. (Boston Globe, March 18, 2020)
The data’s running smoothly, except for a few chokepoints like videoconferencing.
How the Coronavirus Could Take Over Your Body (Before You Ever Feel It) (New York Magazine, March 18, 2020)
As your friend walked through the door he took a breath and 32,456 virus particles settled onto the lining of his mouth and throat. Viruses have been multiplying inside his body ever since. And as he talks, the passage of his breath over the moist lining of his upper throat creates tiny droplets of virus-laden mucus that waft invisibly into the air over your table. Some settle on the as-yet-uneaten food on your plate, some drift onto your fingers, others are drawn into your nasal sinus or settle into your throat. By the time you extend your hand to shake good-bye, your body is carrying 43,654 virus particles. By the time you’re done shaking hands, that number is up to 312,405.
One of the droplets gets drawn into the branching passages of your lungs and settles on the warm, wet surface, depositing virus particles into the mucus coating the tissue. Each particle is round and very small; if you magnified a human hair so that it was as wide as a football field, the virus particle would be four inches across. The outer membrane of the virus consists of an oily layer embedded with jagged protein molecules called spike proteins. These stick out like the protrusions on a knobby ball chew toy. In the middle of the virus particle is a coiled strand of RNA, the virus’s genetic material. The payload.
As the virus drifts through the lung’s mucus, it bumps into one of the cells that line the surface. The cell is considerably larger than the virus; on the football-field scale, it’s 26 feet across. A billion years of evolution have equipped it to resist attackers. But it also has a vulnerability — a backdoor.
A bloody battle or a long war? The ethical dilemma of tackling coronavirus (MIT Technology Review, March 18, 2020)
Francois Balloux, a computational epidemiologist who worked on an influential new coronavirus model, on the trade-offs that have to be made.
A Chilling Question - Coronavirus Death Toll vs. Economic Collapse (Daily Kos, March 18 2020)
The bottom line is that we can save 2+ million of our fellow citizens with our sacrifice. But is that sacrifice finite? Is the limit 10% unemployment as businesses collapse? Or 20% unemployment with more of the house coming down into a new Great Depression that lasts years? Or is there no level of economic collapse that would justify opening things back up sooner, knowing that that will accelerate coronavirus spread, at least some?
The Leader of the Free World Gives a Speech, and She Nails It. (New York Magazine, March 18, 2020)
Let them eat coronavirus: Trump says wealthy getting tested first is just 'the story of life'. (Daily Kos, March 18, 2020)
Trump's decision to loosen rules for digital doctors visits raises hacking concerns. (Washington Post, March 18, 2020)
A Trump administration decision to loosen privacy requirements for doctors treating patients over phone and video apps during the coronavirus pandemic raises the risk of hackers snooping on people’s highly personal medical information. But even cybersecurity experts say it's worth making this compromise on cybersecurity to protect public health during the rapidly worsening crisis. “We’re in a different environment today with this pandemic … Putting a patient in front of a doctor is what’s important,” said Curtis Dukes, a former top National Security Agency official who’s now executive vice president of the Center for Internet Security. “Given where we are today … this is a prudent step.”
But this raises the risk that doctors will use video services without full encryption protections or that companies will store data from the chats in insecure ways. Hackers, preparing for an influx of digital visits, could compromise doctors’ computers to snoop on and record medical consultations. The risk is especially high for top government officials and executives who probably are already being tracked by foreign intelligence services that know which doctors they visit and are eager to find information that they could use to blackmail or extort them. Cybersecurity experts pointed to the relaxed requirements as just another way in which the government is accepting digital risks that would have seemed too dangerous just weeks ago – but that now look minor compared to the public health benefit of keeping people separated to prevent the virus’s spread.
“The most important thing now is diagnosing people and getting ahead of the virus,” Mick Baccio, a former cybersecurity official at the Obama White House and for the Pete Buttigieg presidential campaign, told me. “Ordinarily, I’d say, ‘No, don’t do this. It introduces too much risk.’ But, given what we all woke up to the last few weeks, it makes sense.”
[And yet, it still introduces that "too-much risk". Medical records are now subject to new levels of theft and misuse.]
Hydroxychloroquine is found to be more effective and potent than chloroquine in vitro treatment of coronavirus. (Tech Startups, March 18, 2020)
A new controlled clinical study conducted by doctors ​in France shows that Hydroxychloroquine (an over-the-counter malarial drug) cures 100% of coronavirus patients within 6 days of treatment. A loading dose of 400 mg twice daily of hydroxychloroquine sulfate given orally, followed by a maintenance dose of 200 mg given twice daily for 4 days is recommended for SARS-CoV-2 infection, as it reached three times the potency of chloroquine phosphate when given 500 mg twice daily 5 days in advance.
This blood test can tell us how widespread coronavirus really is. (MIT Technology Review, March 18, 2020)
A test can see if a person has ever been infected, even if they had no symptoms. Currently, the US and other countries are ramping up efforts to test people quickly. That diagnostic test, called PCR, looks directly for the genetic material of the virus in a nasal or throat swab. It tells people with worrisome flu symptoms what they need to know: Are they infected with the new coronavirus right now?
The new type of test asks a different question: Has a person’s body ever seen the germ at all, even months ago? If someone has been exposed, their blood should be full of antibodies against the virus. It’s the presence, or absence, of such antibodies to the virus that the new test measures.
The new test could help locate survivors, who could then donate their antibody-rich blood to people in ICUs to help boost their immunity. What’s more, doctors, nurses, and health-care workers could learn if they’ve already been exposed. Those who have, assuming they are now immune, could safely rush to the front lines and perform the riskiest tasks—like intubating a person with the virus, without worrying about getting infected or bringing the disease home to their families.
NEW: Trump's Coronavirus Calendar (1-min. video; The Recount, March 17, 2020)
How Long Will Coronavirus Live on Surfaces or in the Air Around You? (New York Times, March 17, 2020)
A new study could have implications for how the general public and health care workers try to avoid transmission of the virus.
The virus lives longest on plastic and steel, surviving for up to 72 hours. But the amount of viable virus decreases sharply over this time. It also does poorly on copper, surviving four hours. On cardboard, it survives up to 24 hours, which suggests packages that arrive in the mail should have only low levels of the virus — unless the delivery person has coughed or sneezed on it or has handled it with contaminated hands. That’s true in general. Unless the people who handle any of these materials are sick, the actual risk of getting infected from any of these materials is low, experts said.
“Everything at the grocery store and restaurant takeout containers and bags could in theory have infectious virus on them,” said Dr. Linsey Marr, who was not a member of the research team but is an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “We could go crazy discussing these ‘what-ifs’ because everyone is a potential source, so we have to focus on the biggest risks.” If people are concerned about the risk, they could wipe down packages with disinfectant wipes and wash their hands, she said.
It is unclear why cardboard should be a less hospitable environment for the virus than plastic or steel, but it may be explained by the absorbency or fibrous quality of the packaging compared with the other surfaces.
That the virus can survive and stay infectious in aerosols is also important for health care workers. For weeks experts have maintained that the virus is not airborne. But in fact, it can travel through the air and stay suspended for that period of about a half-hour. The virus does not linger in the air at high enough levels to be a risk to most people who are not physically near an infected person. But the procedures health care workers use to care for infected patients are likely to generate aerosols. “Once you get a patient in with severe pneumonia, the patients need to be intubated,” said Dr. Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who led the study. “All these handlings might generate aerosols and droplets.”
Health care workers might also collect those tiny droplets and larger ones on their protective gear when working with infected patients. They might resuspend these big and small droplets into the air when they take off this protective gear and become exposed to the virus then, Dr. Marr cautioned. A study that is being reviewed by experts bears out this fear. And another study, published March 4 in JAMA, also indicates that the virus is transported by air. That study, based in Singapore, found the virus on a ventilator in the hospital room of an infected patient, where it could only have reached via the air. Dr. Marr said the World Health Organization has so far referred to the virus as not airborne, but that health care workers should wear gear, including respirator masks, assuming that it is. “Based on aerosol science and recent findings on flu virus,” she said, “surgical masks are probably insufficient.” Dr. Marr said based on physics, an aerosol released at a height of about six feet would fall to the ground after 34 minutes. The findings should not cause the general public to panic, however, because the virus disperses quickly in the air. “It sounds scary,” she said, “but unless you’re close to someone, the amount you’ve been exposed to is very low.”
He said the aerosols might only stay aloft for about 10 minutes, but Dr. Marr disagreed with that assessment, and said they could stay in the air for three times longer. She also said that the experimental setup might be less comfortable for the virus than a real-life setting. For example, she said, the researchers used a relative humidity of 65 percent. “Many, but not all viruses, have shown that they survive worst at this level of humidity,” she said. They do best at lower or much higher humidity. The humidity in a heated house is less than 40 percent, “at which the virus might survive even longer,” she said. Mucus and respiratory fluids might also allow the virus to survive longer than the laboratory fluids the researchers used for their experiments.
Other experts said the paper’s findings illustrate the urgent need for more information about the virus’ ability to survive in aerosols, and under different conditions. Dr. Munster noted that, overall, the new coronavirus seems no more capable of surviving for long periods than its close cousins SARS and MERS, which caused previous epidemics. That suggests there are other reasons, such as transmission by people who don’t have symptoms, for its ability to cause a pandemic.
We’re not going back to normal. (MIT Technology Review, March 17, 2020)
Social distancing is here to stay for much more than a few weeks. It will upend our way of life, in some ways forever.
The world has changed many times, and it is changing again. All of us will have to adapt to a new way of living, working, and forging relationships. But as with all change, there will be some who lose more than most, and they will be the ones who have lost far too much already. The best we can hope for is that the depth of this crisis will finally force countries—the US, in particular—to fix the yawning social inequities that make large swaths of their populations so intensely vulnerable.
How long will social distancing for coronavirus have to last? That depends on these factors. (Washington Post, March 16, 2020)
Some good news about coronavirus the media won’t tell you. (Tech Startups, March 16, 2020)Here is a list of coronavirus scientific breakthroughs that are not making the news.
NEW:
SoftBank-Owned Patent Troll, Using Monkey-Selfie Law Firm, Sues To Block Covid-19 Testing Using Theranos Patents. (TechDirt, March 16, 2020)
I'm used to all sorts of awfulness, but this one piles awfulness upon awfulness, and takes it to a level of pure evil. The lawyers filing this lawsuit on behalf of "Labrador Diagnostics LLC" should remember what they've done -- filing a bullshit patent trolling lawsuit, on behalf of a shell company for a notorious giant patent troll, using patents from a sham company, and using them to try to block the use of Covid-19 diagnostic tests in the middle of a pandemic. I wonder how they sleep at night.
I understand the need for zealous representation of a client in court, but this seems even more despicable than your everyday patent trolling, and people should associate these lawyers names with the truly despicable behavior on display here. Similarly, it should be a reminder of why it's a good thing that the Supreme Court decided a decade and a half ago that injunctions are often inappropriate in patent cases. I know that there's an effort underway to have Congress change the law to overrule the Supreme Court decision on that point, but imagine how that would play out in this scenario, in which necessary diagnostic testing might get blocked due to some patent troll with deep pockets.
NASA Worried Astronauts Could Spread Coronavirus on Space Station. (Futurism, March 16, 2020)
Dow Falls by Nearly 3000 in Renewed Coronavirus Collapse. (Breitbart, March 16, 2020)
Stocks fell sharply in the final hour of trading, accelerating the decline that began anew Sunday night in the futures market and took down the major indexes at the open of trading Monday morning. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 2.997 points, or 12.93 percent. The S&P 500 fell 11.98 percent. The Nasdaq Composite fell 12.32 percent. The Russell index of smaller companies fell 14.27. This was the worst percentage drop since October 1987 for the Dow and S&P 500. It was the worst drop ever for the Nasdaq.
The sell-off in stocks became more intense after the Trump administration announced new recommendations for dealing with the coronavirus that made the likely economic toll look more severe. Those include the recommendation that bars, restaurants, and public gathering places be closed and that people avoid gathering in groups of more than 10. The Trump administration also said schooling and work should be done at home and discretionary travel should be avoided. President Donald Trump acknowledged that stocks have fallen sharply but said that the administration would focus on combating the virus rather than worry about the stock market. “The market will take care of itself,” Trump said. “The market will be very strong as soon as we get rid of the virus.”
Federal Reserve cuts rates to zero to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNN, March 16, 2020)
The Fed's board of governors had been set to meet this week and report on the results of its meeting on Wednesday. Central bankers were widely expected to cut rates to zero at that meeting, after they slashed rates to a half a percentage point in another emergency cut on March 3. Sunday's latest emergency action suggests the Fed believed the cogs of the US economic machine were getting gummed up, and it was concerned that waiting even three more days could be too late to prop up the economy.
Surveying the Suburbs: How Amazon Ring and a Racialized Fear of Crime is Ushering in a New Period of Mass Surveillance (Radical History Review, March 16, 2020)
As of this moment, there are supposedly over 1 million surveillance cameras and microphones screwed into the front doors of people all across the United States. It doesn’t matter if a community is safe, suburban, rural, middle class, rich – they all have front door security cameras regardless.The marketing materials used by companies like Amazon to convince residents of a suburban single-family home that they need constant surveillance are historically familiar. The suburbs have always operated under the pretense of “surveillance for thee and not for me.” The idealized life for a middle-class white American relied on home ownership and the privacy that supposedly accompanied it.
New technology, however, has reshaped those relationships. Suburbanites are opening themselves up to greater surveillance and privacy violations in an attempt to police and gatekeep racial outsiders. By creating a technologically-augmented way of policing the racial boundaries of the suburbs, white residents compromise their own historically protected privacy by explicitly inviting police, corporations, and bad actors into their homes as they never have before.
For the most part, life outside of the city came with an expectation of privacy and freedom from state interference. But now, with Ring cameras on the outside of homes, people are inviting the state back in. What motivates this move to allow more and more prying eyes into the formerly sacred sphere of the white suburban middle-class family? As Ring says: fear. The fear stems from more than just the encroaching racialized criminal. It’s coming from inside the house. Baby sitters, house sitters, dog walkers — Ring encourages you to keep an eye on all of those people. Not necessarily racial others, but often class others, that by necessity suburbanites allow into their homes to do their labor.
As of March 2020, Ring now has over 1,000 partnerships with police departments. These partnerships allow police access to a special law enforcement portal that they can use to bulk request footage from Ring cameras within a half mile radius. The requests appear as an email in which users are asked to “share” their footage with police, usually for windows of between eight and twelve hours. With cameras inside and outside of people’s homes, this extends the reach (and vision) of police into once protected spaces.
Suddenly, there are rooms in a person’s private home that may not be private by virtue of a small window that the state, and others, can peer through. And peer they have. Recently it was reported that four Ring employees were fired for watching footage from user’s cameras. Bigger news emerged late in 2019 when footage began to surface of malicious actors seizing control of Ring cameras inside peoples’ homes and using them to harass children, traumatize families, and hurl racial epithets.
Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve. (Visual Capitalist, March 16, 2020)
Now Is the Time to Overreact. (The Atlantic, March 16, 2020)
If the measures we're taking to fight the coronavirus work, they'll look excessive later on. But the alternative is worse.
NEW: Top 4 Moments from the Biden/Sanders Debate (5-min. video; The Recount, March 16, 2020)
Trump claims coronavirus is under control -- contradicting reality and his own top expert. (CNN, March 16, 2020)
America's top infectious diseases expert is warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die unless every citizen joins an effort to blunt the coronavirus pandemic -- only to be contradicted by President Donald Trump, who insists the virus is under "tremendous" control.
The fresh sign of Trump's unwillingness to accept the full, sobering reality of the outbreak came as an anxious America knuckles down to its new self-isolating reality. The country is bracing for the full fury of the virus that is already escalating sharply and is set to subject the foundations of basic life — the nation's health care, economic and political systems — to a fateful test.
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.
Poll: Voters split on Trump’s handling of coronavirus outbreak. (Politico, March 15, 2020)
The poll also shows a significant share of voters shrugging at the idea of major disruptions to their lives.
“Simply put, it is very clear that partisanship has infected our views of the coronavirus,” Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt told NBC News.
Trump 'offers large sums' for exclusive US access to coronavirus vaccine. (The Guardian, March 15, 2020)
German government tries to fight off aggressive takeover bid by US, say reports. The German health minister Jens Spahn said that a takeover of the CureVac company by the Trump administration was “off the table”. CureVac would only develop vaccine “for the whole world”, Spahn said, “not for individual countries”.
Ex-Obama Official Reports It’s Too Late to Stop ‘over 1 Million’ U.S. Coronavirus Deaths. (Breitbart, March 15, 2020)
Andrew Slavitt, Barack Obama’s former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is quoting experts who say more than one million Americans are already doomed because the “virus was not contained.”
“Currently experts expect over 1 million deaths in the U.S. since the virus was not contained & we cannot even test for it,” Slavitt tweeted Thursday. “The original sin is Trump’s months long denial and his dismantling of public health and response infrastructure.” How to Protect Older People From the Coronavirus (New York Times, March 14, 2020)
People over 60, and especially over 80, are particularly vulnerable to severe or fatal infection. Of the confirmed cases in China to date, nearly 15 percent of patients over 80 have died. For those under 50, the death rate was well below 1 percent.
There is no evidence yet that older people are significantly more likely to acquire the coronavirus than younger people. But medical experts say that if people over 60 are infected, they are more likely to have severe, life-threatening disease, even if their general health is good. Older people with underlying medical conditions are at particularly high risk. Experts attribute some of the risk to a weakening of the immune system with age.
Here are some steps to reduce their risk.
Visualizing the History of Pandemics (Visual Capitalist, March 14, 2020)
As humans have spread across the world, so have infectious diseases. Even in this modern era, outbreaks are nearly constant, though not every outbreak reaches pandemic level as the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has. Today’s visualization outlines some of history’s most deadly pandemics, from the Antonine Plague to the current COVID-19 event.
100 years ago, another epidemic terrorized Boston. (Boston Globe, March 14, 2020)
When, in late August 1918, a handful of sailors stationed at Commonwealth Pier in what is now the South Boston Seaport fell terribly ill, no one in the city paid much mind. Beyond the pier, in fact, no one really noticed at all. Quietly, a few sailors became two dozen. Soon there were scores of sick men at naval installations around the city. And then, in the span of a few weeks, thousands all over Boston and beyond were infected, with more falling ill each day. Public gatherings were shut down, hospitals overwhelmed. Daily death tolls soared above 100. And even as authorities argued over the seriousness of the outbreak and how to contend with it, the sickness known as Spanish flu turned into a virulent and terrifying wave that would sweep from Boston across the country and ultimately kill millions around the world, casting a shadow of fear that would span a generation.
Boston’s reaction to a dangerous virus hasn’t changed much in a century: A narrative of the Spanish flu in the city where it began.
Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve” (Washington Post, March 14, 2020)
They’ve Contained the Coronavirus. Here’s How. (New York Times, March 13, 2020)
Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have brought outbreaks under control — and without resorting to China’s draconian measures.
If the United States is a week behind Italy … brace yourself for horror that still seems impossible. (Daily Kos, March 13, 2020)
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.
China Spins Tale That the U.S. Army Started the Coronavirus Epidemic. (New York Times, March 13, 2020)
After criticizing American officials for politicizing the pandemic, Chinese officials and news outlets have floated unfounded theories that the United States was the source of the virus.
Meet the 17-Year-Old Behind a Website Tracking Coronavirus Cases That Is Now a Vital Global Resource. (15-mion. video; Democracy Now, March 13, 2020)
A teenager’s website tracking coronavirus has become one of the most vital resources for people seeking accurate and updated numbers on the pandemic. The URL is nCoV2019.live (and later will be GermTracker.com). We speak with 17-year-old Avi Schiffmann, a high school junior from Mercer Island outside Seattle, who started the site in late December, when coronavirus had not yet been detected outside of China. Now the site has been visited by tens of millions, from every country on Earth. It tracks deaths, numbers of cases locally and globally, and provides an interactive map, information on the disease, and a Twitter feed. The resource updates every minute or so, and pulls information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere.
Why is Katie Porter (Congresswoman from California) not being talked about every day on this site? (w/videos; Daily Kos, March 13, 2020)
NEW: Harvard students sue the university over its investments in the prison industrial complex. (Daily Kos, March 12, 2020)
Students have been calling upon university leadership to draw the connection between its past complicity with chattel slavery and their present-day investment in the prison industry.
Lawmakers, technologists fight over encryption in child exploitation bill. (Washington Post, March 12, 2020)
The dispute prompted by a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing demonstrates the vast gulf between advocates of super-strong encryption, who say it’s vital for cybersecurity, and law enforcement hawks who fear encrypted communications could give free rein to child predators and other criminals.
The bill at issue, the EARN IT Act, would strip tech companies of liability protections when their users share child pornography and other materials that exploit children. It would also establish a 19-member commission to create rules companies can follow to earn back that liability shield.
Days Behind Italy - For Doctors and Clinical People, by Dr. Jordan Shlain, M.D. (LinkedIn, March 12, 2020)
Iran's coronavirus burial pits are so vast they’re visible from space. (Washington Post, March 12, 2020)
NEW: German Climate Activist Luisa Neubauer: More than a Virus: What the Coronavirus teaches us (Der Stern, March 12, 2020)
For the first time in the history of "Fridays For Future" we are cancelling our climate-crisis strikes. They were supposed to take place all over Bavaria before the local elections. Then came Corona. And with it much more than a Virus.
Whoever is listening very carefully to the medical experts and takes especially firm and unflichning action, is being celebrated as a Savior in times of great need. Whoever would want to do exactly the same with regard to the climate crisis would immediately be sent home, branded an economic traitor, radicalinski and arch-enemy of the little man.
Thus, the decision in Bavaria to cancel the important mega-strikes can be seen as a reversal of the generation justice. Medically, the ‘Fridays-for-Future’ generation belongs to those who have to fear the least [from the virus]. The threat to get seriously - or fatally- ill from Coronavirus increases with age. We don’t cancel the strike for ourselves, we are cancelling it for our grandparents. Just as we are wash our hands, sneeze into our ellbows, and wash our hands again for our grandparents and parents, just to be safe. Because we have a societal interest in minimizing the spread.
This feeling of responsibility doesn’t have to appear in this form - disgusting examples of the opposite are also revealing themselves outside empty supermarkets. That is a question of leadership. But just as politicians can take a crisis seriously, when they really want to, a society can decide to respond with love and solidarity. That’s why we are cancelling our events, that’s why we are protecting our elders and keeping our hands in our pockets.
And in turn we ask older people to think of us. In the short term this will be less about Coronavirus, but about a politics of a sustainable future. And that can be elected on Sunday in Bavaria. It’s not the young people who will determine the results of the local Bavarian election, who will determine the political course that is chosen today. They are just the ones who will be affected the longest by its outcome. The election will be determined by the old. We count on them, even without huge climate strikes, to think of us and the climate on Sunday.
U.S.-European virus cooperation breaks down as E.U. leaders say travel ban came ‘without consultation’. (Washington Post, March 12, 2020)
Of all the slights between Washington and Europe in recent years, the new travel restrictions represented a blow an order of magnitude beyond previous disputes. In a short statement on Thursday morning rare in its directness, the European Union expressed only exasperation.
"The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," the statement read, co-signed by E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
NEW: Paul Krugman: It’s a MAGA Microbe Meltdown. (New York Times, March 12, 2020)
Trump utterly fails to rise to his first real crisis. His response has been worse than even his harshest critics could have imagined. He has treated a dire threat as a public relations problem, combining denial with frantic blame-shifting. His administration has failed to deliver the most basic prerequisite of pandemic response, widespread testing to track the disease’s spread. He has failed to implement recommendations of public health experts, instead imposing pointless travel bans on foreigners when all indications are that the disease is already well established in the United States. And his response to the economic fallout has veered between complacency and hysteria, with a strong admixture of cronyism.
It’s something of a mystery why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, normally a highly competent agency, have utterly failed to provide resources for widespread coronavirus testing during the pandemic’s crucial early stages. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the incompetence is related to politics, perhaps to Trump’s desire to play down the threat.
According to Reuters, the Trump administration has ordered health agencies to treat all coronavirus deliberations as classified. This makes no sense and is indeed destructive in terms of public policy, but it makes perfect sense if the administration doesn’t want the public to know how its actions are endangering American lives.
And when it comes to the economy, Trump seems to fluctuate day to day — even hour to hour — between assertions that everything is fine and demands for enormous, ill-conceived stimulus. His big idea for the economy is a complete payroll tax holiday. According to Bloomberg News, he told Republican senators that he wanted the holiday to extend “through the November election so that taxes don’t go back up before voters decide whether to return him to office.” That is, he apparently said the quiet part out loud.
This would be an enormous move. Payroll taxes are 5.9 percent of G.D.P.; by comparison, the Obama stimulus of 2009-2010 peaked at about 2.5 percent of G.D.P. Yet it would be very poorly targeted: big breaks for well-paid workers, nothing for the unemployed or those without paid sick leave
Trump also reportedly wants to provide aid to specific industries, including oil and shale — a continuation of his administration’s efforts to subsidize fossil fuels.
What we’re seeing here is a meltdown — not just a meltdown of the markets, but a meltdown of Trump’s mind. When bad things happen, there are only three things he knows how to do: insist that things are great and his policies are perfect, cut taxes, and throw money at his cronies.
Now he’s faced with a crisis where none of these standbys will work, where he actually needs to cooperate with Nancy Pelosi to avoid catastrophe. What we saw in Wednesday’s speech was that he’s completely incapable of rising to the occasion. We needed to see a leader; what we saw was an incompetent, delusional blowhard.
NEW:
Trump’s travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts. (Politico, March 12, 2020)
The president announced new travel restrictions on Europeans as the coronavirus pandemic escalated, but a few key spots on the continent were spared. President Donald Trump’s new European travel restrictions have a convenient side effect: They exempt nations where three Trump-owned golf resorts are located.
Trump is already under fire for visiting his properties in both countries as president, leading to U.S. taxpayer money being spent at his own firms. The president has been saddled with lawsuits and investigations throughout his term alleging that he’s violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting taxpayer money other than his salary.
The U.S. government proclamation initiating the ban targets 26 European countries that comprise a visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen Area. The United Kingdom, which is home to Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, and Ireland, which is home to another Trump-branded hotel and golf course at Doonbeg, do not participate in the Schengen Area. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are also not part of the Schengen Area. All three of the resorts are struggling financially.
NEW: White House told federal health agency to classify coronavirus deliberations. (Reuters, March 11, 2020)
The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials.
One of the administration officials suggested the security clearances for meetings at HHS were imposed not to protect national security but to keep the information within a tight circle, to prevent leaks. “It seemed to be a tool for the White House - for the NSC - to keep participation in these meetings low,” the official said.
Two Democratic senators, both senior members of the Intelligence Committee expressed dismay Wednesday in statements to Reuters.
“Pandemics demand transparency and competence,” said Mark Warner of Virginia. “Classification authority should never be abused in order to hide what the government is doing, or not doing, just to satisfy domestic political concerns.”
Ron Wyden of Oregon said: “The executive branch needs to immediately come forward and explain whether the White House hid information from the American people as a result of bogus classification.”
NEW:
‘He’s gonna get us all killed’: sense of unease after Trump coronavirus speech (The Guardian, March 11, 2020)
The president began his speech as many leaders do, then reverted to his familiar nationalism and threw in a bit of campaigning.
NEW: Seattle lab only uncovered extent of Washington coronavirus outbreak after breaking government rules. (Independent, March 11, 2020)
Tests performed without specific permission from relevant authorities showed that virus had already established foothold in US and was spreading in Seattle area.
NEW: COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US (Global Research, March 11, 2020)
Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say. (ProPublica, March 11, 2020)
Five former city employees and a former Trump Organization employee say the company used middlemen to pay New York City tax assessors to lower building assessments and pay less taxes in the 1980s and 1990s - testimony implicating Trump’s business interests more directly in connection with a real estate housing scam that came to light in 2002. The five former city employees were among more than a dozen who had been indicted in 2002, in what The New York Times called the “largest tax fraud case in the history of New York City government.”
Trump has always maintained that he was ignorant of any of this happening, including the claim that in “one instance, tax payments on property owned by Donald Trump were instead applied to the account of a corrupt property owner.” After the indictments, two Trump entities sued New York City, claiming that he had not paid bribes to lower assessments and thus the Trump World Tower near the United Nations was unfairly valued by assessors higher than it should have been. When Trump filed the suit, he was quoted in The New York Times saying, “It is impossible for any one of those property owners who used Schussler not to have known what was going on.”
The entity that owned the Trump World Tower separately sued the city seeking a tax break for creating affordable housing, and the city ultimately settled both suits together. Trump’s company received a tax break worth more than $100 million.
Let's just stop and review what a useless bunch of creatures Senate Republicans really are. (Daily Kos, March 11, 2020)
Our first clue that Senate Republicans planned to be exactly useless for the entirety of the 116th Congress was when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, backed by his caucus, conspicuously stood on the sidelines for weeks on end during what turned into the longest government shutdown in history, from Dec. 22, 2018—Jan. 25, 2019. Donald Trump alone manufactured that shutdown by demanding that nearly $6 billion in border wall funding be tucked into the budget deal, and McConnell decided he would simply let Nancy Pelosi and her newly elected majority tame Trump rather than help find a solution.
In fact, McConnell seemed to have a good sense of exactly how useless Senate Republicans would be pretty early in Trump's administration. After the GOP-led Congress squandered most of 2017 on its Obamacare repeal debacle, Republicans just barely squeezed out their tax giveaway to the rich and powerful before the end of the year on December 20, 2017. By February 2018, McConnell was already selling his Senate majority as being "in the personnel business"—he just forgot to add the word, exclusively. Gloating over his chamber's unique lack of productivity, McConnell even embraced the nickname "Grim Reaper" for making his Senate the place where the people's business goes to die. McConnell has single-handedly refused to consider more than 400 bills passed by Pelosi’s House of Representatives.
As for the one major piece of legislation Senate Republicans did manage to pass, that tax bill has now ballooned the deficit to nearly $1 trillion, hamstringing the government's ability to respond to a sudden jolt to the economy like the coronavirus. Speaking of which, McConnell's now running his "let Pelosi handle it" 2.0 play, tagging House Democrats with the sole responsibility of negotiating an economic response to the crisis with the White House.
Simultaneous to that dereliction of duty, Republicans have stayed almost completely mum as Trump has spewed harmful lie upon harmful lie about the coronavirus. In fact, when Trump went to visit with the do-nothing GOP caucus Tuesday (because he refuses to meet with Pelosi), Trump told reporters the coronavirus would simply "go away, just stay calm," adding, "It's really working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen." No. Hard no. A lot of good things are not happening. But to date, Senate Republicans have taken a total pass on correcting any of Trump's disinformation campaign.
Instead, they seem pretty content to rest on their success of banding together to run a sham impeachment trial with zero witnesses and ultimately vote to keep the most corrupt president in American history in office. And by single-handedly refusing to remove Trump, Senate Republicans can now proudly share the credit for the epic economic and public health crisis that is quickly rippling through the country now. Heckuva job, Mitchy. See you in November.
Heather Cox Richardson: Today was the day the seriousness of the novel coronavirus finally sank in at the level of the federal government. (Letters From An American, March 11, 2020)
On Monday, NBA player for the Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert touched every microphone at a media event, seemingly to show he was not concerned about the coronavirus; tonight he tested positive for it, and the NBA suspended the remainder of the season.
Gobert’s rapid swing from flippancy to involvement looked a lot like that of the administration. We learned today that the National Security Council within the White House has classified all top-level meetings about the novel coronavirus. This is unusual and, of course, meant the number of people in the room was small (you needed a security clearance to be there), and the chance of leaks low, so that much of the official discussion of this public emergency remains secret. Nonetheless, the NSC’s spokesman says that ““From day one of the response to the coronavirus, NSC has insisted on the principle of radical transparency.”
After weeks of downplaying the dangers of Covid-19, the administration today changed its approach. This morning—a million years ago—Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, repeatedly told the House that the president was wrong to downplay the virus, and then, abruptly, the hearing ended when the expert witnesses were called to a meeting at the White House. By afternoon, though, it was no longer possible to stifle bad news: a staffer in the office of Washington Senator Maria Cantwell’s Washington, D.C. office tested positive for the virus, and married actors Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks announced that they have contracted Covid-19.
At 9:00 tonight, Trump made the second public address of his presidency, this time to announce the measures his administration would take to combat the viral infection the World Health Organization is now calling a pandemic. The speech was more a performance than a set of policies; his people had to correct the misstatements right afterward. In the speech, in a monotone except for one short moment when he went off script and seemed to come alive, Trump took credit for acting quickly early on to stop flights from China. He went on to announce a ban on flights from Europe for 30 days beginning Friday (the policy is actually quite a bit more limited than he suggested), blaming Europe for “seeding” the virus in America-- his focus still seems to be on containment. He made it sound as if there would be an embargo on cargoes from Europe, too, but that was a misstatement. There was no mention of more testing, which is key to controlling the spread of the coronavirus which is obviously already spreading domestically within the country, except to say that he had arranged for health insurers to drop the co-pays on the tests (that no one can get). There was no mention of testing for uninsured people.Trump also said that the government would defer tax payments for some businesses, but made no mention of unemployment benefits, food assistance, or paid leave, and he reiterated that the economy is strong.
As soon as he finished speaking, stock futures began to drop. And drop. And drop. By midnight, it looked as if the Dow will open tomorrow with a decline of about 950 points or 4%.
While we are all focused—with excellent reason—on the pandemic, I cannot help but worry about what is happening when our eyes are elsewhere. Trump has always cared primarily about money, and this sudden drop of the market at night, thanks to his words, seems to me terribly opportune. I am 100% willing to accept that I am just too cynical about politics and money, but “follow the money” has always stood me in good stead when trying to figure things out. I do not know what it means that the market took such a tumble thanks to words that pretty clearly were going to make it fall—perhaps Trump just made an embarrassing mistake, not realizing it would tank the markets—but I think it bears watching.
Two days ago, I missed altogether something else that bears watching, and the fact that I missed it suggests it was barely covered—I’m generally all over the news. On March 9, 2020, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov met Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and, according to the press release from the Russians, discussed “implementation of the arrangements reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump during the summits in Helsinki in 2018 and Osaka in 2019.” There was virtually no coverage of this meeting in the United States; the only record I found was a readout from the Treasury Department, saying just that the meeting had happened. The Helsinki meeting is the one where Trump and Putin met for two hours alone with only their interpreters in the room. The Osaka meeting came just after Putin declared western liberalism obsolete. Perhaps this meeting was nothing. But, coming as it does in the midst of Russia’s oil war with Saudi Arabia, and alluding to the two-hour conference that so irregularly cut all the usual advisors and staff out of the room, it would sure be nice to know a bit more about it.
Dow Ends 11-Year Bull Market as Coronavirus Defies Economic Remedies. (New York Times, March 11, 2020)
Stocks plunged anew as the outbreak was officially declared a pandemic and policies to address its impact proved lacking or ineffective.
Governments in Europe were struggling to manage their budgets even before the virus struck, limiting their ability to spend heavily to keep their economies afloat. And in the United States, which faces no such constraints, President Trump has resisted aggressive stimulus measures that many economists say are necessary to contain the damage. “If the Trump administration and Congress can’t get it together quickly and put together a sizable and responsible package, then a recession seems like a real possibility here,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics. He said he saw a roughly 50 percent chance of a recession in the next year.
As recently as a week ago, few economists thought a recession was likely. Most thought that any damage from the virus would be brief, and that the economy would experience a sharp, “V-shaped” recovery. Forecasts have become significantly gloomier, however, as the virus has spread in the United States and as the effects around the world have become more pronounced. Italy on Wednesday ordered almost all businesses nationwide to close after earlier travel restrictions failed to contain the virus. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that as much as 70 percent of her country’s population was likely to become infected. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, acknowledging its worldwide scope.
Coronavirus crisis spreads: Google tells North American employees to work from home. (USA Today, March 11, 2020)
It extended that recommendation to employees in Europe, the Middle East and Africa starting Thursday.
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.
F.D.A. Halts Overseas Inspections of Drugs and Devices, Citing Coronavirus. (New York Times, March 10, 2020)
The agency said the spread of the virus globally prompted its decision. It had already pulled back from China, but this move will also affect India. Experts estimate that about 80 percent of the materials for active ingredients used in American drugs are made in India or China.
DHS Must Suspend Certain Immigration Enforcement Practices During the Coronavirus Outbreak. (Center for American Progress, March 10, 2020)
Public health officials are advising that we are past the point of trying to avoid an outbreak through containment and must now begin adopting policies to mitigate the spread. According to a letter by more than 800 public health and legal experts, one important step that the Trump administration could take to ensure that all people in the United States have the ability to seek necessary medical care—regardless of immigration status—is to issue a formal statement assuring the public that health care facilities will be “immigration enforcement-free zones” for the duration of the outbreak. Such a statement would be appropriate—and, indeed, entirely expected—under any circumstance, but it is particularly important in light of the current administration’s track record on immigration.
Echoing the call of these experts, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—specifically U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—to suspend all immigration enforcement actions at or near hospitals or other medical facilities. Additionally, lawmakers have demanded that CBP and ICE formally announce this suspension to the public, consistent with historical practices taken during national disasters and other public health emergencies.
Coronavirus Conference Gets Canceled Because of Coronavirus. (Bloomberg, March 10, 2020)
‘It’s Just Everywhere Already’: How Delays in Testing Set Back the U.S. Coronavirus Response (New York Times, March 10, 2020)
A series of missed chances by the federal government to ensure more widespread testing came during the early days of the outbreak, when containment would have been easier.
CDC says nearly 4,900 people tested for coronavirus by public health labs. (The Hill, March 10, 2020)
Health officials have acknowledged there are likely undetected cases of the disease in the U.S. due to the slow start in testing caused by a faulty test developed by the CDC that was sent to public health labs. The CDC and the public health labs it works with throughout the U.S. also have a very small capacity to perform tests.
Commercial labs and hospitals will be testing the majority of possible cases, but those operations are just now starting to pick up. Public health labs received 75,000 tests last week. More than 1 million tests were sent to commercial labs and hospitals last week. NEW: Bridging the Gap: Wealth Isn’t Just for the Wealthy. (Visual Capitalist, March 10, 2020)
NEW: Visualized: Where 5G Will Change The World (Visual Capitalist, March 9, 2020)
An hour after landing on Air Force One, Matt Gaetz announces he's under self-quarantine for virus. (Daily Kos, March 9, 2020)
CPAC Attendees Insist COVID-19 Is No Big Deal; Then Freak Out When It Turns Out They Were Exposed. (Daily Kos, March 9, 2020)
How the Trump Campaign Took Over the G.O.P. (New York Times, March 9, 2020)
President Trump’s campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party’s voter data and fund-raising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure.
Working under the aegis of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with the cooperation of Trump appointees at the Republican National Committee, the operatives have consolidated power — and made money — in a way not possible in an earlier, more transparent analog era. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and a range of other Republican clients.
The takeover of the Republican Party’s under-the-hood political machinery parallels the president’s domination of a party that once shunned him, reflected in his speedy impeachment trial and summary acquittal. Elected Republicans have learned the political peril of insufficient fealty. Now, by commanding the party’s repository of voter data and creating a powerful pipeline for small donations, the Trump campaign and key party officials have made it increasingly difficult for Republicans to mount modern, digital campaigns without the president’s support.
Ancient shell shows days were half-hour shorter 70 million years ago. (American Geophysics Union, March 9, 2020)
Beer stein-shaped distant relative of modern clams captured snapshots of hot days in the late Cretaceous.
Apple: Worried about coronavirus? You can now clean your iPhone with alcohol and Clorox disinfecting wipes. (USA Today, March 9, 2020)
U.S. markets crater as coronavirus, oil prices trigger brief halt in trading. (Washington Post, March 9, 2020)
Oil prices dive to the $30s while investors flee for safe havens like U.S. treasuries and gold, amplifying recession fears.
The threat of a coronavirus-fueled oil war and ongoing panic around the outbreak brought markets to stunning lows Monday, triggering a forced halt to trading after the Standard & Poor’s 500 index sank 7 percent shortly after the opening bell. The Dow Jones industrial average cratered more than 2,000 points at the open, clawed back some losses, then drove the day’s lows to new depths.
The New York Stock Exchange tripped the so-called “circuit breaker” at a time of relentless volatility for global markets, which have been battered for weeks as the deadly outbreak continues to unfold. The forced 15-minute brake initially appeared to have a stabilizing effect, but by mid-afternoon, the Dow had skidded more than 2,100 points, or nearly 8 percent. The S&P 500 was down 7.4 percent and the Nasdaq off 6.8 percent.
Europe, With Eye on Italy Coronavirus Quarantine, Plans Next Moves. (New York Times, March 8, 2020)
Italy’s decision to quarantine a quarter of its population, paralyzing its economic heartland and affecting about 15 million people, sent tremors throughout Europe’s economy. It will deprive German carmakers of critical parts, force factories in other parts of Europe to close and almost certainly tip the continent into recession, according to analysts.
It is also testing Europe’s unity, which was already frayed by Britain’s departure from the bloc six weeks ago. Officials in Brussels appealed fruitlessly to France, Germany and the Czech Republic to lift controls on the export of protective medical gear, which they imposed to head off shortages at home. In Britain, some stores began imposing peacetime rationing.
NEW: There Is a ‘Tipping Point’ Before Coronavirus Kills. (Bloomberg, March 8, 2020)
The new coronavirus causes little more than a cough if it stays in the nose and throat, which it does for the majority of people unlucky enough to be infected.
Danger starts when it reaches the lungs. One in seven patients develops difficulty breathing and other severe complications, while 6% become critical. These patients typically suffer failure of the respiratory and other vital systems, and sometimes develop septic shock, according to a report by last month’s joint World Health Organization-China mission. The progression from mild or moderate to severe can occur very quickly.
NEW:
ER Doc 411: Report from the front lines on COVID19 and some practical thoughts (Daily Kos, March 8, 2020)
While the virus may live on surfaces, there is little evidence that transmission can occur from contact with surfaces touched by infected patients. This is important: you most likely CANNOT catch COVID19 from handling mail or shipping boxes from China, Italy or other areas with currently high prevalence rates of the disease.
NEW: Not His First Epidemic: Dr. Anthony Fauci Sticks to the Facts. (New York Times, March 8, 2020)
Where politicians fumble and other government health officials step back, he steps up to explain.
For Trump, Coronavirus Proves to Be an Enemy He Can’t Tweet Away. (New York Times, March 8, 2020)
Defending against criticism of his handling of the coronavirus, President Trump suggested the other day that he could hardly have been expected to be ready for such an unexpected crisis. “Who would have thought?” he asked during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nerve center for the government’s response to the outbreak. “Who would have thought we would even be having the subject?”
Actually, quite a few people would have thought, and did — including the officials in his own White House who were in charge of preparing for just such a pandemic only to have their office shut down in a reorganization in 2018. “The threat of pandemic flu is the No. 1 health security concern,” one of the officials said the day before that happened two years ago. “Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no.”
For a president who lives in the moment, rarely planning too far ahead, the coronavirus has proved to be a leadership challenge he was not prepared for either. The outbreak that has rattled the nation does not respond to Mr. Trump’s favorite instruments of power: It cannot be cowed by Twitter posts, it cannot be shot down by drones, it cannot be overcome by party solidarity, it cannot be overpowered by campaign rally chants.
Mr. Trump, who is at his strongest politically when he has a human enemy to attack, has seemed less certain of how to take on an invisible killer. The role of calming natural leader is not one that has come easily as he struggles to find the balance between public reassurance and Panglossian dismissiveness. He has predicted that the virus will “miraculously” disappear on its own with warmer weather, suggested a vaccine will be available soon and insisted anyone who wants to be tested can be — all overstated or inaccurate.
He has expressed an astonishing lack of knowledge while at the same time claiming to be a medical savant. He has treated the crisis as a partisan battle, wearing his red Keep America Great campaign cap to the C.D.C. and calling the governor presiding over the state with the highest death toll a “snake.” He even admitted that he wanted to leave passengers stranded on a cruise ship rather than see statistics for the number of cases on American soil go up because it would look bad.
“If we really want to talk about what is going to potentially create panic in this country, it’s an administration that’s just not being straight with the American public about the extent of this epidemic and the real-life consequences that could be put upon Americans,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS.
Dr. Jonathan S. Reiner, a prominent cardiologist who treated former Vice President Dick Cheney and wrote a book with him, said he was convinced that the Trump administration failed to move more quickly to test for the virus after it emerged in China because the White House did not want to admit the scope of the threat. “When the story is finally written,” he said on Sunday, “we’ll come to understand that tens of thousands of lives were placed at risk because of a political decision made by the president.”
Paul Krugman: Thomas Piketty Turns Marx on His Head. (New York Times, March 8, 2020)
Seven years ago the French economist Thomas Piketty released “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” a magnum opus on income inequality. Economists already knew and admired Piketty’s scholarly work, and many — myself included — offered the book high praise. Remarkably, the book also became a huge international best seller.
In retrospect, however, what professionals saw in “Capital” wasn’t the same thing the broader audience saw. Economists already knew about rising income inequality. What excited them was Piketty’s novel hypothesis about the growing importance of disparities in wealth, especially inherited wealth, as opposed to earnings. We are, Piketty suggested, returning to the kind of dynastic, “patrimonial” capitalism that prevailed in the late 19th century.
But for the book-buying public, the big revelation of “Capital” was simply the fact of soaring inequality.
His new book, “Capital and Ideology,” weighs in at more than 1,000 pages. There is, of course, nothing necessarily wrong with writing a large book to propound important ideas: Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was a pretty big book too (although only half as long as Piketty’s latest). The problem is that the length of “Capital and Ideology” seems, at least to me, to reflect in part a lack of focus.
To be fair, the book does advance at least the outline of a grand theory of inequality, which might be described as Marx on his head. In Marxian dogma, a society’s class structure is determined by underlying, impersonal forces, technology and the modes of production that technology dictates. Piketty, however, sees inequality as a social phenomenon, driven by human institutions. Institutional change, in turn, reflects the ideology that dominates society: “Inequality is neither economic nor technological; it is ideological and political.”
But where does ideology come from? At any given moment a society’s ideology may seem immutable, but Piketty argues that history is full of “ruptures” that create “switch points,” when the actions of a few people can cause a lasting change in a society’s trajectory.
To make that case, Piketty provides what amounts to a history of the world viewed through the lens of inequality. The book’s archetypal case study is French society over the past two and a half centuries. But Piketty ranges very far afield, telling us about everything from the composition of modern Swedish corporate boards to the role of Brahmins in the pre-colonial Hindu kingdom of Pudukkottai.
He describes four broad inequality regimes, obviously inspired by French history but, he argues, of more general relevance. First are “ternary” societies divided into functional classes — clergy, nobility and everyone else. Second are “ownership” societies, in which it’s not who you are that matters but what you have legal title to. Then come the social democracies that emerged in the 20th century, which granted considerable power and privilege to workers, ranging from union representation to government-provided social benefits. Finally, there’s the current era of “hypercapitalism,” which is sort of an ownership society on steroids.
Piketty tries to apply this schema to many societies across time and space. His discussion is punctuated by many charts and tables: Using a combination of extrapolation and guesswork to produce quantitative estimates for eras that predate modern data collection is a Piketty trademark, and it’s a technique he applies extensively here, I’d say to very good effect. It is, for example, startling to see evidence that France on the eve of World War I was, if anything, more unequal than it was before the French Revolution.
But while there is a definite Francocentric feel to “Capital and Ideology,” for me, at least, the vast amount of ground it covers raises a couple of awkward questions.
The first is whether Piketty is a reliable guide to such a large territory. His book combines history, sociology, political analysis and economic data for dozens of societies. Is he really enough of a polymath to pull that off? I was struck, for example, by his extensive discussion of the evolution of slavery and serfdom, which made no mention of the classic work of Evsey Domar of M.I.T., who argued that the more or less simultaneous rise of serfdom in Russia and slavery in the New World were driven by the opening of new land, which made labor scarce and would have led to rising wages in the absence of coercion. This happens to be a topic about which I thought I knew something; how many other topics are missing crucial pieces of the literature?
The second question is whether the accumulation of cases actually strengthens Piketty’s core analysis. It wasn’t clear to me that it does. To be honest, at a certain point I felt a sense of dread each time another society entered the picture; the proliferation of stories began to seem like an endless series of digressions rather than the cumulative construction of an argument.
Eventually, however, Piketty comes down to the meat of the book: his explanation of what caused the recent surge in inequality and what can be done about it.
For Piketty, rising inequality is at root a political phenomenon. The social-democratic framework that made Western societies relatively equal for a couple of generations after World War II, he argues, was dismantled, not out of necessity, but because of the rise of a “neo-proprietarian” ideology. Indeed, this is a view shared by many, though not all, economists. These days, attributing inequality mainly to the ineluctable forces of technology and globalization is out of fashion, and there is much more emphasis on factors like the decline of unions, which has a lot to do with political decisions.
But why did policy take a hard-right turn? Piketty places much of the blame on center-left parties, which, as he notes, increasingly represent highly educated voters. These more and more elitist parties, he argues, lost interest in policies that helped the disadvantaged, and hence forfeited their support. And his clear implication is that social democracy can be revived by refocusing on populist economic policies, and winning back the working class.
Piketty could be right about this, but as far as I can tell, most political scientists would disagree. In the United States, at least, they stress the importance of race and social issues in driving the white working class away from Democrats, and doubt that a renewed focus on equality would bring those voters back. After all, during the Obama years the Affordable Care Act extended health insurance to many disadvantaged voters, while tax rates on top incomes went up substantially. Yet the white working class went heavily for Trump, and stayed Republican in 2018.
Maybe the political science consensus is wrong. What I can say with confidence, though, is that until the final 300 pages “Capital and Ideology” doesn’t do much to make the case for Piketty’s views on modern political economy.
Official: White House didn’t want to tell seniors not to fly. (Associated Press, March 8, 2020)
The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus, a federal official told The Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention submitted the plan this week as a way of trying to control the virus, but White House officials ordered the air travel recommendation be removed, said the official who had direct knowledge of the plan. Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC.
For weeks, cases in the U.S. remained very low, but the count has been accelerating in the last several days.
President Donald Trump visited the CDC in Atlanta on Friday, where he defended his administration’s handling of the outbreak and tried to reassure Americans that the government had the virus under control. But Trump also detoured from that message, calling Washington state’s governor a “snake” and saying he’d prefer that people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship be left aboard so they wouldn’t be added to the nation’s tally.
Chris Hayes explodes Trump's deliberate gaslighting lies about CoronaVirus. (Daily Kos, March 7, 2020)
This week we’ve had quite a show on display. That show would be Donald John Trump repeatedly lying about the impact, scope and reaction to the CoronaVirus in the U.S. But it’s not just a random string of boneheaded lies, it’s part of a plan. A plan that Trump thinks will keep himself in the White House in 2020.
Paid to Stay Home: Europe’s Safety Net Could Ease Toll of Coronavirus. (New York Times, March 6, 2020)
Europe’s social policies are sometimes seen as overly generous. Yet they may help cushion the economic impact of the virus.
How Working-Class Life Is Killing Americans, in Charts (New York Times, March 6, 2020)
The battle over encryption is now an open war. (Washington Post, March 6, 2020)
Tech companies and cybersecurity advocates are now in an open war with Congress as they face the most serious legislative threat to strong encryption protections in more than a decade. Hours after leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced the EARN IT Act — which threatens to weaken encryption in order to better curb online child sexual exploitation — industry leaders and cybersecurity advocates savaged the bill. They called it dangerous and unconstitutional, and a sneaky way to force companies to abandon strong encryption.
Will Elizabeth Warren Endorse a Candidate? She Has a Few Options. (New York Times, March 6, 2020)
Ms. Warren’s support is being sought by both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, and her political future is of great interest to Democrats.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren to end presidential campaign. (Washington Post, March 5, 2020)
Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts who promised to deliver “big, structural change” and vigorously fight corruption, ended her presidential bid Thursday after a series of devastating primary results crippled her once-promising campaign. “We didn’t reach our goal, but what we have done together – what you have done – has made a lasting difference,” Warren said in a phone call with her campaign staff. “It’s not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters – and the changes will have ripples for years to come.”
Warren, 70, entered the Democratic Party race in February 2019 after months of anticipation and quickly built a formidable organization. She eschewed large-dollar fundraisers, often saying that defeating President Trump would take a true grass-roots movement. Warren at times electrified voters and attracted big crowds, and at several points she seemed a good bet to win the nomination. She turned in powerful debate performances, issued dozens of policy proposals and was an impassioned, efficient campaigner.
The EPA says these cleaning products kill coronavirus. (SlashGear, March 5, 2020)
Judge agrees to give House Democrats more time in Trump tax-returns case. (Politico, March 5, 2020)
The decision comes in the wake of a recent ruling in a similar case that lawmakers don’t have the power to sue the executive branch.
The Trump effect: Democratic turnout soars on Super Tuesday. (Daily Kos, March 4, 2020)
participation in Democratic primaries is soaring in 2020 as compared to 2016 and even 2008 in some places.
In some states, that's partly a function of moving from the caucus system to the much less time-intensive primary process. Those states include Colorado, where turnout was up about 517% over 2016; Maine quadrupled voter participation from about 47,000 in '16 to some 194,000 with 90% reporting; Minnesota also almost quadrupled from 205,000-plus in ‘16 to 745,000-plus Tuesday night; and Utah is up about 120% over last cycle.
But where participation soared was another important part of the story, with the suburban areas that helped push Democrats to sweeping victories in the midterms again showing a surge in voting. Virginia participation nearly doubled to 1.3 million voters, and Joe Biden won nearly every county there, including in the suburbs that surround D.C. Additionally, Biden beat Sanders by double digits in the suburb-heavy counties of Texas that include Dallas and Houston. And much like the results from South Carolina, Biden also turned in dominant performances among black voters in Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama.
