Comments

  1. says

    Vox – “Georgia Republicans cancel election for state Supreme Court, meaning governor can appoint a Republican”:

    The state of Georgia was supposed to hold an election Tuesday to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court. Justice Keith Blackwell, a Republican whose six-year term expires on the last day of this year, did not plan to run for reelection. The election, between former Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, would determine who would fill Blackwell’s seat.

    But then something weird happened: Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, canceled Tuesday’s election. Instead, Kemp will appoint Blackwell’s successor, and that successor will serve for at least two years — ensuring the seat will remain in Republican hands.

    On May 14, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively blessed this scheme to keep Blackwell’s seat in the GOP’s hands. The court’s decision in Barrow v. Raffensperger is unusual in many regards — among other things, six of the state’s regular Supreme Court justices recused from the case, and they were replaced by five lower court judges who sat temporarily on the state’s highest court. The court’s decision in Barrow turns upon poorly drafted language in the state constitution, which does suggest that Blackwell, Kemp, and Raffensperger’s scheme was legal.

    As a practical matter, this decision is likely to prove very easy for retiring justices to game if they belong to the same political party as the incumbent governor. Indeed, under the court’s decision in Barrow, Blackwell likely could have announced that he would resign effective December 30 — just one day before his term would have expired — and Kemp still would have gained the power to name Blackwell’s replacement.

    Indeed, Kemp could potentially even appoint Blackwell to fill the vacancy created by Blackwell’s early resignation. That would effectively give Blackwell an eight-year term, rather than a six-year term. And nothing would prevent Blackwell from running for election again in 2022.

    The upshot of Barrow is likely to be that when a justice who belongs to the same party as the governor wishes to retire, they will submit a postdated resignation similar to the one Blackwell submitted to Kemp. That will effectively give that justice’s party an extra two years to hold on to the justice’s seat before the next election takes place.

  2. says

    Moscow Times – “Chechen Leader Orders Sacking of Medics Complaining of PPE Shortage”:

    Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has ordered the firing of local medics who complained of personal protective equipment shortages and the death of at least one colleague, the regional Caucasus Knot news outlet reported Sunday.

    Staff at a hospital repurposed for coronavirus patients in the town of Gudermes staged protests last week claiming that many of their colleagues are infected and demanding PPE from their employers. They apologized on Chechen television two days later for what they said were unfounded complaints.

    “Provocateurs must be fired,” Kadyrov said at a regional coronavirus task force meeting Friday, according to the Caucasus Knot.

    “We have enough of everything: equipment, costumes, masks, oxygen, medicine,” the state-run TASS news agency quoted him as saying. “On the contrary, we can provide assistance to other regions. We have at least 30,000 to 40,000 anti-plague costumes, we buy millions of masks.”

    Kadyrov also reportedly singled out a “mad” Chechen doctor who mistakenly reported a colleague’s death and demanded her firing.

    The Gudermes central district hospital’s chief doctor has been fired and replaced following a visit by Chechen parliamentary speaker Magomed Daudov….

  3. raven says

    Ironically, what Oregon was doing to combat the Covid-19 pandemic was working.
    They have a low death total at 138, the 6th lowest per capita rate in the USA.

    This is partly luck and mostly due to getting on top of the pandemic early and shutting down.

    The GOP continues with their strategy of fixing things that aren’t broken and killing lots of people.

  4. raven says

    @8 ties in with an older comment lost in the rollover.
    Repost for clarity.

    KVAL.com 5/18/2020
    Oregon Supreme Court temporarily reinstates Brown’s coronarvirus restrictions

    PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court late Monday halted a rural judge’s order earlier in the day that had tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.

    Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff had ruled that Brown erred by not seeking the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit.

    A judge in a rural county in Oregon tossed out all of Oregon’s rules and laws to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
    The judge in a county with 16,000 people is now running the Covid-19 pandemic response for a state of 4.3 million people.
    Or rather not running it because he abolished it.

    For a few hours anyway.
    The Oregon Supreme court stayed his ruling pending further consideration.

    They could still abolish the state government’s ability to do anything about the Covid-19 pandemic, as happened in Wisconsin.
    The GOP is so predictable.
    They really don’t care how many people they kill.

  5. says

    Anthony Costello in the Guardian – “The Sage advice must be published now to find where Britain got coronavirus wrong”:

    …Grieving families need to know what advice was given and how it was acted on. I have repeatedly called for a rapid and no-blame audit of Sage advice, to take the pressure off its members, so that we can learn the lessons from the scientific debates that might have led to well-intentioned misjudgments.

    It’s clear that in the early stages of the outbreak, Sage was over-focused on using pandemic influenza as a guideline – a virus with a much lower death rate, a lower R value (around 1.3) and a short incubation period, which makes testing redundant. Its modelling and behavioural subcommittees were labelled with the prefix SPI – scientific pandemic influenza groups. And its rigid contain-delay-research-mitigate strategy comes from the influenza handbook. But this was coronavirus not flu. And it simply didn’t listen to advice from the World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who, when declaring a pandemic on 11 March, said: “The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous.”

    Understanding these discussions and decisions must come from the accurate, full and public release of the Sage meeting minutes from 28 January up to the present day. And from the evidence of Sage academics who volunteered their time and expertise. This can be done without blame or pointing fingers. Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the minutes would be released when the epidemic is over – we are coming towards the end of the coronavirus surge, so that time is now.

    Sage has been bedevilled by a lack of transparency and balance. If independent public health experts had not been excluded from the core committee, which is dominated by modellers, virologists, clinical academics and behavioural scientists, the influenza-driven “herd immunity” strategy might not have materialised. If the blame is now subtly being shifted to public health colleagues by core members of Sage, then this heightens the necessity for full transparency. MPs and the scientific community should press for the unredacted release of meeting minutes immediately.

    Those minutes have assumed greater importance given the slow and fragmented response by the UK in mounting a sustainable and locally integrated system for finding, testing, tracing and isolating Covid-19 cases. Four months into this epidemic, we are not even close to having a system ready for lifting the lockdown. As an editorial in last week’s British Medical Journal declared: “Meaningless political soundbites promising to recruit 18,000 contact tracers, test 200,000 people a day, or invest in unjustified contact tracing apps, divert focus and could lead to more deaths.”

    The government has thus far provided the names of 60 contributors to Sage – but its core decision-making group should also be listed.

    Over the last two months, the British public has complied with social distancing meticulously. It has witnessed, at first hand, the greatest public health disaster in a century, and the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including more than 180 health workers and volunteers, and more than 200 care workers. The public deserves the hard data, scientific opinions and the minutes of Sage meetings – not recollections in the media from senior members – to help us all understand how we got here.

  6. says

    Despite their focus on an economic recovery, Team Trump seems to be intent on killing the economy.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week acknowledged the severity of the economic circumstances, while conceding there are limits as to what the Fed can do through monetary policy. He urged elected officials to approve “additional fiscal support” — i.e., Powell wants them to spend a lot money — in order to “avoid long-term economic damage.”

    House Democrats appear to be on the same page, passing a $3 trillion economic aid package last week called the HEROES Act (the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act). At the time, the legislation appeared to be an opening bid from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who hoped to see a Republican alternative as part of the negotiations process.

    So far, GOP officials have offered nothing, […]

    White House officials are increasingly predicting a swift economic recovery as they break off talks with Congress on additional federal stimulus, expressing optimism that the “reopening” of states will reverse the economic damage caused by the coronavirus. President Trump and his senior advisers, encouraged by the relative strength of the stock market and some indicators like credit card receipts, have in recent days expressed confidence the U.S. economy will roar back to life in the second half of this year despite staggering increases in unemployment and small business closures.

    […] Donald Trump and his team have clearly put on their rose-colored glasses. As the Post’s report added, Kevin Hassett said the administration has “a little bit of a luxury to watch and see” before having to approve additional economic aid.

    “I’ve been really positively impressed by how quickly things are turning around,” Hassett told reporters. He later added. “I was pretty depressed about how bad it looked a few weeks ago, but you can really see it turning on faster than I thought.”

    Obviously, it’d be great for everyone if Hassett and his optimistic colleagues were correct. The trouble is, Hassett is nearly always wrong.

    The New York Times’ Paul Krugman recently took stock of the conservative economist’s record, noting Hassett’s failed predictions from 1999 about the stock market. And Hassett’s denial in the mid-2000s about the housing bubble. And Hassett’s failed predictions about inflation in 2010. And his misguided projections in 2017 about Republican tax cuts. […]

    Hassett also created a “cubic fit” model, embraced by Trump World, that projected that the daily fatalities from COVID-19 would drop to zero by, well, now. [Link]

    […] Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, added yesterday, “Things are starting to turn — that’s my take.” Again, it’d be great if that were true, but the reliability of Kudlow’s predictions — about the economy and the pandemic — are arguably worse than Hassett’s.

    I’d love to see the landscape and feel a sense of optimism, but given Team Trump’s track record for predictions, especially related to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s awfully tough to have confidence in the assurances these guys are peddling.

    Link

  7. says

    Follow-up to tomh’s comment #2.

    It was curious enough when Donald Trump’s re-election campaign launched a new “investigative” website yesterday, but the name of the venture is what really raised eyebrows.

    […] Trump’s re-election campaign announced Monday a new “investigative” website that prioritizes “truth over facts.” The site, in fact, is called TheTruthOverFacts.com. The goal of the site, according to a release, is to uncover “the truth behind Joe Biden’s never-ending, seemingly incomprehensible statements during his third, plodding campaign for president.” The release says the site will utilize “experts,” but puts the word in quotation marks. [WTF?]

    One of these days, these guys will figure out how quotation marks work and it will be a glorious day for us all.

    […] observers immediately speculated as to why in the world the president’s campaign team would prioritize “truth over facts” — as if there were something suspect about facts. […]

    The origin of the name, it turns out, was quite a bit dumber.

    Evidently, Joe Biden appeared at the Iowa State Fair last August. As part of an extended riff on how Democrats are different from Republicans, the former president meant to say, “We choose truth over lies.” Instead, Biden accidentally said, “We choose truth over facts.”

    It was a harmless slip-up, which was quickly forgotten — except by assorted Trump followers, who treated this as an important blunder, even making t-shirts featuring the phrase.

    With this in mind, when Trump/Pence 2020 unveiled the new online project, the president’s campaign operatives were apparently confident that people would get the obscure anti-Biden reference from nine months ago. It was, in effect, an inside joke that Trump World assumed everyone would get.

    Those who live in a bubble are often surprised when others fail to relate to the bubble’s interior.

    Team Trump’s press release on the new website referenced hidden meanings in Biden rhetoric that “most normal people would miss.” It’s unclear whether that was deliberately ironic or not.

    Link

    JFC.

  8. says

    Politico – “‘Hard stop’: States could lose National Guard virus workers”:

    More than 40,000 National Guard members currently helping states test residents for the coronavirus and trace the spread of infections will face a “hard stop” on their deployments on June 24 — just one day shy of many members becoming eligible for key federal benefits, according to a senior FEMA official.

    The official outlined the Trump administration’s plans on an interagency call on May 12, an audio version of which was obtained by POLITICO. The official also acknowledged during the call that the June 24 deadline means that thousands of members who first deployed in late March will find themselves with only 89 days of duty credit, one short of the 90-day threshold for qualifying for early retirement and education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI bill.

    The looming loss of crucial frontline workers, along with questions about whether the administration is shortchanging first responders, would require a delicate messaging strategy, the official — representing FEMA’s New England region — told dozens of colleagues on the interagency call.

    “We would greatly benefit from unified messaging regarding the conclusion of their services prior to hitting the 90-day mark and the retirement benefit implications associated with it,” the official said.

    Governors and lawmakers in both parties have been pleading with the White House to extend the federal order for several more months or until the end of the year, warning in a letter to Trump that terminating federal deployments early in the summer just as states are reopening “could contribute to a possible second wave of infection.”

    More than 40,000 Guard members are currently serving under federal orders known as Title 32, which grants them federal pay and benefits but puts them under local command, in 44 states, three territories and the District of Columbia — the largest domestic deployment since Hurricane Katrina.

    Tens of thousands of them have been working full-time since early March on a wide range of sensitive and dangerous tasks, such as decontaminating nursing homes and setting up field hospitals, along with performing tests for the virus. They’ve provided a crucial backup for understaffed and underfunded state public health agencies trying to contain the pandemic.

    The cost of the deployment is as much as $9 million per month for every 1,000 troops, according to the National Council of State Legislatures — an expense that states would have to shoulder should Title 32 expire. In addition, state deployments do not count toward federal education and retirement benefits.

    The 45,000-member National Guard Association and some state officials told POLITICO that they suspect the Trump administration timed its orders to limit the deployment to 89 days — one short of the number that would qualify the earliest participants for certain education and retirement benefits.

    Guard members must serve for 20 years to qualify for a pension at age 60. But for every 90 days serving during a federal emergency, Guard members can move up that retirement by three months. Ninety days of service also qualifies members for 40 percent off the tuition at a public college or university.

    Because the National Guard members have to self-quarantine for two weeks before returning to civilian life to ensure they don’t spread the virus after serving on the front lines, states could lose their services in early June.

    Trump’s original order calling up Guard members to help with the coronavirus crisis had been scheduled to expire on May 31. With the deadline approaching, Colorado’s entire congressional delegation — Republicans and Democrats alike — wrote to the president asking for an extension until the end of the year. Senators from New Hampshire, Connecticut, West Virginia and Illinois sought an extension through the fall. And several officials, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have written letters asking for an extension until at least June 30.

    Instead, the White House issued an unusual 24-day extension that terminates the deployment mid-week.

    “It seemed kind of weird to me,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, president of the National Guard Association, the advocacy group for Guard members. “It’s a Wednesday. And it also coincides with 89 days of deployment for any soldiers who went on federal status at the beginning. I was getting all kind of calls about it and I said, ‘It’s probably just a coincidence.’ But in the back of my mind, I know better. They’re screwing the National Guard members out of the status they should have.”

    The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment….

  9. says

    Of course.

    To dismiss V.A. research, Trump peddles odd theory

    There’s no evidence of V.A. researchers rigging a recent study to undermine Trump, but that didn’t stop him from peddling the allegation anyway.

    After claiming that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine, regardless of the risks, Donald Trump was asked for evidence that the untested medication has a preventative effect for those concerned about the coronavirus. The president replied that some unnamed people said “positive” things to him over the phone, which was all the evidence he needed.

    But as part of the same response, Trump acknowledged that researchers found some discouraging results, though he’s not inclined to believe them. From the White House transcript:

    “The only negative I’ve heard was the study where they gave it — was it the VA? With, you know, people that aren’t big Trump fans gave it….”

    Whether the president understands this or not, there have been several recent reports pointing to the fact that this medication, at best, is useless when it comes to treating or preventing COVID-19. At worst, if used improperly by people who don’t need it, hydroxychloroquine can apparently be quite dangerous.

    It’s what the Journal of the American Medical Association found. And what the New England Journal of Medicine found. In recent weeks, we’ve seen similar assessments from the NIH and the FDA, the latter of which pointed to risks of serious side effects, “including heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.”

    In other words, when Trump says he’s only aware of one “negative” study, it may be because he’s struggling to keep up with current events.

    But perhaps more important is the president’s suggestion of some kind of conspiracy theory at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    […] U.S. veterans hospitals did a large analysis, treating coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine. The research not only found no medicinal benefit, it also saw higher death rates among those taking the drug.

    It’d be one thing if Trump dismissed the findings, preferring instead to listen to unidentified telephone pals. But note that the president went quite a bit further yesterday, suggesting that the V.A. research was conducted by scientists who “aren’t big Trump fans.”

    In other words, the president believes he may have uncovered yet another conspiracy, this one involving unnamed V.A. scientists whom the president believes are not to be trusted. […]

    Sheesh.

  10. says

    Garry Kasparov:

    While most officials in Russia know to lie & conceal to keep their Covid-19 numbers down, the head of testing also boasted about how well they were doing. Claimed 7.1 million tests, 10-12% positive. That’s over half a million more cases than the official number!

    The correct assumption is that they are all lying, of course. It’s a good example of lies colliding when the only real mandate for officials in a dictatorship is staying out of trouble by claiming great success and passing the buck for failure.

  11. says

    Jeremy Konyndyk re Axios piece about Birx:

    This piece is…pretty damning?

    Birx has repeatedly undermined her scientific credibility, publicly, in order to shield the President. The subtext of the piece is that she’s doing so to get “what she wants.”

    Is the response we have….the response she wants?

    What has she gotten?

    Feds still a mess on testing, tracing, PPE. Her reopening criteria are widely ignored, including by Trump. CDC still suppressed. Death toll steadily rising.

    Even the one “win” cited – Trump’s brief pushback on Georgia – evaporated almost instantly.

    The piece contrasts her and Fauci – casting Fauci as peripheral because Trump doesn’t listen to him.

    But at least much of the public listens to Fauci, trusts him, and takes his advice seriously.

    The same can’t (any longer) be said of Birx.

    The responsibility of a scientist and public health expert in this kind of role is to help sound science navigate its way through the politics.

    What Birx is achieving seems to be the inverse of that. Putting a patina of scientific credibility on the President’s political aims.

  12. says

    Sigh. Senator Lindsey Graham is sidestepping some of the normal rules in order to pursue Trump’s falsely-predicated “Obamagate” conspiracy theory.

    […] Graham is, as usual, eager to make Trump happy. From his perch as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham plans to investigate the investigations, looking for anything he can blow up into alleged wrongdoing against Trump. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because Attorney General William Barr is carrying out his own version of the same project.

    The Judiciary Committee usually issues subpoenas on a bipartisan basis, but Graham plans to sidestep that by holding a vote to allow himself to subpoena more than 50 current and former officials involved in the investigations. […]

    Graham has said he does not want to subpoena former President Barack Obama, but that doesn’t mean his partisan investigation won’t give Trump the excuse to keep ranting about “Obamagate.” After all, he’s shown he doesn’t need any actual substance, telling Fox News viewers: “It was the greatest political crime in the history of our country,” and: “If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, I think everybody would’ve been in jail a long time ago, & I’m talking with 50-year sentences. It is a disgrace what’s happened. This is the greatest political scam, hoax, in the history of our country. And people should be going to jail for this stuff, and hopefully a lot of people are going to have to pay. No other president should have to go through… (something something, Flynn, heroes, something something). […] This was all Obama. This was all Biden. These people were corrupt. The whole thing was corrupt. And we caught them.”

    A ton of bullshit, all being flung by Trump.

    […] at no point does he [Trump] give any hint of what this “greatest political crime in the history of our country” was […]

    So this is the play: Try to not only create doubt about whether Russia put a thumb on the scale in Trump’s favor in 2016 (which it did), but actually reverse that and make it look like the fact of Russian interference is actually a fiction concocted by Democrats to illegally hurt Trump. And Republicans control enough of government—and can rely on traditional media to both-sides everything in sight—that it may succeed in convincing some fraction of voters.

    Link

  13. says

    From David Corn:

    Bill Barr is at it again. Donald Trump’s attorney general is trying to depict himself as a nonpartisan, just-doing-my-job law enforcement official, even as he ruthlessly and relentlessly pursues a political agenda designed to rewrite history and save his boss.

    Barr has spent over a year crusading to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation and nullify Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. [details available at the link] The big goal: to erase this double-taint on Trump’s presidency, for that is what Trump desperately craves. […]

    Barr conducts this deceitful game slyly, playing footsie with “Obamagate”—the undefined term Trump tosses about to suggest, without evidence, that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden spied on him and his campaign and used the FBI to mount a phony investigation of his campaign’s contacts with Russia. […] Barr’s statements and actions have fueled the right’s paranoid fantasy that the real scandal is the Russia investigation itself, not the Russian attack […] as Barr enables and empowers this nonsense, he is endeavoring to come across reasonable.

    On Monday, during a press conference, Barr stated, “As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man.” The media took the bait. Fox News posted a story headlined, “Barr says he does not expect criminal investigation of Obama or Biden as result of Durham probe.” NPR did the same: “Barr Doesn’t Expect Russia Probe To Lead To Criminal Investigation Of Obama Or Biden.” You see what Barr did there? He addressed Trump’s cockamamie “Obamagate” hogwash as a legitimate question. By generating headlines that place Obama and Biden in the vicinity of “criminal investigation,” he helped spread the impression that Trump and his campaign are trying to convey: these guys are crooked. To some, it might seem Barr was throwing cold water on Trump’s new line of attack. Yet Barr was treating it as a serious matter, not dismissing it as hokum. […]

    In this public appearance, Barr also provided Trump’s conservative chorus of conspiracy with direct sustenance. “What happened to the president in the 2016 election and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent,” Barr said. “It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history.” Here was the attorney general confirming Trump’s claim of victimhood […] Barr maintained that during 2016 campaign, federal law enforcement officials advanced a “false and utterly basis Russian collusion narrative against the president.”

    Wait a second. No such thing happened. Barr, though was echoing the essence of the “Obamagate” bunk: the FBI conspired against Trump in 2016. The bureau, however, throughout the campaign did nothing to advance a narrative against Trump. In fact, it did the opposite. [details available at the link]

    […] Moscow was trying to secretly help Trump’s presidential bid, and Trump, through his lawyer, had privately sought assistance from Vladimir Putin’s office for a huge business venture in Moscow, while Trump was campaigning for the presidency. […]

    We should long be past debating whether the FBI took active steps to quash Trump’s presidential bid. It did not leak damning information about its Trump-Russia investigation. […]

    how can one argue that the FBI was run by a cabal of Trump-haters who would do anything—including manufacturing a fraudulent probe—to prevent him from reaching the White House? […] Barr has become the chief driver of Trump’s say-whatever-it-takes bus. He is the Roy Cohn Trump has yearned for.

    After the Justice Department took steps to dump the Flynn case, Barr, during a media interview, noted, with a chuckle, that “history is written by the winners.” […] George Orwell described in 1984: “Who controls the past controls the future.” Using and abusing his immense power as the head of the Justice Department, Barr is attempting mightily to rewrite history to improve Trump’s chance of being a winner in the fall.

    Link

  14. says

    Re Trump on hydroxychloroquine yesterday: “Folks, this is called a ‘personal endorsement spot’ in the radio world and you can charge a much higher rate than with a more straightforward ad read. It just makes sense.”

    In related news, “Trump Org loses its bid to slow down a civil case alleging fraud—in which it had tried to force plaintiffs who had never signed an arbitration agreement into arbitration.”

    I’ll once again recommend reading the original complaint in that case from October 30, 2018.

  15. says

    Texas, North Carolina, Arizona see rising cases as they reopen

    […] Texas saw its largest one-day increase in cases on Saturday, with 1,801 new cases. North Carolina also saw its largest single-day jump on Saturday with 853 new cases. And Arizona reported 462 new cases that day, close to a record high.

    The seven-day average in new cases in all three states has also been rising, according to data compiled by The New York Times. […]

  16. lumipuna says

    Re: Trump Office tweeting a letter to WHO, blaming them for inaction over CoViD-19 late last year

    (Apparently it was sent from Trump’s personal account rather than the POTUS account, though you can bet he didn’t personally even bother to read the letter, much less participate in writing. I gather the personal account is a must for any Trump campaign propaganda, including stuff disguised as state affairs, because it gets so much more attention than POTUS acoount, especially from the Trump cultists.)

    It really boggles the mind that this supposedly formal letter appealed to “medical reports” allegedly published in “Lancet and elsewhere”, yet didn’t actually cite any specific reports. They only name-dropped the Lancet, because that’s apparently enough scientific rigour for propaganda purposes.

    Then, the Lancet didn’t simply respond with a big honking (citation needed), but actually had to assert that their publication archive does not contain reports supporting the assertion. Could have used the opportunity to explain the public how citation works. Meanwhile, reporters are apparently entertaining themselves by trying to guess which specific reports (in Lancet and elsewhere) the letter might have been mispresenting/inspired by.

  17. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] On Saturday, the Republican National Convention announced in a statement marking their 100-day countdown to the convention that the show must go on […] We, of course, feel very bad for Charlotte, North Carolina, which is a really cool town. […] the threat of an outbreak just is virus icing on the yuckmouth cake.

    But relax, because convention CEO Marcia Lee Kelly explained in an op-ed for Fox News that they are prepping to make it safe. They, like, hired a doctor and everything, and they are being “intentional” in their planning, for “safety.” Oh, and they are committed to a “five-star theme,” […] it is sure to be fancy.

    Kelly doesn’t really offer many more details on the how of making it safe, but we are sure it’ll be fine. And if it’s not, oh well, it’s not like anybody will die or anything, just kidding they will.

    Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna […] McDaniel affirmed Monday on a call that the convention will not be “virtual,” […]

    “It’s quite a ways away, and there’s ample time for us to adjust, if necessary,” McDaniel said. But later, in response to a question about the Minnesota Republican Party’s online convention possibly being disrupted by hackers, McDaniel said: “We will not be holding a virtual convention.”

    OK.

    There are naysayers, of course. […] even North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis said recently that it could be “very difficult” to do the convention in Charlotte, which as the New York Times notes is the worst-hit area in the state.

    Oh, and did we mention that North Carolina has a Deep State Democratic governor named Roy Cooper, who probably was in on the Deep State plan to invent the coronavirus hoax, to keep Trump from doing rallies?

    The convention was probably part of that grand conspiracy plan. Trump said this week that Democrats like Cooper are “playing politics” by “delaying the openings” — Charlotte still has a stay-at-home order — so don’t be surprised if Cooper pulls some hinky tricks to keep North Carolinians from dying from coronavirus to hurt Donald Trump’s feelings. […]

    Link

  18. says

    Trump’s statement defending Pompeo:

    Look, he’s a high-quality person — Mike. He’s a very high quality — he’s a very brilliant guy. And now I have you telling me about dog walking, washing dishes. And you know what? I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes, because maybe his wife isn’t there or his kids aren’t there. You know.

    Commentary:

    […] there were reportedly two lines of inquiry. Pompeo was investigated for circumventing Congress on a Saudi arms deal last year, as well as allegations that the secretary made agency officials run personal errands for him and his wife.

    On the legally dubious arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Trump was evasive to an exasperating degree yesterday, and on the misuse of State Department staff, the president made clear that he doesn’t care if the allegations are true.

    After all, as Trump sees it, personal errands are Pompeo’s wife’s job, and if she’s busy, those responsibilities — dog walking, making dinner reservations, picking up dry cleaning, etc. — should obviously fall on federally funded State Department personnel.

    The president’s line is a mess, in part because of his antiquated views on traditional gender roles, and in part because the problem is far more significant that Trump seems to realize.

    As Rachel noted on the show last night, when Pompeo was the director of the CIA, his wife set up what amounted to her own office at CIA headquarters, including seeking assistance from the agency’s employees. When Pompeo made the jump to the State Department, his wife again turned to federally funded staff for support.

    For Trump, these alleged abuses are trivial and easy to dismiss, but again, the controversy is larger than a cabinet secretary and his wife misusing government personnel and resources. It also includes firing a federal inspector general, not for wrongdoing, but for scrutinizing Pompeo’s alleged wrongdoing.

    If the president were to disregard the findings of an IG investigation, that would be a problem. But firing the IG in order to derail the investigation is something else altogether. […]

    Link

    Too many layers of bullshit from Trump. Sigh.

  19. says

    Some more threats spewed by Hair Furor today:

    We’re going after Virginia, with your crazy governor, we’re going after Virginia. They want to take your Second Amendment. You know that, right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.

    Response from Governor Ralph Northam:

    I grew up on a Virginia farm, Mr. President — our potatoes are fine. And as the only medical doctor among our nation’s governors, I suggest you stop taking hydroxychloroquine.

  20. says

    Guardian – “Brazil overtakes UK as country with third-highest coronavirus cases”:

    Brazil has overtaken the United Kingdom to become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections, amid warnings from its former health minister that three painful months lie ahead.

    Latin America’s largest economy has now recorded 254,220 cases, placing it behind only the United States and Russia, and ahead of the UK, which on Monday had 247,706.

    Meanwhile, in Mexico – the region’s No 2 economy – allegations that Covid-19 deaths were being dramatically undercounted added fuel to an increasingly acrimonious political battle over the government’s response to the pandemic.

    Brazil has officially suffered 16,792 Covid-19 deaths – the world’s sixth-highest number – although underreporting and low testing rates mean the true figure is likely to be considerably higher.

    One leading newspaper, O Globo, has claimed that Brazil’s former health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, feared the death toll could eventually reach 150,000.

    Despite the intensifying public health crisis, Brazilian front pages continue to be dominated by the political turmoil engulfing the far-right presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.

    Two health ministers have left Bolsonaro’s administration in the space of a month, with the latest, Nelson Teich, resigning last Friday after clashing with the president. Teich’s predecessor, Mandetta, was sacked in mid-April after publicly questioning Bolsonaro’s flouting of social distancing guidelines.

    In an interview with the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Monday, Mandetta painted a bleak portrait of the situation his country faced.

    “The health ministry is a ship that has lost its way,” Mandetta said, warning that Brazil was only two months into a traumatic five-month period that would only begin normalizing in September.

    Mandetta predicted at least three major cities – Manaus and Belém in the Amazon and Fortaleza in the north-east – would have to impose lockdowns because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Authorities in Manaus have been forced to dig mass graves for Covid-19 victims because of the soaring number of deaths.

    Bolsonaro’s deliberate undermining of social distancing and quarantine measures has sparked outrage and seen opposition to his government rise – although the rightwing populist continues to boast a hardcore of support.

    Miguel Lago, the director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, said he feared the political upheaval was compromising efforts to save lives.

    “It’s terrible to see that Brazil is more worried about politics than with health … It’s absurd that in the middle of a humanitarian crisis we are discussing petty politics so much,” he said.

    “But I think this is Bolsonaro’s strategy,” Lago added, arguing that the president was trying to distract from and disown the negative human and economic impact of the pandemic.

    The pandemic has also become the subject of a bitter political row in Mexico, which has so far officially registered 51,633 coronavirus infections and 5,332 deaths.

    But a review of death certificates in Mexico City published by investigative journalists suggests an undercounting of Covid-19 deaths by a factor of three – at a time when the country is preparing to reopen and the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is speaking confidently of “taming” the coronavirus.

    Reporters from the anti-graft group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity gained access to Mexico City death certificates and found 4,577 cases where physicians listed the probable or possible cause of death as Covid-19 or coronavirus. That figure is more than triple the 1,332 confirmed deaths in Mexico City that are acknowledged by the federal government.

    The investigation follows a series of stories alleging that Mexico is undercounting its Covid-19 deaths.

    On Tuesday, López Obrador again dismissed criticism of his government’s response. “For us, the strategy has been successful,” he said.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    Politico: How Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Got So Bad

    Recent media reports have shown how Russian methodology for assigning cause of death has lowered the Covid morbidity numbers, perhaps by more than 50 percent. … Putin’s approval rating was down to 59 percent. … the lowest rating he has had in 20 years. Thirty-three percent of those polled said they did not approve of his performance. … the pandemic is not playing out in Russia like it has in other countries. Since March 25, Putin has been giving addresses to the nation almost every week promising a safe deliverance from Covid and aid for those who need it, but he is leaving the day-to-day decisions to local leaders and has barely left his residence outside Moscow. … Russia… has pledged only about 2.8 percent of GDP to aid primarily small- and medium-size businesses. The American bailout, by contrast, is close to 10 percent of GDP so far. Russia is actually making less than 1 percent of the GDP available in direct payments, with the rest in loan guarantees and tax deferments. … Nikolai Petrov, a senior research fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House in London and professor in the political science department at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow[:]… “Authoritarian regimes rely on important people who are key to stability and staying in power,” he said. “Putin’s political base is the big companies, banks and state companies. He doesn’t depend on citizens, so he doesn’t see or hear those 10 or 15 or 20 percent of the population who are really suffering today from the measures to fight Covid.”

  22. tomh says

    azcentral:
    New poll shows Sen. Martha McSally losing ground to Mark Kelly and that’s not even the bad news
    Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic, May 19, 2020

    Arizona Sen. Martha McSally is sliding in the polls, dropping four percentage points in a month.

    McSally now trails Democrat Mark Kelly by 13 points, according to the latest tracking poll by OH Predictive Insights.
    […]

    And that’s not even the bad news for McSally.The bad news comes from Maricopa County, where Republicans rule.

    At least, they did rule, until Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally there in 2018 — stealing 88 mostly-suburban precincts that normally would go to the Republican nominee.
    […]

    In May 2020, Kelly has climbed to 54% in Maricopa County while McSally has dropped to 36%.

    …Kelly has gone from a five-point advantage in Maricopa County to an 18-point cruise.
    […}

    Maricopa… the state’s most populous county is the one place that McSally must win if she wants to hang onto that Senate seat yet she has done nothing to appeal to the independents and moderate Republican voters who likely will decide this race.

  23. says

    Trump spouted some more nonsense about hydroxychloroquine:

    […] “I think it gives you an additional level of safety,” Trump told reporters after attending a Senate GOP lunch. “But you can ask many doctors who are in favor of it. Many front-line workers won’t go there unless they have the hydroxy.”

    “This is an individual decision to make,” he added. “But it’s had a great reputation and if it was somebody else other than me people would say, ‘Gee isn’t that smart.'” […]

    A letter from the White House physician released later Monday said he and Trump concluded “the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.” The letter did not include any information about the dosage or explicitly state that Trump had been prescribed the drug.

    Still, his declaration that he started taking it over a week ago was cause for alarm for medical experts given the drug’s unproven efficacy and known potential side effects.

    The FDA issued a warning last month that hydroxychloroquine should not be taken outside of a hospital or clinical trial because of the risk of severe heart problems. […]

    Link

    Trump is making all these claims in a failed effort to prove that he was never wrong … even about hydroxychloroquine.

    No, I am not saying, “Gee isn’t that smart.”

  24. says

    From Jennifer Rubin, writing for The Washington Post:

    […] Trump claims the White House physician prescribed it [hydroxychloroquine] for him, although the physician’s letter meant to back up Trump’s dubious claim stated merely that he had discussed the topic with Trump and concluded the benefits (what benefits?!) outweigh the risks. Trump’s press secretary claims he is taking the drug, which proves nothing, since she has already demonstrated a propensity to say anything her boss requires.

    The debate over whether the president is actually doing something so reckless as to put his own life at risk or merely lying about doing so, thereby risking other people’s lives who will follow his example, is instructive in four respects.

    First, virtually nothing Trump says about himself, his actions, the world and his advisers can be taken at face value. In one sense, this is an improvement for the mainstream media, which no longer gives him the presumption of truthfulness extended to other presidents. And of course, if he would lie about taking a potentially dangerous treatment, he will lie about anything (e.g. falsely stating America tests more than all the other countries combined). […]

    Second, Trump corrupts everyone around him. He has either induced a doctor to violate his professional responsibilities, ignore FDA warnings or, at the very least, to write a letter sounding like he did. Virtually no one in the administration […] has the nerve to say, “This goes too far.” Their assumption that they are impervious to public, legal and professional sanctions suggests that state medical boards and state bar associations need to rethink their policing function and public obligations.

    Third, the notion that Trump would never put the country at risk — say, by ignoring a pandemic or by recklessly risking war with Iran or by weakening an ally in a war against Russia — has been permanently discredited. He too often tries to “own the libs” by demeaning experts, denying science and lying to make himself look smarter than others. If it means some of his own supporters die, well, that is of no apparent concern to Trump. […]

    Finally, any other person taking to the airwaves or social media to induce the public to engage in dangerous activity should be booted off the platform. […] And yet an entire political party fervently backs Trump and wants him to remain in power, propagating goodness knows what for four more years. Trump is not the only menace to public health and safety. Every Republican who tolerates, supports and advocates his reelection is equally to blame for the harm that ensues.

    Link

  25. says

    Guardian – “Hungary votes to end legal recognition of trans people”:

    Hungary’s parliament has voted to end legal recognition for trans people, passing a bill that rights activists say pushes the country “back towards the dark ages”.

    The new law defines gender as based on chromosomes at birth, meaning previous provisions whereby trans people could alter their gender and name on official documents will no longer be available.

    The votes of rightwing prime minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party pushed the legislation through by 134 to 56, with four abstentions. It is likely to be signed into law by the president, János Áder, a close ally of Orbán.

    Although Orbán passed a bill during the coronavirus pandemic to allow him to rule indefinitely by decree, the transgender bill was part of a larger package of legislation that went through parliament in the normal way. It was proposed by the deputy prime minister on 31 March, International Transgender Day of Visibility, and amendments submitted by opposition parties were discarded one by one on Tuesday.

    The law has been roundly condemned both at home and abroad. Bernadett Szél, an opposition MP who spoke out strongly against the bill in parliament, described it as evil.

    Trans people and advocates say the bill will lead to increased discrimination against the community, especially as Hungarian daily life requires people to show their identity cards frequently. It also means that trans people will not be able to choose a name that fits with their identified gender, as Hungarian law requires first names to be chosen from a list kept by the country’s Academy of Sciences, which is sorted according to gender.

    “It basically means coming out as trans to complete strangers, all the time,” Ivett Ördög, a 39-year-old trans woman living in Budapest, told the Guardian last month.

    The Háttér Society, a Hungarian trans rights group, said on Tuesday that the law violated international human rights norms and went against the case law of the European court of human rights, as well as previous rulings of the Hungarian constitutional court….

  26. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 31

    Every Republican who tolerates, supports and advocates his reelection is equally to blame for the harm that ensues.

    Hey, as long as COVID-19 doesn’t kill them, or their investments/retirement account, they’re cool with whatever Trump does, or more accurately, doesn’t do.

  27. says

    Gene Baur in the Guardian – “It’s time to dismantle factory farms and get used to eating less meat”:

    Slaughterhouses are a breeding ground for disease and hotspots for coronavirus, and dozens closed after thousands of workers became ill. President Trump ordered these operations open, and shielded them from legal liability for exposing disempowered workers to intolerable risks. At the same time, the government is spending $200m per month to support the meat and dairy industries, while agribusiness lobbies for more stimulus money to return to killing as normal. Industrial animal agriculture harms people, animals and the earth, and it should not receive government bailouts. It should be dismantled and replaced. To put it bluntly: it’s time to get used to eating less, or no, meat.

    Factory farms and slaughterhouses demand a continuous supply of low paid, deemed expendable workers to perform dangerous and difficult tasks. To meet this need, agribusiness has obtained regulatory accommodations to exploit immigrant and prison labor. Still, the industry has faced chronic labor shortages and their killing capacity could not keep up amid the recent spate of coronavirus infections in slaughterhouse workers, causing slaughter-bound animals to back up in the supply chain. Millions of these innocent creatures have been euphemistically “depopulated,” meaning killed and discarded. These deaths are tragic, but so are the billions of needless deaths that occur in the normal course of business. We can live well without exploiting and consuming other animals.

    More than 9 billion farm animals are pushed through factory farms in the US, and every year, hundreds of millions die before even reaching the slaughterhouse. The industry considers individual animals, and workers for that matter, to be expendable as long as the system is profitable.

    As we look to a post-pandemic world, we should envision a more resilient and sustainable food system, one that doesn’t commodify sentient life. We can feed more people with less land and fewer resources through plant based agriculture, which would significantly lighten our ecological footprint and free up millions of acres of land, since we use ten times more land in the U.S. for animal agriculture than for plant farming. Shifting to eating plants instead of animals would enable natural ecosystems, wildlife habitat and biodiversity to return. It would allow the earth to regenerate and heal, and reduce threats from the climate crisis and future pandemics, which have been linked to our abuses of other animals and the environment.

    The inflexible supply chains exposed during the pandemic should be shorter and more nimble, with consumers connected more closely with the source of their food and farmers. The widespread interest in gardening spurred by the pandemic is encouraging. Home gardens could supply more food than we realize, like Victory Gardens, which grew 40% of our nation’s produce during World War II. Urban farming, farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs, and community gardens can provide nutritious food and meaningful jobs in diverse settings, and were spreading before the pandemic hit. These deserve more government and institutional support instead of factory farms and slaughterhouses.

    Agribusiness is using its undue influence to obtain billions of stimulus dollars being spent in the wake of this pandemic, and has exploited government programs to fund factory farming for decades. A study released in 2018 found an astounding 73% of dairy industry income in 2015, more than $22bn, came from the government. In 2018 and 2019, agriculture received $14bn and $16bn respectively for lost trade, on top of the billions it already gets each year. The industry has also had preferential access to scarce resources like water at below market cost, and exemptions from labor, environmental, animal welfare, and other laws that allow it to avoid liabilities, so it can externalize costs born of its irresponsible conduct. This needs to stop.

    Instead of killing animals, exploiting workers, and despoiling the environment, we can feed ourselves sustainably and help heal the earth through community-oriented plant-based agriculture….

    As we look to the future, let’s seek to create a new “normal,” without factory farms and slaughterhouses. Government policies that have enabled abuses, should be redirected to support a healthier more diversified system that sustains vibrant communities, and produces food that is nourishing, instead of returning to the broken status quo that causes so much pain and suffering for both people and animals. And for our part, it’s time to get used to eating less, or no, meat.

    (Incidentally, I wholeheartedly recommend Saved By the Barn on Animal Planet.)

  28. says

    NEWS: Judge Sullivan just set a series of deadlines in the Michael Flynn case and the government’s motion to dismiss the Mueller-era guilty plea, with in-court oral arguments set for July 16.”

    Order at the link. Gleeson’s amicus brief is to be submitted by June 10, which I believe was the date he’d suggested.

  29. says

    Daily Beast – “Jane Roe’s Deathbed Confession: Anti-Abortion Conversion ‘All an Act’ Paid for by the Christian Right”:

    In its final 20 minutes, the documentary film AKA Jane Roe delivers quite the blow to conservatives who have weaponized the story of Jane Roe herself—real name, Norma McCorvey—to argue that people with uteruses should have to carry any and all pregnancies to term.

    McCorvey, who died in 2017, became Jane Roe when, as a young homeless woman, she was unable to get a legal or safe abortion in the state of Texas. Her willingness to lend her experience to the legal case for abortion led to the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortions in all 50 states (though red states do all they can to get around this; recently, several have even used the COVID-19 pandemic to make abortions functionally impossible to procure). But conservatives had a field day in the mid ’90s when the assertive, media-savvy pro-choice advocate and activist McCorvey became an anti-abortion born-again ex-gay Christian with the help of leaders of the evangelical Christian right, Reverend Flip Benham (of the infamous Operation Rescue) and Reverend Rob Schenck. A conservative film, Roe v. Wade, starring Jon Voight and Stacey Dash, will dramatize McCorvey’s “conversion.”

    But those filmmakers, and the rest of the pro-life evangelical community, have another curveball coming. In the final third of director Nick Sweeney’s 79-minute documentary, featuring many end-of-life reflections from McCorvey—who grew up queer, poor, and was sexually abused by a family member her mother sent her to live with after leaving reform school—the former Jane Roe admits that her later turn to the anti-abortion camp as a born-again Christian was “all an act.”

    “This is my deathbed confession,” she chuckles, sitting in a chair in her nursing home room, on oxygen. Sweeney asks McCorvey, “Did [the evangelicals] use you as a trophy?” “Of course,” she replies. “I was the Big Fish.” “Do you think you would say that you used them?” Sweeney responds. “Well,” says McCorvey, “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say.” She even gives an example of her scripted anti-abortion lines. “I’m a good actress,” she points out. “Of course, I’m not acting now.”

    Sweeney shows the video of McCorvey’s confession to her friends and acquaintances on the pro-abortion and anti-abortion sides, including pro-choice activist Charlotte Taft who, on the verge of tears, says, “That just really hurts because it’s big stakes. It’s just really big stakes.”

    Reverend Schenck, the much more reasonable of the two evangelical leaders featured in the film, also watches the confession and is taken aback. But he’s not surprised, and easily corroborates, saying, “I had never heard her say anything like this… But I knew what we were doing. And there were times when I was sure she knew. And I wondered, Is she playing us? What I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know damn well we’re playing her.” Reverend Schenck admits that McCorvey was “a target,” a “needy” person in need of love and protection, and that “as clergy,” people like Schenck and Benham were “used to those personalities” and thus easily able to exploit her weaknesses. He also confirms that she was “coached on what to say” in her anti-abortion speeches. Benham denies McCorvey was paid; Schenck insists she was, saying that “at a few points, she was actually on the payroll, as it were.” AKA Jane Roe finds documents disclosing at least $456,911 in “benevolent gifts” from the anti-abortion movement to McCorvey.

    In fact, Reverend Schenck underlines his own conversion, which took place in the last decade: “I still identify as an evangelical, but I like to think of myself as lovingly critical of my community. I guess in some ways I’d like to use whatever years I have remaining to undo the damage that I did and that many movement leaders did on the pro-life side. I used to think that Roe v. Wade would never be overturned. I think Roe v. Wade could be overturned now. And I think the result of that would be chaos and pain. And to impose that kind of crisis on a woman is unthinkable.”

    AKA Jane Roe does succeed at painting a complex portrait of McCorvey, who was punished for being attracted to women from the time she was ten years old and ran away with a girlfriend…. Throughout the documentary, McCorvey closely resembles her pre-’90s self, wisecracking and uninhibited. “I wonder how many abortions Donald Trump is responsible for,” she offers. “I’m sure he’s lost count, if he can count that high.” Her sardonic manner also comes with serious wisdom: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion—fine,” she says, coloring in the nursing home. “That’s no skin off my ass. You know, that’s why they call it ‘choice.’ It’s your choice.”

  30. says

    From Aaron Rupar’s thread of Trump yapping this afternoon: “Here’s Trump forgetting the name of hydroxychloroquine”

    Several of Trump’s verbal habits lately – “You ready? You ready?” “You-know-what” – look like efforts to compensate for and conceal cognitive/language problems.

  31. says

    Elizabeth Warren: “Donald Trump has threatened to veto any stimulus package that includes aid to the Postal Service, the most popular government agency in our country. We can’t let Trump use this crisis to privatize or cripple the Postal Service—and I won’t stop fighting to protect it.”

    Video atl.

  32. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    Beyond the hot spots of Brazil and Mexico, the coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm Latin American cities large and small in an alarming sign that the pandemic may be only at the start of its destructive march through the region.

    More than 90% of intensive care beds were full last week in Chile’s capital, Santiago, whose main cemetery dug 1,000 emergency graves to prepare for a wave of deaths, AP reports.

    In Lima, Peru, patients took up 80% of intensive care beds as of Friday. Peru has the world’s 12th-highest number of confirmed cases, with more than 90,000.

    “Were in bad shape,” said Pilar Mazzetti, head of the Peruvian governments Covid-19 task force. “This is war.”

    In some cities, doctors say patients are dying because of a lack of ventilators or because they couldn’t get to a hospital fast enough. With intensive care units swamped, officials plan to move patients from capitals like Lima and Santiago to hospitals in smaller cities that aren’t as busy running the risk of spreading the disease further.

    Latin American countries halted international flights and rolled out social distancing guidelines around the same time as the US and Europe, delaying the arrival of large-scale infection, said Dr. Marcos Espinal, director of communicable diseases at the Pan American Health Organization.

    Latin America is the worlds most unequal region, a reality that Espinal said made it difficult to balance health and economic growth, with millions facing increased poverty during quarantines, curfews and shutdowns.

  33. says

    DW – “Coronavirus: Brazil headed for catastrophe”:

    President Jair Bolsonaro has refused to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously, even though more than 17,500 Brazilians have already died from the virus. And the number of cases continues to grow exponentially.

    This past weekend scores of young revelers were out and about in Rio de Janeiro, enjoying the nightlife and gathering for beers along the city’s famous beach promenades. No one was wearing the obligatory face mask. After two months of widespread lockdown measures, residents of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods were happy to be out of the house, apparently unconcerned about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    But in the city’s poor neighborhoods, where the coronavirus has been spreading rapidly, people are frightened….

    As of May 19 Brazil had recorded the world’s third-highest number of COVID-19 infections, with more than 262,000 confirmed cases and at least 17,500 deaths attributed to the pandemic, according to official figures collected by Johns Hopkins University.

    But health experts believe that, due to a lack of testing, the real number of infections is likely 15 times higher. They also suspect that at least twice as many people have died from the virus; with state hospitals at overcapacity, an increasing number of COVID-19 victims are dying in their homes.

    Bolsonaro has downplayed COVID-19 as nothing more than a “little flu,” and accused China of stoking hysteria. He believes the pandemic has been orchestrated exclusively to harm him and US President Donald Trump. To show that he wasn’t worried, Bolsonaro and his delegation made an official visit to meet with Trump in early March. But after returning from his trip to Florida, more than 20 of Bolsonaro’s aides tested positive for COVID-19 — a public relations disaster for the president.

    Bolsonaro…has been ignoring health advice issued by the World Health Organization and his very own health authorities to practice physical distancing….

    Echoing his US counterpart, Bolsonaro has also stipulated that chloroquine, a drug used to prevent and treat malaria, be used to treat COVID-19 patients. Accordingly, he ordered the armed forces laboratories to produce vast quantities of the drug.

    Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Brazil’s former health minister, rejected the president’s support of chloroquine — and was dismissed in April. Mandetta’s successor Nelson Teich, an oncologist by training, also refused to recommend the drug for COVID-19 cases and resigned after just 28 days in office.

    There has been no evidence to suggest that chloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19. In April, Brazilian scientists ended a study of chloroquine after heart rhythm problems developed in about a quarter of people taking the higher of two doses being tested.

    Some doctors fear that hundreds of Brazilians have died in recent weeks from taking the drug at home without medical supervision. Yet despite this sobering news, Brazil’s Health Ministry — under interim health chief General Eduardo Pazuello — plans to officially declare chloroquine as the preferred drug for treating the virus.

    Acting on the urgent request of Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro’s government has now approved financial aid for informal laborers and single mothers. About 50 million people, essentially one in four Brazilians, are eligible. Thousands of people have already applied for the money, leading to chaotic scenes and long lines outside banks ahead of the first payout — and probably resulting in many new infections.

  34. says

    CNN – “A complicated life and conflicting accounts muddle efforts to understand Tara Reade’s allegation against Joe Biden”:

    …Reade told CNN that she received a bachelor of arts degree from Antioch University in Seattle under the auspices of a “protected program,” personally working with the former president of the school to ensure her identity was protected while she obtained credits for her degree. She also said that she was a visiting professor at the school, on and off for five years.

    Presented with this, Karen Hamilton, an Antioch University spokesperson, told CNN that “Alexandra McCabe attended but did not graduate from Antioch University. She was never a faculty member. She did provide several hours of administrative work.”

    An Antioch University official told CNN that such a “protected program” does not exist and never has….

    She claimed she was a visiting professor with a BA? WTF?

  35. John Morales says

    SC @45, that’s only heuristic.
    That she’s mendacious about some things doesn’t entail she’s mendacious about others.

  36. KG says

    John Morales@47,

    AFAIK, no-one has said (and certainly not here) that Reade’s falsehoods in other areas entail that her allegation of rape against Biden is false – that A entails B usually means that B is a necessary consequence of A, so if A is true, B must be true. But a record of mendacity can, indeed should, shift our propensity to believe what the person concerned says about matters where we have no independent check on their truthfulness.

  37. says

    AP – “Trump allies lining up doctors to prescribe rapid reopening”:

    Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television to prescribe reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet safety benchmarks proposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

    The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy. A leaked recording of the hourlong call was provided to The Associated Press by the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group.

    CNP Action is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative think tanks and political committees formed in late April to end state lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic. Other members of the coalition include the FreedomWorks Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Tea Party Patriots.

    A resurgent economy is seen as critical to boosting President Donald Trump’s reelection hopes and has become a growing focus of the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.

    Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, confirmed to AP that an effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is underway, but declined to say when the initiative would be rolled out.

    “Anybody who joins one of our coalitions is vetted,” Murtaugh said Monday. “And so quite obviously, all of our coalitions espouse policies and say things that are, of course, exactly simpatico with what the president believes. … The president has been outspoken about the fact that he wants to get the country back open as soon as possible.”

    During an emergency such as the current pandemic, it’s important that the government provide consistent science-based information to the public, said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has been among the most visible government experts warning that lifting lockdowns too quickly could lead to a spike in deaths.

    El-Sadr said having doctors relay contradictory information on behalf of the president is “quite alarming.”

    “I find it totally irresponsible to have physicians who are touting some information that’s not anchored in evidence and not anchored in science,” El-Sadr said. “What often creates confusion is the many voices that are out there, and many of those voices do have a political interest, which is the hugely dangerous situation we are at now.”

    Murtaugh said the campaign is not concerned about contradicting government experts.

    “Our job at the campaign is to reflect President Trump’s point of view,” Murtaugh said. “We are his campaign. There is no difference between us and him.”

    On the May 11 call, Nancy Schulze, a GOP activist who is married to former Rep. Dick Schulze, R-Pa., said she had given the campaign a list of 27 doctors prepared to defend Trump’s reopening push.

    “There is a coalition of doctors who are extremely pro-Trump that have been preparing and coming together for the war ahead in the campaign on health care,” Schulze said on the call. “And we have doctors that are … in the trenches, that are saying ‘It’s time to reopen.’”

    The idea quickly gained support from Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump campaign senior adviser who previously served two years as the president’s director of strategic communications.

    Schlapp’s husband agreed the president is getting criticized for not appearing to follow the advice of public health experts. Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference attended by conservative luminaries.

    “The president’s going to get tagged by the fake news media as being irresponsible and not listening to doctors,” Matt Schlapp said on the call. “And so we have to gird his loins with a lot of other people. So I think what Nancy’s talking about … this is the critical juncture that we highlight them.”

    As several Republican governors moved last week to lift their state lockdowns, the National Ensemble Forecast used by the CDC to predict COVID-19 infections and deaths saw a corresponding increase. The CDC now forecasts the U.S. will exceed 100,000 deaths by June 1, a grim milestone that previously was not predicted to occur until late in the summer….

  38. says

    More re #20 above – CNN – “Judge allows fraud suit against Trump, family and company to proceed”:

    A federal judge on Monday allowed a federal lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump, his three eldest children and his company of collaborating with a fraudulent marketing scheme to prey on investors to proceed.

    The lawsuit, originally filed in October 2018 and amended a few months later, alleges that in exchange for “secret” payments, Trump and three of his adult children used his former reality TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice” and other promotional events as vehicles to boost ACN Opportunity, a telecommunications marketing company linked to a nonprofit that used Trump’s brand to appeal to teens.

    The lawsuit also accuses the Trumps of having profited off the poor and vulnerable, as people looking “to enrich themselves by systematically defrauding economically marginalized people looking to invest in their educations, start their own small business, and pursue the American dream.”

    “Weighing the two ‘most critical’ factors — likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm — against each other, any prejudice that Defendants and ACN may suffer from proceeding with the litigation during the pendency of the appeal does not outweigh the strong likelihood that Defendants and ACN will not succeed on appeal,” US District Court Judge Lorna Schofield wrote in her opinion.

    Four anonymous plaintiffs brought the suit, including what court papers describe as a hospice caregiver, a self-employed man who was once homeless and a food delivery driver.

    The Trumps “deliberately misled” consumers about the likely success of their investments, the suit claims, and engaged in “a pattern of racketeering activity.”…

    I wish the media would pay attention to this case, especially in the context of Trump acting as a hydroxychloroquine pitchman during the pandemic. The complaint from 2018 has a bunch of video evidence about how he operates. (I believe the judge dismissed the racketeering portion of the suit last year.)

  39. says

    BBC – “Polish hit song on grieving ‘censored’, sparking protests”:

    Polish public radio has been accused of censoring an anti-government song that topped the charts and was then removed from the station’s website.

    Kazik’s Your Pain is Better than Mine is widely seen as criticising the head of Poland’s ruling nationalist party.

    The host of the Trojka chart show has resigned along with two other DJs.

    The station director has claimed the chart was fixed, but MPs from the ruling party as well as the opposition have condemned the song’s removal.

    What’s the song about?

    The song’s theme is grieving and the lockdown of the nation’s cemeteries during the coronavirus outbreak.

    Kazik Staszewski’s song doesn’t mention Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of Law and Justice, by name, but his target is pretty clear, says BBC Warsaw correspondent Adam Easton.

    When cemeteries were closed, Mr Kaczynski still visited the Warsaw grave of his mother and the graves of victims of a Russian air disaster in Smolensk in which his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, was killed.

    By Friday, Kazik’s song had topped Poland’s renowned chart on Radio Three, highlighting a sense of one law for ordinary Poles and another for the ruling party’s leader.

    Cemeteries closed as a result of the events of recent weeks, recent events. I look at the chains, I wipe away my tear, just like you, just like you. The gate opens, I can’t believe my eyes. Perhaps things are different after all. I run over, your heavies shout stop, because your pain is better than mine.

    Why was the song removed?

    Shortly after the chart show was broadcast, internet links and news about the veteran singer’s hit were disabled on the website of Radio Three, known as Trojka.

    The chart is voted on by Trojka listeners and station boss Tomasz Kowalczewski insisted it had been manipulated: “We already know for sure that this song did not win. It was manually moved to number one. In other words, it was fixed for sure,” he complained.

    But a journalist on the chart show, Bartosz Gil, said there was no fix and he accused Mr Kowalczewski of asking the station’s music director “to do something with Kazik”.

    Accusations of censorship came amid a backdrop of Mr Kaczynski’s party being accused of turning Poland’s publicly funded media into mouthpieces for the government.

    What reaction has there been?

    Programme host Marek Niedzwiecki, who has been presenting the chart show for more than three decades, resigned along with two other well known DJs.

    Journalists demonstrated in silence outside Radio Three’s building and many Polish musicians said they no longer wanted the station to play their songs, our correspondent reports.

    Polish Radio Three began under communism and broadcasts a broad variety of music to a big national audience.

    Singer-songwriter Dawid Podsiadlo said Trojka had supported him and his work right from the start, but if politics were more important than music on the station and some of the worst practices from the communist period returned, then he did not think his songs had a home there.

    Politicians from both the opposition and ruling party described the song’s [sic] removal of the song as unjustified censorship.

    But Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki complained on his Facebook page that there were more important things to talk about, such as coronavirus and the centenary of the birth of late Pope John Paul II…. [LOL – SC]

    Speaking of music and communism, in the most recent episode of his podcast Jon Lovett talks to Patrick Radden Keefe (author of the fantastic Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland) about his own new podcast, Wind of Change:

    It’s 1990. The Berlin Wall has just come down. The Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse. A heavy metal band from West Germany, the Scorpions, releases a power ballad, “Wind of Change.” The song becomes the soundtrack to the peaceful revolution sweeping Europe — and one of the biggest rock singles ever. According to some fans, it’s the song that ended the Cold War.

    Decades later, New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe hears a rumor from a source: the Scorpions didn’t actually write “Wind of Change.” The CIA did.

    This is Patrick’s journey to find the truth. Among former operatives and leather-clad rockers, from Moscow to Kiev to a GI Joe convention in Ohio, it’s a story about spies doing the unthinkable, about propaganda hidden in pop music, and a maze of government secrets. “Wind of Change.” An offbeat eight part investigation.

    I’ve only listened to the first episode, but it’s really engaging.

  40. says

    Here’s a link to the May 20 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    They’re reporting on Trump’s latest insane tweet: “Some wacko in China just released a statement blaming everybody other than China for the Virus which has now killed hundreds of thousands of people. Please explain to this dope that it was the ‘incompetence of China’, and nothing else, that did this mass Worldwide killing!”

    (They note that this follows a statement from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson who called Trump’s WHO letter “slanderous.”)

    Also in the Guardian – “Global report: Brazil’s deadliest day as Trump calls US cases a ‘badge of honour'”:

    Brazil has seen its most deadly day since the coronavirus outbreak began, prompting Donald Trump to consider a ban on travel to the US from Brazil [People are still traveling to the US from Brazil?! – SC] as he declared the huge number of US cases of coronavirus was “a badge of honour”.

    After a cabinet meeting on Tuesday at the White House, Trump said: “I don’t want people coming over here and infecting our people. I don’t want people over there sick either,” in relation to Brazil.

    When asked if about the possibility of a travel ban, the president said he was considering it and went on to say he saw the large number of US cases as a “badge of honour”.

    “You know when you say that we lead in cases, that’s because we have more testing than anybody else,” he said. “It’s a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done.”

    The US president has previously claimed “incredible” victories in testing despite criticism over his administration’s repeated failures.

    The US has by far the highest number of cases in the world, at more than 1.5 million with nearly 92,000 deaths, followed by Russia and then Brazil, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.

    The death toll in Brazil reached a total of 17,971 on Tuesday, after a record 1,179 people died in one day. The highest daily toll before Tuesday had been 881 deaths, on 12 May.

    The grim new toll came amid warnings that several major cities in Latin America were in danger of being overwhelmed by the virus….

  41. says

    Guardian – “US demands removal of sexual health reference in UN’s Covid-19 response”:

    Civil society groups have condemned calls by the Trump administration to remove references to sexual and reproductive health from the UN Covid-19 humanitarian response plan (HRP).

    In a letter to the UN secretary-general António Guterres on Monday, John Barsa, the acting administrator for the US agency for international development (USAid), called on the UN to “stay focused on life-saving interventions” and not include abortion as an essential service.

    Barsa’s letter said the plan “unfortunately … does just this, by cynically placing the provision of ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ on the same level of importance as food insecurity, essential health care, malnutrition, shelter, and sanitation”. He highlighted the $650.7m (£530m) USAid had contributed to pandemic funding.

    It was essential the UN’s response avoided creating controversy, it read. “Therefore, I ask that you remove references to ‘sexual and reproductive health’, and its derivatives from the Global HRP, and drop the provision of abortion as an essential component of the UN’s priorities to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

    Barsa, who sent the letter on the day US president Donald Trump threatened to freeze funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) unless it committed to reform, added that now was “not the time to add unnecessary discord to the Covid-19 response”.

    Françoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, said Barsa’s letter was “very worrisome”.

    “Threatening to cut funding would be a terrible blow to the WHO and the global health response to Covid-19. It’s the only global agency tasked with [dealing with] pandemic health emergencies.

    “So the USAid letter has kind of taken off the mask, which is that ultimately they have been gunning for the WHO for years,” she said.

    “Sexual and reproductive health and rights has been in concept documents for more than 25 years at the UN so to say there is no consensus or agreement is just false.”

    Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Centre, said the letter was “a disgraceful and dangerous attack on essential health services at the worst possible time”.

    “No matter what the US government says, abortion is a fundamental human right and reproductive care is always essential, including during a pandemic. At a time when countless lives are at risk, the US has yet again decided to put its efforts into restricting healthcare instead of expanding it.”

    She said Guterres should be commended rather than “bullied” by the US administration.

    The Trump administration has lobbied hard to remove key language around reproductive rights from UN documents and succeeded in April 2019 after threatening to veto a UN security council resolution on ending wartime rape.

  42. says

    So here’s GA governor Kemp’s press secretary, one Cody Hall, making light of a graph put out by the state purporting to show changing case numbers of a deadly virus over time, but in which dates on the X-axis were not in chronological order, misleading the public about changes in case numbers.

    The original tweet:

    Never ever ever again will we have a graph with a x-axis that is not chronological on the website. Never. I promise. I swear.

    On a semi-serious note, our data team thought it would be helpful. #gapol did NOT – obviously. It’s fixed. Please forgive your state government.

    In reply to a response:

    The “Only Chronological X-Axis” lobby is very powerful and very passionate.

    From the responses, Dr. Jasmine Clark, GA state rep:

    But it was labeled cases over TIME… time being the independent variable. You cannot haphazardly order your independent variable in a graph as it effects [sic] your dependent variable (cases). What information was the original graph meant to provide that we are all confused about?

  43. KG says

    An informative article on Covid-19 in Europe from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Prepare for a second wave – because, although this is not said explicity, the lockdowns are being relaxed prematurely in several countries. Foremost among them, the UK, which has considerably higher current death rate than any other European country (except, probably, Russia, which the article doesn’t cover – the ECDC advises the EU, UK, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). The rate is going down, but slowly, yet Johnson has told those in England who can’t work from home to return to their workplaces. Those who can’t work from home are, overwhelmingly, those in lower-paid jobs. Johnson will know very well that this will lead to more Covid-19 deaths than would otherwise occur, but that’s OK with him in the service of the economy and more specifically, the very rich: he’s just hoping* the second wave doesn’t overwhelm the NHS and sweep away his premiership. (He may look secure now, with an 80-seat majority regarded as his personal achievement, but if the UK ends up with several times the mortality of other western European countries, I think the Tories would dispose of him well before the next election.)

    *As am I. Much as I long to see Johnson brought down, that’s far too great a price. I’m hoping his record of corruption will find him out.

  44. says

    CBS – “Michigan dam failures force 10,000 to evacuate and could leave one city under 9 feet of water”:

    Rapidly rising water overtook dams and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people in central Michigan, where the governor said one downtown could be “under approximately 9 feet of water” by Wednesday. For the second time in less than 24 hours, families living along the Tittabawassee River and connected lakes in Midland County were ordered to leave home.

    The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening urged anyone near the river to seek higher ground following “castastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles downriver.

    Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam, faced an especially serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.’s main plant sits on the city’s riverbank.

    “In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet of water,” the governor said. “We are anticipating an historic high water level.”

    Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County and urged residents threatened by the flooding to find a place to stay with friends or relatives or to seek out one of several shelters that opened across the county. She encouraged people to do their best to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as wearing a face covering and observing social distancing “to the best of your ability.”

    “This is unlike anything we’ve seen in Midland County,” she said. “If you have a family member or loved one who lives in another part of the state, go there now.”