Sanders, on the other hand, drew a shrinking share of the electorate compared to four years ago in every one of the 15 states and territories. In his home state of Vermont, for instance, he claimed just over 50% of the vote compared to 86% four years earlier.
NEW:
The coronavirus test will be covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, Pence says. (CNBC, March 4, 2020)
The COVID-19 test will be covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance plans, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday. “HHS has already denominated a test for the coronavirus to be an essential health benefit,” Pence said. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover essential health benefits.
When the Show Must Go On, Even Amid a Coronavirus Outbreak (New York Times, March 4, 2020)
Learning to perform without live audiences, or sometimes even theaters, as artists adapt to trying circumstances.
NEW: China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US? (Global Research, March 4, 2020)
Japan, China and Taiwan Reports on the Origin of the Virus. Fort Detrick MD lab indicated (see below).
NEW: Fort Detrick laboratory studying new coronavirus. (Frederick MD News-Post, March 3, 2020)
Other units in Maryland working on vaccine.
How Pandemics Change History (The New Yorker, March 3, 2020)
Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are. That is to say, they obviously have everything to do with our relationship to our mortality, to death, to our lives. They also reflect our relationships with the environment—the built environment that we create and the natural environment that responds. They show the moral relationships that we have toward each other as people, and we’re seeing that today.
Voting Issues Across the Country on Super Tuesday (Common Cause, March 3, 2020)
NEW: Paul Krugman: Can the Fed and Friends Save the Economy? (New York Times, March 3, 2020)
Don't put too much faith in central bankers. Markets actually had more reason to place faith in Alan Greenspan 2000 than they do to have faith in Jerome Powell 2020, because Greenspan had a lot more ammunition. The short-term interest rates the Fed effectively controls were above 6 percent in late 2000, and the Fed ended up cutting rates by about 5 percentage points — which was, it turned out, still not enough to prevent a big stock slump and a recession.
Before today’s rate cut, the Fed only had around 1.5 percent, leaving far less room to cut. And the Fed’s counterparts abroad are in even worse shape: short-term interest rates in Europe are actually negative, so the European Central Bank has basically no room at all to cut further.
Kept at the Hospital on Coronavirus Fears, Now Facing Large Medical Bills (New York Times, February 29, 2020)
Care was mandated by the government, but it’s not clear who has to pay.
These hospital stays could prove expensive. The International Federation of Health Plans estimates that the average day in a U.S. hospital costs $4,293, compared with $1,308 in Australia and $481 in Spain. The hospital stays may be especially costly for patients without health insurance or for those who have large deductibles, which they must pay before their health benefits kick in.
High charges for mandatory isolation could make patients wary of seeking needed medical treatment. The most important rule of public health is to gain the cooperation of the population. There are legal, moral and public health reasons not to charge the patients.
Oil Supermajor Dutch Royal Shell Is Diving Into The Green Hydrogen Game. (Oilprice, February 29, 2020)
Royal Dutch Shell has announced a new large-scale project to create green hydrogen using offshore wind farms in the Dutch North Sea instead of the traditional fossil fuels. The project is being developed by a consortium along with Gasunie and Groningen Seaports. Industry news site Offshore Wind reports that, “the NortH2 project partners aim to generate around 3GW to 4 GW of wind energy for the production of hydrogen before 2030, and possibly raise the capacity to 10GW by 2040.” The project is still in its infancy, and will officially get kickstarted later this year with a feasibility study. If all goes well, the consortium reports that we can expect the first green hydrogen production as soon as 2027.
U-2 Spy Plane Photos Are Windows Onto Ancient Civilizations. (Atlas Obscura, March 2, 2020)
Traces from the ancient past are hidden in photographs from the Cold War.
NEW: The Supreme Court faces a critical abortion case — and a test of its integrity. (Washington Post, March 1, 2020)
Jimmy Kimmel brutally exposes Republican voters' deep ignorance and Ted Cruz's devious duplicity. (Daily Kos, February 29, 2020)
She blinded him with science: AOC dissects Ted Cruz after he tries to come at her on Twitter. (Daily Kos, February 28, 2020)
Key Missteps at the CDC Have Set Back Its Ability to Detect the Potential Spread of Coronavirus. (ProPublica, February 28, 2020)
The CDC designed a flawed test for COVID-19, then took weeks to figure out a fix so state and local labs could use it. New York still doesn’t trust the test’s accuracy.
NEW: Ranked: The Most Innovative Economies in the World (Visual Capitalist, February 28, 2020)
Amazon’s bestselling products read like a coronavirus prep guide. (Vox, February 28, 2020)
As shoppers stock up, Amazon is scrambling to block scammers and schemes.
Amazon said on Thursday that it blocked more than a million items from sale on its marketplace in recent weeks that made false claims about defending against the novel coronavirus, as schemers across the globe looked to make a quick buck amid a global health threat. But what’s left when searching “coronavirus” or “Covid-19” on the e-commerce site is a grab bag of rushed-to-publish pandemic books and protection gear, a mix of products that could be disorienting to the average shopper.
As the global count of confirmed deaths from Covid-19 approaches 3,000, small-time authors and all kinds of businesses are flooding the Everything Store’s digital shelves with inventory. Meanwhile, Amazon is working to eliminate scams and block merchants from engaging in price-gouging, as uncertainty mounts about where else the virus will spread in the world and what impact it will have.
The company has also been placing larger-than-normal orders from some brands and manufacturers to guard against a bigger slowdown in China’s manufacturing sector. The CDC says “there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures“ and that there is currently “no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.”
Officials Rush to Respond to a Drumbeat of New Coronavirus Cases. (New York Times, February 28, 2020)
More than 83,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected. Many patients are linked to Iran or Italy. Fears that a global pandemic is inevitable take hold. Markets slide as virus spreads across the globe. New infections are reported across Europe. Nigeria records the first infection in sub-Saharan Africa. Fears take hold that a global pandemic is inevitable. W.H.O. raises its risk assessment to the highest level. Trump administration says it could use 1950 law to step up production of emergency supplies. Mick Mulvaney criticizes the media for reporting on the virus.
How bad will it get? Here are six important factors.
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.”
White House chief of staff claims press is covering coronavirus to take Trump down. (The Hill, February 28, 2020)
What Has Mike Pence Done in Health? (New York Times, February 28, 2020)
When President Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Pence would take charge of the nation’s coronavirus response, he repeatedly touted the “great health care” in Indiana during Mr. Pence’s time as governor there, adding, “He’s got a certain talent for this.”
So what does Mr. Pence’s record on health care look like? He has no training or expertise in health policy. Paradoxically, the two health initiatives that he got the most attention for in Indiana are actions that many in the Republican Party have strongly opposed.
In 2015, he was one of the first Republican governors who agreed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a move that others in his party have shunned because of their opposition to the law.
That same year, he allowed — albeit reluctantly — a program to provide clean needles for intravenous drug users in a rural county that was in the throes of an HIV outbreak. For weeks, Mr. Pence delayed permitting public health workers to distribute the clean needles to slow the epidemic, stating moral opposition to drug use. He relented as the number of HIV cases approached 100 (they ultimately surpassed 200) and doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pleaded with him — and after taking a few more nights to “pray on it,” according to Dr. Jerome Adams, the state health commissioner at the time and now the United States surgeon general. Today, his decision to allow a needle exchange - initially only for 30 days - is believed to have played an important role in slowing the epidemic. But while his decision allowed such exchanges to open statewide, no state funding was made available for them.
More broadly, critics said that Mr. Pence, like previous Indiana governors, had failed to invest adequately in public health. “All his public health policies in Indiana were more about his beliefs or ideology, and not evidence based or around data,” said Carrie Ann Lawrence, associate director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention at Indiana University.
Stephen Colbert said, “This is the greatest crisis of Trump’s presidency, and his first response is, ‘Mike, you’re up. You take it.’”
Heather Cox Richardson: We are in the chaos that churns in between more stable eras. (Letters from an American, February 27, 2020)
The coronavirus is grabbing the headlines, and it is a huge story in its own right, but it also lays bare the rot in the Republican Party that has put Trump in the White House. The coronavirus is a pandemic now, meaning it is a disease that has appeared on a number of continents, and it is killing people.
The coronavirus and the subsequent selling-off in the stock market of the last several days reveals what feels to me like an endpoint of a political era.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the White House by arguing that the activist government of the New Deal, the laws that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure, were destroying American liberty. “Government is not the solution to our problem;” Reagan said in his inaugural address, “government is the problem.” After 1981, America entered a period when we turned for solutions not to educated experts informing government policy, but rather to individuals who claimed to be outside that sphere of government expertise: men of the people. As we celebrated those “self-made” individualists—usually men-- Congress cut taxes and regulation to free them to run their businesses as they saw fit. After 1981, wealth began to move upward, and yet the Republican Party continued to howl about socialism and insist that we would not have true freedom until all regulations, all taxes, and most government programs were abolished. In their place we would have businessmen who had proven their worth by creating successful businesses. They would run our country in the best way for all of us.
That this system worked well for everyone was a fiction, of course. Republican leaders stayed in power not because a majority of voters agreed with their ideology, but because as their policies moved wealth upward and hurt most Americans, they blamed those economic hardships on people of color, women, and other minorities: “special interests” who were demanding government policies paid for by the taxes of hardworking white men. They also increasingly jiggered the political system to make sure they stayed in power. They disenfranchised Democratic voters and carved up districts so that in 2012, for example, Democrats won a majority of 1.4 million votes for candidates to the House of Representatives, and yet Republicans came away with a 33-seat majority.
The election of Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 was the high water mark of this political mindset. He was an outsider who posed as a successful businessman, disdainful of politics, who promised to gut government bureaucrats—the swamp-- and put into office only the best people, people known for their business acumen or their family connections to others with that skill. Expertise and loyalty to the American government was unimportant—even undesirable. What mattered was the ability to make money and be loyal to the president.
Following in his predecessors’ footsteps, Trump slashed regulations, opened up resources to businessmen, and passed a huge tax cut for the wealthy, a tax cut which was supposed to stimulate investment in the economy and promote economic growth. In the midst of growing administration scandals, Trump banked on the fact that a strong economy would keep him in office for a second term and insisted that those opposing his administration, regardless of party, were hostile Democrats who wanted big government “socialism.”
Now, a virus from China is exposing the hollowness of a generation of relying on businessmen to manage our government. The administration’s response to the coronavirus has been shockingly bad. In 2018, it got rid of the government leadership for handling a pandemic, so we have no one in charge who is trained to handle such a crisis. Then, when the virus broke out, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention insisted on developing its own test, rather than using the guidelines established by the World Health Organization. Their test didn’t work, making health officials unable to test people in danger before they got sick. Then, over the advice of the CDC, administration officials decided to evacuate 14 infected patients who had been stranded on a cruise ship in Japan along with healthy travelers. We learned today from a whistleblower that, once landed in the U.S., workers came and went from the facility that housed the patients with no precautions. Now, we have our first case of the coronavirus that appears to have appeared here on its own, and it happened in the same place where these workers came and went (although it is too early to say if there is definitely a connection).
Trump has excused his dismissal of all the experts by saying that they were easy to rehire when necessary, but it has not turned out to be that easy. Today, he appointed a third person to be in charge of the response in addition to the two others he has already named, and, angry at the CDC official who warned Americans that the virus would arrive here sooner or later, he arranged for all statements about the disease to be cleared through Vice President Mike Pence’s office. He also revealed his key interest in protecting the stock markets today when he named two new members to the coronavirus task force: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, who has insisted on television that the virus is “contained.”
In a moment that perfectly encapsulated the problem of handling a public health crisis of this magnitude when you are equipped only to promote business, today Secretary of Health and Human Services Alexander Azar, a former drug company executive and pharmaceutical lobbyist, told Congress that when scientists manage to make a vaccine for the coronavirus (12 to 18 months out, by all accounts), not everyone will be able to afford it. “We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest. Price controls won’t get us there.”
This is the modern Republican Party laid bare. Profits before lives, because only businessmen, not government policy, can manage the country.
This moment makes it really clear what happens when the Republicans’ ideology comes up against reality. While GOP leaders over the years, and Trump of late, have managed to silence opponents by calling them socialists or making sure they cannot vote, the virus is not going to stop simply by changing the narrative or the body politic. Investors know this, and the dropping stock market shows their realization that you cannot shut down entire countries and keep supply chains and consumer goods moving. The stock market has fallen 11.13% in the past four days, erasing a third of the gains it has made since Trump was elected. We are facing an economic downturn, one that will strain an economy that was excellent indeed for those at the very top, but not good for those who now will be vital to keep consumption levels up… but those very people will be hard pressed to come up with extra income in an economic downturn. It is a problem that the markets are acknowledging with their biggest drops since the 2008 crisis.
This is a crisis that demands expertise and coordinated government health programs, but we no longer have those things. Instead, Trump and his surrogates on the Fox News Channel are falling back on the old arguments that have worked so well for GOP leaders in the past: Democrats are hyping the coronavirus and spooking the markets to hurt the president.
Trump, and Americans in general, are about to discover that there comes a point when image can no longer override reality. We are in the churn of that chaos now. But on the other side of it, we have the potential to rebuild a government that operates in reality, and that works for all of us.
The world’s scariest facial recognition company is now linked to everybody from ICE to Macy’s. (Vox, February 27, 2020)
Clearview said it only sold facial recognition tech to cops. Its leaked client list says otherwise.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, who has been highly critical of the company, said in his own statement that Clearview’s comments would be “laughable” if its “failure to safeguard its information wasn’t so disturbing and threatening to the public’s privacy.”
“This is a company whose entire business model relies on collecting incredibly sensitive and personal information, and this breach is yet another sign that the potential benefits of Clearview’s technology do not outweigh the grave privacy risks it poses,” Markey said.
Though Clearview is playing the breach off as a minor and quickly solved problem, it brings up larger issues that have been bubbling under the surface since Clearview’s existence was made widely known last month in a New York Times report. Those include worries about what would happen should Clearview’s data fall into the wrong hands, and how much confidence we should really have in the cybersecurity practices of a private company we know little about and have no reason to trust.
No Email. No WhatsApp. No Internet. This Is Now Normal Life In Kashmir. (Buzzfeed, February 26, 2020)
Since August 5, Indian authorities have kept the people of Kashmir in a digital blackout, restricting most internet access. At 205 days and counting, it’s the longest-running internet shutdown in any democracy so far, seven months in March. Normal life has ground to a halt in the region as businesses lay off workers, hospitals struggle to care for patients, and ordinary people despair.
They Were Infected With the Coronavirus. They Never Showed Signs. (New York Times, February 26, 2020)
In Anyang, China, five members of a family came down with the coronavirus after hosting a guest from Wuhan in early January. But the visitor, a 20-year-old woman, never got sick herself.
Some individuals who are infected with the coronavirus can spread it even though they have no symptoms, studies have shown. Asymptomatic carriers are a well-known phenomenon. But the coronavirus is a new pathogen, and these cases may complicate scientific efforts to detect cases and to curb transmission.
Even asymptomatic people who are infected may be able to spread the virus. But people without symptoms are rarely tested.
“This implies we may need many more tests that can be used out in the field, at the point of care,” said Dr. Judith N. Wasserheit, co-director of the University of Washington MetaCenter for Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security. “We’re still learning about the biology of this virus and how it causes disease.”
Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute of Medical Virology at University Hospital Frankfurt, who was one of the authors of a letter in The New England Journal of Medicine that described the German patients who did not become ill, said the problem was that “normally, you don’t screen asymptomatic healthy people for the virus because it’s too expensive. This shows we might have more infected people already all over the world than we expect,” she said.
House passes historic anti-lynching bill after Congress’s century of failure. (Washington Post, February 26, 2020)
H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, was approved on a bipartisan 410-to-4 vote. Only a handful of lawmakers — Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Ted Yoho (Fla.), and independent Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) — voted against the measure.
My journey to see if the Bernie Bro stereotype holds up. (Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 2020)
Bloomberg, in his paid advertising, invokes “Bernie’s Angry Bros” as a reason to oppose Sanders, and Mayor Pete raises similar concerns. This strikes me as a cynical political tactic on the part of Sanders’ rivals, intended to tar all Sanders backers with the same brush.
In a generally rancid political environment, the idealism I found on display within the Sanders cause is a bright flower in the turf, in need of nourishing, not crushing. My journey to gauge the hearts — and tempers — of Bernie supporters did not lead me to bullying bros. It led me to a political movement I can and still believe in.
How schools are using kids' phones to track and surveil them. (CNet, February 25, 2020)
A technology used in a number of prisons is tracking students now, too.
Senate Democrats go around Moscow Mitch to do something about Russia election interference. (Daily Kos, February 25, 2020)
Schumer, Menendez, Brown Demand Secretaries Mnuchin And Pompeo Use Authority Congress Granted Them In 2017 And Executive Orders To Immediately Impose New Sanctions On Russia For Reported Ongoing Efforts To Interfere In U.S. 2020 Election. (US Senate Democrats, February 24, 2020)
You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. (The Atlantic, February 24, 2020)
Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.
Justice Sotomayor has to remind conservative peers they don't work for Trump. (Daily Kos, February 24, 2020)
Trump is prepping a massive purge of officials seen as disloyal. (Daily Kos, February 24, 2020)
Advisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas. (The Hill, February 24, 2020)
Chuck Rocha, a senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, argued that the senator can compete with President Trump in Texas, a state Democrats haven’t won in a presidential election since 1976. Asked by Krystal Ball in a Hill.TV interview whether Texas was in play in the general election, Rocha said “I truly do,” pointing to Sanders’s success with Latino voters in Nevada’s caucuses.
UK's 5G network well within safety limits, Ofcom tests find. (BBC News, February 24, 2020)
The rollout of ultra-fast 5G mobile connectivity has sparked some fears the new transmission masts could be dangerous to humans.
But Ofcom, the UK regulator, found no identifiable risks in its first tests since 5G technology was deployed. The highest result they found for the 5G band was 0.039% of the recommended exposure limit. Those limits are set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) - non-ionizing meaning the type that does not damage DNA and cells.
Reliability of expensive new voting machines called into question. (CBS News, February 24, 2020)
The most pricey solution available, they are at least twice as expensive as the hand-marked paper ballot option. They have been vigorously promoted by the three voting equipment vendors that control 88% of the U.S. market.
Some of the most popular ballot-marking machines, made by industry leaders Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Systems, register votes in bar codes that the human eye cannot decipher. That's a problem, researchers say: Voters could end up with printouts that accurately spell out the names of the candidates they picked, but, because of a hack, the bar codes do not reflect those choices. Because the bar codes are what's tabulated, voters would never know that their ballots benefited another candidate. Even on machines that do not use bar codes, voters may not notice if a hack or programming error mangled their choices. A University of Michigan study determined that only 7% of participants in a mock election notified poll workers when the names on their printed receipts did not match the candidates they voted for. ES&S rejects those scenarios.
Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. voters will be using ballot-marking machines this year, compared with less than 2% in 2018, according to Verified Voting, which tracks voting technology. Critics see them as vulnerable to hacking. At last year's DefCon hacker convention in Las Vegas, it took tinkerers at the 'Voting Village' not even eight hours to hack two older ballot-marking devices.
Tampering aside, some of the newer ballot-marking machines have stumbled badly in actual votes. That happened most spectacularly in November when ES&S's top-of-the-line ExpressVote XL debuted in a Pennsylvania county.
Even without technical troubles, the new machines can lead to longer lines, potentially reducing turnout. Voters need more time to cast ballots and the machine's high costs have prompted election officials to limit how many they purchase.
Americans should not be confident about security of 2020 election, experts say. (Washington Post, February 24, 2020)
The assessment from 57 percent of The Network, a panel of more than 100 cybersecurity experts who participate in our ongoing informal survey, puts a serious damper on the years-long push by federal, state and local government officials and political parties to bolster election security since a Russian hacking and influence operation upended the 2016 contest.
“There are no signs that any part of our institutions are capable of providing an election that is reasonably secure from tampering and manipulation,” said Dave Aitel, a former NSA computer scientist who is now CEO of the cybersecurity company Immunity.
“Every part of the voting process is vulnerable. This includes the voter registration process, the voting itself, the vote tabulation, and the results-reporting system,” said Bruce Schneier, fellow and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called for “more serious security measures for voting, from registration through to reporting the results back to the central voting authority.”
Trump’s new acting Director of National Intelligence conducted undisclosed work for Hungary’s far-right government. (Responsible Statecraft, February 24 2020)
President Trump’s newly installed acting Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, knowingly provided public relations services directed at U.S. media on behalf of a project funded by Hungary’s far-right government. Grenell didn’t register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which is a requirement applying to individuals and entities operating inside the U.S. as an “agent” of a “foreign principal.”
Grenell’s appointment as acting Director of National Intelligence, which was announced last week, was met with widespread ridicule and disbelief. “President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy,” said International Institute for Strategic Studies senior fellow Jonathan Stevenson in a New York Times op-ed. “Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity,” the Washington Post editorial board said. “He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations – like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.”
Transcript: On "Face The Nation", National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien lies for Trump re Russian election interference. (CBS News, February 23, 2020)
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the White House was briefed on February 14th. Were you not in that briefing when the president was informed?
O'BRIEN: Well, there's no briefing that I've received, that the president has received, that says that President Putin is doing anything to try and influence the elections in favor of President Trump. We just haven't seen that intelligence. If it's out there, I haven't seen it. I'd be surprised if I haven't seen it. The leaders of our- the IC have not seen it. So I- again, I don't know where this is coming from. I've heard these rumors and these leaks from Adam Schiff's committee, but I- I have not seen them myself and I've seen no intelligence along those lines.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But just to clarify, are you saying that Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, did not inform you about the U.S. Intelligence Committee's- community's findings?
O'BRIEN: No. I, look, I think- you know, and again, I- I don't want to get into private conversations in a- in a presidential daily brief, but I- I don't think Admiral Maguire was necessarily informed of what was going to happen at that hearing in the House either. And- and again, there's nothing that he's given up, no information Admiral Maguire gave us, Gina Haspel has given us- Director Haspel, Ambassador Grenell the new acting DNI, that comports with what was leaked out of that House Intel Committee. So I haven't seen it. The leaders of the intelligence community that I've spoken with haven't seen anything that comports with what was leaked out. But again, those leaks, I don't know if that's what the briefers told the House committee. I mean those were simply --
MARGARET BRENNAN: But- well, that- that's contradicted by reports that the director of national intelligence, Maguire, did brief White House officials. But more broadly, the FBI director at the beginning of the month, Chris Wray, testified that Russia continues to try to influence the elections mainly through social media manipulation. So this pattern of behavior has continued, Russia is undeterred. Are you denying that that is happening?
O'BRIEN: No, no. What I- look I- what I've heard from the FBI, you know- well, what I've heard is that Russia would like Bernie Sanders to- to win the Democrat nomination. They'd probably like him to be president, understandably, because he wants to- to spend money on social programs and probably would have to take it out of the military, so that would make sense. And- and look, the Russians have always tried to interfere with elections because they want to divide Americans. They want to undermine our democracy. But the idea that they want to- they want to influence the election and somehow cause the president to win, I just don't see it. But look, I think there are a number of countries: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, that would like to influence our elections to- to get the candidate that they feel would be best for their country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are saying that it is not, in fact, the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia has a preference for President Trump?
O'BRIEN: I-I have not seen that.
Super Archaic Humans Mixed with Unknown 'Ghost' Species. (7-min. video; Ancient Origins, February 22, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Has America ever been in such a crisis before and, if so, what did people in the past do to save democracy? (Letters From An American, February 22, 2020)
The answer to the first question is yes, it has, three times, although only once was this bad. In the 1850s, the 1890s, and the 1920s, oligarchs took over the nation’s government, controlling the White House, Congress, and the courts.
Democrats are on a perilous course as they seek a nominee to challenge Trump. (Washington Post, February 22, 2020)
Sanders wins Nevada caucuses, stretching lead over rivals. (Washington Post, February 22, 2020)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has won the Nevada caucuses, winning a plurality of county delegates. In a speech, Sanders sounded a hopeful tone, saying, “When I look out at an audience like this and I see the diversity and beauty in this audience ... I have absolute confidence we can create a government based on compassion, based on love and based on truth, not what we have now of greed, corruption and lies.”
Bernie is The Real Deal. (Daily Kos, February 22, 2020)
During the Iraq War the military did all it could to discourage a diagnosis of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. Because if the troops were given these diagnoses the military the VA would have a higher number of cases along with responsibility to care for these troops, the Department of Defense either did not want to treat them or didn't know how.
I know Bernie Sanders understands these problems because he talks about it in his speeches and I have watched him as he provided leadership to the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs. Bernie Sanders was very helpful and responsive to our requests in the 2000s and I saw him provide leadership in resolving the Walter Reed scandal of 2007.
Los Angeles Was Sick of Tech Disruptors. So It Decided to Become One. (City Lab, February 21, 2020)
To rein in traffic-snarling new mobility modes, L.A. needed digital savvy. Then came a privacy uproar, a murky cast of consultants, and a legal crusade by Uber.
Revealed: Quarter of all tweets about climate crisis are produced by bots. (The Guardian, February 21, 2020)
Draft of Brown study says findings suggest ‘substantial impact of mechanized bots in amplifying denialist messages’.
JP Morgan economists warn climate crisis is threat to human race. (The Guardian, February 21, 2020)
The world’s largest financier of fossil fuels has warned clients that the climate crisis threatens the survival of humanity and that the planet is on an unsustainable trajectory, according to a leaked document. The JP Morgan report on the economic risks of human-caused global heating said climate policy had to change or else the world faced irreversible consequences.
The study implicitly condemns the US bank’s own investment strategy and highlights growing concerns among major Wall Street institutions about the financial and reputational risks of continued funding of carbon-intensive industries, such as oil and gas. JP Morgan has provided $75bn (£61bn) in financial services to the companies most aggressively expanding in sectors such as fracking and Arctic oil and gas exploration since the Paris agreement, according to analysis compiled for the Guardian last year.
Hillary Clinton calls Trump 'Putin's puppet' amid reports of Russian interference in 2020 election. (The Hill, February 21, 2020)
"Putin’s Puppet is at it again, taking Russian help for himself," Clinton, Trump's 2016 election rival, tweeted Friday. "He knows he can’t win without it. And we can’t let it happen."
NEW: Will Richard Grenell Destroy the Intelligence Community? (New York Times, February 21, 2020)
New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers. (Axios, February 21, 2020)
Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.
McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government. But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election.
Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.” McEntee told staff that those identified as anti-Trump will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies.
The intelligence community erupts as Trump purges everyone opposed to Russian election interference. (Daily Kos, February 21, 2020)
On Friday morning, NBC News was one of several outlets reporting a “near meltdown” in the intelligence community after the news was released that acting direct of national intelligence Joseph Maguire was to be replaced by xenophobic hate-bomb specialist Richard Grenell. Much of what’s happening inside the ODNI hasn’t become public, but there has apparently been enough pushback that Trump has already announced that Grenell will be a short-term appointment until he picks someone else.
Then, on Thursday evening, Trump offered the role to Doug Collins—an offer that still seems to be open. But Collins has already declared that he doesn’t want the job, because he’s still intent on running for a Senate slot in Georgia, a task that’s been complicated by Trump’s praise for the recently appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
As of Friday morning, Trump has announced that he will be appointing someone other than Grenell, but who that someone will be is still up in the air. In the meantime, the intelligence community has joined the Judiciary Community at full boil. It’s become absolutely clear that Trump is purging intelligence officials whose only crime is that they provided accurate intelligence to a committee that is not just cleared, but required to receive that information.
Trump misrepresents 2020 Russia briefing as Democratic "misinformation". (Axios, February 21, 2020)
Trump angry after House briefed on 2020 Russia election meddling on his behalf. (NBC News, February 21, 2020)
The briefing cost the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, a shot at the permanent DNI job, current and former officials said.
President Donald Trump pushed aside his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, because he was angry about a briefing to lawmakers that said Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to aid his re-election, current and former intelligence officials briefed on the matter told NBC News. At issue was an election briefing to House members last week by Shelby Pierson, the DNI's election security czar. The news was first reported by The New York Times.
The fast-moving developments have caused serious concern among intelligence officials. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence "is nearing a meltdown," one former official said after news broke about Maguire being forced out over the Russia briefing. The episode has raised the specter that Trump is punishing intelligence officials for providing accurate intelligence to members of Congress who are cleared to receive it.
While the U.S. government is working to secure the 2020 election from hackers and disinformation, Trump has avoided publicly commenting or holding meetings about the subject because he believes the issue reflects badly on his 2016 victory in an election beset by Russian interference, officials have told NBC News.
Trump can't win in November without foreign help, everyone knows it, and it's eating him alive. (Daily Kos, February 21, 2020)
The mere acknowledgment that Trump will actually receive the help he has sought is cause for heads to roll. That's what the intelligence community dared to assert in a congressional briefing last week, setting up that latest Trump administration purge at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Elizabeth Warren ‘Crushed’ the Debate. But Is It Too Late? (New York Times, February 21, 2020)
She laced into Michael Bloomberg in a bid to invigorate her campaign, and then had her biggest 24 hours of fund-raising yet.
Washington journalist: Democratic candidates 'assumed the premise' that Sanders would take most delegates to convention. (The Hill, February 20, 2020)
Only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is leading in polls, particularly in delegate-rich Super Tuesday states like California and Texas, said during the debate Wednesday night that Democrats should nominate the candidate with the most delegates. His five rivals on the stage, however, indicated that they’re spoiling for a convention fight even if Sanders comes in with the lead.
Grim said the most telling aspect of that exchange was that the candidates “assumed the premise” that Sanders would take the delegates to the Democratic convention in July.
“The most important part of it was not their answer but that they assumed the premise, which is that Bernie Sanders is going to go into the convention with the plurality,” Grim said. “If you think about that entire stage accepting that premise as the most likely outcome, and you rewind one month ago, that’s a stunning turn of events for this party.”
How Bloomberg Bungled a Debate That He Had Been Prepped For (New York Times, February 20, 2020)
His campaign had anticipated the unsurprising questions about allegations of a hostile workplace for women at his company, stop-and-frisk policing in his city, the unseemliness of a Democratic contender who has long written checks to Republicans. And Mr. Bloomberg recognized that he would have to answer them, or at least deflect serviceably enough to survive.
But Mr. Bloomberg’s debate performance on Wednesday proved so lackluster that both supporters and rivals counted themselves taken aback, leaving his campaign more rattled than at any point since he entered the race. While Mr. Bloomberg sought to project a steely calm on Thursday during a swing through Utah, he and his team have been left to explain away a comedown that exposed some of his gravest liabilities.
Former congressman confirms he offered to broker pardon for Assange. (Ars Technica, February 20, 2020)
Rohrabacher offered Assange a pardon if he implicated Seth Rich in DNC email leak.
Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison. (Associated Press, February 20, 2020)
NEW: Trump puts an unqualified loyalist in charge of national intelligence. (Washington Post, February 20, 2020)
President Trump's campaign to purge the government of anyone not blindly loyal to him continued Wednesday with the appointment of Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence. Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity. He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations — like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.
Mr. Grenell has nevertheless won the president’s favor in a familiar way: by loudly praising him and his agenda on Fox News programs and social media. Probably, he has convinced Mr. Trump he can be counted on to put the president’s personal and political interests above those of national security — something the two previous DNIs would not reliably do.
Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump. (New York Times, February 20, 2020)
A classified briefing to House members is said to have angered the president, who complained that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure.
While Republicans have long been critical of the Obama administration for not doing enough to track and deter Russian interference in 2016, current and former intelligence officials said the party is at risk of making a similar mistake now. Mr. Trump has been reluctant to even hear about election interference, and Republicans dislike discussing it publicly.
The aftermath of last week’s briefing prompted some intelligence officials to voice concerns that the White House will dismantle a key election security effort by Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence: the establishment of an election interference czar. Ms. Pierson has held the post since last summer. And some current and former intelligence officials expressed fears that Mr. Grenell may have been put in place explicitly to slow the pace of information on election interference to Congress. The revelations about Mr. Trump’s confrontation with Mr. Maguire raised new concerns about Mr. Grenell’s appointment, said the Democratic House committee official, who added that the upcoming election could be more vulnerable to foreign interference.
Mr. Trump, former officials have said, is typically uninterested in election interference briefings, and Mr. Grenell might see it as unwise to emphasize such intelligence with the president.
Global GDP Hits $88 Trillion: Environment Reeling, Economy Threatened (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy/CASSE, February 20, 2020)
Global GDP is forecasted to reach $88 trillion at approximately 2:00 PM GMT today, resulting in unprecedented environmental impacts. GDP has become the single best indicator of environmental impact including biodiversity loss, pollution, and climate change.
A growing GDP entails increasing population × per capita consumption, and therefore a growing ecological footprint. As it grows, the human economy displaces non-human species and habitats. Due to the laws of thermodynamics, a growing economy must generate more waste heat and materials in the aggregate (not necessarily per capita). Meanwhile, GDP is the key variable in the climate change projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
$88 trillion of economic activity has caused (among other threats): 30,000 species to be threatened with extinction; air pollution to become the fifth highest risk factor for mortality; climate-changing CO2 levels to reach >413 ppm (and rising).
The timing of the $88-trillion impact is indicated by the CASSE GDP Meter, a real-time, rolling, 12-month GDP calculation. Given the severity of the impact, CASSE calls for “degrowth toward a steady state economy.” Otherwise - and ironically - the push for higher GDP will cause not only further environmental deterioration but economic crisis and conceivably collapse.
Neanderthal-Denisovan Ancestor Canoodled With Mystery Group Of "Super-Archaic" Humans. (IFL Science, February 20, 2020)
There could be yet another new character in the story of human evolution – and even more evidence of hanky panky within our evolutionary family. A new study suggests that the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans, two of Homo sapiens’ closest cousins, interbred with a mysterious population of their own Eurasian predecessors 700,000 years ago, and it's the earliest interbreeding between ancient human populations we know of yet. It’s unclear “who” these hominins were, but they are known to be members of a “super-archaic” population that separated from other humans about 2 million years ago. By the researchers' workings, this population was made up of as many as 20,000 to 50,000 individuals.
“Super-archaics:" Meet the humans who may have mated with your ancestors. (Inverse, February 20, 2020)
These ancient humans were likely the first inhabitants of Eurasia.
NEW: ‘Radical Change’ Needed After Latest Neutron Star Collision. (Quanta Magazine, February 20, 2020)
A recent neutron star merger has defied astronomers’ expectations, leading them to question longstanding ideas about neutron stars and the supernovas that create them. “We have to go back to the drawing board.”
NEW: What Really Inflamed the Coronavirus Epidemic (Nautilus, February 20, 2020)
Censorship didn’t worsen the deadly virus outbreak. Incompetence did.
Hackers Are Using the Coronavirus Panic to Spread Malware. (Vice, February 20, 2020)
Hackers are posing as the CDC and public health organizations to get people to open virus-laden files.
Humans are producing a far larger share of methane emissions than we thought. (MIT Technology Review, February 20, 2020)
If more methane is created by humans, there’s an even bigger opportunity to rein in how much we release. Methane stays in the atmosphere for only a decade (compared with 200 years for carbon dioxide). So efforts to cut methane, which mostly comes from the production and transportation of gas and oil, could pay big dividends right away.
Benefits of Public Transport (10 Memes, February 20, 2020)
[Some pictures are worth 1,001 words.]
William Barr’s America vs. reality in 2020. (Washington Post, February 19, 2020)
It has become conventional wisdom on the right that religion is under assault from secular liberals — and that the waning of faith is bad for America.
Attorney General William P. Barr, a conservative Catholic, summed up this alarmist outlook last fall during an incendiary speech at Notre Dame. He bemoaned “the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system” and the “growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism. By any honest assessment,” he thundered, “the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.” He went on to cite statistics on rising out-of-wedlock births (“illegitimacy”), along with “record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.”
This tendentious reading of U.S. history ignores reality. By most metrics, the country is far better off than when Barr was a boy. He was born in 1950, when segregation was legal and homosexuality was not.
Barr’s simplistic idea that the country is better off if it is more religious is based on faith, not evidence. My research associate Sherry Cho compiled statistics on the 10 countries with the highest percentage of religious people and the 10 countries with the lowest percentage based on a 2017 WIN/Gallup International survey of 68 countries. The least religious countries are either Asian nations where monotheism never took hold (China, Japan) or Western nations such as Australia, Sweden and Belgium, where secularism is much more advanced than in the United States. The most religious countries represent various faiths: There are predominantly Christian countries (the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Armenia), Muslim Pakistan, Buddhist Thailand, Hindu India — and countries of mixed faiths (Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Fiji).
Indicators suggest that the less religious nations are much better off. Average GDP per capita in the least religious countries is more than five times higher, while the unemployment rate is more than twice as low and the poverty rate is one and a half times lower. The homicide rate is five times lower. Life expectancy is 22 percent higher, and infant mortality is 1,000 percent lower — in part because the least religious nations spend 50 percent more per capita on health care. The least religious countries are also better educated, with a mean 12 years of schooling per capita vs. 7½ years in the most religious countries. Income inequality is 24 percent lower in the least religious countries, and gender inequality (as measured by the World Bank) is more than 400 percent lower. Finally, the least religious countries are freer, with an average score of 87.6 from Freedom House, compared to 56.5 for the most religious countries.
Gallup notes that “levels of religiosity diminish as income and education levels of the interviewees increase.” Put another way: Declining religiosity is not the result of a leftist plot. Capitalism has done more than the Supreme Court to break down traditional beliefs.
The United States is unusual not because religious observance has declined over the years but because it remains much higher than expected.
Boston harbor brings ashore a new enemy: Rising seas. (Washington Post, February 19, 2020)
Facing climate change, Boston must gird itself for an era of rising water - or be inundated.
What AI still can’t do (MIT Technology Review, February 19, 2020)
Artificial intelligence won’t be very smart if computers don’t grasp cause and effect. That’s something even humans have trouble with.
There Are Far More Americans Without Broadband Access than Previously Thought. (City Lab, February 19, 2020)
The Federal Communications Commission says 21 million Americans lack high-speed internet access, but a new report says the actual figure is double that.
White House spokesman offers bizarro explanation for Donald 'Lock Her Up' Trump's pardons. (Daily Kos, February 19, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Did Trump attempt to bride Julian Assange? And, the US Nomination Process. (Letters From An American, February 19, 2020)
Sanders surges into national lead in new Post-ABC poll. (Washington Post, February 19, 2020)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the strength of his performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, has surged nationally and now holds a sizable lead over all of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Former vice president Joe Biden, who led Sanders in a Post-ABC national poll in January, has seen a sharp drop in his support after finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary. Biden is now in a battle for second place with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
NEW: The Coronavirus Outbreak Could Bring Out the Worst in Trump. (Atlantic, February 18, 2020)
Virology isn’t politics. When a senior White House aide would brief President Donald Trump in 2018 about an Ebola-virus outbreak in central Africa, it was plainly evident that hardships roiling a far-flung part of the world didn’t command his attention. He was zoning out. “It was like talking to a wall,” a person familiar with the matter told me.
Now a new coronavirus that originated in China is confronting him with a potential pandemic, a problem that Trump seems ill-prepared to meet. A crisis that is heading into its third month could draw out every personal and managerial failing that the president has shown to this point. Much of what he’s said publicly about the virus has been wrong, a consequence of downplaying any troubles on his watch. He has long stoked fears that foreigners entering the United States bring disease. Now he may double down on xenophobic suspicions. He has hollowed out federal agencies and belittled expertise, prioritizing instead his own intuition and the demands of his political base. But he’ll need to rely on a bureaucracy he’s maligned to stop the virus’s spread.
Warming, acidic oceans may nearly eliminate coral reef habitats by 2100. (Phys.org, February 18, 2020)
The results highlight some of the devastating impacts Earth's warming climate will have on marine life, according to the researchers. Although pollution poses numerous threats to ocean creatures, the new research suggests corals are most at risk from emission-driven changes in their environment.
Warmer waters stress corals, causing them to release symbiotic algae living inside them. This turns typically vibrant-colored communities of corals white, a process called bleaching. Bleached corals are not dead, but they are at higher risk of dying, and these bleaching events are becoming more common under climate change.
In the new study, Setter and her colleagues mapped what areas of the ocean would be suitable for coral restoration efforts over the coming decades. The researchers simulated ocean environment conditions like sea surface temperature, wave energy, acidity of the water, pollution, and overfishing in areas where corals now exist. To factor in pollution and overfishing, the researchers considered human population density and land cover use to project how much waste would be released into the surrounding waters.
The researchers found most of parts of the ocean where coral reefs exist today won't be suitable habitats for corals by 2045, and the situation worsened as the simulation extended to 2100. Rising temperatures and ocean acidification are mostly to blame for diminishing coral habitats, according to the researchers. Projected increases in human pollution have only a minor contribution to the future elimination of reef habitat, because humans have already caused such extensive damage to coral reefs that there aren't many locations left to impact.
NEW: Amazon Patent Design To Whip Cargo Into Orbit. (IFL Science, February 18, 2020)
NEW: Hate Those Robocalls? This Service Lets You Sue Them for Up to $3,000 Per Annoying Call. (Gizmodo, February 16, 2020)
Bloomberg is spending his way to the top. (CNN, February 16, 2020)
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is leading the Democratic primary nationally with 25%. He's followed by former front-runner and ex-Vice President Joe Biden at 17%, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg at 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 14% and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 10%.
The average poll also shows Bloomberg at 15%, up considerably from 9% before the Iowa caucuses and 3% when he first entered the race in November. Much to my surprise, Bloomberg can now be considered a real player in the Democratic primary. He's seen his numbers go up nationally and in a number of state polls as well. Bloomberg is showing that with a massive war chest, you can, in fact, buy yourself a lot of goodwill. Bloomberg has spent $129 million on ads in the Super Tuesday primary states, after deciding to skip the first four contests. No one else is even within $100 million of him. Beyond fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, no else has even spent $10 million.
American politics has never before seen this kind of financial firepower in a presidential campaign. Bloomberg is spending much of it on traditional television advertisements, but has spent money on digital as well. He's sponsored a bunch of memes, for example.
But it's not just the media where Bloomberg is finding success. He has found a home among the establishment as well. As of this writing, he has racked up 22 endorsements from members of Congress, governors and major city mayors - second only to Biden. During February alone, he has picked up nine endorsements from this same group. That is more than the rest of the field combined. Bloomberg, of course, has made many connections to elected Democrats through his Bloomberg Philanthropies activities and donations to members of Congress.
Many of the Democrats endorsing Bloomberg are moderates. They are the types of politicians who you might have expected to endorse Biden. With Biden falling in the polls after his disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, they've decided to put their stock in Bloomberg. Many of them are on the record as fearing a Sanders nomination because of his progressive views.
But I'm not sure Bloomberg will have his intended effect. In a way, he could make it easier for Sanders to win the nomination.
Documentarian Ken Burns warned Trump's rise would be 'Hitler-esque'. Here's what else he predicted. (Daily Kos, February 16, 2020)
Why have you been so publicly opposed to Donald Trump?
I have never in my professional life ever spoken out in this way. I certainly have my own opinions and have a yard sign at elections and make sure I vote. But I spoke out because he represents the greatest threat to American democracy since the Second World War. He is so fundamentally un-American, and not only because he is unqualified, but because he is mentally unsuited. He represents a kind of strong man, narcissistic thing that represents the potential death of the Republic. All of my films are about the United States and all of them are about trying to understand how it works and how it doesn’t work, and I just felt compelled to speak out.
What’s so dangerous about his appeal?
He has tapped a dark unconscious, in which it is easier to vilify the other than to see what you share in common. It’s easier to be afraid than to welcome change. It’s always been there. We had a civil war, you know. We killed 750,000 of ourselves over this issue. He’s appealing to that in the most venal and vulgar ways.
I could have answered your question in a much simpler way by just saying he’s too vulgar for me. There’s no one who has occupied the presidency of the United States like that. This is coming from a person who has just finished a ten-part series on the Vietnam War, so I have been listening for years to Johnson and Nixon on tapes that they forgot were being recorded, and the vulgarity there is pretty extreme, but nothing compares to the vulgarity of this man.
Do you think he’s a fascist?
Absolutely. When you talk about having extra-judicial, threatening rivals with jail. You can call it fascistic or you can call it dictatorial. You can call it monomaniacal or imperial. Whatever you want to say, this is not the way that our country works.
Why President Trump asked Ukraine to look into a DNC "server" and CrowdStrike. (14-min. video; CBS News, February 16, 2020)
The consensus view of the CIA, NSA, FBI and a Senate investigation is that Russians interfered in the 2016 election. But those findings don't line up with the ever-evolving story President Trump has been telling about Ukraine.
OUCH! FOX News Reminds Kellyanne Conway that Trump is a Serial Sexual Predator. (Daily Kos, February 16, 2020)
There are innumerable reasons to be disgusted by Donald Trump. He is an unapologetic racist who praised neo-Nazis as "very fine people.". He ripped babies from their parents arms and warehoused them in cages. He gushes affection for hostile foreign dictators. He maligns his critics as "enemies of America." And he lies with every breath he takes.
Those atrocities only scratch the surface of Trump's loathsome character (or lack thereof). But high on the list of his noxious behaviors has to be his abusive treatment of women. It's an appalling fact of the Era of Trump that a political figure can be charged with committing dozens of sexual assaults and not be punished or cast out of public life. A new book, "All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator", documents 43 new allegations against Trump. But somehow Trump has gotten away with all of this as new scandals emerge every day to wipe the previous ones from the public's mind.
More than 1,100 former prosecutors and other DOJ officials call on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign. (4-min. video; CNN, February 16, 2020)
More than 1,110 former Justice Department officials who served in Republican as well as Democratic administrations posted a statement Sunday calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign:
"Mr. Barr's actions in doing the President's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department's career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice."
NEW: Lessons from the ancient philosophers to help improve our lives today (The Guardian, February 15, 2020)
Trump brags that he's all about getting revenge on those who failed to 'kill the king'. (Daily Kos, February 14, 2020)
Every day of the Senate trial, Adam Schiff made the cases that Donald Trump is not a king. He’s not free to use the weaponry of the state as his personal tool, and not exempt from the consequences of his actions. He’s a citizen, constrained by law like the rest of us.
But of course, Republicans disagreed. And on Saturday morning Donald Trump made it clear that not only does he consider himself a king, he intends to make the remainder of his rule all about “grievance, persecution and resentment.” Trump based his morning tweets on a two-week old article from The New York Times which looked at Trump’s post-impeachment actions. Susan Collins may have claimed that Trump was going to be chastened by the hearings, impeachment, and trial.
And Trump has made it clear that he did learn something from the whole process. He learned that he can get away with anything — absolutely anything — without being concerned that Republicans will hold him accountable. Following the impeachment, Trump has fired those who testified against him like Lt. Col. Vindman and Gordon Sondland. He’s taken petty vengeance on people like Vindman’s twin bother for having the bad taste of being related to someone on Trump’s enemies list. He’s held a White House session of self-congratulation in which he pointedly left out even most of the Republicans who voted to acquit over their failure to be sufficiently loyal. He’s continued hollowing out agencies across the government. He made it clear that he did send Giuliani to Ukraine to mine for political turds, and he told Geraldo Rivera that the way he will deal with phone calls to foreign leaders in the future is by conducting them in secret with no one listening in.
The series of revelations that spilled in the last three days showing that not only was Barr putting pillows in place to protect Trump’s associates from facing consequences of their crimes, but building a whole team designed to second-guess and undermine veteran prosecutors shows how far down the fascism path Trump is already gone. Trump has already embraced “jokes” about naming himself president for life. Now he’s putting out tweets in which he’s the king.
And his rabble is applauding.
Oil-flowing Bible exposed as a fraud. (Daily Kos, February 14, 2020)
[Converting mineral oil to snake oil is not a miracle.]
Bloomberg is running the billionaire vote-buying campaign we expected from Trump. (Quartz, February 14, 2020)
In 2016, Trump spent far less than his general election opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and he didn't contribute much of his own money to the campaign. During the 21 months he officially contested the 2016 election, primary and general, Trump spent $325 million, contributing one-fifth of the total himself.
In the first two months of his primary campaign, till the end of December, Bloomberg spent $188 million, and all of it came out of his own pocket. That means he'd already spent, personally, more than twice as much as Trump did with outside help.
Canadian Doctor Danielle Martin Explains Why Americans Need Universal Healthcare. (2-min. video; YouTube, February 14, 2020)
[Also see her 30-min. 2017 interview, "Treating Canada's Health Care System".]
'Parasite' paints a nightmarish picture of Korean inequality. The reality in America is even worse. (Washington Post, February 14, 2020)
Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s "Parasite" is a dark parable about the yawning gulf between the rich and the poor in South Korea. It's a story of a society where the working class have no hope of attaining a better life, and instead squabble among themselves for the literal scraps of prosperity cast off by the wealthy as they move serenely through their charmed lives.
The film and its message have strongly resonated with American audiences, and last week's best picture win means its stateside influence is only likely to grow. That's probably not an accident: By any number of measures, inequality here in the States is much, much worse than in Bong's South Korea.
Tiny area of brain may be 'engine of consciousness', scientists suggest. (Big Think, February 14, 2020)
A recent study on monkeys found that stimulating a certain part of the forebrain wakes monkeys from anesthesia.
The biology of love (Aeon, February 13, 2020)
Humans teeter on a knife's edge. The same deep chemistry that fosters bonding can, in a heartbeat, pivot to fear and hate.
Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign Suddenly Drops Memes Everywhere. (New York Times, February 13, 2020)
A campaign of sponsored content for the candidate flourished suddenly on Instagram. A new outfit, called Meme 2020, is behind it.
Oracle tells Supreme Court: Fair use? Pah! There's nothing fair about 'Google's copying'. (The Register, February 13, 2020)
Should they be allowed to grab our stuff just cos it's 'popular' and it works? The firm filed a brief yesterday to fend off Google's appeal in the highest court in the United States. The search giant is trying to overturn a Federal Circuit ruling over Google's use of Java code in the Android mobile operating system that would leave it on the hook for copyright damages estimated at $9-billion+.
Oracle characterised Google's problem was that Sun's "APIs are copyrighted". It remarked: "Google could have taken the open-source license for free. But Google considered the give-back obligation 'unacceptable'."
Oracle also said, seemingly in opposition to its own argument, that Google had "admitted that it purposely made Android incompatible with Java".
Free Software is Being Abandoned by Opponents of Software Patents and It's Being Attacked by Patent Trolls. (TechRights, February 13, 2020)
…then, companies that are arming those trolls suddenly pretend to come to our 'rescue'.
Scientists say the pangolin endangered by Chinese smuggling may have passed the coronavirus to humans. (Quartz, February 13, 2020)
Before now news stories about pangolins, endangered ant-eating scaly mammals found in West and Central Africa and Asia, have focused on how China's insatiable thirst for their meat and scales has led to a rapid decline in its global population.
The recent news linking the animal to China may change this trend as pangolins have been reported to have likely transmitted to humans the novel coronavirus that has caused the death of over 1,300 people in mainland China. The pangolin was reported to be the most likely intermediate host from which humans contracted the coronavirus. The pangolin-vector claim was made public on Feb. 7 by researchers at South China Agricultural University, who said they found the genome sequence of the coronavirus separated from pangolins to be 99% identical to that collected from infected people.
China has been in the news as the major consumer of pangolin which is smuggled in mostly from Africa. The massive demand for pangolin in China and Vietnam, where the animal is consumed as meat and their scales used for traditional medicine, has led to the decimation of the animal in these countries.
Though trade in pangolin meat and scales has been banned internationally, domestic sales of medicines containing pangolin scales are still allowed in China. Many of the first people to become infected by the coronavirus worked at a seafood and wild-animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and the virus is thought to have first spread to humans there in December.
As China has become a global economic powerhouse over recent decades, Chinese demand for African mammals for medicines and other products has had a significant impact in countries which have lax conservation laws. In recent years, rhino and elephant populations have been devastated in southern Africa, driven in part by demand for their horns and tusks.
NEW: The coronavirus is the first true social-media “infodemic”. (MIT Technology Review, February 12, 2020)
Social media has zipped information and misinformation around the world at unprecedented speeds, fueling panic, racism … and hope.
Susan Collins' defense of her Trump vote just keeps looking worse and worse. (2-min. video; CNN, February 12, 2020)
Eight days removed from Donald Trump's acquittal on both articles of impeachment, the President is leaning heavily into a revenge tour against his political enemies - an effort that makes Maine Sen. Susan Collins' claim that Trump had learned his lesson from the impeachment proceedings all the more outlandish.
When she said that, it was obviously not true. Nothing in Trump's behavior - either in regard to the impeachment effort or more generally - offered even a shred of evidence to make that claim seem anything but laughable. But now, eight days removed from his impeachment and in the midst of Trump's reign of revenge, it's an even more indefensible position.
Bomb cyclones poised to form in the North Atlantic will rake Europe with high winds, ‘phenomenal seas’. (Washington Post, February 12, 2020)
Hot on the heels of Storm Ciara in the U.K. will come Storm Dennis.
Europe's center isn't holding. (Washington Post, February 11, 2020)
In Ireland, Sinn Fein, the left-wing nationalist political party with historic ties to the militant Irish Republican Army, achieved its strongest-ever performance in elections over the weekend, smashing Ireland's center-right status quo by finishing ahead of the country's two traditional establishment parties. It's still unclear what shape the next government will take, but Sinn Fein's leaders believe they have the mandate to govern.
In Germany last week, the far-right Alternative for Germany cooperated with a local branch of the ruling Christian Democrats and a smaller pro-free market, liberal party to help form a government in the eastern state of Thuringia. The AfD, a vehemently anti-immigrant party brimming with both neofascist rhetoric and members, has surged into prominence in recent regional and national elections and commands the third-largest bloc of seats in the Bundestag, or parliament. Establishment parties have sought to keep them at arm's length, aware of the taboo of associating with Nazi-adjacent politics.