    Emergency responders went door-to-door early Tuesday morning warning residents living near the Edenville Dam of the rising water. Some residents were able to return home, only to be told to leave again following the dam’s breach several hours later.

    More evacuations were ordered in Midland County Wednesday morning after a dyke broke loose.

    The evacuations caught lots of residents off-guard, according to CBS Saginaw affiliate WNEM-TV.

    In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the license of the company that operated the Edenville Dam due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible in the area.

    The Edenville Dam, which was built in 1924, was rated in unsatisfactory condition in 2018 by the state. The Sanford Dam, which was built in 1925, received a fair condition rating.

    Both dams are in the process of being sold.

    There were 19 high hazard dams in unsatisfactory or poor condition in Michigan in 2018, ranking 20th among the 45 states and Puerto Rico for which The Associated Press obtained condition assessments….

  45. johnson catman says

    re SC @59:

    The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening urged anyone near the river to seek higher ground following “castastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles downriver.
    .
    Both dams are in the process of being sold.

    How do you sell a dam that has catastrophically failed?

  46. Czech American says

    johnson catman @60
    “How do you sell a dam that has catastrophically failed?”

    Presumably with a hefty markdown.

  47. tomh says

    Bill Barr waging the Holy War.

    U.S. Department of Justice warns California governor over pandemic church closings
    Dan Whitcomb

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday warned California’s governor that his COVID-19 restrictions discriminated against places of worship by preventing them from meeting while businesses and film studios are allowed to carry on working.
    […]

    “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband wrote in the letter.
    […]

    California has one of the strictest stay-at-home orders still in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The governor’s four-stage plan allows each of California’s 58 counties to gradually open based on the number of tests, cases, hospitalizations and deaths, among other factors.

  48. says

    Steve Vladeck (another failed listmaker, to be sure):

    In a single tweet, the President:

    1) Lies (that’s not what MI is doing);

    2) Asserts without support that someone else is breaking the law;

    3) Threatens action that would itself be unconstitutional; &

    4) All in service of an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about voter fraud.

    Trump’s tweet: “Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!..”

  49. says

    @45
    Re: Tara Reade articles.
    That one’s better than most. I’m still tired of the portrayal of a changed story as a negative without indicating what the specific changes are and why they are bad. An addition isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and this article mentions inconsistency without explicitly tying it to something.
    The Ds need to do that investigation. I think I’ll write about that Michael Stern Tara Reade article that one was terrible.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/04/29/joe-biden-sexual-assault-allegation-tara-reade-column/3046962001/

  50. says

    For the record, IIRC I’ve linked to or commented on two articles about Reade: the one above and this one from Vox (when I linked to the Vox article I implied that I don’t find Reade or her account(s) credible, which remains the case).

    I linked to the one above because I was struck by that one particular lie, if that’s what she told CNN. Lying about having graduated is one thing (though in this case it’s a fairly elaborate fabrication, involving a nonexistent program and…a secret degree?); lying about having taught as a visiting professor on and off for five years with a BA is wild (and somewhat offensive to me).

  51. says

    Trump’s rhetoric on untested medication takes a dangerous turn

    Trump’s rhetoric on hydroxychloroquine may very well represent a public-health hazard.

    […] [Trump]has many followers who look to him for leadership — and Trump’s leadership on hydroxychloroquine may very well represent a public-health hazard.

    Here, for example, is a message about the drug the president shared with the public yesterday at a White House event: “A lot of doctors think it’s great…. And what has been determined is it doesn’t harm you. It’s a very powerful drug, I guess, but it doesn’t harm you.”

    That isn’t even close to being true. Independent research has pointed to the possibility of very serious adverse side effects, including heart problems, for those who take the medication without need. A Washington Post report added last week, “Clinical trials, academic research and scientific analysis indicate that the danger of the Trump-backed drug is a significantly increased risk of death for certain patients.”

    […] Also yesterday, Trump spoke briefly with reporters while on Capitol Hill and suggested that scientific research rejecting hydroxychloroquine as an effective COVID-19 treatment is not to be believed. He specifically took aim at research from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, calling its study a “Trump enemy statement.”

    The president went on to suggest that V.A. scientists had conspired against him. “That study was a phony study put out by the V.A.,” the Republican claimed at a cabinet meeting, adding, “That was a phony study, and it’s very dangerous to do it. The fact is, people should want to help people, not to make political points.”

    In Trump’s mind, the “very dangerous” part of this equation is scientific research from his own Department of Veterans Affairs.

    In reality, the V.A. study was one of several recent reports questioning the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, and there’s literally no evidence of V.A. researchers engaging in some kind of political conspiracy against the president.

    But again, Trump’s most loyal followers won’t know any of this. All they’ll hear is their president encouraging Americans to take a dangerous medication, arguing that it’s harmless, and questioning the value of legitimate research.

    The risk to the public seems quite real.

  52. says

    Follow-up to comment 66.

    Oh, FFS.

    Struggling to shore up support in Kansas’ Republican U.S. Senate primary, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) claimed that he, too, has begun taking hydroxychloroquine, bringing him in line with Donald Trump’s claims.

  53. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign news:

    As Joe Biden’s 2020 operation continues to staff up, the likely Democratic nominee has hired Karine Jean-Pierre, whom you may recognize as an MSNBC political analyst, as a senior advisor.

    * Speaking of the Democratic team, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has reportedly told allies she’s being vetted as a possible Biden running mate. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has also said she’s had an “opening conversation” with the former vice president’s campaign.

    * How concerned are Republicans about the U.S. Senate race in Montana? The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s operation, has set aside $10 million in the hopes of elevating incumbent Sen. Steve Daines (R) over Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

    * And though there was some question about the fate of New York’s June 23 Democratic presidential primary, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that it must happen, and state officials said they don’t intend to appeal the decision.

  54. says

    Painfully funny: McEnany questions why media doesn’t take Trump “at his word.”

    Kayleigh McEnany believe news organizations should listen to Trump and “take him at his word.” Here’s a follow-up question: “Why?”

    […] A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany about the “carefully written” letter from Trump’s doctor and why the public should believe that he’s actually taking hydroxychloroquine. McEnany suggested the entire line of inquiry was inappropriate.

    “The reason is the president of the United States said it, and if it were any other president of the United States, the media would take him at his word.”

    Well, yes. That’s exactly right. If any other American president, regardless of party, had told the public about a medication he was taking, it’s likely that the political world — journalists, voters, public officials, et al. — would simply assume that the president was telling the truth.

    And therein lies the point: Donald J. Trump has no credibility because he doesn’t tell the truth. When he claims to be taking a potentially dangerous medication, there’s reason for skepticism — in part because the assertion is so difficult to believe, and in part because the president has a breathtaking track record for dishonesty.

    Trump lies about matters large and small, repeating lies even after they’ve been discredited. A Washington Post database, which hasn’t been updated since early April, documented “18,000 false or misleading claims” the Republican has made since taking office, reflecting a staggering amount of dishonesty. […]

  55. tomh says

    Trump won’t even get a flu vaccine, and we’re supposed to believe he’s just randomly taking pills? The year before he became president he said:
    “I’ve never had one… I don’t like the idea of injecting bad stuff into [my] body. I have friends that religiously get the flu shot and then they get the flu… “

  56. says

    NBC – “Pompeo’s elite taxpayer-funded dinners raise new concerns”:

    As federal workers file out of the State Department at the end of a Washington workday, an elite group is often just arriving in the marbled, flag-lined lobby: Billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights and ambassadors arrive in evening attire as they’re escorted by private elevator to dinner with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    Until the coronavirus shut them down in March, the gatherings were known as “Madison Dinners” — elaborate, unpublicized affairs that Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, began in 2018 and held regularly in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the government’s dime.

    State Department officials involved in the dinners said they had raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions — complete with extensive contact information that gets sent back to Susan Pompeo’s personal email address. The officials and others who attended discussed the dinners on condition of anonymity.

    An NBC News investigation found that Pompeo held about two dozen Madison Dinners since he took over in 2018. NBC News obtained a master guest list for every dinner through the end of 2019, as well as internal State Department calendars from before the pandemic emerged, showing that future dinners were on the books through at least October. The master list includes the names of nearly 500 invitees and specifies who accepted, although it is possible some people RSVP’d but didn’t show up in Foggy Bottom for dinner.

    The records show that about 29 percent of the invitees came from the corporate world, while about a quarter of them hailed from the media or entertainment industries, with conservative media members heavily represented. About 30 percent work in politics or government, and just 14 percent were diplomats or foreign officials. Every single member of the House or the Senate who has been invited is a Republican.

    The dinners are named after James Madison, America’s fourth president and fifth secretary of state, who made a habit of inviting foreign diplomats to exchange ideas over dinner. But historians could point to no precedent for a secretary of state’s playing host to such frequent gatherings, paid for by State Department funds, involving political and business leaders.

    “Madison certainly paid his own entertainment expenses,” said Kevin Gutzman, a professor at Western Connecticut State University who wrote a biography of Madison.

    The Madison Dinners, which aren’t disclosed on Pompeo’s public schedule, add another element to what his critics say is a pattern of pushing the edge of the envelope by using government resources for potential personal or political gain.

    It’s unclear whether the [recently fired inspector general Steve Linick] was…investigating the Madison Dinners, but two administration officials told NBC News that Linick made some type of inquiry to the protocol office last week, before he was fired. One of the officials said Pompeo’s office was then notified.

    When the dinners started, two State Department officials said, concerns were raised to the State Department’s legal adviser, who they said responded by saying events hosted by the secretary should be related to foreign policy. On Capitol Hill, several committees have also been looking into the dinners, congressional aides said.

    In a letter Tuesday to the State Department reviewed by NBC News, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote: “I am concerned by allegations that the Secretary appears to be using those taxpayer resources to host large domestic-focused political gatherings that serve little-to-no foreign policy purpose.” The letter requested “a complete accounting” of funds used for the dinners and copies of any remarks Pompeo delivered at a Madison Dinner.

    The master guest list includes many notations on specific invitations being handled directly by Susan Pompeo, including those for Sununu, the New Hampshire governor; Dr. Larry Beamer, a surgeon in Wichita, Kansas; and historian Niall Ferguson. Pompeo, a former House member from Kansas who entered political life without significant wealth, has presented himself publicly as more of a low-key politician, especially compared to his last two predecessors at the State Department, who were extremely wealthy.

    “I’m not in it for the fancy dinners in Paris or Switzerland or Vienna,” Pompeo told the American Conservative Union Foundation in February, alluding to frequent European trips by former Secretary of State John Kerry. “That, my friends, is a lot of cocktails.”

    The night before those remarks, NBC News journalists had spotted guests arriving in the State Department lobby for pre-dinner cocktails as one of the last pre-coronavirus gatherings got under way.

    The dinners are paid for out of the State Department’s Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service Appropriation, known as the “K Fund,” which can be used for “confidential requirements in the conduct of foreign affairs as well as other authorized activities that further the realization of U.S. foreign policy objectives,” according to the State Department’s website. Current and former officials said that to comply with the spirit of the appropriation, State Department officials generally work to ensure that a significant proportion of foreign dignitaries or officials attend.

    Unlike for most State Department events, cost estimates for the dinners aren’t circulated to staffers working on the events, officials said. But two sources with knowledge of the events and the underlying costs estimated that the bill probably runs several hundred dollars per plate, likely pushing the total cost of the dinners to date into the six figures.

    The dinners also circumvent the normal procedure for an official event for the secretary, in which an “activity sheet” is sent out from the secretary’s office notifying other officials of the plans. People familiar with the Madison Dinners said they’re instead arranged informally between the Office of the Chief of Protocol and Pompeo’s executive office on the seventh floor.

    That means there’s no coordination with the desks at the State Department overseeing specific regions of the world. For example, if the South Korean ambassador goes to a Madison Dinner, the State Department’s bureau handling Asia may not even be aware or know to follow up to see what the ambassador and Pompeo may have discussed, officials familiar with the dinners said.

    Much more atl. These fuckers:

    “The dinners are not unusual,” said former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, a Trump critic and MSNBC contributor who attended one of the dinners. He said the dinner was in keeping with Pompeo’s diplomatic role and added: “There’s no big deal there.”

  57. militantagnostic says

    SC@54

    They rearanged the dates on the time scale???
    That fuckery is probably not in How to Lie With Statstics because the author didn’t think anyone would be that brazen.

  58. militantagnostic says

    SC @72

    Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote: “I am concerned by allegations that the Secretary appears to be using those taxpayer resources to host large domestic-focused political gatherings that serve little-to-no foreign policy purpose.”

    To be fair, US foreign policy has always served corporate interests.

  59. says

    SC @50, speaking of fraudulent pitchmen, Trump is swimming in a swamp of fraudulent pitchmen daily.

    Chris Hayes presented an excellent segment showing this, and showing just how deep the swamp is:
    https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/-trump-isn-t-just-the-president-he-s-also-a-client-hayes-on-use-of-unproven-covid-19-drug-83667013755

    The video is about 7 minutes long. Chris Hayes did an excellent job with this. Amazing … in a horrifying way.

    Trump is not just a fraudulent pitchman, he is also a mark.

  60. says

    Well, yeah, why not be up front about your allegiance to QAnon?

    Republican Jo Rae Perkins, now the official challenger to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in November, acknowledged her Tuesday night primary win with a proclamation of her solidarity with acolytes of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

    “Where we go one, we go all,” she says in a Twitter video, brandishing a “#WWG1WG” sticker with the group’s motto in hashtag form.

    “I stand with President Trump, I stand with Q and the team,” she continues. “Thank you anons and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.”

    QAnon is a sweeping far-right conspiracy theory which envisions a secret battle between President Donald Trump and a “deep state” supposedly working to destabilize him. The belief system is stitched together from a series of other conspiracy theories, such as Pizzagate, comprised of often incoherent assertions.

    For example, QAnon believers often baselessly accuse major Democratic and pop culture figures of being pedophiles and Satan-worshippers. They also believe that a coming event, often referred to as “The Storm,” will leave Trump’s enemies rounded up and tried for their alleged heinous crimes, possibly to be executed or sent to Guantanamo Bay.

    So, we are now so far off the reality tract that Republican candidates for public office do not pay a price (in lost votes) for being a QAnon cult follower?

    Perkins, who won the primary with a nearly 50 percent plurality of the vote, per the New York Times, has long been known to be a QAnon believer. […]

    Her Twitter feed is also replete with posts about the conspiracy theory. […]

    And in videos she released earlier in her campaign, the #WWG1WGA sticker she’s holding in her Tuesday video is propped up on a bookshelf, visible in the shot.

    She was even more explicit in an interview with Right Wing Watch in January. […]

    “I think that there’s probably a lot of us out there, but I just happen to be bold enough to say, ‘Hey, I’m following Q because I want to know, because if the Q team is real, I want to know about it,’” she told Right Wing Watch. “If the Q team is not real and it’s fake, I want to know about it, because we have to be willing to look at both sides of the issue.” […]

    She’ll run against Merkley in November, who is running for his third term. He won his last election in 2014 by about 56 percent of the vote, and political analysts view the seat is a safe Democratic hold.

    TPM link

    Comments from readers of the article:

    Oregon Tinfoil Hatter of the year candidate.
    ——————
    Here in Oregon, a Republican run for Senate is a suicide mission, so this is what you get.
    ———————–
    And time once again to revisit Richard Hofstadter’s Paraniod Style in American Politics…when he wrote this essay, people like her were on the fringe, outliers. Now, somehow, they have moved to center stage and seized the commanding heights of the GOP.
    ———————-
    Lets see, this piece of work, Sharron Angel, Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell, Todd Akin, and then there’s the ones who get in – Senator Snowball, comes to mind. How the media have been able to keep up the “both sides” facade without the entire public collectively throwing up in absolute disgust is one of the great mysteries of our age. Shouldn’t there be headlines “The GOP nominated yet another complete fucking lunatic for the U.S. Senate?

  61. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 62

    “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband wrote in the letter.

    If the Governor of California had any guts, his reply SHOULD be:

    “Your precious ‘Founding Fathers’ didn’t know that viruses and bacteria existed, so whatever this backwards outmoded and outdated constitution says on this matter is completely moot. This is the 21st century, and the state of California will not allow this disease to spread due to some misplaced devotion to political opinions 220 years out of date. Furthermore, because since many cases and death can be traced to religious institutions flaunting quarantine orders on the grounds of some divine aegis, it seems COVID-19 has little regard for the supposed protective power of their deity any more than it does for their ‘religious freedom.'”

  62. says

    Trump fired another Inspector General. This one got less notice:

    Impeached president Donald Trump’s slow-rolling Friday night massacres of inspectors general (IG) continued apace last week. Most of the headlines centered on fired State Department IG Steve Linick—for good reason—but another IG was axed last Friday, and it is even stinkier politically. Mitch Behm, a 17-year veteran with the Office of Inspector General who was acting IG at the Department of Transportation, was booted.

    Behm was conducting a highly sensitive and high-profile investigation into Secretary Elaine Chao’s potential favoritism benefitting her husband’s election prospects. Her husband is, of course, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the pair have been shoveling money into Kentucky, with friends of McConnell and local officials from Kentucky getting fast-tracked for meetings with Chao, and for money. Lots of money. Three high-ranking House Democrats want to know what in the hell is going on with that.

    [Excerpt from inquiries by Congressional oversight chairpersons:] “Mr. Behm’s removal is the latest in a series of politically motivated firings of Inspectors General by President Trump,” the lawmakers wrote to Chao. “This assault on the integrity and independence of Inspectors General appears to be an intentional campaign to undermine their ability to expose corruption and protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse.” […]

    Donald Sherman, deputy director of the Center for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), says all this is very stinky. CREW has sent a number of Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover what happened in this decision-making process. Sherman says that the firing of Behm and the installation of Elliott looks like an effort to “install somebody more politically aligned with the president to lead the Office of Inspector General in the couple of months or so it will take to likely confirm the president’s nominee.” And somebody who is ideally more politically aligned with McConnell, as the key investigation of Behm could not only be damaging to Chao but “also to the president’s chief ally in the Senate,” Sherman said. […]

    McConnell, CREW writes, “was integral to the Senate’s consideration of Howard Elliott’s nomination to lead PHMSA.” He’s also going to be “instrumental to Eric Soskin’s potential confirmation as permanent IG. … These moves will leave oversight of the Chao-McConnell investigation in the hands of Trump administration officials who McConnell has effectively endorsed.” Which is awfully handy for Moscow Mitch. There really isn’t any bottom to his corruption when it comes to holding onto, and abusing, his power.

    Link

  63. says

    Media Matters – “Facebook is letting the Trump campaign publish at least 529 ads with false claims of voter fraud”:

    As government officials consider implementing vote-by-mail for the 2020 election because of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump is using Facebook and Instagram ads to ramp up false allegations of voter fraud. These allegations compound years of lies from Trump and his allies in right-wing media repeating false claims of widespread voter fraud.

    Facebook’s ad policy formerly banned “misleading or false” information, but the platform narrowed its policy in October 2019, prohibiting only those “ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers” and even exempting ads from politicians from this fact-checking. This policy has faced a lot of criticism, but Facebook has only doubled down as it continues to let Trump run misleading ads against his critics and opponents.

    Some of the Trump campaign’s latest ads, which started running on both Facebook and Instagram on May 18, falsely claim that the “Radical Left is trying to STEAL THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES.” Using the Dewey Square Adwatch toolset to analyze Facebook Ad data, Media Matters found at least 529 of these ads, and 267 of them — more than half — make various other false accusations against Democrats, including that they are “stuffing the ballot boxes with FAKE and FRAUDULENT votes.” These ads were all paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and they are being advertised by Donald J. Trump, Mike Pence, and Team Trump’s Facebook pages. The ads, which have been running on Facebook for less than two full days, have the potential to reach millions of people through the social media platform. (At time of publication, 525 of the ads are currently active, out of which at least 15 ads are appearing as blank in the Facebook Ad Library.)

    Trump and his allies in right-wing media have repeatedly made unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud for years in an attempt to promote voter ID laws and restrict voting access for minorities. In fact, many studies have debunked claims of widespread voter fraud, including Trump’s own commission. And, the most high-profile recent case of such fraud was committed by a Republican operative, who collected and altered absentee ballots during the 2018 House election for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

    However, right-wing claims of voter fraud have ramped up amid increased calls and public support for vote-by-mail programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 election….

  64. says

    From Wonkette: “Trump will not let you cheat by letting your people vote, you swing state jerks”

    President Loudmouth On a Barstool was up early this morning, having a fit about states that are trying to do voter fraud by allowing people to vote without risking a deadly infection. He was so angry that he couldn’t be bothered to even know what he was complaining about, that’s how mad he was at swing states that might hurt his reelection chances by expanding vote by mail.

    Trump yelled at Michigan, whose secretary of state sent out absentee ballot applications (not ballots, as if Trump knows the difference) to all registered voters, just like Hitler probably did. While he was at it, Trump also insisted that sending the applications was “illegal,” because the “president” gets to decide that, read your Constitution. […]

    See SC’s comment 63.

    Trump later deleted the tweet, possibly because Michigan is dealing with massive flooding in the center of the state, caused by two dams breaking. Maybe someone told him threatening to withhold funding from a state in the middle of an actual disaster was a bad look.

    To make sure the proper federal authorities took quick action, he replied to his own tweet with the Twitter addresses of his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, Acting OMB director Russ Vought, and the Treasury Department. Because while he thinks voting by mail is an invitation to fraud (it isn’t), sending “presidential directives” by tweet is the sort of secure communication he excels at. So let it be tweeted, so let it be done. Or not, since he deleted that one as well. Does that mean he’s not going to try holding up funds, or just that he’ll have to go on Fox News to transmit the orders?

    Trump also declared Nevada’s plan to hold its June 9 primaries entirely by mail to be “illegal,” and threatened both states with having their funding held up if they insist on doing something he told them not to. He didn’t say what funding, just all of it, probably. At least here he has one thing right: Nevada actually is sending absentee ballots to all registered voters, which is also perfectly legal. […]

    All this may sound a little familiar to you, as you may recall from the impeachment hearings, when Stanford law professor Pam Karlin warned of pretty much this very thing:”Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for? What would you think if that president said, “I would like you to do us a favor?”
    […] As NPR and virtually other news organization point out, there are one or two itty-bitty problems with Trump’s demand that the states put the kibosh on mail-in ballots: State and local governments are responsible for running their own elections, and there’s not really any legal mechanism for a “president” to withhold funding over the matter. […]

    Vox notes that if you want to interpret Trump’s talk of withholding funding as anything other than an empty threat […], maybe he was talking about the election funding portion of the CARES Act. Michigan received $11.2 million from the stimmy bill, and Nevada got $4.5 million, but as you astute readers may have noticed, the verbs here are both in the past tense, so Trump can’t withhold money that’s already out the door. Vox does helpfully points out, at least, that in preparing to hold elections in which people won’t have to leave their homes to vote, both states are using the funds for their specified purposes. This is very nice, but also assumes Donald Trump has any fucking idea such funds were in the bill he signed.

    […] five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah) already run nearly all their elections by mail, and they have very clean, efficient elections. As the Brennan Center for Justice explains, all five states have “multiple tools to address valid security concerns and protect election integrity,” and as for voter fraud, it’s pretty much not a thing. […]

    As everyone knows, whenever Republicans are told to stop cheating, they insist Democrats get an unfair advantage, which just proves how important the cheating is to ensure the will of the Republican people is done.

  65. tomh says

    @ #82
    Every state should emulate Oregon. Over 20 years ago we threw all our voting booths on the scrap pile (well, being Oregon, they were recycled.) Since then, all elections are vote-by-mail.

    You don’t have to ask for the ballot, it just arrives. There are no forms to fill out, no voter i.d., no technology except paper and stamps. If you don’t want to pay for a stamp, you can drop your ballot in a box at one of the state’s hundreds of collection sites and the majority of ballots are returned this way.

    Once they’re returned, all ballots are checked for authenticity. Each signature is verified against voter registration cards. The authenticated ballots then go to the vote tallying room to be counted under the watchful eyes of both parties. In addition, a voter can ask for a text confirming that his or her ballot was counted.

    Oregon senator Ron Wyden, the first senator elected by vote by mail in 1996, has an opinion piece on the benefits of VBM, and the bill he wrote with Sen. Klobuchar to ensure that all voters have the same right to vote that Oregonians do.

  66. says

    Yeah, Trump was lying about the mask supply for healthcare workers. So was Jared Kushner. You knew that, but now we have proof of the lie.

    Front-line health-care workers still experienced shortages of critical equipment needed for protection from the coronavirus into early May — including nearly two-thirds who cited insufficient supplies of the face masks that filter out most airborne particles, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

    More than 4 in 10 also saw shortages of less protective surgical masks and 36 percent said their supply of hand sanitizer was running low, according to the poll. Roughly 8 in 10 reported wearing one mask for an entire shift, and more than 7 in 10 had to wear the same mask more than once.

    The dire shortage of personal protective equipment for health-care workers emerged in March as one of the earliest signals of the country’s lack of preparation for the coronavirus pandemic. Nurses and others have said they were forced to put their own health at risk caring for highly infectious patients because they lacked adequate supplies, in particular N95 masks, which filter out 95 percent of airborne particles. [See the link for charts and graphs]

    State governments and medical facilities went to extraordinary lengths to obtain, preserve, sanitize and reuse masks designed to be disposed after a single use if necessary. Health authorities asked a frightened public not to worsen the shortage by snapping them up.

    And now, as it turns out, the public should have also been wearing N95 masks since the first signs of the coronavirus appeared. That would have significantly reduced transmission of the virus.

    […] “Covid hit like a tidal wave. We went from nothing to insanity,” said Ronnie Dubrowin, a certified nurse midwife from Connecticut who responded to the poll. “It was like one week no one had heard of this disease and the next week everybody had it.”

    Dubrowin, who sees obstetric patients in two hospitals and one office setting, said masks were in such short supply during the early days of the outbreak that she resorted to heating hers in an oven to kill the virus.

    […] They gave high marks to state officials, with 71 percent approving of their governor’s handling of the crisis.

    They had much less confidence in […] Trump. A 59 percent majority disapproved of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic […]

    Long Vinh, a pediatrician who works in the neonatal intensive care units at two San Francisco-area hospitals and took part in the survey, said at the beginning of the outbreak some steps were taken to preserve masks, out of fear there might be a shortage. Now, he says there are no shortages of masks, gowns or other protective equipment at those hospitals: California Pacific Medical Center and Mills-Peninsula Medical Center.

    “I really feel that being in the Bay Area, we were blessed and fortunate to have both a wealth of hospital capacity and resources and political leadership that took the crisis seriously,” he said. […]

    One woman, who works in a small, residential mental-health treatment center in Minnesota, said she and other workers are not provided masks, though they are seeing adults who come from hospitals and elsewhere and who could be infected. […]

    the financial outlook for many is shaky. Nearly half of health-care workers, 48 percent, were at least somewhat concerned about paying their bills.

    The Post-Ipsos poll was conducted through Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, a large online survey panel recruited through random sampling of U.S. households.

    Washington Post Link

  67. says

    More incompetence: “Trump admin doled out a no-bid $600 million contract for mask-cleaning machines that don’t work.”

    At the end of March, Donald Trump announced that the FDA approved a machine that disinfected N95 respirator masks, allowing up to 20 uses of a single mask. This sounded great, as the Trump administration’s criminally negligent handling of the country’s stockpile of protective equipment had left thousands of frontline workers pleading for help. The Ohio-based Battelle, the company that made the machines, claimed that this process would not degrade the mask’s “performance.”

    At the time, reports claimed the machine would cost the government $60 million for 60 machines. But as NBC News reports, that number somehow ballooned to $413 million over the next few days. By the beginning of May, the cost of these machines was capped at $600 million. And guess what? Yes, like everything else Donald Trump has ever promised anyone, what these machines can do was also grossly exaggerated.

    According to NBC, “scientists and nurses say the recycled masks treated by these machines begin to degrade after two or three treatments, not 20, and the company says its own recent field testing has only confirmed the integrity of the masks for four cycles of use and decontamination.” […]

    NBC News spoke with nurses and others who have said the machines are a joke and the costs would be exorbitant even if the machines worked as advertised—which they don’t. A source close to the Mike Pence-led task force told NBC that the Trump administration takes big wild swings and doesn’t care whether or not anything works. They are just looking for a win here or there, a big headline for Trump to peacock behind: […]

    Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California has presented the American public with receipts showing that the Trump administration allowed companies to export tons of protective equipment and machines during the early months of the spreading pandemic. The flip side of this transaction is that while companies made money selling off equipment that Americans would soon desperately need, they got huge markups to begin bringing back equipment once the coronavirus pandemic hit America hard.

    The Defense Logistics Agency, the arm of the Pentagon working with Trump’s coronavirus task force, told NBC that the $600 million figure is just a cap, depending on what demands come up. As of right now, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for at least $413 million.

    Link

  68. says

    The Trump Administration Just Extended Its COVID-19 Border Restrictions—Indefinitely

    “Do not be fooled: Trump’s goal is not to protect our health, it’s to sow division and advance his political agenda.”

    The Trump administration indefinitely extended its coronavirus border restrictions Tuesday, finalizing a rule that has allowed the government to turn away asylum seekers and other immigrants for public health reasons over the past two months.

    The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, wrote that the border closure “shall remain in effect until I determine that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.” The closure will be up for review every 30 days.

    On March 20, […] Trump directed immigration officials to begin turning people back at the US-Mexico border, citing concern over the spread of coronavirus. The administration invoked a federal code that states that the government has the power to prohibit people from foreign countries or places once the surgeon general determines there’s a serious danger of introducing a communicable disease from a foreign country. The first order was extended an additional 30 days in mid-April.

    The latest extension applies to all land and coastal ports of entry, as well as to Border Patrol stations where people would otherwise be detained. US Customs and Border Protection data for April show a steep decline in border activity; approximately 14,000 were apprehended last month, compared to the more than 109,000 people who were processed by Border Patrol in April 2019.

    […] A New York Times story earlier this month reported that Miller [senior adviser Stephen Miller] has been mulling how to use a public health crisis to further his restrictionist policies for some time: “The ideas about invoking public health and other emergency powers had been on a ‘wish list’ of about 50 ideas to curtail immigration that Mr. Miller crafted within the first six months of the administration.” […]

    Human rights advocates have said that these pandemic-era restrictions have little to do with curbing the spread of the virus and violate international agreements that protect asylum seekers. “The president is hellbent on exploiting a public health crisis to achieve his long-held goal of ending asylum at the border,” said Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the American Civil Liberties Union. “He’s also doubling down on fear-mongering against immigrants, so many of whom are essential workers during this crisis. Do not be fooled: Trump’s goal is not to protect our health, it’s to sow division and advance his political agenda.”

  69. says

    McConnell Is Pushing Through Another Trump Judge Who’s Gunning for Obamacare

    Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed a new coronavirus relief bill loaded with health care funding for patients and medical providers affected by COVID-19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the measure “dead on arrival.” McConnell says he feels no “urgency” to spend more money mitigating the pandemic.

    But he does feel an urgent need to confirm as many federal judges as possible before the 2020 election. The Senate has confirmed eight judges since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States. Andon Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings for another: Corey Wilson, Donald Trump’s nominee to 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    […] Wilson appears to have been nominated, in part, because of his fierce hostility to the Affordable Care Act. In the midst of a public health crisis, McConnell is not just refusing to aid our struggling health care system. He is installing judges who want to tear it down and strip coverage from more than 20 million Americans.

    […] Alliance for Justice, a progressive group that has opposed most of Trump’s judicial nominees, compiled a record of Wilson’s many controversial positions. Examples of his partisanship are not difficult to find. Wilson called Barack Obama “King Barack,” “petty and small,” “a fit-throwing teenager,” the “Anointed One,” a “radical leftist,” and “shrill dishonest, and intellectually bankrupt.” He charged Obama with running the “most paranoid and politicized White House since Nixon.” He has also called Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” “criminal and clueless,” and either “felony dumb or willfully ignorant.” And he falsely accused her of destroying documents under subpoena.

    Then there’s Wilson’s loathing for the ACA. He has called the law “illegitimate,” “perverse,” “big intrusive government” that “is less about healthcare than it is about redistribution of wealth and power.” […]

    […] Wilson says he supports “the complete and immediate reversal” of Roe v. Wade. He also voted to defund Planned Parenthood and urged the Supreme Court to let states regulate abortion clinics out of existence.

    While working in the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office, Wilson defended voter ID laws and mass purges of voter rolls. He vigorously opposes marriage equality and supports state laws that legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people. And he opposes almost all gun safety regulations.

    […] Wilson will fit right into the 5th Circuit today. Under the sway of Trump’s five previous nominees to the court, the 5th Circuit has veered far to the right. It has defied Supreme Court precedent to uphold abortion restrictions, disparaged transgender people and their rights, questioned longstanding gun safety laws, and upheld suppression of free speech and voting rights. In an overtly partisan decision, the 5th Circuit also embraced the absurd argument that courts must abolish much of not all of the ACA because Congress zeroed out the individual mandate.

    […] “If you’re confirmed,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked, “how can a person seeking to enforce rights under the ACA have confidence that you will rule fairly in light of your view?” Wilson claimed he spoke only “as a matter of policy and politics.” Feinstein noted: “You have advocated striking down the act. Are you telling us today that that will not be your position?”

    Wilson wouldn’t say, […] When Sen. Richard Blumenthal pointed out this evasive language and asked Wilson to affirm that he would uphold the individual mandate, he refused. […]

    Durbin was plainly distressed by this state of affairs. “I find it ironic,” he told Wilson, “that in the midst of this public health crisis, the Republicans have brought us two nominees for the second-highest level of federal courts in a matter of three weeks who have such disdain for the Affordable Care Act, which provides protections for millions of Americans.” Ironic or not, it is certainly no accident. Republicans’ […] health care plan is to confirm judges who’ll strike down Obamacare. […] Senate Republicans won’t let a little thing like a pandemic stop their takeover of the judiciary.

  70. says

    Quick updates on a few news stories (from various sources):

    More than 100,000 coronavirus cases have been reported to the World Health Organization in the last 24 hours, “the most in a single day since the outbreak began,” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a news conference Wednesday.

    The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday blocked a House committee from receiving grand jury material gathered by Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigators, issuing a stay while a legal dispute over the records is on appeal.

    States are expected to ask the federal government to repay them at least an estimated $45 billion spent fighting the coronavirus, with Trump likely to decide whether their costs will be covered in full.

    Churches in states at the forefront of reopening efforts are closing their doors for a second time. Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold, Ga., less than 20 miles away from Chattanooga, Tenn., and Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston have indefinitely suspended services after members and leaders tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after reopening.

    The head of NASA’s human spaceflight office has resigned just one week before the agency plans to launch astronauts from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade, setting off alarm in Congress about how the turmoil might disrupt the historic mission.

  71. says

    About Trump muzzling the CDC:

    […] Six “mid- and higher-ranking staff members” in the CDC spoke to CNN, apparently in an attempt to raise an alarm about the clear and present danger Trump presents to the people of the U.S. and to fight back against Trump’s ongoing war with and efforts to place blame on the agency. “We’ve been muzzled,” one current CDC official told CNN. “What’s tough is that if we would have acted earlier on what we knew and recommended, we would have saved lives and money.”

    […] the CDC has effectively been sidelined as well, because the truth hurts Trump politically.

    That means direct attacks from Trump officials and fingers pointing at the CDC, to try to deflect the massive failures stemming directly from Trump. It means squashing the public health guidelines from the agency if they contradict Trump’s political aims. It means trying to get the CDC to cook the books to make the death toll look less severe.

    It means that Trump is endangering more lives by not letting the CDC do the job it was created to do: protect the public’s health. “The message we received in previous administrations was, you guys are the scientists,” one CDC employee told CNN. “That’s not the case this time. If the science that we are offering up contradicts a specific policy goal, then we are the problem.”

    Link

  72. says

    More details about Pompeo’s improper use of taxpayer-paid federal employees:

    […] From Kaplan [Fred Kaplan, who writes for Slate]: “A friend of the family told me that when Susan Pompeo visited her mother in Lafayette, Louisiana, security officials were ordered to pick her up at the airport. Last June, they were told to pack up the house in Lafayette and cart away boxes when her mother prepared to move to a retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas.”

    He was using a security detail as a moving company? This isn’t a joke—he really did that?

    And with that, Pompeo immediately vaults into contention as the most pettily corrupt cabinet official Trump has ever hired. Having State Department security officials move your mother-in-law to a retirement home, packing and moving boxes so that Mike Pompeo doesn’t have to hire someone else to do it, beats out inappropriate office decorating by a good chunk and is just so petty, compared to doing favors for your old lobbying firm clients or other acts of more substantive crookery.

    So that is one of the things that now-fired inspector general Steven Linick was probing when Pompeo went to Trump with the request that Linick be removed. Trump did so without hesitation, possibly because every last person in the White House is a grifting sleazebag and none of them can possibly imagine being anything else.

    There’s still more, however, to suggest that State Department rules have been treated as highly optional by Pompeo and his associated political appointees. Politico reports on a just-ending inspector general investigation, this one of top Pompeo aide Cam Henderson. Henderson leads the department’s Office of Protocol, a position she inherited after the previous boss, Sean Lawler, was […]—pushed out for allegedly “intimidating and harassing his staffers, and even carrying a whip on the job.”

    Ah yes. As one does, in government offices.

    The inspector general’s office determined that Henderson had violated policy by not reporting allegations of “workplace violence” by her boss toward other State Department workers. (You know, the one carrying a fking whip to work while being allegedly belligerent to his staff.) The inspector general was, says Politico, awaiting a response to the report upon learning that he had been summarily fired. […]

    Pompeo, in the meantime, is responding with yet more absolutely nonsensical lies […] by claiming that he had “no sense of what investigations were taking place inside the inspector general’s office,” and could therefore not have retaliated against them.

    It’s a stupid and Trumpian lie, because we already know that at the least Pompeo was aware he was being investigated for the most serious charges against him: That he and Trump violated the law in their “emergency” acts to evade congressionally mandated arms limitations on Saudi Arabia after that country’s targeting of civilians in Yemen. We know he was aware of that inspector general investigation because Pompeo refused the inspector general’s request to provide an interview related to it.

    So what we seem to have here is Mike Pompeo going for some sort of Republican corruption bingo, with acts running the gamut between “using department staff as domestic help” to “violating the law to funnel illegal arms to war criminals.” […]

    Link

  73. says

    Satire/humor from The New Yorker, by Andy Borowitz:

    Donald Trump is terrified of hanging an official portrait of former President Barack Obama at the White House because he is convinced that the painting would spy on him, a White House source has confirmed.

    According to the source, when Trump was informed that unveiling a portrait of his predecessor was a storied White House tradition, “he totally freaked out.”

    “You know what will happen,” Trump reportedly said. “That painting will be able to see and hear everything I do.”

    In an increasingly paranoid rant, Trump explained that the painting of Obama, having collected damaging information about him, would then be able to pass that information on to former Vice-President Joe Biden.

    Suddenly afraid that the White House corridors were lined with potentially traitorous paintings, Trump demanded that the portraits of all former Presidents who might betray him be removed immediately.

    “The only one who made the cut was Nixon,” the source said.

    Link

  74. says

    From WIRED magazine:

    […] WHEN IT COMES to density, the trick is picking a scale. Covid-19 isn’t a problem of square kilometers, but one of square meters—of the number of people per unit of housing. Epidemiologists’ best idea about what’s happening here is that the virus is transmitted most easily when an infected person is in close contact with people for extended periods of time.

    So in New York City, if you wanted to find those kinds of places, you might look to the subway. […]

    […] Seoul—which has been tremendously successful at fighting the disease—has one of the world’s great subway systems, with 7 million riders a day.

    It has to be something else, something at an even smaller scale—not a city, not a transit network, but perhaps a single room.

    […] One analysis by researchers in China of transmission among passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess cruise ship […] showed that infections were vastly more common among passengers sharing cabins with other infected people, and among crew after quarantine measures went into effect. […] An outbreak in a skyscraper in Seoul showed something similar—of the 97 people who got infected in the building, with both commercial and residential levels, 94 worked on a single floor. Of them, 79 were clustered in a cheek-by-jowl phone bank on one side of the building.

    With the exception of the cruise ship, those are all urban examples. Here’s a rural one: A church in Arkansas continued to have in-person worship during the second week of March. Of 92 people who attended, 35 got sick, and they infected 26 more outside the congregation. Three people died. […] the 15 US counties with the highest per-capita infection rates from April 28 to May 5 all had one thing in common, and it wasn’t population density: They all had meatpacking or poultry processing plants, or a state prison.

    Or consider Singapore.The city-state famously has sky-high population density, at 8,358 people per square kilometer. Yet thanks to rock-solid organization and experience from coronaviruses past, it had early, phenomenal success against Covid-19, with just about 800 cases through March. Most of them were imports from other countries. But then the disease made it to the cramped dormitories in which the city-state houses foreign laborers shoulder-to-shoulder, large groups living together. By May, Singapore had more than 17,000 cases.

    The inequalities of cities intersect in the rooms where people live and work. “The densest blocks in New York are in Manhattan, and that is not where cases of coronavirus are most frequent. They’re most frequent in Brooklyn and Queens, and in poorer neighborhoods,” says McDonald, lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy and author of the Nature of Cities analysis. “In Manhattan you might have only two people in a studio apartment, and in parts of Brooklyn or Queens you might have a family of five or six people in a room that size.”

    […] Mortality rates were higher in neighborhoods with lower incomes and less density across the geographic space but more density in a given home. […]

    […] “For a patient with Covid-19 to successfully isolate, there must be a separate bedroom and at least two weeks worth of supplies.” Who can afford all that? […]

    If a city really wanted to keep its residents safer from infectious disease, then, it might hearken back to the ideas in that 1917 JAMA article. If letting people shelter in place is valuable, people need shelters and they need places. […]

    […] the mistake wasn’t too much density. It was […] failing to build enough housing so that everyone could afford safe places to live, both in terms of crime, sure, but also by any other metric. It was failing to figure out how to keep health care cheap enough for everyone to have ready access to it. It was turning personal space into a luxury afforded only to the rich, while giving away real estate to personal automobiles that made pollution and congestion worse while crowding poorer people into worse and worse conditions. […]

    Covid-19 is going to force planners and politicians to rethink cities. They might put restaurants outdoors in spaces that used to belong to cars, putting open air between people and the virus. They might give more space to greenery and bike paths, so people scared to ride buses and subways because of a virus might still get where they want to go. Amid death and tragedy, there is opportunity to build places where all kinds of people can live. […]

    Link

  75. says

    NYT – “Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show”:

    If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers.

    And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.

    Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer people would have died by early May.

    The enormous cost of waiting to take action reflects the unforgiving dynamics of the outbreak that swept through American cities in early March. Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, the researchers found.

    “It’s a big, big difference. That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia and the leader of the research team.

    The findings are based on infectious disease modeling that gauges how reduced contact between people starting in mid-March slowed transmission of the virus. Dr. Shaman’s team modeled what would have happened if those same changes had taken place one or two weeks earlier and estimated the spread of infections and deaths until May 3.

    The results show that as states reopen, outbreaks can easily get out of control unless officials closely monitor infections and immediately clamp down on new flare-ups. And they show that each day that officials waited to impose restrictions in early March came at a great cost.

    After Italy and South Korea had started aggressively responding to the virus, President Trump resisted canceling campaign rallies or telling people to stay home or avoid crowds. The risk of the virus to most Americans was very low, he said.

    “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” Mr. Trump tweeted on March 9, suggesting that the flu was worse than the coronavirus. “At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

    In fact, tens of thousands of people had already been infected by that point, researchers later estimated. But a lack of widespread testing allowed those infections to go undetected, hiding the urgency of an outbreak that most Americans still identified as a foreign threat.

    In the New York metro area alone, 21,800 people had died by May 3. Fewer than 4,300 would have died by then if control measures had been put in place and adopted nationwide just a week earlier, on March 8, the researchers estimated.

    The fates of specific people cannot be captured by a computer model. But there is a name, a story and a town for every person who was infected and later showed symptoms and died in March and early April. Around the country, people separate from this study have wondered what might have been.

    Dr. Shaman’s team estimated the effect of relaxing all control measures across the country. The model finds that because of the lag between the time infections occur and symptoms begin emerging, without extensive testing and rapid action, many more infections will occur, leading to more deaths — as many as tens of thousands across the country.

    The timing and circumstances of those who were infected in March raise haunting questions….

  76. says

    NBC – “Trump’s factory tours could be putting workers, local areas at risk, say experts”:

    As President Donald Trump makes his third coronavirus-themed trip to a battleground state in as many weeks, some experts are expressing concern that the visits could put communities at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Even though additional precautions have been undertaken by the White House, public health experts and aides in previous administrations warn that it is nearly impossible to eliminate all risk of exposure during such trips. Those who have planned similar trips for past presidents also warn of the massive footprints the swings cover and the huge burden they place on local governments, many of which are already stretched thin because of the pandemic.

    “The White House is a potential hot zone for COVID — aides and valets close to the president are diagnosing positive,” said Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert who is an NBC News and MSNBC contributor.

    “If I’m a factory owner, do I really want a large group of visitors from the West Wing visiting me now under these circumstances, just to snap a few pictures? No,” Gupta said, urging the president to “lead by example” by limiting his nonessential travel.

    The White House said factory workers who meet with the president have been required to take rapid coronavirus tests. The requirement is now standard for anyone who comes into close contact with the president and the vice president.

    But the Abbott Labs ID NOW testing system the White House uses for rapid results may not always deliver accurate results, the Food and Drug Administration warned recently. And even if the results are accurate, the precise window of time between infection and a positive test result remains unknown.

    Trump has consistently dismissed White House recommendations on using masks. At times, he has flouted the health and safety policies of the states and factories he is visiting.

    Any trip outside the Washington area involves hundreds of traveling advisers, security staff members, logistical experts and journalists. Typically, advance staffers arrive several days early to prepare, often staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants.

    “Any Presidential visit outside of Washington, D.C. is a heavy lift in terms of personnel and resources,” Greg Jenkins, who was deputy assistant to the president and director of White House advance operations during President George W. Bush’s administration, said in an email.

    “It’s almost impossible to think through how to do this. You’ve got to consider every potential infringement of social distancing and mitigate that,” Jenkins said.

    Johanna Maska, who was the White House’s director of press advance during President Barack Obama’s administration, said she viewed Trump’s recent travels as “extraordinarily risky.”

    “Every time they put him on the road they’re sending people from Washington, D.C., a place that’s not experiencing a decrease [in coronavirus cases] yet,” Maska said.

    Then there is the risk to local government budgets. Local governments are already strained because of the coronavirus, with revenue down and health costs up. Some parts of the country have struggled to keep paying public employees, including health care workers and teachers.

    Some have also criticized Trump for promoting the taxpayer-funded trips to important battleground states as official White House events.

    “I think they’re just trying to get on the road, take him on the road for a campaign event,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., said in an interview with MSNBC before Trump visited to Allentown, Pennsylvania, last week.

    “The safer thing to do would be to sincerely thank this manufacturing facility and not put anybody at risk,” Dean said, adding, “I call upon the president to stay home, stay at of the way and pay attention to the guidelines that my governor has put forward, Governor [Tom] Wolf, and the guidelines of his own team.”

    Dean was not alone in her concern….

  77. says

    WaPo – “Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South”:

    Dallas, Houston, Southeast Florida’s Gold Coast, the entire state of Alabama and several other places in the South that have been rapidly reopening their economies are in danger of a second wave of coronavirus infections over the next four weeks, according to a research team that uses cellphone data to track social mobility and forecast the trajectory of the pandemic.

    The model, developed by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and updated Wednesday with new data, suggests that most communities in the United States should be able to avoid a second spike in the near term if residents are careful to maintain social distancing even as businesses open up and restrictions are eased.

    But the risk for resurgence is high in some parts of the country, especially in places where cases are already rising fast, including the counties of Crawford, Iowa; Colfax, Neb.; and Texas, Okla. and the city of Richmond. Since May 3, Crawford County’s caseload has risen by 750 percent, and Colfax County’s has increased 1,390 percent, according to state data compiled by The Washington Post.

    This is an anxious moment for the nation as people emerge from shutdowns and communities try to reinvigorate economic activity. Scientists and public health experts are monitoring rates of infections and hospitalizations, but it is difficult to forecast during this transitional period because models struggle to capture how people actually behave, including adherence to social distancing and hand-washing practices.

    There are preliminary signs, however, that hot spots — new clusters of coronavirus spread — could soon flare across parts of the South and Midwest.

    “As communities reopen, we’re starting to detect evidence of resurgence in cases in places that have overreached a bit,” said David Rubin, director of PolicyLab.

    Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said last week that cases in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area could spike this summer, with a tripling of daily active cases of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, if there is a significant easing of mitigation efforts. And PolicyLab projects that in the next month, Harris County, which includes Houston, will go from a couple hundred cases a day to more than 2,000.

    The overall national picture remains ambiguous: The daily death toll from covid-19 is dropping, but increased activity and travel in a population that remains susceptible to infection means the coronavirus has new opportunities to spread.

    Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday he has “no doubt” there will be new waves of cases.

    “The virus is not going to disappear,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s a highly transmissible virus. At any given time, it’s some place or another. As long as that’s the case, there’s a risk of resurgence.”

    He said the country has time now to prepare for new caseloads, which could mount considerably in the fall.

    A presentation prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — and reviewed by The Post — suggests new waves could be steep enough in some places to overwhelm ventilator capacity.

    For instance, the data indicates that only 866 ventilators are in use in Georgia, which has pursued one of the most aggressive reopening plans. But the state’s supply of 2,853 ventilators could be outstripped as soon as the end of the month by the projected number required for covid-19 patients, according to the federal modeling. States from Arizona to Colorado to Tennessee could face similar shortages, according to the projections.

    An “ensemble” model that incorporates 20 leading pandemic models, developed by biostatistician Nicholas Reich of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, shows a gradual decline in projected covid-19 deaths over the next four weeks, from about 9,000 this week to 4,000 in the second week of June. His model shows that by mid-June, the United States should expect to reach 113,000 deaths.

    But Reich said Wednesday that this is a particularly difficult phase of the pandemic to capture in models because of uncertainty about how people will behave as restrictions are lifted. “There’s so much complexity and so much that could change,” Reich said.

    Some communities seem to be abiding better by social distancing, Rubin said. They include Denver, Colorado Springs, Columbus, Ohio, and the Research Triangle of North Carolina, all of which look good in the new forecast.

    But South Florida, which has the bulk of that state’s cases, looks worrisome in the four-week projection, Rubin said.

    “That Southeast coast, they’re just starting to open up and relax. It’s a densely crowded area. There’s a lot of tinder down there,” he said.

    Alabama will probably experience a steep increase in cases in nearly every county over the next month, according to the PolicyLab model.

    State Health Officer Scott Harris said this week that Alabama’s numbers were “not as good as we could hope for.” The state began easing its stay-at-home order and other restrictions this month. Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who has allowed restaurants, bars, retail businesses, churches, gyms and salons to reopen, is expected to outline further steps this week.

    In a news conference Wednesday, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said the city is facing a shortage of intensive care beds and being forced to divert patients to Birmingham. “They’re at a capacity that is not sustainable,” he said. “Our health-care system is maxed out.”

    In Texas, there has been an outbreak of cases in El Paso and in meatpacking plants in the Panhandle. The rate of positives in coronavirus tests has gone down as the number of tests has increased, and hospitalization rates are holding steady. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has sent “surge response teams” to places where there are spikes in infections. But the number of daily active cases is still rising in some parts of the state. Dallas and nearby Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, each had its highest single-day death toll Tuesday.

    One fundamental problem for scientists is that the virus does not reveal its presence readily. There is a lag in data. On average, it takes about five days for a person infected with the coronavirus to develop symptoms. That incubation period can be even longer — up to 14 days. Then there is another lag before a symptomatic person gets tested and gets the results or perhaps needs hospitalization.

    “We’re looking at potentially a month or two later that we’re going to see the impact” of the reopening, said Leana Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner. “You have not seen the impact of reopening yet. I think there’s going to be a very significant lag.”

  78. says

    From today’s Moscow Times liveblog:

    May 21: 3 things you need to know today

    1. Russia confirmed 8,849 new coronavirus infections Thursday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 317,554. Russia now has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections.

    2. Moscow’s coronavirus death rate will be “significantly” higher in May than it was in April, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin warned.

    3. At least 9,479 Russian medical workers have been infected with the coronavirus in the past month and more than 70 have died, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing official statements and news reports in more than 70 Russian regions. Healthcare workers say the death toll is much higher.

  79. Saad says

    SC, #95

    MI attorney general said if he doesn’t wear a mask he will be “asked not to return.”

    Devastating.

  80. blf says

    Grrrrr… And Grrrrrr grrrrrrr… Also, Achk! Pfffleabeliiighhhhh!! (Apologies if any of the almost-vomit got into the USB port and spewed out, my keyboard isn’t very happy about it either, and the mildly deranged one has decided this is a good time to visit Pluto.) I’m not sick, but am very annoyed — and that’s despjte not reading the news (or this series of poopyhead threads) for some days. Last I heard, teh hair furor wanna-be dalek codenamed “eric” had asserted Covid-19 was all a dummie plot. (Rolls eyes so hard fast long and rapidly the lair is now rotating FtL.)

    First, the political (as to sort-of be on-topic). Locally, the village council here in the S.France Mediterranean seaside village where I live had been having problems with the regional authorities. (There are actually two separate issues here — coordinating access to beaches and the rules for boating — but I am going to conflate them together.) The problems have been settled: Boating and scuba diving is permitted more than 500m from shore and with at most 10 people (and, I assume, within 100km of port). Some beaches are open, but the rules are a bit confusing… it looks like in-water activities are permitted at one beach, no groups per se, and only a few entrances open, plus other rules (some of which seem to contradict each other?).

    First grrrrr… The outdoor markets are now open, and as previously mentioned, only c.50% of the traders are allowed to attend, alternating. I went to my favourite market a few days ago. It didn’t go very well: The traders who were present occupied their usual spots (with two notable exceptions) and so were not spread out, there were no markers on the ground to aid social distancing (and many of the queues were not well-distanced), there were no hand-washing stations, and (with one exception), none of the traders I wanted to visit were in that day’s group. And one old lady in particular just didn’t get it, she simply wouldn’t stay separated (despite very probably having underlying health issues), and I ultimately stormed out of the queue in anger at her complete fecking selfish utterly stooopid carelessness.

    The second grrrr… Today went shopping. In the morning a long queue at one shop (not unexpected) but with some queue-jumpers. The major annoyance was in the afternoon, when I returned to the shop I had problems finding last week… only to discover they were inexplicably closed. So wandered around the village some (it’s a very nice day today), noting some restaurants doing take-away, and becoming very annoyed with the local teenagers, too many of who again seem to very bad at social distancing.

    And the acrheclabffff… Discovered a favourite specialist bar is now doing take-away with a good selection of vin (mostly Italian, as the owner is Italian, and mostly from his local region of Italy). As I was finishing my order, I asked if there were any Italian beers. No, said the owner, except for the States bud brewed in italy. I then proceeded to rant that such garbage does not belong in quality shop / bar, somewhat to the owner’s amusement. He gave me two bottles of the junk as a gift (much to his amusement, I’m sure), and out of fairness (plus the fact they are cold and I didn’t want the engery used to chill them to go to waste), I’m now attemping to drink one as I type this through the layers of vomit. You might gather it is not going well (the drinking, that is, teh Typos offerings are prehipß eht uusil; if extra sticky). (It now occurs to me this is very probably the first time I’d had USAlien “bud” this millennium.) Not sure what I’m going to do with the other bottle, there’s insufficient alcohol in it to, e.g., make hand sanitiser.

    Amusingly, at the local shop in the morning with the long queues, I’d been told a few days ago there probably would be some strawberries today but no MUSHROOMS! As it happened, there were MUSHROOMS! and no strawberries — but there were cherries! (The shop is a organic specialist with produce from mostly local farms, so the selection is quite variable and usually very very fresh.) Sadly, there are no more MUSHROOMS!, I had them in a stir-fry with other produce from the shop for lunch. (Looks at the remaining bud-in-a-mug (most of the bottle), and wonders if it (the bud, not the mug) could be stir-fried.)

  81. says

    Here’s a link to the May 21 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    Also in the Guardian – “Dagestan doctors speak out over ‘tragically high’ death toll”:

    Doctors and activists in Dagestan have described the death toll in the Russian region as “tragically high”, after officials said more than 600 people had died from pneumonia since April – far more than the official Covid-19 death toll for the region of 36.

    “In some towns, five to seven people were dying a day … some have seen 20 or 40 people die,” said Ziyatdin Uvaisov, the head of Patient Monitor, a Dagestani NGO that advocates for the rights of patients and medics and has canvassed for information about coronavirus deaths.

    At least six doctors have died at a single hospital in the closed-off city of Khasavyurt. Patimat, a doctor in the cardiology department there, told the Guardian that a majority of the doctors had contracted coronavirus, including herself, and a “considerable number” had died or at one point been too sick to work. Another doctor said seven health workers had died at the hospital.

    Patimat said her first wave of patients fell ill after attending a funeral for another person who had died from coronavirus. “People went in crowds to their funerals,” she said. “My main wave of patients early in the epidemic told me they had been there.”

    At the height of the crisis, Patimat said, her department ran out of oxygen to treat all the patients and could not get test results to confirm coronavirus diagnoses. She said most of the samples sent for analysis were either returned or scrapped.

    “There was a colossal shortage of medicines and equipment,” she said. “We never expected waves [of patients] like this.”

    Earlier this month Daniyal Alkhasov, another doctor who had volunteered at the hospital, said he had fallen ill with coronavirus after two shifts there.

    At least two doctors who died at the hospital were later reported to have died from “community-acquired pneumonia”.

    The lack of coronavirus testing and frequent opposition from family members to autopsies has meant the official death toll from Covid-19 in Dagestan is far lower than the toll of deaths attributed to other diseases such as pneumonia.

    Officials say there may also be unreported deaths in isolated villages and towns that still have not been canvassed.

    The scale of the pandemic in the region was confirmed publicly on Sunday when Dagestan’s health minister, Djamaludin Gadzhiibragimov, said during an interview with a local blogger that in addition to 29 official Covid-19 deaths, 659 people had died of pneumonia and another 7,000 were in hospital.

    He said 40 health workers had died since the beginning of the crisis (officials say they did not all die from coronavirus).

    After pleas from senior officials and clerics, Vladimir Putin intervened personally this week, pledging aid from federal agencies during a nationally televised conference.

    Meanwhile, the region’s most famous son, the MMA fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, issued a call on Instagram for adherence to lockdown measures. His father has contracted coronavirus and is reportedly in a medically induced coma in a Moscow hospital after being airlifted from Dagestan. “Hospitals are overflowing, many people have been sick, and very many people have died,” Nurmagomedov told his 20 million followers online.

    Dagestan is not the only region where deaths attributed to pneumonia have far outpaced official coronavirus deaths. This month the St Petersburg governor said at least 694 people had died of pneumonia since March – 10 times more than the official number of dead from coronavirus at the time.

    The region of Karelia, has reported just two deaths from coronavirus, while data on official sites shows that 49 people have died from pneumonia since the beginning of April. Pneumonia patients are “repeatedly tested for Covid-19”, the reports say.

    In most other regions, statistics on deaths from pneumonia for April and May have not been made public yet.

    Patimat and another doctor at the hospital in Khasavyurt said they were unable to confirm many coronavirus diagnoses, so deaths were coded as pneumonia. “We could not get test results. Samples were returned, others were scrapped. So I’m sure the numbers [of dead from coronavirus] are much, much higher,” Patimat said.

    The scale of the crisis in Dagestan has caused medics to speak out, some demanding better PPE and others bonuses that had been promised by the government.

    Patimat said she had not seen her family in more than a month as they had self-isolated at home in Makhachkala, the region’s capital.

    She and other doctors described conditions at the hospital as dire, though now improving with better supplies and testing.

  82. says

    Guardian – “Germany braced for more protests against coronavirus policies”:

    Thousands of people are expected to gather in cities across Germany at the weekend to demonstrate against the government’s coronavirus policies.

    Germany’s foreign minister has warned people to distance themselves from the growing movement, which includes radical extremists, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and antisemites, after domestic intelligence agents warned that extremist groups were exploiting fears around the virus in order to gain support.

    “If radical extremists and antisemites use demonstrations in order to stoke hatred and to divide, then everyone should keep a lot more than just a 1.5-metre distance from them,” Heiko Maas said in an interview on Thursday.

    “Those who spread conspiracy theories throughout the world, without a mask, without keeping the minimum distance, without any concern for others, are confusing courage with blind anger, and freedom with pure egotism,” he added.

    Among the protesters are those who accuse the government of inventing the virus in order to impose dictatorship-like conditions. Their anger is focused on everyone from the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her health minister, Jens Spahn, to the virologists and epidemiologists who are advising them. The US billionaire Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has committed to a fund to solve the crisis, is often depicted at the demonstrations as a satanic figure, accused of engineering the health emergency in order to achieve world dominance.

    A celebrity vegan cook, a prominent R&B singer, and a former broadcast journalist turned YouTuber are among the movement’s figureheads. Some align themselves with an initiative called “Querdenken” or lateral thinking, whose symbol is a pendant fashioned out of a tinfoil ball. Another movement, called “Widerstand 2020” or resistance 2020, headed by a lawyer, a psychologist and an ear, nose and throat specialist, is also gaining support.

    Some demonstrators have taken to wearing a yellow Star of David, similar to the cloth badges Jewish people were forced to wear during the Nazi era, to highlight what they see as the stigmatisation they face for refusing to receive a vaccination against the virus, should one become available.

    The stars carry slogans such as “forced” or “unvaccinated”. One theory repeatedly voiced at the demonstrations is that a vaccination programme will be used as an opportunity to plant computer chips into the population, which will be used to control them.

    Physical distancing rules have also been referred to as “social Holocaust”, affecting elderly members of society the most.

    Observers of the movement, which has been gathering momentum over the past month, have said it has in part sprung out of Germany’s relative success in tackling the virus so far, a so-called “prevention paradox”, with a low death rate despite a high infection rate, compared to other countries.

    Last weekend several thousand people gathered at demonstrations in Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, Frankfurt and other towns and cities, and some have pledged to do so again his weekend.

    On Thursday Stuttgart authorities cited “protection against infection” as the legal grounds on which it was banning a demonstration called by the far-right populist Alternative für Deutschland party due to take place at the weekend at which the party’s co-leader Alice Weidel was expected to speak. The AfD has said it will seek to overturn the ban.

    Police, wearing protective masks, have sometimes struggled to keep the demonstrators under control, or to ensure participants adhere to the 1.5 metre physical distancing rule.

  83. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin is using the remaining “bud”unspeakable to, um, “encourage” me to note, from France24, ‘One goes completely cuckoo’: Scientists get high on penguin poo (video):

    […]
    There is another substance in Antarctica that is producing a greenhouse gas — penguin poop. The nitrogen in the faeces combines with soil to produce nitrous oxide. It’s a greenhouse gas but it’s best known as “laughing gas” — the kind that’s administered by a dentist. Danish researchers studying the substance said that, “after nosing about in guano for several hours, one goes completely cuckoo”.
    […]

    Whilst only one short segment of the video is about penguin poo, the entire video is perhaps worth watching (and some of it deals with politically-connected matters, so is on-topic (albeit penguin poo is always on-topic (no matter what the topic)!)). A more detailed video (audio only) is Antarctic penguins release an extreme amount of laughing gas in their feces, it turns out, albeit the narration is terrible (but understandable). A somewhat better video / narrator is Researchers Go ‘Cuckoo’ from Laughing Gas in Penguin Poo (provided you can put up with the totally unnecessary, loud, and fecking distracting backgiound music).

    (I speculate somebody slipped some “bud” into the penguin’s feed…)

  84. blf says

    I’ve referred to this weekly France24 show before in this series of poopyhead threads, and this week’s edition is both informative and funny (and I’m kindof happy to see I’m not the only person now carrying some hand sanitiser with me (something I haven’t seen locally)), Life after lockdown: Will the French kiss goodbye to ‘la bise’? (video). As someone who is not French nor from a country with the tradition, its taken me awhile to get used to la bise, and I myself still tend to do the more anglophone / gentlemanly handshakeelbowbise.

  85. blf says

    For feck’s sake, French government ordered to lift coronavirus lockdown ban on religious meetings:

    France’s highest administrative court ruled Monday that the government must lift a blanket ban on meetings at places of worship imposed as part of measures to combat the coronavirus.

    After receiving complaints from several individuals and associations, the Council of State said that such a ban on freedom of worship caused a damage that is serious and manifestly illegal.

    It told the government to lift the ban within the next eight days.

    The latest government decree on measures to combat the coronavirus […] bans all gatherings in places of worship except funerals which are limited to 20 people.

    […]

    Onward, genocidal maniacs,
    marching for more plague,
    with the delusions of sky faeries
    going on before!
    Magic cannibalism,
    leads against the foe;
    forward in to slaughter,
    see teh eejits go.

  86. says

    SC @101, I like this directive:

    “If radical extremists and antisemites use demonstrations in order to stoke hatred and to divide, then everyone should keep a lot more than just a 1.5-metre distance from them,” Heiko Maas said in an interview on Thursday.

    Also true:

    “Those who spread conspiracy theories throughout the world, without a mask, without keeping the minimum distance, without any concern for others, are confusing courage with blind anger, and freedom with pure egotism,” he added.

    In campaign news: Fearing defeat, Republicans scramble to manufacture a controversy

    An antsy party has decided to use Senate committees to effectively make in-kind contributions to Trump’s re-election campaign.