But no longer. "The alignment shook German politics, breaking a pledge from mainstream parties that they would not cooperate with the far right," my colleagues reported. "Spontaneous street demonstrations took place in German cities after the move, which was seen as a break in the post-World War II political consensus."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European embodiment of centrist, consensus-driven politics, branded the maneuver by members of her own party to collaborate with the AfD in Thuringia as "unforgivable." But the political tremors unleashed there shook the center, instead: On Monday, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel's designated successor, said she would step aside as leader of the Christian Democrats - a consequence in part of divisions with Merkel's own party, where many want to pivot their politics in the direction of the AfD.
Bloomberg's Super Tuesday splurge (Axios, February 11, 2020)
While most candidates are focusing their dollars and efforts on early primary states, the Democratic presidential candidate has his eyes set on the states he thinks he can win - and those with the most delegates. 35% of Bloomberg's ad money has been spent on the four states with the largest number of Democratic delegates - California, New York, Texas and Florida. Nearly half has been spent on Super Tuesday and Rust Belt states.
So far, the investment seems to be paying off. The billionaire former New York mayor's rise in national polls is due largely to his growing popularity in Super Tuesday states, according to FiveThirtyEight. He's even surpassed Warren in Florida.
While skipping the early primary states ensures that the presidential nominee comes out unscathed ahead of Super Tuesday, it also means Bloomberg has missed out on potentially building more earned media support nationally.
NEW: Green Hydrogen Is Right Around The Corner. (Oilprice, February 11, 2020)
Hydrogen is often touted as a green and nearly inexhaustible source of clean energy. The first element of the periodic table burns completely clean, leaving nothing behind but water vapor. This makes it extremely enticing and sellable as a fuel source option for a decarbonized future economy. However, the reality is much more complex and much less green. Hydrogen power is nothing new, and is already used in industrial processes such as ammonia production, in refineries and as a feedstock for chemicals. This hydrogen, however, like most hydrogen currently in production, is created through the use of fossil fuels, primarily coal and natural gas. This hydrogen is known as “grey hydrogen” and is useless when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The fossil-fuel-free production of “green hydrogen” is not only possible, it’s already being produced as well, just not at the same scale or as cheaply as conventional fossil-fuel-produced hydrogen. As Recharge News reports, system costs of green hydrogen are certainly the biggest hurdle for green hydrogen at present, but likely not for long.
Spring Is Here... But It's Still Winter. (Gizmodo, February 11, 2020)
Spring has arrived across the Southeast earlier than at any point in the last 39 years. Leaves and flowers appearing this early in the year could spell trouble for crops and wildlife in the region.
And you know what's likely to blame? You got it: climate change.
Coronavirus slows China's economy. (New York Times, February 11, 2020)
As it works to contain the spread of a dangerous epidemic, one of the world's largest economies has been largely idle, threatening a sharp reduction in the production of everything from cars to smartphones.
Chinese health officials said today that the death toll from the new coronavirus had passed 1,000. In Hong Kong, two people living on different floors of an apartment building were found to be infected, raising fears about how the virus can spread. Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has reached.
Quotable: "Let's not shake hands in this special time," said China's leader, Xi Jinping, as he toured Beijing on Monday after facing criticism for his relatively low profile.
Another angle: During an Ebola outbreak in 2014, Donald Trump, then a private citizen, called for measures like canceling flights and forcing quarantines. Public health experts are now concerned that a president who has spoken openly about his phobia of germs might overreact to the coronavirus crisis.
Perspective: In an opinion piece for The Times, an epidemiologist discusses what is known, and not known, about the virus.
China Is Spraying Entire City Blocks in Wuhan to Contain Coronavirus Outbreak. (Futurism, February 10, 2020)
The footage is apocalyptic: Workers roll giant machines down empty streets, blasting huge plumes of disinfecting spray.
NEW: Trump vowed to not cut Social Security and Medicare — hours before proposing just that. (Vox, February 10, 2020)
The president is either brazenly lying about his 2021 budget or doesn’t know what’s in it.
White-Collar Crime (Huffington Post, February 10, 2020)
Over the past two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. 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.
NEW: Late capitalism (Quartz, February 10, 2020)
$400 jeans flecked with fake mud. Chernobyl tourism. When a geopolitical spat on Twitter leads to a real-life war. These are, debatably, all symptoms of late capitalism (or late-stage capitalism). Over the past few years, the phrase has become shorthand to describe, as one active Reddit community calls it, “our social, moral and ideological rot.” But as the phrase has transitioned from arcane German economic theory to meme-ified vernacular, its definition has shifted to encompass pretty much everything ironic about money—who has it, how they get it, and who suffers—in our modern era.
Iceberg that's twice the size of Washington cleaves off Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, in a sign of warming. (Washington Post, February 10, 2020)
An iceberg about twice the size of the District of Columbia broke off Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica sometime between Saturday and Sunday, satellite data shows, confirming yet another in a series of increasingly frequent calving events in this rapidly warming region.
The Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica, and along with the Thwaites Glacier nearby, it's a subject of close scientific monitoring to determine whether these glaciers are in a phase of runaway melting, potentially freeing up vast inland areas of ice to flow to the sea and raising sea levels.
According to NASA, the region surrounding the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers contains enough "highly vulnerable ice" to raise global sea levels by about four feet.
NEW: What lies at the bottom of one of the deepest holes ever dug by man? (14-min. video; CBS News, February 9, 2020)
A South African gold mine that goes two miles beneath the Earth's surface holds far more than just precious metals.
For Thousands of Years, Egypt Controlled the Nile. A New Dam Threatens That. (New York Times, February 9, 2020)
Ethiopia is staking its hopes on its $4.5 billion hydroelectric dam. Egypt fears it will cut into its water supplies. President Trump is mediating.
Bloomberg's big bet on the power of money (Axios, February 8, 2020)
Michael Bloomberg’s prolific spending aims to make him as legitimate and familiar as his rivals. It also confronts two realities: President Trump is out-raising all the other Democrats with ease, and the Democratic National Committee is anemic.
NEW: Very dumb congressman forgets that recessions almost always start under Republican presidents. (Daily Kos, February 8, 2020)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is not a fan of history, apparently. This pervasive, lingering myth that Republicans are great for the economy and Democrats are poison never ceases to baffle me.That’s why they need to be reminded of their incompetence at every turn.
The opposite is true. On every important measure - GDP growth, job creation, deficit spending, business investment growth - Democrats beat Republicans’ brains out, and they have for decades. This only makes sense, of course. Democrats want to invest broadly in our economy, whereas Republicans love to balloon the deficit and hand fistfuls of cash to obscenely wealthy plutocrats just because.
So what would a “socialist Democrat” do? Probably invest in infrastructure and a forward-looking green economy; unshackle financially strapped workers who are burdened with crushing student loan debt; free would-be entrepreneurs who are scared to leave their jobs because they can’t lose their insurance; put more money in the hands of poor and middle class workers, who would be more apt to spend it; and protect our air, water, and natural resources, thus ensuring a sustainable future economy.
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump's tax cuts are designed to take American government back to the 1920s. (Letters From An American, February 8, 2020)
On Monday, Trump will release his 2021 budget. It contains $800 billion worth of cuts in Medicaid over the next decade. On January 22, in an interview on CNBC when he was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, when pressed on the enormous budget deficits his policies have created - he has added almost $3 trillion to the national debt - he suggested that he is considering cutting Social Security and Medicare in his second term. "That’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look," he said.
One of the reasons the nation’s deficit and debt is soaring is that Trump's 2017 tax cut slashed tax revenues. And rather than helping regular Americans, "the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe-fitters, the people that like me best," as Trump put it, 60% of the tax savings went to people whose incomes were in the top 20%.
These cuts to both social programs and taxes are the end game of a movement that started in the 1930s. It is designed to take American government back to the 1920s, when Republicans led by Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge turned the government over to businessmen in the belief that they alone truly knew what was best for the country. For eight years, it seemed like this system was the best ever designed as the economy appeared to boom and some men became very rich indeed.
But the Roaring Twenties came to a crashing end in 1929, and in the introspection that followed, Americans discovered that some businessmen and financiers had been cheating, while even those who were trying to live within the law were gambling with customers' money or taking advantage of risky schemes.
The accelerating health crisis in China is testing the authoritarian system President Xi Jinping built around himself. It may be difficult for him to escape blame. (New York Times, February 8, 2020)
As the government struggles in its fight to stop the coronavirus, it is also having trouble controlling the narrative, and Mr. Xi now faces unusually hostile public discontent that even rigorous censorship cannot stifle entirely.
Meanwhile, the death toll in China has risen to more than 800, surpassing the death toll from the SARS epidemic of 2002-3. Among the dead is a U.S. citizen.
And with flu season in full swing, hospitals are preparing for another surge of patients if the coronavirus spreads widely in the U.S.
Trump publicly admits he fired White House official as retaliation for impeachment testimony: 'He was very insubordinate.' (The Independent UK, February 8, 2020)
US president lashes out at Lt Col Alexander Vindman hours after Ukraine expert escorted from office.
Mr Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, had earlier appeared to suggest Lt Col Vindman and Gordon Sondland, who was recalled as US ambassador to the European Union, were sacked for their testimony in the inquiry.
Mr Trump was acquitted this week by Republican allies in the Senate, even though some admitted they did not dispute the allegations against him.
The GOP Is Sending Out Political Mailers That Look Like Official Census Documents. (Mother Jones, February 7, 2020)
They’re continuing despite criticism.
The U.S. Government Uses 'Near Perfect Surveillance' Data on Americans. (New York Times, February 7, 2020)
"When the government tracks the location of a cellphone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone's user," wrote John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, in a 2018 ruling that prevented the government from obtaining location data from cellphone towers without a warrant. "We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier's database of physical location information," Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the decision, Carpenter v. United States.
With that judicial intent in mind, it is alarming to read a new report in The Wall Street Journal that found the Trump administration "has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement." The data used by the government comes not from the phone companies but from a location data company, one of many that are quietly and relentlessly collecting the precise movements of all smartphone-owning Americans through their phone apps.
Surely, Congress has time to hold hearings about a matter of urgent concern to everyone who owns a smartphone or cares about the government using the most invasive corporate surveillance system ever devised against its own people.
Warning Shot The German Conservatives' Faustian Pact With the Far-Right (Der Speigel, February 7, 2020)
German conservatives in the eastern state of Thuringia have drawn scathing criticism for relying on the far-right to get a gubernatorial candidate elected. In a DER SPIEGEL editorial, our author argues that anything short of unequivocal rejection of political extremism is ultimately damaging to liberal democracy.
Democracy in the USA is still alive, but the alliance between Donald Trump and the Republicans has damaged it. Because many Senators hope they can retain
power with Trump's help, they follow him unconditionally, also in the obvious lie that he has not abused the power of his office. It seems that about 50% of Americans also see it this way.
The broader article examines how democracy fails, with examples from Nazi Germany, Brazil, Venezuela, and Peru. The common first step in the failure is the willingness of moderate politicians to ally themselves with undemocratic elements in order to retain power. Then the fascists take over.
Trump seems to be intensifying his program to pack the government with his supporters, in the courts, in the executive branch, and most recently in the intelligence and security services.
Germany's Post-Nazi Taboo Against the Far Right Has Been Shattered. (New York Times, February 7, 2020)
Events this week in German politics were horrifying. But they shouldn't have been a surprise.
Windows 10 warning: anger at Microsoft rises with serious new failure. (OS News, February 7, 2020)
Windows 10 may now be essential but users new and old have had a rough ride in recent weeks. And it has just gotten a lot worse after a new, high-profile Windows 10 failure has left more questions than answers and some seriously angry users. The drama began yesterday as Windows 10 users suddenly found that Search was broken with a black bar showing where search results should be, even for those who tried to perform a local search of their files.
This is the future of proprietary operating systems like Windows, macOS and iOS as their parent companies move towards services and subscription models. More and more, they'll use their operating systems to push their services and subscriptions, to the detriment of the user experience. It's been happening in Windows 10 for a few years now, and iOS, too, is riddled with ads for Apple's services.
[This is just one reason why MMS is committed to Linux and free, open-source software (FOSS).]
Here's why NSA rushed to expose a dangerous Microsoft computer bug. (Washington Post, February 6, 2020)
The National Security Agency is known for keeping secrets. But a bug it recently discovered in Microsoft's operating system was so potentially catastrophic that it fast-tracked a lengthy decision-making process to alert the company and the public as quickly as possible.
The quick disclosure marks a big pivot for the agency, which has historically been eager to hold onto hackable computer bugs that it can use to spy on U.S. adversaries - at least temporarily - before sharing them with companies and has been loath to advertise its role in uncovering them.
It also underscores the havoc the Microsoft flaw could have caused if it was discovered and exploited by U.S. adversaries in Russia, Iran or elsewhere who could have compromised millions of computers for surveillance or sabotage. NEW: The Very Limited Republican Concern about FISA (emptywheel, February 6, 2020)
There are a number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act submissions made by the Trump Administration that the FISA Court has found problematic. The FISA Court has complained about FBI surveillance practices all occurring under Trump affecting up to 135,476 Americans. And Republicans claiming to give a goddamn about FISA are really just concerned about one of those Americans.
NEW: How the Iowa caucus app went wrong and how open source could have helped. (ZDNet, February 6, 2020)
Opinion: It was incompetence, not politics, that led to the Iowa caucus app misfiring. Above all, it was poor programming. Open-source software techniques could have prevented this blunder.
NEW: Greenland’s ice sheet is melting in more ways than we thought. (Popular Science, February 6, 2020)
A channel of warm water is threatening a glacier that holds back a massive ice river.
Caffeine has been a boon for civilization, Michael Pollan says. But it has come at a cost. (Washington Post, February 5, 2020)
Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "The Botany of Desire," "In Defense of Food" and "How to Change Your Mind" - in which he has explored our complicated relationship with food, plants, drugs and many other things we take for granted - has turned his imposing analytical skills to caffeine, the most popular mind-altering chemical on the planet.
"For most of us, to be caffeinated to one degree or another has simply become baseline human consciousness," Pollan writes, well, reads in "Caffeine." "Something like 90 percent of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world and the only one we routinely give to children, commonly in the form of soda. It's so pervasive that it's easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, is an altered state."
And in its Comments thread, these compelling comments by Robert Riversong (February 7th):
As to whether civilization is a net plus for our species, the answer is clear.
The most significant mistake humans ever made was giving up their in-balance, sustainable gatherer-hunter lifestyle (which also kept their population in check) for the sedentary agricultural lifestyle. In every part of the world, following the "agricultural revolution", humans got sicker, shorter, had more tooth decay, and shorter lifespans.
Grain-based agriculture required a sedentary lifestyle, active manipulation of the environment, longer hours of more strenuous work, a system of storage and distribution and record-keeping, non-productive classes to control and safeguard both croplands and stored grains, a peasant class to supply the non-productive hierarchy, a permanent military for territorial protection and expansion, an expansionist paradigm to control more croplands and water sources for the inevitably growing population, and the development of more efficient technologies with almost universal unintended consequences. In almost every case of these early civilizations (from Sumer and Mesopotamia to the Americas and Easter Island), the result was deforestation, soil erosion and/or salination, loss of fertility, catastrophic flooding, human slavery or taxation/tribute, regular warfare, human sacrifice, and eventual societal collapse.
When we domesticated animals for human consumption, we introduced diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, leprosy, influenza and aids (humans now share 65 diseases with dogs, 50 with cattle, 46 with sheep and goats, 42 with pigs, 35 with horses and 26 with poultry).
In addition, permanent settlements made it difficult to provide clean drinking water and a number of diseases became endemic, such as typhoid, dysentery, cholera and intestinal worms and flukes.
Second, the development of cities brought humans together in numbers (at least 250,000) sufficient to allow the major epidemic diseases, such as smallpox and bubonic plague, to develop and eventually spread. Third, the gradual drawing together of human communities around the globe spread new diseases to peoples who had no natural resistance.
Finally, medical treatment had a significant but limited impact and, by the late 20th century, it faced a new threat from the changing pattern of disease – the diseases of affluence, which include cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and the growing number of antibiotic resistant pathogens.
Pompeo tries to mock Pelosi. Instead, he mocks himself - with Lisa Simpson's help. (Daily Kos, February 5, 2020)
Here is Mike Pompeo, secretary of state in theory, responding to the speaker of the House tearing up a copy of Trump's white nationalist speech to Congress on Monday night. There are several problems with this bold Pompeo dive into popular culture. A lot of problems, actually.
The Simpsons image in question is from the season three episode, "Mr. Lisa Goes To Washington." In it, Lisa Simpson, who is canonically the smartest person in her family and, off and on, one of the smartest people in Springfield, wins a rah-rah-America essay contest and goes to present her essay in Washington. While there, she witnesses an act of corruption: a congressman asking for and receiving a bribe. She is so devastated that she returns to her room, crying, and rips her rah-rah Americanisms to pieces. She has learned that they are a lie.
An epic breakdown in Iowa casts a spotlight on the caucus system. (Washington Post, February 4, 2020)
Iowa Democrats spent a year evaluating a record-large field of presidential candidates, all in search of someone they believed could defeat President Trump in November. But on the night they were asked to deliver a definitive result, the precinct caucus system broke down, and Iowa's place in the nominating process became the story.
NEW: Tool to Help Journalists Spot Doctored Images Is Unveiled by Jigsaw. (New York Times, February 4, 2020)
The company, owned by Google's parent, introduced a free tool it calls Assembler to sort out real images from fake ones. Jigsaw, known as Google Ideas when it was founded, said it was testing the tool, called Assembler, with more than a dozen news and fact-checking organizations around the world. They include Animal Politico in Mexico, Rappler in the Philippines and Agence France-Presse. It does not plan to offer the tool to the public.
"We observed an evolution in how disinformation was being used to manipulate elections, wage war and disrupt civil society," Jared Cohen, Jigsaw's chief executive, wrote in a blog post about Assembler. "But as the tactics of disinformation were evolving, so too were the technologies used to detect and ultimately stop disinformation."
Government may be too slow to tackle cyberthreats, outgoing NSA attorney warns. (Washington Post, February 3, 2020)
(Washington Post, February 4, 2020)Glenn Gerstell says technology "has been a tsunami hitting us within a 20-year period."
NEW: Sanders campaign rejects Trump claims: Democratic primary is 'not currently rigged'. (The Hill, February 3, 2020)
Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders's 2020 presidential campaign, on Monday pushed back against President Trump's accusations that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is working to "rig" the primary contest against the Vermont senator. "It is not currently rigged. Last time it was rigged," Weaver, who as served Sanders's 2016 White House campaign manager, said on MSNBC as the Iowa caucuses got under way.
Weaver added that Trump's comments are an attempt to paint the primary as a tool of the political establishment - and himself as the only candidate working outside of the machine. "We’re not going to play that game," Weaver said. "The danger for Trump is the people who support Trump, working class people in Pennsylvania, people who voted for Barack Obama twice and then voted for Trump, people in Iowa [are the] same way. Those people could be brought back by Bernie Sanders, not Joe Biden."
The comments came after the DNC abruptly announced that it was nixing the donor threshold for a primary debate in Las Vegas later this month. The move could present an opening for Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman self-funding his entire campaign, to reach the debate stage.
Heather Cox Richardson: In the short term, Trump and his supporters appear to have won. But... (Letters From An American, February 2, 2020)
As House impeachment manager Adam Schiff warned them, if they acquit Trump, they will be part of the cover up, and they will be tied to Every. Single. Thing. That. Drops. From. Here. On. Out. And there will be plenty.
Last night, around midnight, just after Senate Republicans blocked testimony from witnesses and the admission of new documents, the Trump administration admitted in a court filing that it was withholding 24 emails from between June and September 2019 that describe "communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President's immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine."
There are nine months to go before the 2020 presidential election.
People are saying this is the end for American democracy, but I see the opposite. Radical ideologues who want the government to do nothing but protect property, build a strong military, and advance Christianity took over the Republican Party in the 1990s. They have been manipulating our political system to their own ends ever since. They want to destroy the government regulation of business and social safety net we have enjoyed since the 1930s. But they have done so gradually, and not enough people seem to have noticed, even when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the shocking step of refusing to permit a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee named by a Democrat. Now they have gone too far, out in the open, and it looks to me as if Americans are finally seeing the radicals currently in charge of the Republican Party for what they are, and are determined to take America back.
Ironically, this moment looks a lot like the moment that created the Republican Party. In the 1850s, elite slaveholders, who made up less than 1% of the population, took over the Democratic Party, which dominated national politics as their opponents kept squabbling amongst themselves. The slaveholders insisted that the government’s only job was to protect them and their property, and they stifled opposition as well as calls for government projects to spur the economy, getting poor white southerners to rally behind them with increasingly vicious racism.
Finally, in 1854, they went too far. In 1820, Congress had divided western lands evenly between slavery and freedom, but by 1854, the South had spread into all the lands reserved for slavery. So in 1854, planters demanded the right to take their enslaved workers into western land that was reserved for freedom. The proposed law, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, meant that rich planters would keep poor white men from moving west and taking up land. At the same time, adding new slave states in the West would break the balance in Congress. A few wealthy slaveowners would have the power to make slavery national. Free men would fall into poverty, and American democracy would end. Surely, northerners thought, Congress would never pass such a dastardly law.
You know what’s coming, right? It did. Under enormous pressure from the Democratic president Franklin Pierce, the Democrats passed the hated bill. Northern Democrats, who loathed the act, signed on, putting party before country.
[And the rest is history. But DO read this article in full!]
NEW: The Trump Recession. It's already happening. (Daily Kos, February 1, 2020)
Donald Trump says that America should re-elect him in 2020 because he's doing such a great job with the economy. Never mind that he's been caught soliciting and cooperating with foreign interference in elections and obstructing justice, has locked kids in cages, and has been impeached. His foreign policy has also been a disaster. But according to Trump, he's created "the best economy in history", and that's why we should vote for him.
Of course, it's nowhere near the best economy in history, but it's still a strong economy. At least that's what most people believe. But is it really? A closer look reveals that the economy isn't really all that great, and rather than an asset to Trump's re-election, it should be a liability.
The GOP doesn't deserve to survive this debacle. (Washington Post, February 1, 2020)
Trump will leave office some day (I hope!), but he will leave behind a quasi-authoritarian party that is as corrupt as he is. The failure to call witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial revealed the GOP's moral failure.
As New Coronavirus Spread, China's Old Habits Delayed Fight. (New York Times, February 1, 2020)
At critical turning points, Chinese authorities put secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the growing crisis and risking public alarm or political embarrassment.
NEW: US Rescinds Ban on Use of Landmines (US Dept. of Defense, January 31, 2020)
NEW: Democrats come out swinging against new debate criteria. (The Hill, January 31, 2020)
The DNC said it would drop the donor threshold for the Feb. 19 primary debate in Nevada. The move could open the door for Bloomberg, a billionaire who is refusing any donations to his White House bid, to win a spot at the event.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign ripped the DNC over its new debate qualifications, saying it is supporting “a rigged system.” “To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong. That’s the definition of a rigged system,” said Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders’s campaign.
DNC members discuss rules change to stop Sanders at convention. (Politico, January 31, 2020)
The talks reveal rising anxiety over the Vermont senator's momentum on the eve of voting.
A new type of DNA analysis has turned up ancient secrets. (New York Times, January 31, 2020)
Researchers concluded that a wave of modern humans departed Africa far earlier than previously known: some 200,000 years ago. The study also revealed traces of the DNA of Neanderthals, like the fossil above, in all living humans, including Africans, who were thought to have little to no Neanderthal DNA.
How Chaos at Chain Pharmacies Is Putting Patients at Risk (New York Times, January 31, 2020)
The Election Cybersecurity Initiative is a new cross-country effort to train election and campaign pros on digital security. (Washington Post, January 30, 2020)
A team from the University of Southern California has embarked on a 50-state tour to give cybersecurity training to poll workers and state and local campaign staffers who will be the last line of defense against Russian hacking in 2020. The group, called the Election Cybersecurity Initiative, views itself as a bottom-up, grass-roots counterpart to national-level election security efforts led by the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of Russia’s election interference in 2016. It's hoping to advise local election officials, Election Day volunteers, ground-level campaign door-knockers and even interns in both political parties who national officials are unlikely to reach. The group also wants to build a network of cybersecurity experts at universities across the nation who can help secure local races and polling sites.
The Google-backed group's tagline is "our candidate is democracy."
NEW: Guardian to ban advertising from fossil fuel firms. (Guardian, January 29, 2020)
Move follows efforts to reduce carbon footprint and increase reporting on climate crisis
Trump is seriously frightened of man who begged him for a job and tried to start 'World War VI'. (Daily Kos, January 29, 2020)
Trump says that the manuscript that John Bolton has submitted to his publisher is "nasty and untrue". At the same time, it is "all classified and national security". It might seem like it would be impossible for a book to be both an untrue personal attack and chock-full of classified national security information. But apparently Bolton is super-talented that way.
White House has issued formal threat to Bolton to keep him from publishing book. (CNN, January 29, 2020)
The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir," sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
In a letter to Bolton's lawyer, a top official at the National Security Council wrote the unpublished manuscript of Bolton's book "appears to contain significant amounts of classified information" and couldn't be published as written. The letter, which is dated January 23, said some of the information was classified at the "top secret" level, meaning it "reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security. The manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information".
Anti-Trump Republican group drops the most brutal ad of all time against 'full Trump' AZ senator. (1-min. video; Daily Kos, January 29, 2020)
Trumpworld torn over running against Bernie. (Politico, January 28, 2020)
Some advisers are salivating over running against a socialist. Others say they need to be careful what they wish for.
Poll: Warren fares better against Biden than Sanders. (Politico, January 28, 2020)
Warren allies seize on new survey to argue she's the progressive candidate most likely to defeat the former veep. In the closing weeks of the campaign, Warren has sought to position herself as a unity candidate who can bring together the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic Party. \
But progressive leaders and organizations have increasingly consolidated behind Sanders, who has risen in early-state and national polling. He is first in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
NEW: The Bolton Bombshell and the Unwaveringly Pro-Trump G.O.P. (New Yorker, January 28, 2020)
By the time Kenneth Starr started speaking at the Senate impeachment trial of Donald John Trump on Monday afternoon, it was hard not to wonder whether the whole thing was meant as a monumental distraction. Certainly, it was a bizarre spectacle: the man who brought us the last impeachment of a President lecturing the Senate on the dangerous evils of impeachment.
I’m old enough to remember when, in 1998, Starr produced the most X-rated document ever to be printed under congressional seal, in service of lobbying for an impeachment. The document, which will forever be known as the Starr report, detailed Bill Clinton’s Oval Office trysts in painfully graphic detail.
GOP Doesn't Now Have Votes to Block Witnesses. (Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020)
On the third and final day of presentations by the Trump legal team, lawyers tried to cast doubts on the importance and credibility of allegations by former national security adviser John Bolton about the president's motives for freezing aid to Ukraine. Republicans had hoped to wrap up the trial with an acquittal of the president by this week, but Democrats have said Mr. Bolton should appear under oath to offer a firsthand account of the president's motivations for freezing aid to Ukraine - a matter at the heart of the impeachment case.
Trump team warns: Stand strong or prepare for an endless trial. (Politico, January 28, 2020)
The president's aides are urging senators to wrap up the impeachment trial quickly or face the prospect of legal fights that drag on for weeks - or even months into the campaign season.
White House aides said they were satisfied with the Trump team's opening statements, particularly singling out remarks late Monday by Alan Dershowitz, who argued among other things that the claims in Bolton's unpublished book - if true - wouldn't constitute an impeachable defense.
"Professor Dershowitz made it very clear last night even if everything that came out in the New York Times article were true, there would not be an impeachable offense and I think the basic principle remains that it is not the role of the Senate now to begin taking new witnesses when the House didn't even seek a subpoena," an official on the president's legal team told reporters. "That would fundamentally change the relationship between the House and Senate in this kind of proceeding."
If they vote against witnesses, senators risk the potential for more news to surface after the trial that could indicate they made the wrong call. Some Republicans already sense a looming Democratic plot to gradually release more Ukraine bombshells as Trump fights for reelection.
[Some? Are any so dumb that they don't realize that will happen?] NEW: Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic. (Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020)
Quarantines, flu vaccines and other steps to take before the Wuhan novel coronavirus becomes widespread.
Donald Trump slams Democrats' 'deranged partisan crusades' but says they will suffer 'crushing defeat'. (USA Today, January 28, 2020)
President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday that while he has been busy creating jobs and killing terrorists, Democrats have been focused on "demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades."
'Screaming the Quiet Part Into a Bullhorn': Sen. Joni Ernst Admits GOP Using Impeachment Trial to Damage Biden in 2020. (Common Dreams, January 28, 2020)
"Trump is trying to use the trial to do what Ukraine wouldn't - destroy his political rivals."
U.S. Budget Deficit to Top $1 Trillion for Next Decade. (New York Times, January 28, 2020)
The Congressional Budget Office predicted on Tuesday that the United States deficit will top $1 trillion annually over the next 10 years, ultimately reaching $1.7 trillion in 2030. The ballooning deficit is being fueled by increased borrowing by the federal government, which continues to spend more money than it takes in. By 2030, the C.B.O. projected, federal debt held by the public will surpass $31 trillion - about 98 percent of the forecast size of the nation's economy.
US dropped record number of bombs on Afghanistan last year. (The Guardian, January 28, 2020)
Warplanes dropped 7,423 bombs and other munitions, the most since Pentagon began keeping track in 2006.
Facebook will now show you exactly how it stalks you - even when you're not using Facebook. (Washington Post, January 28, 2020)
The new 'Off-Facebook Activity' tool reminds us we're living in a reality TV program where the cameras are always on. Here are the privacy settings to change right now.
Even with Facebook closed on my phone, the social network gets notified when I use the Peet's Coffee app. It knows when I read the website of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg or view articles from The Atlantic. Facebook knows when I click on my Home Depot shopping cart and when I open the Ring app to answer my video doorbell. It uses all this information from my not-on-Facebook, real-world life to shape the messages I see from businesses and politicians alike.
You can see how Facebook is stalking you, too. The "Off-Facebook Activity" tracker will show you 180 days' worth of the data Facebook collects about you from the many organizations and advertisers in cahoots with it. This page, buried behind lots of settings menus (here's a direct link), is the product of a promise CEO Mark Zuckerberg made during the height of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal to provide ways we can "clear the history" in our accounts.
Alan Dershowitz called Trump corrupt in 2016 and said he could be corrupt as President. (CNN, January 28, 2020)
'You Did a Good Job on Her': White House Audience Laughs as Trump Praises Pompeo for Bullying NPR Reporter. (Common Dreams, January 28, 2020)
"That was very impressive, Mike," the president said to applause during a press conference in the White House.
NPR reporter removed from Pompeo trip in 'retaliation', says press group. (The Guardian, January 27, 2020)
State department denies journalist seat on official plane, following public feud with news outlet over tough questions on Ukraine.
NEW: Two Soldiers Recall the Liberation of Dachau and Auschwitz. (Der Speigel, January 27, 2020)
Seventy-five years ago, Auschwitz was liberated, with Dachau to follow a couple of months later. Here, a Soviet soldier and an American soldier recall the moment they first set eyes on the camps.
Republicans are trapped, thanks to Nancy Pelosi. (Washington Post, January 27, 2020)
With an assist from former national security adviser John Bolton, Pelosi cornered Senate Republicans who had hoped to escape the spectacle of a full airing of President Trump's unconscionable conduct. They can acquit, and in all likelihood will, but they cannot facilitate Trump's cover-up without implicating themselves and entirely discrediting the process. They face humiliation when evidence eventually comes out. If they vote to acquit without hearing from Bolton, Trump will be denied the satisfaction of exoneration by a credible process.
This one on John Bolton was a big, stupid lie even by Trump standards. (Daily Kos, January 27, 2020)
According to an early morning Trump rage-tweet, "The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify. It is up to them, not up to the Senate!"
John Bolton's bombshell gives the GOP a glimpse of its nightmare scenario. (3-min. video; Washington Post, January 27, 2020)
The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that they give Trump the quick and witness-free acquittal that he apparently desires, but then information like Bolton's keeps coming out. Bolton now suggests Trump was indeed telling people privately that the withheld military aid was part of a quid pro quo - a quid pro quo that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he communicated to the Ukrainians. This is something Trump's team has strenuously denied, including at the impeachment trial. What if Bolton isn't the only person Trump told this to who might suddenly contradict them? However closely this has already been tied to Trump, it can always be tied more closely. Bolton's upcoming book - slated for March 17 - is a great example of how the hastily assembled walls the Trump team have built around its defense can quickly crumble and, in some cases, already have.
NEW: German Foreign Minister on the Legacy of the Holocaust "For A Long Time Now, Words Have Not Been Enough." (Der Speigel, January 26, 2020)
Speeches and warnings are insufficient when it comes to anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe. We need concrete programs to counter the hatred of Jews, including better education and harsher penalties.
Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says. (New York Times, January 26, 2020)
Drafts of the book outline the potential testimony of the former national security adviser if he were called as a witness in the president's impeachment trial.
20 (More) Questions With Democrats (20 videos, etc.; New York Times, January 26, 2020)
We sat down again with Democratic presidential candidates and asked them a new set of questions.
[Excellent! But where are Biden and Sanders?]
Endorsement: Elizabeth Warren will push an unequal America in the right direction. (Des Moines IA Register, January 25, 2020)
Many of her ideas aren't radical; they are right. She must show that her vision will lift people up rather than divide them. She cares about people, and she will use her seemingly endless energy and passion to fight for them.
The outstanding caliber of Democratic candidates makes it difficult to choose just one.
'Absolutely nothing wrong': Quotes from the fifth day of Trump's impeachment trial (Reuters, January 25, 2020)
The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate entered a new phase on Saturday as Trump's legal team began to lay out its defense.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone: "We believe that when you hear the facts ... you will find that the president did absolutely nothing wrong. They're asking you to do something that no Senate has ever done.
For all their talk about election interference ... they're here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we can't allow that to happen. It would violate our Constitution. It would violate our history. It would violate our obligations to the future. And most importantly, it would violate the sacred trust that the American people have placed in you."
Heather Cox Richardson: "Republicans' strategy makes them seem disdainful not simply of the impeachment process, but of our government itself. It's not playing well. (Letters From An American, January 24, 2020)
Republicans are trying to pretend that the impeachment trial is so boring and unimportant that no one should bother watching. They are reading, chatting, playing with Fidget spinners. On Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity is assuring viewers he will protect them from the boring proceedings.
But it does not appear to be working. Americans are glued to the House managers' telling of the Ukraine Scandal, which they have made a compelling story of intrigue and corruption at the highest levels of our government, calling Americans back to the higher meaning of American democracy. As of tonight, more than 6 million people had watched a single clip of Adam Schiff's closing at last night's session. Further, the Republicans' strategy makes them seem disdainful not simply of the impeachment process, but of our government itself. It's not playing well.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo melted down at NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, insisting that he had defended Yovanovitch (he has not), and then after the interview cursing her, asking "Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?," and challenging her to find Ukraine on a map, going so far as actually getting aides to bring in an unlabeled map (on which she successfully identified Ukraine). "People will hear about this," he told her.
And that's the mounting problem for Trump's GOP. Over the coming months, people will definitely hear about many, many things.
NEW: 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.
Can Face Masks Protect You From Catching Coronavirus? (Columbia University News, January 24, 2020)
Studies suggest they may provide some benefit, but what's out there isn't conclusive. The best evidence suggests that face masks catch the bacteria shed in liquid droplets, splashes or sprays, and virus-containing droplets, but are less effective in filtering out fine viral particles in the air.
The Food and Drug Administration has cleared certain filtering (face mask) respirators, known as N95s, for use by the general public, which is considered to provide greater protection. However, they are more difficult to wear and require a tighter fit to your face.
Emotional Schiff Speech Goes Viral, Delighting the Left and Enraging the Right. (1-min. video; New York Times, January 24, 2020)
Representative Adam B. Schiff took a risk in telling senators they must convict and remove President Trump because, "You know you can't trust this president to do what's right for this country."
Anne Milgram, a former attorney general of New Jersey and now a law professor at New York University, described Mr. Schiff's sharp criticism of Mr. Trump as a "wise calculation" because, unlike a regular jury trial, Mr. Schiff does not need a unanimous verdict. The argument was aimed, she said, at the four or so moderate Republicans whose votes Democrats will need to call witnesses at the trial.
Regardless of the risk, it was clear on both sides of the aisle - and to experienced prosecutors who watched - that after a long day of complicated and sometimes monotonous testimony, Mr. Schiff's oratory broke through.
Office 365 forces switch to Bing on Chrome browser. (Office Watch, January 24, 2020)
Yuval Harari at Davos 2020: "How to Survive the 21st Century< (50-min. video; YouTube, January 23, 2020)
Tennessee senator tries to burn Adam Schiff, but Twitter roasts her almost instantly. (Daily Kos, January 23, 2020)
Adam Schiff's brilliant presentation is knocking down excuses to acquit. (Washington Post, January 22, 2020)
The facts are overwhelming.
Let them speak: Most Americans want witnesses in Trump impeachment trial. (Reuters/Ipsos poll, January 22, 2020)
A bipartisan majority of Americans want to see new witnesses testify in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, and the public appears to be largely following the proceedings even after a bruising congressional inquiry that lasted several months, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling released Wednesday.
The poll showed that Republicans and Democrats want to see people like Bolton and Pompeo tell the Senate what they know about the administration's policies in Ukraine. About 72% agreed that the trial "should allow witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the impeachment charges to testify," including 84% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans. And 70% of the public, including 80% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans, said senators should "act as impartial jurors" during the trial.
The poll showed that two out of three Americans are paying attention to the proceedings, with Democrats more interested than Republicans.
A Guide to the Case For and Against Removing Trump (New York Times, January 22, 2020)
NEW: Trump's Campaign Manager Responds to Bleak FOX News Poll by Insulting the American People. (Daily Kos, January 21, 2020)
From its Comments thread:
Clinton's remark about Trump’s “basketful of deplorables” was not stupid, per se, as with Trump’s blather. It was in fact true, but it was incredibly stupid for Clinton to say it publicly as a candidate who entered the race with high negative polling, second only to Trump.
Yes she won the popular vote, by large margins in blue states that were not going to vote for Trump no matter what. Trump won the electoral college by small margins in swing states where every single vote mattered much more than in places like Massachusetts or California.
Bernie Sanders polled with much higher positives than Clinton among rank and file Democrats and voters generally, and would have won those swing states that got Trump elected.
By the same token, a Republican like Kasich, who also had high positive poll results, would likely have beaten Clinton in the traditionally Democratic blue collar precincts that Clinton ignored, because those voters just did not like her and liked Kasich better than either Trump or Clinton. That fact might have given Kasich a slight majority in the popular vote as well. He would then have put another reactionary “conservative” on the Supreme Court, and could claim a popular mandate for doing so. Again, blame for the Trump fiasco falls squarely on the shoulders of Wasserman Schultz, the DNC’s “superdelegates” and candidate Clinton.
The Republicans just stood back, laughing when Trump was sworn in January 2017, while the progressive cause has been set back decades no matter who is elected president in 2020 or whether there is any shift of power in Congress. That is true even if Trump were to be impeached.
Greta Thunberg: "Our house is still on fire and you're fueling the flames." at Davos 2020 (full 8-min. video; World Economic Forum, January 21, 2020)
Trump and Greta Thunberg clash at Davos over climate change. (2-min. video; YouTube, January 21, 2020)
Donald Trump hits out at 'prophets of doom' in climate row with Greta Thunberg at Davos. (31-min. video; Telegraph UK, January 21, 2020)
Donald Trump hit out at environmental "alarmists" and "prophets of doom" in a thinly-veiled attack on Greta Thunberg on the opening day of the World Economic Forum at Davos. The US president said it is a "time for optimism" as he claimed he was a "big believer in the environment".
The Swedish climate activist warned the global elite that "our house is still on fire", adding that their inaction was "fueling the flames". She hit back at Trump, saying the president's backing of the one trillion trees initiative is "nowhere near enough".
Greta Thunberg in panel: "Forging a Sustainable Path towards a Common Future" at Davos 2020 (44-min. video; World Economic Forum, January 21, 2020)
The Cybersecurity 202: Here's the inside story of U.S. Cyber Command's campaign to hack ISIS. (Washington Post, January 21, 2020)
Cyber Command had to overcome intense hurdles within the U.S. government to launch the first hacking operation it ever acknowledged: Sabotaging the Islamic State's online propaganda.
"This was U.S. Cybercom’s first cyberwar," Michael Martelle, a National Security Archive cybersecurity fellow who led the effort to obtain the documents, told me. "This was the largest-scale operation and the most complex… We can draw a straight line from the counter-ISIL cyber mission to how U.S. Cybercom and the NSA are looking to counter Russia today."
'Constitutional Nonsense': Trump's Impeachment Defense Defies Legal Consensus. (New York Times, January 20, 2020)
The president's legal case would negate any need for witnesses. But constitutional scholars say that it's wrong.
McConnell Impeachment Rules Modify Clinton Precedent. (New York Times, January 20, 2020)
The Senate Republican leader proposed impeachment trial rules that push the 1999 precedent toward President Trump’s preferences.
NEW: Path to Hydrogen Competitiveness: A Cost Perspective (Hydrogen Council, January 20, 2020)
The cost of hydrogen solutions will fall sharply within the next decade – and sooner than previously expected. As scale up of hydrogen production, distribution, equipment and component manufacturing continues, cost is projected to decrease by up to 50% by 2030 for a wide range of applications, making hydrogen competitive with other low-carbon alternatives and, in some cases, even conventional options.
Conservative States Seek Billions to Brace for Disaster. Just Don't Call It Climate Change. (New York Times, January 20, 2020)
A $16 billion federal program to help states prepare for natural disasters reflects the complicated politics of global warming in the U.S., even as officials are increasingly forced to confront its effects. States applying for funding must explain why they need the money and describe their "current and future risks." When those include flooding, states must account for "continued sea level rise," a consequence of warming.
But some conservative states have submitted proposals that mostly avoid mentioning climate change. Texas refers to "changing coastal conditions" and South Carolina talks about the "destabilizing effects and unpredictability" of three major storms in four years. One exception is Florida, whose proposal calls climate change "a key overarching challenge."
[It depends upon the percentage of their voters who will be below sea level.]
China virus prompts U.S. precautions as human-to-human transmission confirmed. (CBS News, January 20, 2020)
Richmond Gun Rally: Thousands Of Gun Owners Converge On Virginia Capitol On MLK Day. (NPR, January 20, 2020)
Beyond Monday's gun-laden march in Richmond, militias' plans for a 'civil war' look to go national. (Daily Kos, January 19, 2020)
Thanks to an encouraging tweet from Donald Trump, militias around the United States are preparing to assemble in Richmond, Va., on Monday, to protest gun-control legislation - many vowing to bring their guns, in open defiance of Gov. Ralph Northam's declaration of emergency and its accompanying ban on any kind of weaponry at the state Capitol.
On Friday, Trump tweeted an attack on Northam that aligned perfectly with far-right extremists' paranoid claims about the planned legislation: "Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia," he wrote. "That's what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away."
The violent nature of the "Boogaloo" was emphasized this week by the FBI's arrests of seven members of The Base, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group openly dedicated to training for a "race war." The first three were arrested Thursday, including Canadian fugitive Patrik Mathews; in addition to being caught with multiple weapons (including an illegal automatic rifle) and a large cache of ammunition, the men had spoken openly of attending Monday's rally in Richmond and opening fire there. Three more were arrested Friday in Georgia, charged with plotting the murders of a local antifascist couple, as well as overthrowing the local county government. A seventh member of the base - Yousef O. Barasneh, 22, of Oak Creek, Wisc. - was also arrested Friday, charged with committing civil-rights violations by vandalizing a synagogue in Racine, Wisc.
Heather Cox Richardson: Of Heroes, on Martin Luther King Day (Letters from an American, January 19, 2020)
Who's afraid of the 1619 Project? (Daily Kos, January 19, 2020)
The 1619 Project, the brainchild of New York Times staff reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, has had an impact on the foundation of the way in which we approach American history and its intertwined Black history, which is often dusted off and separated out into a neat package for educational consumption during the month of February, languishing the rest of the year.
When the project launched, I sent my husband out, in vain, to get a copy of the launch magazine — which sold out almost instantly. I had to make do with a download. Since that moment in August of last year, the project has continued to affect teaching, curricula, and has sparked an unlearning of what we thought we knew about enslavement and this nation.
He helped make burgers safer. Now he's petitioning USDA to ban more than two dozen strains of salmonella from meat. (Washington Post, January 19, 2020)
Leading food safety lawyer Bill Marler, who represented hundreds of Jack in the Box victims in the 1990s, wants the Department of Agriculture to ban some of the most virulent bacteria on meat.
Ukraine's President Said He'd Fight Corruption. Resistance Is Fierce. (New York Times, January 19, 2020)
For Volodymyr Zelensky, taking on the oligarchs and organized crime is a domestic test with geopolitical consequences.
Trump mocks New Yorkers, tells them to get their 'mops and buckets ready' for next Hurricane Sandy. (Daily Kos, January 19, 2020)
The object of Trump’s derision here was the building of a sea wall proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect greater New York City from the next Superstorm Sandy and the encroachment of rising sea levels caused by man-made climate change. Trump has already secured approval for two sea walls to protect his Ireland golf course from rising seas attributable to climate change.
Transcript: Republican Sen. John Cornyn on "Face the Nation," January 19, 2020. (8-min. video; CBS News, January 19, 2020)
SEN. CORNYN: [Trump has] been charged with abuse of power, which is not treason, which is not bribery, which is not a high crime and misdemeanor. So, this is the first time in history where a president has been impeached for a non-crime for events that never occurred. Ultimately, the investigation never took place and ultimately the - their aid was delivered.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the legal brief that Democrats did submit. It included a number of things, including documents that have been revealed recently by Lev Parnas, an indicted business associate of Rudy Giuliani. Among them, a letter that says that Rudy Giuliani himself was acting with the approval and knowledge of the president when he was reaching out to the president of Ukraine. Should all of these items be admissible during trial?
SEN. CORNYN: Well, as you know, MARGARET, I was a judge for 13 years in- in state courts and in no court in America would that kind of hearsay be admissible. But having said that, I would be--
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's a letter from Rudy Giuliani.
SEN. CORNYN: Well, I would be careful before crediting the veracity of somebody who is under indictment in New York, the southern district of New York, and who's trying to get leniency from the prosecutor and who has ties to Russian oligarchs.
'Once this is over, we’ll be kings': How Lev Parnas worked his way into Trump's world - and now is rattling it. (3-min. video and others; Washington Post, January 18, 2020)
A cascade of revelations by the former associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani overshadowed the opening of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, raising a host of new questions about the Ukraine pressure campaign.
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton predicted the Senate's corrupt acquittal of President Donald J. Trump, despite a mountain of incriminating evidence that demands his removal from office to save the republic. (Thread Reader, January 18, 2020)
Impeachment "will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties, more or less friendly, or inimical, to the accused....
In many cases, it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side, or on the other....
And in such cases there will always be the greatest danger, that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt."
- The Federalist, No. 65 (Alexander Hamilton)
Trump's Defense Team Calls Impeachment Charges 'Brazen' as Democrats Make Legal Case. (New York Times, January 18, 2020)
In a six-page filing formally responding to the impeachment charges, President Trump's lawyers called the case against him illegitimate and the effort to remove him dangerous. The response came shortly after the House impeachment managers formally outlines their case and called his conduct "the framers' worst nightmare."
President Trump House Impeachment Brief (U.S. House of Representatives, January 18, 2020)
The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It (New York Times, January 18, 2020)
A little-known start-up, Clearview AI, helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images - and "might lead to a dystopian future or something," a backer says.
NEW: Esther Dyson: Don’t give your dot-org domain away to a private company. (Washington Post, January 17, 2020)
One of the Internet's most trusted assets - the dot-org domain used by nonprofits from UNICEF to your local food bank - is being hijacked. Dot-org, which was built to support nonprofits globally, is being sold by ICANN to the highest bidder with almost no public discussion or consideration of alternatives. Organizations and their supporters who rely on dot-org for website and email access deserve an open process. The institutions that govern the Internet should be transparent. It is up to those of us who believe in a free and open Internet to demand this deal be reconsidered.
'You’re a bunch of dopes and babies': Inside Trump's stunning tirade against generals. (Washington Post, January 17, 2020)
(This article is adapted from "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America," which will be published on Jan. 21 by Penguin Press.)
Six months into Trump's administration, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump's knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike.
Trump organized his unorthodox worldview under the simplistic banner of "America First," but Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America's superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump's impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located. So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial. What happened inside the Tank that day crystallized the commander in chief's berating, derisive and dismissive manner, foreshadowing decisions such as the one earlier this month that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran. The Tank meeting was a turning point in Trump's presidency. Rather than getting him to appreciate America's traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses.
Dunford sought to explain that he hadn't been charged with annihilating the enemy in Afghanistan but was instead following a strategy started by the Obama administration to gradually reduce the military presence in the country in hopes of training locals to maintain a stable government so that eventually the United States could pull out. Trump shot back in more plain language. "I want to win," he said. "We don’t win any wars anymore . . . We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we’re not winning anymore."
Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.
"I wouldn’t go to war with you people," Trump told the assembled brass. Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, "You’re a bunch of dopes and babies."
For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called "locker room talk," this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. This was a president who had been labeled a "draft dodger" for avoiding service in the Vietnam War under questionable circumstances. Trump was a young man born of privilege and in seemingly perfect health: six feet two inches with a muscular build and a flawless medical record. He played several sports, including football. Then, in 1968 at age 22, he obtained a diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that exempted him from military service just as the United States was drafting men his age to fulfill massive troop deployments to Vietnam.
Trump's defense will be led by a 'lunatic,' 'wacko' and 'off his rocker' Ken Starr, according to Trump himself. (Washington Post, January 17, 2020)
Collins lies about Sackler contribution, won’t return Eli Lilly money. (Maine Beacon, January 16, 2020)
In a conversation with a constituent last week, U.S. Senator Susan Collins at first flatly denied she had accepted money from both the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, and drug company giant Eli Lilly. The Sacklers have admitted to misleadingly pushing the addictive painkiller OxyContin and are currently being sued by Maine and other states over their role in the opioid crisis. Eli Lilly has dramatically hiked the price of insulin and faces a class action lawsuit for their alleged price gouging.
Collins has, in fact, received contributions from both sources - and at least $400,000 over her career from pharmaceutical companies.
Tweeting the Extreme Summer Down Under (NASA, January 16, 2020)
Baked by heat and drought, deluged by rain and floods, scorched by wildfire, and blanketed by dust, Australia has faced several months of extreme weather.
Why Manhattan's Skyscrapers Are Empty (The Atlantic, January 16, 2020)
Approximately half of the luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years are still unsold. The confluence of cosmopolitan capital and terrible timing has done the impossible: It's created a vacancy problem in a city where thousands of people are desperate to find places to live.
NEW: Next Gen TV is free 4K TV with an antenna, and it's coming to TVs this year. (CNet, January 15, 2020)
CES 2020 saw the official arrival of TVs with Next Gen TV, also known as ATSC 3.0. Upgrades for antenna users include 4K, HDR, 120Hz refresh rates and better indoor reception.
If you get your TV from streaming, cable or satellite, Next Gen TV/ATSC 3.0 won't affect you at all. The transition is voluntary. Stations don't have to switch. Many will, however. It's not backwards-compatible with the current HD (ATSC 1.0) standard, so your current TV won't be able to receive it. Your current antenna should work fine though. 20 models from Sony, Samsung and LG will have built-in tuners starting with the 2020 model year.
Stations that switch to Next Gen TV will still have to keep broadcasting ATSC 1.0 for five years. Stations across the country are already receiving 3.0 licenses, and several are already broadcasting. Stations in the largest 40 TV markets in the US have committed to broadcasting Next Gen TV by the end of 2020, with over 60 markets total covering roughly 70% of the US population.
The Fog of Rudy (New York Times Magazine, January 15, 2020)
Did Rudy Giuliani change - or did America?
During his second and this time successful mayoral campaign, Giuliani's public speeches were almost comically grandiose and self-dramatizing, full of phrases like "We have a city to save." He vowed to return New York to some golden age from which he - the son of a hard-working, Italian-American tavern owner; proud product of Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School; lifelong Yankee fan - had sprung. We would learn years later that Giuliani had left some key details out of this founding mythology: His father, Harold, had in fact been a collector for a loan shark and served time in prison for armed robbery.
Giuliani was among the first of a new breed, a publicity-obsessed, reality-defying master of resentment politics - that is, just the kind of figure who is now ascendant across the globe in the form of strongmen, oligarchs and even populist Tories. These are not men of vision, but men of appetites. They are typically unrefined and streetwise; they practice their populism with a knowing wink, issuing fact-indifferent, emotion-based appeals to their constituents, while focusing, with impunity, on consolidating their power, satisfying their hungers and enriching themselves.
Lev Parnas tells Maddow 'Trump knew exactly what was going on.' (1-min. video; MSNBC, January 15, 2020)
Lev Parnas breaks his silence in an interview with Rachel Maddow. He says, "President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials."
The TOUGHEST Question at the Iowa Democratic Debate (11-min. video; The Young Turks, January 15, 2020)
Buttigieg's toughest question was why he hasn't earned the support of Blacks.
Minnesota 'Teacher of the Year' kneels during college football championship. (The Hill, January 15, 2020)
Federal judge temporarily halts Trump administration policy allowing local governments to block refugees. (Washington Post, January 15, 2020)
State and local officials cannot block refugees from being resettled in their jurisdictions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, finding the Trump administration's new refu­gee policy is likely to be "unlawful" and "does not appear to serve the overall public interest."
How China Obtains American Trade Secrets (New York Times, January 15, 2020)
Companies have long accused Chinese rivals of swiping or seizing valuable technology. Beijing promises to ban those practices, but enforcement could be tough.