    With the nation struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and a severe economic downturn, there’s an enormous amount of work Senate Republicans could be doing. The Senate Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, in particular, could be tackling meaningful issues.

    But it’s an election year; the party is terrified of steep losses; and GOP leaders have decided to follow the orders Donald Trump is barking, without regard for propriety or merit. Politico reported this week:

    Mitch McConnell can’t afford any tension with President Donald Trump. So he’s doing everything he can to keep his fragile majority in sync with Trump and his explosive election-year playbook. Just three days after Trump berated McConnell on Twitter to “get tough” with Democrats and probe the 2016 Russia investigation that ensnared Trump’s campaign, the Senate majority leader took to the floor to echo the president’s misgivings in a way he declined to do last week.

    The same article quoted Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) saying, in reference to his party, “I just think that everybody realizes that our fortunes sort of rise or fall together. One thing we have to do is to make sure that we are united on our agenda and make sure that there’s not separation between the White House and Republicans in Congress.”

    And what does that mean in practical terms? Just this week, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, led by White House ally Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), put aside work related to the pandemic and approved a subpoena related to … Joe Biden’s son. This is the same GOP-led panel that’s ignored every Trump-era scandal that’s erupted since 2017. […]

    All of this, of course, is being done with the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who declared on the chamber floor this week, “Senate Republicans are taking steps to issue new subpoenas to a wide variety of Obama administration officials…. The American people deserve answers about how such abuses could happen.”
    What abuses? Give GOP senators a little time; they’re bound to think of something.

    […] the Senate’s Republican majority isn’t trying to advance popular legislation to impress voters; it’s trying to chase conspiracy theories and manufacture controversies […]

    […] this post-policy party finds these pointless investigations easier than doing real work. […]

  87. says

    Bits and pieces of other campaign news:

    The latest national Quinnipiac poll found Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by 11 points, 50% to 39%.

    Perhaps under the impression that the president’s support is for sale, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s (R-Ga.) husband, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeff Sprecher, has donated $1 million to the leading pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action.

    According to a Washington Post report, Sen. Bernie Sanders and his political operation have “told some supporters picked to represent him this year to sign agreements barring attacks on other candidates or party leaders, combative confrontations on social media or talking to reporters without approval.”

    Trump pried himself away from the federal pandemic response yesterday to whine bitterly on Twitter about Biden winning the Democratic nomination and Sanders not being “a fighter.”

    Kellyanne Conway, a top member of the president’s White House team, suggested this morning that there should be “more than three debates” between Trump and Biden. Trump, however, hasn’t yet agreed to participate in the three events scheduled by the independent Commission on Presidential Debates.

  88. says

    If he could redo the pandemic response, Trump would change ‘nothing’

    Trump has either convinced himself of a fantasy or he’s peddling a falsehood.

    At a White House event yesterday afternoon, a reporter reminded Donald Trump of some of the brutal statistics surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and asked the president a good question: “What would you have done differently facing this crisis?”

    He replied:

    “Well, nothing. If you take New York and New Jersey — which were very hard hit — we were very, very low…. We’ve done, you know, amazingly well.”

    Right off the bat, there’s a problem with the “other than New York and New Jersey” pitch. For one thing, New York and New Jersey are part of the United States, and they can’t be excluded for the sake of political convenience. For another, there have been significant outbreaks in all kinds of different parts of the country.

    But putting that aside, it was the “well, nothing” answer that’s worth dwelling on for a moment. According to the latest NBC News tally, we’re closing in on 1.6 million confirmed cases in the United States and nearly 94,000 deaths.

    Offered a chance to reflect on the crisis, and possible decisions that could’ve been made, the American president says he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

    Trump looks at the last few months — the ignored warnings, the mismanagement, the false promises, the missed opportunities, the botched rollouts, the bad advice, the pointless political posturing, the bizarre priorities, the deliberate chaos — and sees an administration that responded to the pandemic with “amazing” perfection. […]

  89. says

    From the Washington Post:

    Pompeo’s defense basically boiled down to this: [The firing of the State Department’s inspector general] couldn’t possibly have been retaliation, because I didn’t know what he was investigating. Except then Pompeo acknowledged that he might well have known that he was under investigation.

    Commentary:

    […] In other words, the nation’s chief diplomat couldn’t have retaliated against an inspector general because he didn’t know he was under investigation — except for the investigation that he was very much aware of.

    Making matters worse, the probe of the Saudi arms deal wasn’t likely to go well for Pompeo. Politico reported overnight:

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disregarded the advice of high-level officials at the State Department, Pentagon and within the intelligence community in invoking an emergency waiver last year to circumvent congressional review of billions of dollars in arms sales to the U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf region, according to two former administration officials and three congressional sources.

    Pompeo told Congress, in writing, that the arms deal was necessary — without lawmakers’ approval — because of “Iranian aggression” and “increasing regional volatility.” But Politico’s report added that “high-level career and political officials from the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence community” disagreed with the cabinet secretary’s assessment.

    […] Pompeo and Trump made up a false pretense to circumvent Congress and advance an arms deal that lawmakers opposed.

    As for the State Department’s inspector general’s office, that remains a mess, too. Linick’s dismissal isn’t effective until 30 days after the White House’s announcement, but he’s reportedly been told that he is “physically barred from returning to the State Department even to collect his belongings, complicating his ability to finish his work.”

    […] Linick’s successor as IG, Stephen Akard, is already an employee at the cabinet agency, working as the head of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions — a job he reportedly intends to keep under Pompeo’s plan, creating an obvious conflict of interest.

    It’s almost as if Pompeo believes there’s a contest underway to be The Worst Secretary of State Ever, and he’s in it to win it. […]

    Link

  90. says

    McConnell vows to end enhanced unemployment benefits

    Republicans have finally settled on a tangible economic goal: making sure the unemployed have less money.

    […] Despite calls for urgent action from economists and the Federal Reserve, GOP leaders have said they intend to “pause” for a while, pushing off prospective negotiations.

    But even in the event there are bipartisan talks about bolstering an economy in crisis, it’s increasingly clear what Republicans don’t want in the bill. […]

    Mitch McConnell promised House Republicans on Wednesday that the beefed up unemployment benefits enacted earlier this spring “will not be in the next bill.” […]

    With tens of millions of Americans pushed from their jobs by the pandemic, the policy is a lifeline to families across the country. It is, however, temporary: the current benefit will expire in July.

    […] Trump reportedly expressed opposition to an extension during behind-closed-doors comments this week, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently assured business leaders that current benefits would continue “over our dead bodies.”

    […] When pressed, GOP officials tend to present something resembling a policy argument: if the unemployed are getting by on existing jobless benefits, they’ll feel less urgency about rejoining the workforce. Cutting them off, Republicans insist, won’t have adverse effects, since these Americans will simply replace their benefit income with employment income. […]

    But in practice, more than 38 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last couple of months; the unemployment rate will almost certainly be above 20% very soon; and any realistic projection suggests the jobs crisis will still be painfully real when the existing benefits plan expires in July.

    In other words, over the summer, McConnell, Trump, and their Republican brethren will effectively tell tens of millions of Americans, “Good news: we’re scrapping the money you’ve relied on as a lifeline during this crisis, but you can now all go back to work.” The directive presupposes that employers everywhere will be hanging “help wanted” signs — long before a vaccine or effective COVID-19 treatment is available — that the unemployed will be eager to take advantage of.

    Will some jobless Americans re-enter the workforce if enhanced benefits disappear? Probably. Will there be enough job openings in August for the Americans who lost their jobs and want to re-enter the workforce? […]

    And how many workers want to risk dying of coronavirus in order to go back to work?

    The broken promises of many owners of meat packing plants show that many employers cannot be trusted to create safer working environments. For example, a JBS plant promised to test all of the workers, and then they did not do so. Changes to the speed at which processing lines move have not been made. The number of workers standing shoulder to shoulder on the line has not been reduced. Workers have been urged to continue working even when they feel ill.

    Various yahoos and whackos around the country insist on endangering restaurant workers, and others in service industries, by refusing to wear masks and by refusing to observe social distancing rules.

    This is all going quite badly so far. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans trying to force people to go back to work by putting a financial squeeze on them is only going to make things worse.

  91. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @106:

    Senate Republicans are taking steps to issue new subpoenas to a wide variety of Obama administration officials…

    Couldn’t the Obama administration officials just ignore the subpoenas just like the present administration is doing?

  92. says

    How does COVID-19 affect the human brain?

    […] doctors around the world are racing to examine worrying reports of COVID-19 affecting the brain. Individual reports have shown strokes, brain swelling, and general brain damage occurring in patients with the disease, raising a serious question: Are the symptoms related to the viral infection? And, if so, how?

    “The key task of research is trying to determine whether there is a mechanistic, causal relationship,” Dr. Robert Stevens, an Associate Professor of Neurology and Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who is running a study on the matter, told TPM. […]

    “There’s good reason to infer that there might be some kind of indirect relationship,” Stevens added. “But if you want to interpret the data as currently available, it’s still speculative.”

    […] doctors still don’t have enough big-picture data to provide firm answers on why these ailments are happening and on whether the virus really attacks the brain.

    At the moment, most of the information about the neurological effects of COVID-19 comes in the form of case reports: write-ups of individual cases where a team of doctors observed something that might be indicative of a pattern.

    Testing to figure out how widespread the problem is remains challenging. For one thing, it can be difficult to take samples of cerebrospinal fluid — the liquid that encases the brain and runs down the spine — from patients battling the disease.

    […] “It’s not easy because the patients are so unstable that you could put them at risk by doing a lumbar puncture or taking them to the MRI to investigate.”

    But across these case reports, some potential effects have become clear. More than half of COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell, which could be indicative of an attack on the nervous system or on the brain itself. Some patients face more serious complications, including confusion and drowsiness. In worse cases, young, otherwise healthy people have had massive strokes, and there are indications that some patients may experience swelling in the brain.

    […] questions remain about which are caused by the virus directly, and which are caused by the body’s immune response to the disease. […] One brain condition known as encephalopathy has been found to occur in up to 40 percent of serious COVID-19 patients. That presents as a collection of symptoms suggesting brain impairment, leaving patients confused and dizzy. In some more severe cases patients have experienced dementia.

    […] encephalopathy tends to pop up with many severe viral infections. It’s not unique to COVID-19; rather, it tends to be a byproduct of serious illness. […]

    What appears to be far more serious are reports of swelling of the brain — known as encephalitis — and strokes in those who also test positive for COVID-19.

    […] in late April by a case report out of New York City’s Mt. Sinai Health System, documenting five patients — all under the age of 50 — who had large-scale strokes while testing positive for COVID-19.

    The lead doctor on the study, Thomas Oxley, described doing a procedure to remove the blood clot in the brain of the patient on a podcast hosted by the American Academy of Neurology. As he was doing the procedure, Oxley said, he was shocked to see the blood clotting around his medical instrument.

    “The interesting part and what makes this different is that strokes are occurring in people who would not otherwise get them,” said Wilner, adding that one hypothesis around why the strokes are occurring has to do with the blood clots linked to COVID-19, or with the virus attacking the blood vessel lining itself. […]

    Stevens, the Johns Hopkins researcher, told TPM that recent reports indicate a “signal” around inflammation of the brain and COVID-19, which could suggest early evidence of a link between the virus and encephalitis.

    One 74-year old Floridian man went to the ER after falling down twice, amid symptoms of fever and general confusion.

    Doctors admitted the man to the hospital, where they found possible evidence of inflammation in his blood vessels, which could suggest encephalitis. He died after 11 days.

    During an autopsy, researchers found traces of the coronavirus in his brain tissue.

    A separate case report from Japan described a 24-year old who was found unconscious nine days after first coming down with headache, fatigue, and fever symptoms. The man survived and eventually awoke, but only after being found passed out, and after a series of seizures in the ambulance.

    The man tested positive for COVID-19, with the virus — as well as evidence of brain inflammation — found in his cerebrospinal fluid, which is found in the brain and spinal cord. […] the disease would likely leave a population of survivors coping with long-term damage.

    […] citing potential “cognitive impairments” and lung damage as things to watch out for.

    […] “We’re talking about a disease that is complicated but may have lasting effects,” he said. “When we have a vaccine, there are still going to be people out there struggling with this long after it’s gone.”

    Link

  93. says

    johnson catman @111, that’s a question I haven’t thought about. It would be good to hear from someone like Ari Melber on that issue. I doubt that those Obama-administration people would refuse to comply with a subpoena. They are law-abiding individuals.

    In other news: Trump plans to withdraw from yet another arms treaty, showing weakness, not strength.

    Still bent on opting out of treaties and international programs that the United States initiated or in which it has been a key participant, Donald Trump plans to withdraw from the multilateral Treaty on Open Skies […] The treaty, which allows signatory nations to overfly each other for unarmed surveillance, was first proposed 65 years ago in Geneva by President Dwight Eisenhower. It was rejected by the Russians. Nearly 35 years later, it was negotiated by President George W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The treaty, which now has 35 signatories, did not come into effect until 2002.

    […] the withdrawal from Open Skies is an indication that Trump will also withdraw from NEW START, the 9-year-old treaty limiting the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads on missiles and bombers. […] the treaty will expire nine months from now unless signatories agree to a five-year extension. […]

    while other U.S. officials have serious criticisms of Russia’s alleged behavior in the matter, Trump’s true motive may be simpler

    American officials also note that Mr. Trump was angered by a Russian flight directly over his Bedminster, N.J., golf estate, in 2017.

    After detailing some of the complaints in an analysis at the Arms Control Association, Alexandra Bell and Anthony Wier wrote last year:

    For the last 16 years, the United States made the most of the treaty, overflying Russia nearly three times as often as the Russia overflew the United States. Whatever the treaty’s shortcomings, the United States should strive to preserve a right for nations across the transatlantic region to collectively acquire images that distinguish tanks from trucks in all weather. Despite the problem areas, the overwhelming majority of Russia is available for overflights. With tensions between Russia and NATO on the rise, the treaty’s goal to provide mutual transparency is more important than ever. […]

    The treaty forces countries’ military and government officials to work with one another, jointly solve air traffic or other logistical questions, inspect planes together, and confront problems in a broadly inclusive, transatlantic diplomatic framework. All these acts and the choice by the larger powers to submit themselves to them increase mutual trust and predictability.

    […] the withdrawal is certain to irk America’s European allies who have become so fatigued by Trump’s incessant bluster, undiplomatic pushiness, uncooperativeness, disrespectfulness, and profound ignorance about international matters that they’ve taken to openly ridiculing him among themselves. If Washington quits the treaty, the Kremlin will certainly do so as well, reducing European signatories’ abilities to monitor Russian troop movements, a special concern of the Baltic states that were once satellites of the Soviet Union.

    […] Trump has shown a penchant for walking away from agreements the way he walks out of press conferences […] That may have worked for him as a bullying measure when he was engaging in business negotiations. It’s a reckless, perilous approach to foreign policy.

  94. tomh says

    @ #111
    Exactly. I don’t know why anyone, including Hunter Biden, would pay any attention to a Congressional subpoena. Let them take it to court to try and enforce.

  95. says

    OMG.

    […] As it turns out, there’s a problem with [Senator Lindsey] Graham [Trumpian lickspittle] demanding that the FBI tell him who in the Obama administration ordered the unmasking of Flynn. The problem is that Graham got an answer. And the answer is: no one. That’s because it never happened. And that’s because Flynn’s name was never masked in the first place. But there is something about Flynn that was covered up, and the facts behind that seem like a real scandal.

    As The Washington Post reports, Graham made a big announcement on Tuesday that he was sending a letter to the brand-new extra-Trumpy Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell demanding to know why documents had not been produced to explain who unmasked Flynn’s name in connection with his multiple calls to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Meanwhile, Nunes was back on Fox News to accuse the Obama administration of “unmasking anyone and everyone so that they could leak information to a press.”

    These are the calls that Flynn first denied, then lied about not just to the FBI, but supposedly to Mike Pence. […]

    The reply that Graham got doesn’t exactly give more power to his bid to get in on this “Obamagate” thing. Because what Grenell sent back was the news that the FBI never masked Flynn’s name. It was always on the report, because understanding who was talking to Kislyak “was essential to understanding its significance.” There was no unmasking request, because there was no mask.

    […] Maybe Nunes can sneak back into the White House basement and get a hot tip from Flynn’s former protege—who is exactly who handed him the claims about unmasking in the first place.

    […] As Marcy Wheeler reported over at emptywheel:

    Flynn wasn’t lying to hide what he said to Kislyak.

    He was lying to hide that he had coordinated with people at Mar-a-Lago before speaking with Kislyak.

    Records of Flynn’s interviews with the FBI show that he repeatedly lied, not about the contents of the call, but about his own coordination with Trump before and after that call. Not only did Flynn lie directly to the FBI at least three times about his knowledge of sanctions, he followed the call by requesting a written note directly intended to mask the importance of the conversation.

    The problem for Graham, Nunes, and others trying to find evidence that Obama did something wrong in regards to Flynn, is that Flynn is a crook, who didn’t just lie to the FBI, but covered up his coordination with the Trump transition team. That’s in addition to numerous violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and planning for the kidnapping of a U.S. resident.

    If people keep asking for evidence related to Flynn, they’ll likely find some. They just won’t like it.

    Link

  96. Saad says

    johnson catman, #111

    Couldn’t the Obama administration officials just ignore the subpoenas just like the present administration is doing?

    Probably not, because the Republicans actually have the guts to enforce them.

  97. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lynna @ 13

    I doubt that those Obama-administration people would refuse to comply with a subpoena. They are law-abiding individuals.

    That’s why the Democrats keep losing.

    Saad @ 116

    Probably not, because the Republicans actually have the guts to enforce them.

    Then maybe it’s time for the Democrats to find their guts, spine, and gender-preferred gonads and fight back against said enforcement.

  98. says

    From Wonkette: “South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Asks Donald Trump To Nuke Tribes’ Highway Checkpoints From Orbit.”

    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has escalated her fight with two Native American tribes over highway checkpoints. Earlier this month, Noem threatened to sue the tribes to remove checkpoints they had set up on state and federal highways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on their reservations.

    Yesterday, instead of suing, Noem sent a letter to Donald Trump, the Justice Department, the Interior Department (home of the Bureau of Indian Affairs), and the members of her state’s congressional delegation asking for help in making the tribes respect her authoriteh. Throughout the pandemic, Noem has refused to let municipal governments issue stay at home orders and other public health measures she didn’t like, so clearly, the tribes’ defiance couldn’t be allowed to stand, either.

    The checkpoints were put in place on a number of state and federal roads in April by the Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes to help enforce their own public health measures. (No limited-access interstate highways are affected, just surface roads where anyone might stop for gas or lunch and so on.) The tribes argue that 19th Century federal treaties give tribal leaders sole authority to regulate who can and cannot come onto their land. The tribes, understandably, want to avoid a horrific outbreak like the one that has hit the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, which now has the highest per capita rate of infection in the US.

    […] Noem has reassessed whether a lawsuit would go her way. That, or she simply prefers to let Donald Trump know she’d welcome his help, and perhaps some gratuitous “Pocahontas” slurs, which seems Trump’s sole frame of reference for all of Native America.

    Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe spokesperson Remi Bald Eagle told Indian Country Today that since Noem’s letter was sent only to federal officials and not to the tribe, the tribe would “just have to wait and see what the feds do. […] We are going to continue to do our checkpoints until they’re no longer a necessary part of our emergency response plan.”

    Bald Eagle said Noem had sent a plan to the tribe proposing solutions to the impasse, and the tribe had been considering its feasibility when Noem escalated the fight by going to the Trump administration. Noem’s proposal, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, pretty much involved the tribes doing exactly what Noem has been calling for from the start. It would “remove checkpoints from state and federal highways and keep them on Bureau of Indian Affairs roads”. […]

    In her letter to Trump, posted to the state’s COVID-19 website, Noem claims that the tribes are basically doing kidnapping or something; she claims that “interrogations of travelers” are being conducted, and that since some travelers may be turned away based on their answers at the checkpoints, the tribes are imposing an illegal “blockade” of state and federal roads. […]

    But the tribes shouldn’t worry, she insists, because she too cares about controlling the pandemic […]

    As thing stand, the number of cases on the two reservations seem fairly low, as Indian Country Today reports:

    Out of the 4,177 positive cases reported in South Dakota as of May 20, 310 are Native American, according to the state health agency. Oglala Lakota County, home of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, has reported 14 positive cases and one recovered case. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe sits in Dewey and Zeibach counties, and both combine to have a single positive case.

    Cheyenne River tribal chair Frazier has said the roadblocks are essential to making sure the tribe’s health center, which has only eight beds and no ICU facilities, isn’t overwhelmed. The nearest hospital able to provide the critical care needed for COVID-19 is three hours away from the reservation.

    […] if Noem wants to pick a fight over checkpoints, she’ll need to expand her enemies list, since last week, a third tribe, the Rosebud Sioux, announced it too was setting up highway checkpoints as part of its extension of the public health lockdown. […]

    Noem loves playing up her loyalty to Trump, and seems to be calculating that a fight with the tribes is good politics, so expect this stupid posturing to continue.

    Link

  99. says

    From Dahlia Lithwick and William Sage, The President Still Has No Clothes

    The coronavirus has made Trump’s deficiencies more apparent. We still don’t quite know what to do with him.

    Expressing his skepticism about the utility of widespread coronavirus testing, […] Trump recently said: “When you test, you find something is wrong. With people.”

    The truth is that one doesn’t need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to observe and record the ordinary human behaviors the president hasn’t mastered.

    We may never have the tests to determine exactly what is wrong with Trump himself. But we know that something is wrong, and we have known this for a long time. We know that he fails to exhibit emotional qualities we reasonably expect of a leader, particularly in times of crisis. Most notably, he fails to have empathy[…] We also know something is wrong because we have heard, seen, and read statements by the president that are inconsistent, factually incorrect, tangential, and more than occasionally incoherent. […]

    the president blurs the line between reality and fantasy while talking about a lethal pandemic […] it’s still difficult for many of us to resist the temptation to find order in the mess.

    In the absence of psychiatric or cognitive tests Trump may never undergo, we cannot establish that some affirmative condition accounts for his daily shortage of rational output. […] the truth is that one doesn’t need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to observe and record the ordinary human behaviors the president hasn’t mastered. Any rational observer can do it. […]

    Anyone and everyone charged with reporting on this president should make a fundamental commitment that describing or interpreting this president’s statements and actions must highlight, on an ongoing and even repetitive basis, what they don’t see. Reporters, public intellectuals, and pundits should stop filling in Trump’s gaps for him and should allow as full a picture as possible to emerge of his cognitive and personal incompleteness. Not doing so explicitly has resulted in four years of rationalizing, contextualizing, and indeed—in popular parlance—“normalizing” a president few of us would trust to take care of a pet over the weekend.

    […] This unwillingness to mention the nakedness of his character, the absence of what is practically and morally required of presidents, becomes an act of draping layers of cloth over an unadorned and oblivious leader. […]

    Some problems derive from the workflow of conventional reporting, particularly the sound bite nature of television news. It feels necessary to present Trump’s words in short bursts, which usually renders them more intelligible, while editing out the surrounding incoherence. It took a foreign correspondent from Australia, listening in 2017 to the president struggling to describe his proposed border wall, to realize how much routine editing in daily news coverage tended to normalize the content and cadence of Trump’s speech.

    […] audiences don’t see Trump’s frequent inability to grasp what he is being asked […] and his tendency to offer nonresponsive musings for which no semblance of a larger context exists. […]

    It has taken years for some members of the mainstream press to note explicitly in headlines that Trump utters false statements. […] There can be grave consequences from relying on readers to identify presidential misinformation through lengthy he says/she says reportage.

    COVID-19 has brought Trump’s irrationality and incoherence into clearer focus […] Trump has uttered approximately 20,000 false or misleading statements since taking office, a substantial number of which have been traced to random Fox News hosts or fringe conservative websites.

    […] When Trump offered a specific number or a certain date, or announced a supposedly miraculous scientific breakthrough, media reports showcasing those statements implied, perhaps unintentionally, that his saying meant knowing. More recent coverage, however, takes account of Trump’s declared intent, which is that regardless of the risks, he would like to make America once again a nation of salespeople and shoppers, and finally regards his rosy declarations that fly in the face of widespread illness and death with skepticism. […]

    Journalists who once believed that presidential announcements reflected special knowledge have learned via detailed reporting that Trump refuses to receive or understand nuanced information about the pandemic. […] The nation repeatedly saw Trump walk to the podium, read a short, seemingly unfamiliar script in a flat monotone, and then “wing it” for an hour or more of questions from the press. Since those faux briefings ceased, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated contempt even for medical expertise from within his own administration. And so, many news outlets no longer present Trump’s medical statements verbatim in close to real time. Perhaps COVID-19, as part of its human devastation, has finally laid bare more of the president’s cognitive black holes.

    […] A leader’s expected focus in this pandemic—to build common purpose, save lives, and restore confidence in economic activity—does not motivate Trump. So, reporters and commentators assume that something equally significant must be motivating him instead, like campaign strategy. […]

    The better explanation is that he is just talking, on impulse. Certainly, Trump has a pervasive sense of self-interest, […] But the frequency and character of his attacks suggest they are the consequence of poor impulse control more than any deep strategy. […]

    […] news coverage continues to excuse itself from connecting the dots of Trump’s episodic irrationality into a larger demonstration of incapacity. Scattered lay commentary suggests that a crisis of the magnitude facing America has caused a mental or emotional collapse on the president’s part, but few if any lines are traced to the persistent irrationality of Trump’s entire presidency.

    […] they refuse to apply that same expertise to explain why anyone would repeatedly concoct—and apparently believe—such utterly bizarre medical advice. […]

    Ultimately, Trump’s deficiencies are our problem to deal with. […] There are many explanations for our collective blinders—long-standing expectations of presidents, respect for wealth, receptivity to salesmanship, partisan division, financial opportunism, media echo chambers, foreign interests, aggressive lawyers, nondisclosure agreements. Still, we must find ways to report on his increasingly dangerous irrationality, and we must do so without inadvertently rationalizing it. In order to understand it, we have to stop trying to make sense of it.

  100. says

    Oh, fuck.

    Ignoring concerns, Republicans confirm new National Intel director

    Last year, John Ratcliffe was widely seen as the punch-line to an unfortunate joke. Today, the GOP confirmed him as the director of National Intelligence.

    […] The Texas Republican, who was apparently unvetted by the White House, was immediately recognized as one of Congress’ most far-right members, who’s dabbled in silly conspiracy theories, and who’s been a disengaged lawmaker with no meaningful connections with the intelligence agencies the president wanted him to oversee.

    […] Almost immediately after the president introduced Ratcliffe as his choice for DNI, the far-right congressman was caught repeatedly lying about his professional background. Many noted that he didn’t even meet the statutory guidelines for the position.

    Senate Republicans made little effort to hide the fact that they didn’t want Trump to nominate the guy. When Ratcliffe’s nomination was pulled just a few days after it was announced, GOP senators seemed relieved that the debacle had come to an abrupt end.

    And yet, as we recently discussed, the president decided to try again with Ratcliffe. This time, GOP senators went along.

    The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence, installing a new head of the nation’s intelligence agencies at a time when […] Trump has ousted multiple officials. […]

    Since the DNI position was created 15 years ago, every official who’s held the office was confirmed with broad, bipartisan support. Today’s Senate vote, however, was 49 to 44.

    The whole thing is a bit bizarre. Ratcliffe is a fringe congressman who seemed to get the president’s attention through a series of Fox News appearances, and whose career should’ve been derailed when evidence emerged that he lied repeatedly about his professional background.

    […] appears to be literally unqualified — will now oversee 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

    […] The Atlantic’s David Graham noted, among other things, that many senators realized that the current, acting DNI — notorious online troll Ric Grenell — was even worse than Ratcliffe.

    “It’s a travesty that Ratcliffe would be nominated and a travesty that he’d be confirmed,” Graham wrote before explaining “the pernicious genius of Trump’s plan: Senators would either have to hold their noses and confirm Ratcliffe, or hold their noses and let Grenell stick around.” […]

  101. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] There’s a coffee shop and if I go in there every day for a week there’s an 80% chance I’ll get COVID. If I wear my mask, let’s say that percentage drops to 40%. With those numbers I’m definitely not going into the coffee shop ever. You probably feel the same way. But across society that reduction of transmission is a game changer. The standards for individual risk and societal risk are different.

    […] In early March, at one of New York City’s COVID press conferences, Public Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot was asked why New Yorkers shouldn’t wear masks when clinicians did. Barbot noted rightly that there weren’t enough to go around and that health care workers came first. But then she argued that they would give people a false sense of security. She described seeing a masked New Yorker with his mask pulled down so he could smoke a cigarette. That’s dumb certainly. But it doesn’t really address the question.

    In the CIDRAP article noted above [See the link for more information] the authors noted Wuhan as evidence that widespread masking doesn’t work. “Sweeping mask recommendations—as many have proposed—will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year.”

    This simply doesn’t follow. Mask wearing may be more commonplace in China than it is in the US. But few people who weren’t actively sick were wearing masks before the outbreaks began. Mask wearing accelerated massively in mid-January and was mandated in the second half of January. By late February the outbreak had slowed dramatically. This certainly doesn’t prove the efficacy of masking. There were other critical and probably more important mitigations, like radical reductions in mobility, forcing people to stay almost entirely in their home, disinfections, etc. But it certainly doesn’t disprove the efficacy masking. […]

    Here are a few studies in preprint (prior to being peer-reviewed) which take up the masking issue. We don’t have much in the way of studies at the moment. So as you’ll see they tend toward mathematical modeling and reviews of existing evidence. [See the TPM link.]

    […] “Universal Masking is Urgent in the COVID-19 Pandemic: SEIR and Agent Based Models, Empirical Validation, Policy Recommendations”

    “Mathematical assessment of the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on curtailing the 2019 novel Coronavirus”

    “To mask or not to mask: Modeling the potential for face mask use by the general public to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic”

    “COVID-19 transmission risk factors”

    The strongest argument for mask usage is that there is a good commonsense argument that widespread mask usage at least limits transmission. […] Critically, there’s little downside. It’s not wrecking the economy. It’s not a useless drug that could that could trigger a cardiac event.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/unpacking-the-mask-debate

  102. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna @121 I’m wearing a mask until vaccinated plus response time.

  103. says

    Here’s another “oh, FFS” moment:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus.

    The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons.

    his is not merely a technical error. States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points.

    Several states—including Pennsylvania, the site of one of the country’s largest outbreaks, as well as Texas, Georgia, and Vermont—are blending the data in the same way. Virginia likewise mixed viral and antibody test results until last week, but it reversed course and the governor apologized for the practice after it was covered by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Atlantic. Maine similarly separated its data on Wednesday; Vermont authorities claimed they didn’t even know they were doing this.

    The widespread use of the practice means that it remains difficult to know exactly how much the country’s ability to test people who are actively sick with COVID-19 has improved.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Ashish Jha, the K. T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told us when we described what the CDC was doing. “How could the CDC make that mistake? This is a mess.”

    Viral tests, taken by nose swab or saliva sample, look for direct evidence of a coronavirus infection. They are considered the gold standard for diagnosing someone with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus: State governments consider a positive viral test to be the only way to confirm a case of COVID-19. Antibody tests, by contrast, use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past.

    A negative test result means something different for each test. If somebody tests negative on a viral test, a doctor can be relatively confident that they are not sick right now; if somebody tests negative on an antibody test, they have probably never been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus. (Or they may have been given a false result—antibody tests are notoriously less accurate on an individual level than viral tests.) The problem is that the CDC is clumping negative results from both tests together in its public reporting.

    Mixing the two tests makes it much harder to understand the meaning of positive tests, and it clouds important information about the U.S. response to the pandemic, Jha said. “The viral testing is to understand how many people are getting infected, while antibody testing is like looking in the rearview mirror. The two tests are totally different signals,” he told us. By combining the two types of results, the CDC has made them both “uninterpretable,” he said. […]

    The Atlantic link

    “How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?”

    The government’s disease-fighting agency is conflating viral and antibody tests, compromising a few crucial metrics that governors depend on to reopen their economies.

    More at the link.

  104. says

    Trump’s mind, and his ability to speak in English, have deteriorated:

    “I tested very positively in another sense. So, this morning, yeah. I tested positively toward negative, right? So, no, I tested perfectly this morning, meaning I tested negative. But that’s a way of saying it: positively toward the negative.” That ought to clear things up.

  105. says

    Trump uses the power of the presidency to give himself a big campaign edge during coronavirus

    There’s no doubt that Donald Trump wants to pretend the danger of coronavirus has disappeared so he can hold big honkin’ rallies to get that ego fix he needs. But even without rallies, he’s still campaigning—he’s just doing it in the guise of official presidential events.

    It’s not hard to see a theme in the locations of recent official events for both Trump and Mike Pence. Trump has been to Arizona, Pennsylvania, and […] Michigan. Pence has been to Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In other words, they’re campaigning in battleground states. Trump’s stop at a Pennsylvania medical supply plant even featured his campaign soundtrack, in case onlookers missed what was going on.

    Trump’s Arizona event featured a local couple he’d met while campaigning in 2016, with Jorge Rivas telling Trump, “All the Latinos are going to vote for you because we think you’re doing . . . a very good job.” Not that it was a campaign event or anything. […]

    Trump’s “official” travel is coming as he ramps up attacks against Obama in one of his weirdest campaign strategies yet, and as his campaign prepares to unleash its “Death Star” against Biden.

    Today, Trump defied state and Ford company orders to wear a mask. He said he didn’t want journalists to see him wearing a mask.

    Today, Trump used his visit to a Ford facility manufacturing ventilators to denigrate Joe Biden. Taxpayers paid for this campaign jaunt.

  106. says

    Follow-up to comment 126.

    Trump also took his falsely-predicated grievances against mail-in voting to that visit to Michigan.

    He also complained about the state’s mail-in voting strategy.

    […] the conversation immediately turned to Trump’s fresh threat to withhold federal funds from Michigan if they moved forward with a mail-in voting plan. Trump fielded a reporter’s question on the issue, then spent several minutes detailing a litany of hypothetical mail-in voter fraud examples, without offering evidence that such wrongdoing has occurred.

    “Who knows who’s signing it? Who knows it gets to your house? Who knows if they don’t pirate?” he said. “Obviously there’s going to be fraud. We’re not babies.” But Trump declined to say what funds he might withhold from Michigan.

    Later, while touring the Ford Motor Co. plant that had converted to ventilator and mask production, Trump opted not to wear a mask, ignoring the pleas of Michigan authorities ahead of his visit. When asked about the choice, Trump said he wore a mask in another area, “where they preferred it.” He then removed it during the public portion of the tour because, he said, “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” […]

    Link

    Michigan currently has a weather-related flooding disaster to face. The state needs federal emergency assistance.

  107. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna @127, I lived in Midland, MI in ’79-80. The house I was renting would no doubt have received water damage from the present problem. It is bad. They need help.

  108. Saad says

    We keep telling ourselves he’s not above the rules or that we don’t have a king.

  109. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    What we have is worse than a king. We have Charles II of Spain.

  110. says

    NYT – “Pompeo Quietly Visits Conservative Donors and Political Figures on State Dept. Trips”:

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a secretive trip in January to a Florida retirement enclave populated by prominent Republican donors while on the tail end of a diplomatic trip to Latin America.

    He held the same kind of quiet meeting in December with Republican donors over a hotel dinner on a State Department trip to London.

    And last October, he huddled with Charles G. Koch, the Republican billionaire and a longtime supporter of his, while on an official visit to Kansas aboard a government aircraft.

    In each of those instances, Mr. Pompeo did not put the visits on his public schedule. He and his aides avoided telling the reporters traveling with them about the meetings, though some news organizations reported them afterward. And they took place as Mr. Pompeo was considering a run for the Senate from his adopted home state of Kansas and as he nurtures plans for a presidential bid in 2024.

    Mr. Pompeo, President Trump’s most loyal and powerful aide, has not tried to hide his political ambitions. But he has chosen not to disclose certain meetings that appeared to be linked to those plans while on taxpayer-funded trips. The exact number of the meetings is unclear, though there is a pattern of activity.

    For some of Mr. Pompeo’s official travels, the State Department does announce that he meets with American corporate leaders — that was the case when the secretary visited finance sector executives in New York City in early March — but the department gives no further details on the trips.

    Such activities are coming under greater scrutiny after congressional aides said last weekend that the State Department inspector general, Steve A. Linick, who was fired by Mr. Trump last Friday at Mr. Pompeo’s urging, had opened an investigation into potential misuse of department resources by Mr. Pompeo for the personal benefit of him and his wife.

    American Oversight, a liberal legal watchdog group, has demanded that the State Department turn over details of all of Mr. Pompeo’s domestic trips.

    Congressional aides said they had noted Mr. Pompeo’s unannounced side visits while on diplomatic business. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, called for a special counsel investigation last year into the legality of Mr. Pompeo’s frequent Kansas trips. The Hatch Act forbids federal employees from using their official positions to carry out partisan political activities, with the exception of the president and vice president.

    Over the past few months, Mr. Pompeo has met frequently with Brett O’Donnell, a Republican political consultant who has advised the secretary of state for six years, going back to when Mr. Pompeo was a congressman. Mr. O’Donnell, who declined to comment, has worked for several Republican presidential campaigns, including those of George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. He was with Mr. Pompeo last July at a speech in Orlando, Fla.

    Last month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent campaigns a 57-page strategy memo written by Mr. O’Donnell advising candidates to attack China while generally avoiding defending Mr. Trump on his pandemic reaction. Mr. Pompeo has taken the most vocally aggressive stand against China among top administration officials.

    Before he ruled out a Senate run in early January, Mr. Pompeo traveled to Kansas four times in 2019 — three of them on State Department funds. He went to Wichita in October with Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, to meet with students; to Kansas State University in September for a foreign policy speech; and to a Kansas City suburb in March to meet with business leaders. It was during the October trip that he quietly met with Mr. Koch and Dave Robertson, the president and chief operating officer of Koch Industries, to discuss a possible Senate run.

    The Kansas City Star ran a scathing editorial on the frequent trips with the headline: “Mike Pompeo, either quit and run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or focus on your day job.”

    In January, at the end of five days of travel mostly through Latin America, Mr. Pompeo gave a 17-minute speech to about 400 people in Bushnell, Fla. Afterward, he hopped in his motorcade — out of sight of reporters — to go to The Villages, a collection of retirement compounds. The address visited by Mr. Pompeo was listed on campaign finance records as one for political contributions from Mark Morse, the head of the family that developed The Villages, according to The Tampa Bay Times, which obtained local law enforcement records.

    Last December, while attending a NATO meeting in London, Mr. Pompeo slipped away from reporters to go to a dinner event at his hotel where the guests included Republican donors. At the event, which was hosted by the Hamilton Society, a group of conservative American and British businesspeople, the few dozen attendees were told to leave their phones outside to ensure that Mr. Pompeo’s remarks would not be recorded, CNN reported.

    Other trips that Mr. Pompeo has made with government resources but kept off the public schedule include ones to conclaves of businesspeople and officials where discussions remain off-the-record. He went to the secretive annual Bilderberg Meeting while on a diplomatic trip to Switzerland last year. He flew to the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho in 2019 and also in 2017, when he was C.I.A. director. Officials say the travel comports with his duties, but politicians aspiring to higher office also make important connections on those trips.

    Mr. Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, is scheduled to visit Iowa in July for a speech to the Family Leader, a faith-based organization that hosted Mr. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, as they considered running for president….

  111. says

    AP – “Judge grants sanctions against DOJ over citizenship question”:

    A federal judge on Thursday agreed to impose financial sanctions against the Trump administration for failing to produce hundreds of documents during litigation over whether a citizenship question could be added to the 2020 census.

    U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said in a ruling that the Trump administration’s failure to produce the documents “may well have been inadvertent, but is nevertheless unacceptable for any litigant, and particularly for the Department of Justice.”

    The judge in New York ordered the administration to pay some of the costs and fees of nonprofit advocacy groups that had sought the sanctions.

    “To be sure, this was not DOJ’s finest hour,” Furman wrote, referring to the Department of Justice. “At best, DOJ failed to produce more than ten percent of the documents that Defendants were required to produce as part of this litigation.”

    The Department of Justice declined to comment.

    Last year, Furman ruled against an effort by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. That decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court which said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ rationale for the citizenship question — to help enforce voting rights — appeared to be contrived.

    Nonprofit groups that had sued to block the citizenship question demanded sanctions after new documents surfaced that they say suggested Ross’ motive in adding the citizenship question was for aiding redistricting efforts that could benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

    Lawyers for the Trump administration admitted last fall that they had discovered more than 3,700 pages of documents while responding to a congressional inquiry that had not been shared during the litigation over the citizenship question.

    The judge refused a request by the nonprofit groups to grant sanctions for concealing evidence and false testimony from two witnesses. Furman said he was offering no opinion on whether those allegations were true, but even if they were true, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the case.

    The Department of Justice had blamed its failure to produce the documents on a technical error during its document-search process. Furman described the error as “a lapse that would make a first-year litigation associate wince.”…

    This is public money. The US public is paying the fines for their racist corruption and cheating.

  112. says

    Holy shit.

    Earlier this week, I noted that “I’m having a hard time getting information about Belarus (I did see they had almost a thousand new cases yesterday, in the wake of the parade they held last week) or Chechnya. There are some numbers coming out, but how accurately they reflect reality is another question. Little on-the-ground reporting that I’m seeing, at least in English.” Not even numbers have been coming out of Chechnya.

    Now in the Guardian – “Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov ‘hospitalised with suspected Covid-19′”:

    Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Chechnya, is in hospital in Moscow with coronavirus symptoms, Russian state news agencies said late on Thursday.

    The news was reported by two Russian state news agencies, RIA Novosti and Tass, both citing a “source in medical circles”. If true, it would mark the most significant illness of a Russian official so far in the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Kadyrov has become a singular figure in his native Chechnya, where he was installed by Vladimir Putin in 2007 in order to quell a simmering insurgency. He has since turned the region into a personal fiefdom, developing a powerful national guard and a cult of personality. He has no clear successor.

    “Ramzan Kadyrov has been brought to Moscow by plane with suspected coronavirus. He is currently under medical observation,” read the source’s remarks published by Tass. It was also reported by the Interfax news agency, which serves as another clearing house for official news, although it is occasionally inaccurate.

    Kadyrov’s illness was first reported by the digital news outlet Baza, which had previously correctly revealed that prime minister Mikhail Mishustin had fallen ill. According to the news outlet, Kadyrov was flown to “one of [Moscow’s] best clinics” on Wednesday after his flu-like symptoms suddenly deteriorated. Baza reported there had been damage to his lungs.

  113. says

    Here’s a link to the May 22 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From their most recent summary:

    …India has reported 6,000 new cases in its biggest one-day rise since the outbreak started. The country has also reported over 118,000 confirmed cases – around a 5% increase from yesterday.

    Coronavirus cases in war-torn Yemen are believed to be “widespread”, while its health system has “in effect collapsed”. A UN spokesman said on Friday that the reported total of 184 cases in the country is also “almost certainly much higher”.

    Indonesia has reported 973 new infections – its highest daily figure – bringing the country’s total cases to 20,162. The figures come as millions of people in the world’s fourth most populous country mark the festival of Eid al-Fitr without the usual celebrations.

    The leader of New Zealand’s main opposition party has been ousted after opinion polls showed Jacinda Ardern’s soaring popularity. Around 84% of New Zealanders approve of the prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has helped to boost her ratings ahead of a general election in September.

  114. says

    Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker – “The Coronavirus Hits Brazil Hard, but Jair Bolsonaro Is Unrepentant”:

    …On May 9th, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet published an editorial calling Bolsonaro the “biggest threat” to public health in Brazil, and concluding that “he needs to drastically change course or must be the next to go.”…

    In the weeks since, Brazil’s daily death rate has climbed rapidly. Late last week, it passed eight hundred, and on Sunday the official total death toll reached more than sixteen thousand, making the country’s COVID-19 mortality rate the sixth worst in the world. The numbers of new infections and confirmed cases in Brazil exceeded those of Italy and Spain. By Thursday, there had been more than eighteen thousand COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, and the over-all number of cases had surpassed the United Kingdom’s. Within a few days, it will likely pass Russia’s, as well, leaving only the United States with more cases. Based on current trends, the predictions are that more than eighty thousand Brazilians could die from COVID-19 by August….

    Despite all this, Bolsonaro has pushed to reopen the country’s economy, and last week he took the first steps to do so, apparently without consulting his medical experts….

    Amid the turmoil, the pandemic has reached the indigenous communities of Brazil’s Amazon region, who have historically been susceptible to contagion, and have little access to health care. In recent weeks, the state of Amazonas has emerged as one of the region’s most heavily affected by COVID-19, with at least twelve hundred deaths. Its capital, Manaus, is a national flashpoint; Brazilians have been horrified by images that show bulldozers digging mass graves in the city’s cemetery. The hospitals are also overwhelmed, and the mayor has made several public pleas for international help. Many deaths from the coronavirus are likely going unreported, because of the lack of testing. The city’s health system has collapsed….

    On May 15th, the Brazilian Peoples’ Indigenous Association said that COVID-19 had reached thirty-eight indigenous communities, and warned of widespread contagion. The Lancet editorial emphasized that the main threat to Brazil’s indigenous people during the pandemic came from the Bolsonaro government itself, by “ignoring or even encouraging illegal mining and logging in the Amazon rainforest. These loggers and miners now risk bringing COVID-19 to remote populations.” Indeed, Bolsonaro has undermined the efforts of Brazil’s agencies tasked with policing those groups, by cutting their funding and firing key personnel. Earlier in the year, he presented the congress with a controversial draft bill that calls for the opening up of Brazil’s reserves to mining, logging, agribusiness, and hydroelectric projects. He has met frequently with settlers and miners, called garimpeiros, to champion their “rights to the land,” and disparaged indigenous people as good-for-nothings who have “too much land,” while vilifying the N.G.O.s and the activists who defend them as “cultural Marxists.”

    Bolsonaro’s radical anti-environmentalism has emboldened the loggers, ranchers, and garimpeiros. Brazil’s space-research agency, which uses satellite tracking to monitor burning by loggers and ranchers in the Amazon’s forests, has calculated that, in April, burning increased by sixty-four per cent compared with the same month last year, and that, in the first four months of 2020, forest destruction rose by fifty-four per cent, totalling some four hundred and sixty-four square miles of wilderness. (During last summer’s forest fires, Bolsonaro accused N.G.O.s and Leonardo DiCaprio, who supports greater Amazonian conservation efforts, of setting the fires to make him “look bad.”)

    As Brazil’s situation has unravelled, I have been in regular contact with friends there. Last weekend, one who lives in Rio de Janeiro sent me a particularly despairing message. “It’s been really hard to keep spirits high,” she wrote. “I’ve kind of given up any hope really. It’s one outrageous event after another. I’m not sure our democracy will survive.”

    More atl.

  115. says

    From text quoted by SC in comment 135: “I’ve kind of given up any hope really. It’s one outrageous event after another. I’m not sure our democracy will survive.”

    Yep, just like the USA. Brazil, USA, UK, Russia … all exemplify inadequate or downright counter-productive responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

  116. says

    From text quoted by SC in comment 132:

    Furman [U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman] described the error as “a lapse that would make a first-year litigation associate wince.”…

    That’s certainly telling it like it is. The DOJ should be ashamed.

    From text quoted by SC in comment 131:

    And last October, he huddled with Charles G. Koch, the Republican billionaire and a longtime supporter of his, while on an official visit to Kansas aboard a government aircraft.

    In each of those instances, Mr. Pompeo did not put the visits on his public schedule.

    Again, he is using taxpayer money to fund his political meetings, including his fundraising meetings. That seems to be how Pompeo rolls in every case.

  117. says

    Nerd @128:

    Lynna @127, I lived in Midland, MI in ’79-80. The house I was renting would no doubt have received water damage from the present problem. It is bad. They need help.

    No doubt. That certainly makes you feel the desperate situations in which those people find themselves — you have a personal connection, so you know what it is like.

    I see that Trump did approve an emergency declaration to help the people who were affected by the flood. Thank goodness for that.

    In other news, Trump just threatened governors and other states in a different way: He wants them to re-open houses of worship … or else.

    In early April, after briefly claiming he had “total” authority over state policymaking on the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump quickly reversed course. Rejecting the declaration he’d made a day earlier, the president announced, “The governors are going to be opening up their states. They’re going to declare when.”

    During a videoconference with governors, he added, “You’re going to call your own shots.”

    The trouble is, sometimes Trump doesn’t like the shots governors have called, at which point he tries to tell state officials to do as he says. […]

    […] Trump said Friday that places of worship are “essential” and should open this weekend, threatening to override governors who don’t allow churches, synagogues and mosques to reopen in the coming days.

    Trump claimed that his public declaration was correcting an “injustice” by deeming houses of worship “essential.” Trump added that he expects governors — who do not answer to him — to follow his presidential instructions immediately, making houses of worship open “this weekend.”

    In his next sentence, the president said, “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

    […] just this week, for example, that several churches that tried to re-open too early were forced to re-close when congregants and church leaders alike were infected with the coronavirus. CNBC also reported that the CDC “tracked a cluster of coronavirus cases in rural Arkansas back to a church pastor and his wife, indicating that faith-based organizations and events could be sources of COVID-19 transmission, according to a new study published Tuesday.”

    And yet, there was the president, literally just a few days later, demanding that houses of worship re-open their doors and hold services — because he says so.

    […] the president can simply order governors […] to alter their mitigation efforts in dangerous ways is folly. Trump has no such authority. It’s not up to him to decide who is and isn’t an “essential” employee, and he’s similarly powerless to decide when houses of worship open or close their doors.

    […] On April 10, when Trump started lobbying governors to re-open parts of the economy, a reporter questioned the scope of his authority. “The states can do things if they want,” he replied. “I can override it if I want.”

    It quickly became obvious that this was quite wrong. Trump apparently learned nothing from the incident.

    […] Trump is desperate to pretend the pandemic threat has largely disappeared and life can return to normal — not because that’s true, but because he appears to be afraid of losing in November.

    […] eager to pretend he’s a great champion of all things faith-based — in November 2018, Trump claimed, “Nobody’s done more for Christians or evangelicals or frankly religion than I have” — which no doubt contributed to today’s display at the White House.

    But that’s all it is: a display. Trump is posturing when he should be governing.

    Link

  118. says

    Trump’s economic plan is not really a plan.

    At a White House event a few weeks ago, a reporter reminded Donald Trump that Americans are experiencing economic conditions unseen since the Great Depression and asked, “What is your plan to get the country out of this ditch?” The president initially responded by making some predictions about a future turnaround — and predictions do not a plan make.

    He quickly added, “There’s tremendous pent-up demand…. I feel it. I feel it. I think sometimes what I feel is better than what I think, unfortunately or fortunately.”

    In other words, facing dire economic conditions, the president was asked for a plan. He responded by talking about how impressive his feelings are.

    This week, Trump faced a nearly identical question. After a private gathering with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, a reporter asked the president, “36 million Americans out of work. Half of those jobs aren’t coming back. Do you have a policy to help them get back to work?”

    Trump replied, “We do,” at which point he promptly ended the Q&A with reporters and walked away, failing to explain what exactly that policy might entail.

    About an hour later, at a White House event, the president once again fielded a few questions, and CBS News’ Paula Reid asked, “Mr. President, why haven’t you announced a plan to get 36 million unemployed Americans back to work? You’re overseeing historic economic despair. What’s the delay? Where’s the plan?” According to the official White House transcript, this was Trump’s reply:

    “Oh, I think — I think we’ve announced a plan. We’re opening up our country. Just a rude person you are. We’re opening up our country. We’re opening it up very fast. The plan is that each state is opening and it’s opening up very effectively.”

    First, it’s hard not to notice the frequency with which Trump has a problem with women journalists who ask questions he doesn’t like.

    Second, that’s “the plan”? With 38 million Americans filing for unemployment since mid-March, the president has “announced a plan” that involves pretending the pandemic threat has dissipated and simply waiting for prosperity to wash over the country? […]

    Link

    Trump is incapable of doing what needs to be done. He is even incapable of carefully considering what needs to be done.

    My prediction is that, after wasting some time and flailing around, Trump will depend on the plan that Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have already put forward. That will get passed, and then Trump will take credit for whatever parts of that plan work well.

  119. says

    Hmmm, more things going awry:

    According to a Politico report, Tara Reade, who’s accused Biden of sexual assault, may have misrepresented her credentials under oath, prompting defense attorneys to look anew at cases in which she testified as an expert in domestic violence cases. The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that Raede’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, has dropped her as a client, just two weeks after agreeing to represent her.

  120. says

    Yeah, we knew this already, but Trump saying the quiet part out loud still shocks the system a bit:

    In unusually frank terms, Trump complained on Twitter yesterday that Fox News should be working harder to support his re-election campaign and other Republican candidacies. It was a rare public admission that the president doesn’t see the cable network as a news organization.

  121. says

    More of Trump’s nonsense about voter fraud has been exposed as the nonsense it is:

    […] Florida has been home to some very competitive statewide races […] When the dust settled on Election Day on Nov. 6, 2018, the tallies were so close that it was not at all clear who’d prevailed in Florida’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

    Donald Trump, predictably, sought to take advantage of the uncertainty. Just two days after the polls closed, [he] started alleging without proof that there was “fraud” and “big corruption” in Florida’s elections. A day later, he lied about the discovery of “miraculous” votes, and vowed to dispatch lawyers to “expose the fraud” that did not exist in reality. […]

    Soon after, Trump raised the prospect of “forged” ballots in the Sunshine State, and condemned uncounted ballots as “infected.”

    [Trump’s] claims have been exposed as total nonsense. Politico reported overnight:

    A Trump election conspiracy theory has fallen apart after Florida’s law enforcement agency said it had found no widespread voter fraud in the 2018 races for Senate and governor…. [N]either Trump’s unnamed “lawyers” nor the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found evidence of a “big corruption scandal.” The state took more than 17 months to wrap up its investigation Wednesday, and found none of the wrongdoing alleged by Trump and [then-Gov. Rick] Scott.

    I don’t imagine anyone will find these results especially surprising. It was obvious to most observers at the time that the president was peddling transparent nonsense, which he appeared to be making up as he went along. By all appearances, Trump simply made up a voting-fraud fantasy and presented it to the public as if it were real — indifferent to the pernicious effects of a president trying to undermine public confidence in his own country’s electoral system.

    Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined that Trump was wrong? The word “duh” keeps coming to mind.

    But let’s not miss the ongoing relevant context: this same president is now speaking with great confidence about his new “fraud” theories, many of which include condemnations of voting by mail — a topic Trump struggles to understand.

    The evaporation of his ridiculous claims in Florida should serve as a reminder: when it comes to the integrity of elections, [Trump] doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about.

    Link

  122. says

    Follow-up to comment 138.

    Here’s why Trump appeared onstage today to praise houses of worship.

    A sudden shift in support for Donald Trump among religious conservatives is triggering alarm bells inside his reelection campaign, […]

    The anxiety over Trump’s standing with the Christian right surfaced after a pair of surveys by reputable outfits earlier this month found waning confidence in the administration’s coronavirus response among key religious groups, with a staggering decline in the president’s favorability among white evangelicals and white Catholics. […]

    To safeguard his relationship with religious conservatives, Trump on Friday demanded that America‘s governors permit houses of worship to immediately reopen, and threatened to “override“ state leaders who decline to obey his directive. […]

    Trump campaign aides, White House officials and outside allies are responding to the threat by boosting their outreach to religious voters and promising to prioritize religious gatherings as they push to reopen the U.S. economy. Administration officials have conducted multiple calls with conservative Christian groups to ensure their support over the past two months. Trump himself recently attended an online worship service hosted by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. And Vice President Mike Pence held a roundtable with faith leaders in Iowa earlier this month. Reed said his organization is planning a get-out-the-vote campaign three times as large as its effort in 2016. […]

    Link

  123. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @142:

    when it comes to the integrity of elections, [Trump] doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about.

    When it comes to ANY FUCKING THING IN THE WORLD, The Orange Toddler-Tyrant doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he is talking about.

  124. says

    Yep, there’s chaos and incompetence run rampant in one of Trump’s initiatives that started with a good idea: direct farm surplus to needy families.

    “The first $1.2 billion of the Farmers to Families Food Box contracts have been awarded. Food industry experts wonder who some of these people are.”

    The Trump administration withdrew one of the largest contracts in its signature effort to use farm surplus to feed hungry Americans, capping a chaotic process that industry experts say relied too heavily on companies with little demonstrated experience in farming, food chains or food banks.

    Contracts totaling more than $107 million went to a San Antonio event planner, an avocado mail-order company, a health-and-wellness airport kiosk company and a trade finance corporation, according to the Agriculture Department’s announcement of contract awards.

    But the USDA bypassed the country’s three largest food distribution companies, as well as nonprofit organizations with long histories of feeding the poor […]

    Cre8ad8 LLC (pronounced “Create a Date”), a minority-owned San Antonio-based company that has done food preparation for the Sundance Film Festival, received $39.1 million to supply boxes of fresh produce, dairy and precooked meat to food banks in Texas. The company said it would need to hire 125 people for the project. “This is the largest contract we have won to date,” said chief executive Gregorio Palomino.

    […] “The majority of contracts are good,” the UFPA’s Stenzel said in an interview. “We think about 80 percent on the produce side are legitimate produce companies and will do a good job at getting produce to people in need. We have questions about the others. There are some egregious examples.” […]

    The UFPA, a trade association for the produce supply chain, has raised concerns about the awards, saying in a letter to the USDA that some of the companies have no record of similar work, do not have truckers or delivery systems, do not operate in the region where they are supposed to provide services or were awarded contracts larger than their annual revenue. […]

    The contracts were awarded under the Farmers to Families Food Box program, launched last week with a visit by Ivanka Trump to a Laurel, Md., wholesale produce company. About $1.2 billion in contracts have been awarded.

    The relief program was designed to buy up $3 billion in agricultural surplus from farmers and ranchers who have been forced to dump produce and milk and euthanize animals because of supply-chain disruptions and redistribute it to food banks that have been overwhelmed by demand from newly hungry Americans.

    […] Widespread food service closures and shutdowns in meat-processing facilities have forced dairies to dump thousands of gallons of milk a day and farmers to euthanize their baby pigs or chickens because there is nowhere to slaughter them. Produce farmers in Florida and California have been forced to plow under ripe vegetables because their supply chains have dried up. […] millions of Americans have become food insecure for the first time.

    […] “The staff worked around-the-clock to review nearly 600 bids,” Jim Mulhern, chief executive of the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a phone interview. “There is no question there would be some potential mistakes. What we hope is that most of the money awarded in these bids goes to the actual purchase of product, rather than overhead, because that’s where the need is.” […]

    The food-box program has been fast-tracked in a way seldom seen in federal programs. Requests for proposal were due on May 1. On May 8, the USDA approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the program, and on May 15 the first boxes began to make their way to food banks across the country. […]

    Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force, a 47-year-old anti-hunger organization in Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s largest food bank, submitted an application for a $37 million contract and was denied.

    “Dairy farmers in Wisconsin have been spilling milk for about six weeks,” she said. “We hooked up with Wisconsin’s department of agriculture and we started buying their cheese and milk. So we apply, thinking, ‘We know how to do this.’ And we don’t get a dime but a wedding planner in Texas gets a huge grant? Some of the awards look pretty suspicious.”

    […] “Many appear to be large aggregators and in some cases have no understandable connection to agriculture.”

    […] longtime hunger-relief advocates say many of the awards overlook existing infrastructure that smoothly connects surplus food with those in need. […]

    Other food-box contracts have gone to companies with a long track record, such as Borden Dairy ($147 million), which recently filed for bankruptcy. Two of the four largest meat processors, Cargill Meat Solutions ($7.3 million) and Tyson Foods ($862,000), were also contract recipients. Both have had meat-processing plants closed because of coronavirus outbreaks, and both have faced allegations of potential price fixing during the pandemic, which Tyson and Cargill deny.

    […] The selected contractors are responsible for sourcing food from producers, all aspects of preparing the boxes, finding and communicating with nonprofits, and final delivery of boxes to the nonprofit group on a mutually agreeable, recurring schedule. […]
    The first round of contracts runs from May 15 to June 30 and includes $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy, $258 million in meat and $175 million in combination boxes of fresh produce, dairy or meat products.

    Washington Post link

  125. says

    From David C. Williams, writing for The Washington Post, (Williams served as inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission during four presidential administrations):

    […] Trump’s spate of inspector general removals this spring is alarming, and every American should be concerned about the state of federal government oversight. But the problem with Trump’s actions is not simply removing the watchdogs — it’s also the chilling effect left on those who remain and the fact that the president is replacing some of the ousted officials with thinly credentialed political loyalists.

    [Trump] t is conducting a war on those tasked with holding him accountable.

    […] Particularly with the removals of Michael Atkinson as inspector general for the intelligence community and Steve Linick as inspector general for the State Department, there’s a strong indication that the president fired them simply because of their involvement in investigations that cast the administration in a negative light.

    And it is hard to interpret Trump’s decision to replace acting Defense Department inspector general Glenn Fine, chosen to lead a panel of inspectors general overseeing the coronavirus relief funds. Fine represents the best of the best within the IG community. He has a long history of successes in ferreting out sophisticated frauds and wrongdoing. That’s a reason to keep him, not replace him.

    The inspectors general who remain have every reason to be concerned for themselves and their subordinates as they embark on investigations that could turn up unwelcome findings or evidence of a crime or misconduct. […]

    But perhaps more concerning are the individuals the president has named to replace some of the career civil servants that he has removed.

    The new acting inspectors general at the State and Transportation departments are both political appointees chosen from within their departments, and both will reportedly remain in their current roles at their respective departments.

    This presents a number of issues.

    Appointing an official to investigate an agency while still reporting to that agency head presents a huge conflict of interest and runs contrary to the rule of law. It should be explicitly barred. These officials will also be privy to confidential information and the complaints and identities of whistleblowers. This is disturbing and could leave whistleblowers afraid to come forward if they witness wrongdoing.

    […] We need experienced inspectors general who are committed to conducting rigorous oversight, now more than ever. The federal government is poised to spend trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid, and the inspectors general face the daunting task of monitoring that spending and holding the administration accountable.

    In fact, several of the ousted inspectors general would have held seats on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a panel of inspectors general established to conduct oversight over the coronavirus relief spending. […] I have a hard time imagining the career investigators on the committee will feel comfortable discussing sensitive matters with political appointees still working in other roles within the administration. […]

    Given these troubling circumstances, Congress needs to step in and protect the independence of inspectors general. It must hold hearings with top State Department officials and intelligence community officials to get to the bottom of the Linick and Atkinson firings. Some members have requested more information on the reasoning behind these removals, but they must also push for depositions and testimony from the top officials involved in the decision-making process. […]

    Washington Post link

  126. says

    From Paul Waldman:

    The time has come once again to consider Joe Biden’s gaffes.

    Appearing Friday on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club,” when a Biden aide tried to end the interview and host Charlamagne tha God said, “You can’t do that to black media,” Biden replied: “You got more questions, but I’ll tell you if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

    Which is very much not a good thing for a white man to say.

    It isn’t the first or the hundredth time Biden has said something that made his allies cringe and gave his opponents the opportunity for fake outrage. Throughout his entire career, Biden has had a habit of saying sorta-well-intended-but-nevertheless-offensive things […]

    it’s a good opportunity to think about what’s wrong with that kind of statement coming from him. For instance, here’s writer Roxane Gay disagreeing about it with Biden aide Symone Sanders: “What? He doesn’t get to ‘jest’ like that. It wasn’t funny. It played into the long standing notion that the black vote is uncritical and guaranteed and the notion that blackness is mutable and defined by whiteness.”

    […] While it’s perfectly fine to argue that black people have about twelve thousand reasons not to vote for […] Trump, it’s not up to someone like Joe Biden to say who’s black and who isn’t.

    Then Gay was retweeted by renowned civil rights activist Donald Trump Jr., which shows you the level of trolling you have to wade through to have a thoughtful conversation about something like this.

    But let me suggest a middle ground between “C’mon, you know what he was trying to say” (as Biden’s defenders insist) and “Aha, he has now revealed himself to be a racist!” (as trolling Republicans will claim).
    I have a long-standing rule about gaffes, which is that if a candidate says something once, and if he had the chance to do it over again he would rephrase it, then it should be forgiven. If it’s part of a pattern that keeps repeating, that’s something else.

    Most of the time, we in the press call attention to gaffes that reinforce the conclusion we’ve already made about candidates. So for instance, in the classic case, when in 1999 Al Gore said, “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet” — a largely true statement — reporters who thought Gore was a liar shorthanded it as “Al Gore said he invented the Internet” and roasted him over the coals for something he never said.

    At the same time, they ignored many lies George W. Bush told but highlighted it every time he mangled his words, because they thought Bush was dumb but honest. […]

    Every time we’re confronted with a potential gaffe we have to ask how much attention it deserves, and there is no “objective” answer to that question. It always involves judgments about what’s important and what isn’t, and how we should understand it.

    […] this isn’t the first time Biden has said something insensitive on race (as opposed to Trump, who has a long history of outright bigotry). I think in its totality the record shows him to be someone with a sincere desire to fight racism and do right by black Americans, but who is also sometimes captured by problematic assumptions and ways of speaking that used to be much more acceptable among white people than they are now.