Rand Paul threatens fellow Republicans with explosive witness votes. (Politico, January 15, 2020)
The Kentucky senator is vowing to squeeze vulnerable GOP incumbents if they side with Democrats during Trump's impeachment trial.
McConnell and his Republicans cooking up tricks to give gloss of legitimacy to impeachment trial. (Daily Kos, January 14, 2020)
Treasure Fever (Hakai Magazine, January 14, 2020)
The discovery of a legendary, lost shipwreck in North America has pitted treasure hunters and archaeologists against each other, raising questions about who should control sunken riches.
A Homecoming at Taal Volcano: 'Everything’s Gone in the Blink of an Eye.' (New York Times, January 14, 2020)
At least 30,000 people have fled since a mammoth eruption in the Philippines, and a new blast is feared. These islanders went back anyway.
Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment. (New York Times, January 13, 2020)
The timing and scale of the current attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens - the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.
The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia's hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.
Paul Krugman: Trump's Plot Against Health Care Continues. (New York Times, January 13, 2020)
He is still coming for your coverage - and lying about it.
Biden's and Trump's farewell tweets to Booker show you everything you need to know about them. (Daily Kos, January 13, 2020)
Cory Booker Drops Out Of Presidential Race. (2-min. video; NPR, January 13, 2020)
"Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win - money we don't have, and money that is harder to raise because I won't be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington."
Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories. (New York Times, January 12, 2020)
We analyzed some of the most popular social studies textbooks used in California and Texas. Here's how political divides shape what students learn about the nation's history.
The textbooks cover the same sweeping story, from the brutality of slavery to the struggle for civil rights. The self-evident truths of the founding documents to the waves of immigration that reshaped the nation. The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.
Esper Says He Saw No Evidence Iran Targeted 4 Embassies, as Story Shifts Again. (New York Times, January 12, 2020)
The disparity between the defense secretary and President Trump added another twist to an ever-evolving explanation for a strike on an Iranian general that led to the brink of war.
They had to kill him because he was planning an "imminent" attack. But how imminent they could not say. Where they could not say. When they could not say. And really, it was more about what he had already done. Or actually it was to stop him from hitting an American embassy. Or four embassies. Or not.
The latest twist came today. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said he was never shown any specific piece of evidence that Iran was planning an attack on four American embassies, as Mr. Trump had claimed just two days earlier.
Iran Cracks Down as Protests Over Downing of Airliner Grow. (New York Times, January 12, 2020)
A top Iranian military commander made a rare public appeal for forgiveness on Sunday as security forces fired on protesters and outrage over the mistaken downing of a jetliner reignited opposition on the streets and stirred dissent within the government's conservative, hard-line power base.
Taiwan's president wins second term with landslide victory over pro-Beijing rival. (Washington Post, January 11, 2020)
Taiwanese voters demonstrated their overwhelming desire to distance themselves from China and to reject its proposal of living under a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" arrangement, returning both the presidency and the legislature to the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.
President Tsai Ing-wen won a resounding reelection, taking 57 percent of the vote in a three-way race and a record 8 million votes.
Senator Bernie Sanders: The Challenge Of Our Time (Bernie Sanders, January 11, 2020)
The challenge of our time is not simply to begin a war that will result in the deaths of many people - young Americans and innocent families overseas - but the real challenge of our time is to see how we can use our power in a different way to stop aggression and keep our people safe. Because if we are not successful right now, then I think all this world has to look forward to in the future for our children is war, and more war, and more war... as if we haven’t had enough war already.
It is almost beyond impossible to imagine that after nearly 17 years of war in Iraq - a war that upended the regional order of the Middle East and resulted in untold loss of life - that this administration is putting us on such a dangerous path toward more war.
This time with Iran. Apparently for some, decades of constant war is not enough.
Let us not forget that when Trump took office, we had a nuclear agreement with Iran, negotiated by the Obama administration along with our closest allies. Countries from all over the world came together to negotiate that agreement, which put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program. The wise course would have been to stick with that nuclear agreement, enforce its provisions, and use that diplomatic channel with Iran to address our other concerns with Iran, including their support of terrorism. Unfortunately, Trump followed his reckless instincts and listened to right-wing extremists, some of whom were exactly the same people that got us into the war in Iraq in the first place.
Now, as you all know, last week President Trump ordered the assassination of a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, along with the leader of an Iraqi militia. Trump justified the assassination of Soleimani by claiming that it was necessary to prevent 'imminent' attacks on U.S. forces, but his administration has offered no evidence to back that claim up, even in a classified setting.
Then he claimed that there were plans to attack U.S. embassies, again offering no evidence. And now, unbelievably, we find out that Trump himself told people he was under pressure to deal with Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate.
Once again, we see Trump making enormously consequential national security decisions for selfish reasons and without regard for the Constitution.
As a United States senator, I will do everything I can to rein in this reckless president and prevent a war with Iran.
As president, I will offer a different vision for how we exercise American power: one that is not demonstrated by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring countries together and forge international consensus around shared challenges.
A test of a great nation is not how many wars we can fight or how many governments we can overthrow, but how we can use our strength to resolve international conflicts in a peaceful way.
Iran admits to downing airliner amid calls for justice, transparency. (Washington Post, January 11, 2020)
Iranian officials said that military personnel targeted the Ukraine jet as it turned toward a "sensitive military site" shortly after departing from Tehran. The General Staff of Iran's Armed Forces said it was "human error that caused the crash" of the Boeing 737-800, killing all 176 passengers on board.
Evolution of a lie: from 'imminent attack' to 'four embassies' with no facts in between (Daily Kos, January 11, 2020)
Sometimes deception generates a "tangled web," other times just a hilarious mess. But Donald Trump’s war-triggering assassination and post-drone strike rationalizations show two things: one is how clumsily Trump shifts his lies from day to day, the other is how Mike Pompeo and Fox News hurry along in Trump’s wake, trying to paper over irrational statements with a thin veneer of claims that all fall apart on even the most cursory examination.
Seven Days in January: How Trump Pushed U.S. and Iran to the Brink of War (New York Times, January 11, 2020)
The story of that week, and the secret planning in the months preceding it, ranks as the most perilous chapter so far in President Trump's three years in office.
The episode briefly gave Mr. Trump's allies something to cheer, distracting from the coming Senate impeachment trial, but now he faces questions even among Republicans about the shifting justifications for the strike that he and his national security team have offered. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo initially cited the need to forestall an "imminent" attack and the president has amplified that to say four American embassies were targeted. But administration officials said they did not actually know when or where such an attack might occur and one State Department official said it was "a mistake" to use the word "imminent." And some senior military commanders were stunned that Mr. Trump picked what they considered a radical option with unforeseen consequences.
This account, based on interviews with dozens of Trump administration officials, military officers, diplomats, intelligence analysts and others in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, offers new details about what may be the most consequential seven days of the Trump presidency.
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are trying desperately to justify the assassination after the fact. (Letters from an American, January 10, 2020)
All current evidence suggests that Trump ordered the killing of General Qassem Soleimani either to please his base or to curry favor with key senators before the Senate impeachment trial. It blew up in his face, and now he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are trying desperately to justify the action after the fact.
At stake is the issue that Trump acted without advising Congress. The Constitution provides that Congress alone shall declare war, but it also makes the president the commander-in-chief. During the Nixon administration, when congress members sometimes discovered that America was militarily engaged in entirely unexpected places, Congress pushed back to reassert its role in military actions.
South Korea's government explores move from Windows to Linux desktop. (ZDNet, January 10, 2020)
In what may prove to be the biggest migration from Windows to the Linux desktop, the South Korean government is looking into shifting from Windows 7 to a trio of Linux desktops - including a version of Ubuntu.
The South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Planning has announced the government is exploring moving most of its approximately 3.3 million Windows computers to Linux.The reason for this is simple. It's to reduce software licensing costs and the government's reliance on Windows. As the head of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, said, "We will resolve our dependency on a single company while reducing the budget by introducing an open-source operating system."
Plants growing around Everest as ice melts on Himalayas. (Daily Mail, January 10, 2020)
Plants are growing in new areas around Mount Everest as rising temperatures melts ice on the Himalayas, according to a new report. Increased vegetation coverage across the Himalayas could have consequences for water supply from the range on which some 1.4 billion people rely.
Trump Administration Says Obamacare Lawsuit Can Wait Until After the Election. (New York Times, January 10, 2020)
The Trump administration came into office with its top legislative priority clear: Repeal the Affordable Care Act. It failed. Then, when a group of Republican states tried to throw out Obamacare through a lawsuit, the administration agreed that a key part of the law was unconstitutional.
But now that defenders of the law have asked the Supreme Court to settle the case quickly, the president's lawyers say they are in no particular hurry.
George Conway and Neal Katyal: How Pelosi should play her impeachment cards (Washington Post, January 10, 2020)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that she plans to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, but that does not mean she has lost in the seeming standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over whether to call witnesses at the Senate trial. McConnell has said "there’s no chance the president's going to be removed from office" and "there will be no difference between the president's position and our position." In response, Pelosi still has cards in her hand - if she plays them - because the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump.
The first article of impeachment effectively charges the president with shaking down Ukraine; the second impeaches him for his unprecedented obstruction of Congress. That gives the speaker room to maneuver. She could choose to tweak her announcement and send only the second article, on obstruction, for trial. Or she could transmit them both - along with a House-approved provision advising the Senate that if it fails to obtain adequate witnesses and documents, the House will reopen the investigation into Article I and subpoena that material itself.
Separating the two articles - our preferred approach - would make perfect sense. When it comes to the second article, all the evidence about Trump's obstruction is a matter of public record. There's nothing more to add, so the second article is ripe for trial. But as to the first, although there is plenty of evidence demonstrating Trump's guilt, his obstruction has prevented all of the evidence from coming to light.
Pelosi alerts House to be ready to send Trump impeachment articles next week. (Boston Globe, January 10, 2020)
In a letter to colleagues this morning, the speaker moved to end an impasse over the impeachment process that had left the president's fate in limbo even as he navigated escalating hostilities with Iran in recent days. She did not announce which Democrats she would name to manage the case at trial, but said the House should be ready to vote to appoint them sometime next week and to formally deliver the Senate charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Killing of top Iranian general occurred alongside a secret, failed mission in Yemen, officials say. (Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2020)
The U.S. military tried, but failed, to take out another senior Iranian commander on the same day that an American airstrike killed the Revolutionary Guard's top general, U.S. officials said Friday. The officials said a military airstrike by special operations forces targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a high-ranking commander in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the mission was not successful. Both Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani and Shahlai were on approved military targeting lists, which indicates a deliberate effort by the U.S. to cripple the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S.
Trump now claims four embassies were under threat from Iran, raising fresh questions about intelligence reports. (Washington Post, January 10, 2020)
"I can reveal that I believe it probably would've been four embassies," Trump said.
But a senior administration official and a senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information, said they were only aware of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad and that the information did not suggest a fully-formed plot. Neither official said there were threats against multiple embassies.
Trump angered by House ally's push to limit his authority on Iran. (Washington Post, January 10, 2020)
"Reclaiming Congressional power is the Constitutional conservative position!", Devin Murphy, legislative director of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, wrote to all Republican offices around 11 a.m. Thursday, underlining the text.
GOP Senator Breaks Ranks to Attack Trump on Soleimani. (11-min. video; The Young Turks, January 10, 2020)
Republican Senator Mike Lee says it was an unacceptable side-stepping of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Intel: Iran Shot Down Plane, Then Realized Mistake. (Daily Mail, January 9, 2020)
The Ukrainian airliner that crashed in Iran the night of the missile attacks on bases in Iraq appears to have been shot by the Iranians with a Russian-made anti-aircraft system.
Ukrainian plane crashes in Iran. (Newsweek, January 9, 2020)
The Mystery of the Trump Chaos Trades, Iran/Mar-a-Lago Edition (Vanity Fair, January 9, 2020)
Spikes in the Chicago E-mini market, and in defense stocks, preceded the announcement of the killing of Qasem Soleimani, not long after Trump reportedly told Mar-a-Lago guests he was working on a "big" response to Iran's provocations. A coincidence?
The U.S. drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani came at around 1 a.m. local time in Baghdad on Friday, January 3. That was around 5 p.m. in Washington. It took the Pentagon another five hours or so - just before 10 p.m. - before it released its official statement telling the world that Soleimani had been killed. E-minis stop trading on the CME at about 4 p.m. New York time (3 p.m. Chicago time) each day. There is then an hour of what's known as aftermarket trading. Then there is a one-hour break in trading. Night trading in E-minis begins at 6 p.m. New York time, hours before the Pentagon made its official announcement about Soleimani's killing.
For the first two and a half hours of the night trading on January 2, the volume in the E-mini market was around 1,000 contracts every 10 minutes, according to the trading records from that night made available to me. Nothing particularly remarkable.
But then, around 8:30 p.m. ET, or still some 90 minutes before the Pentagon made its announcement, trading picked up considerably. The S&P 500 index was then at 3260. Suddenly, a trader or group of traders—but most likely not a single trade or trader - began making big bets that the S&P index would fall by selling the March 2020 E-mini futures contract. At 8:30 p.m. ET, 2,250 E-mini contracts were sold; at 8:40 p.m. ET, 5,790 E-mini contracts were sold; 10 minutes later, 7,113 E-mini contracts were sold. In sum, in the 70 minutes between 8:30 p.m. ET and 9:40 p.m. ET, 76,000 E-mini contracts were sold. By then, the S&P 500 index had dropped to 3236. After the attack was announced, the S&P 500 index dropped to 3206, a drop of around 50 points. A 50-point drop in the index generates a profit of $2,500 per contract, assuming those contracts were sold short, which in this case they were. 76,000 contracts sold short, at a gain of around $2,500 per contract, equals some $190 million in profit - on paper anyway - for whomever, or group of whomevers, was clever enough or lucky enough or informed enough about the impending bombshell news out of the Pentagon that the important Iranian leader had been killed.
"Did someone or a group foresee the execution of top general of Iran?", an E-mini trader wondered in an email sent to me the other day. "…When volume goes from 1,000 every 10 minutes and jumps to as high as almost 17,000 in 10 minutes, something is going on."
Parrots Show Off Selfless Behavior. (New York Times, January 9, 2020)
A series of experiments demonstrated that African grey parrots had something like social intelligence in addition to their cleverness.
US Government-funded Android phones come preinstalled with unremovable malware. (Ars Technica, January 9, 2020)
Phones were sold to low-income people under the FCC's Lifeline Assistance program.
NEW: The U.S. Supreme Court will decide software development's future in Google v. Oracle. (ZDNet, January 8, 2020)
The final steps are being made in the Google v. Oracle copyright case, which will put the fate of programming in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Why Trump revealing that the United States is developing hypersonic missiles is a very big deal. (Daily Kos, January 8, 2020)
[Another significant Trump slip, but not a surprise to the well-informed. See the Comments thread - in which we think the E.O. Wilson-paraphrased "Humans have prehistoric brains, medieval institutions, and nuclear weapons" is particularly appropriate.]
Donald Trump blames Barack Obama for giving Iran the cash to buy missiles flung at U.S. bases - as he offers to 'embrace peace' and claims Tehran is 'standing down' but warns of 'hypersonic weapons' and 'lethal and fast' attacks. (Daily Mail, January 8, 2020)
Donald Trump addresses the world about Iran. (9-min. video; NBC News, January 8, 2020)
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Iran "appears to be standing down" after its missile attack on U.S. targets in Iraq, and he vowed to keep up the pressure on Tehran with "punishing" new economic sanctions. Trump made the comments in an address to the nation Wednesday from the White House less than a day after Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing of a top general.
"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good things for the world," Trump said. He added that “no American or Iraqi lives were lost” in the Iranian attacks, “because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of force and an early warning system that worked very well.”
He also said he planned to request help from NATO, an alliance he has frequently criticized, in the region.
In addition, Trump lambasted the Iran nuclear deal - from which he withdrew the U.S. in 2018 - and claimed that the financial incentives provided by the Obama administration to Iran under that deal financed the missiles used in the latest attacks. "The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for by the funds made available by the last administration," Trump said, adding that "Iran's hostilities increased" after the deal was signed in 2015. Trump also called on world powers, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russian and China to "break away from the remnants of" the deal.
Democrats stressed that Congress must assert its authority over declaring war even if the U.S. and Iran de-escalate tensions.
Donald Trump will address the world about Iran after Ayatollah says missile attack is 'not enough' revenge for drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani. (Daily Mail, January 8, 2020)
Iran launched what it promised would be a 'crushing revenge' strike against the U.S. over the death of General Qassem Soleimani but succeeded only in damaging two airbases in neighboring Iraq. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and Erbil International airport in the north in the early hours of Wednesday, but failed to kill a single US or Iraqi soldier.
Iranian television had tried to claim that 80 'American terrorists' were killed, but that figure was quickly rubbished by Iraqi and US officials.
Images showed several missiles had either failed to explode on impact or else missed their targets. The remains of one was found near the town of Duhok, some 70 miles from Erbil air base, which was the intended target. The Iraqi military said 22 missiles were fired in total - 17 at the Asad base, two of which failed to explode, and five more that struck Erbil International Airport. US officials put the total slightly lower at 15 - ten of which hit Asad, one which hit Erbil, four which failed in flight. Iran said it had used Fatteh-110 ballistic missiles for the attack, though analysts said images of wreckage near the Aasd base also appears to show Qaim-1 ballistic missiles were used.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were spotted arriving at the White House soon after news of the strikes broke. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday night that the missile strikes were an 'act of war' and said Trump had all the power he needed to act. 'This is an act of war by any reasonable definition,' Graham told Fox News' Sean Hannity. 'The President has all the authority he needs under Article II to respond.'
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, reportedly said Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei was personally in the control center coordinating the attacks. They also warned U.S. allies in the Middle East that they would face retaliation if America strikes back against any Iranian targets from their bases. 'We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted,' they said. It also threatened Israel.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking on Iranian TV shortly after the missiles were launched, described the strikes as 'a slap' and said they 'are not sufficient (for revenge)' while vowing further action to kick US troops out of the region. But foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack was now 'concluded,' praising Iran's 'proportionate' response and adding: 'We do not seek escalation or war.'
It is thought Iran gave advanced warning of the strikes, after Iraq, Finland and Lithuania - which all had troops stationed at the bases which were targeted - all said they were informed in advance. America said that 'early warning systems' detected the missile launches and sirens were sounded at the Asad base, allowing soldiers to seek shelter. It is not clear whether they were also informed by Iran. Prominent analysts suggested Iran may have deliberately pulled its punches because they are fearful of the 'disproportionate' response threatened by Trump if US personnel were killed. 'With the attacks, Tehran signalled its capacity and readiness to respond to US attacks, thus saving face, and yet they have been well targeted to avoid fatalities and thus avoid provoking Trump's reaction,' said Annalisa Perteghella of the Institute for International Political Studies in Milan. The timing of the Iranian strikes - around 1:20 am local time - occurred at the same time as the US drone strike which killed Soleimani.
A procession in Tehran on Monday drew over one million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main avenues and side streets. A stampede broke out Tuesday at Soleimani's funeral in his hometown of Kerman; at least 56 people were killed and more than 200 were injured as thousands thronged the procession, Iranian news reports said. There was no information about what set off the crush in the packed streets. Online videos showed only its aftermath: people lying apparently lifeless, their faces covered by clothing, emergency crews performing CPR on the fallen and onlookers wailing and crying out to God.
There are still fears for US forces in the region after Qais al-Khazali, a commander of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, vowed to exact revenge for the killing of deputy-leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. 'The first Iranian response to the assassination of the martyr leader Soleimani took place,' he tweeted. 'Now is the time for the initial Iraqi response to the assassination of the martyr leader Muhandis. 'And because the Iraqis are brave and zealous, their response will not be less than the size of the Iranian response, and this is a promise.'
Britain, Australia, France, Poland, Denmark and Finland have confirmed that none of their troops stationed in Iraq were hurt in the attack, while calling for an end to hostilities and a return to talks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen vowed the EU will 'spare no effort' in trying to save the nuclear deal that Iran signed with President Obama and was ripped up by Trump, sparking the current tensions.
China and Russia, both key Iranian allies, also warned against escalating strikes with Vladimir Dzhabarov, lawmaker with Russia's upper house of parliament, warning the conflict could easily lead to a nuclear war. The Syrian government, another key ally of Iran, has expressed full solidarity with Iran, saying Tehran has the right to defend itself 'in the face of American threats and attacks.' The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Syria holds the 'American regime responsible for all the repercussions due to its reckless policy and arrogant mentality.'
Hours after the launch, a Ukrainian Airlines Boeing 737 caught fire crashed near Tehran killing all 177 passengers and crew - including 63 Canadian and three Britons - amid fears it could have been caught up in the attack. Ukraine's foreign ministry said of those killed, 82 were Iranian, 63 Canadian, 11 Ukrainian, three British, with the remainder hailing from Sweden, Afghanistan, and Germany.
NEW: Lawrence Lessig: Don’t allow McConnell to swear a false oath. (Washington Post, January 8, 2020)
Before the Senate begins its trial to determine whether the president should be convicted of the charges for which he has been impeached, the jury - the members of the Senate - must be sworn to service. The oath is mandated by the Constitution; its language, set by Senate rules, requires each senator to swear to "do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws." To swear a false oath is perjury - the crime President Bill Clinton was charged with in his impeachment.
Among the senators who will have to take an oath in the trial of President Trump is the majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Yet McConnell has openly declared that he is "not impartial about this at all." "Impeachment," the senator has opined, is a "political process. This [sic] is not anything judicial about it."
A century and a half ago, Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner said, "A false oath, taken with our knowledge, would compromise the Senate. We who consent will become parties to the falsehood."
That precedent should matter today. Any senator is privileged to object to any other senator taking an oath. The chief justice would then have to decide whether the oath can be sworn honestly. As there seems no way that Mitch McConnell's oath could be honest, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. should forbid McConnell from taking it. Whether he so rules or not, the decision could be appealed to the Senate as a whole. Should the Senate openly accept a false oath - perjury - in a proceeding to determine the president's guilt?
AOC Is Right: She and Joe Biden Should Not Be in the Same Party. (Jacobin, January 7, 2020)
The political distance between AOC and Bernie Sanders on the one hand, and Joe Biden on the other, is stunning. They’re not on the same team when it comes to their vision for America - and thank God for that.
Marine Labs on the Water’s Edge Are Threatened by Climate Change. (New York Times, January 7, 2020)
Just 700 Speak This Language (50 in the Same Brooklyn Building). (New York Times, January 7, 2020)
Seke, one of the world’s rarest languages, is spoken by about 100 people in New York.
Russia offers Iraq S-400 air defense system to protect airspace. (Al Masdar News, January 7, 2020)
[While attempting to divert attention from its impeachment, the Trump puppet scores another goal for Putin!]
Trump Predicted Iran Attack in 2011! (The Daily Show, January 6, 2020)
Trevor Noah: "Nine years ago we received a warning from a gifted psychic."
Donald Trump (Speaking of Barak Obama in 2011): "Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no power to negotiate. He's weak and he's ineffective, so the only way that he figures that he's going to get reelected - and as sure as you are sitting there - is to start a war with Iran. So I believe that he will attack Iran sometime prior to the election, because he thinks that's the only way he can get elected. Isn't it pathetic!"
[NOT psychic; that's the "gift" of projection.]
U.S. Air Force performs huge show of strength with 52 fully-armed F-35a Lightning II stealth fighters worth $4.2 BILLION taking off in a single wave. (Daily Mail, January 6, 2020
The model is billed as the most advanced military aircraft ever sent into the skies.
Killing Suleimani Has United Iranians Like Never Before. (Foreign Policy, January 6, 2020)
Even among reformers, the fallen general was seen as a hero who stayed out of domestic politics.
Mar-a-Lago in the firing line: Iranian presidential adviser posts list of Donald Trump's properties in chilling hint of an attack on his real estate empire - after Iran put an $80-million bounty on his head. (Daily Mail, January 6, 2020)
Hesameddin Ashena linked to an article listing properties owned by Trump. It included Trump Tower in New York as well as his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The adviser said that Tehran's 'sole problem is Trump' rather than Americans.
Iran has vowed revenge after the death of Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike. Trump has warned of 'disproportionate' retaliation including on cultural sites
Iran Fully Withdraws From Nuclear Deal and Criticizes European Response to Soleimani's Killing. (1-min. video; Newsweek, January 5, 2020)
In Era of Perpetual Conflict, a Volatile President Grabs Expanded Powers to Make War. (New York Times, January 4, 2020)
The powers of an American president to wage war have grown stronger for nearly two decades, ever since the Sept. 11 attacks led the United States into an era of perpetual conflict. Those powers are now in the hands of the most volatile president in recent memory.
President Trump's decision to authorize the killing of a top Iranian military leader could be the match that sets off a regional conflagration, or it could have only marginal geopolitical impact like so many of the targeted killings ordered by Mr. Trump and his predecessors. But it is just the latest example of the capricious way in which the president, as commander in chief, has chosen to flex his lethal powers.
Rep. Ilhan Omar sets Trump straight on the true meaning of impeachment. (Daily Kos, January 4, 2020)
As Tensions With Iran Escalated, Trump Opted for Most Extreme Measure. (New York Times, January 4, 2020)
While senior officials argue the drone strike was warranted to prevent future attacks, some in the administration remain skeptical about the rationale for the attack. The Pentagon was shocked.
Russia Says U.S. Soleimani Strike Will Damage Regional Stability, Impact Millions of People. (1-min. video; Newsweek, January 3, 2020)
Russia's Foreign Ministry has condemned the U.S. assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani, warning Thursday's strike would only escalate regional tensions and make life worse for millions of people. Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told the Rossiya 24 TV channel on Friday that U.S. conduct around recent tensions in Iraq - culminating with Thursday's drone strike - was the "height of cynicism," the state-backed Tass news agency reported.
[Maybe Trump will listen to Putin.]
Suleimani's Gone, and the Iran Nuclear Deal May Be Next. (New York Times, January 3, 2019)
Trump Deutsche Bank Loans Underwritten By Russian State-Owned Bank, Whistleblower Told FBI. (Forensic News, January 3, 2020)
"The Russian state bank VTB underwrote loans to Donald Trump via Deutsche Bank. Over the course of Trump’s relationship with DB, an inordinate amount of questionable, mismanaged & risky loans approved by Deutsche Bank to Trump required his Personal Guarantee which, over time, also lost its value. Trump’s team at DB sought out creative ways to circumvent the varied protections DB’s compliance team institutionally implemented, & whether by happenstance or by design Trump’s loans became underwritten by Russia’s own VTB. I informed the FBI of this in 2019."
The Schism at the Heart of the Open-Source Movement (The Atlantic, January 3, 2019)
Developers are protesting after revelations that the source-code repository GitHub contracted with ICE. But if you restrict access to open-source code, is it still open?
California's Consumer Privacy Law Is Finally Here. Now What? (Consumer Reports, January 2, 2020)
It grants California residents powerful new privacy protections, some of which could be extended to consumers across the country. The CCPA gives Californians several basic rights:
- the right to know what personal information is being collected about them
- the right to access that data
- the right to know who it's being sold to
- the right to opt out of those sales, and
- the right to delete data that has been collected already
Iran vows revenge after U.S. kills top general. (New York Times, January 2, 2020)
Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was killed early today in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said. It was Mr. Trump's most significant use of military force to date.
The death of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, was a major blow to Iran and a sharp escalation in Mr. Trump's campaign against Tehran. Here are the latest updates.
General Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.
General Suleimani was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades, and his death was a staggering blow for Iran at a time of sweeping geopolitical conflict.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for three days of public mourning and then retaliation. U.S. officials were preparing for the possibility of cyberattacks and terrorism.
Iran's Gen. Qassem Suleimani killed in U.S. airstrike at Baghdad airport, Pentagon confirms. (Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2020)
Calling the attack "decisive defensive action," the Pentagon says Suleimani "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."
Their deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and are expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the Middle East against Israel and American interests. The developments also represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.
More Than 200 Members Of Congress Asked The Supreme Court To Consider Overturning Roe V. Wade. (BuzzFeed, January 2, 2020)
The members, including two Democrats, wrote in a brief that the national right to abortion is unworkable ahead of a major abortion rights case.
Why teachers of religion are not entitled to anti-discrimination protections (Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2020)
Why demagogues were the Founding Fathers' greatest fear (Kennebec ME Journal, January 2, 2020)
George Washington described how he was pulled out of retirement by an urgent risk to the United States. "Anarchy and confusion" were threatening the security of the American people and the rule of constitutional law. But this was only half the danger.
The deeper risk, he wrote, was that the political chaos created fertile ground for exploitation "by some aspiring demagogue who will not consult the interest of his country so much as his own ambitious views." Washington, like his peers, did not use the word "demagogue" as an insult or epithet. He did not employ it as ammunition against those he identified as his political opponents. For the steady, rational Washington, "demagogue" was a forensic term that described a well-known class of political actors, known since Greek and Roman times, who obtain power through emotional appeals to prejudice, distrust and fear. Irrespective of party affiliation, demagogues were a distinct personality type that knew no bounds of politics except fiery self-aggrandizement.
Unredacted Ukraine Documents Reveal Extent of Pentagon’s Legal Concerns. (Just Security, January 2, 2020)
"Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold." This is what Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), told Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, in an Aug. 30 email, which has only been made available in redacted form until now. It is one of many documents the Trump administration is trying to keep from the public, despite congressional oversight efforts and court orders in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.
Why Is America So Depressed? (New York Times, January 2, 2020)
It's no coincidence that our politics and our mental health have declined so rapidly, at the same time.
Millennials support socialism because they want to make America great - but for everyone. (Think, January 1, 2020)
The word 'socialism' is becoming more and more mainstream. When Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders launched his 2016 presidential bid, only a fringe few dared to use the label. To call yourself a socialist was supposedly a political death sentence. Now, in part thanks to Sanders, many are wearing 'socialism' as a badge of pride. Dozens of socialist candidates have won seats all over the country, including two members of Congress, and membership in the Democratic Socialists of America has exploded. According to a 2019 YouGov poll, 70 percent of millennials now say they would vote for a socialist.
But what is socialism? How do you know whether you’re a socialist? Could you be one already without knowing it? In fact, it can be difficult to answer the question of what precisely socialism is, because socialists themselves disagree over it. That’s not surprising; Democrats disagree over what it means to be a Democrat, too. It’s an abstract term that describes a diverse population with a lot of conflicting ideas. One popular perception, repeated by Republican Sen. Rand Paul in “The Case Against Socialism,” is that socialism is about “government control of the means of production.” But that’s pretty clearly wrong: historically, many socialists considered themselves outright anarchists, who wanted to get rid of government altogether.
The Decade in Which Everything Was Great But Felt Terrible (The Atlantic, December 31, 2019)
In the 2010s America achieved late capitalism. This past decade was a decade without a single month of recession, when the United States grew to its wealthiest point ever - and when the middle class shrank, longevity fell, and it became clear that a whole generation was falling behind. The central economic dynamic of the 2010s was that no matter how well the market was doing, no matter how long the expansion lasted, no matter how much the economy grew, families still struggled. It was a decade that strained America’s idea of what economic growth could do, and should do, because it did so little for so many.
Mysterious drones seen in Colorado now spotted in southwest Nebraska, too. (Omaha World-Herald, December 31, 2019)
Another court ruling heightens potential for more Ukraine bombshells to drop. (Daily Kos, December 30, 2019)
Donald Trump is on course to kick off 2020 with a string of embarrassing revelations about everything from Ukraine to the Russia probe, potentially putting Senate Republicans in a horrific political bind early next year as they try to navigate a fraught impeachment trial. A Monday afternoon ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed in October by White House deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman served as a reminder that Trump's house-of-cards claim to "absolute immunity" is likely to crumble in spectacular fashion in the new year.
Biden would consider Republican for VP 'but I can't think of one right now'. (The Hill, December 30, 2019)
U.S. Population Makes Fewest Gains in Decades, Census Bureau Says. (New York Times, December 30, 2019)
A drop in immigration, fewer births and an aging population contributed to the slowdown in 2019, according to demographers.
Linux and open-source rules: 2019's five biggest stories show why. (ZDNet, December 30, 2019)
This was the year when, once and for all, it became clear that the future of technology belongs to Linux and open-source software.
A New York Times columnist set out to praise 'Jewish brilliance.' The result was another explosive controversy. (Washington Post, December 30, 2019)
[So instead of this demonstration of NON-brilliant ridicule, accusation, denial, and apology (e.g., suspension of thinking about it), why not revisit this and similar data and improve the analysis? The Comments include clear examples of both.]
A black woman faces prison because of a Jim Crow-era plan to 'protect white voters'. (The Guardian, December 29, 2019)
A prosecutor brought charges against Bratcher even though state officials said she may have illegally voted unintentionally. The decision also came after a report in which state officials recognized there were serious problems in the system in place to inform convicted felons of their voting rights.
The state's policy of banning people convicted of felonies from voting is rooted in a late 19th century effort by North Carolina Democrats to limit voting power of newly-enfranchised African Americans as whole. In 1898, the North Carolina Democratic party spoke of the need "to rescue the white people of the east from the curse of negro domination".
The discriminatory law is still at work – of 441 people investigated for possibly voting with a felony in the 2016 election, 68% were black. That high number exceeds both the percentage of African Americans registered to vote and the proportion on probation and parole. At the end of 2016, African Americans made up about 46% of convicted felons on parole or probation in the state. They made up about 22% of all registered voters.
Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion (New York Times, December 29, 2019)
The inside story of President Trump’s demand to halt military assistance to an ally shows the price he was willing to pay to carry out his agenda.
Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work. (New York Times, December 28, 2019)
In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policy-making while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.
Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.
But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate. "The disregard for expertise in the federal government is worse than it's ever been," said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, which has tracked more than 200 reports of Trump administration efforts to restrict or misuse science since 2017. "It's pervasive."
Hundreds of scientists, many of whom say they are dismayed at seeing their work undone, are departing.
Trump retweets - then deletes - a post naming the alleged whistleblower. (Washington Post, December 28, 2019)
President Trump retweeted and then deleted a post naming the alleged whistleblower who filed the complaint that became the catalyst for the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
On Friday night, Trump shared a Twitter post from @surfermom77, who describes herself as “100% Trump supporter,” with his 68 million followers. That tweet prominently named the alleged whistleblower and suggested that he had committed perjury. By Saturday morning, Trump’s retweet had been deleted.
The whistleblower’s identity has been kept secret because of laws that exist to shield those who allege wrongdoing by the government. Advocates say this anonymity protects those who speak up from retaliation and encourages others to come forward.
Blumenthal: Five to ten Republicans have 'severe misgivings' about McConnell strategy. (The Hill, December 27, 2019)
Blumenthal spoke on the subject of impeachment, stating that there will be pressure on McConnell from other Republican lawmakers to employ a fair strategy for the impending impeachment trial in the upper chamber of Congress. "I've talked to five to 10 of my colleagues who have very severe misgivings about the direction that Mitch McConnell is going in denying a full, fair proceeding with witnesses and documents. My hope is that they will say publicly what Sen. Murkowski did, and really hold Mitch McConnell accountable," he said.
Earlier this month, McConnell told the press that he "is not an impartial juror. This is a political process," when it came to impeachment proceedings. He also told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he planned to coordinate with the White House counsel during the trial in the Senate.
However, McConnell's admission has garnered criticism from both the left and the right. Notably, moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) said that she does not agree with McConnell about his impeachment strategy, adding that she was "disturbed" by the comments he made about his coordination with the White House.
Intelligence probe puts CIA's Gina Haspel in a bind. (Politico, December 27, 2019)
The prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Bill Barr to examine the origins of the Russia investigation is focusing much of his attention on the CIA, placing the agency's director, Gina Haspel, at the center of a politically toxic tug-of-war between the Justice Department and the intelligence community. The prosecutor, John Durham, has reportedly asked the CIA for former director John Brennan’s communications as he examines the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the election specifically to help Donald Trump.
Barr has been skeptical of the agency's conclusions about Putin's motivations, despite corroboration by the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee and an adversarial review by former CIA Director Mike Pompeo. But intelligence community veterans say the Durham probe could force Haspel to choose between protecting her agency from Trump's wrath and bowing to Barr's wishes; they point to FBI chief Chris Wray, who has found himself at odds with the president in recent weeks over a watchdog report about the bureau’s conduct in the Russia probe. And they say the Barr-Durham probe represents overreach by an attorney general who seems to have already made up his mind and is bent on imposing his own skeptical view of the Russia investigation on the intelligence community.
Haspel, a veteran intelligence officer known for her fierce loyalty to the CIA and acute political antennae, has rarely made headlines during her 19-month tenure atop the nation's top spy agency, turning her focus inward on building morale and boosting recruitment. That strategy has kept her out of Trump's sights and largely protected the CIA's more than 20,000 employees from the kinds of political attacks that have hobbled the FBI.
[This too, should please Putin.]
Trump and Giuliani's conspiracy theories keep getting crazier and crazier. (Daily Kos, December 27, 2019)
NYT obtains shocking testimony against SEAL Trump pardoned: 'The guy is freaking evil.' (Daily Kos, December 27, 2019)
Donald Trump hosted convicted (and subsequently pardoned) war criminal and former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher at Mar-a-Lago recently, because he’s Trump, and war crimes are kind of his jam.
Today, The New York Times revealed more evidence showing just how questionable and likely egregious that decision was. The newspaper obtained video recordings and group texts from SEALs who had testified against Gallagher in his trial, and they’re startling to say the least.
Anguish and Anger From the Navy SEALS Who Turned In Edward Gallagher, only to have Trump pardon him (2-min. video; New York Times, December 27, 2019)
Video interviews and group texts obtained by The Times show men describing their platoon leader in grim terms. They offer the first opportunity outside the courtroom to hear directly from the men of Alpha platoon, SEAL Team 7, whose blistering testimony about their platoon chief was dismissed by President Trump when he upended the military code of justice to protect Chief Gallagher from the punishment.
"The guy is freaking evil," Special Operator Miller told investigators. "The guy was toxic," Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. "You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving," Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators.
The Secrets of Jewish Genius (New York Times, December 27, 2019)
It's about thinking differently.
[And it's created a big flap; see Washington Post, December 30, 2019.]
The big science and environment stories of 2019 (BBC, December 26, 2019)
This year, millions of people around the world mobilised in protest to highlight the dire emergency facing our planet. Could 2019 prove to be the year when talk turned to action on the climate crisis?
In 2019, the reaction to the ongoing climate crisis switched up another gear. Inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the climate strike movement exploded this year. Millions took part in mass protests during the course of the year in countries as diverse as Australia, Uganda, Colombia, Japan, Germany and the UK. Greta chose to make a statement when she sailed - rather than flew - to a UN climate meeting in New York. Summing up the trajectory for many who have joined popular climate movements, she told chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt: "I felt like I was the only one who cared about the climate and ecological crisis... it makes me feel good that I'm not alone in this fight."
Florida man visiting NYC made anti-Semitic comment and assaulted man on the first day of Hanukkah. (Daily Kos, December 26, 2019)
The attack occurred on the first day of Hanukkah, and, according to CNN, "The NYPD has reported 166 anti-Semitic incidents from January through September this year." While most crimes do not involve assault, anti-semitic incidents are the most commonly reported hate crimes in the city. Hate crimes have been on the rise since the last presidential election. Data from USAFacts shows that the number of hate crimes in the U.S. is growing. According to the data, between 2015 and 2017, anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic crimes have seen a 40% increase nationally.
Germans think Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong Un and Putin. (Deutsche Welle, December 26, 2019)
When asked who posed the greatest threat to world peace, Germans in a recent poll overwhelmingly pointed to one person - Donald Trump. The US president beat out the leaders of North Korea, Russia, China and Iran.
The most important American politician of the decade: "Moscow Mitch" McConnell (The Week, December 26, 2019)
Not President Barack Obama, though his status as the nation's first African-American president will loom large in history. Obama's presidency would have turned out much differently if not for the opposition of McConnell - and in particular McConnell's decision to deny a Senate hearing for Merrick Garland, Obama's last Supreme Court nominee. It was a critical moment in building a conservative SCOTUS majority that could last for decades and seems positioned to transform our collective understanding of Constitutional law.
President Trump won't win this contest, either, though he will be remembered for leading the backlash against Obama's presidency, and for helping usher in an era of politics in which the notion that truth matters seems to have disappeared entirely. You can have your own opinions and your own facts, it turns out. But McConnell was smashing norms and precedents in the Senate even before Trump arrived in Washington, D.C. In the case of Trump's major accomplishments - cutting taxes and transforming the American judiciary - McConnell probably deserves the lion's share of the credit.
We Americans tend to remember historical eras through the lens of the presidency. But McConnell, more than most Senate leaders, served as a gatekeeper for what the presidents of his era have been able to accomplish - and he might be the most powerful and significant senator since Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s, and this was true despite the fact that he and his party shifted back and forth throughout the decade between opposition and majority status.
McConnell's influence was felt broadly, but particularly in three crucial areas:
1. "Party of No": One of McConnell's key acts this decade was actually set in motion a couple of years earlier, when Obama was elected in 2008. McConnell helped create a strategy of never cooperating with the new president, on the belief that voters would blame Obama - and not Republicans - for the resulting gridlock. "If he (Obama) was for it," former Ohio Sen. George Voinovich said of McConnell's strategy, "we had to be against it." They opposed Obama's $800 billion stimulus package in the middle of the Great Recession. They refused to sign on to a universal health-care program modeled on one passed by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, in Massachusetts. "On just about every issue, from ObamaCare to climate to education reforms that conservatives supported until Obama embraced them, Republicans have embraced that strategy" of total opposition, Grunwald wrote for Politico in 2006. "Senate Republicans even turned routine judicial nominations into legislative ordeals, filibustering 20 of his district court judges - 17 more than had been filibustered under all of his predecessors."
2. Transforming the judiciary: Indeed, McConnell's singular legacy will probably be his long-term effort to give conservatives dominance of the federal judiciary. His blockade of Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court was the most famous example of that mission, but possibly not the most important. His blockade of Obama's lower-court appointments led then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to eliminate the filibuster for those offices. (McConnell would later make a similar rule change to get Trump's SCOTUS nominee, Neil Gorsuch, approved by the Senate.) After Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014, the blockade of Obama's appointments became more pronounced. The result: Trump inherited 88 district court vacancies, along with 17 appellate court positions in need of filling. The president gets lots of publicity these days for all the judicial appointments he has made, but it was McConnell who spent the decade setting the stage. The result is a court system that for the next few decades will be less friendly to abortion, LGBT, and minority rights and the regulatory state, but friendlier to gun ownership and business interests. We haven't even scratched the surface of the Constitutional law changes that are coming thanks to McConnell's efforts.
3. From Russia with love: If Trump needed McConnell to transform the judiciary, the reverse is also true. So McConnell's role in helping Trump get elected is both notable - and, even now, shocking. The Obama administration in 2016 determined that Russia was attempting to interfere with the presidential election, and presented the evidence to congressional leaders. McConnell reportedly challenged the findings, "and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics." He refused to sign on to a joint statement warning the public about that interference, and Obama officials were hesitant to sound the alarm without his participation. Russia's efforts on Trump's behalf didn't start to get a full airing, then, until after the election. Would the election results have changed if the public had been more fully informed? That question is destined to be one of American history's great what-ifs.
McConnell spent the decade undermining one president and paving the way for another, all in support of an effort to fundamentally alter the way Constitutional law is interpreted and enforced. He is the thread that connects the shortcomings of the Obama administration to the rise of Trump, and beyond. Because of all that, he will be remembered - possibly not fondly - as the most important American politician of the decade.
Trump's base of support continues to be much softer than advertised. (Daily Kos, December 25, 2019)
How we gave away the secrets of the universe and the wealth of the world. (Daily Kos, December 25, 2019)
Reagan's combination of tax gifts to the wealthy and lavish spending on defense generated massive deficits. Republicans were happy to overlook this issue as long as a Republican was in the White House, but, as so often seems to happen, no sooner was Bill Clinton elected than Republicans rediscovered their deep, deep concern over America's national debt.
The restructuring of the economy that began with the adoption of supply-side economics was so fundamental that the most basic graph of income inequality shows it quite clearly. It created a schism, a break in the way both democracy and capitalism had worked to that point - one that drove America from a point at which the average CEO earned dozens of times as much as workers to one at which that difference was measured in the thousands. It turned the investment class into the can't-fail class. And over the next 40 years, it split society far more effectively than any accelerator could split apart particles.
We did not make earthshaking physics discoveries, but we created a nation where Jeff Bezos could fund the entire SSC, still have $100 billion in his pocket, and simply keep any discoveries made for himself. We created an age in which private fortunes exceed the cost of the largest public works. Where a nation can’t afford an Apollo-like effort, but individuals can, and are, running such programs as a hobby.
The surprisingly complicated physics of why cats always land on their feet (Ars Technica, December 25, 2019)
Ars chats with physicist Greg Gbur about his book, Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics.
"Cats are cleverer than we think, but less clever than they think. "
Comments: "If the physics is that understood, can we make a robot cat that always lands on its feet?"
"No one has yet, according to the physicist, which I find surprising and unbelievable. It doesn’t seem like that hard of a problem, yet neither does the cat and here we are with a whole book written on it."
"Trivial robot to make. Just shape it like a piece of toast and spread butter on its feet!" :-)
Which leads to: Why does toast often land butter-side down? (BBC Science Focus)
Number of children swallowing dangerous magnets surges as industry largely polices itself. (Washington Post, December 25, 2019)
The nation's poison control centers are on track to record six times more magnet ingestions - totaling nearly 1,600 cases - this year than in 2016, when a federal court first sided with industry to lift the Consumer Product Safety Commission's four-year ban on the product. Medical researchers say the only explanation for the spike is the return of these unusually strong magnets to the market after the court ruling.
NEW: The 2010s were another lost decade on climate change. (MIT Technology Review, December 24, 2019)
The only measurement that matters is greenhouse-gas emissions - and they continued to rise.
First active fault zone found on Mars. (National Geographic, December 24, 2019)
Rumbling quakes on the red planet have been traced back to Cerberus Fossae, suggesting this geologically young region is still alive and cracking.
Chuck Peddle, Maine native called 'father of the personal computer,' dies at age 82. (2-min. video; Portland ME Press Herald, December 24, 2019)
Peddle, who grew up in Augusta and graduated from the University of Maine, is credited with inventing the low-cost microprocessor used in early personal computers, such as the Commodore 64 and Apple II.
Colleges are turning students' phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands. (Washington Post, December 24, 2019)
Short-range phone sensors and campus-wide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students' academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health.
But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students' privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not. The systems are isolating for students who don't own smartphones, coercive for students who do and unnecessary for professors, who can accomplish the task with the same pop quizzes and random checks they’ve used for decades.
This style of surveillance has become just another fact of life for many Americans. A flood of cameras, sensors and microphones, wired to an online backbone, now can measure people's activity and whereabouts with striking precision, reducing the mess of everyday living into trend lines that companies promise to help optimize.
The U.S. military loves Linux. (Fudzilla, December 23, 2019)
The US government is increasingly using open-source software as a way to roll out advanced, highly secure technology in an economical manner. So chances are if you get hit by US munitions chances are the software is open source – which should make you feel better.
On August 8, 2016, the White House CIO released a Federal Source Code Policy that calls for new software to be built, shared, and adapted using open-source methods to capitalize on code that is "secure, reliable, and effective in furthering our national objectives."
The United States Department of Defense recognises the key benefits associated with open-source development and trusts Linux as its operating system. In fact, the US Army is the single largest installed base for Red Hat Linux and the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine fleet runs on Linux, including their sonar systems. Moreover, the Department of Defense just recently enlisted Red Hat the world's largest provider of open-source solutions, to help improve squadron operations and flight training.
Bill Of The Month: For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865. (NPR, December 23, 2019)
Trump Hosts Convicted War Criminal at Mar-a-Lago. (Slate, December 23, 2019)
Edward Gallagher certainly owes Trump some gratitude. In 2018, based on the testimony of members of his Navy SEAL unit, the platoon chief was charged with stabbing an unarmed teenage ISIS prisoner, posing for a photo with his corpse, and shooting random Iraqi civilians including an old man and a young girl. He denied the charges.
After Gallagher’s case was taken up by several of Trump’s allies in Congress and Fox News commentators, Trump repeatedly intervened in the trial. The president lambasted the prosecution, and ordered that Gallagher be moved from pretrial detention to house arrest. Gallagher was acquitted of most of the charges after a bizarre trial which included surprise testimony from a key witness who, after being granted immunity from prosecution, said he had been the one to kill the teenager.
Gallagher was convicted of posing for a photo with the detainee’s corpse and sentenced to time served. Trump then reversed a decision to demote Gallagher after the conviction and prevented the Navy from removing his Trident pin, a badge of honor for the elite SEALs. Navy secretary Richard Spencer objected to the special treatment of Gallagher and was subsequently asked to resign last month.
The Issues: The most comprehensive guide anywhere to the issues shaping the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. (Politico, December 23, 2019)
House counsel suggests Trump could be impeached again. (Politico, December 23, 2019)
A second impeachment could be necessary if the House uncovers new evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct investigations of his conduct. House Counsel Douglas Letter made the argument as part of an inquiry by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals into whether Democrats still need testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn after the votes last week to charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name. (Politico, December 23, 2019)
Outside entities are raising huge money in Trump's name, despite disavowals from the campaign, and spending little of it on 2020.
Admiral James Stavridis: 100% Trump got played by North Korea. (3-min. video; MSNBC, December 23, 2019)
North Korea has warned it could deliver the U.S. an unwelcome Christmas gift -- if there's no progress on nuclear talks. Admiral James Stavridis reacts.
Language expert: Trump is a truly inferior person to be leading a nation. (3-min. video; MSNBC, December 23, 2019)
Scholar and linguist John McWhorter joins to discuss what we can learn from all the President's words.
G.O.P. Lawmaker Had Visions of a Christian Alternative Government. (New York Times, December 23, 2019)
Washington State representative Matt Shea was accused of participating in the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge. Behind the scenes, he and right-wing activists were preparing for civil strife. He networked with local militia groups, talked about plans to create a 51st state called Liberty and distributed to his closest followers a "Biblical Basis for War" document that calls for the "surrender" of those who favor abortion rights, same-sex marriage, "idolatry" and communism. "If they do not yield - kill all males," it said.
Mr. Shea’s activities are part of a troubling trend: Far-right organizers have begun plying their message of civil conflict in mainstream political circles, building new networks that include elected politicians and voters who would never consider themselves part of an extremist group.
Giuliani pals leveraged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal. (Associated Press, December 23, 2019)
Andrew Favorov, the No. 2 at Ukraine’s state-run gas company Naftogaz, says he sat on a red leather bench seat and listened wide-eyed as the men boasted of their connections to President Donald Trump and proposed a deal to sell large quantities of liquefied natural gas from Texas to Ukraine.
But first, Favorov says, they told him they would have to remove two obstacles: Favorov’s boss and the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. What he didn’t know as he sipped whiskey that evening was that high-ranking officials in the Ukrainian government were already taking steps to topple his boss, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev. And two months later, Trump recalled U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat with a reputation as an anti-corruption crusader.
The gas deal sought by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman never came to pass. But their efforts to profit from contacts with GOP luminaries are now part of a broad federal criminal investigation into the two men and their close associate, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.
Lying, cheating, and stealing are the building blocks of their American dream. (Daily Kos, December 22, 2019)
Donald John Trump has been Impeached. The deed is done. Regardless of what else happens next in the Senate, that is a fact, and will remain true forever. It’s something that will always be connected to Trump and his career.
Of course, Trump and his rabid supporters do not accept this. They claim this is merely political, merely partisan, only a matter of personal rancor and bitter anger over his defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016. It doesn’t matter that that election was altered and influenced by the efforts of Russia to hack into the email systems of the DCCC, the DNC, and John Podesta, the chair of Clinton’s 2016 campaign. It doesn’t matter that Russia staged a campaign of active measures, using WikiLeaks and social media, intended to generate maximum impact from the hacked emails, suggesting that there was a corrupt plot between the Clinton campaign and the DNC to kneecap the campaign of Bernie Sanders, along with other conspiratorial crimes, and that she was personally corrupt and “crooked” through and through.
The truth doesn’t matter. The facts don’t matter. All that matters is winning. And the fact that that win was bought and paid for by Russia, which implemented an effective effort to cheat and steal the election, doesn’t matter. So, naturally, it doesn’t matter to them that Trump tried to use yet another foreign country to concoct a perpetual stream of false controversies about his main opponent in 2020. He was trying, yet again, to steal an election, but all they see is the anger. All they see is hate. All they see is grievance, because they know, deep down, that there’s a good reason for both.
How can Christians be Trump supporters? (Fargo ND Forum, December 22, 2019)
At this time of year when Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, and at a time when our country is more polarized than ever, we're pondering a riddle: Should avowed Christians support President Trump? Frankly, it's difficult to conceive of a high office holder whose personal life and divisive leadership are less Christ-like than those of Trump.
Regardless of one’s faith tradition, Trump stands as a leader who has shredded norms and values and morals. He has undeniably used his office for personal gain - and for the benefit of his sons, daughter and son-in-law - yet the far-right refuses to hold him accountable. We are supposed to be a nation of laws, not of men. Our Constitution spells out separation of powers as well as checks and balances between equal branches of government.
Christianity Today receives boost in new subscriptions after calling for Trump’s removal, editor in chief says. (CNBC, December 22, 2019)
Impeachment has been a messaging disaster for the White House. Why won't the press say so? (Daily Kos, December 22, 2019)
Why is insulin so expensive? Here's what you need to know about price gouging. (Daily Kos, December 22, 2019)
The U.S. is reported to have the highest cost for insulin in the world. Spending doubled> between 2012 and 2016.
NEW: 95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump (New York Times, December 21, 2019)
President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 90 environmental rules and regulations rolled back under Mr. Trump.
White House considers arguing that Trump wasn't impeached. (3-min. video; CBS News, December 21, 2019)
Heather Cox Richardson: A federal court struck down the central pillar of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). (Letters from an American, December 21, 2019)
The issues surrounding this decision are complicated, but at stake is whether or not the fact the court found this aspect of the law unconstitutional will lead to the entire law being declared unconstitutional.
This has a much larger meaning. It is, in fact, a question about the role of government in American society.
In the 1930s and 1940s, after the unregulated capitalism of the 1920s had sparked the Great Depression, Americans rallied around the idea that the government had a duty to keep the economic playing field level between those at the bottom of society and those at the top. Under Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the government began to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure. It regulated our financial system to guarantee no one could game it based on whom they knew. We got new laws to regulate minimum wages and maximum hours for workers, workplace safety, Social Security and welfare relief. We got bridges and roads and schools and libraries. Under this “New Deal for the American people” as FDR put it, the nation thrived.
This way of looking at the world became known as the “liberal consensus,” and virtually all Americans thought that government intervention in the economy to keep the wealthy from abusing their workers and taking the majority of the nation’s capital, as they had done in the 1920s, was a good thing.
But not everyone agreed. Some clung to the system of the 1920s, in which businessmen had run the government. So they set out to destroy the liberal consensus. Gradually they took over the Republican Party. Now they control it.
Americans have not been able to wrap their heads around this ideological conflict.
Iowa woman said she ran over a 14-year-old girl because she 'was a Mexican,' police say. (CNN, December 21, 2019)
Al Franken: McConnell's hypocrisy like listening to Dahmer complain about dinner party etiquette. (Daily Kos, December 21, 2019)
Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Winter Vacation Pushes Taxpayer Golf Tab Above $118 million. (Huffington Post, December 21, 2019)
Trump criticized predecessor Barack Obama for spending too much time playing golf — but is on track to pass Obama’s eight-year total in just four years.
Trump's letter to Pelosi: Not 'unhinged' - but worse, from a speechwriter's perspective. (The Hill, December 21, 2019)
Americans in 2119 will find a generally well-written, coherent summary of one side of the 2019 debate. Does that mean it’s persuasive? Laced with evidence? Absolutely not. In fact, I will assign Trump’s letter to my speechwriting students at American University because I want them to see this rich compendium of the fallacies so traditional in political rhetoric, in order to avoid repeating them.
By fallacies I don’t mean the ethical problems we see in Trump’s speeches: lies, personal insults, bigotry. Instead, fallacies are the specific techniques used to deceive, sometimes by speakers who don’t even realize they’re doing so. Such fallacies are nothing new, and they’re not limited to English — Aristotle, after all, seems to have been the first person to catalogue examples — but they are easy to spot.
Here are just six examples from the president’s letter...
The less-hyped, but more realistic threats to US national security (The Hill, December 21, 2019)
While secure borders are important to our economic and physical security, recent information has disclosed alarming deficiencies in U.S. military capabilities. Other information has revealed inadequate cybersecurity requirements in our weapons systems and in other infrastructure systems.
Extolling the Virtues of the Hunter-Gatherer Lifestyle (Undark, December 20, 2019)
In “Civilized to Death,” Christopher Ryan argues that our nomadic ancestors were better off than we are today.
Poll: 52 percent majority approves of Trump's impeachment. (Politico, December 20, 2019)
The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll also shows an identical 52 percent would approve of the Senate voting to remove Trump from office.
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump melting down on Twitter (Letters from an American, December 20, 2019)
Today began with Trump melting down on Twitter over the editorial yesterday in Christianity Today calling for his removal from office. He called this influential paper of American evangelicals "a far left magazine," and charged it with preferring "a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President." "The fact is, no President has ever done what I have for Evangelicals, or religion itself!" And he said something quite revealing: "No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again!"
Aside from the extraordinary unlikelihood that Trump ever read CT (not ET, who has gone home), these lines indicate that Trump’s view of the world as a series of transactions, made up of winners and losers, extends to governing. He thinks evangelicals owe him their votes in exchange for his anti-abortion judges, and feels betrayed at the suggestion that he has not bought their permanent allegiance. While all politicians think about keeping their supporters happy, this suggests a transactional view of politics that illuminates a lot about, for example, his payments to midwestern farmers hurt by his tariffs, or to his willingness to ask a favor of the president of Ukraine.
The latest Russia bombshell bolsters Democrats’ demand for evidence. (Washington Post, December 20, 2019)
The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign - and the blame he cast instead on a rival country - led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
The report continues: "One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because 'Putin told me.' Two other former officials said the senior White House official described Trump's comment to them." In short, "The concern among senior White House officials that Putin helped fuel Trump’s theories about Ukraine underscores long-standing fears inside the administration about the Russian president’s ability to influence Trump’s views." Finally, "Three former senior administration officials said Trump repeatedly insisted after the G-20 summit that he believed Putin’s assurances that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign. The officials said [chief of staff John] Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all tried to caution Trump not to rely on Putin’s word, and to focus on evidence to the contrary that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected."
So where are these former officials? As a preliminary matter, the thought processes of those former senior officials - who would anonymously say that Trump was a Putin puppet but refuse to come forward to provide testimony well before we even got to an impeachment proceeding, in part about Trump’s alleged betrayal of national security - boggles the mind. They have either given cover to a president who is practically a foreign asset, or they are creating unwarranted fear that he is. There could be no better example as to why the Senate must be able to subpoena former officials for the impeachment trial and obtain documents Trump has concealed under a spurious absolute immunity defense. If a former secretary of state or a defense, homeland security or senior intelligence official (e.g., director of national intelligence, head of the National Security Agency) cannot do the patriotic thing when the security of the country is at stake, then it is essential to end the Trump coverup and figure out how to force their appearance in the Senate trial.
Former prosecutor Joyce White Vance explained: "Russia’s goal has always been to disrupt our country and our way of life. Now, we’ve had more confirmation they seem to be succeeding, with confirmation of what’s been long suspected, that our president’s national security briefings come from Putin, not our own intelligence community." She cautioned: "This could form the basis for another article of impeachment - a president who doesn’t put our national security ahead of all other concerns." At the very least, it would shed additional light on the existing Article I that concerns Trump’s otherwise inexplicable obsession with debunked conspiracy theories that brought him to extort an ally at war with Russia.
As noted, on Thursday the Senate recessed, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisting that there be no agreement on the admission of witnesses and documents in advance, but rather that these would be handled as they come up. McConnell said that is how it has always worked. However, it has never been the case that the majority leader conspired with the president or that senators declared they had no intention to be fair.
Under these circumstances, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seems entirely justified in holding back the articles of impeachment until this can be resolved. Pelosi and other Democrats would do well to turn up the heat on Senate Republicans who present themselves as beacons of moderation and fairness. It is time for Democrats to point the finger directly at Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and others. Do they want to be part of a sham that risks leaving in place Putin’s pawn?
Maybe these Republicans will find it within their own consciences and heed the words of House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). "All of us feel a sense of loyalty to party. It’s what makes our two-party system function. . . . But party loyalty must have its limits," he said. "And as evidence of the President’s impeachable offenses has mounted, it has become increasingly clear that the limits of partisanship have been reached and passed. . . . Democrats and Republicans together face a test before our constituents, our countrymen, and our Creator." Hoyer ended: "I urge my colleagues in the House and in the Senate: look into your soul. Summon the courage to vote for our Constitution and our democracy. To do less betrays our oath and that of our Founders, who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Let us neither turn away from the evidence, which is so clear, nor from our good conscience, which compels us to do what in our hearts we know to be right. Let us not allow the rule of law to end or for tyranny to find its toehold."
The key Republican senators can do this by ending the logjam, vowing to vote for key witnesses, including current and past national security advisers, and demanding relevant documents. If they cannot do this bare minimum, you really have to question why they bother running and serving in the Senate.
Pelosi invites Trump to deliver State of the Union on Feb. 4. (The Hill, December 20, 2019)
Pelosi's letter comes two days after the House voted almost exclusively along party lines to impeach Trump.
"In their great wisdom, our Founders crafted a Constitution based on a system of separation of powers: three co-equal branches acting as checks on each other. To ensure that balance of powers, the Constitution calls for the president to 'from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,'" Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump. "In the spirit of respecting our Constitution, I invite you to deliver your State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 in the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives."
A White House aide later told The Hill that Trump had accepted.
Four Tests for Impeachment - And How the President Meets Them (National Review, December 19, 2019)
Advocates of a president’s removal from office by Congress should have to climb over four walls to reach their objective. First, they should have to show that the facts they allege are true. Second, they should show that the fact pattern amounts to an abuse of power or dereliction of duty by the president. Third, they should show that this abuse or dereliction is impeachable. And fourth, they should show that it is prudent for Congress to remove the president for this impeachable offense: that it would produce more good than evil.
If the advocates can scale all four walls, then a majority of the House and a supermajority of the Senate ought to remove the president.
1, True?: Did President Trump try to use federal policy toward Ukraine to get it to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter? It is pretty clear that he did, and Republican allies of Trump have put very little effort into denying it.
2. Abuse of power/Dereliction of duty? The theory about Ukrainian hacking has even less going for it. A “debunked conspiracy theory” is what Tom Bossert, a former homeland-security adviser to Trump and an opponent of impeachment, has called it. Most of Trump’s defenders have dealt with the absence of any support for this theory by changing the subject to other forms of Ukrainian “interference” with the 2016 election, prominently including an op-ed a Ukrainian official wrote. But Trump wasn’t talking about that, and U.S. officials have no legitimate interest in getting Ukraine to investigate it anyway.
3. Impeachable? Madison said that impeachment is the constitutional protection against a president who would abuse his power to pardon criminals, and that it was an appropriate remedy for “wanton removal of meritorious officers” by the president. The Constitution says Congress may impeach federal officials for bribery, treason, and “other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is reasonable to conclude that only serious wrongs, equivalent in gravity to the first two categories, belong in the third one. We have no warrant for concluding that only violations of statutes qualify. Congress has impeached many officials for misconduct not involving statutory crimes, and included non-crimes in its efforts to impeach Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Clinton.
4. Prudent? It might be possible to regard Trump’s Ukraine misadventure as a lapse of judgment, with little harm done, if he showed any repentance or even understanding of what he has done wrong. Instead it looks more like a window into tendencies of his that are incompatible with performing the functions of his office. Assuming that the necessary level of support to remove a president from office for that offense will not be reached, should we prefer that more elected officials go on record that it is unacceptable - or that fewer do?
Conclusion: The Constitution provides for impeachment and removal to protect us from officials, including presidents, who are unable or unwilling to distinguish between the common good that government is supposed to serve and their own narrow interests. Though he has done some good things in office, Trump is just such a president. Congress should act accordingly.
Obamacare ruling voiding part of health care law as unconstitutional is a sick joke. (NBC News, December 19, 2019)
The appellate court decision handed down Wednesday on the Affordable Care Act is a joke, but the people who depend on the ACA for health insurance won’t be laughing.
The decision in Texas v. United States, which struck down the ACA’s provision regarding individual insurance coverage, often referred to as the individual mandate, features a bad legal argument and a worse one. The bad argument is that the ACA minimum-coverage provision, which the appellate court interpreted as requiring each person to have a minimal amount of coverage, is unconstitutional; the worse argument is that courts should consider invalidating the entirety of the ACA because that one provision is unconstitutional.
Two Republican-appointed judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas held that the so-called mandate is unconstitutional, and that the rest of the ACA might have to be invalidated as a result. (The third judge on the panel, appointed by a Democrat, dissented.)
In making that determination, the court of appeals wrote off the fact that the Supreme Court already upheld the provision regarding individual insurance coverage in its 2012 landmark ruling National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, written by Chief Justice John Roberts.
NEW: Why Biden’s Retro Inner Circle Is Succeeding So Far (Politico, December 19, 2019)
In 2019, there’s a tiny group of Democrats who believe the party hasn’t lurched leftward. Oh, and their boss happens to be winning the primary.
How the New Robocall Law Would Protect Consumers (Consumer Reports, December 19, 2019)
The so-called TRACED Act, which won final approval in Congress today, would make it easier for consumers to identify robocalls so that they can avoid answering them.
The legislation would require telecom carriers to implement, at no extra charge, a number-authentication system to help consumers identify who’s calling. It would also increase penalties for robocallers who flout the law. However, it didn’t clarify what constitutes consumer consent to receive the calls. It may take years to fully implement.
In the meantime, this article also lists steps you can take to protect yourself from robocalls.
NEW: The Privacy Project: Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy (New York Times, December 19, 2019)
One nation, tracked. An investigation into the smartphone tracking industry.
Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies - largely unregulated, little scrutinized - are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists. It holds more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Each piece of information in this file represents the precise location of a single smartphone over a period of several months in 2016 and 2017. The data was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so. The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers.
After spending months sifting through the data, tracking the movements of people across the country and speaking with dozens of data companies, technologists, lawyers and academics who study this field, we feel the same sense of alarm. In the cities that the data file covers, it tracks people from nearly every neighborhood and block, whether they live in mobile homes in Alexandria, Va., or luxury towers in Manhattan. One search turned up more than a dozen people visiting the Playboy Mansion, some overnight. Without much effort we spotted visitors to the estates of Johnny Depp, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger, connecting the devices’ owners to the residences indefinitely.
If you lived in one of the cities the dataset covers and use apps that share your location — anything from weather apps to local news apps to coupon savers — you could be in there, too. If you could see the full trove, you might never use your phone the same way again.
Australia swelters through hottest day on record. (Axios, December 18, 2019)
Australia has endured its hottest day on record and worst ever spring for wildfire danger, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in a climate statement Wednesday.
Perth, the capital of Western Australia, has already smashed its temperature record for December after three consecutive days above 40°C (104°F) at the start of the week.
The dire heat warnings come as firefighters continue to fight wildfires, known in Australia as bushfires. The Washington Post notes that blazes in New South Wales have "emitted massive amounts of greenhouse gases and choked Sydney residents beneath a blanket of smoke."
NEW: Official Statement From Mormon Women for Ethical Government on the House Impeachment Vote (MWEG, December 18, 2019)
We assert that our most sacred civic expression is the casting of an individual vote. Any president or leader who forces political support and fails to honor and protect the free and legitimate elections on which our republic rests has lost the moral right to govern. By attempting to compel Ukraine to announce investigations benefitting only his re-election efforts, President Trump forced every American taxpayer to become an unwitting contributor to his political campaign and a supporter of his re-election.
When presented to the Senate, these articles deserve a full and fair trial with impartial jurors, conducted as required by the Constitution. Even in an era of polarized partisan politics, truth is discernible and powerful. The Senate must resist all impulse to reduce this process to gamesmanship and theater and instead must pursue truth by compelling testimony from the actors at the heart of this inquiry. The president himself must honor his sworn duty to uphold the law by providing the documents Congress has subpoenaed and instructing his staff to testify. If he is innocent, their testimonies will be exculpatory. Subversion of this process, regardless of outcome, represents a subversion of justice.
At MWEG we are committed peacemakers. However, we recognize that true peace is not an absence of conflict. Rather, it requires, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught, a courageous defense of truth and justice. Some argue that an impeachment process must be bi-partisan before it is legitimate. Some say that without Congressional Republican support, investigating the president would be too divisive. We reject this argument as one devoid of moral authority. Peace cannot be purchased so cheaply. Effective leadership does not sacrifice truth and principle on the altar of consensus. Instead, it gives voice to truth and lends courage to those who are fearful. Our nation is truly indivisible only when there is liberty and justice for all.
While we speak to all of our fellow citizens and elected officials, we call specifically upon our co-religionists Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) to honor their oaths of office. We remind them that this oath qualifies them for service and was taken in the name of God. The oath of office does not require our representatives to protect the economy, their political party, their seat, their ambition, or even the president. It demands that those sworn to office will uphold the Constitution and fairly adjudicate on behalf of every citizen. We expect them to honor that oath, and we will hold them to account with our votes.
TRUMP IMPEACHED. Donald Trump is the third U.S. president to face a trial in the Senate. (Washington Post, December 18, 2019)
Trump is impeached by the House, creating an indelible mark on his presidency.
On Trump’s 1,062nd day in office, Congress brought a momentous reckoning to an un­or­tho­dox president who has tested America’s institutions with an array of unrestrained actions, including some that a collection of his own appointees and other government witnesses testified were reckless and endangered national security.
New study shows just how bad vehicle hacking has gotten. (CNet, December 18, 2019)
Automotive industry hacks have exploded since 2016, according to a new report.
Unable to Retrieve Money, Cryptocurrency Investors Want Dead Executive Exhumed. (New York Times, December 17, 2019)
Gerald W. Cotten, the C.E.O. of Quadriga CX, was the only one who knew crucial passwords, the company said. When he died, users could not recover millions in their accounts. Now they want proof he is actually dead.
Donald Trump throws the Republican Senate a boat anchor in the form of a six-page tantrum. (Daily Kos, December 17, 2019)
In the letter, Trump attacks Pelosi for saying that she prays for him. Trump calls Pelosi a liar, unless, he says, she prays "in a negative sense." The letter continues Trump’s attack on Joe Biden, in denial of the facts, by simply stating the conspiracy theory he pressed on Ukraine as if it is fact. It then accuses Democrats of "Trump Derangement Syndrome" and "Impeachment Fever," while throwing out a massive list of adjectives and utilizing Random Capitalization wherever he wants.
And then it just lies, points fingers, and kind of screams in print. It’s like a Trump rally committed to paper. Only less coherent.
Letter from Donald Trump to Nancy Pelosi (White House, December 17, 2019)
Mike Pence deep-sixed his aide's impeachment testimony. Schiff says it 'raises profound questions'. (Daily Kos, December 17, 2019)
Rudy Giuliani doesn't care if you know about his corrupt schemes, because Trump has his back. (Daily Kos, December 17, 2019)
Rudy Giuliani flat-out confesses to more Trump corruption. (Daily Kos, December 16, 2019)
The Ukrainian Prosecutor Behind Trump’s Impeachment. (New Yorker, December 16, 2019)
How the efforts of Yuriy Lutsenko and Rudy Giuliani to smear Joe Biden led to a Presidential crisis.
Of all the names featured in the private depositions and public testimonies of the Presidential impeachment inquiry - Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani; Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman; Joe Biden and his son, Hunter - that of Yuriy Lutsenko has been cited more often than almost any other. In the sworn depositions of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, Lutsenko’s name appears two hundred and thirty times, nearly twice as often as Trump’s. Lutsenko, sometimes referred to simply as "the corrupt prosecutor general" of Ukraine, has been portrayed, hardly without reason, as an unscrupulous politician prone to telling lies to further his personal ambitions. As those closely following the news have learned, Lutsenko fed information to Giuliani, which Giuliani, Trump, and their allies spun to smear the reputations of the Bidens and of Yovanovitch, whom Trump fired in April. One of the House’s star witnesses told me, of Lutsenko, "I don’t think we’d be here if not for him."
NEW: Federal Toxmap Shutters, Raising the Ire of Pollution Researchers. (Undark, December 16, 2019)
The loss of the federal pollution tracker, supporters say, will inhibit public access to data on environmental hazards.
Satellite observations reveal extreme methane leakage from a natural gas well blowout. (U.S. National Academy of Science, December 16, 2019)
Emissions from the fossil fuel industry are one of the major sources of atmospheric methane. Gas leakages due to accidents in the oil and gas sector can release large amounts of methane within short periods of time. Although these emissions are very challenging to monitor, satellite measurement platforms offer a promising approach by regularly scanning the entire globe. This study demonstrates this capability of satellite measurements by reporting atmospheric measurements of methane emission from a natural gas well blowout in Ohio in 2018. Assuming a constant emission rate during the whole event, we find the total methane emission from the 20-d blowout to be equivalent to a substantial fraction of the annual total anthropogenic emission of several European countries.
Supreme Court declines to hear case on ban against people sleeping and camping in public spaces. (Daily Kos, December 16, 2019)
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal that would have allowed officers to ticket people who sleep and camp in public spaces; this is considered a major victory for people who are experiencing homelessness. Instead of hearing the case, the Supreme Court is letting a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stand. That ruling says that homeless people have a constitutional right to sleep outside (assuming it’s public property) if no shelter space is available.
Brian Kilmeade ‘Stunned’ by Fox News Poll Differing From What ‘Fox & Friends’ Pushes About Impeachment. (Daily Beast, December 16, 2019)
The Fox host admitted he was surprised by the number because, in his corner of the world, he "thought that things were trending away."
DCCC to Consultants: Helping to Elect a Republican? Sure, We’ll Work With You. (The Intercept, December 16, 2019)
In March, House Democrats’ campaign arm formalized a policy cutting off firms working with candidates running primary challenges against incumbent Democrats. But the rule doesn’t appear to apply to consultants who get millions of dollars from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee while working for political action committees that support and elect Republicans.
An open letter to Nikki Haley from the briefly reanimated corpse of Jefferson Davis. (Daily Kos, December 15, 2019)
Dearest Ambassador Haley,
I am writing from the distant past to offer some modest thoughts about your exciting future. I understand congratulations are in order as you embark on the journey to seek the presidential nomination of the party of states' rights, nullification, and secession. (One hundred thirty years after my death, the irony is not lost on me that the Party of Abraham Lincoln is now where those sacred values reside.)
Now, I appreciate that you have not formally declared your intentions for 2024 or, if today’s abolitionists, free soilers, and civil rights crusaders of the North and West succeed in their current treachery, in 2020. But with the resumption of your defense of the flag of our Confederacy, you sent an unmistakable signal to our shared supporters that you shall pursue the highest office in the land.
An Evangelical's Antichrist Op-ed: "You foolish evangelicals, Trump has bewitched you!" (Daily Kos, December 15, 2019)
He is not the only one. There are others who are speaking out. It’s a start, even if it is a small minority. Regardless of the number, it’s important to note that some evangelicals have come to see Trump for the appalling person he really is.
NEW: 'I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here': Graham predicts Trump impeachment will 'die quickly' in Senate. (CNN, December 14, 2019)
A big week in the history of this country. (Heather Cox Richardson, December 14, 2019)
The House Committee on the Judiciary voted to impeach the President for the fourth time in American history. But that was not, actually, the biggest story.
The big story was that it became clear that the leadership of today’s Republican Party, a party started in the 1850s by men like Abraham Lincoln to protect American democracy, is trying to undermine our government. I can reach no other conclusion after watching the behavior of the Republicans over the past few weeks, from their yelling and grandstanding rather than interviewing witnesses in the Intelligence Committee hearings, to the truly bizarre statements of Trump and Attorney General Barr saying the report of the Justice Department’s Inspector General about the investigation into Russian interference in 2016 concluded the opposite of what it did, to the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee making a mockery of the hearings rather than actually participating in them, and finally culminating in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing on Sean Hannity’s program last night that, "There’s no chance the president will be removed from office."
Killer Robots Aren’t Regulated. Yet. (19-min. video; New York Times, December 13, 2019)
A tank that drives itself, a drone that picks its own target, a machine gun with facial recognition software: Artificial intelligence is defining the next wave of warfare. Our reporters spoke with experts around the world in "Killing in the Age of Algorithms," a 19-minute documentary.
Bloomberg Just Bought CityLab - and Put Half Its Reporters Out of a Job. (Mother Jones, December 13, 2019)
As part of the sale, The Atlantic is making layoffs.
What’s Behind the GOP’s Disinformation Machine? (Washington Monthly, December 13, 2019)
Are Trump’s Republican defenders Russian assets—or just useful idiots? Veteran intelligence officials weigh in.
On impeachment, McConnell vows 'total coordination' with Team Trump. (MSN, December 13, 2019)
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added that McConnell is "proudly announcing he is planning to rig the impeachment trial for Trump." The word "proudly" was of particular interest. The fix is in, and McConnell is in a shameless mood. He's aware of the seriousness of the scandal; he knows there's a mountain of uncontested evidence; and he knows his party's president abused the powers of his office on a historic scale. And it's against this backdrop that McConnell isn't just eager to rig the process to help the accused, he's bragging about it. The GOP leader, ignoring reality, added that the case against Trump is "darn weak," all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
NEW: Melania Trump Thinks Greta Thunberg Had POTUS Attack Coming. (Vanity Fair, December 13, 2019)
Apparently, speaking out against climate change means the 16-year-old should expect to be mocked by world leaders.
73-year-old Trump bullies 16-year-old Thunberg on Twitter. She once again makes a fool of him. (Daily Kos, December 12, 2019)
NEW: McConnell: In 'total coordination' with White House for impeachment trial. (USA Today, December 12, 2019)
"We don't have the kind of ball control on this that a typical issue, for example, comes over from the House, if I don't like it, we don't take it up," McConnell stated about an impeachment trial. "We have no choice but to take it up, but we'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the President in the well of the Senate."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., read part of McConnell's interview out loud during Thursday's impeachment markup, stating that: "In other words, the jury - Senate Republicans - are going to coordinate with the defendant - Donald Trump - on how exactly the kangaroo court is going to be run."
According to the rules expressed in the Constitution, during an impeachment trial of the President of the United States, the Senate takes an oath to act as impartial jurors.
NEW: ACLU Supports Impeachment of President Trump. (ACLU, December 12, 2019)
The board voted 55-2 in favor of a resolution that states:
"Having considered the ACLU’s mission and policies concerning the protection and advancement of civil liberties, nonpartisanship, and the extraordinary circumstances in which the ACLU shall take a position on the impeachment or removal of a government official,
A majority of the National Board of Directors of the ACLU believe that President Trump has indeed committed impeachable offenses and violated his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution by:
- abusing the powers of the executive office to further his personal and political interests and not the interests of the nation by withholding Congressionally-appropriated military aid to Ukraine unless that government announced an inquiry into allegations of corruption by former Vice President Biden and his son, as well as an investigation into alleged Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election; and by
- improperly invoking executive immunity and instructing government officials and agencies to refuse to testify or produce Congressionally-subpoenaed witnesses and documents, thereby improperly obstructing a Congressional investigation; and by
- obstructing an inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including by firing officials and directing others to lie about the investigation.
The Board also resolved that, over the course of his presidency, the president has abused the rule of law and violated his oath of office, including by:
- obstructing an inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including by firing officials and directing others to lie about the investigation; and by
- abusing the power of his office to induce Ukraine to assist him in the 2020 election; and by
- threatening public officials for performing their lawful duties; and by
- obstructing Congress’s efforts to investigate that conduct.
These acts constitute extraordinary circumstances in which President Trump’s continuation in office poses a grave and imminent threat to civil liberties, in particular an ongoing threat that he will continue to pursue illegal means to influence the 2020 election and will continue to impede lawful efforts to reveal any such wrongdoing.
The Board therefore supports the impeachment of President Donald Trump."
This is the second instance in the organization’s 99-year history that the ACLU’s National Board of Directors has voted to support impeachment of a president. The organization also supported the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
NEW: A Dark River Nearly 1,000 Miles Long May Be Flowing Beneath Greenland's Ice. (Live Science, December 12, 2019)
Earliest hunting scene in prehistoric art (Nature, December 11, 2019)
The Upper Palaeolithic cave art of Europe hosts the oldest previously known images of humans and animals interacting in recognizable scenes, and of therianthropes - abstract beings that combine qualities of both people and animals, and which arguably communicated narrative fiction of some kind (folklore, religious myths, spiritual beliefs and so on). In this record of creative expression (spanning from about 40 thousand years ago (ka) until the beginning of the Holocene epoch at around 10 ka), scenes in cave art are generally rare and chronologically late (dating to about 21–14 ka), and clear representations of therianthropes are uncommon - the oldest such image is a carved figurine from Germany of a human with a feline head (dated to about 40–39 ka).
Here we describe an elaborate rock art panel from the limestone cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong (Sulawesi, Indonesia) that portrays several figures that appear to represent therianthropes hunting wild pigs and dwarf bovids; this painting has been dated to at least 43.9 ka on the basis of uranium-series analysis of overlying speleothems. This hunting scene is - to our knowledge - currently the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.
KeyWe Smart Lock has a security vulnerability that leaves homes open for attacks. (CNET, December 11, 2019)
The lock isn't able to receive updates, which means the flaw allowing hackers to break in will always be present.
The Startling Secret of an Invincible Virus (The Atlantic, December 11, 2019)
The viruses that Bondy-Denomy studies at the University of California at San Francisco don’t bother humans. Known as phages, they infect and kill bacteria instead. Bacteria can defend themselves against these assaults. They can recognize the genes of the phages that threaten them, and deploy scissorlike enzymes to slice up those genes and disable the viruses. This defense system is known as CRISPR. Billions of years before humans discovered it and used it as a tool for editing DNA, bacteria were using CRISPR to fight off phages.
But phages have their own countermeasures. In 2012, Bondy-Denomy discovered that some of these viruses are resistant to CRISPR, because they have proteins that stick to those scissorlike enzymes and blunt them. A bacterium can mount its CRISPR defense, but ultimately the virus can still force itself in and triumph. This suggested that bacteria and phages are likely locked in an arms race. The former evolve new kinds of scissor enzymes, and the latter evolve new ways of disabling them. Intrigued, Bondy-Denomy started searching for more CRISPR-resistant phages.
He soon found one that was resistant, and then some. It’s called phi-kappa-zeta (or phiKZ)—a name that it coincidentally shares with a sorority. Unusually large for a virus, phiKZ typically infects a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Unsurprisingly, it could resist the version of CRISPR used by its host. Unexpectedly, it also resisted every other version of CRISPR that the team tried, including those from bacteria that it would never have naturally encountered. Its armor seemed to work against every possible weapon. No anti-CRISPR protein should work in such a universal way.
Stop Believing in Free Shipping. (The Atlantic, December 11, 2019)
How retailers hide the costs of delivery - and why we’re such suckers for their ploys.
It Couldn’t Be Any Clearer That Trump Serves the Kremlin. (Washington Monthly, December 11, 2019)
On the very day that the House of Representatives introduced two articles of impeachment related to Trump’s Ukraine policy, President Trump was huddling in the Oval Office privately with the foreign minister of Russia. Simple optics should preclude such a move by our president, but he obviously feels immune from congressional pressure and absolutely unable to resist directives from the Kremlin.
Lindsey Graham opens Judiciary Committee hearing with what could be the worst defense of Trump ever. Daily Kos, December 11, 2019)
Sen. Lindsey Graham opened the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz about his report on the FBI investigation into ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia by first tossing out a few general paragraphs - mostly about how he never makes long opening statements. That was the precursor for Graham to break into an opening statement that rambled on, and on, and on, rehashing every aspect of the Russia investigation, including things that had absolutely nothing to do with anything Horowitz was investigating. In the course of his 45-minute-plus statement, punctuated by shuffling through papers and frequent references to "smelly people," Graham went through not just the Russia investigation but tangential events, false claims, and, of course, dozens of text messages.
Notably. Graham read through a whole series of comments made months before the election of Donald Trump and complained that Strzok and Page didn’t respect their "commander in chief." It’s worth pausing for a moment to consider that, in the exact same period in which the texts were sent, Graham described Trump as "a kook" who was "unfit for office." In fact, Graham directly said that Trump is "not qualified to be commander in chief." Graham also offered the advice, "You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell." Those past comments somehow did not make it into Graham’s opening.
Heather Cox Richardson: Members of the Judiciary are "debating" the articles of impeachment. (Letters From An American, December 11, 2019)
Even as I write this, members of the Judiciary are "debating" the articles of impeachment the committee has prepared against Trump. I put that word in quotation marks because there is no debate going on. Democrats are reiterating the surprisingly consistent facts established over the last several weeks of investigations and hearings, while Republicans, led by Doug Collins (R-GA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Dan Ratcliffe (R-TX) are simply yelling, once again trying to create an emotional - and false - narrative for their supporters, while sapping the energy of those who disapprove of the president.
The tone of the hearing was clear from the start. Committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said to his Republican colleagues: "I know you. I have worked with many of you for years. I consider you to be good and decent public servants. I know this moment must be difficult, but you still have a choice…. I hope that none of us attempt to justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong. I hope that we are able to work together to hold this president—or any president—accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens."
Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary Doug Collins (R-GA) answered by comparing Democrats to Adolf Hitler.
After bipartisan pushback, Trump ditches effort to kill major federal agency. (Washington Post, December 11, 2019)
President Trump has abandoned his administration’s faltering effort to dissolve a key federal agency, a major setback in his three-year battle to keep his campaign promise to make government leaner and more efficient.
The Office of Personnel Management will remain the human resources manager of the civilian workforce of 2.1 million employees, and its functions will not - for the foreseeable future at least - be parceled out to the White House and the General Services Administration.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans whose support was essential to disbanding the agency dismissed the plan as ill-conceived and unlikely to save money or shrink the federal workforce. A sweeping defense authorization bill that appeared to be headed for approval on Capitol Hill on Wednesday relegates the breakup to an independent study committee, a common face-saving solution for ideas that tend to be going nowhere.
Donald Trump Jr. Went to Mongolia, Got Special Treatment From the Government and Killed an Endangered Sheep. (ProPublica, December 11, 2019)
During a summer 2019 hunting trip, Donald Trump Jr. killed a rare argali sheep. The Mongolian government issued him a hunting permit retroactively and he met with the country’s president.
What the UN's COP 25 is, and why it really matters (Climate Reality Project, December 11, 2019)
From the outside, the start of the United Nations’ COP 25 climate conference in Madrid last week looked a lot like most of the 24 annual meetings that came before it. Straight-faced negotiators sitting in meeting rooms, trying to find something like consensus between nearly 200 countries on the next steps in the march to lower greenhouse gas emissions and stop rising temperatures in time to prevent global catastrophe.
But what makes this COP (short for “Conference of the Parties”) different is that this is the year that millions flooded streets of cities worldwide to demand real action now during the Global Climate Strikes.
This is the year that the publisher of the definitive guide to the English language, Oxford University Press, declared “climate emergency” as its word of the year, after use of the term spiked by nearly 10,800 percent (you read that right) from September 2018 to September 2019.
Cities are becoming critical players in the fight against the climate crisis. Natural solutions like reforestation and the health of our oceans are finally beginning to get the attention they deserve. And women’s and indigenous people’s voices are starting to gain traction on the world’s stage.
Plus, this is the year a bombshell report showed the world is way off track in reducing emissions at anything like the pace necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Time names teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg as 2019 Person of the Year (USA Today, December 11, 2019)
This is the first time the magazine has honored a teenager, making the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist the youngest person to ever be named. The record was previously held by 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh in 1927. The accolade goes to the person or persons who "most influenced the news and the world" during the past year.
Time said it named Thunberg for "sounding the alarm about humanity's predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends background and borders" and "for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads."
TIME 2019 Person Of The Year is GRETA THUNBERG. (Time, December 11, 2019)
She will travel to Madrid, where the United Nations is hosting this year’s climate conference. It is the last such summit before nations commit to new plans to meet a major deadline set by the Paris Agreement. Unless they agree on transformative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature rise since the Industrial Revolution will hit the 1.5°C mark - an eventuality that scientists warn will expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. For every fraction of a degree that temperatures increase, these problems will worsen. This is not fearmongering; this is science. For decades, researchers and activists have struggled to get world leaders to take the climate threat seriously. But this year, an unlikely teenager somehow got the world’s attention.
"We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow," she says. "That is all we are saying." It’s a simple truth, delivered by a teenage girl in a fateful moment.
Donald Trump Slams His Security For Being 'Politically Correct' In Ejecting Protester. (Huffington Post, December 11, 2019)
"Get her out, get her out," Trump said. "See these guys want to be so politically correct. Get her out. You see that?" Then Trump, waving his hands and moaning, taunted the security guard. "We don’t want to be politically correct," Trump said. "I don’t know who he was. He didn’t do the greatest job."
Trump’s call to not be "politically correct" harks back to other incidents at his events.
During a rally in 2016, he promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who attacks a protester. "If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?" he said. "Seriously, OK?"
During another event, Trump complained that a protester was receiving high-fives as he left. "I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you that," he said.
And during a winter event in 2016, Trump told security to take the protesters’ coats. "Throw them out into the cold," he said. "Don’t give them their coats. No coats! Confiscate their coats."
Windows 10 Mobile Is Dead: Last Cumulative Update Now Available for Download. (Softpedia, December 11, 2019)
Windows 10 Mobile has officially become a thing of the past, and there’s no way to go in mobile other than moving to Android or iPhone. Windows 10 Mobile is already at 0 percent market share, so only a very small number of users is likely to be impacted by this highly-anticipated end of support.
Join us on our new journey, says Wunderlist – as it vanishes down the Microsoft plughole. (The Register, December 10, 2019)
In May, Microsoft is killing off a favourite to-do app and replacing it with an inferior version that requires you to give Microsoft all your personal information.
(Try Wekan, Todoist, or OpenTodoList.)
Microsoft to Kill Off Its Free Windows 7 Antivirus Next Month (Softpedia, December 10, 2019)
Windows 7 is projected to reach the end-of-support on January 14th, but given that the 2009 operating system still controls a market share of around 25 percent, there’s a good chance many devices would still be running it when the time comes.
The first universal compulsory educational system was found in? (How-To Geek, December 10, 2019)
While other cultures prior to the 14th-Century Aztecs had elements resembling the concept—in ancient Sparta, boys were put into a strict military training system and in ancient Judea, boys were required to attend school—no country or empire had sent all their children, regardless of gender, to school in such a fashion.
National Nurses United testimony before the Subcommittee on Health of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee - Hearing on “Proposals to Achieve Universal Health Care Coverage” (Medium, December 10, 2019)
My name is Jean Ross. I have been a registered nurse in Minnesota for 45 years, and I am President of National Nurses United, the largest union representing bedside nurses in the United States, with over 150,000 members. In my testimony today, I want to illustrate two main points:
- First, our current patchwork system of public programs and private for-profit insurers is ineffective, inefficient, and financially unsustainable.
- Second, the only way we can guarantee every person living in this country receives the health care they need is by adopting a single-payer, Medicare for All system.
Lisa Page Sues DOJ and FBI in Fed Court, DC, for Breach of Privacy Act in Release of Text Messages. (Daily Kos, December 10, 2019)
The rather compact and well-drawn complaint, filed on her behalf by the A-List D.C. law firm of Arnold and Porter, describes some rather sleazy conduct by the Department of Justice. It also describes knowledge of guilt, although that is not an element Ms. Page has to prove. Hours before scheduled key Congressional testimony by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in the middle of the night, the DOJ engineered the most sordid of government leaks. The midnight nature of the disclosure to hand-picked reporters and the attempt to cover it up will undercut any effort to defend the conduct as necessary to the public interest.
As a still-quite-young lawyer with tremendous earnings capability in the private sector, Ms. Page’s damages are apt to be substantial.
ICE detained a high school sophomore. His teachers tried to send him homework so he wouldn't fall behind. (CNN, December 10, 2019)
Students later learned that Mario Aguilar, an 18-year-old who enrolled in the school last year, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at a nearby courthouse where he'd gone to face charges after a traffic accident. It's the kind of case that unfolds frequently across the United States, but often goes unnoticed or quickly fades from view.
At Wilbur Cross, something different happened. The school where many were still getting to know Mario began fighting to bring him back.
Does Trump want to murder Democrats? (7-min. video; The Young Turks, December 10, 2019)
The latest commercial Tweeted out by the Trump campaign is an ad that features video of Trump’s face superimposed on the body of Thanos from the Marvel Avengers movies, as he snaps his fingers and wipes out the Democratic House members leading the impeachment inquiry.
In this clip Cenk points out that the choice to boost this commercial is curious, primarily because Thanos is a horrible villain responsible for the mass murder of trillions across the universe, which is presumably not the kind of thing a presidential candidate wants to be associated with. Cenk also observes that the choice of Thanos as an icon is questionable because, um - spoiler alert! - he loses.
Dems take the Impeachment plunge. (12-min. video; The Young Turks, December 10, 2019)
Trump himself has said that anyone who pleads the fifth is guilty, yet Trump has essentially done that by refusing to participate in these proceedings. Plus Republicans appear prepared to offer no positive case in the Senate trial, but rather to continue saying that up is down and black is white to muddy the waters. Which makes sense on some level, Cenk says, since Trump’s guilt is so apparent on the merits. "It's absolutely slam-dunk," he says. "If you care about the substance, the legality and the facts President Trump would definitely be convicted and removed from office on abusing his office for personal political gain alone."
Propaganda Leads to Trump: A History of the Right’s Dangerous Outrage Machine. (Daily Kos, December 10, 2019)
This diary takes a look at how the dangerous, right-wing propaganda machine has created the partisan environment and given us Trump. The information below looks at the overall history of how we got to where we are. Because of the power of propaganda, Trump and Hitler were labeled by many Christians as the "Chosen One."
They're Not Stupid, and They're Not Spineless. They're Evil. Let's Keep That Straight. (Daily Kos, December 10, 2019)
These people want unlimited, unfettered, unrestrained, unaccountable power. They want this power to enrich themselves, enrich their friends, maintain their social status, and forcibly impose their so-called “values” on everyone else. These people do not - DO NOT - believe in the principles on which a democratic republic rests. In fact, they emphatically reject them as “mob rule”. Being “conservatives” (a word the meaning of which has been utterly distorted), they advocate the same things American conservatism has always advocated: rule by a small group of wealthy white men. Because there’s a phrase in the Declaration of Independence they hate with the heat of a thousand suns:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
American conservatism has waged unrelenting, bloody, savage war on this idea for 243 years. Resisting the inclusion of entire categories of Americans from the protection of the law is the zen essence of conservatism.
Congress warns tech companies: Take action on encryption, or we will. (CNet, December 10, 2019)
US lawmakers are poised to "impose our will" if tech companies don't weaken encryption so police can access data.
Tech companies and privacy advocates have long supported encryption, noting that the privacy and security technology protects people from hackers, crooks and authoritarian governments. Law enforcement officials, however, argue that encryption blocks criminal investigations by preventing access to suspects' devices and to their communications on messaging apps.
This debate took center stage in 2016 when Apple fought an FBI order to help unlock a terrorist's iPhone, arguing that providing a master key to decrypt devices would endanger all iPhone users.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Apple's manager of user privacy, Erik Neuenschwander, reiterated that point for lawmakers. "At this time, we've been unable to identify any way to create a backdoor that would work only for the good guys," Neuenschwander told senators. "In fact, our experience is the opposite. When we have weaknesses in our system, they're exploited by nefarious entities as well."
What Pete Buttigieg Says He Did at McKinsey. (The Atlantic, December 10, 2019)
The presidential candidate reveals the clients he worked with, what he did for them, and how the experience shaped the way he solves problems.
Houston top cop to McConnell: 'You're either here for women ... or you're here for the NRA.' (Daily Kos, December 10, 2019)
Houston Police Sgt. Christopher Brewster, 32, was shot and killed Saturday night on a domestic violence call. The man who shot him with semi-automatic pistol had a long criminal history, including domestic assault, and he had two guns with him during the assault on his girlfriend that Brewster responded to.
This week, Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo is seeing Brewster buried, and he's enraged at the men who are continuing to allow this to happen. "We all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women Act, is because the NRA doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends," he said Monday morning.
New York Deepens Its Investigation Into the N.R.A. (New York Times, December 9, 2019)
The New York State attorney general has issued a new subpoena to the National Rifle Association, deepening her eight-month investigation and providing fresh clues about where it is headed, according to people with knowledge of the document. The subpoena, which was described to The New York Times, was issued last week and covers at least four areas, including campaign finance, payments made to board members and tax compliance. Because the N.R.A. is chartered in New York and the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, has a range of enforcement options, the investigation has alarmed N.R.A. officials already grappling with infighting and litigation. The same office brought a case last year that led to the shuttering of President Trump’s foundation.
Among the documents sought by the subpoena are records related to transfers among N.R.A.-controlled entities, including the N.R.A. Foundation, an affiliated charity. Recent tax filings show that the N.R.A. diverted $36 million last year from the foundation in various ways, far more than ever before, raising concerns among tax experts. The transfers came as the N.R.A. experienced financial strains and challenges from gun-control groups, which outspent the organization in the 2018 midterm elections. An earlier analysis by The Times found that the foundation had transferred more than $200 million to the N.R.A. between 2010 and 2017.
While both the N.R.A. and its foundation are tax-exempt, only donations to the foundation are tax-deductible. Tax experts say the foundation has become a back door for tax-deductible donations to the N.R.A. itself. Karl Racine, the attorney general of the District of Columbia, where the N.R.A. Foundation is chartered, is also investigating.
NEW: The management professors making a career out of myth-busting shareholder capitalism (Quartz, December 9, 2019)
Despite his job teaching in the management school at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, Todd Bridgman is sympathetic to the minority view that business schools should be torn down and rebuilt from scratch, only this time given a wider mandate. He'd like business schools to teach students how to think critically about power within organizations, and the role of corporations generally. Maybe we should make business schools more like liberal arts colleges, or add business classes to liberal arts departments, he suggests. Bridgman asks his students to openly spot the lies or unspoken assumptions in their management lessons, to consider mainstream business theories alongside alternative schools of thought.
For the past several years, Bridgman’s partner in research has been Stephen Cummings, a fellow management professor at Victoria University of Wellington whose main interest lies in history and historiographies. Together, they may have found the Achilles heel of management education: its foundational stories. Their books and papers ask management scholars and students to rethink famous lessons from Adam Smith, Max Weber, Frederick Taylor, and Abraham Maslow, in light of the evidence from their original writings and the context of their times. They've upended commonly held ideas about the objectives of the Harvard Business School case study method, and pointed out the elitist misreadings of psychological conjecture that decades ago led a management theorist to visualize people’s "hierarchy of needs" in pyramid form.
NEW: The massive triumph of the rich, illustrated by stunning new data (Washington Post, December 9, 2019)
The triumph of the rich, which is one of the defining stories of our time, is generally described as largely the reflection of two factors. The first, of course, is the explosion of income among top earners, in which a tiny minority has vacuumed up a ballooning share of the gains from the past few decades of economic growth.
The second factor - which will be key to the 2020 presidential race - has been the hidden decline in the progressivity of the tax code at the top, in which the wealthiest earners have over those same decades seen their effective tax rates steadily fall.
Put those two factors together, and they tell a story about soaring U.S. inequality that is in some ways even more dramatic than each is on its own.
The top-line finding: Among the bottom 50 percent of earners, average real annual income even after taxes and transfers has edged up a meager $8,000 since 1970, rising from just over $19,000 to just over $27,000 in 2018.
By contrast, among the top 1 percent of earners, average income even after taxes and transfers has tripled since 1970, rising by more than $800,000, from just over $300,000 to over $1 million in 2018. Among the top 0.1 percent, average after-tax-and-transfer income has increased fivefold, from just over $1 million in 1970 to over $5 million in 2018. And among the top .01 percent, it has increased nearly sevenfold, from just over $3.5 million to over $24 million.
The Emergence of Abraham Lincoln (Washington Monthly, December 9, 2019)
It’s always important to know about Lincoln, and today it is urgent. As Lincoln said in his "House Divided" speech, "If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it."
The house divided, the incitement of demagogues, appeals to anti-immigrant nativism and racism, a reactionary Supreme Court, a dysfunctional presidency, and the breakup of the old parties—all of these Lincoln confronted in his rise to the presidency.
How America’s 16th president went from virtual obscurity to ending slavery.
Rahm Emmanuel decimated GOP Trump-Hate impeachment talking point. (Daily Kos, December 9, 2019)
"What we have is this impeachment process has been driven in large part due to the Democrats' hatred of Donald Trump," Republican strategist Alice Stewart said. "And it lowers the standard for impeachment in a very different ..."
Emanuel would have none of that. "First of all, you can have my time back. Name me five presidents that asked a foreign government to come in here and basically do op research on a political rival," Emanuel challenged. "Name five, name all five. It's never happened."
Of course, Stewart could not.
Finland anoints Sanna Marin, 34, as world's youngest serving prime minister. (The Guardian, December 9, 2019)
Former transport minister is country’s youngest leader ever and third female PM.
CBP denies access to doctors seeking flu vaccinations for migrant children. (San Diego CA Union-Tribune, December 9, 2019)
A group of doctors, who last month pressured U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow them to give flu vaccines to detained migrant children, have now taken their fight to the driveway of a detention facility in San Ysidro and said they are not leaving until they get approval.
Dr. Mario Mendoza, a retired anesthesiologist, said it would take less than a half an hour to administer the vaccines to more than 100 children via the free mobile flu clinic they set up directly outside the CBP facility.
"We have the team here. We have the vaccines," said Mendoza, adding that denying children the basic health care being offered was intentionally cruel and inhumane. "What I can say is we are not leaving here until they let us enter. We are doctors. We are against death and we are for humanity," he said.
NEW: Church nativity depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as family separated at border. (NBC News, December 8, 2019)
"What if this family sought refuge in our country today?", the Southern California church said in a Facebook post.
NEW: 13 Last-Minute Decisions That Changed World History (Ranker, December 8, 2019)
Pompeo asks when he’ll be "loved." Music legend Linda Ronstadt responds: when he stops 'enabling Trump’. (Daily Kos, December 8, 2019)
NEW: Seven Outright Falsehoods in GOP Staff Report on Impeachment (Just Security, December 8, 2019)
On December 2, 2019, Republican staff of the three committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry published a report prepared for the GOP Chairs: Representatives Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, and Michael McCaul. This report, however, is not a serious examination of the evidence, nor is it intended to be. Unlike the House Intelligence Committee's Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report , the minority staff report makes no attempt to construct a coherent statement of facts, nor to offer its own version of events as an alternative to the one set forth in the majority's report. The point of the minority report is not to offer an explanation of what really happened, but to make what really happened seem unknowable.
Not everything in the report is a lie. In many instances, it is clear that, where possible, there was great care taken to avoid outright mistruths, through the careful phrasing of arguments to suggest a more sweeping defense than is actually offered, or through focusing on irrelevant and ambiguous witness testimony while ignoring direct and clear testimony to the contrary.
But staying within the bounds of the factual record – or even within the bounds of reasonable subjective interpretation of the record – could only get House Republican staff so far, and much of the report doesn't just dance around the truth so much as it strides into deliberate falsehood. In order to depict the events at the heart of the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry in a light that could at all be construed as a defense of President Trump's conduct, it appears that some outright lies were needed.
Here is a list of the seven most damaging falsehoods included in the minority report.
NEW: Trump Is Aligning the Military with the Russian White Supremacist Criminal Syndicate. (Washington Monthly, December 7, 2019)
Now, due to purely partisan interests, the nation’s military is being warped into supporting the hostile foreign power–against our own values, geopolitical interests, and intelligence services It’s like the plot from a bad spy novel, except that it’s happening right out in the open. This is the situation as it stands between Trump, Russia, the Republican Party and Ukraine. And no one can do anything about it because the Republican Party sees itself as locked into a demographic death spiral as it sheds support from every demographic except the declining share older, white, exurban evangelicals, and is therefore willing to defend even the most abominable behavior in exchange for nominating a slew of extremist radical judges who they hope will derail any progressive priorities for the next several decades.
Trump is not just pushing the military toward favoring a rival nation-state that is actively sabotaging our own for his own personal and political benefit. He is attempting to align the military with a global white supremacist, patriarchal fossil fuel-backed mafia syndicate. It’s almost certain that he is also hoping that in a Constitutional crisis pitting Western secular liberal values against said syndicate, that the military will help overthrow democracy itself on the syndicate’s behalf.
NEW: Trump just assured his own impeachment. (Washington Post, December 7, 2019)
And he undercut two main Republican defenses in the process. Trump invited the House to move forward expeditiously with impeachment and assured that he would continue to obstruct the investigation, regardless of its length. The House has no option but to accept.
A Powerful Statement of Resistance from a College Student on Trial in Moscow. (New Yorker Magazine, December 7, 2019)
Yegor Zhukov’s message about responsibility and love, at his trial for "extremism", shows what political dissent can be and seems to describe American reality as accurately as the Russian one.
'Miracle' woman survives six-hour cardiac arrest. (CNN, December 7, 2019)
A British woman has made a full recovery after suffering a six-hour cardiac arrest caused by severe hypothermia -- a condition that doctors say also saved her life.
Thirty four-year-old Audrey Schoeman was caught in a snowstorm while hiking in the Pyrenees mountain range in Spain on November 3, and her husband Rohan called the emergency services when she passed out, according to a statement from Vall d'Hebron Hospital in Barcelona. "I thought she was dead," Rohan said in an interview with local broadcaster TV3. "I was trying to feel for a pulse... I couldn't feel a breath, I couldn't feel a heartbeat."
Schoeman was taken to Vall d'Hebron, where doctor Jordi Riera was part of the team that treated her. Riera told CNN that the human brain usually suffers irreparable damage if the heart stops beating for five minutes, and Schoeman represents a very rare case. He explained that Schoeman survived with a perfect neurological outcome because the extreme drop in body temperature that stopped her heart also slowed her brain metabolism, allowing the organ to cope better with the lack of oxygen. Schoeman's body temperature had dropped to 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 Fahrenheit) -- far lower than the normal 36.5--37.5 degrees Celsius (97.7--99.5 Fahrenheit) -- and the hospital team used an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to keep her alive. The ECMO replaces the function of the heart and lungs, allowing doctors to oxygenate Schoeman's blood and pump it round the body.
Buttigieg Struggles to Square Transparency With Nondisclosure Agreement. (New York Times, December 7, 2019)
Mr. Buttigieg says he has no choice but to honor the agreement he signed while working for McKinsey & Company. Critics say it undermines his image of transparency.
NEW: Virginia Democrats' voting proposals include scrapping photo ID requirement, allowing no-excuse absentee balloting. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 6, 2019)
Democrats - who will now control the General Assembly and the governor’s veto pen - have long supported easing the voter experience to allow more Virginians to participate. Virginia recently expanded absentee voting to seven days before an election, allowing voters to cast ballots in person without listing an excuse. Virginia became the 40th state with some form of no-excuse early voting.
Despite dramatic electoral and financial setbacks, Hester Jackson-McCray makes Mississippi legislative history (Mississippi Today, December 6, 2019)
West Virginia suspends several after corrections officer class appears to give Nazi salute in photo. (CNN, December 6, 2019)
NEW: Is There Such a Thing as Intelligence? (Daily Kos, December 6, 2019)
The kind of intelligent you are isn’t the kind of intelligent I am. Our intelligence is shaped by our culture.
The language of a culture controls where members of that culture focus their attention. It determines what we see and hear out of a stream of information of which we couldn’t otherwise make sense. Language is logic, and thus even simple tasks like categorization are different from culture to culture.
In some ways I am brain damaged and mentally challenged. In other ways I am pretty average. However, there are a few ways in which I am truly gifted. I have come to realize that is a near perfect description of the human condition. We just don’t see that, because we are blinded by a cultural construct called intelligence.
NEW: Trump orders toilet review: Americans are 'flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times'. (USA Today, December 6, 2019)
"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms, where you turn the faucet on in areas where there's tremendous amounts of water, where it rushes out to sea because you could never handle it. And you don't get any water. You turn on the faucet and you don't get any water," Trump said during the White House round-table on small business and red tape reduction.
Trump also quipped that the White House would need to change out the light bulbs because the new ones "give you an orange look." He has made similar comments before and complained about the energy efficiency requirements directed under former President Barack Obama. "The new bulb is many times more expensive, and, I hate to say it, it doesn't make you look as good," Trump said. "Of course, being a vain person, that's very important to me. It gives you an orange look. I don't want an orange look. Has anyone noticed that?"
[Uh, no; we've noticed the opposite.]
Trump has been rolling back regulations since taking office, particularly taking aim at many environmental rules formed during the Obama administration.
White House laughably claims Trump 'has opposed discrimination of any kind' against trans Americans. (Daily Kos, December 6, 2019)
Throughout numerous federal agencies, the Trump administration has stomped on numerous protections for trans Americans, some based on gross, right-wing tropes. Some months after moving to reverse protections for trans people in homeless shelters, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson reportedly “repeated concerns from advocates who expressed worry in September that ‘big, hairy men’ pretending to be women would try to get into women’s shelters, The Washington Post reported.”
These are tired tropes that give permission for violence. Just as anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy has led to anti-immigrant attacks, violence committed against trans people has also ticked up compared to last year. The New York Times reports that “At least 22 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Nearly all of them were black women,” like Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, and Ashanti Carmon.
The administration’s moves and proposals aren’t just reversal of policy, they’ve also been an express effort to erase trans people out of existence. The trans people they can’t erase they quite literally force out: Under the inhumane Migrant Protection Protocols policy, the administration has been wrongfully forcing vulnerable trans asylum-seekers to areas of Mexico where they may be at increased risk of violence. Within the U.S., federal immigration officials have jailed a record number of trans people.
Trump's Senate trial may not be the circus he is expecting. It'll probably be even worse. (Daily Kos, December 6, 2019)
While the House has been conducting public hearings to show why Donald Trump must be impeached, and House Republicans have been engaged in tactics to undermine their own authority in favor of Trump, Senate Republicans have been planning ahead. Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have met repeatedly with Trump’s White House attorneys to plan not just Trump’s defense tactics, but how the whole trial can be structured to Trump’s benefit. Early statements from McConnell seemed to indicate that the entire Senate trial might best be described as “brief”—as in, McConnell might raise his gavel, lower it again, and call it done. But simply taking the impeachment and treating it with the same disdain the Senate Republican leader has demonstrated for over 200 pieces of legislation isn’t giving House Republicans the circus they’ve been demanding, a genuine three-ring conspiracy-theory-athon.
In Trump’s statements over the last week, both on the air and via Twitter, he seems to be nearly salivating for his chance in the Senate, the place where Republicans rule, which means the place where Trump rules. And what Trump wants is for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, the whistleblower, and everyone who ever expressed less than full-throated praise for his rule to appear on the Senate floor to dodge darts and jump through flaming hoops. It’s still likely that that’s exactly what he’ll get. Because if the impeachment inquiry has revealed anything, it’s the extent to which Republicans are unwilling to stand up to Trump.
But there are some hints, some slight indications that just maybe some Republican senators aren’t happy to see the Big Top come to town—and that some of them might even vote to tell Trump to take his act and hit the road.
White House blows off House Democrats invitation to participate in impeachment process as Trump focuses on Senate. (Washington Post, December 6, 2019)
The White House on Friday appeared to reject the latest entreaties from the House to participate in the rapidly-accelerating impeachment inquiry, calling the proceedings “completely baseless” as Democrats continued with their push to impeach the president by the end of the month.
Schiff: Pence aide provided new impeachment evidence — but VP's office classified it. (Politico, December 6, 2019)
In a letter to Pence, Schiff (D-Calif.) asked the vice president to declassify supplemental testimony from the aide, Jennifer Williams, about Pence’s Sept. 18 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, arguing that there is no “legitimate basis” to keep it secret. “The Office of the Vice President’s decision to classify ‘certain portions’ of the Sept. 18 call … cannot be justified on national security or any other legitimate grounds we can discern,” Schiff wrote to Pence, requesting a response by Dec. 11.
More than 500 law professors sign letter calling Trump actions impeachable. (The Hill, December 6, 2019)
The 520 professors said in the letter posted to Medium that impeachment does not require a crime, but rather an abuse of the public trust. "There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress," the professors wrote. "His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution."
Pelosi asks committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment. (Washington Post, December 5, 2019)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that President Trump’s wrongdoing strikes at the heart of the Constitution and asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.”
A look inside Trump’s anti-impeachment spin factory. (Washington Post, December 5, 2019)
They were celebrating a rare feat: The small team of officials in that room — pulled from the communications, legislative, digital and legal affairs departments in the White House — had just observed Trump following a talking point. That had occurred because of an effort being managed out of a bunkerlike space underneath the Oval Office by temporary White House hires Tony Sayegh and Pam Bondi. What they are running is not a traditional war room but more of an anti-impeachment talking-point factory built for an impeachment battle playing out in a frenetic news cycle that burns through half a dozen fresh revelations a day. The environment favors Trump’s approach of repeating a single catchphrase endlessly until it sinks in.
NEW: What to do with an attorney general who disdains justice (Washington Post, December 5, 2019)
It might take years to restore the Justice Department’s credibility. "It is difficult to overstate what an incredibly corrosive and bad actor Barr has turned out to be," Susan Hennessey, executive editor of the Lawfare blog, tweeted. "He will leave the Department of Justice damaged and warped in ways that will take years and years to repair."
An attorney general who thinks justice is provided only to a docile populace or that his role is to overlook both the law and the facts in service of the president has no right holding office. "Barr is doing one of the most dangerous things a prosecutor can do: He has a political narrative and is trying to investigate to get facts to fit that narrative," observed former prosecutor Mimi Rocah. "Prosecutors should investigate and follow facts and be open to conclusions being different than what they thought or want. It’s a total failure of his oath of office."
Barr’s conduct has been so egregious that in any normal administration he would have been forced to resign. Since neither that nor impeachment and removal will happen with the Trump crew, state bar authorities should examine Barr’s conduct. If nothing else, the legal profession should hold him accountable for his perversion of his office and rank dishonesty in continually spinning and misrepresenting the law and the facts in service of a corrupt president.
Black people imprisoned 5 times more often than whites - somehow, an improvement. (Daily Kos, December 5, 2019)
Where we used to be about eight times more likely than white people to end up incarcerated, black people now only end up imprisoned about five times more frequently than their white counterparts, according to a report the Council on Criminal Justice released Tuesday based on data from 2000 to 2016. Apparently, that’s something to celebrate. I’ll go ahead and hold off, though, because researchers also noted in the report that racial disparities would have decreased even more if black offenders hadn’t received tougher sentences for violent crimes than did whites.
Republican Mississippi State Rep. challenges 14-vote loss to Democrat, asks Republican-majority House to overturn election. (Mississippi Today, December 5, 2019)
(If you win, you win. If you lose, you win?)
House Democrats slam Trump admin for 'illegally withholding' Puerto Rico hurricane aid. (NBC News, December 5, 2019)
Lawmakers say HUD is breaking the law by missing a Congressionally-mandated deadline to make $10.2B available in hurricane aid to the island.
NEW: Kansas City becomes first major American city with universal fare-free public transit. (435 Magazine, December 5, 2019)
Public transit has become a focus on intense political activity in cities across the country as young climate change protestors demand investment in mass transit to help battle climate change.
While progressive Kansas City enacts universal fare-free transit, other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, are redoubling efforts to crack down on scofflaws and hiring more transit cops to deter free riders.
U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) involved in voter fraud scheme - unless he lives at a UPS Store. (Daily Kos, December 4, 2019)
State House Republicans hope to hang one of their own starting this January. State House Republicans, who have been infuriated by Watkins' run in 2018 and his win in a race to become a member of US Congress, have called for state house investigations on the matter, and indicated they can recommend charges on to the state attorney. Republicans have criticized Watkins for his odd behavior and for the fact he won a very divided primary.
(This is BIG news: GOP attacking a conservative GOP Congressman!)
Saying Trump investigations have 'rendered my soul weary,' House Democrat announces retirement. (Daily Kos, December 4, 2019)
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) unexpectedly announced he'd retire after four terms in office. In an unusually candid letter, Heck described both the many things he'd loved about serving in Congress but also admitted he'd grown "discouraged," explaining that "countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary."
"I will never understand how some of my colleagues, in many ways good people," Heck wrote, "could ignore or deny the President's unrelenting attack on a free press, his vicious character assassination of anyone who disagreed with him, and his demonstrably very distant relationship with the truth."
Fight back against Facebook disinformation. (Credo Action, December 4, 2019)
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump had a second secret dinner during Zuckerberg's last trip to the capital, and Americans deserve to know what they discussed.
NEW: Are drone swarms the future of aerial warfare? (The Guardian, December 4, 2019)
Technology of deploying drones in squadrons is in its infancy,
NEW: Carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow amidst slowly emerging climate policies. (Nature, December 4, 2019)
Aviation is growing fast, but road transport is the elephant in the room:
- CO₂ from road transport has been growing 1.9%/yr (104Mt CO₂/yr) during the past decade.
- CO₂ from aviation has been growing at 3%/yr (25Mt CO₂/yr) during the past decade.
A failure to recognize the factors behind continued emissions growth could limit the world’s ability to shift to a pathway consistent with 1.5°C or 2°C of global warming. Continued support for low-carbon technologies needs to be combined with policies directed at phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
We constantly eat microplastics. What does that mean for our health? (New Scientist, December 4, 2019)
By some estimates, the average household generates 6 kilograms of plastic dust every year, around 700 billion fragments known as microplastics. Like snowflakes, every one is different. Every one may also be harmful. They aren’t just indoors. “They are everywhere,” says Dick Vethaak, an environmental toxicologist at the Deltares research institute in Delft, the Netherlands. “In the water, in food, in the air – you are surrounded by a cloud of them. Everything is contaminated.” More are created every day and they will be with us for centuries.
Big plastic debris has been on our radar for years. Yet this is just the start of something more insidious. Plastic waste doesn’t biodegrade but it does break down, fragmented by wind, waves and sunlight into ever-smaller pieces. They may be too small to see, but they are still there, worming their way into every nook and cranny of the environment – including our bodies.
This, in a nutshell, is the pervasive problem of microplastics. But beyond knowing that they exist and are everywhere, we are woefully ignorant about them and their potential impact on us.
NEW: Devin Nunes sues CNN for $435 million, alleging ‘false hit piece’. (Washington Post, December 4, 2019)
Nunes’s 47-page complaint accused Parnas of manufacturing a narrative that he hoped would help him negotiate a deal with federal prosecutors or obtain immunity from Congress, and it argued that it was "obvious to everyone - including disgraceful CNN - that Parnas was a fraudster and a hustler." Nunes questioned Parnas’s credibility by calling him an "indicted criminal," yet quoted Igor Fruman, Parnas’s co-defendant who faces the same charges, as evidence that Parnas’s version of events was untrue.
As the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes was the face of Trump’s defense throughout the two weeks of public hearings that preceded CNN’s November article. Since then, critics have said he should have recused himself from the impeachment inquiry months ago.
CNN is the most recent defendant in a handful of defamation suits filed by the lawmaker this year. In March, Nunes filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter, claiming the platform, two parody Twitter accounts and a Republican political consultant defamed him with mean tweets. He sued the McClatchy news organization, alleging defamation in August, and sued Ryan Lizza and Hearst Magazines for $77 million two months later, claiming that a story in Esquire about the Nunes family farm in Iowa defamed him.
Trump's own witness Jonathan Turley makes the case for Democrats to enforce subpoenas. (Daily Kos, December 4, 2019)
Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information.”
Agreed. And yet Trump is obstructing Congress and preventing them from testifying. Trump’s witness says they have material information. Democrats should take that as proof of the necessity of enforcing subpoeanas.
Legal scholar explains the most dangerous part of Sondland’s testimony. (Daily Kos, December 4, 2019)
Law professor Pamela Karlan offered legal advice to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. In her opening statement in the impeachment hearings that began before the committee, Karlan said that she was not there to cater to anyone’s political talking points. She continued to dismantle every obfuscating talking point Republicans have been using to gaslight the country into forgetting what is actually at stake during the proceedings.
During one exchange, Karlan asked if she could explain what about Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s impeachment hearing testimony was most alarming and damning. She pointed to Sondland explaining that Trump’s release of aid to Ukraine was based very obviously on hurting a political opponent and not at all on the general existential threat of corruption in Ukraine. “He had to announce the investigations, he didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland had testified.
Mocked Abroad and Assailed at Home, Trump Returns to Face Impeachment. (New York Times, December 4, 2019)
Two days in London on the world stage provided him no respite. “Trump doesn’t just want to be in the club, he wants to be the unquestioned leader and center of attention,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. “It had to be both humiliating and infuriating that the other heads of state who were mocking him were untouchable by tweet or insulting nickname, but no doubt he was already calculating the next round of tariffs he would send their way.”
World leaders mock Trump at NATO, Trump responds by calling Justin Trudeau 'two-faced'. (Daily Kos, December 4, 2019)
For Trump and Europe, a Surprising Role Reversal (New York Times, December 3, 2019)
President Trump has always relished throwing European leaders off balance, antagonizing allies, embracing insurgents and setting off a frantic contest for how best to deal with him. Now, as Europe undergoes dizzying political changes of its own, it is throwing Mr. Trump off balance.
In London for a NATO summit meeting, Mr. Trump was subjected to a rare tongue-lashing on trade and terrorism by President Emmanuel Macron of France, who dismissed his attempt to lighten the mood with a curt, “Let’s be serious.” The president who once exchanged a death-grip handshake with Mr. Macron sat by wordlessly while his much-younger counterpart lectured him on the need to fight the Islamic State. Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump held his own tongue about British politics, heeding Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plea not to barge into Britain’s election at the 11th hour. The president who once threatened to pull the United States out of NATO suddenly emerged as the alliance’s defender. The president who championed Brexit and hectored Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, about her deal-making skills suddenly had nothing to say about it.
For a president who prides himself on being the Great Disrupter, it was a startling turnabout, one that underscored how Europe’s shifting landscape - with an ambitious president in France, a lame-duck leader in Germany and a breakaway populist in Britain - has scrambled the calculus for Mr. Trump.
America's humiliation continues as Trump rants, rambles, and lies in London. (Daily Kos, December 3, 2019)
Donald Trump's public behavior continues to get worse with each passing week. Whether caused by the escalating strain of an impeachment trial, a severe case of jet lag or something (cough) medical, Trump's performance in London earlier Tuesday was a spray of nonsense, bizarre claims, bullshitting, gaslighting, and possibly straight-up forgetting his own supposed policies. Pity other world leaders, forced to sit alongside a Twitter account turned real boy. Pity us, for being governed by one.
WMO Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 (World Meteorological Association, December 3, 2019)
Extreme heat conditions are taking an increasing toll on human health and health systems. Greater
impacts are recorded in locations where extreme heat occurs in contexts of aging populations,
urbanization, urban heat island effects, and health inequities. In 2018, a record 220 million heatwave
exposures by vulnerable persons over the age of 65 occurred.
In addition to conflicts, insecurity and economic slowdowns and downturns, climate variability and
extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the
leading causes of severe food crises. After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again –
over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018. The situation is most severe in sub-Saharan
Africa, where the number of undernourished people increased by more than 23 million between
2015 and 2018, particularly in countries affected by conflict. Among 33 countries affected by food
crises in 2018, climate variability and weather extremes were a compounding driver together with
economic shocks and conflict in 26 countries and the leading driver in 12 of the 26.
More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019. Of
these, 7 million were triggered by hydrometeorological events including Cyclone Idai in southeast
Africa, Cyclone Fani in south Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, and flooding in Iran, the
Philippines and Ethiopia, generating acute humanitarian and protection needs. Among natural
hazards, floods and storms have contributed the most to displacement recorded so far in 2019,
followed by droughts. Asia and the Pacific remain the regions most prone to disaster displacement
due to both sudden and slow-onset disasters. For instance, more than 2 million people were
evacuated in Bangladesh, the second most disaster-prone country in the region, due to Cyclone
Bulbul in November, and more than 2 million in China due to Typhoon Lekima in August.
The staggering millennial wealth deficit, in one chart (Washington Post, December 3, 2019)
The divide widens with each generation, data show, the byproduct of wage stagnation and income inequality.
An election day disaster in Pennsylvania raises still more concerns for 2020. (Daily Kos, December 3, 2019)
The Election Systems & Software-manufactured voting system, ExpressVoteXL, reporting wildly inaccurate vote totals: A recount of the paper backup ballots produced by the machines showed that the Democrat did not get 164 votes in the election, but 26,142. Officials don't yet know why the machines returned invalid results; we also don't know, of course, whether results in other elections in other counties and states had similar but less severe problems that were not so improbable as to spur officials to recount. It's entirely possible that elections were thrown, just in the last few years, by software error.
NEW: With border wall contract, Trump faces corruption concerns. (Rachel Maddow Show, December 3, 2019)
NEW: North Dakota company that Trump touted gets $400 million border wall contract. (Washington Post, December 2, 2019)
Why the health-care industry wants to destroy any Democratic reform (Washington Post, December 2, 2019)
Lobbyists either helped draft or made extensive revisions to opinion columns published by three state lawmakers in a way that warned against the dangers of Medicare-for-all and other government involvement in health care. Montana state Rep. Kathy Kelker (D) and Sen. Jen Gross (D) acknowledged in interviews that editorials they published separately about the single-payer health proposal included language provided by John MacDonald, a lobbyist and consultant in the state who disclosed in private emails that he worked for an unnamed client. Gross said MacDonald contacted her on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a multimillion-dollar industry group founded in 2018 and funded by hospitals, private insurers, drug companies and other private health-care firms.
This is hardly the first time a lobbyist or representative of an interest group wrote an op-ed for a legislator, but it’s an important reminder of what’s happening with the health-care debate. On one side, you’ve got some pro-Medicare-for-all groups such as Physicians for a National Health Program, with modest budgets and small staffs. (PNHP has a staff of four.) In the middle, you have Democratic presidential candidates arguing about how far to go on health-care reform. And on the other side, you have insurers, hospitals, drug companies, device companies and other health-care interests who together wouldn’t think twice about dropping hundreds of millions of dollars to destroy Medicare-for-all and anything that resembles it. After all, there are tens of billions of dollars in profits at stake. Which is why those groups formed the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which will be the vanguard of the war on health-care reform should a Democrat be elected president and try to get an ambitious bill passed.
Here’s one of the most important things to understand about these interests: They despise “moderate” reform as much as they do Medicare-for-all. There are reasons the kind of expansive public-option plan being offered by Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg is more politically practical than single-payer, but opposition from industry is not one of them.
NEW: Bloomberg Is a Democrat With a History of Backing Republicans - Including In 2018. (Spectrum News, December 2, 2019)
As mayor, Bloomberg endorsed President George W. Bush for re-election over Democrat John Kerry. "The president deserves our support," he said in 2004.
Bloomberg helped Republicans maintain their slim majority in the state Senate, where they successfully blocked progressive legislation for years.
And as Democrats seek to win control of the U.S. Senate, it's notable how many Republican senators Bloomberg has backed in recent years:
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, late-Arizona Sen. John McCain, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, former Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, among others.
The useful idiot from Louisiana (Washington Post, December 2, 2019)
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) showcasing the "typical shell game" of Republicans on impeachment: Eliminate the importance of the "quid pro quo," muddy the waters of the president's motive and distort the impeachment process itself. Since then, the senator from Louisiana has taken his pro-Trump spin to a new level: repeating Russian disinformation without a care.
Whistleblower in deadly construction site collapse deported by ICE the day after Thanksgiving. (Daily Kos, December 2, 2019)
NEW: Republicans Defending Trump on Impeachment Should Fear the Judgment of History. (New Yorker Magazine, December 2, 2019)
The House Judiciary Committee began debating articles of impeachment against President Richard Milhous Nixon on the evening of July 24, 1974. In his introductory remarks, the committee chairman, Peter Rodino, a New Jersey congressman who had become a national figure during seven months of impeachment proceedings, said he had been guided throughout by “the principle that the law must deal fairly with every man.” Rodino called this “the oldest principle of democracy” and implored each member of the committee to “act with the wisdom that compels us in the end to be but decent men who seek only the truth.” Shortly afterward, Harold Donohue, a Massachusetts Democrat, moved that the committee “report to the House a resolution together with articles of impeachment, impeaching Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States.”
By this point, the members had sat through eleven weeks of closed hearings. The committee’s staff had summarized the evidence against the President in several dozen thick black notebooks. The President’s approval ratings had sagged to about twenty-five per cent, and a majority of Americans supported impeachment. Nevertheless, most Republicans on the committee refused to abandon the President. “The closer President Nixon comes to impeachment, the louder his supporters proclaim his innocence,” James Reston wrote, in the New York Times. “If you say he is innocent often enough, maybe you can make people believe it.”
NEW: Why my brother - and millions of others - are sticking with Trump (Irish Times, December 1, 2019)
'I've been pleasantly surprised that Trump has done exactly what he promised.'
[A friend in Ireland writes: Maureen Down's column in the Irish Times is very anti-Trump. However, she shared this column, written by her Republican brother in the NY Times. Hopefully, the Democratic Party will take note of this kind of thinking and do something, although I expect it is just too late, even if anyone knew what to do. There is no doubt the party is killing itself with all its candidates. There is simply nobody to rally around and nobody with a single voice that speaks for the whole country. What this man thinks on that subject is exactly what a vast group of people in the States think, as far as I can tell.]
Putin made Trump president. It's not the first time Russia has subverted another country's election. (Daily Kos, December 1, 2019)
I’m talking about stealthily subverting another country’s election and placing its puppet into power. That’s what Russia did to Poland-Lithuania during the 18th century. Lithuania was once the largest country in Europe? Moreover, that was before it joined with Poland to become, for a time, not only the dominant power in Eastern Europe, but also one with a significant degree of democracy.
As Eric Lohr, an American University historian specializing in Russia, summarized it, “By the early 18th century, Russia was routinely meddling in internal Polish electoral politics.” This should sound quite familiar to Americans in the era of Donald Trump.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia interfered in our elections in 2016, as U.S. intelligence agencies have clearly documented. Not only that, but Moscow has spent years denying it and deflecting blame by spreading the false rumor that Ukraine—a country that, like 18th-century Poland, it wants to weaken and ultimately dominate—was the one who did it.
What swimming in my underwear taught me about Donald Trump and getting away with it. (USA Today, December 1, 2019)
Impeachment is the atomic bomb of rebukes, a judgment that 'You are not fit to serve.' And it will distinguish Democrats from Republicans in history.
SCOTUS has the 2nd Amendment in its sights—and gun groups are thrilled. (Quartz, November 30, 2019)
On Monday (Dec. 2), the US Supreme Court will hear one of the most anticipated and disputed cases of the term, a gun rights fight that pits New York City against the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA). The matter has politicians on the left and right up in arms, inspiring unusually unfriendly amicus briefs and strange letters to the court. The case arises from a New York City gun transport ban that limited licensed gun owners’ ability to travel with firearms. The state rifle and pistol association sued the city, alleging violations of the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
ARCO is taking a fight over toxic-waste cleanup to the US Supreme Court. (Quartz, November 30, 2019)
The US Supreme Court will this week hear oral arguments in a high-stakes case about corporations, hazardous waste, and paying to clean up pollution. The matter arises from a dispute between Montana landowners and the oil company Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) over the now-defunct Anaconda Smelter. The smelter was shut down in 1980, after about a century of use in refining copper ore for phone wires and power lines. In the years it was operational, its smokestacks spewed arsenic and lead over a 20,000-acre area of Big Sky Country, covering about five towns.
Atlantic-Richfield argues that this is about more than just money. The landowners’ desired further remediation efforts could undermine work done by the federal government to clean up the Superfund site, it says. More importantly, allowing such suits to go forward will wreak havoc on the national toxic waste cleanup scheme. The company contends that CERCLA bars claims like those being made by the Montana landowners and that federal law trumps local rules, and many businesses and industry groups have signed on to amicus briefs supporting this position. The federal government controls local cleanups at Superfund sites and has the final say on remediation, ARCO and its allies argue. Otherwise, different authorities all over the country could be working at counter purposes, implementing contradictory cleanup plans that could cause even more damage in vulnerable regions.
Meanwhile, environmentalists, who side with the private landowners, scoff at the corporation’s position. They say that nothing in the federal law limits landowners from seeking additional remediation to restore their property under state rules. In other words, the EPA does indeed designate Superfund sites and formulate plans for their cleanup, but those plans aren’t necessarily the sole remediation efforts that corporations must make if there are other appropriate state law claims. The landowners also argue that ARCO is being disingenuous when it says that their plan would actually damage and undermine cleanup efforts made in the region of the smelter thus far. Conceding that the EPA found their proposed plan technically difficult and expensive to implement, they contend that there’s nonetheless no evidence that it would actually be environmentally harmful as ARCO argues.
Walmart dodged US tax on $2 billion by routing cash through multiple countries, whistleblower says. (Quartz, November 29, 2019)
Walmart, the world’s biggest company, underpaid US taxes on nearly $2 billion worth of offshore cash, according to whistleblower documents filed by a former Walmart executive to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2011, and recently obtained by Quartz. The firm avoided nearly $200 million in taxes on that money and “dramatically” overstated its foreign tax credits in 2009 and 2010 by routing payments from Luxembourg to the United States via the United Kingdom and not declaring they came from a tax haven, the whistleblower wrote.
Walmart’s history of alleged tax dodging poses a challenge to the firm’s efforts to rebrand itself as an exemplar of conscious capitalism, especially as it regroups from settling a seven-year bribery investigation for $282 million in June. In September, Quartz obtained files showing the firm may owe up to $2.6 billion in US taxes, avoided by creating a “fictitious” Chinese entity. And in 2015, a report by the Americans for Tax Fairness alleged that Walmart had placed assets worth at least $76 billion in tax havens where it had no retail stores—a figure equal to 37% of the company’s total assets at the time. Walmart has contested both reports.
NEW: Free transit is just the beginning. (Briarpatch, November 29, 2019)
Public transit is one of the most powerful sites of struggle that we have in our cities, given it’s the backbone of how many people get to work, grocery stores, schools, and social activities. The physical nature of the service – requiring strangers to congregate in bus shelters and train stations, often anxious about delays and costs – represents a site of highly effective collective power if harnessed. But it’s the specific demands for free transit, through spontaneous actions of turnstile jumping and campaigns like “swipe it forward,” that knit seemingly disparate movements for climate action, anti-poverty, and prison and police abolition together into a potentially world-changing force.
Technocratic transit wonks often condescend to advocates of fare-free transit, arguing that municipalities need more funding to improve service and that calls for free transit undermine that goal. Of course it’s true that transit departments need massive amounts more money – but that shouldn’t be coming from regressive fares that increasingly benefit corporate owners like SNC-Lavalin’s botched light-rail project in Ottawa.
Instead, excellent transit systems can and should be fully funded by increasing taxes on rich households and corporations and rerouting current spending on roads and highways. Such a transition will have a huge range of benefits: boosting ridership, cutting emissions, making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and ensuring that everyone has the ability to travel regardless of income. It’s an exceptionally straightforward policy to implement, and can serve as a clear rebuttal to the growing trend of privatization and austerity.
NEW: Trump’s evangelical support mystifies his critics, but in Wisconsin, it looks stronger than ever. (Boston Globe, November 28, 2019)
Will the future of work be ethical? (TechCrunch, November 28, 2019)
After generations of increasing inequality, can we teach tech leaders to love their neighbors more than algorithms and profits?
Banking Nature: The Financialization of The Planet. (87-min. video; Deep Green Resistance News Service, November 27, 2019)
In recent years, nature conservation has become a flourishing business sector where huge sums of money change hands and endangered organisms are transformed into financial products. This film exposes the corporations and non-profits banking on the monetization of the planet.
We Are On Native Land. (New Economy, November 27, 2019)
Indigenous people are -- and have always been -- at the front lines of resisting colonization. In the spirit of Truthsgiving, we want to use this space to lift up Native-led stories and resources that demonstrate that another way of life is possible.
Ilhan Omar challenger permanently suspended from Twitter. (Washington Times, November 27, 2019)
Danielle Stella, a Republican seeking to unseat Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, was suspended from Twitter after her account posted Tuesday about killing the congresswoman. Ms. Stella’s campaign account on Twitter, @2020MNCongress, was punted from the platform after posting at least twice about hanging Ms. Omar, a progressive freshman frequently the target of right-wing attacks.
Devin Nunes is trending on Twitter, and the hashtag is something to behold. (Daily Kos, November 27, 2019)
In June, Rep. Devin Nunes sued Twitter, as well as three individual Twitter accounts, for defamation. The complaint, which asked for $250,000,000 in damages and $350,000 in punitive damages, argued that, "As part of its agenda to squelch Nunes' voice, cause him extreme pain and suffering, influence the 2018 Congressional election, and distract, intimidate and interfere with Nunes' investigation into corruption and Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election, Twitter did absolutely nothing." What were these disparaging and defaming accounts, attacking Nunes in such a way as to warrant this lawsuit? They were Devin Nunes' Mom (@DevinNunesMom) and Devin Nunes' Cow (@DevinCow).
(Don't miss the Comments thread! :-)
Former Deutsche Bank Exec Connected to Trump Loans Dies by Hanging in Malibu. (Los Angeles Magazine, November 27, 2019)
Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank—which lent him around $2 billion after most other institutions had forsaken him for his history of defaults and bankruptcies—has come under investigation by two Congressional committees and the New York Attorney General, who are hoping the bank can shed light on Trump’s elusive finances, according to the New York Times. At one point, Bowers had a close connection to those finances.
Bowers isn’t the first Trump-connected Deutsche exec to commit suicide by hanging. In 2014, Deutsche derivatives analyst William S. Broeksmit, who reportedly had links to Trump and Russia, hung himself from a dog leash at his home in London.
During Florida rally, Trump claims he beat Obama and saved Christmas. (Daily Kos, November 27, 2019
And then he flew to the moon and single-handedly defeated 15 moon lobsters.
Donald Trump held a rally in Florida last night. We generally don't even cover these at this point: You can't even call them campaign rallies as much as "rallies Trump's staff arranges for him to give him an outlet for his megalomanic tendencies that does not involve military strikes or making Cabinet members battle to the death."
That said, there were a few moments during this one that stood out. The man is in a positively venomous mood of late—no surprise—and it is the times when he most seeks the adulation of his crowds that he turns weird and racist. Well, weirder and racist-er.
The phrase "slurring noticeably" is going to start appearing more and more frequently in the coming months, so be prepared for that. Is he out of his mind? Of course. Is he a pathological liar? Absolutely: It is both a side effect of the worst case of malignant narcissism most people will ever have the opportunity to themselves witness, and his own coping mechanism for managing a life in which he knows nothing, has instincts for nothing, and fails continuously through his own faults, propped up only by a near-boundless supply of daddy's money.
Trump posted a picture of himself as Rocky. No one knows what to make of it. (The Guardian, November 27, 2019)
This robot scientist has conducted 100,000 experiments in a year. (TechCrunch, November 27, 2019)
Science is exciting in theory, but it can also be dreadfully dull. Some experiments require hundreds or thousands of repetitions or trials — an excellent opportunity to automate. That’s just what MIT scientists have done, creating a robot that performs a certain experiment, observes the results, and plans a follow-up… and has now done so 100,000 times in the year it’s been operating.
The field of fluid dynamics involves a lot of complex and unpredictable forces, and sometimes the best way to understand them is to repeat things over and over until patterns emerge. One of the observations that needs to be performed is of “vortex-induced vibration,” a kind of disturbance that matters a lot to designing ships that travel through water efficiently. It involves close observation of an object moving through water… over, and over, and over. Turns out it’s also a perfect duty for a robot to take over. But the Intelligent Tow Tank, as they call this robotic experimentation platform, is designed not just to do the mechanical work of dragging something through the water, but to intelligently observe the results, change the setup accordingly to pursue further information, and continue doing that until it has something worth reporting.
Only a few 2020 US Presidential candidates are using a basic email security feature. (TechCrunch, November 27, 2019)
Out of the 21 presidential candidates in the race according to Reuters, only seven Democrats are using and enforcing DMARC, an email security protocol that verifies the authenticity of a sender’s email and rejects spoofed emails, which hackers often use to try to trick victims into opening malicious links from seemingly known individuals.
It’s a marked increase from April, where only Elizabeth Warren’s campaign had employed the technology. Now, the Democratic campaigns of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard and Steve Bullock have all improved their email security. The remaining candidates, including presidential incumbent Donald Trump, are not rejecting spoofed emails. Another seven candidates are not using DMARC at all.
That, experts say, puts their campaigns at risk from foreign influence campaigns and cyberattacks.
NEW: ‘Economic engine’: Vallejo’s Mare Island megaproject envisions thousands of new homes. (San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 2019)
In bleak report, U.N. says drastic action is only way to avoid worst effects of climate change. (3-min. video: Washington Post, November 26, 2019)
Global greenhouse gas emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning 2020 — a rate currently nowhere in sight — to meet the most ambitious aims of the Paris climate accord, the report issued early Tuesday found. Its authors acknowledged that the findings are “bleak.” After all, the world has never demonstrated the ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions on such a scale.
“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement announcing the findings. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”
The sobering report comes at a critical moment, when it remains unclear whether world leaders can summon the political will to take the ambitious action scientists say is essential. So far, the answer has been no.
Impeachment: White House Budget Official Said 2 Aides Resigned Amid Ukraine Aid Freeze. Judiciary Committee invites White House to participate. (New York Times, November 26, 2019)
Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, testified that two of his colleagues quit after expressing concerns about President Trump’s decision to withhold military assistance. Mr. Trump has insisted he never pressured Ukraine for the investigations or made the aid contingent upon them, and was instead withholding the money out of concern for corruption in Ukraine and a desire to have other countries pay their fair share. And his Republican allies have argued that the funding’s eventual release proves that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the Judiciary Committee chairman, wrote a letter to the president Tuesday afternoon notifying him of the hearing and offering his lawyers a chance to question the witnesses. He asked the White House to inform him by Sunday if the president or his lawyer wants to participate in the initial hearing, and reminded Mr. Trump that House rules empower him as chairman to curtail that involvement if “you continue to refuse to make witnesses and documents available” related to the inquiry. The letter from Mr. Nadler initiated what is likely to be a high-stakes legal and political dispute between the two sides over what rights the president and his legal team should be afforded. In modern times, the Judiciary Committee has allowed presidents facing similar proceedings an active role, inviting them to recommend witnesses for testimony, conduct cross-examinations and present a defense through their lawyers. But whereas Mr. Clinton and former President Richard M. Nixon grudgingly engaged with Congress — at least to some extent — as it built impeachment cases against them, Mr. Trump’s White House has thus far responded only by declaring the House’s inquiry illegitimate and refusing to cooperate.
Ex-White House counsel McGahn must comply with House subpoena, judge rules. (Washington Post, November 26, 2019)
A federal court ruled Monday that “no one is above the law” and that top presidential advisers cannot ignore congressional demands for information. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington found no basis for a White House claim that the former counsel is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony,” setting the stage for a historic separation-of-powers confrontation between the executive and legislative ­branches of the ­government.
The House Judiciary Committee went to court in August to enforce its subpoena of McGahn, whom lawmakers consider the “most important” witness in whether President Trump obstructed justice in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump blocked McGahn’s appearance, saying McGahn had cooperated with Mueller’s probe, was a key presidential adviser, and could not be forced to answer questions or turn over documents. Judge Jackson disagreed, ruling that if McGahn wants to refuse to testify, such as by invoking executive privilege, he must do so in person and question by question.
The Justice Department’s claim to “unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity,” Jackson wrote in a 118-page opinion, “is baseless, and as such, cannot be sustained.” The judge ordered McGahn to appear before the House committee and said her conclusion was “inescapable” because a subpoena demand is part of the legal system — not the political process — and “per the Constitution, no one is above the law. However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires. Fifty years of say so within the Executive branch does not change that fundamental truth.”
The Bush administration’s claim of “absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law,” wrote Bates, a Bush appointee, former presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater probe of President Bill Clinton. The parties eventually agreed on questioning behind closed doors and release of a public transcript, mooting the case.
Judge Jackson, an Obama nominee, quoted Bates’s 2008 decision heavily, calling the administration’s immunity claim “a fiction” maintained “through force of sheer repetition,” one that has never gone through the “crucible of litigation. Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings." The assertion that a president can overrule current or former aides’ “own will to testify,” she added, “is a proposition that cannot be squared with core constitutional values, and for this reason alone, it cannot be sustained.”
Jackson did not limit her ruling to impeachment proceedings but wrote, “It is hard to imagine a more significant wound than such alleged interference with Congress’ ability to detect and deter abuses of power within the Executive branch for the protection of the People of the United States."
The White House said in a statement Monday that the decision “contradicts longstanding legal precedent established by Administrations of both political parties. We will appeal and are confident that the important constitutional principle advanced by the Administration will be vindicated.”
Schiff writes letter to House Democrats, passes impeachment inquiry on to Judiciary Committee. (Daily Kos, November 25, 2019)
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff sent a letter to House Democrats today updating them on the status of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. Schiff writes that his committee has "uncovered a massive amount of evidence" and that Trump "sought foreign interference in our elections for his personal and political benefit at the expense of our national interest."
NASA’s 141-foot ‘Super Guppy’ aircraft delivered the Orion spacecraft to a testing facility in Ohio ahead of 2024 mission to land the first woman and next man on the Moon. (Daily Mail, November 25, 2019)
- The Super Guppy aircraft is used by NASA to transport large cargo items.
- It was used to move parts of the Saturn V rocket during the Apollo missions.
- It was taking the Orion spacecraft to Ohio for pre-flight environmental testing.
- NASA says Orion will fly to the moon without a crew for a test flight in 2020.
- The Artemis missions will eventually see humanity return to the moon by 2024.
NYC wants a chief algorithm officer to counter bias, build transparency. (Ars Technica, November 25, 2019)
The big, black decision-making boxes could get more transparent to New Yorkers.
That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It. (Rolling Stone, November 25, 2019)
Here’s what Russia’s 2020 disinformation operations look like, according to two experts on social media and propaganda.
Professional trolls are good at their job. They have studied us. They understand how to harness our biases (and hashtags) for their own purposes. They know what pressure points to push and how best to drive us to distrust our neighbors. The professionals know you catch more flies with honey. They don’t go to social media looking for a fight; they go looking for new best friends. And they have found them.
Professional disinformation isn’t spread by the account you disagree with — quite the opposite. Effective disinformation is embedded in an account you agree with. The professionals don’t push you away, they pull you toward them.
Disinformation operations aren’t typically fake news or outright lies. Disinformation is most often simply spin. Spin is hard to spot and easy to believe, especially if you are already inclined to do so.
The Russians know that, in political warfare, disgust is a more powerful tool than anger. Anger drives people to the polls; disgust drives countries apart.
Russian disinformation is not just about President Trump or the 2016 presidential election. Did they work to get Trump elected? Yes, diligently. Our research has shown how Russia strategically employed social media to build support on the right for Trump and lower voter turnout on the left for Clinton. But the IRA was not created to collude with the Trump campaign. They existed well before Trump rode down that escalator and announced his candidacy, and we assume they will exist in some form well after he is gone. Russia’s goals are to further widen existing divisions in the American public and decrease our faith and trust in institutions that help maintain a strong democracy. If we focus only on the past or future, we will not be prepared for the present.
The IRA generated more social media content in the year following the 2016 election than the year before it. They also moved their office into a bigger building with room to expand. Their work was never just about elections. Rather, the IRA encourages us to vilify our neighbor and amplify our differences because, if we grow incapable of compromising, there can be no meaningful democracy. Russia has dug in for a long campaign. So far, we’re helping them win.
Mitch McConnell’s Opposition to Federal Election Security Is Hitting Home. (Mother Jones, November 25, 2019)
Kentucky officials say local voting systems are “one emergency away from disaster.”
So, Why Has The U.S. Economy Not Sunk Yet? It Is Because The Fed Is Doing A Whole Lot Of Bailing. (Daily Kos, November 25, 2019)
When Trump’s really dumb tax cuts took effect starting in 2018, the Fed increased the Prime Interest Rate to prevent the extra cash influx from the tax cuts that were flowing into the U.S. economy from creating inflation. This tightening of the U.S. money supply, along with Trump’s clueless tariffs meant that the U.S. Dow Jones Industrial Average was barely higher at the end of 2018 than it was at the beginning of 2018. During this time, Donald Trump moaned about how the higher interest rates were hurting the economy. Any economist worth his or her salt could have told Trump that interest rates would have risen when his tax cuts were implemented, but instead, someone apparently told Trump that his tax cuts would magically make the stock market go crazy. You see, Donald Trump isn’t just ignorant. He’s apparently also surrounded by ignorant advisors.
Trump’s equally clueless combination of tax cuts and tariffs eventually slowed down the U.S. economy in 2018 to such a point that the Fed ended up having to lower the Prime Interest Rate again in 2019. However, just lowering interest rates has not been enough to counteract the damage that Trump’s policies have done to the U.S economy. In addition to lowering the Prime Interest rate, the Fed has also had to start a program that many would call Quantitative Easing (QE), but which the Fed has been insisting is not actually Quantitative Easing. Basically, during quantitative easing, the Fed buys a lot of assets, like bonds, and. in turn, it also acquires an equal amount of debt at the same time.
Rick Perry Calls Donald Trump The Chosen One Sent By God To Rule Over Us. (Politico, November 25, 2019)
The secretary of energy used “imperfect” Old Testament kings to make his point.
The realism of Bernie Sanders’ climate policy. (Boston Globe, November 25, 2019)
Sanders believes that as our economy rapidly shifts to renewable energy, power companies should be publicly owned and controlled, and the biggest polluters should help underwrite the costs.
NEW: Carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reaches record high, researchers say. (NBC News, November 25, 2019)
Carbon dioxide traps heat from the sun and can linger in the atmosphere for centuries.
How New York City Found Clean Water. (Smithsonian, November 25, 2019)
For nearly 200 years after the founding of New York, the city struggled to establish a clean source of fresh water.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Foundation: "I Invented the World Wide Web. Here’s How We Can Fix It." (New York Times, November 24, 2019)
I had hoped that 30 years from its creation, we would be using the web foremost for the purpose of serving humanity. Projects like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap and the world of open source software are the kinds of constructive tools that I hoped would flow from the web.
However, the reality is much more complex. Communities are being ripped apart as prejudice, hate and disinformation are peddled online. Scammers use the web to steal identities, stalkers use it to harass and intimidate their victims, and bad actors subvert democracy using clever digital tactics. The use of targeted political ads in the United States’ 2020 presidential campaign and in elections elsewhere threatens once again to undermine voters’ understanding and choices.
We’re at a tipping point. How we respond to this abuse will determine whether the web lives up to its potential as a global force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia.
Tesla’s Cybertruck is ridiculous, but who wants to bet against Elon Musk? (Quartz, November 23, 2019)
It’s a Tesla. Vehicles, at least in this class, are about identity. Most pickups, it turns out, are “cowboy costumes,” an expensive way to haul air and make a statement. Only 25% of truck owners ever drive off-road or tow something. The most important features truck buyers want in their pickup? “To look good while driving, to present a tough image, to have their car act as an extension of their personality, and to stand out in a crowd.”
(And this $40-$70K super-"truck" is the ultimate pick-up.)
The Awful Truth About Impeachment: Facts be damned is Trump’s approach, and it’s working. (The New Yorker, November 22, 2019)
After five days, twelve witnesses, lots of shouting, and dozens of angry tweets from the President, the House Intelligence Committee’s public impeachment hearings into Donald Trump’s Ukraine affair ended on Thursday with one unequivocal result: a Republican stonewall so complete that it cannot and will not be breached. The G.O.P. defense, in essence, is that facts are irrelevant, no matter how damning or inconvenient, and that Trump has the power to do whatever he wants, even if it seems inappropriate, improper, or simply wrong. Recognizing this, Democrats on Thursday evening signalled that they will move ahead with impeachment by the full House anyway, and soon. It was a grim choice, made with the knowledge that the case against Trump will likely proceed without any Republican votes, or even testimony from key Administration witnesses who have obeyed the President’s command not to appear.
'A lot of things are the matter with me': The best lines from Trump's Fox interview. (Politico, November 22. 2019)
Trump flirts with standing against a unanimous Congress and in favor of China's President Xi. (Daily Kos, November 22, 2019)
It's up to Trump. Side with 100% of the U.S. Congress and, of course, human rights, or with another of his favorite autocrats and veto the bill? Because unanimous is definitely a veto-proof majority.
When a deep red town’s only grocery closed, city hall opened its own store. Just don’t call it ‘socialism.’ (Washington Post, November 22, 2019)
Notably, these experiments in communal ownership are taking place in deep-red parts of the country where the word “socialism” is anathema. By definition, a collectively owned, government-run enterprise like the Baldwin Market is inherently socialist. But Lynch, who has a nonpartisan position but governs a town where 68 percent of residents voted for Donald Trump in 2016, doesn’t see it that way. From his point of view, the town is just doing what it’s supposed to do: providing services to residents who already pay enough in taxes.
Coal Knew, Too. (Huffington Post, November 22, 2019)
A newly-unearthed journal from 1966 shows the coal industry, like the oil industry, was long aware of the threat of climate change.
In a 1966 copy of the industry publication Mining Congress Journal, James R. Garvey, who was the president of Bituminous Coal Research Inc., a now-defunct coal mining and processing research organization, wrote: "There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels. If the future rate of increase continues as it is at the present, it has been predicted that, because the CO2 envelope reduces radiation, the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere will increase and that vast changes in the climates of the earth will result. Such changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London."
Donald Trump Says He Wants a Trial. Here's What Needs to Happen in the House Impeachment Inquiry Before He Gets One. (Time, November 22, 2019)
In one sense, the question before Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders is straightforward: Will more hearings produce evidence that ultimately strengthens the case that President Donald Trump should be removed from office, or do they already have what they need to make the case?
But the larger question facing Pelosi and her aides is a more complicated political one. If, as polls suggest, there is no evidence that will convince Republican voters, and therefore GOP lawmakers, that Trump abused the power of the presidency, what is the best course of action for Democrats as they seek to retake the White House and the Senate, and hold on to the House?
Trump keeps making it tougher for his defenders. (The Washington Post, November 22, 2019)
Up against the wall, Donald Trump has always reached into his ready arsenal of aggressive tactics. Confronted with challenges that would make many people search for a way out, he punches back, insults those who speak against him, tosses up falsehoods and distracting stories he knows will get big play in the news media and offers frequently shifting alternative narratives.
Now, facing the likelihood that he will become only the third president ever to be impeached, Trump is deploying his full playbook — even as his statements repeatedly undercut the case Republican defenders in Congress have made on his behalf. The president’s unsupported attacks on some of the key witnesses appearing over the past two weeks before the House Intelligence Committee not only surprised many of his Republican allies but also contradicted the narrative that they had settled on to describe why Trump’s actions in the Ukraine controversy do not justify his removal from office.
“It makes it more politically difficult for us,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), “but it doesn’t change how we’ll vote on impeachment.”
The biggest mistake Democrats made in the impeachment hearings was not focusing on CrowdStrike. (Daily Kos, November 22, 2019)
Dr. Fiona Hill included this in her opening statement: "Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."
What Republicans did not say, and what Hill really meant, was that Donald Trump, William Barr, and every Republican on the committee are actively involved in an attempt to prove that Russia was not involved in 2016 election interference. Forget Nunes’ weak-tea report, because Republicans, Nunes included, are right now working to disprove that report themselves. What Hill was referring to was something that Trump discussed in his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Sacha Baron Cohen blasts social media giants for ‘ideological imperialism’. (Daily Kos, November 22, 2019)
Cohen focused his speech on social media and the handful of tech giants that control the world’s largest platforms, calling them “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”
Cohen outlined the rise of fascistic, racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories around the world and their breeding grounds on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. “On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.”
Cohen said that while Facebook and Twitter and others had made small attempts to deal with these content issues, much more was needed. Specifically, he argued that Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of Facebook’s semi-hands-off approach to political ads and hate groups is disingenuous, saying, “Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.” Cohen also argued that no one is asking Facebook to police free speech around the world, but, since it is a privately owned company, he doesn’t see why Facebook won’t stop lies from being spread.
Cohen noted that the real problem is that there are six people, whom he calls the “Silicon Six” (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg; Google’s Sundar Pichai, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin; Susan Wojcicki at YouTube; and Jack Dorsey at Twitter), who control what the majority of the globe sees online.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife privately recommended staff hires to Pete Buttigieg. (CNBC, November 21, 2019)
The news reveals that the Big Tech executive has played a larger role in the 2020 election than was previously known.
Sacha Baron Cohen's Keynote Address at ADL's 2019 'Never Is Now' Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate (25-min. video; Anti-Defamation League, November 21, 2019)
Remarks by Sacha Baron Cohen, Recipient of ADL's International Leadership Award.
‘I Was Teaching a Lot of Misconceptions.’ The Way American Kids Are Learning About the 'First Thanksgiving' Is Changing. (Time, November 21, 2019)
The teachers at this Nov. 9 workshop on “Rethinking Thanksgiving in Your Classroom” were there to learn a better way to teach the Thanksgiving story to their students, but first, they had some studying to do. When Gokey explained that early days of thanks celebrated the burning of a Pequot village in 1637, and the killing of Wampanoag leader Massasoit’s son, attendees gasped audibly.
NEW: Trump Reverses Navy Decision to Oust Edward Gallagher From SEALs. (New York Times, November 21, 2019)
The president said Chief Petty Officer Gallagher, who has been at the center of a high-profile war crimes case, would not lose his membership in the elite commando force.
Key Moments From Hill and Holmes’s Testimony in the Impeachment Inquiry. (New York Times, November 21, 2019)
President Trump’s former adviser testified that the pressure campaign on Ukraine was a “domestic political errand” that diverged from U.S. foreign policy.
Mike Pence all of a sudden can't recall if he talked with Sondland about Ukraine aid being withheld. (Daily Kos, November 20, 2019)
Ken Starr, on Fox News: 'It doesn't look good for the president.' (Daily Kos, November 20, 2019)
Today, during a break in the testimony, Starr quoted Adam Schiff, saying (again, on Fox News), “There is now proof that the President committed the crime of bribery. This has been one of those bombshell days,” adding that “it doesn’t look good for the president.” Finally, he said, “I think articles of impeachment are being drawn up if they haven't already been drawn up,” the only question being whether they would be bipartisan or not.
Read Trump’s very large, very strange Sharpie notes on impeachment. (Vox, November 20, 2019)
The talking points were scrawled in all caps on an Air Force One notepad.
NEW: Eighteen Democrats, three Republicans in U.S. presidential race. (Reuters, November 20, 2019) NEW: Yes, There Was a Quid Pro Quo, says ad by Republicans For The Rule Of Law. (1-min. video; RuleOfLawRepublicans.com, November 20, 2019)
Here Are The Top Trump Administration Officials Implicated By Gordon Sondland. (Huffington Post, November 20, 2019)
The ambassador gave explosive testimony that named top officials as part of a quid pro quo effort with Ukraine.
The Two Most Important Sentences of the Impeachment Hearings. (The Atlantic, November 20, 2019)
Ambassador Gordon Sondland delivered a bombshell this morning: “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”
'It was no secret': Ambassador says quid pro quo came at 'express direction of the President'. (CNN, November 20, 2019)
US Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified Wednesday there was a quid pro quo for Ukraine to announce investigations into President Donald Trump's political opponents that came from the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the "express direction of the President."
What's more, Sondland provided House impeachment investigators with emails and texts showing it wasn't just him and Giuliani pushing for the investigations outside government channels — Trump's inner circle knew what was going on, too. He even said he raised concerns with Vice President Mike Pence that the freezing of $400 million in security aid to Ukraine was linked to the investigations.
Sondland's testimony is the most damning evidence to date directly implicating Trump in the quid pro quo at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. His public remarks show a link between US security aid and a White House meeting and Ukraine publicly announcing investigations that would help the President politically.
NEW: Humans placed in suspended animation for the first time. (New Scientist, November 20, 2019)
Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told New Scientist that his team of medics had placed at least one patient in suspended animation, calling it “a little surreal” when they first did it. He wouldn’t reveal how many people had survived as a result.
The technique, officially called emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), is being carried out on people who arrive at the University of Maryland Medical Centre in Baltimore with an acute trauma – such as a gunshot or stab wound – and have had a cardiac arrest. Their heart will have stopped beating and they will have lost more than half their blood. There are only minutes to operate, with a less than 5 per cent chance that they would normally survive.
EPR involves rapidly cooling a person to around 10 to 15°C by replacing all of their blood with ice-cold saline. The patient’s brain activity almost completely stops. They are then disconnected from the cooling system and their body – which would otherwise be classified as dead – is moved to the operating theatre.
A surgical team then has 2 hours to fix the person’s injuries before they are warmed up and their heart restarted. Tisherman says he hopes to be able to announce the full results of the trial by the end of 2020.
NEW: This gorgeous art was made with a surprising substance: live bacteria. (National Geographic, November 20, 2019)
Agar plates changed the way scientists cultivate tiny life in labs. Now agar is the canvas for a growing school of art.
The planet is burning. (Aeon, November 20, 2019)
Fire - wild, feral, and fossil-fuelled - lights up the globe. Is it time to declare that humans have created a Pyrocene?
NEW: Permafrost Becoming a Carbon Source Instead of a Sink. (NASA, November 19, 2019)
As global and regional warming continues, winter emissions of carbon dioxide from Arctic lands are offsetting what plants absorb in the summer.
Senate Passes Bill to Support Hong Kong Protesters, Putting Pressure on Trump. (New York Times, November 19, 2019)
The House and Senate both passed the bill with a veto-proof majority. It compels the U.S. to penalize Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for abuses.
Tesla will top biggest-battery record. (Seeking Alpha, November 19, 2019)
Tesla's (NASDAQ:TSLA) battery project with Neoen (OTC:NOSPF) in South Australia became "the world's largest battery" when it was completed two years ago, and now it's expanding by 50% to 150 megawatts.
The storage site has already saved more than A$50M in its first year of operation, meaning that the A$66M venture is quickly on its way to pay for itself. Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed the system is much more rapid, accurate and valuable than a conventional steam turbine.
Afraid of upsetting her NRA donors, US senator Joni Ernst blocks Violence Against Women Act. (11-min. video; The Young Turks, November 19, 2019)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is absolutely right when he calls out Ernst and says that if she wants to alter the legislation with amendments of her own, they can be debated independently, along with the amendment closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole." Except the Republicans don't want to debate the issue because they know it's a huge loser for them. Hence the obstruction.
Trump said he was quoting Nancy Pelosi on impeachment. He was actually quoting Fox News. (Daily Kos, November 19, 2019)
Even Republicans’ preferred witnesses are implicating Trump. (Washington Post, November 19, 2019)
The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday heard from two former Trump administration officials whose testimony was requested by Republicans. So it was striking that the stories they told simply added to the evidence that President Trump abused his office and twisted long-standing U.S. policy in Ukraine to serve his personal political interests.
Impeachment Hearings Live Updates: Republicans Question Vindman’s Loyalty. (New York Times, November 19, 2019)
The top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council testified that President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president in which Mr. Trump asked for investigations of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was “inappropriate” and “a partisan play,” as Republicans raised questions about his loyalty and professionalism. Marie Yovanovitch represents something Americans are desperate for: decency. (The Guardian, November 18, 2019)
Trump calls her ‘bad news’, but the public won’t be convinced by his smear.
She rooted out Trump in the middle of the hearing as he blurted more bile. It changed the course of the impeachment hearings. It will change the course of politics. We were reminded of the redeeming power of decency, which properly resides in a healthy sense of shame that is very much alive right now. It will take down Trump and revive the Republic.
The Supreme Court May Criminalize Immigrant Advocacy. (Slate, November 18, 2019)
The case could let the government prosecute people for routine legal work or even sympathetic tweets.
Supreme Court stops Trump financial documents from going to House on Wednesday. (CNN, November 18, 2019)
President Donald Trump's financial documents won't be released Wednesday, after the Supreme Court on Monday put on hold a lower court opinion that allowed a House subpoena to go forward. The court did not set a timeline when it will rule or release the documents, but has asked for the House to respond on Thursday to Trump's request to block the subpoena.
Earlier Monday, the House said that it would endorse a 10-day delay to give the justices more time to consider legal arguments.
Trump's impeachment ire turns on Pompeo amid diplomats' starring roles. (NBC News, November 18, 2019)
Impeachment hearings have created a rift between the president and one of his staunchest allies in the administration.
Pompeo has served in the administration since its start. Trump tapped him as CIA director, then moved him to secretary of state after he fired Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson. For almost three years, Pompeo seamlessly navigated a finicky president. He’s remained, and became more influential, as Trump churned through two chiefs of staff, three national security advisers, an attorney general, and secretaries of defense, state, labor, homeland security, interior, veterans affairs and health and human services.
But in recent weeks Pompeo has been under steady fire over his role in the Ukraine scandal, as well as his handling of it. Initially when the Ukraine controversy became public, Trump wanted Pompeo to publicly defend him against the State Department bureaucracy, officials said. But the White House thought Pompeo appeared unprepared in his television interviews, and his performance only fueled the president’s frustrations, they said.
Trump has hinted publicly at tensions with Pompeo, and while the comments might go unnoticed by the untrained ear they’ve been heard loudly by people close to the president. The first was on Oct. 23, officials said, when Trump wrote on Twitter: “It would be really great if the people within the Trump Administration, all well-meaning and good (I hope!), could stop hiring Never Trumpers, who are worse than the Do Nothing Democrats. Nothing good will ever come from them!” Trump followed up with another tweet specifically calling Taylor, and his lawyer, "Never Trumpers." Two days later, Trump said Pompeo “made a mistake” in hiring Taylor.
Pompeo has faced criticism for saying, during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” that he didn’t know anything about the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is at the center of the controversy. Pompeo didn’t disclose until more than a week later that he had listened in on that call.
Like the White House, he has attempted to block State Department officials from testifying. And he has refused to turn over State Department documents related to Ukraine.
Criticism of Pompeo inside the State Department escalated when he refused to publicly defend Yovanovitch after a reconstructed transcript of the July 25 call revealed Trump disparaged Yovanovitch to Zelenskiy, administration officials have said. Pompeo’s closest aide, Ambassador Mike McKinley, resigned over the secretary’s refusal to defend Yovanovitch. Testimony from Taylor and others show Pompeo was keenly aware of the concerns his top officials had about Giuliani’s efforts and his handling of Yovanovitch.
In public testimony on Friday, Yovanovitch appeared to excoriate Pompeo for “the failure of State Department leadership to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine policy. It is the responsibility of the department's leaders to stand up for the institution and the individuals who make that institution the most effective diplomatic force in the world,” she said.
New Poll: 70% of Americans say Trump’s actions tied to Ukraine were wrong. (ABC News, November 18, 2019)
NEW: Trump Retreats From Flavor Ban for E-Cigarettes. (New York Times, November 17, 2019)
Advisers say the president pulled back from proposed restrictions intended to curb teenage vaping after he was warned of the political fallout among voters.
NEW: Know The Risks: E-Cigarettes & Young People (U.S. Surgeon-General, November 2019)
This Executive Summary is an overview of the full Surgeon General's Report and highlights the conclusions, findings, and call to action.
Birds of a feather: Why Trump wants to commute Rod Blagojevich's sentence. (Daily Kos, November 17, 2019)
Convicted former Illinois governor Blagojevich’s criminal behavior increased markedly in 2008 in a race against time. The state had passed an ethics law that was due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2009 and prohibited “any individual or entity with existing state contracts of more than $50,000 from contributing to entities like Friends of Blagojevich.” So the push was on to get as much as possible before the law kicked in, with a total goal of $2.5 million. Some $500,000 was expected to be raised by Highway Contractor 1, who wanted to supply concrete for a new toll road project. The CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital had funding threatened over a $50,000 contribution.
But the crime for which Blagojevich will long be remembered is the attempted sale of a U.S. Senate seat. It was breathtaking in its audacity. He attempted to sell it to the newly-elected president in exchange for an appointment as the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.
NEW: Immigration jails in Trump era are packed, but deportations are fewer than in Obama’s. (Washington Post, November 17, 2019)
It has been nearly 700 days since Bakhodir Madjitov was taken to prison in the United States. He has never been charged with a crime. Madjitov, a 38-year-old Uzbek national and father of three U.S. citizens, received a final deportation order after his applications to legally immigrate failed.
He is one of the approximately 50,000 people jailed on any given day in the past year under the authority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the most foreigners held in immigration detention in U.S. history. The majority of those detainees, such as Madjitov, are people with no prior criminal records.
Unrelenting “ad blocker” plasters users with—you guessed it—ads. (Ars Technica, November 17, 2019)
Ads Blocker uses several tricks to covertly and constantly bombard users with ads.
Firefox’s fight for the future of the web (The Guardian, November 17, 2019)
In reality, two-thirds of us have been funnelled into using Google’s Chrome, but browser choice also hides a contest about the openness of the web and how data is collected about users. One organisation that has always put such issues to the forefront is Mozilla.
How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0. (New York Times, November 17, 2019)
The company, like much of corporate America, has not made good on its promised investment surge from President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.
Robert Reich: Warren doesn't just frighten billionaires – she scares the whole establishment. (The Guardian, November 17, 2019)
No wonder the wealth tax turns the Gray Lady white as a sheet: it will help the needy and its author is a good bet for president.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported on a study showing that Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax (and presumably Bernie Sanders’ even more ambitious version) would reduce economic growth by nearly 0.2% a year, over the course of a decade. Under the headline “Warren Wealth Tax Could Slow the Economy, Early Analysis Finds”, the Times trumpeted the analysis, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, as “the first attempt by an independent budget group to forecast the economic effects” of a centerpiece of the Warren and Sanders campaigns.
It sounded like a game-changer. The super rich obviously don’t like a wealth tax, but if it also slows the economy, it could harm everyone.
But wait. In order to arrive at their conclusion, the authors of the study make two bizarre leaps of economic logic.
Louisiana Democrat, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Keeps Seat Despite Trump's Opposition. (NPR, November 17, 2019)
"If this campaign has taught us anything, it's that the partisan forces in Washington, D.C. are not strong enough to break through the bonds that we share as Louisianans," Edwards said in his victory speech.
Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and is not a typical Democrat. He's a pro-Second Amendment gun owner who signed one of the country's strictest anti-abortion bills this year.
This is the third and final gubernatorial election of 2019 and the second loss for President Trump, who campaigned for all three candidates. The president was in Louisiana this past week and framed the race as a personal referendum, urging voters to unseat Edwards. Trump traveled to Louisiana three times to support Rispone. About two weeks ago, Republican Tate Reeves won the open seat in Mississippi, but in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear ousted Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin. Edwards' second term may be a bitter pill for Trump, who had much invested in this year's elections ahead of his own election in 2020.
Louisiana's John Bel Edwards wins reelection to remain Deep South's only Democratic governor (USA Today , November 16, 2019)
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards won a second term Saturday to remain the only Democratic governor in the Deep South despite an all-out effort by President Donald Trump to flip the seat to the Republican column.
Edwards narrowly beat wealthy Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, who invested more than $14 million of his own money to finance his campaign and tied himself to Trump from start to finish.
The president told Louisiana voters the race was a symbolic referendum on his presidency, which he said is under attack by Democrats who've started impeachment hearings in the House. "You've got to give me a big win, OK?"
But in the end Trump’s coattails weren’t long enough to carry Rispone across the finish line. Edwards predicted as much during his own rally in Shreveport Thursday, expressing confidence voters wouldn’t allow the president to nationalize the election. "The voters of Louisiana are going to decide this election on Louisiana issues," Edwards said. "They don't need the president or anybody else to tell them how to vote."
'Corrupt': Congresswoman shreds The Hill for publishing conspiracy theories as 'opinion' columns. (Daily Kos, November 16, 2019)
A Washington-based reporter and Fox News personality who had until recently been working at the politics outlet The Hill, John Solomon, 52, is not well known outside conservative media. But, according to interviews and testimony, his writing and commentary helped trigger the chain of events that are now the subject of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. Mr. Solomon’s work has been endorsed by some of the most influential figures on the right like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and the president, who has highlighted Mr. Solomon’s articles on Twitter.
The spread of Solomon’s work, according to media experts who spoke to the Times, is a near-perfect example of how rightwing media isn’t actually an echo chamber … it’s an ecosystem. Here’s how it works.
'This whole hearing turned on a dime': The Trump catastrophe even Fox News couldn't ignore. (Daily Kos, November 16, 2019)
On Friday, as Trump lashed out at a seasoned U.S. diplomat in the midst of her sworn congressional testimony, Fox News was doing what every other actual news outlet in the nation was doing—covering the impeachment hearings. Trump's witness bullying was a bombshell most Fox anchors would have ignored on any other day. But because House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff stopped the hearing to read Trump's tweets and ask Yovanovitch if she wanted to respond, Trump's intimidation became part of a hearing Fox was already covering.
"This whole hearing turned on a dime when the president tweeted about her in real time," noted Fox anchor Brett Baier. "That enabled Schiff to then characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering with the witness, which is a crime. Adding essentially an article of impeachment real time." In other words, Trump singlehandedly authored another article of impeachment. Wow, now that is some stunning straight talk on Fox.
5 key takeaways from testimony by former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (ABC News, November 15, 2019)
Ex-Ukraine ambassador says "foreign corrupt interests" orchestrated ouster — live updates. (5-min. video; CBS News, November 15, 2019)
Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch appeared Friday before the House Intelligence Committee in the second public hearing in the impeachment inquiry. Over the course of more than six hours, she said she was given no reason for her abrupt removal from Kiev and did not know why she was targeted by Rudy Giuliani.
Republicans at the hearing praised her service and largely avoided casting doubt on her account, instead criticizing Democrats for their handling of the proceedings and questioning the relevance of Yovanovitch's testimony, given that she was dismissed before the events at the center of the Ukraine affair. Democrats said her experience showed that U.S. foreign policy had been co-opted by a rogue faction that was led by Giuliani and abetted by other U.S. diplomats.
As she was testifying, the president tweeted a new attack targeting her, claiming that "everywhere Yovanovitch went turned bad," seemingly blaming her for instability in dangerous foreign countries where she has been posted over her 33-year career. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the president's attacks were tantamount to witness intimidation.
"I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously," Schiff said.
NEW: The History of Interest Rates Over 670 Years (Visual Capitalist, November 15, 2019)
Today, we live in a low-interest-rate environment, where the cost of borrowing for governments and institutions is lower than the historical average. It is easy to see that interest rates are at generational lows, but did you know that they are also at 670-year lows? This week’s chart outlines the interest rates attached to loans dating back to the 1350s. Take a look at the diminishing history of the cost of debt—money has never been cheaper for governments to borrow than it is today.
“Dirty trickster” Roger Stone convicted on all counts in Mueller indictment. (Ars Technica, November 15, 2019)
Former Trump campaign adviser found guilty of witness intimidation, lies, and obstruction.
After his indictment, Stone was banned by Judge Amy Berman Jackson from using social media after he posted a photo of Judge Jackson in cross-hairs on his Instagram account. Stone had been banned from Twitter after inflammatory posts in 2017. Stone violated Judge Jackson's order 11 times since February.
NEW: Secret Service Records Contradict Trump’s Claim on Doral G-7. (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, November 15, 2019)
CREW received records from the United States Secret Service that, along with emails from Doral city officials, undermine President Trump’s dubious claim that members of the Secret Service wanted the 2020 G-7 Summit to be hosted at Trump’s Doral resort in Miami. The reality appears to be quite different, with the Secret Service instead expressing reluctance, saying “the property does present[] some challenges,” followed by a redaction that implies security concerns. The records also seem to show that Doral was added for consideration at the last minute, saying “[b]y departure, they had already cut two (California and North Carolina) and added Miami on the back end.” Taken together, the records that CREW obtained call into question nearly every aspect of Trump’s justification of his choice.
Trump leaned heavily on a claim that after an exhaustive search, members of the government preferred Doral, saying “When my people came back…They went to places all over the country. And they came back and they said, ‘This [Doral] is where we would like to be.’ Now we had military people doing it. We had Secret Service people doing it.”
White House releases new Trump-Zelensky transcript revealing its initial call readout was all lies. (Daily Kos, November 15, 2019)
Burning Out (Longreads, November 15, 2019)
Search and rescue teams train for the worst conditions. But the worst conditions are getting worse. Are they ready for the next big disaster?
Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai (MIT Technology Review, November 15, 2019)
A sophisticated new electronic warfare system is being used at the world’s busiest port. But is it sand thieves or the Chinese state behind it?
NEW: $69 Trillion of World Debt in One Infographic (Visual Capitalist, November 14, 2019)
Trump tries to sell D.C. hotel, promising big profits from foreign visitors and government business. (Daily Kos, November 14, 2019)
There are still lawsuits underway which accuse Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which forbids all office holders, especially the president of the United States, from accepting gifts or other income from foreign countries while in office. What would the founders have thought about a Saudi lobbyist paying for 500 rooms at Trump’s D.C. hotel immediately after he won the election Electoral College?
Wanting to find a way out of these lawsuits might be a reason to sell, but is there more going on here? Based on recent elections and voter registration data, Donald Trump, and Republicans in general, are in danger of losing in 2020. Surely that hotel will get a lot less popular if he loses and the MAGA types lose their appetite for overpriced rooms and steaks. But there have been other recent decisions by the Trump Organization that seem to indicate something bigger might be going on here.
In its Comments thread:
- Heading for yet another bankruptcy? Note that Trump and his organization do not actually own most of these properties. His creditors do. What Trump does own and where he gets most of his revenue is his brand, and that has been sharply devalued during his term of office. When Trump and his family are finally put out of office, they may also be out of business.
- That lease for Trump’s DC Hotel was broken the day that Trump was sworn in as President. It contains a clause that states that it cannot be used by a government official for a commercial, for-profit, business. One of his first hires as head of the GSA was a guy that wrote an opinion that exonerated him from keeping that hotel even though the lease said that it was illegal. I would like to know if the GSA man is under Nancy Palosi’s radar for the House emoluments case against Trump.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the single leading source of anti-vax ads on Facebook. (Ars Technica, November 14, 2019)
Researchers dig into Facebook's ad library.
Before Chomsky, there was Lippmann: the First World War and ‘manufactured consent’. (18-min. video; Aeon, November 14, 2019)
Walter Lippman contended that, because the world is too complex for any individual to comprehend, a strong society needs people and institutions specialised in collecting data and creating the most accurate interpretations of reality possible. When used properly, this information should allow decisionmakers to ‘manufacture consent’ in the public interest. However, in one of the most damning critiques of democracy, Lippman identifies how public opinion is instead largely forged by political elites with self-serving interests – powerful people manipulating narratives to their own ends.
Finding Truth Online Is Hard Enough. Censors Make It A Labyrinth. (New York Times Magazine, November 13, 2019)
On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Turkey banned Wikipedia. This came as a shock, even in a country with a history of banning everything from novels (Albert Camus’s “The Plague,” from public schools in 1987) to films (“Nymphomaniac,” in 2014) to entire genres of music (arabesk, from state channels in the ’70s and ’80s).
The Turks were perhaps more prepared than many to deal with two of the most bewildering new features of what is now our shared global predicament: the chaos of the internet and the populist subterfuge of one-man regimes. But in recent years, both have accelerated to a scary degree in Turkey. What was once a semi-predictable stranglehold on official information has become a chaotic, repressive race to protect Erdogan’s interests.
After so many years of censorship, who is to say what anyone really feels or believes in Turkey anymore? By what method would anyone even gather and represent those feelings? During the Istanbul mayoral election, the country surprised itself, and its citizens surprised one another. During the war in Syria, it has made sense to ask how much of the country does not reflexively support Erdogan’s foreign war. There is no way to know. A heavily censored society not only loses access to information; it ceases to know itself. The greatest loss the Turks face under Erdogan might be their knowledge of one another.
NEW: Air pollution nanoparticles linked to brain cancer for first time. (The Guardian, November 13, 2019)
Tiny particles produced by motor traffic can invade the brain and carry carcinogens.
The research analysed the medical records and pollution exposure of 1.9 million adult Canadians from 1991 to 2016. Such large studies provide strong evidence, though not a causal link. Weichenthal said the correlation seen between brain cancer and nanoparticles was "surprisingly consistent", but as this is the first study, it is important that other researchers replicate it. The discovery of abundant toxic nanoparticles from air pollution in human brains was made in 2016. A comprehensive global review earlier in 2019 concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. Toxic air has been linked to other effects on the brain, including huge reductions in intelligence, dementia and mental health problems in both adults and children.
NEW: Venice Suffers Worst Flooding in 50 Years, Mayor Blames Climate Change. (Live Science, November 12, 2019)
Late on Tuesday (Nov. 12), high tides from the surrounding lagoon surged onto the more than 100 islands that make up Venice, flooding 85% of the city and damaging artwork and many historic sites, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted. Photos and videos posted on social media show the intense flood turning alleyways into rushing rivers, stranding large water taxis in public plazas, and drenching some of the city's most iconic historic sites — including St. Mark's Basilica, completed in 1092. According to the local tide monitoring center, water levels from the flood peaked at 6.1 feet (1.87 meters) last night — the highest floodwaters in more than 50 years, and the second highest ever recorded in Venice. (The tide reached 6.3 feet, or 1.94 m, in November 1966.)
Venice is susceptible to some flooding — or "aqua alta," as it's regionally known — every year when high tides mix with heavy rain and strong winds. However, Brugnaro noted, yesterday's intense surge was exceptional, and almost certainly linked to the increasingly powerful storms fueled by global warming. Of the 10 highest tides in Venice since record-keeping began in 1923, five have occurred in the last 20 years, including the current flood and one in 2018. Both events were tied to strong storm surges blowing northeastward across the Adriatic Sea (Venice is located on the northern seashore), thanks in part to changing patterns in the jet stream. These jet-stream patterns are likely to continue, leading to more frequent and intense storms, as climate change escalates
NEW: A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving. (Center for Racial Justice in Education, November 12, 2019)
As we enter this holiday season, this resource is intended to support educators and families as we address the true story of Thanksgiving. This guide provides resources that range from lesson plans to narratives that uplift the perspectives and contributions of the Native American community.
Israel Kills Senior Islamic Jihad Commander in Gaza. (New York Times, November 12, 2019)
Israel described the Gaza commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, as a "ticking bomb" who was "responsible for most of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s activity in the Gaza Strip."
Before 6 a.m., militants in Gaza began firing barrages of rockets toward southern and central Israel from the Palestinian coastal enclave. Islamic Jihad called the Israeli strike "a declaration of war against the Palestinian people" and said, "Our response to this crime will have no limits."
Don't Get Confused By The Ukraine Scandal: Here Are The Key Facts. (Huffington Post, November 12, 2019)
It seems like it's getting more complicated, but it really isn't.
In private speech, Bolton suggests some of Trump's foreign policy decisions are guided by personal interest. (5-min. video; NBC News, November 12, 2019)
Former national security adviser John Bolton derided President Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law during a private speech last week and suggested his former boss' approach to U.S. policy on Turkey is motivated by personal or financial interests. Bolton also questioned the merits of Trump applying his business acumen to foreign policy, saying such issues can't be approached like the win-or-lose edict that drives real estate deals: When one deal doesn't work, you move on to the next.
The description was part of a broader portrait Bolton outlined of a president who lacks an understanding of the interconnected nature of relationships in foreign policy and the need for consistency.
Bolton's pointed comments, at a private gathering last Wednesday at Morgan Stanley's global investment event in Miami, painted a dark image of a president and his family whose potential personal gain is at the heart of decision-making, according to people who were present for his remarks. Bolton is a potential linchpin witness in the inquiry into Trump's efforts to elicit help from the Ukrainian government to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, given his central role in the White House during that time. The impeachment inquiry moves to public testimony this week.
The Impeachment Of Donald Trump Is Starting. Here's What To Know. (Huffington Post, November 12, 2019)
The proceedings will be televised and give the most visible look yet at the effort to impeach the president.
Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller Is Exactly Who You Think He Is. (Huffington Post, November 12, 2019)
Emails sent to Breitbart editors promoted white nationalism and xenophobia, and bemoaned opposition to Confederate symbols.
US violated Constitution by searching phones for no good reason, judge rules. (Ars Technica, November 12, 2019)
ICE and Customs violated 4th Amendment with suspicionless searches, ruling says.
NEW: EPA pushes ahead with effort to restrict the science it uses to craft regulations. (Washington Post, November 12, 2019)
The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing forward with a policy that could limit the science the agency uses to underpin regulations, a change long sought by conservatives but derided by many scientists and public health experts as an effort to stifle reliance on research into the harmful effects of pollution on Americans.
"Vague appeals to transparency do not warrant the agency impairing its use of quality science," one critic says.
NEW: The EPA’s Move to Handcuff Scientists Will Sicken and Kill People. (Union of Concerned Scientists, November 11, 2019)
"This is a blatant removal of well-established science from the policymaking process, to the benefit of polluters and at a huge cost to the marginalized communities who face the biggest threat from pollution," said Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the UCS Center for Science and Democracy. "There’s no scientific reason or public interest to restricting the science that EPA can consider in this way - it will just make the laws that protect public health and the environment nearly impossible to carry out."
Once the rule is published, the public will have thirty days to provide comment on a narrow set of questions related to a proposal that would completely transform how the EPA makes decisions. No public hearings are scheduled, presumably because the last time they did a public hearing, scientists poked holes in every part of the proposal, essentially calling it some kind of sick joke.
The proposal comes directly from tobacco industry lobbyists, who previously, and unsuccessfully, tried to get Congress to pass similar legislation. The fatally flawed proposal is legally and scientifically indefensible. The EPA now seems poised to make it even worse.
Nearly two years after disgraced Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the proposal, the EPA is unable to identify what problem they are trying to solve. The agency is unable to provide any information about how this radical change to the use of science by the agency would affect public health. There is still no information on how much this unnecessary exercise would cost, nor who would pay for it. The EPA has no clear idea on their authority to do this.
Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’ Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans. (Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2019)
Search giant is amassing health records from Ascension facilities in 21 states; patients not yet informed.
NEW: The Unparalleled Genius of John von Neumann (Medium, November 11, 2019)
“Most mathematicians prove what they can; von Neumann proves what he wants.”
NEW: Dan Rather: President Trump's support seems cultish. (CNN, November 11, 2019)
"Increasingly, President Trump's support seems cultish," legendary journalist Dan Rather says. "It's all about him, it's not about the policy, it's not about standards of politics." Rather expresses doubt that Senate Republicans will break with Trump, so Brian Stelter asks him if Mitch McConnell is part of the "cult."
Republican: You Can’t Impeach Trump for a Crime He Does ‘All the Time’. (New York Magazine, November 11, 2019)
“It is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival,” Thornberry conceded. Nonetheless, he argued for acquittal. Leaning hard into Republican objections to the impeachment process, Thornberry argued that the entire impeachment proceeding is null and void, however damning the evidence may be. Batting away a question about his focus on “process,” Thornberry replied: “And process — you know, you all always want to say substance, not process. There’s a reason we let murderers and robbers and rapists go free when their due process rights have been violated.”
Impeachment: how Trump's hardball tactics put the Constitution in peril. (The Guardian, November 9, 2019)
Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, told reporters this week the executive branch refusal to cooperate amounted to evidence of obstruction of the inquiry, suggesting Trump, like Nixon, might face an article of impeachment along those lines. “The White House excuses keep changing,” Schiff said. “First it was: the House hasn’t held a vote. Then, a claim of immunity never upheld by a court. Now they want their lawyers to participate, which is against the rules Republicans wrote. It doesn’t add up – except as evidence of obstruction.”
Dems release testimony of White House officials who raised Ukraine alarms. (ABC News, November 8, 2019)
Transcripts of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill were made public. The two top White House officials said they were so disturbed by the Trump administration’s handling of Ukrainian policy that they reported their concerns directly to National Security Council Legal Adviser John Eisenberg, at one point relaying concerns that U.S.-Ukraine interactions were akin to a “drug deal” being cooked up by the White House chief of staff.
Trump Came SO CLOSE To Getting Ukraine To Do His Bidding. Trump Defenders Grasping At Disposable Straws. (8-min. video: The Young Turks, November 8, 2019)
In the face of growing, and increasingly overwhelming, evidence of a quid pro quo over Ukraine, Trump’s defenders are grasping ever-more desperately at inane, bizarre and often risible justifications for the president’s actions. Case in point: South Carolina Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who recently offered up two “defenses” of Trump, each patently comical in their own way.
As Cenk and Ana discuss in this clip, Graham has chosen a - shall we say - interesting explanation for why EU ambassador Gordon Sondland has asked to revise his original testimony in front of House committees from “I wasn’t aware of any quid pro quo” to “Oh yeah, there was definitely a quid pro quo.” Sondland’s change of heart arose after many others in the administration offered damning evidence that contradicted with Sondland’s, and he clearly saw the possibility of a perjury charge in his future. But that’s not how Lindsey Graham sees it - Graham instead has floated a bizarre conspiracy that House Dems like Adam Schiff somehow “got to” Sondland. Although, as Ana notes, Graham for some reason seems to think his name is “Sunderland,” which it isn’t.
The other crazy justification may have a little more validity, at least according to Cenk. Graham told reporters that Trump couldn’t possibly have demanded a quid pro quo from Ukraine because the administration’s Ukraine policy is too incoherent. Or, as Ana puts it, “Trump is too stupid to do a quid pro quo.” Cenk loves this defense as well, wondering if this is sufficient evidence to conclusively prove that people who hang out with Trump become more stupid by osmosis, citing as another corroborating data point: Rudy Giuliani.
Someone went into Barnes & Noble and replaced the covers of Trump Jr.'s new book. (Daily Kos, November 8, 2019)
Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump. (The Hill, November 7, 2019)
Senate Republicans discover their silver impeachment bullet is backfiring. (Daily Kos, November 7, 2019)
It wasn't supposed to be like this. After House Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry, Republicans were supposed to be able to flail around wildly hurling words like "witch hunt" and "socialist" and "Soviet," at which point frenzied GOP voters would rush to the polls and deliver whopping, stinging electoral defeats to Democrats. That was the plan—and even the conventional wisdom—until Tuesday, when Democrats bested Republicans in yet another off-year election as we move toward the all-important 2020 presidential contest.
Actually, voters did go to the polls in droves but, if there was a motivating factor, it seemed more about sending Trump the signal that many, many Americans are damn sick and tired of watching him defile our republic. There is simply no other way to read the results in Virginia, where turnout surged from 29% in 2015 to nearly 40% four years later and delivered control of both legislative chambers to Democrats. Some observers wondered whether scandals that have plagued Democrats in Virginia's executive branch might offset some of the anti-Trump fervor. Nope. The issues were also clearly on the side of Democratic candidates in Virginia, but the notable spike in turnout seems to be as much a product of anti-Trump rage voting as anything else.
And in Kentucky, no amount of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin railing against impeachment and Trump begging voters to protect his reputation could save a candidate who Kentuckians despise, though Bevin has not conceded defeat to Democrat Andy Beshear yet. Turnout also surged in Kentucky to 42%, 11 points above what the secretary of state had projected.
< Trump just lost his last impeachment defense: Bombshell evidence of quid pro quo. (6-min. video; The Young Turks, November 7, 2019)
Trump tax cuts hiked the deficit, now $1 trillion, so guess what Republicans want for 2020? (USA Today's Editorial Board, November 7, 2019)
The 2017 tax cuts produced only a brief sugar high for the economy. America can't afford Round 2!
Trump ordered to pay $2M after misusing his charity in 'shocking pattern of illegality'. (3-min. video; MSNBC, November 7, 2019)
President Donald Trump must pay a $2 million judgment for improperly using his Trump Foundation to further his 2016 presidential campaign, a New York state judge ruled Thursday. The order appears to bring to an end the New York attorney general's lawsuit against the president and three of his adult children over the now-shuttered foundation, which the attorney general alleged had engaged in repeated "self-dealing."
Bill Gates challenges Elizabeth Warren to discuss wealth tax, and she calls his bluff. (Daily Kos, November 7, 2019)
NEW: Taking a Different Approach to Fighting Climate Change. (New York Times, November 7, 2019)
Inequality is a big contributor to climate change.
Could the world cope if GPS stopped working? (BBC, November 6, 2019)
Knowing that you're lost is one thing; being wrongly convinced you know where you are is another problem altogether.
How terrible software design decisions led to Uber’s deadly 2018 crash. (Ars Technica, November 6, 2019)
NTSB says the system "did not include consideration for jaywalking pedestrians."
NEW: William Barr is racing to deliver a report that blows up the impeachment inquiry—and everything else. (Daily Kos, November 6, 2019)
Barr appears to have taken the results of an inspector general report that was expected to end weeks ago, rolled it together with the investigation-into-the-investigation that he launched under the nominal control of prosecutor John Durham, and capped it all with the “findings” of a world tour that included attempts to get the Australian government, the Italian government, and the U.K. government to participate in attacks on U.S. intelligence agencies. What’s going to come out the other end could be a dud, but it could launch an effort to derail the impeachment process—and more.
Election Results 2019: Democrats Take Control of Virginia Legislature. (Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2019)
Democrats now have a trifecta, giving them unified control of both chambers and governor’s office.
3 takeaways from the stunning victory for Democrats in Kentucky (maybe) and Virginia yesterday (Boston Globe, November 6, 2019)
Senate president: Kentucky governor's race could be decided by state legislature. (Louisville KY Courier Journal, November 6, 2019)
Congrats, Gov.-Elect Andy Beshear! Kentucky dumps Matt Bevin, despite Trump's selfish pleas. (Daily Kos, November 5, 2019)
New York City just became the largest place in America to adopt instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked-choice voting). (Daily Kos, November 5, 2019)
A recent special election for public advocate took place without any primary or runoff and saw the winner prevail with just 33% in a field of 17 candidates, an outcome that will no longer be possible. Given the city's prominence in the media, this switch could accelerate the adoption of instant runoffs elsewhere as more citizens become aware of how the system works.
NEW: Activists Blockade Shipment of Tar Sands Pipeline. (Portland Rising Tide, November 5, 2019)
Community members from Oregon and Washington have shut down part of the Port of Vancouver, WA to block a shipment of pipeline that is destined for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) project in Canada that would run from Edmonton to Vancouver, B.C. This latest action is the third in a series of actions targeting the Port of Vancouver, WA for its role in transporting dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure.
Six climbers have locked themselves to the dock where the shipment is to be off-loaded in order to prevent the pipeline pipes from making it to their final destination in Vancouver, B.C. They are supported by dozens of kayakers and other boaters who are rallying to tell the Port of Vancouver, Governor Inslee, and Prime Minister Trudeau to stop this dangerous fossil fuel project that is jeopardizing a livable future for everyone on this planet.
Kiera, a climber blocking the ship dock, said, “The hypocrisy of the Port of Vancouver is embarrassing. The Port Commissioners should be ashamed — they claim to be environmental stewards concerned about climate catastrophe, yet they are enabling the dirtiest pipeline project in the world by allowing this pipe to pass through the port.”
An activist with Portland Rising Tide, Rachel Walsh, said, “I’m here because tar sands crude transported by the Trans Mountain Expansion project would require three times more water for extracting and refining and would release 15% more greenhouse gas per gallon of gasoline when compared with conventional oil. We are also taking action in solidarity with Fort McKay First Nations who are suing the Alberta government because tar sands expansion threatens sacred land that the government promised to protect.”
When America Tried to Deport Its Radicals (New Yorker, November 4, 2019)
A hundred years ago, the Palmer Raids imperilled thousands of immigrants. Then a wily official got in the way.
Republicans Seek to Swamp Democratic Offices With Anti-Impeachment Calls. (New York Times, November 4, 2019)
The Republican National Committee’s effort was meant to tie up phone lines of congressional Democrats as part of a broader plan to defend the president.
NEW: MSNBC’s former Republican Rep. David Jolly: Today’s Republican Party Is ‘Spineless Politicians Rotten to the Core’. (2-min. video; Breitbart, November 4, 2019)
"These are, in today’s Republican party, spineless politicians, rotten to the core without virtue, without any level of human integrity, devoid of self-respect, self-reflection, without courage, and without the moral compass to recognize their own malevolence. And one day, maybe, they will have the recognition of how they failed the country and themselves in this moment, but that would be giving them credit that somewhere down deep they have the goodness to recognize how to reconcile their own failings with what is right and just in American politics—and frankly, what is right and wrong in the eyes of adults and children alike.”
A federal appeals court just demolished Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal investigation. (Vox, November 4, 2019)
One of Trump’s most audacious legal claims had a terrible day in court.
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump’s personal attorney William Consovoy stood before a panel of federal appellate judges and told them that the president is immune from criminal investigation even if Trump shoots someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue. It didn’t take long for that panel to reject this extraordinary argument. On Monday, an unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Trump is not immune from such investigations. The case is Trump v. Vance.
Vance arises from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s effort to secure many of Trump’s financial documents from Trump’s accounting firm, including his tax forms. Vance seeks these documents as part of a fairly broad-reaching criminal investigation that may ultimately implicate Trump himself, but that may also only wind up implicating some of Trump’s companies or his business associates.
Vance’s investigation is a state investigation and is entirely separate from the House impeachment inquiry. Indeed, Trump’s lawyers argued that one reason why Trump should be immune from this investigation is because it is being conducted by state officials and not the federal government.
Yet, as Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, a Clinton appointee, explains for his court, Trump’s immunity claim is especially weak because Vance seeks personal documents that are unrelated to Trump’s conduct in office. Though prior Supreme Court decisions establish that the president enjoys “absolute immunity from damages liability predicated on his official acts,” this case does not involve Trump’s conduct in office. Nor does it even involve an “order that compels the President himself to do anything.”
Microsoft's Hybrid 2.0 strategy: Azure Arc, Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack Edge explained (ZDNet, November 4, 2019)
At Ignite 2019, Microsoft is announcing new branding and a new strategy meant to make Azure the place IT pros will manage their edge, on-premises and multi-cloud software and services. Here's my best attempt to demystify the new hybrid announcements.
NEW: Four White House witnesses skip depositions for House impeachment inquiry. (4-min. video; MSNBC, November 4, 2019)
National Security Council Legal Advisers John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, Senior Adviser to the Acting Chief of Staff Robert Blair, and Office of Management and Budget Staffer Brian McCormack were all scheduled to testify to the three House committees investigating an impeachment inquiry.
The White House ordered them not to testify.
White House lawyer defies House subpoena; Trump sees ‘no reason’ to summon witnesses on Ukraine call. (Washington Post, November 4, 2019)
Lawmakers wanted to question John Eisenberg, the deputy counsel on the National Security Council, about what transpired after President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Nine things we learned from the New York Times series on Trump’s Twitter habits. (Boston Globe, November 4, 2019)
Donald Trump has exploited social media like no other US president, using it as a springboard to change policy.
NEW: Gov. Newsom fires back at Trump's Twitter threat to cut off California's wildfire aid. (Daily Kos, November 3, 2019)
NYT reviewed all of Trump's tweets. Conclusion: He's a vicious, narcissistic, dictator-loving loon. (Daily Kos, November 3, 2019)
What did the paper of record find? A lot of what you’ve probably already concluded. He loves dictators, isn’t so fond of our traditional allies, likes to insult people, loves himself, hates minorities.
Nearly two-thirds of US voters say Trump has not made them better off. (Financial Times, November 3, 2019)
FT-Peterson poll casts doubt on whether economic arguments will boost president’s campaign.
White House calls claim that Jared Kushner gave Saudi ruler permission to arrest Jamal Khashoggi before journalist was killed and dismembered 'false nonsense'. (UK Daily Mail, November 3, 2019)
- White House calls claim in British conservative news magazine's gossip column that Jared Kushner green-lighted Jamal Khashoggi's arrest.
- Article claims more whistle-blowers have come forward to Democrat-led House of Representatives with claims of wrongdoing by Trump officials.
- Report says one whistle-blower is alleging that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, approved Saudi plans to arrest Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- According to Spectator, Turkey intercepted call between Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and then used it to gain leverage over Trump.
- Trump agreed to remove American troops from northern Syria after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
- White House official calls report 'false nonsense'.' Spectator acknowledged of its own report, 'whether any of this is true is another matter'.
Forget the habitable exoplanets—here are some of our galaxy’s freaks. (Ars Technica, November 2, 2019)
One of these worlds is darker than coal, with an atmosphere as hot as lava.
Children were told to ‘build the wall’ at White House Halloween party. (Yahoo News, November 2, 2019)
Trump’s proposed border wall has drawn criticism for its cost and because opponents argue his rhetoric toward Latino immigrants is racist, an accusation Trump has denied. Former officials told Yahoo News they thought the “Build the Wall” display at the EEOB Halloween party was disturbing.
“To the extent the wall is just a xenophobic symbol, this is obviously a gross thing to have children do,” Ben Rohrbaugh, who worked on National Security Council on border security in the Obama administration, told Yahoo News. “To the extent it’s a representation of an actual wall on the southwest border, the kids have made nearly as much progress as the president has since 2017.”
NEW: Could Decreasing Inflammation Be the Cure for Everything? (AARP, November 1, 2019)
Managing your body's immune response is key to diseases of aging.
NEW: How Mengzi came up with something better than the Golden Rule (Aeon, November 1, 2019)
Care about me not because you can imagine what you would selfishly want if you were me. Care about me because you see how I am not really so different from others you already love.
NEW: How Daylight Saving Time Affects Health (Associated Press, November 1, 2019)
Here's what science has to say about a twice-yearly ritual affecting nearly 2 billion people worldwide.
“Floridian” Trump may not qualify, and his NY audit just got more interesting and personal. (Daily Kos, November 1, 2019)
NEW: It’s official: President Trump is now a full-time Florida man. (Miami FL Herald, October 31, 2019)
All hands, abandon ship! I repeat all hands abandon ship as Fox News staff jump overboard. (Daily Kos, October 31, 2019)
White House Backing Off Proposed Fuel-Efficiency Freeze. (Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2019)
Trump administration plans for annual efficiency increases of 1.5%; rule likely to come by year’s end.
The DNA database used to find the Golden State Killer is a national security leak waiting to happen. (MIT Technology Review, October 29, 2019)
Here’s how spies could use a crowd-sourced genetic ancestry service to compromise your privacy—even if you’re not a member.
WhatsApp is suing the world’s top hacking company. (MIT Technology Review, October 29, 2019)
One of the most powerful tech firms on earth takes on the Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO Group.
New poll shows why Trump’s defenders are more focused on impeachment process than substance. (Washington Post, October 29, 2019)
Most polls have asked Americans in specific terms what they think of President Trump requesting that his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky order an investigation into Joe Biden’s son. A new national survey from Grinnell College, conducted by the respected Iowa pollster Ann Selzer, probes public attitudes in more plain language – and gets revealing results.
"Is it okay with you or not okay for political candidates in the U.S. to ask for assistance from a foreign government to help them win an election?" In response to that question, only 7 percent of U.S. adults say it’s okay. Eighty-one percent say it is not okay. More than 80 percent of self-identified Republicans, evangelicals and rural dwellers say it’s not okay for a president to ask for assistance from a foreign government to help win an election.
This helps explain why Trump defenders on Capitol Hill have fixated more on complaining about the impeachment process than offering a substantive defense of Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine or his public call for China, from the White House lawn, to investigate the Bidens. The rough transcript of the July 25 call released by Trump shows the president asking explicitly for a "favor" right after Zelensky raised the subject of military aid to Ukraine. Additional reporting, along with sworn testimony from administration officials, has established that this was part of a broader campaign to compel Kyiv to help Trump tar Democrats generally and Biden specifically.
Last week, even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step of distancing himself from a tweet by Trump that likened his impeachment to "a lynching."
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Monday that they will join Mitt Romney in not co-sponsoring a resolution spearheaded by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to condemn the House’s impeachment process.
Russians are meddling in the Democratic primary. Is anyone paying attention? (Washington Post, October 29, 2019)
Contrary to the aims of a traditional intelligence operation, discovery and attribution will be the point, derailing the primary with news of yet another Russian disinformation campaign and driving a wedge between the Democratic factions. As media coverage mounts, Trump will feel justified in launching an investigation, ensuring that his political rivals are not “profiting” from the efforts of a foreign power (and possibly distracting from other operations working to his own benefit.) All the old narratives will be turned on their head. It will be Democrats, not Republicans, who suffer Russia as a campaign issue, no matter how loudly they disavow the operations conducted in their name.
Although foreign interference remains the gravest threat to the future of free and fair U.S. elections, the issue of foreign interference represents a counterproductive and potentially dangerous one for the Democratic primary. Democratic campaigns must give each other the benefit of the doubt. If they use the existence of foreign influence operations to score cheap political points against fellow Democrats, it will be the party — and the country — that ultimately pays the price.
NEW: Baghdadi's death: More details emerge from US raid. (CNN, October 29, 2019)
White House Ukraine Expert Sought to Correct Transcript of Trump Call. (New York Times, October 29, 2019)
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who heard President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president and was alarmed, testified that he tried and failed to add key details to the rough transcript. The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.
Colonel Vindman, who appeared on Capitol Hill wearing his dark blue Army dress uniform and military medals, told House impeachment investigators that he tried to change the reconstructed transcript made by the White House staff to reflect the omissions. But while some of his edits appeared to have been successful, he said, those two corrections were not made.
Sea-level rise could flood hundreds of millions more than expected. (MIT Technology Review, October 29, 2019)
Princeton researchers found that far more people are living closer to the ocean than previously believed.
Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050, New Research Shows. (New York Times, October 29, 2019)
Some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by mid-century, according to scientists.
New Declaration of War (Daily Kos, October 28, 2019)
I live in Humboldt County. We’ve had our power shut off twice now, even though we’re not in a fire area. Here are my thoughts: Like all natural monopolies, the People should own the power grid. And Water. And Roads, and Cable Internet. The people who run our utilities need to be answerable to US, not to shareholders. If WE were in charge of our utilities, we would have allocated the funds where they should have gone, instead of in someone’s pocket.
Slap anyone who asks "how are we going to pay for it?" That’s a straw man. When we want to do something — anything — like going to war, or giving tax breaks to zillionaires, we ALWAYS find the money. Always. Every single time. Remember when the Iraq war was estimated to cost $85 million. Real cost? Last I heard, CBO said $2.4 trillion. TRILLION.
I say, we "declare war" on the Climate Crisis, and spend whatever the heck it takes to win that war.
PG&E outages: Almost 2 million Californians could face blackouts Tuesday. (San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 2019)
The warning came even as PG&E issued the all-clear Monday to start restoring power to the bulk of the 970,000 customers whose electricity was shut down over the weekend as part of the utility’s wildfire prevention efforts. As of Monday evening, PG&E had restored power to 375,000, or roughly 39% of those customers; progress varied greatly, from none in Alpine and Yuba counties to 95% in Colusa County, according to PG&E. Some people who lost power over the weekend may not have it restored until Friday.
Trump turns announcement of ISIS leader's death into disturbing rant, says U.S. will take Syrian oil. (Daily Kos, October 27, 2019)
Trump delivered his speech with such bloody glee, that clips of it could be used for any number of terrorist recruiting videos. He repeatedly returned to claims that al-Baghdadi had “screamed, cried, and whimpered,” that he had “run like a dog, like a coward.” And, according to Trump, the ISIS founder was eventually pursued into a dead-end tunnel by dogs brought to the compound by U.S. forces. He then died by setting off a suicide vest. In the process he also killed three children.
No one mourns al-Baghdadi. The level of fanaticism, intolerance, and violence he brought to ISIS was disturbing even to other terrorist leaders. However, the way that Trump painted his end, including his emphasis on the use of dogs, his calling al-Baghdadi a dog, and repeatedly talking about the ISIS leader crying and screaming … will not go down well in the Middle East. Additionally, the idea that al-Baghdadi ultimately evaded capture and died by his own hand will also be seen as a “victory” of sort by his followers.
NEW: Inside the dramatic US military raid that killed ISIS leader Baghdadi (CNN, October 27, 2019)
Trump's announcement on Sunday morning was remarkable in its own right. He teased the news on Twitter the night before, saying "something very big just happened!" And in a contrast with Obama's sober address to the nation about bin Laden, Trump's freewheeling appearance before the cameras was filled with descriptions of gruesome imagery -- "his body was mutilated by the blast" -- and he openly mocked the terror leader, saying he died "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way."
With Baghdadi in their sights, U.S. troops launched a ‘dangerous and daring nighttime raid’ (Washington Post, October 27, 2019)
As President Trump and senior advisers settled into the Situation Room on Saturday evening, elite U.S. forces more than 6,000 miles away launched one of the most significant counterterrorism operations in the campaign against the Islamic State. Taking off in eight helicopters from Iraq, the troops flew over hostile territory for hundreds of miles in the early Sunday morning darkness.
Their target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the brutal founder and leader of the Islamic State, was holed up in a compound in northwestern Syria with family members and terrorist associates, and the United States had been watching him for days. A tip from a disaffected Islamic State militant set the operation in motion, according to a U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.
What followed was what Trump called a “dangerous and daring nighttime raid” that was carried off “in grand style.” It ended, he said, with Baghdadi fleeing from advancing U.S. forces into a dead-end tunnel and detonating a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children.
Kamala Harris drops out, then rejoins an Historically Black Colleges and Universities event after Trump honor. (ABC News, October 27, 2019)
"Let’s just deal with the elephant in the room which is the events of the last 24-48 hours," Harris said. "Mayor Benjamin called me and told me that it was shifting and it was going to change ... that it was only right and a reflection of this most honorable institution that this event would be opened to students,, that it would not be a paid event and that everyone would be able to participate," Harris said.
Fellow presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said, "[Trump’s] remarks were offensive. Talking about being the best president ever for black people is an offensive lie, because he’s actually doing things to hurt the African-American community."
US Army finds that the 'military could collapse within twenty years' thanks to climate breakdown. (Daily Kos, October 26, 2019)
According to a new report prepared by the US Army and, commissioned by the Pentagon, found that the next couple of decades will be so chaotic due to a warming climate that we will be unable to adapt in time. Our inability to change will be the result of years of inaction by ‘leaders' who have kicked the proverbial can of worms down the road for future generations to solve.
The report predicts that within the next twenty years, our power grid infrastructure will be unable to adapt to the expected extreme temperatures that are bearing down upon us. During this time, people will be hungry, thirsty, and unable to cope with unbearable heat. The PGE crisis provides a glimpse into the future, Millions Of Californians Brace For Power Outages As Wildfires Ravage State.
The key players in the study were NASA, the military, and defense intelligence agencies, and they warned the Pentagon 'to urgently prepare for the possibility that domestic power, water, and food systems might collapse due to the impacts of climate change as we reach mid-century.'
California: A race against time to slow Sonoma fire before monster winds return (Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2019)
The Kincade fire has burned 21,900 acres in northern Sonoma County and was only 5% contained as of Friday afternoon. The entire town of Geyserville and vineyards in the region were ordered to evacuate, though some stayed, using generators for power. Fire officials said 49 structures, including 21 homes, were destroyed, and the Geysers geothermal facilities run by Calpine Corp. reported some damage.
Tomorrow, conditions are likely to worsen. The winds are expected to head down slope, reaching urban areas as far as Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento. These winds are what brought devastation to rural communities in the foothills of the North Bay hills when fires struck in 2017. The Tubbs fire in Sonoma and Napa counties killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.
The return of socialism is about the political divide. (The Hill, October 26, 2019)
Young people extolling socialism have caused conservatives to sound alarms about the direction the country is going. But the reappearance of socialism is more a sign of a wide partisan divide than it is evidence that people want to change America’s economic system.
When Democratic lawmakers and left-leaning spokespeople talk about socialism — or democratic socialism — they’re not talking about changing the means of production. When your college sophomore nephew expresses some sympathy for socialism at Thanksgiving dinner, he’ll likely be talking about just expanding the social welfare programs that already exist and maybe importing others from Europe. We’ve already got a lot of this kind of socialism in America. There’s Social Security and Medicare, and states keep mandating that businesses offer paid leave to employees. When the people on the left talk glowingly of socialism, they tend to talk about a socialism that is a couple large steps down the path of bigger government.
U.S. deficit hit $984 billion in 2019, soaring during Trump era. (Washington Post, October 25, 2019)
Budget experts say it is unprecedented for America’s deficit to expand this much during relatively good economic times.
In 2013, when federal debt totaled $16.7 trillion, Trump tweeted: “Obama is the most profligate deficit & debt spender in our nation’s history.” The federal government is now more than $22 trillion in debt, according to the White House.
The U.S. government’s budget deficit ballooned to nearly $1 trillion in 2019, the Treasury Department announced Friday, as the United States’ fiscal imbalance widened for a fourth consecutive year despite a sustained run of economic growth. The deficit grew $205 billion, or 26 percent, in the past year.
The country’s worsening fiscal picture runs in sharp contrast to President Trump’s campaign promise to eliminate the federal debt within eight years. The deficit is up nearly 50 percent in the Trump era. Since taking office, Trump has endorsed big spending increases and steered most Republicans to abandon the deficit obsession they held during the Obama administration.
Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding. (New York Times, October 25, 2019)
Predict, a government research program, sought to identify animal viruses that might infect humans and to head off new pandemics.
Microsoft Wins Pentagon’s $10 Billion JEDI Contract, Thwarting Amazon. (New York Times, October 25, 2019)
The decision was a surprise because Amazon had been considered the front-runner, in part because it had built cloud services for the Central Intelligence Agency. But that was before Mr. Trump became publicly hostile to Mr. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. The president often refers to the newspaper as the “Amazon Washington Post” and has accused it of spreading “fake news.” In public, Mr. Trump said there were other “great companies” that should have a chance at the contract. But a speechwriter for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says in a book scheduled for publication next week that Mr. Trump had wanted to foil Amazon and give the contract to another company.
The issue quickly became radioactive at the Pentagon. The new defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, at first said he wanted to take several months to review the issue and then, a few days ago, recused himself from the bidding. He said he could not participate because his son worked for IBM, one of the competitors for the contract.
As recently as this month, the betting was that Microsoft would, at most, get only part of the contract and that the Pentagon would use multiple suppliers for its cloud services, as do many private companies. Microsoft was considered in the lead for other government cloud programs, including an intelligence contract; only recently has Microsoft opened enough classified server facilities to be able to handle data on the scale of the Pentagon contract.
Microsoft did not immediately have a comment. Amazon, which calls its cloud platform Amazon Web Services, or AWS, said in a statement that it was surprised by the decision. “AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly led to a different conclusion. We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure.”
The award to Microsoft is likely to fuel suspicions that Mr. Trump may have weighed in privately as well as publicly against Amazon. Experts on federal contracting said it would be highly improper for a president to intervene in the awarding of a contract. Price Floyd, a former head of public affairs at the Pentagon who consulted briefly for Amazon, said he thought Mr. Trump’s vocal criticism of Amazon would give it ample grounds to protest the award to Microsoft. “He’s the commander in chief, and he hasn’t been subtle about his hostility toward Amazon,” Mr. Floyd said.
Microsoft’s win has implications for the cloud computing industry, in which businesses rent space on technology companies’ server computers, giving them cheap and fast access to storage and processing. Amazon has long been the dominant player, with about 45 percent of the market, trailed by Microsoft with around 25 percent.
Landing the JEDI contract puts Microsoft in a prime position to earn the roughly $40 billion that the federal government is expected to spend on cloud computing over the next several years, he said. Losing the bid is also a hit to the reputation of Amazon, which decided last year to open a large outpost in Northern Virginia that will eventually employ at least 25,000 people.
Pentagon awards controversial $10 billion cloud computing deal to Microsoft, spurning Amazon. (Washington Post, October 25, 2019)
The Pentagon awarded its controversial $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft Friday evening, spurning a bid from Amazon after President Trump expressed opposition to giving the lucrative award to a company led by Jeff Bezos, one of his longtime rivals.
Amazon was openly described by competitors and industry analysts as a clear front runner to win the massive award, due to its years of experience handling classified data for the CIA. The company this year chose to build a massive second headquarters, a few miles from the Pentagon’s campus.
After a lawsuit and bid protests from Oracle and IBM failed to block the award this summer, Amazon appeared poised to win the contract, partly because the military already had designated the company with the highest data management certification. Microsoft’s designation was below Amazon’s.
Update Complete: U.S. Nuclear Weapons No Longer Need Floppy Disks. (New York Times, October 24, 2019)
Rest easy, people of Earth: The United States’ nuclear arsenal will no longer rely on a computer system that uses eight-inch floppy disks, in an update the Defense Department has cast as a step into the future but which some observers might be surprised to learn was required at all. The system, called Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS, “is still in use today but no longer uses floppy disks,” David Faggard, a spokesman for the Air Force Global Strike Command, which manages the Air Force portion of the arsenal, said in an email. “Air Force Global Strike Command is committed to modernizing for the future.”
The update is part of a broader overhaul of the United States’ atomic weapons that began under President Barack Obama and has continued under President Trump. The move away from floppy disks was completed in June but was not widely reported at the time. It was reported last week by C4ISRNET, a website that covers military technology.
U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says. (Vice, October 24, 2019)
The report says a combination of global starvation, war, disease, drought, and a fragile power grid could have cascading, devastating effects.
We’ve officially annihilated a second strain of polio. Only one remains. (Ars Technica, October 24, 2019)
Still a tough road ahead, but we're getting closer.
Ivanka Trump tries to take credit for Kansas economy, state legislator torches her. (Daily Kos, October 24, 2019)
Ivanka Trump doesn’t bother with the facts. Instead, she points to the success of Kansas since the 2016 election. This misunderstanding of Kansas politics — which led to the election of a Democratic governor and Democratic US House members in 2018 — gets a big correction as Stephanie Clayton, once a Republican who switched parties after 2018, takes Ivanka down.
NEW: Don’t Count the Senate Out on Impeachment. (The Nation, October 24, 2019)
To convict Trump on impeachment charges, 20 GOP senators will need to break ranks. Here’s how that can happen.
‘The highest of high crimes’: Rudy Giuliani accidentally blows up Trump’s defense against impeachment on Twitter. (Raw Story, October 24, 2019)
Giuliani is contradicting himself here. He has previously described his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, the DNC, and the 2016 campaign as unrelated to his legal work. “I’m not acting as a lawyer,” Giuliani told The Atlantic last month of his activities in Ukraine. “I’m acting as someone who has devoted most of his life to straightening out government.”
But while Giuliani’s new version of events may help him if he wants to make a claim of attorney-client privilege, it actually makes Trump’s role in the scheme look even more damning than it already is. Legal experts argued that it only strengthened the case for impeachment.
“This merely confirms what was so outrageous: Giuliani wasn’t a representative or employee of the United States; his duty of loyalty was 100% to his (personal capacity) client. And yet Trump told Ukraine it had to dance to Rudy’s tune,” said Marty Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “[A] a tune designed to advance Trump’s personal interests–in order to remain in the U.S.’s good graces (e.g., to secure access, aid, etc.). This is the highest of high crimes–using the leverage of his position as chief diplomat to advance his own interests.”
Fox News legal analyst surprises Fox & Friends by destroying impeachment talking points. (Daily Kos, October 24, 2019)
Andrew Napolitano: "As frustrating as it might be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors, the hearings over which Congressman Schiff is presiding, they are consistent with the rules. And when were the rules written last? In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner. And who enacted them? A Republican majority.
WSJ editorial says Trump shouldn’t be impeached because he was too ‘inept’ to carry out quid pro quo. (Raw Story, October 24, 2019)
An editorial from the conservative Wall Street Journal argues that President Donald Trump does not deserve to be impeached because he was too incompetent to properly carry out a corrupt act.
In an editorial that criticizes Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) for holding impeachment inquiry testimony behind closed doors so far, the editorial board argues that ambassador Bill Taylor’s testimony that Trump directly tied military aid to Ukraine to investigating his political opponents shouldn’t be seen as an impeachable offense because the president got caught doing it.
Despite the Journal’s assertions that Trump cannot be impeached for bungling his attempt at extorting Ukraine, at least one Republican legal scholar believes that the president may face real legal jeopardy for his actions. Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia who served as an official in the George W. Bush administration, argued on Thursday that Trump may have run afoul of 18 U.S.C. § 201(b), which states that any public official who “corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for… being influenced in the performance of any official act” is breaking the law.”
Graham to introduce desperate resolution attacking Democrats' inquiry. It's an admission of failure. (Daily Kos, October 24, 2019)
Lindsey Graham is in big trouble with the orange menace in the Oval Office. Not only has Graham criticized Trump's Syria policy, but as Senate Judiciary Committee chair he has failed to hold sham hearings exploring the Biden and DNC server conspiracy theories that Trump has been counting on.
Graham's first effort to get back in Trump's good graces was hailing Trump for "thinking outside the box" on his inane plan to control Syrian oil fields by partnering with the Kurds, who Trump just completely screwed over. Days later Graham leapt to the defense of Trump's racially offensive comparison between the impeachment inquiry into him and a "lynching." Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wouldn't defend Trump on that, but Graham stood up wholeheartedly for Trump's racially charged ignorance, claiming "this is a lynching in every sense" and assailing impeachment—a constitutionally outlined remedy—as "un-American."
Graham plans to outdo himself later Thursday, introducing a joint resolution with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “condemning the House of Representatives’ closed door, illegitimate impeachment inquiry." Because contrary to popular belief, the U.S. Constitution gave Graham and McConnell "the sole Power of Impeachment," not the House of Representatives. Graham will turn the tables on House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Trump's shadow foreign policy by naming the inquiry "a shadow process." Clever.
So, in essence, yet another lame Republican jab at process for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to whisk off her shoulder like a pesky fly. In actuality, Graham's resolution is an admission of defeat.
Roll discredits: here are the Repubs who barged in on a CLASSIFIED hearing. (Daily Kos, October 23, 2019)
Trump-approved House Republican disruption of impeachment testimony ends. (Daily Kos, October 23, 2019)
The move by a group of roughly two dozen House Republicans to "storm" the House sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, compromising the secure space by refusing to turn over private cell phones or submit to other screening, has now ended.
The extent to which the Republican action was intended purely as a pro-Trump publicity stunt can be discovered by looking at the list of participants: Twelve of those Republicans are actually on the three impeachment-relevant committees, and have had access to witness testimony from the beginning. A full 46 House Republicans sit on those committees, and all of them have heard witness testimony. (You may recall the constant presence of those members leaving each deposition to insist to assembled reporters that the testimony they were hearing was untrustworthy, or not at all damaging to Trump, or simply boring.)
The latest updates:
• Donald Trump himself reportedly approved the stunt, only the latest display of White House contempt for both the law and national security considerations.
• Also approving the stunt in advance: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy dismissed the security implications of Republican members bringing cell phones into the secure space, bafflingly telling a reporter, “These are individuals who have never been in Intel Committee before or anywhere else. So it’s nothing serious from that matter.”
• Rather than the action being an unintentional oversight, some Republicans explicitly refused to turn over their unsecured cell phones to security when entering the facility.
• Rep. Alex Mooney brazenly recorded a "report from inside" the secure space, the latest House Republican to brag about committing a national security breach.
• Rep. Matt Gaetz's office handed out expired congressional passes to uncredentialed reporters and an HBO crew in an effort to boost publicity for the event.
• Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the House impeachment inquiry: “Clearly the White House was devastated by yesterday’s testimony. These witnesses have been willing to defy the administration and follow the law and come testify, so the president’s allies are trying to stop them through other means.”
Republicans invade impeachment hearing, disrupt testimony, and violate security protocol. (Daily Kos, October 23, 2019)
The impeachment inquiry isn’t just happening behind closed doors; it’s happening in a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) intended to prevent electronic eavesdropping. The purpose of this is both to protect the witnesses who come forward to speak after attempts by the White House to cut off their testimony, and to keep potential witnesses from listening in and calibrating their stories to what has already been said. But on Wednesday morning, a horde of Republican representatives let by Matt Gaetz charged into the impeachment inquiry, violating the security of a witness, and defying the ironclad rules around SCIF by bringing their cell phones into the confidential space.
Trump is now calling Republicans who oppose him 'human scum'. (Daily Kos, October 23, 2019)
The eliminationist and Nazi-like rhetoric from the White House ratcheted up dramatically on Wednesday as the ramifications of Ambassador William Taylor’s Tuesday testimony before a House Committee became public knowledge. In one tweet Trump labeled “Never Trump” Republicans—those in the GOP who are firmly and vocally opposed to his presidency—as “human scum,” noting that their numbers had been severely lessened.
Donald Trump's last defense against charges of extortion is more extortion. (Daily Kos, October 23, 2019)
On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump spent most of his early “executive time” retweeting items that, notably, had appeared before the impeachment inquiry testimony of Ambassador William Taylor on Tuesday, but eventually Trump staked out a new, fingers-clutching-the-edge-of-the-cliff position in his own defense. There can be no quid pro quo, declared Trump, because neither Taylor nor other witnesses have said that the Ukrainians knew that aid was being withheld.
Trump’s fallback position represents an extraordinary retreat. It would seem to acknowledge the indisputable fact that he was withholding military aid—a fact for which Trump has provided multiple, mutually exclusive excuses—and it would absorb the idea that Taylor and others knew that this aid was being withheld in order to gain the investigations that Trump sought.
There are only a few problems with this. First of all, of course the Ukrainians realized that the military aid had not appeared. Because it hadn’t appeared.
Phoenix officer fired after threatening to shoot parents of 4-year-old who 'stole' doll from Family Dollar. (Daily KOS, October 23, 2019)
In May, after visiting a dollar store in Phoenix, Arizona, with their young children, and heading back to an apartment complex to drop the kids at a babysitter, Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper found themselves descended upon by a swarm of police. You see their four-year-old daughter—not their other one-year-old daughter who doesn’t walk yet—had taken a doll out of the store without paying for it. After shouting Ames into his car, with the door closed, they pulled out their guns, trained them on Iesha Harper—who was holding her kids in the backseat of the car. The situation escalated with police officers treating the family and their children like they had just come out of a bank brandishing semi-automatic rifles. Expletives and threats to kill both parents were hurled by officers at the family during the arrests.
Ants are “immune” to traffic jams. (Ars Technica, October 23, 2019)
Unlike self-interested humans, ants have a common goal: The colony's survival.
NEW: We have the tools and technology to work less and live better. (Aeon, October 23, 2019)
Today’s discussions need to move beyond the old point about the marvels of technology, and truly ask: what is it all for? Without a conception of a good life, without a way to distinguish progress that’s important from that which keeps us on the hedonic treadmill, our collective inertia will mean that we never reach Keynes’s 15-hour working week.
NEW: Facebook announces steps to protect US 2020 elections; no mention of fact-checking political ads. (Medianama, October 23, 2019)
Facebook has announced a host of steps to protect US Presidential candidates for the 2020 elections and reduce foreign interference in the elections. With Facebook Protect, it will offer candidates, elected officials, federal and state departments and agencies, party committees, and their staff stronger account security protections such as two factor authentication. Facebook will also monitor accounts of people who opt-in to this service for potential hacking.
Confirmed page owner: Pages will now have a new “Organisations That Manage This Page” tab, featuring its “confirmed” owner, including the organisation’s legal name and verified city, phone number or website. If Facebook finds a Page to be concealing its ownership, it will be required to successfully complete the verification process and show more information in order to stay up.
Labelling state-sponsored media: From November 2019, the company will start labelling media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of a government as state-controlled media.
Ad-spend tracker: This transparency feature includes a U.S. presidential candidate spend tracker, more geographic spending details, information on which apps an ad appears on and programmatic access to downloads of political ad creative.
Labelling false/incorrect content: Over the next month, content across Facebook and Instagram that has been rated false or partly false by a third-party fact checker will start to be more prominently labelled. Facebook didn’t say who these third-party fact checkers are.
Banning voter-suppression ads: Facebook also said it’ll apply a wider ban on advertisements that are targeted towards voter suppression.
Reducing foreign interference in the 2020 US elections: Facebook said that it removed four foreign interference operations including one which targeted the 2020 US presidential elections. One of these networks was likely being run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which was behind the attempted Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections. The campaign used 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account with about 246,000 followers to publish nearly 75,000 posts, according to Graphika, which analysed the network for Facebook. In total, the company removed:
- 93 Facebook accounts, 17 Pages and four Instagram accounts originating from Iran and focusing primarily on the US for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. About 7,700 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around 145 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- 38 Facebook accounts, 6 Pages, 4 Groups and 10 Instagram accounts originating from Iran and focusing on countries in Latin America. About 13,500 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 4,200 accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 60,000 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
- 4 Facebook accounts, 3 Pages and 7 Instagram accounts that originated in Iran and focused mainly on the US.
These new policies come at a time when Facebook has been criticised for not fact checking political advertisements, and a leaked audio call of CEO Mark Zuckerberg talking to his employees has surfaced where he promises to fight back against any calls for breaking up the company.
NEW: The Impoundment Control Act of 1974: What Is It? Why Does It Matter? (U.S. House Committee on the Budget, October 23, 2019)
The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA) reasserted Congress’ power of the purse. Specifically, Title X of the Act - “Impoundment Control” - established procedures to prevent the President and other government officials from unilaterally substituting their own funding decisions for those of the Congress. The Act also created the House and Senate Budget Committees and the Congressional Budget Office.
Congress passed the ICA in response to President Nixon’s executive overreach; his Administration refused to release Congressionally-appropriated funds for certain programs he opposed.
Paul Krugman: The hole elected Republicans, especially in the Senate, have dug for themselves. (New York Times, October 23, 2019)
Many — perhaps most — Republican senators have always known that Trump is morally, emotionally and intellectually unfit for high office; they’re cynics, not idiots. At first, however, they decided that it was worth supporting him anyway.
Maybe I still have too much faith in human nature, but I’d like to imagine that there are some Republicans who look at themselves in the mirror and feel self-loathing, who might yet seize a chance at redemption. But how many G.O.P. senators still have a conscience? We’re probably going to find out in a few months.
Indicted Giuliani Associate Ties Case to Trump. (New York Times, October 23, 2019)
The connection was made as two associates of Rudolph W. Giuliani pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan. One of the two indicted associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on Wednesday tied the case to the president himself, saying that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign-finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege.
The unusual argument was raised by a defense lawyer in federal court in Manhattan as the two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they had made illegal campaign contributions to political candidates in the United States in exchange for potential influence. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have become unexpected figures in the events at the heart of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, having played a role in helping Mr. Giuliani’s efforts on behalf of President Trump to dig up information in Ukraine that could damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospective Democratic challenger.
New Evidence Hints at Another Justice Department Coverup. Mother Jones, October 22, 2019)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released evidence on Tuesday that the Justice Department buried the whistle-blower complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president by failing to refer the matter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Klobuchar suggested the Justice Department violated a longstanding agreement between the agencies to share information about possible campaign finance violations for potential enforcement action.
To recap: The whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the impeachment inquiry didn’t just contain evidence that the president pressured a foreign government to help him win reelection. It also contained evidence of a potential campaign finance violation.
NEW: Sorry—organic farming is actually worse for climate change. (MIT Technology Review, October 22, 2019)
The practice cuts greenhouse-gas emissions only if you ignore the inconvenient fact that it requires a lot more land.
NEW: GPS Jammed: Russia Is Messing with America's F-35s. (National Interest, October 22, 2019)
Russian forces have been jamming GPS systems in the Middle East. The electronic-warfare campaign could affect U.S. forces gathering in the region in advance of potential strikes on Iran.
Moscow is seeing what it can do. Great powers often experiment with ways to disrupt each others' weapons systems.
In late 2018 Finland and Norway both lodged complaints with Russia over the disruptions. “Defense and civil aviation chiefs in Finland and Norway warned that the GPS jamming posed a serious risk to both military and commercial aircraft using the affected airspace in the High North,” Defense News noted.
“Russia asked (us) to give proof. We gave them the proof,” Norwegian defense minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told Arctic Today. The proof consisted of measurements showing signals had been jammed. “Russia said, ‘Thank you, we will come back when our experts review that,’” Bakke-Jensen said. “To have such an answer from Russia is a positive thing,” he said. Bakke-Jensen implied the jamming was intentional. “They were exercising very close to the border and they knew this will affect areas on the other side,” Bakke-Jensen said of the Russians.
The U.S Army is planning to test jam-resistant GPS systems in Europe as a potential step toward countering Russian electronic warfare.
Facebook takedowns show new Russian activity targeted Biden, praised Trump. (Democratic Underground, October 21, 2019)
Facebook said the network bears the hallmark of the same Kremlin-backed group that interfered in the 2016 election by sowing social discord, boosting Trump and attacking Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The new disinformation campaign appears to follow the same playbook.
Trump urges GOP to ‘get tougher and fight’ impeachment as Pelosi details his ‘shakedown’ of Ukraine. (Washington Post, October 21, 2019)
NEW: A Top DHS Staffer Who Defended The Muslim Travel Ban Now Works At Google. (BuzzFeed, October 21, 2019)
Former DHS staffer Miles Taylor once defended a “tough” but “tailored” version of Trump’s controversial travel ban and served under Kirstjen Nielsen during the implementation of the family separation policy at the US–Mexico border.
NEW: ‘People fix things. Tech doesn’t fix things.’ (TechCrunch, October 21, 2019)
At the AI Now Institute, an interdisciplinary research center at New York University, Veena Dubal was a featured speaker. The symposium is the largest annual public gathering of the NYU-affiliated research group that examines AI’s social implications. Held at NYU’s largest theater in the heart of Greenwich Village, the symposium gathered a packed crowd of 800, with hundreds more on the waiting list and several viewing parties offsite. AI Now’s symposium represented the emergence of a no-nonsense, women and people of color-led, charismatic, compassionate, and crazy knowledgeable stream of tech ethics. Which may be bad news for companies that design and hawk AI as the all-purpose, all glamorous solution to seemingly every problem, despite the fact that it’s often not even AI doing the work they tout.
As the institute’s work demonstrates, harmful AI can be found across many segments of society, such as policing, housing, the justice system, labor practices and the environmental impacts of some of our largest corporations. AI Now’s diverse and inspiring speaker lineup, however, was a testament to a growing constituency that’s starting to hold reckless tech businesses accountable. As much as the banking class may panic at the thought of a Warren or Sanders presidency, Big Tech’s irresponsible actors and utopian philosopher bros should be keeping a watchful eye on the ascendance — a rise truly based on merit and competence, rather than cheap charisma — of this next generation of critics like Crawford, Whittaker, and Dubal.
NEW: Omniviolence Is Coming and the World Isn’t Ready. (Nautilus, October 21, 2019)
Technology is, in other words, enabling criminals to target anyone anywhere and, due to democratization, increasingly at scale. Emerging bio-, nano-, and cyber-technologies are becoming more and more accessible. The political scientist Daniel Deudney has a word for what can result: “omniviolence.” The ratio of killers to killed, or “K/K ratio,” is falling. For example, computer scientist Stuart Russell has vividly described how a small group of malicious agents might engage in omniviolence: “A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one-or two-gram shaped charge,” he says. “You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: ‘Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.’ A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.” Manufacturers will be producing millions of these drones, available for purchase just as with guns now, Russell points out, “except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch.” In this scenario, the K/K ratio could be perhaps 3/1,000,000, assuming a 10-percent accuracy and only a single one-gram shaped charge per drone.
Civilization is an experiment. We may not get the results we’re expecting. So humanity would do well to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
How the Butterfly Discovered Daylight (New York Times, October 21, 2019)
Nocturnal moths evolved into daytime butterflies not to escape bats, as biologists once thought, but to enjoy an abundant new drink: the nectar of flowering plants.
The speaker’s “fact sheet” outlines what her office characterized as a gross abuse of power by Trump, including a “shakedown,” “pressure campaign” and “cover up.”
Unsafe Used Cars for Sale; Unrepaired, recalled vehicles at AutoNation dealerships (USPIRG, October 20, 2019)
None of us want to drive unsafe cars -- but AutoNation is selling them. Our research partners at MASSPIRG Education Fund found unsafe, recalled used cars for sale at every AutoNation location surveyed. AutoNation claims to make buying a used vehicle "worry-free." But 1 in 9 cars at their surveyed locations had risky, unrepaired recalls.
AutoNation needs to do better to keep their customers safe. We know they're capable, because they promised once, in 2015, not to sell used vehicles with unrepaired recalls. But they changed their minds just a year later, and now dangerous recalls still put people at risk at their dealerships.
The Liberation of Mitt Romney (The Atlantic, October 20, 2019)
The newly rebellious senator has become an outspoken dissident in Trump’s Republican Party, just in time for the president’s impeachment trial.
John Feffer: The Far Right's War on Culture (TomDispatch, October 20, 2019)
It really does boil down to Us Versus Them.
Here’s a simple, if grim, reality: we are living in an ever more extreme world, as the residents of significant parts of California undoubtedly realized recently when the electricity went off amid ever increasing fears of wildfires; or the residents of the Houston area after it was drenched, in a mere two days, with a 40-inch flood of rain from a fierce tropical cyclone; or the residents of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas after it was essentially leveled by Dorian, a devastating category five hurricane; or those who live in Tokyo and nearby parts of Japan after the worst typhoon in more than six decades whacked that island nation. And so it not only goes but will go, as ever more greenhouse gas emissions head into the atmosphere, whether from the burning peatlands of Siberia, the still-burning rainforests of Brazil and Indonesia, or simply fossil-fuel companies intent, according to the Guardian, on flooding energy markets with ever increasing numbers of barrels of oil in the coming years. (“New research commissioned by the Guardian forecasts Shell and ExxonMobil will be among the leaders with a projected production increase of more than 35% between 2018 and 2030 -- a sharper rise than over the previous 12 years.”)
This, in turn, means that, barring change, our present extremity is only a taste of what’s to come as significant parts of the planet are ruled by leaders who are clearly pyromaniacs. Of course, these days when we talk about extremism -- especially in a nation whose citizenry is armed to the teeth, often with military-style weaponry, in a way no other country on Earth comes close to, not even Yemen -- we mean something else entirely. That word brings to mind a grim litany of white nationalism, racism, and repetitive mass slaughter.
If you’re not a member of the far right, if you don’t subscribe to its YouTube channels or follow its burgeoning Twitter accounts, you might have only scant acquaintance with this story. But once you start looking for it, the great replacement turns out to be omnipresent. Between 2012 and 2019, for instance, 1.5 million tweets in English, French, and German referenced it. You could hear an echo of the phrase at the Unite the Right gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, when neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other demonstrators chanted, “You will not replace us!” But the phrase really broke into the headlines in March 2019 when a mass shooter who opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people, titled the online manifesto he prepared for the occasion, “The Great Replacement.”
Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons. (New York Times, October 20, 2019)
A month before invading Kurdish areas in Syria, Turkey’s president said he “cannot accept” the West’s restrictions that keep him from a bomb.
Already Turkey has the makings of a bomb program: uranium deposits and research reactors — and mysterious ties to the nuclear world’s most famous black marketeer, Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan. It is also building its first big power reactor to generate electricity with Russia’s help. That could pose a concern because Mr. Erdogan has not said how he would handle its nuclear waste, which could provide the fuel for a weapon. Russia also built Iran’s Bushehr reactor.
With Turkey now in open confrontation with its NATO allies, having gambled and won a bet that it could conduct a military incursion into Syria and get away with it, Mr. Erdogan’s threat takes on new meaning. If the United States could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing our Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?
Trump reversed course on hosting G-7 at his club after learning that impeachment-weary Republicans were tired of defending him. (Washington Post, October 20, 2019)
Trump blamed his G-7 reversal on critics, saying on Twitter that his decision to scrap plans for a summit at the Doral club was “based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility.”
But behind closed doors, several aides and allies said, Trump changed his mind in response to pressure and frustration from his own party.
Russian Media Cheers Trump’s Moves in Syria: ‘Putin Won the Lottery!’ (Daily Beast, October 19, 2019)
For Russia, Trump’s presidency is a gift that keeps on giving. The Kremlin’s propagandists see no acceptable alternative among any viable presidential candidates in 2020.
By now, it’s become alarmingly clear that an increasing number of people are taking this bizarre, historically deficient, and thoroughly warped story to heart.
GOP panics after Graham challenger breaks fundraising record, and new poll shows 7-point gap. (Daily Kos, October 19, 2019)
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham may soon learn that his plan to convert himself into Trump’s bootlicker wasn’t such a hot idea after all. Although Graham is still currently the favorite to win in this safe Trump state, he is trending downward after several major embarrassments, with a historically low approval rating for an incumbent: 35%. Additionally, 58% said they want someone other than Graham representing them in the Senate. Although Graham remade himself into a sycophant, it has not helped him much as he tries to ride Trump’s coattails.
On the flip side, Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison has been steadily rising in the polls, with the latest national poll indicating that Harrison only trails Graham by seven points.
Sanders New York rally marks largest of primary campaign. (Washington Examiner, October 19, 2019)
Bernie Sanders's campaign rally in New York City brought in nearly 26,000 attendants, making it the largest audience of the entire Democratic primary thus far. At the "Bernie is Back" event in Queens, the Vermont senator sought to fight back against concerns that his White House run is in jeopardy following his heart attack earlier this month. The rally featured a number of high-profile speakers who offered their endorsements, including liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Trump’s season of weakness: A president who prizes strength enters key stretch in a fragile state. (Washington Post, October 19, 2019)
Trump now finds himself mired in a season of weakness. Foreign leaders feel emboldened to reject his pleas or contradict him. Officials inside his administration are openly defying his wishes by participating in the impeachment probe. Federal courts have ruled against him. Republican lawmakers are criticizing him. He has lost control over major conservative media organs. And polling shows a growing share of Americans disapprove of his job performance and support his impeachment.
Many of Trump’s Republican allies revolted over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops in Syria, which triggered a bloody Turkish invasion that killed Kurdish fighters and civilians. Trump bragged about sending a “very powerful letter” warning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to invade Syria. “Don’t be a fool!” Trump wrote. But Turkish officials leaked word that their leader had thrown the letter in the trash, and Erdogan then took Trump to task for his “lack of respect.”
Hamilton pushed for impeachment powers. Trump is what he had in mind. (Washington Post, October 19, 2019)
He wanted a strong president — and a way to get rid of the demagogic ones.
Michael Moore: Trump Is Heading For Impeachment Because Of 'High Crimes' Like We've Never Seen. (9-min. video; MSNBC, October 18, 2019)
Mitch McConnell: Withdrawing From Syria Is A Grave Mistake. (Washington Post, October 18, 2019)
The combination of a U.S. pullback and the escalating Turkish-Kurdish hostilities is creating a strategic nightmare for our country. Even if the five-day cease-fire announced Thursday holds, events of the past week have set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists. Unless halted, our retreat will invite the brutal Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers to expand their influence. And we are ignoring Russia’s efforts to leverage its increasingly dominant position in Syria to amass power and influence throughout the Middle East and beyond.
As neo-isolationism rears its head on both the left and the right, we can expect to hear more talk of “endless wars.” But rhetoric cannot change the fact that wars do not just end; wars are won or lost.
Bankrupted PG&E rejects San Francisco's bid to buy back the power grid. (Daily Kos, October 18, 2019)
After being convicted of felony obstruction “of knowingly failing to inspect and test its gas lines for potential dangers,” PG&E continued to choose to pad their executives’ bonuses and shareholder prices instead of upgrading their infrastructure and performing speedy safety analysis of their power grid. Those decisions have led to forced blackouts affecting millions of people.
In Hamburg, ‘Gesundheit’ Means More Than A Wish For Good Health. (Kaiser Health News, October 18, 2019)
Researchers around the world hail Germany for its robust health care system: universal coverage, plentiful primary care, low drug prices and minimal out-of-pocket costs for residents. But it turns out that tending to the health needs of low-income patients still presents universal challenges.
Life expectancy in the poorest areas of Hamburg is estimated to trail that in its wealthier neighborhoods by 13 years ― about equivalent to the gap between Piedmont, a particularly wealthy California suburb, and neighboring West Oakland. In Hamburg, the difference persists even though residents never skip out on doctors’ visits or medication because of cost.
Medical care is only part of the equation. An array of other factors ― known collectively as the “social determinants of health” ― factor strongly into these populations’ well-being. They include big-picture items like affordable healthy food and safe areas to exercise as well as small ones, like having the time and money to get to the doctor.
Republican Christians Credit God for Killing Elijah Cummings. (Daily Kos, October 17, 2019)
After flooding US with opioids, industry giants offer $50 billion settlement. (Ars Technica, October 17, 2019)
Settlement is uncertain as some plaintiffs want more details.
Press secretary tells Fox News that grieving parents lied about meeting with Trump. (Daily Kos, October 17, 2019)
And this, while there are thousands of families that have been separated and continue to be separated, their children put in cages, that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care about at all.
'News to us': DOJ distances itself from Mulvaney claim that Ukraine aid was tied to investigation. (Washington Examiner, October 17, 2019)
“The president has not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said immediately after the transcript's release. “The president has not asked the attorney general to contact Ukraine — on this or any other matter. The attorney general has not communicated with Ukraine — on this or any other subject. Nor has the attorney general discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”
“Let me ask you this — if we wanted to cover this up, would we have called the Department of Justice almost immediately and have them look at the transcript of the tape?” Mulvaney asked rhetorically on Thursday. “Which we did, by the way.”
The DOJ told the Washington Examiner that it "was first made aware of the June 25th transcript in mid-August."
Full October 15th Democratic Candidates Debate (coming soon; CNN, October 16, 2019)
Mulvaney emerges as a key facilitator of the campaign to pressure Ukraine. (Washington Post, October 16, 2019)
In late May, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney organized a meeting that stripped control of the country’s relationship with Ukraine from those who had the most expertise at the National Security Council and the State Department.
Instead, Mulvaney put an unlikely trio in charge of managing the U.S.-Ukraine account amid worrisome signs of a new priority, congressional officials said Tuesday: pressuring the fledgling government in Kiev to deliver material that would be politically valuable to President Trump. The work of those “three amigos,” as they came to call themselves — diplomats Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, plus Energy Secretary Rick Perry — has come to light in recent days through newly disclosed text messages and the testimony of government witnesses appearing before an impeachment inquiry in Congress.
Former FBI assistant director: Trump is 'spiraling downward, incredibly vulnerable' to foreign actors. (Daily Kos, October 16, 2019)
The fullness of Trump's deteriorating mental state led Kellyanne Conway spouse George to tweet out, "Are we ready yet to have a full national conversation about the diseased mental state of the president of the United States?"
NEW: Trump Is Winning the Online War. (New York Times, October 16, 2019)
The technical superiority and sophistication of the president’s digital campaign is a hidden advantage of incumbency.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties maintain and regularly update massive voter and non-voter lists that include details of credit card usage — magazine subscriptions, church and club dues, hunting and fishing licenses — that are all useful in predicting which candidates voters are more likely to choose.
Now, imagine a file with that, and every piece of information taken from your smartphone. This is the world we’re moving to. In this new terrain, the G.O.P. is running pretty far ahead of the Democrats innovating online, mostly because of its financial advantage.
Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies. (Pro Publica, October 16, 2019)
The president’s businesses made themselves appear more profitable to lenders and less profitable to tax officials. One expert calls the differing numbers “versions of fraud.”
Extremists Thank Trump for ISIS’ Chance to Return to Europe. (Daily Beast, October 16, 2019)
France won’t be the only country threatened by jihadis escaping in Syria thanks to Trump’s disastrous decisions, but it knows a lot about the people already planning new attacks.
Thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump pulling troops out of northeast Syria, French ISIS fighters, captured in recent years by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, are said to be escaping their captors—and rejoining their former comrades in what could mean a renaissance for the once mighty Islamic State. Between 400 and 450 French ISIS fighters have been detained in Kurdish camps in northeastern Syria. Last week, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring after Trump gave the de facto go-ahead by moving U.S. troops out of the way. The Kurds, desperate after being abandoned by the U.S., are now aligning themselves with the hated President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and no longer have the manpower to guard their prisons. As The Daily Beast reported, the American forces now withdrawing have had to turn their attention away from pursuing ISIS and focus on the risk that ISIS will be pursuing them.
NEW: Do we possess our possessions or do they possess us? (Aeon, October 16, 2019)
In 1859, around 450 passengers on the Royal Charter, returning from the Australian goldmines to Liverpool, drowned when the steam clipper was shipwrecked off the north coast of Wales. What makes this tragic loss of life remarkable among countless other maritime disasters was that many of those on board were weighed down by the gold in their money belts that they just wouldn’t abandon so close to home. Humans have a particularly strong and, at times, irrational obsession with possessions.
NEW: Microsoft on "Linux Is a Cancer": We’re an Open-Source Company Now. (Softpedia, October 15, 2019)
"Microsoft loves Linux, Redmond says on every occasion. While Microsoft is betting big on the open-source world going forward, the "Linux is a cancer" nightmare keeps coming back occasionally, especially from customers who aren’t necessarily sure that the Redmond-based software giant expanding in this direction is the right way to go. Microsoft, on the other hand, tries to convince everyone that it loves Linux on every single occasion, and one such moment took place earlier this week at the Red Hat Forum 2019 in Melbourne.
Microsoft Australia CTO Lee HIckin took the stage and the first thing he said concerned the controversial statement made by former CEO Steve Ballmer back in 2002. "I recognise the irony of Microsoft here at an open source community event. I'm really proud to do that, and I'm humbled and privileged that we can be on the stage with Red Hat to share our story," Hickin is quoted as saying by ZDNet. Hickin insisted Microsoft is a different company now, and the long-term strategy is betting big on open-source, not as a competitor, but as a fully-committed partner. "I say that with my hand on my heart in a very serious way: We are an open source company, we are committed to open source, we're committed to Red Hat, and we're committed to continuing our engagement and our support to a broad open source community through a range of technologies, not least of which GitHub is one."
Microsoft is indeed betting big on the Linux world, and living proof are its efforts to bring together the open-source concept and Windows. Windows 10 now ships with Windows Subsystem for Linux, a platform that has already reached its second generation and which allows users to run Linux on top of Windows 10, with several large companies supporting the project, including Canonical. And Microsoft says that investing in other products, like Azure, and working together with open-source partners, is living proof it’s not all about Windows these days. "We are not the proprietary Windows company; we are the open source cloud that has a range of services across a whole bunch of tools and technologies," Hickin concluded.
October Democratic debate highlights (3 45-min. videos; Washington Post, October 15, 2019)
The fourth Democratic debate has wrapped. On the stage were former vice president Joe Biden | Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) | Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) | Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) | South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg | former congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas | Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) | businessman Andrew Yang | Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) | former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro | Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) | businessman Tom Steyer.
Never Again? The Halle Attack and Everyday Anti-Semitism in Germany (Der Speigel, October 15, 2019)
Jews in Germany are taunted and harassed every day, often -- but by no means exclusively -- by the far right. This daily discrimination also sets the stage for violence against Jewish people.
Reporter: "20 years ago, you said not complying with a subpoena was an impeachable offense." Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: "Nothing's changed." (The Hill, October 15, 2019)
Hysterical Impeachment Syndrome: Now Trump is Attacking Both CNN and FOX News. (Daily Kos, October 15, 2019)
The severity of Trump's psychotic breakdown is leading him to ever more bizarre outbursts and tantrums. As his mental infirmity declines, his incoherent raving accelerates. In just the past few days this has manifested in absurd threats to sue Nancy Pelosi, nauseating mimicry of orgasms, and hypocritical assaults on the business affairs of wealthy, politically connected children.
The four biggest foes of America that gain from Trump’s Syria pullout. (Washington Post, October 14, 2019)
When President Trump announced his decision to pull troops from northern Syria, his critics immediately warned that the move would pave the way for a Turkish offensive with potentially catastrophic repercussions. State Department officials swiftly denied that Trump supported the Turkish incursion. Meanwhile, Trump appeared convinced he had made the right choice. “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,” Trump wrote.
They now indeed are, but not to the advantage of the United States. “What’s clear is that the U.S. has shot itself into the foot,” said Ali Fathollah-Nejad, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.
The U.S. pullout has enabled Turkey to pursue its military incursion without having to fear U.S. interference, but it has also created opportunities for four of the United States’ key foes: Iran, the Assad regime, Russia and — potentially — the Islamic State group.
The biggest losers — it appears at this stage — are the allies who fought alongside U.S. soldiers in Syria: Europe and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney Tells Fox News Turkey Invaded Syria Because Democrats Launched Impeachment Inquiry Against Trump. (1-min. video; Newsweek, October 14, 2019)
Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney claimed in an interview with Fox News on Monday morning that Democrats are to blame for Turkey's invasion of Syria because they launched an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, despite the fact that the president withdrew U.S. forces from the Middle Eastern nation to give the Turkish forces the greenlight to enter. "I also want to say that the impeachment proceedings that are going on and what the Democrats are doing themselves to try to weaken this president is part of this," Cheney, who represents Wyoming and is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, argued. "It was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border," she claimed. "And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they're doing with the impeachment proceedings."
Although Cheney may have attempted to shift the blame to Democrats on Monday, many other Republican lawmakers have directly attacked the president for his decision and its repercussions.
U.S. Cedes Syrian City to Russia in Battlefield 'Handover' as Turkey Tries to Take It. (Newsweek, October 14, 2019)
The U.S. was scheduled as of Monday to officially withdraw from Manbij within 24-hours, leaving the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces behind as two rival factions—the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents opposed to it—sought to seize control of the strategic location. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that U.S. personnel, "having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly."
"It is essentially a handover," the official said. "However, it's a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved."
Trump’s retreat in Syria turns into a mess. (Washington Post, October 14, 2019)
A week ago, President Trump shocked Washington and announced he wouldn’t impede an imminent Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria. Now, in the space of just a few days, his administration is already reaping what it sowed.
Turkey’s incursions at various points along its border with Syria began on Wednesday and, by the weekend, had already plunged the region into chaos. Turkish artillery pounded Syrian Kurdish positions, while footage emerged appearing to show Turkish-affiliated militiamen carrying out grisly roadside executions of Kurdish fighters allied to the United States. Tens of thousands of panicked civilians attempted to flee the Turkish-led advance, raising fears of an eventual exodus into Iraqi Kurdistan, where more than a million people displaced by conflict still live in camps.
Trump, who spent part of the weekend at one of his golf courses, insisted on Twitter that his country ought to be rid of its commitments in the “quicksand” of the Middle East. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation" on Sunday that the United States was now in “a very untenable situation” and would evacuate its roughly 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria entirely. The order to remove troops came Saturday, toward the end of a chaotic day in which the viability of the U.S. mission in Syria rapidly unraveled after Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel proxies advanced deep into Syrian territory and cut U.S. supply lines.
It flew in the face of the Pentagon’s assurances last week that the United States would not “abandon” its Syrian Kurdish partners, who have been on the front lines in the war against the Islamic State and borne the brunt of the casualties in a U.S.-led campaign.
Syrian troops enter towns in northeast as Erdogan warns of wider offensive. (Washington Post, October 14, 2019)
The abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria has unleashed dramatic developments, with Syrian government forces retaking territory long held by U.S. allies and Turkish-led forces expanding their offensive. Here’s what we know so far.
- Syrian government troops have moved back into towns in northeastern Syria for the first time in years after U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, in a stunning reversal, reached a deal with the government.
- Turkish-backed rebels have begun a push to retake the northern city of Manbij, which has long been a flash point.
- Hundreds of Islamic State family members have escaped a detention camp in Ain Issa, which has been the administrative capital of the Kurdish-led government in northeastern Syria.
Hobby Lobby Scandal Widens as Museum of the Bible Admits Oxford Prof Sold Illicit Papyri to Green Family. (Daily Beast, October 14, 2019)
The Museum of the Bible revealed today that at least 13 biblical fragments in its collection were illicitly sold by a Oxford professor to Hobby Lobby's Green family.
NEW: Goodbye, Columbus. (First Nations News and Views, October 14, 2019)
What we need is not only a name change of the federal holiday from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day but an honest exploration of our painful history. We need to show our children we can look at “heroes” with clear eyes and use that clarity to build a society which we can truly be proud of and pass on to future generations.
Biden vs. Warren: A Difference of Philosophy, Not Just Policy (Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2019)
Do Democratic voters want a period of calm and order post-Trump or a crusade that promises more disruption of the status quo?
Biden goes old. Sanders goes young. Warren is in-between. What Facebook ads reveal about 2020. (New York Times, October 14, 2019)
It's about time: Biden, Democratic candidates punch back against shoddy press coverage. (Daily Kos, October 13, 2019)
No longer willing to stoically suffer through bad, misleading press coverage, Democrats are borrowing a page from Republicans by going public with their complaints and demanding journalists do better. But unlike Republicans who often “work the refs” by griping about imaginary slights in hopes of better treatment in the future, Democrats are calling out the press with wholly accurate claims of media malpractice.
Last week, Joe Biden's presidential campaign sent a blistering letter to New York Times editor Dean Baquet, reprimanding the paper for helping spread Donald Trump's debunked conspiracy theory about Joe Biden and his son's business dealings in Ukraine. It's "part of a larger strategy not to let the same coverage that corrupted the 2016 election happen this time around," a campaign source told CNN's Brian Stelter.
The stinging critique from Biden came one day after the Times published an opinion column from discredited right-wing author Peter Schweizer, once again hyping the Biden/Ukraine story. Schweizer, who wrote a patently dishonest book about Hillary Clinton in 2015 alleging all sorts of made-up crimes—a book the Times helped market and promote during the campaign—has been peddling the Biden smear all year within the far-right media ecosystem.
Macabre Video of Fake Trump Shooting Media and Critics Is Shown at His Resort. (New York Times, October 13, 2019)
A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort last week. Several of Mr. Trump’s top surrogates — including his son Donald Trump Jr., his former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis — were scheduled to speak at the three-day conference, which was held by a pro-Trump group, American Priority, at Trump National Doral Miami.
Every time, it's the same long con job. (Daily Kos, October 13, 2019)
You know what it is when you recognize it: It's a scam. It's a con job. It's the same con job that Donals Trump has been playing since the beginning.
In 2016 he used rumors, innuendo, and blatant smears to sully Hillary Clinton's reputation and defeat her in the Electoral College with ardent help from Russia—and reluctant, half-hearted help from then-FBI director James Comey. Trump did this while he was caught up in a scandal of numerous sexual assault allegations, while he was attempting to forge a secret deal to build a billion-dollar Trump Tower in Moscow, and also was secretly paying off two former mistresses not to reveal his secret in the 11th hour of the election.
Each time, he's corrupt as a crooked scarecrow. He's violated security protocols, clearances, and rules of sketchy foreign entanglements while pointing the finger the other way. He's a hustler. He's a grifter. And he been caught red-handed, again and again and again.
Donald Trump is a national emergency, and the Republicans own it. (Daily Kos, October 13, 2019)
The Republican Party owns Donald Trump. Every Republican who has done nothing to stop him is fully complicit, and that includes every Republican member of the Senate. That also includes the invertebrate Republicans who posture and do nothing. Trump's corruption is their corruption. Trump's failures are their failures. Trump's devastation of national security is their devastation of national security. Trump's attempts to destroy the republic are their attempts to destroy the republic. This is who the Republicans are. This is not a drill.
Who's afraid of Donald Trump? No one. And for Trump, that's the real end game. (Daily Kos, October 12, 2019)
There’s a genuine dilemma for Trump here. In past impeachment efforts, the cover-up has been worse than the crime. But in this case, the crime—extorting an allied nation for personal political gain—is worse than any cover-up. Still, that doesn’t make the cover-up any less a crime in its own right. Trump is damned if he does obstruct, damned if he doesn’t. Because he has already damned himself, but good.
Yesterday, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch provided the House impeachment inquiry with 10 hours of testimony detailing how she had been hounded by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani; how she had been forced to resist repeated attempts to break both protocol and law to forward Trump and Giuliani’s schemes in Ukraine; and how she was ultimately removed from her position on the basis of conspiracy theories and lies. And the best talking point the White House could generate, the best thing that Republicans had to offer, was that it was unfair to make Yovanovitch explain how Giuliani set her up and Trump knocked her down. It was bullying to have her stand up and tell Congress how Trump chopped off a 30-year career of service so he could find someone willing to go along with an international shakedown.
But far more important than any particular detail that Yovanovitch shared was the fact that she was there and talking at all, despite an order to defy Congress and stay silent. She did not. Instead she obeyed a congressional subpoena and testified. That action alone shows that the walls are down. Trump’s castle of lies is crumbling.
Man calls police for wellness check on black neighbor's home, white cop shoots and kills her instead. (Daily Kos, October 12, 2019)
A Fort Worth woman was shot and killed in her own home early Saturday by one of the police officers sent to do a wellness check on her residence.
This is the seventh shooting of a civilian by the department since June 1, and the sixth to be fatal. “It makes you not want to call the police department,” James Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Smith is struggling in the wake of the shooting: He’s the one who dialed a Fort Worth non-emergency number after noticing his neighbor’s door was ajar and lights were on in the home of Atatiana Jefferson, 28, her aunt, and an 8-year-old nephew.
Activists’ phones were targeted by one of the world’s most advanced spyware apps. (Ars Technica, October 12, 2019)
"Pegasus," developed by Israel-based NSO Group, stalks 2 Moroccans, researchers say.
Turkey’s invasion of Syria puts Islamic State fight on hold at a critical time. (Washington Post, October 11, 2019)
A senior official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said anti-ISIS operations had come to a complete halt because U.S. troops need partners on the ground and the SDF is too busy confronting Turkey.
Trump administration threatens sanctions against Turkey if incursion into Syria destabilizes region.
Israelis see Trump’s Syria pullout as a ‘betrayal’.
This Isn't a Drill, It's the Catastrophe. (Der Speigel, October 11, 2019)
On Wednesday, a terrorist in the city of Halle, located in former East Germany, went on a shooting spree targeting Jews. Armed with a rifle, a bulletproof vest, and four kilograms of explosives in the trunk of his car, the man drove to the synagogue. There were 51 people inside. The only reason he didn't make it into the synagogue was because the door didn't give way when he fired at it. Instead, he murdered two other people.
Germany is a country where hatred for those who are perceived to be different slides effortlessly from a tick on the election ballot to genocide. It's not enough to install a few security cameras -- it's time for an antifascist consensus.
Trump's disastrous impeachment polling sends shock waves through GOP. (Daily Kos, October 11, 2019)
It didn't matter which poll you looked at this week—they were all bad news for Donald Trump, as well as for GOP lawmakers seeking reelection in 2020. Public support for impeachment grew rapidly in every poll, with nearly all of them finding majority support for the inquiry and two finding 50% support or more for Trump's impeachment and removal from office.
Rounding out the week, the NPR/Marist/PBS poll found 52% support for the impeachment inquiry in a survey that showed independent voters had flipped in mere weeks from majority opposition to the inquiry (50%-44%) to majority support for it (54%-41%). That's a 19-point swing for independents from late September to now.
The poll also found that 61% of respondents don't think Trump shares the moral values that most Americans try to live by. And with regard to a president asking a foreign leader to investigate a political rival, fully 68% of Americans said it was not acceptable, including 64% of independents and even 40% of Republicans.
These polls, including the Fox News poll that found majority support for Trump's removal, have reportedly sent shock waves through both Washington and Republican circles.
Trump loses appeal to stop House subpoena of his tax documents. (CNN, October 11, 2019)
The opinion is a strong signal that the White House's letter earlier this week refusing to cooperate with the impeachment probe without a full House vote authorizing it would not hold up in court. The court specifically weighed in on this idea, writing it has "no authority" to require the House to take a full vote in support of a subpoena to investigate the President, citing the Constitution. "The courts lack the power to invalidate a duly authorized congressional subpoena merely because it might have been 'better [if]...the full House' had specifically authorized or issued it," the court wrote. "Unless and until Congress adopts a rule that offends the Constitution, the courts get no vote in how each chamber chooses to run its internal affairs."
NEW: See Elizabeth Warren's simple response to a marriage equality question. (4-min. video; CNN, October 11, 2019)
What to Know About Eleanor Roosevelt’s Radical Progressive Legacy (Teen Vogue, October 11, 2019)
On the 135th anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt's birthday, the Roosevelt Network's Katie Kirchner celebrates the former first lady's advocacy for social justice.
Extreme disasters are costing more but killing fewer. (Ars Technica, October 11, 2019)
While the average cost isn't changing much, the most costly disasters are rising.
Massive California Power Outage Triggers Chaos in Science Labs. (Scientific American, October 11, 2019)
Researchers without access to backup power scramble to save invaluable specimens and expensive reagents.
A mob of horny tarantulas is prowling San Francisco. (CNet, October 10, 2019)
Tarantula mating season in Northern California is extended, thanks to higher temperatures.
It’s Lights Out in California to Deal With Climate Risks. (Scientific American, October 10, 2019)
More than a million people in Northern California lost power yesterday in an intentional blackout that reveals the stunning measures utilities and state officials will take to ameliorate the risk of wildfire as the effects of climate change become more apparent.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which provides electric service to 5.4 million customers in California, said it cut power to 800,000 of them to protect people, work crews and property from a potential outbreak of wildfires. It’s unclear how many people would be affected, but it stands to far surpass the number of homes and buildings that would lose power. The move comes as California grapples with an extraordinary string of destructive wildfire seasons. Last year’s was worse than any other. More than 8,000 fires burned 1.8 million acres statewide, shattering past records and punctuating scientific warnings that climate change is altering the frequency and ferocity of wildfires.
Rudy Giuliani is in over his head! A thorough analysis of U.S. political corruption in action. (18-min. video; The Young Turks, October 10, 2019)
"The American government is for sale." Details follow.
At least four national security officials raised alarms about Ukraine policy before and after Trump call with Ukrainian president. (Washington Post, October 10, 2019)
At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump’s July 25 call with that country’s president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter. The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood — including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry of the president.
As Trump Administration Downplays Warming, Agencies Chronicle Climate Impacts. (Scientific American, October 9, 2019)
Environmental reviews emphasize the relatively small contributions from individual infrastructure projects, ignoring the bigger picture.
“The reality is that the administration is in a corner,” Hayes said. “It’s denied the science, but scientists that participate in the preparation of [environmental reviews] have no choice but to explain what’s really happening. And as a result ... the courts are not willing to defer to the administration, given its hypocrisy.”
Republican anger at Trump grows as Turkey launches 'sickening' attack on US allies. (CNN, October 9, 2019)
Turkey launched its military operation to flush Kurds allied with the US out of northeastern Syria Wednesday, sparking outrage in Congress and creating rare bipartisan unity about the risks to Kurds, US national security interests, regional stability and the fight against ISIS. The attack has highlighted a rare Republican willingness to directly criticize President Donald Trump, who apparently gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the go-ahead on Sunday to proceed with his long-planned move against Kurdish fighters who make up part of the Syrian Defense Forces who had fought against ISIS with the US.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland on Wednesday announced a framework to place immediate sanctions on senior Turkish government officials, ban all US military business and military transactions with Turkey, and immediately activate 2017 sanctions on the country to remain in place until Ankara stops its operations against the Kurds. "This unlawful and unwarranted attack against an American friend and partner threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of civilians, many of whom have already fled from their homes elsewhere in Syria to find safety in this region," Graham and Van Hollen said in a statement. "This invasion will ensure the resurgence of ISIS in Syria, embolden America's enemies including Al Qaeda, Iran, and Russia, and launch yet another endless conflict in what had been, until today, one of the most safe and stable areas of Syria and a region experimenting with the best model of local governance currently available in that war-torn country."
The White House announced that US troops would move out the way and would not support or be involved in the operation.
Turkey Launches Syria Offensive, Targeting U.S.-Backed Kurds. (New York Times, October 9, 2019)
Turkey’s long-planned move to root out United States-allied Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria has accelerated rapidly since President Trump gave the operation a green light in a call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Sunday. The operation could open a dangerous new front in Syria’s eight-year-old war, pitting two United States allies against each other and raising the specter of sectarian bloodletting. Even before it began, it had set off fierce debates in Washington over Mr. Trump’s Syria policy.
On Wednesday, after the operation had begun, Mr. Trump clarified his position. “The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” he said in a statement. “Turkey,” he added, “has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment.”
Celebrating 50 Years of Unix (Bell Labs, October 9, 2019)
The summer of 1969 was one of the most culturally significant times in modern American history. It was the summer when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, more than 400,000 people attended the legendary