    His response when criticized for something like this ought to be to say, “I didn’t really think about it when I said it, but now that you’ve explained what’s wrong with what I said, I understand, and I’m going to try to do better.” […]
    Biden did say something along those lines: In a subsequent call with black business leaders, he said, “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier,” adding: “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background.”

    But this won’t be the last time Biden says something that gets people upset. When it happens again, we should remember to ask whether it’s really meaningful, whether it reveals something important about how he would perform as president, and whether there’s something we can all learn from it. Or if it’ll just be a tool for Republicans to bash him with.

    Washington Post link

  127. says

    Here’s a link to the May 23 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From a post about pro-rona protests in Spain:

    María Jesús Montero, the finance minister who serves as the government’s spokeswoman, said people had a right to protest, as long as their demonstrations did not risk spreading the coronavirus. She said on Friday:

    The only things that the state of emergency limits its people’s freedom of movement and reunion.

    Very often, some of the shouts you hear during these demonstrations are contradictory because people are out protesting. Some people shout ‘freedom’ when they’re actually exercising the right to criticise things and protest. But you can’t mix up freedom with the freedom to infect people.

    I saw a picture or video last night of a protest in (I think) Newport Beach, CA. There was a guy holding a sign that read “NO MORE HOUSE ARREST.” You’d think that when he had his markers and posterboard out preparing his sign before he headed off to the rally some part of his brain would register the cognitive dissonance, but alas.

  128. says

    Here’s the Politico report to which Lynna refers @ #140 – “Defense lawyers look to reopen cases where Tara Reade testified as an expert.”

    Contains this stunning passage:

    “Ongoing Online Visiting Professor since 2007 for various Student BA packet reviews: Review the final papers with students via phone and email; provide guidance for final BA,” reads one line from her résumé.

    A university official confirmed that Reade was not a faculty member, though she did several hours of administrative work as an independent contractor over 2008-10.

    “A hospital official confirmed that Jones was not a surgeon, though he did several hours of administrative work…” This is also…not what a professor does, which you’d think someone would have picked up on before now.

  129. says

    More re #s 7 and 133 above – Guardian – “Ramzan Kadyrov not seen publicly since reports he has coronavirus”:

    Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, has not been seen publicly in the 24 hours since Russian state media said he had been hospitalised in Moscow with coronavirus symptoms.

    While online sleuths have sought to track planes or motorcades that may have ferried Chechnya’s leader in Moscow, local officials have either declined to give information about his whereabouts or health or opted to troll journalists who have asked.

    Experts on the region said that Kadyrov’s status was unclear but that hiding an illness would fit a wider strategy of minimising problems in Chechnya, particularly when reporting to the Kremlin.

    “Kadyrov is a hostage of his own PR, he is caught by his own approach, which doesn’t allow him to recognise problems in Chechnya,” said Grigory Shvedov, editor of the Caucasian Knot, an independent news agency reporting on the North Caucasus region. “He reports to the Kremlin that everything is fine in Chechnya… and he is a hostage of this report.”

    Kadyrov’s online accounts – those that haven’t been blocked – have mostly remained dormant, issuing just a single birthday message that reads like a press release to Russia’s defence minister, Sergey Shoygu.

    After weeks of frenetic, sometimes bizarre, appearances in Chechnya, Kadyrov has disappeared. If he is confirmed to be sick, it would mark the seventh and arguably most significant illness of a high-level Russian official in the Covid-19 pandemic so far. Kadyrov, who was installed by Vladimir Putin in 2007 in order to quell a simmering insurgency, has sought to portray himself as irreplaceable to the region’s stability.

    For critics, it was a chance to ask wryly why he wouldn’t stay for treatment in Chechnya, where he had recently called doctors the “best in the world”.

    His most recent public appearance came last week, in a heavily edited video of him chairing a meeting on his government’s coronavirus response.

    In April, he had performed stunts such as donning a yellow jumpsuit to visit a hospital treating coronavirus patients, or shaving his head after being asked to reopen local barber shops. Other Chechen officials soon followed suit.

    He had also attacked the newspaper Novaya Gazeta after a reporter wrote that the region’s measures to isolate those suspected of being infected were so severe that some were hiding from the police.

    In the course of the crisis, Kadyrov has oscillated from macho posturing, telling Chechens not to fear the disease in late March, to enforcing one of Russia’s toughest quarantine regimes, at least on paper.

    Meanwhile there are images of Kadyrov breaking his own quarantine, making it a potentially sensitive moment if he must now admit he has fallen ill.

    “If at some point he needs to show he is a human being and he might be ill, even seriously ill, it becomes really complicated to show the real picture,” Shvedov said.

  130. says

    Guardian – “Brazil: blow to Bolsonaro as judge orders release of expletive-ridden video”:

    An expletive-ridden video showing the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, expressing frustration at his inability to get information from police and vowing to change cabinet ministers if needed to protect his family has been released at the order of a supreme court justice in a new blow to the far-right president.

    The two-hour video of a cabinet meeting, with portions redacted, was released as part of an inquiry into allegations that the president was trying to illegally interfere in a criminal investigation of his son, a claim made by the former justice minister Sergio Moro when he resigned last month.

    The released footage also shows environment minister Ricardo Salles calling on the government to push through further deregulation of environmental policy while people are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic. “We need to make an effort while we are in this calm moment in terms of press coverage, because they are only talking about Covid, and push through and change all the rules and simplify norms,” Salles says in the video.

    Deforestation hit an 11-year high last year and has increased 55% in the first four months of the year, compared with a year ago, with environmental groups blaming Bolsonaro’s policies.

    In the video Salles complained about legal challenges to proposed environmental rule changes, that the government needed legal “artillery” to defend the changes and should bypass Congress.

    “We don’t need Congress. Because things that need Congress, with the mess that is there, we are not going to get passed.”

    Greenpeace Brasil spokeswoman Luiza Lima said in a statement that “Salles believes that people dying in line at hospitals is a good opportunity to move forward on his anti-environmental project.”

  131. says

    From the thread to which SC linked in comment 156, regarding the use of private swimming pools, and “circumventing contact with the ‘dangerous vector class'”:

    Want to point out that even though this vicious term appears in the initial caption in quotation marks, it’s not a quotation from anyone outside the New York Times. It’s something Ginia Bellafante apparently came up with and her editors took and published.
    ———————–
    Ironically it was the traveling mid/upper classes who spread the disease, as evidenced by all the celebrities and Important People who got sick a couple of months ago, but I guess that doesn’t matter because they aren’t “dirty”

  132. says

    More re #154 – Yahoo – “Bolsonaro rocked by release of expletive-laced video”:

    Brazilians got a shocking look Friday at an expletive-laced meeting between President Jair Bolsonaro and his cabinet when a Supreme Court judge released a video at the center of an investigation targeting the far-right leader.

    The April 22 cabinet meeting is under scrutiny by prosecutors probing allegations by former justice minister Sergio Moro that Bolsonaro tried to interfere in federal police investigations.

    But it could prove just as damaging to Bolsonaro’s 18-month-old government for other sordid details it contains.

    They include the president using profanity to insult governors, the education minister calling to throw Supreme Court justices in jail and the environment minister urging the government to legalize mining and farming in the Amazon rainforest while the world is distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The video came to light when Moro resigned two days after the meeting.

    Police are reportedly investigating multiple cases involving Bolsonaro and his inner circle, including allegations that his son Carlos, a Rio de Janeiro city councilor, oversaw a fake-news campaign to benefit his father.

    Moro’s allegations led a Supreme Court justice to order an investigation into whether Bolsonaro obstructed justice or committed other crimes.

    The probe, which could see Bolsonaro tried or even impeached, comes as the president faces growing disapproval ratings and criticism over his downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 21,000 lives in Brazil.

    In the video, Bolsonaro rails against what he calls a lack of information from the federal police, or PF.

    “I can’t be getting surprises in the news. Hell, the PF doesn’t give me information,” he says.

    “I can’t work like that. That’s why I’m going to interfere, period. It’s not a threat… it’s the truth.”

    At another point, he says: “I’ve already tried to change our security people in Rio de Janeiro, officially, and I couldn’t. That’s finished now. I’m not going to wait for them to fuck my whole family, my friends, because I can’t change someone in our security apparatus.”

    Confined to their homes by the pandemic, Bolsonaro opponents held raucous protests after the video’s release, banging pots and pans out their windows.

    Excerpts of the video played non-stop on Brazilian TV.

    In one, Bolsonaro slings swear words at the governors of two of Brazil’s biggest states, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for defying him by imposing stay-at-home orders to contain the coronavirus.

    “That piece of shit of a governor in Sao Paulo, that pile of manure in Rio de Janeiro,” he says.

    “That’s why I want… the population to be armed. That’s what guarantees that some son of a [b—–] can’t just show up and install a dictatorship here.” [The gall of this statement – SC]

    In another, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub attacks the Supreme Court for giving states the final say in the matter.

    “If it were up to me, I’d throw all these criminals in jail, starting with the Supreme Court,” he says.

    In another potentially explosive twist to the probe, opposition parties in Congress have asked investigators to seize Bolsonaro’s cell phone and that of his son Carlos.

    The Supreme Court judge overseeing the probe passed the request Friday to the attorney general, who must now decide on the request.

    National Security Minister Augusto Heleno warned such a move would place Brazil’s “national stability” at risk.

  133. says

    Josh Marshall (quoting a WaPo report on a large new study):

    “For those receiving hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic — the cocktail endorsed by Trump — there was a 45 percent increased risk of death…” is this a scandal yet?

    Trivia question for the day. How many Americans died as a direct result of President Trump strong arming the federal government into pushing the widespread use of this drug cocktail he got pitched on by friends at mar a lago?

    Each time I read this I’m floored again. A 10% increased risk of death wld be a big deal and something to be absolutely avoided. 45%????? That’s insane. And at least one official was apparently canned because he wouldn’t go along with forcing this nostrum on helpless Americans.

  134. says

    So now Jeff Sessions is fighting back?

    […] “Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions. He let our Country down,” the President tweeted. “That’s why I endorsed Coach Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville), the true supporter of our #MAGA agenda!”

    That was apparently the final straw for the long-suffering Sessions, who had meekly tolerated his former boss’s attacks up until that point.

    “.@realdonaldtrump Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law,” the senate candidate tweeted in response. “I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration.”

    “Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do,” he continued.

    It was an unexpectedly bold rebuke from Sessions, who has long endured the President’s verbal assaults as he fights against his GOP primary rival, Tommy Tuberville, to win over heavily pro-Trump Alabama. […]

    TPM link

  135. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 161.

    Trump is pursuing all kinds of non-essential travel this weekend.

    The White House […]refused to cancel President Donald Trump’s upcoming Memorial Day visit to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland, despite Mayor Jack Young’s request.

    “The brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms for generations did not stay home and the President will not either as he honors their sacrifice by visiting such a historic landmark in our Nation’s history,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement.

    Earlier in the day, Young had urged Trump to call off the visit and honor Baltimore’s stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

    “That President Trump is deciding to pursue non-essential travel sends the wrong message to our residents, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” Young said in a statement. “I wish that the President, as our nation’s leader, would set a positive example and not travel during this holiday weekend.”

    And the implications of Trump’s disregard for Baltimore’s stay-at-home order aren’t the only issue, the mayor pointed out. The President’s visit and the level of security detail required comes with a heavy price tag that the city “simply can’t afford to shoulder.”

    “I would hope that the President would change his mind and decide to remain at home,” Young said.

    “If he decides, however, to move forward with his scheduled trip to Baltimore we will, of course, be prepared for his visit,” he added.

    TPM link

  136. says

    America isn’t being reopened, it’s being ripped apart by propaganda using the 2016 Russian playbook.

    Link

    Russia’s 2016 campaign in support of Donald Trump included many different means of inserting false information into the national conversation. It featured ads on radio stations in key cities intended to suppress Black support for Hillary Clinton, faux local news sites filled with fabricated stories supporting Trump, and fake Black Lives Matters sites on Facebook meant to increase the fear of rural white voters.

    There were targeted ads that leveraged online tools to plant false stories directly into critical districts […] But one key component of the 2016 campaign was a vast army of ‘bot’ accounts, managed by a team of Russian military hackers. That effort filled Twitter, Facebook, and other sites—and in the process became some of the most influential accounts in social media.

    Now it appears that it’s happened again. A new study shows that when it comes to forcing workers to go back into offices, stores, and factories, almost half the online voices shouting for the “reopening of America” were, and are, bot accounts. Of the accounts that have tweeted most on this topic, more than half are bots. Of the most influential, almost all are bots. And behind the bots … is someone still unknown.

    The report comes out of Carnegie Mellon University. Digging through over 200 million tweets discussing COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus, researchers focused in on the most influential accounts—those most active, most retweeted, and most liked. Out of the top 1,000 accounts, 62% are bots. Perhaps even more amazing: of the 50 most influential accounts on this topic, 82% are bots.

    […] They’re not being used to pass along accurate news about COVID-19, to encourage social distancing, or to support state government calls for preventive measures. In addition to pushing false cures, like Trump’s much-pushed hydroxychloroquine, and spreading general false information about the dangers of COVID-19, there’s one point where bots are driving the whole of social media. According to the report, they are “dominating conversations about ending stay-at-home orders and ‘reopening America.’”

    […] Those bots aren’t just participating in the online discussion about reopening America, they are driving it.

    These same bots are also pushing stories that deaths due to COVID-19 are being overcounted, that medical workers and hospitals are exaggerating the scale of the pandemic, that hospital rooms are filled with crisis actors or even mannequins to make the situation seem far worse than it is […]

    this isn’t some random group of bots cobbled together by hackers just for kicks. The scale of this effort is huge, the messages are coordinated, and the impact has already been felt nationwide. According to CMU professor Kathleen Carley, “…it looks like it’s a propaganda machine, and it definitely matches the Russian and Chinese playbooks.”

    […] protests have also leveraged pro-gun groups that descended on state capitols in the past—which is why the same protesters have appeared to threaten officials in multiple states. […]

    2016 demonstrated America’s vulnerability to this kind of attack. 2020 shows that the nation is no more secure … but the attackers have improved.

  137. says

    Thank goodness.

    Judge dismisses One America News defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow

    A federal judge on Friday dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit by One America News (OAN) against Rachel Maddow, finding that a “reasonable viewer” would know the MSNBC prime-time host was only offering her opinion when she called the right-leaning network “paid Russian propaganda.”

    “Maddow had inserted her own colorful commentary into and throughout the segment, laughing, expressing her dismay (i.e., saying ‘I mean, what?’) and calling the segment a ‘sparkly story’ and one we must ‘take in stride,'” Judge Cynthia Bashant wrote Friday.

    “For her to exaggerate the facts and call OAN Russian propaganda was consistent with her tone up to that point, and the Court finds a reasonable viewer would not take the statement as factual given this context,” Bashant added.

    The suit filed in September argued that Maddow made “utterly and completely false” statements about OAN being “paid Russian propaganda” because the network “is wholly financed by the Herrings, an American family, [and] has never been paid or received a penny from Russia or the Russian government.”

    Maddow also cited a report from The Daily Beast, which found OAN employed “a Kremlin-paid journalist.”

    “Instead, he or she would follow the facts of the Daily Beast article; that OAN and Sputnik share a reporter and both pay this reporter to write articles. Anything beyond this is Maddow’s opinion or her exaggeration of the facts,” the judge noted in the ruling.

    OAN responded by saying it will appeal the decision. […]

  138. says

    From the Guardian liveblog (link @ #149):

    More than 40 people have been infected with coronavirus after attending at a mass in Frankfurt, Germany earlier this month.

    Six were admitted to hospital. The service was held on May 10, a few days after the reopening of places of worship in Germany, the daily Frankfurter Rundschau reported.

    Rachel Maddow last night on outbreaks related to religious services/events.

  139. says

    Neera Tanden:

    I have the coronavirus. I’ve been sick for a week, and really, really fatigued, with muscle pain. So far, thankfully, no fever and my oxygen levels are fine. But I was super careful, wore masks, carried hand sanitizer. Haven’t really socialized with friends.

    I only went out for necessities and wore masks. And did nature walks. This is obviously a very transmissible virus. People need to take a lot of care and the idea we can just reopen is very scary.

  140. says

    From Wonkette:

    According to a recent poll conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov, way the hell too many Americans believe in the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 vaccine will be merely a ruse to allow Bill Gates to insert microchips into everyone, for the purpose of tracking them. Why? Well, either because he’s paving the way for the anti-Christ or because he’s just super lonely and wants to know where everyone is hanging out. Who knows? The conspiracy theorists rarely get beyond the “tracking everyone” part of the explanation.

    […] How much is way the hell too many? 28 percent of all US adults, including 50 percent of those who say Fox is their main source of news and 44 percent of all Trump supporters. [bar graph available at the link]

    […] Frankly, the Jesus people who think Gates wants to implant people with a microchip for anti-Christ-related reasons are actually the most logical of this bunch. That, at least, makes some amount of narrative sense. There’s an endgamme. Bill Gates wants to bring about the anti-Christ, so he’s gotta get the Mark of the Beast onto everyone in some way, and his big idea is this vaccine. But what on earth do people who don’t believe that think is going on? Like, why would he want that? To track people? To what end? And in what way that could not just be done with their phones? […]

    The irony here is that there is actually someone out there who wants to implant microchips into people’s brains … it’s just not Bill Gates. It’s Elon Musk, […] But Trumpists can’t really start incorporating Elon Musk into their weird conspiracy theory fantasies because in their minds, he’s one of the good guys because Trump likes him.

    This is not the only obviously wrong thing the poll found that Trumpists believe […] 49 percent of them think hydroxychloroquinine is effective against COVID-19. 58 percent of them think that COVID-19 was grown in a Chinese lab and “accidentally escaped.”

    In fairness, this was not a particularly large poll and it is entirely possible that there is an an unusually high proportion of weirdo conspiracy theorists on YouGov’s “opt-in panel.”

    The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,640 U.S. adult residents interviewed online between May 20 and 21, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education, as well as 2016 presidential vote, registration status and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. The margin of error is approximately 3.0 percent. […]

    The most unfortunate finding of the poll was that 50 percent of all respondents said that they would not take a vaccine if it were developed. That’s bad! And it means that there are a decent amount of people on our own side who are also being weird anti-vaxxers about this. So we owe it to ourselves and those who are gonna need to rely on herd immunity to make sure our friends and loved ones are well-informed on this stuff.

    Link

  141. KG says

    SC@151,152,

    The cabinet defence of Dominic Cummings breaking the UK lockdown rules is really extraordinarily brazen. There is absolutely no doubt he did break them: specifically, Cummings’ justification is that he went to Durham because his wife had Covid-19 sysmptoms, he thought he would probably get it (as he did), and that he therefore took his son to be looked after (several hundred km away) by relatives. But the rules say explicitly that if you or anyone in your household has Covid-19 symptoms, you must not leave your home for any reason. Yet multiple cabinet ministers and spox have said that what Cummings did is quite acceptable, and attacked those raising the issue for “politicizing” it. They might just as well come out with it: “Rules are for you plebs, not for your betters; the PM gets to decide who has to obey them and who doesn’t.”

  142. says

    Trump’s move to block travel from Europe delivered chaos and one final viral infusion.

    Washington Post link

    In the final days before the United States faced a full-blown epidemic, […] Trump made a last-ditch attempt to prevent people infected with the coronavirus from reaching the country.

    […] “we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

    Across the Atlantic, Jack Siebert, an American college student spending a semester in Spain, was battling raging headaches, shortness of breath and fevers that touched 104 degrees. Concerned about his condition for travel but alarmed by the president’s announcement, his parents scrambled to book a flight home for their son — an impulse shared by thousands of Americans who rushed to get flights out of Europe.

    Siebert arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago three days later as the new U.S. restrictions — including mandatory medical screenings — went into effect. He encountered crowds of people packed in tight corridors, stood in lines in which he snaked past other travelers for nearly five hours and tried to direct any cough or sneeze into his sleeve.

    When he finally reached the coronavirus checkpoint near baggage pickup, Siebert reported his prior symptoms and described his exposure in Spain. But the screeners waived him through with a cursory temperature check. He was given instructions to self-isolate that struck him as absurd given the conditions he had just encountered at the airport. […]
    The sequence was repeated at airports across the country that weekend. Harrowing scenes of interminable lines and unmasked faces crammed in confined spaces spread across social media.

    The images showed how a policy intended to block the pathogen’s entry into the United States instead delivered one final viral infusion. As those exposed travelers fanned out into U.S. cities and suburbs, they became part of an influx from Europe that went unchecked for weeks and helped to seal the country’s coronavirus fate.

    Epidemiologists contend the U.S. outbreak was driven overwhelmingly by viral strains from Europe rather than China. More than 1.8 million travelers entered the United States from Europe in February alone as that continent became the center of the pandemic. Infections reached critical mass in New York and other cities well before the White House took action, according to studies mapping the virus’s spread. The crush of travelers triggered by Trump’s announcement only added to that viral load. […]

    Trump has repeatedly touted his decision in January to restrict travel from China as evidence that he acted decisively to contain the coronavirus, often claiming that doing so saved more than a million lives. But it was his administration’s response to the threat from Europe that proved more consequential to the majority of the more than 94,000 people who have died and the 1.6 million now infected in the United States. […]

    The lapses surrounding the spread from Europe stand alongside other breakdowns — in developing diagnostic tests, securing protective gear and imposing social distancing guidelines — as reasons the United States became so overwhelmed. […]

    “We kept foreign nationals out of the country but not the virus,” said Tom Bossert, who served as adviser of homeland security at the White House until last year. “That was a strategic miscalculation.”

    This article tracing the administration’s response to the Europe threat is based on interviews with dozens of current and former U.S. officials, as well as public health experts, airline executives and passengers. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments of events, decisions and internal administration debates.

  143. says

    […] In 24 states, however, the model shows a reproduction number over 1. Texas tops the list, followed by Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, Delaware, South Carolina, Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Maryland. […]

    Washington Post link

  144. says

    […] The impulse to “conspiracize” is as old as the human race. Often that means blaming despised minorities for larger ills. [snipped the details of past conspiracy theories]

    Plagues have been a particularly rich breeding ground for conspiracy theories. In 14th century Europe, Jews were massacred after being accused of spreading the bubonic plague by poisoning wells.

    So it is no surprise that there is now an epidemic of coronavirus conspiracy theories. […] A movie called “Plandemic” alleges that masks make you sick, that bleach can heal you and that a vaccine may kill you; it has been viewed at least 8 million times online. Naturally, the novel coronavirus has been subsumed into the all-encompassing QAnon conspiracy theory that has become a quasi-religion among some Trump supporters. They think that the virus was created by the “deep state” to bring down their hero.

    What’s different about this particular moment in conspiracy history? Three things, I think.

    First, conspiracy theories spread more efficiently by social media than by previous communications media. The online world is a post-truth space where there are no undisputed facts, only competing narratives, and even the most deranged claims (e.g., QAnon) can aggregate an audience.

    Second, the stakes are higher now. It doesn’t much matter if someone thinks that UFOs landed at Roswell, N.M., or that Elvis is still alive — but it matters greatly if someone thinks that the coronavirus isn’t real or that a vaccine may be more dangerous than the disease. […]

    Third, we now have an unhinged conspiracy-monger in the White House. When he is not ranting about a vast, nebulous plot perpetrated by the prior administration […] Trump is opining that the virus started in a Chinese lab, that hydroxychloroquine is an effective prophylactic, and that injections of bleach can treat the disease. […]

    This is nuts, but it gains credence by being promulgated by authority figures. In fact, the entire GOP — which just nominated a QAnon believer as its Senate candidate in Oregon — is becoming a modern-day Know Nothing Party, a cesspool of prejudice and irrationality. What was once the fringe has now moved into the mainstream […]

    Washington Post link

  145. says

    Lynna @ #170, I remember my response at the time – from the archives.

    A few comments below, I quoted Jeremy Konyndyk:

    This is disastrous. Sign of hastily made, poorly planned, terribly executed policy.

    Other airports too. Good God. You could hardly invent a better scenario for superspreading events.

    Any cases of COVID in these crowds will have a far higher chance of spreading to others in these lines than if they were just allowed in unchecked.

    Like the testing debacle, this is hugely revealing about the administration’s crisis approach. Pursuing public health theatrics without thinking through the implications; and diverting finite resources away from higher priorities; thus actively putting people at greater risk.

    And apparently no coordination with the states. Unreal.

    (When we rolled out new Ebola screening procedures there was extensive prior coordination with state counterparts. This is just basic, 101-type stuff.)

  146. says

    Jonathan Blitzer of the NYer:

    And right on cue: here’s Mauricio Claver-Carone, from the Trump White House, calling the President of Guatemala “infantile” for expressing concern about how US deportation policy is spreading a virulent pandemic to his country.

    Claver-Carone says, with what passes for a straight face, that the US is the best ally Guatemala has ever had and the best ally Guatemala can ever hope for. Even leaving aside the monstrous historical ignorance of that, it’s a laughable (and offensive) deflection.

    US wants to continue deportations because it is perceived inside the WH as politically advantageous to Trump. Guatemala, which has virtually no leverage, is *willing* to accept deportation flights during the pandemic, but asks US not to deport people infected with the virus.

    US promises only to send those who have been tested & who aren’t infected. Then, when the deportation flights resume, dozens of deportees arrive in Guatemala City & immediately test positive for COVID-19. This is the context of Claver-Carone saying the US is your ‘best ally.’

    BTW: Who is Mauricio Claver-Carone? A lawyer from South Florida who made a name for himself in Miami as a ferociously loud anti-Cuba partisan. That’s how he ingratiated himself w influential Republicans; & how, after a string of firings in 2018, he finds himself in the Trump WH.

  147. says

    Commenting about Trump’s problems when it comes to respecting (not respecting) women, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel made some good points during an interview with NPR “All Things Considered” co-host Mary Louise Kelly:

    […] “Michigan is the only state in the union where women hold our three executive offices, and we are also the only state where the President has individually targeted each one of us,” the attorney general told Kelly. “So you do the math.”

    “You’re accusing of having a particular issue with women?” the NPR co-host asked.

    “Well, it certainly seems that way,” Nessel replied.

    “I guess if any one of us were doing Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo’s dishes, he might be fine with us,” she added. “But since we’re not and we’re actually running the state of Michigan, he seems to have a real issue.”

    Nessel’s accusation came after Trump attacked her for slamming his refusal to comply with Michigan’s mask requirement during his tour of a Ford plant near Detroit last week.

    “Do nothing A.G. of the Great State of Michigan, Dana Nessel, should not be taking her anger and stupidity out on Ford Motor–they might get upset with you and leave the state, like so many other companies have–until I came along and brought business back to Michigan,” he tweeted.

    Trump has also feuded with Whitmer, whom he derided as a “young, woman governor” and “the woman in Michigan,” and accused her of being unable to respond to the medical supply shortage.

    “She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot,” Trump complained in March.

    And then the President went after Benson last week on Twitter after she sent applications for mail-in ballots to registered Michigan voters.

    “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State,” Trump falsely claimed (the secretary of state has the full authority to send the applications).

    Link

  148. says

    The Trump administration discussed conducting the first U.S. nuclear test in decades.

    Washington Post link

    […] The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied. […]

    The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official said the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.” Another person familiar with the meeting, however, said a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing. […]

    During the meeting, serious disagreements emerged over the idea, in particular from the National Nuclear Security Administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The NNSA, an agency that ensures the safety of the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    The United States has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since September 1992, and nuclear nonproliferation advocates warned that doing so now could have destabilizing consequences.

    “It would be an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”

    […] since 1945 at least eight countries have collectively conducted about 2,000 nuclear tests, of which more than 1,000 were carried out by the United States.

    The environmental and health-related consequences of nuclear testing moved the process underground, eventually leading to a near-global moratorium on testing in this century with the exception of North Korea. Concerns about the dangers of testing prompted more than 184 nations to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, an agreement that will not enter into force until ratified by eight key states, including the United States.

    President Barack Obama supported the ratification of the CTBT in 2009 but never realized his goal. The Trump administration said it would not seek ratification in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

    Still, the major nuclear powers abide by its core prohibition on testing. […]

    The deliberations over a nuclear test explosion come as the Trump administration prepares to leave the Treaty on Open Skies, a nearly 30-year-old pact that came into force in 2002 and was designed to reduce the chances of an accidental war by allowing mutual reconnaissance flights for members of the 34-country agreement.

    The planned withdrawal marks another example of the erosion of a global arms-control framework that Washington and Moscow began hashing out painstakingly during the Cold War. The Trump administration pulled out of a 1987 pact with Russia governing intermediate-range missiles […] and withdrew from a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, saying Tehran wasn’t living up to the spirit of it.

    The primary remaining pillar of the arms-control framework between the United States and Russia is the New START pact, which places limits on strategic nuclear platforms. […]
    Trump’s presidential envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, warned that China is the “midst” of a major buildup of its nuclear arsenal and “intent on building up its nuclear forces and using those forces to try to intimidate the United States and our friends and allies.” […]

    “If this administration believes that a nuclear test explosion and nuclear brinkmanship is going to coerce negotiating partners to make unilateral concessions, that’s a dangerous ploy,” Kimball said.

  149. says

    An excerpt from an interview, conducted by Isaac Chotiner, with Bharat Ramamurti, a lawyer and political adviser serving on the covid-19 Congressional Oversight Commission.

    […] I think it’s incumbent on Congress and on the oversight commission to scrutinize what decisions are being made with the money that Congress has already spent and the programs they’ve already created. And, that said, there are obvious and glaring holes that would need to be fixed.

    What are they?

    The biggest one is the huge revenue crunch for state and local governments. The latest jobs report showed that almost a million government workers have already been laid off because state and local governments aren’t collecting nearly as much tax revenue as they were expecting to collect. […] nothing will exacerbate a depression or recession more than state and local governments cutting off service and laying off workers.

    And this is exactly the kind of situation where the federal government is supposed to step in, right? State and local governments have an obligation to balance their budgets, the federal government does not. In a crisis like this, which is akin to a natural disaster, that’s exactly when the federal government is supposed to step in and provide a backstop, provide funding for those state and local governments.

    […] And then there are other things that we need to address. The expanded unemployment-insurance program expires in a couple of months. That will probably need to be extended, given the projections on where the unemployment rate is going to be.

    Is the debate over how to do these things within the Democratic Party along ideological lines?

    I think that you’re seeing a recognition from across the political spectrum of two things. No. 1, the severity of this crisis, and No. 2, how it has exposed these fundamental cracks in the foundation of our economy. […] members from across the spectrum are recognizing that this particular crisis calls for a bold response.

    […] I think that what you’re seeing is broad agreement on the scale of the response that’s necessary and a willingness to support much more robust and muscular government action.

    There has been a lot of criticism from the left that Pelosi and the House should be bolder in what they’ve been putting forward. What do you think of that critique?

    I think that the latest bill that they have passed contains a lot of good stuff. It has a trillion dollars for state and local government, which, as I mentioned before, is extremely important. It has the extension of unemployment insurance, which I think is extremely important. I think the question is, are there even further steps that we need to take? Do we need to do something like that paycheck-security program, I think it’s called, the Denmark-like program? Because we feel like what the P.P.P. is doing so far for small businesses isn’t working. […]

    New Yorker link

  150. says

    Guardian – “Benjamin Netanyahu appears in court on corruption charges”:

    Defiantly railing against attempts to “overthrow” him before donning a face mask to enter court, Benjamin Netanyahu sat for the first day of his high-profile corruption trial, which threatens to put Israel’s longest-serving leader behind bars and open deep divisions within the country.

    Speaking in the corridors of the courthouse before entering, Netanyahu decried police and prosecutors he accused of attempting to topple him. “When there is a strong rightwing leader like me, everything is permitted to bring him down,” he said, flanked by loyal ministers. “This is an attempt to overthrow us.”

    At the start of the proceedings, one of the judges – also in face masks and behind clear plastic screens – asked Netanyahu if he had read and understood the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He responded that he had.

    His lawyer began to argue for the court to grant a three-month delay to deal with the huge caseload of evidence. The case, with hundreds of witnesses, could last months if not years.

    Public interest in the trial is so intense that police closed off streets around the court in Jerusalem to prevent crowds from gathering too close.

    Netanyahu chaired the first official cabinet meeting of his new unity government, sworn in a week ago on Sunday morning. By the afternoon, he had become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to fight criminal charges in court.

    A poster has been hung above the main highway in Tel Aviv with a photo of the prime minister. “Israel is ashamed,” it said.

    Netanyahu, 70, has forcefully denied the allegations, calling them a politically motivated witch-hunt. Perhaps fearing negative visuals from courtroom, his lawyers tried and failed to have him exempted from appearing.

    Ahead of the trial, he battled the allegations outside court, smearing the domestic media and judiciary as conspirators against him, often to the point that he has been accused of stirring up public hatred.

    Within earshot of the court, supporters of Netanyahu – who has been in power for more than a decade – shouted out his nickname: “Bibi! Bibi! Bibi!”

    Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who indicted Netanyahu, filed police complaints this month over what he said were coordinated death threats. At the pro-Netanyahu protest, a sign had been erected on which the attorney general’s face had been cut and pasted on to the image of a man in jail.

    Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, compared the vitriol against the judiciary to rightwing politicians’ goading of Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s. After months of incitement for his efforts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, the former prime minister was murdered by an ultranationalist extremist.

    Indicted last year in three separate cases, Netanyahu faces more than a decade in prison if convicted. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts including champagne, jewellery and cigars, and colluding with Israeli media magnates to publish favourable stories about him while smearing his political opponents.

    Unlike one of his predecessors, Ehud Olmert, who stepped down after it appeared he would be indicted, Netanyahu has refused to leave power, and his role as head of the new unity government has bolstered his position.

    Crucially, the coalition deal he signed affords him extra protection, exempting him from a rule that obliges ministers to resign if charged with a crime.

  151. says

    Guardian – “Jair Bolsonaro branded a ‘killer’ during hot dog trip as Covid-19 death toll soars”:

    The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, was branded a “killer” by his opponents as he popped out for a Saturday night hot dog on the day a further 965 of his citizens were reported to have died from Covid-19.

    Bolsonaro, a rightwing populist who basks in comparisons to Donald Trump, has repeatedly flouted health ministry physical distancing guidelines – and continued to do so this weekend, even as Brazil’s coronavirus death toll rose to over 22,000.

    More than 347,000 infections have been confirmed in Brazil – the second highest number in the world after the US.

    According to local media reports, Bolsonaro went out on to the streets of the capital, Brasília, on Saturday for a can of coke and a hot dog.

    Polls suggest Bolsonaro still enjoys the backing of a third of Brazilians – and some local supporters celebrated Bolsonaro’s outing by shouting his nickname “Mito” (legend). But in a reflection of rising public anger, footage shared on social media showed others banging pots and pans in protest.

    Insults hurled at Bolsonaro as he grappled with his fast food dinner included: “assassino” (killer), garbage and fascist. One female dissenter can be heard screaming: “Get to work, you bum!”

    The president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, took a similarly provocative stance to his father’s on Friday, reportedly attending a party at a luxury beachfront property in São Paulo state owned by one of the wealthy founders of a laser hair removal company.

    São Paulo, where 6,045 people have died, is governed by João Doria, a prominent rival to Bolsonaro who has been battling to convince its 44 million residents to stay at home.

    Antônio Carlos Costa, a social activist and pastor in Rio, where 3,905 people have died, said he blamed Bolsonaro for the scale of the tragedy unfolding.

    “His behaviour is surreal,” Costa said. “We are in the midst of a pandemic. People are dying in packed hospitals and you don’t see him shed a single tear. He expresses no regret.”

    Some saw Bolsonaro’s frankfurter trip as an attempt to divert attention from a snowballing political scandal….

    Costa, a Christian activist, said: “Nobody knows where the country is heading. It is chaos – complete chaos.”

  152. says

    Guardian – “Beijing to impose Hong Kong security laws ‘without delay'”:

    Beijing has vowed to force controversial national security laws on Hong Kong “without the slightest delay” as police in the semi-autonomous territory fired teargas at protesters demonstrating against the unprecedented decision.

    Speaking in Beijing, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said enacting the proposed anti-sedition law to stop anti-government protests that have persisted for the past year had become a “pressing obligation”.

    “We must get it done without the slightest delay,” he said.

    Wang said a legislative process to write the details of the law would begin after a proposed decision is approved next week at China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), known as the country’s rubber-stamping parliament where delegates pass already approved policies.

    Last Thursday, China’s NPC made the announcement that it would force a law banning subversion, separatism, and acts of foreign interference on Hong Kong – in what critics and legal observers say is one the most blatant violations of the “one, country, two systems” framework since the handover of Hong Kong from UK to Chinese control in 1997.

    Hong Kong’s main stock index dropped 5.6% as details of the looming law were released while countries around the world condemned the decision. The laws, to be directly added into Hong Kong’s de facto constitution without consideration by the local legislature, would allow for Beijing to install “national security agencies” in the city.

    In response to questions about investor confidence in the Asian financial hub, Wang said: “Instead of becoming more worried, people should have more confidence in the future of Hong Kong.”

    Wang said the laws “will improve Hong Kong’s legal system, bring more stability, stronger rule of a law and a better business environment”.

    Beijing’s decision has further worsened US-China ties, already at record lows as Washington claims China is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic.

    Describing the national security laws as a “death knell” for Hong Kong’s autonomy and political freedoms, the US has threatened to revoke the territory’s special economic and trade status. On Sunday Wang said: “It is unfortunate a political virus is also spreading in the US, jumping at any opportunity to attack and slander China. There are those in the US pushing the two sides to the brink of a new cold war.

    “It is time for the US to give up its wishful thinking of changing China or stopping 1.4 billion people’s historical march toward modernisation.” Wang said China would “emerge stronger, more confident … in our nation’s unstoppable march to rejuvenation.”

  153. says

    Quote o’ the day:

    <

    blockquote>Populism is based on the trick of a self-evident elite purporting to speak for ‘the people’ against ‘the elite’. So it’s always vulnerable to its leaders being exposed as not of the people and, even, contemptuous of them. That vulnerability is exposed fairly starkly just now.

  154. says

    Paul Brand, ITV:

    BREAKING: The Prime Minister will now front this evening’s press conference at 5pm.

    I understand he’ll stand by Dominic Cummings.

    Responding to the news, one Conservative MP texts to say… “Oh joy. Madness if so.”

  155. says

    Ian Dunt livetweeted Johnson’s press conference:

    Yep. Johnson digging in. “He has acted responsibly, legally and with integrity.”

    This is a very instructive moment.

    Johnson is willing to accept a very significant weakness in his administration – a gaping political wound – in order to preserve Cummings.

    You can almost hear the cheering from Labour HQ.

    Christ alive. Imagine you were just finding out who Cummings was, which presumably many normal people are. He looks like a Pixar villain. [photo atl]

    The silent Iain Watson comedy subplot is gold.

    Look, lie if you want. But for heaven’s sake don’t tell us that Cummings took that trip out of a commitment to public health.

    Properly incisive questioning from @CharlieCooper8

    You just watched the end of Boris Johnson’s post-election honeymoon.

    Quite an extraordinary failure of political judgement there. Not just in failing to rebuke him, or failing to hold an inquiry, but in actually going out of his way to praise him, and therefore entangling his own standing with Cummings’.

    Then, as if that wasn’t enough, coming out with no detailed answers at all to the questions which have been asked. Basically ensuring that the story runs and runs.

    He just took a fuck up, fucked it up a little more, then added a good healthy dollop of extra fuck up, and rolled it right on out there.

  156. says

    SC @194, OMG, what are they thinking? Reminds of this statement from PZ:

    And if you decide to take the whole family to that newly opened beach and mingle with thousands of other people, forget about it — the number of connections have shot up exponentially. You’ve lost all control.

    The problem is that people don’t grasp the idea of exponential increases intuitively.

  157. says

    Follow-up to comment 147.

    On AM Joy this morning, Charlamagne tha God said that a better apology from Joe Biden would be a plan, (policies), to increase economic justice. I agree. “The best apology is a black agenda.” He noted that people should stop marginalizing black people, that politicians should have discussions that included some substance. (I would note that Elizabeth Warren did that … she does that. Stacey Abrams does that.)

    https://www.msnbc.com/am-joy

  158. KG says

    SC@189-192,

    I’m glad someone got a screenshot of the tweet you link to @192!

    It really is extraordinary that Johnson has now bound himself so tightly to Cummings. If Cummings subsequently has to go, can Johnson survive? My guess is that he would, but be permanently wounded politically. On the other hand, as long as Cummings stays, he and his arrogance are going to be the story. It would seem Cummings really does know where the bodies are buried, and one begins to suspect that’s true in a literal sense!

  159. says

    OMFG. Trump is planning to strip pandemic response responsibilities from health officials, and give it to the State Department.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, delivered a remote address this week to graduates of Johns Hopkins University, urging them to stay strong, and telling them that “Now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly about one another.”

    But Fauci didn’t deliver this message as a part of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force. That’s because since May 10, Fauci has been in self quarantine after a possible exposure to COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr Robert Redfield is also in isolation. So is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Stephen Hahn.

    That temporary exile is set to end this weekend, but while they’ve been offstage, Dr. Deborah Birx has proven herself a loyal Trump lieutenant; ever willing to stand in the background as Trump urges Americans to take a dangerous off-label drug, attacks the CDC for trying to provide guidelines for safe conduct of business, or openly attacks the results of scientific studies. BIrx willingness to be the Kellyanne of medical advice, always up to twist the facts to fit the latest Trump statement, hasn’t gone unnoticed. […]

    there’s a plan on the table to hand over global pandemic response to Birx and create a whole new health organization … inside the State Department.

    […] power would be centralized in the safely inspector-general-free State Department, with Birx as the expected head of this new division.

    But the authority of the new organization would go beyond USAID’s responsibilities. With Trump threatening to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization “permanently,” this new operation would form a sort of home-grown alternative. Only this version would be completely under the thumb of Pompeo and Trump. It would be this new faux WHO that determined the distribution of vaccines, and managed the response to any outbreak.

    And they have a name for it: the President’s Response to Outbreaks. Otherwise known as PRO.

    […] Between failing to coordinate a national testing plan, failing to institute a system of case tracing, and failing to provide a uniform set of standards and guidelines, the real acronym for any Trump’s health organization should be ABSENT. But it figures that he would cobble together the most awkward label in history, just to make sure that he was part of it.

    Of course, USAID has a staff made up of experts in epidemiology, health policy, and medical logistics. The State Department has none of those. Which doesn’t mean that PRO won’t be the best in the world at what Trump wants—explaining how people dying in mass is a big, big win.

    […] As of Saturday afternoon, the death count in the United States stands at 98,500. If that’s the kind of leadership PRO fill be offering, it’s not clear who will be interested.

    Link

    I have a niece who traveled quite a bit fairly recently. She knows she may have been exposed to coronavirus. During a recent illness, (sore throat, fever, but no cough or shortness of breath), she tried to get tested. The nurse at the urgent care center told my niece that there was no treatment, so why would she want to get tested. Also, they wanted $250 for the test. JFC.

    Testing in the USA should be free and ubiquitous. It is not.

  160. says

    Sunday’s Heart-Wrenching New York Times Cover Marks Almost 100,000 Coronavirus Deaths in the US

    A new digital presentation is staggering in its own right.

    Link

    Image at the link.

    […] An equally staggering digital version arranges the names in chronological order; names pop up as you scroll further and further—a feat of online presentation that highlights touching personal details amid the immensity of the pandemic.

    The lines from the obituaries produce an almost endless stream of epitaphs dedicated to a diverse array of victims, young and old, from far-flung parts of the country. The lives honored here are both extraordinary by broad standards, and extraordinary to their loved ones:

    “Last living woman member of the W.W. II Monuments teams.”

    “Loved Jesus, Elvis, Dr. Pepper and her family.”

    “Enjoyed trying her luck in casinos.”

    “One half of Siegfried & Roy.”

    “Go-to person for everybody.”

    “Died after being released from ICE detention.” […]

    Scroll through the digital version.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/24/us/us-coronavirus-deaths-100000.html

  161. says

    From Maggie Haberman:

    The president just retweeted someone calling the first woman nominee of either major political party in the US “a skank” a few hours after another Scarborough murder allegation on the weekend the country closes in on 100K coronavirus deaths.

    The “skank” reference was to Hillary Clinton.

    From Aaron Rupar:

    The president called one prominent female Democrat fat and another a “skank” tonight and it won’t get nearly the coverage of Joe Biden saying something dumb because the bar for Trump is subterranean and we’ve normalized having an ignorant monster as president.

    https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1264392268187865088

  162. says

    A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America

    Washington Post link

    The novel coronavirus arrived in an Indiana farm town mid-planting season and took root faster than the fields of seed corn, infecting hundreds and killing dozens. It tore though a pork processing plant and spread outward in a desolate stretch of the Oklahoma Panhandle. And in Colorado’s sparsely populated eastern plains, the virus erupted in a nursing home and a pair of factories, burning through the crowded quarters of immigrant workers and a vulnerable elderly population.

    As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America, according to a Washington Post analysis of case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states. The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.

    [see the link for informative charts and graphs]

    In these areas, where 60 million Americans live, populations are poorer, older and more prone to health problems such as diabetes and obesity than those of urban areas. They include immigrants and the undocumented — the “essential” workers who have kept the country’s sprawling food industry running, but who rarely have the luxury of taking time off for illness.

    Many of these communities are isolated and hard to reach. They were largely spared from the disease shutting down their states — until, suddenly, they weren’t. Rural counties now have some of the highest rates of covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, topping even the hardest-hit New York City boroughs and signaling a new phase of the pandemic — one of halting, scattered outbreaks that could devastate still more of America’s most vulnerable towns as states lift stay-at-home orders.

    [See the link for an informative map]

    “It is coming, and it’s going to be more of a checkerboard,” said Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University in Ohio. “It’s not going to be a wave that spreads out uniformly over all of rural America; it’s going to be hot spots that come and go. And I don’t know how well they’re going to be managed.”

    […] overall rates are increasing faster in smaller, rural counties where the virus has spread rapidly in the past month […]

    In many of those places, where the health-care system is already stretched thin, even a minor surge in patients is enough to overwhelm. […]

    […] a lack of testing can also allow an outbreak to fester silently. […]

    Of the 25 rural counties with the highest per capita case rates, 20 have a meatpacking plant or prison where the virus took hold and spread with abandon, then leaped into the community when workers took it home.

    Infection has raced through immigrant worker communities, where poverty or immigration status prevent some of the sick from seeking care and language barriers hinder access to information. It has taken hold in counties where residents flout social distancing guidelines or believe the pandemic to be exaggerated, [and they believe] the virus’s lethality is a myth spread by President Trump’s political foes and a liberal media. […]

    More at the link.

  163. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Federal judge guts Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before they can vote
    By Amy Gardner
    May 24, 2020

    A federal judge has gutted a Florida state law requiring felons to pay all court fines and fees before they can register to vote, clearing the way for thousands of Floridians to register in time for the November presidential election.
    […]

    The law, critics said, had made it virtually impossible for most felons to register, either because of an inability to pay or because the state offered no way for them to know what they owed or whether they had already paid.

    U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle agreed, likening the restrictive legislation to a tax and concluding that the state had not created a system that would allow felons to identify their financial obligations.
    […]

    Florida’s voter registration application requires residents to attest that they have “completed all terms” of their sentence. Without being able to determine whether they still owed fines, fees or restitution, many hesitated to sign the application for fear that they could be charged with perjury.
    […]

    Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who litigated the case, said: “The court recognized that conditioning a person’s right to vote on their ability to pay is unconstitutional. This ruling means hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be able to rejoin the electorate and participate in upcoming elections. This is a tremendous victory for voting rights.”
    […]

  164. tomh says

    GOP groups sue California Gov. Newsom over vote-by-mail order for November 2020 election

    State and national Republican groups are suing over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order to send mail-in ballots to every voter in California for the November 2020 election.
    […]

    Organizations backing the suit include the Republican National Committee, the California Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

    California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said…”Vote-by-mail has been used safely and effectively in red, blue, and purple states for years. This lawsuit is just another part of Trump’s political smear campaign against voting by mail. We will not let this virus be exploited for voter suppression.”

  165. says

    CNN – “Trump threatens to pull Republican convention out of North Carolina”:

    President Donald Trump began a solemn Memorial Day railing against North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, ahead of the 2020 Republican National Convention, threatening to pull it out of Charlotte, where the convention is expected to be held August 24 to 27.

    Trump contended that Cooper is “unable to guarantee” that the arena can be filled to capacity.

    “I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena. In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

    The President’s calls for a “guarantee” from North Carolina officials overlooks the uncertainty surrounding the summertime levels of the coronavirus and the challenges of hosting a political convention — or any large event — in the middle of an ongoing public health crisis.

    In an interview last week, Cooper said that data and science will guide his decisions on whether the state can hold large gatherings like the convention. He said the Republican convention, which he supported bringing to Charlotte, will be treated like any other event.

    “This is not political. This is not emotional. This is based on health experts, data and science and that’s it for everybody to see,” Cooper told CNN. “No one is being favored or disfavored over the other.”

    The Republican convention, where the President will formally accept his party’s nomination to a second term, has been on his mind for weeks. He has criticized Cooper for acting too slowly in reopening the state’s economy and on Monday demanded an answer about the convention.

    “Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August,” Trump said in a tweet. “They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do.”

    The tweets completely blindsided party officials and those involved in planning the convention, who have repeatedly argued that health and safety will come first. The officials have insisted planning for the convention is on track.

    However, Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump on Monday, telling Fox News the convention could be moved “if need be” and listing some states that could be alternative locations.

    “It’s an issue we’ve been talking about because these national conventions literally take many months to organize and prepare and there are states around the country — we think of Texas, we think of Florida, Georgia, the last two states I visited last week that have made tremendous progress on reopening their communities and reopening their economies,” Pence said.

    The vice president said Trump’s request of Cooper was “very reasonable.”…

    I’d be thrilled by this “threat” if I were in Charlotte. NC just had its biggest spike in cases, and DC is a major hotspot. The Trumpublicans are plainly hostile to public health measures and their convention would undoubtedly become a superspreading event.

  166. tomh says

    ABC News:
    Federal court backs California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders keeping churches closed
    By Bill Hutchinson

    A federal appeals court has backed California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order banning in-church services to blunt the spread of coronavirus, rejecting an argument from clerics that the governor is treading on their First Amendment right to free exercise of their religious beliefs.

    Full story at the link.

    In the decision the judges quote the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who once wrote that if a court “does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

    That quote should guide every court decision on the subject.

  167. says

    More from Dunt’s thread:

    No-one’s going to think what you’re saying is “reasonable” Dominic. No-one has any idea what the fuck you’re talking about.

    Take a good hard look at this guy. Have a good listen. This is what the prime minister sacrificed his public health policy for in the middle of a pandemic.

  168. says

    From Dunt’s thread:

    Dear God that was bad.

    Alastair Campbell giving it both barrels on Sky: “A complete car-crash… The excuses threadbare… Quite extraordinary… He seemed to spend an awful lot of time in woods.”

  169. says

    SC @209, yeah. They are “thinking of Florida.” Trump is laying the groundwork to move the Republican Convention to Mar-a-Lago. That’s my bet anyway. Mar-a-Lago has already proven to be a good place to catch coronavirus, so I guess that makes sense.

  170. says

    Pushing back against at least one of Trump’s stupid comments:

    Dr. Craig Spencer, the director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at Columbia University, defend his colleagues on Sunday night after President Donald Trump attacked the university for discovering that tens of thousands of American lives could’ve been saved had action on COVID-19 been taken sooner in March.

    “For months, me & my colleagues at Columbia University’s medical center have treated thousands of #COVID19 patients,” Spencer tweeted. “Every one with dignity. Never disgracefully.”

    The doctor linked to the Washington Post op-ed he’d written in April about doctors’ sacrifices in treating COVID-19 patients.

    “I still choke up when I read it,” he tweeted. “We are not disgraceful.”

    Trump bashed Columbia after its researchers found in a study that approximately 36,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. could’ve been prevented by May 2 if social distancing measures had been put in place a week sooner on March 1.

    “Columbia’s a liberal, disgraceful institution to write that,” he told “Full Measure” host Sharyl Attkisson in a pre-taped interview.

    The President accused the university of “playing right to their little group of people that tell them what to do” without specifying who exactly he was referring to. […]

    TPM link

  171. says

    There are few better ways to spread a pandemic than to cross state lines to scream about a pandemic

    If you wanted to design a mechanism for spreading an infectious disease quickly, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the method anti-stay-at-home activists have chosen. A new study of anonymized phone data shows that the people who have been attending highly visible rallies against state shelter-in-place orders in places like Michigan, Colorado, and Florida have been traveling long distances to get to their ‘We don’t need masks!’ get-togethers.

    […] A group of people self-selected for being aggressively resistant to basic pandemic protections has been gathering together, commingling for a few hours, and then dispersing across a wide area with whatever hitchhiking viruses someone else may have brought in.

    The Guardian wrote up the major findings, as provided to them via the Committee to Protect Medicare and VoteMap. Anonymized cellphone data was used to identify devices present at anti-lockdown rallies in five states, and track where the phones moved after those rallies. […]

    The now-infamous rally in Lansing, Michigan, for example, was a promiscuous affair: Cell phones from that armed, storm-the-capitol shoutfest dispersed to “all parts” of Michigan, while others crossed into Indiana. It wasn’t local Lansing residents doing the protesting, in other words, but dedicated gun-toters from a good ways off. An April protest in Denver saw participants (or at least their cell phones) head back to locations in “Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah.” Florida protesters were trailed back to Georgia, and so forth. […]

    There’s been at least one case of a protest organizer testing positive for the virus, only to sally forth after quarantine and continue to champion the cause.

    […] Asymptomatic carriers can still spread the virus, and the odds that the people most cavalier about safety precautions are truly the most disease-free among us are … not good.

    […] A thousand self-isolating Americans can be nullified in their efforts by just one idiot, and America has more idiots than it does songbirds, at this point. We now have story after story of new infections caused by specific gatherings—for example, church services—of people absolutely convinced they were not in danger because Reasons, only to find out that they were extremely wrong. It will cause the shelter-in-place orders to be needed longer than they otherwise would be, and will kill more people than otherwise would have died. […]

    Link

  172. says

    Trump’s claim:

    Cases, numbers and deaths are going down all over the Country!

    A few facts:

    […] numbers have remained fairly flat for the past two weeks, with the seven-day average number of new cases remaining well over 20,000. Yesterday, for instance, there were 22,520 new cases, which is lower than the previous two days, but more than other days in the last two weeks. […]

    Experts also say those numbers are only telling part of the story. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner who served under Trump and now works with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning and said that the threat from virus has not abated. “We expected cases to go up and hospitalizations to bump up as we reopened, but we need to understand this isn’t contained, and it’s continuing to spread,” Gottlieb said. […]

  173. Pierce R. Butler says

    SC @ # 210: “100,000 dead: …

    Funny, the online c-virusdashboards“, jumping by thousands [of US deaths] every day, suddenly seem to have gone into a major slowdown this weekend, only creeping up in tiny steps since the 98,000 mark.

    Almost as if people more concerned about the PR impact of reaching 100,000 than about effective public health measures had some way of slowing down the reported statistics. Nah, couldn’t be…

    Btw, if anyone wants a depressing/infuriating detailed review of Trump™ malfeasance regarding public health over the last five months, Dan Benbow has a (very long) doozy at his own blog and at rawstory.com.

  174. says

    There are not enough testing supplies. Trump is simply ignoring that fact.

    […] Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), reacted in a statement to the Trump administration’s plan for testing that was submitted to Congress Sunday.

    The congressional leaders alleged the administration “still does not have a serious plan” to boost testing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further.

    “This disappointing report confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states,” the statement read.

    “In this document, the Trump Administration again attempts to paint a rosy picture about testing while experts continue to warn the country is far short of what we need,” it continued. […]

    The administration’s strategy sent to Congress pledged it would purchase 100 million swabs by the end of the year in order to distribute them to the states.

    Vague! Also, another empty promise? Also, too little too late.

    The report reiterates the administration’s position that testing is a responsibility for the states instead of the federal government. […]

    In their statement, the Democratic leaders requested a better explanation for how the targets were determined, how they would be met and the consequences for states if they did not meet the targets. They also criticized the administration for placing the burden of responsibility on the states. […]

    Link

  175. says

    From Wonkette: “Super Normal Patriotic Americans Hang Effigy Of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear”

    How did you spend your Memorial Day Weekend? Me? I baked some cookies, I worked, I hung out with my family, […] Because I don’t totally suck as a human being. Other people, who do suck, went to the beach, went to parties, or went to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s house to hang him in effigy and then tried to claim that was not a psychotic thing to do.

    Yes, at least “patriots” from all over Kentucky showed up to the Take Back Kentucky rally yesterday, to rally for their Second Amendment right […] and their 42nd Amendment right to get a haircut during a pandemic.[…]

    Also to say a lot of dumb shit, seems like.

    Via USAToday:

    Tony Wheatley of Constitutional Kentucky, invoking Benjamin Franklin, said, “We have a republic, if we can keep it.” Calling on the crowd to recognize their ownership of the Constitution, […]

    Pastor Cliff Christman said that law isn’t relative, and to understand the country’s laws, one should understand Biblical law.

    Biblical law, re: pandemics? Plagues?

    This has been one of the biggest shams in world history,” Christman said. “Grown men have been hiding in (their) homes nearly wetting their pants over this invisible enemy that nobody sees. Where is it at? Let it come out and face us. I serve the one true and living God who conquers all enemies. Why should we give our freedom and our liberties up for such fear (and) propaganda and all the garbage that is coming out of Frankfort today?”

    I don’t know, dude. Maybe because you don’t want people to die? That’s usually a good enough reason for most people! Grown men, even. Grown men who don’t go around trying to challenge a virus to fisticuffs as if that is a thing one can do. […]

    You may recall that “sic semper tyrannis” [image showing that slogan used on the effigy can be viewed at the link] is what John Wilkes Booth yelled as he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. We can therefore only assume that they are just as mad about not getting to own human beings as they are about having to wear masks. […]

    House Democrat leadership in Kentucky released a statement in regards to the effigy:

    “Hanging Governor Beshear in effigy is beyond reprehensible, and yet it is also the logical conclusion of the hateful rhetoric we saw touted on the Capitol grounds earlier this month that was implicitly condoned by elected representatives from the legislature’s majority party. Doing this in front of our Capitol, just a short walk from where the Governor, First Lady, and their two young children live, is an act that reeks of hate and intimidation and does nothing but undermine our leading work to battle this deadly disease and restore our economy safely. We call on all elected officials to condemn these actions and pledge to work to eliminate dangerous hateful speech.”

    That would be nice!

    Link

  176. says

    While U.S. struggles to roll out coronavirus contact tracing, Germany has been doing it from the start.

    Washington Post link

    There’s no sophisticated technology in the northern Berlin office where Filiz Degidiben spends her days tracking down contacts of people infected with the coronavirus.

    Her main tools are the phone by her side, a yellow calendar on the wall and a central database, accessible from her desktop computer, that was developed with infectious diseases such as measles in mind.

    “When coronavirus came, I wanted to help,” said Degidiben, who used to work assisting people with filling out forms in the social services department.

    As the United Kingdom and the United States scramble to hire teams of contact tracers, local health authorities across Germany have used contact scouts such as Degidiben since they confirmed their first cases early this year.

    Epidemiologists say the effort has been essential to the country’s ability to contain its coronavirus outbreak and avoid the larger death tolls seen elsewhere, even with a less stringent lockdown than in other countries. Germany has experienced around 10 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. The United States has seen nearly three times as many. France, more than four times. Britain, more than 5½ times. […]

  177. says

    From Paul Waldman:

    At various times over the past three and a half years, many of us have asked what would happen if […] Trump truly went over the edge or if his behavior became so frightening that his unfitness for the most powerful position on Earth could no longer be denied.

    But the human capacity for denial is apparently almost infinite. Let’s review what our president has been up to in the past few days:

    With the death toll from covid-19 about to top 100,000, Trump has offered almost nothing in the way of tributes to the dead, sympathy for their families, or acknowledgement of our national mourning. By all accounts he is barely bothering to manage his administration’s response to the pandemic, preferring to focus on cheerleading for an economic recovery he says is on its way, even as he feeds conspiracy theories about the death toll being inflated. This weekend, he went golfing.

    In a Twitter spasm on Saturday and Sunday, Trump retweeted mockery of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) looks, along with a tweet calling Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

    Eager to start a new culture war flare-up, he urged churches to open and gather parishioners in a room to breathe the same air, threatening that he would “override” governors whose shutdown orders still forbade such gatherings. The president has no such power.

    He all but accused talk show host Joe Scarborough of murdering a young woman who died in 2001 in the then-congressman’s district office, bringing untold torture to her family from the conspiracy theorists who will respond to his accusation.

    He has repeatedly insisted that the upcoming election is being “rigged” because states run by both Republicans and Democrats are making it easier to vote by mail, seeking to delegitimize a vote that has yet to occur, despite the substantial evidence that mail voting advantages neither party.

    The truth is that Trump is not much more despicable of a human being than he has always been; it’s just that standard Trumpian behavior becomes more horrifying when it occurs during an ongoing national crisis. It is reality that changed around him, and he was incapable of responding to it.

    We all know this. In public, Republicans may say that the real villain in the pandemic is China, or that all those deaths — and the tens of thousands yet to come — were inevitable, or that it is essential to get the economy moving. But they know as well as the rest of us do what a catastrophic failure Trump has been. […]

  178. KG says

    Cummings’ press conference, which was held in the Downing Street rose garden – in itself an astonishingly arrogant thing for a Spad (special adviser) to do – will not, I think, have convinced many people. By his own account, Cummings chose to drive 260 miles with his wife (who was ill, with what may or may not have been Covid-19) and young son, at a point when he himself knew he was likely infected (he in fact became ill the next day); he says he made the journey in case both parents became too ill to care for his son. but did it not occur to him that he and his wife both being ill on the journey would be considerably worse than this happening in London? In any case the guidance was quite clear: if you or anyone in your household has Covid-19 symptoms (and although he says she did not have the “classic” symptoms of cough and fever, he had reason to think he might well be infected, and so could have infected her, and it was already widely reported that not all cases followed the “classic” pattern), you must not leave home for any reason. He did not inform the PM, or any other official person, that he was going. Later, after recovery, he took wife and son on a trip to a tourist town 30 minutes’ drive away (during which they spent time out of the car on a riverbank and in a wood). He claims this was to test that his eyesight was good enough for a drive back to London (he had had some problems with it while ill). Yes, Mr. Supergenius – if you have reason to doubt your eyesight, the very best thing to do is to take your family out for a drive. After returning, his wife, who is a journalist, wrote a piece implying that they had been in London throughout. Why, if he was so convinced he acted “legally, responsibly and with integrity” – as Johnson claimed he had?

  179. KG says

    BTW, (a) Cummings was half an hour late for the press conference, having set the time himself, and (b) he followed the Trump playbook by repeatedly blaming the media for any damage to public trust.

  180. KG says

    A good analysis of Cummings’ account of his behaviour. The accompanying picture of Cummings looks remarkably like that of the Baker’s “dear uncle” in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. The uncle warned the Baker that if the snark he found was in fact a boojum, he would “softly and suddenly vanish away”. This did indeed happen at the end of the poem. If only Cummings would do the same!

  181. blf says

    On masks, I’ve been stunned by the number of people improperly wearing or handling them. Most common mistake seems to be covering only the mouth but not the nose, followed by wearing the mask very loosely or wearing it underneath the chin or dangling from one ear. And almost everyone wearing one seems to touch it itself (not just the straps); even taking it off (touching the mask itself), then touching their face, and then putting the mask back on (again, touching the mask itself (not just the straps)). I shudder to think how (or how often) they are cleaning the reusable masks (like the local village distributed for free (which should be cleaned after every use in 60℃ water (and not touched if not clean))).

    On the other hand, more people seem to be using the hand sanitiser now outside most shops, albeit I continue to complain the village hasn’t set up any hand sanitising stations (especially at the now-reopened outdoor markets). I myself am now carrying with me a small bottle of hand sanitiser, partly in response.

  182. blf says

    Here in France, the government said this would happen, and continue to say it (and are now apparently starting the process of doing it), France’s health workers to get ‘significant’ pay rises after coronavirus pandemic:

    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Monday that health workers would soon get hefty pay increases as part of an overhaul of France’s hospital system in response to the coronavirus crisis.

    “I can say without any ambiguity, the increase will be significant,” Philippe said while kicking off consultations with doctors and nurses that are expected to conclude in July.

    […]

    Starting pay for a nurse, for example, stands at 1,500 euros ($1,600), one of the lowest levels in the OECD group of developed economies. [I assume that’s per month –blf]

    Philippe promised “massive investments” as well as “radical changes” that could include new rules on working hours and scheduling to ensure that healthcare workers remain motivated despite the strains of their jobs.

    “The key word here is pragmatism. I cannot say now what these discussions will lead to, but I’ve said that we must remove all constraints, whatever they are,” he said.

    […]

    From memory, the earlier promises included the pay rises being retrospective (to around the start of the lockdown (as I recall), i.e., to March(-ish)). Those earlier promises did include a warning that nothing would happen until the situation eased, which is why it’s only (starting to) happen now.

  183. says

    Trump marks Memorial Day by calling Representative Conor Lamb, who is a Marine Vet an “American Fraud.”

    Rep. Lamb is a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

    Trump tweeted:

    Sean Parnell is an American Hero. Connor Lamm [sic] has proven to be an American fraud, and a puppet for Crazy Nancy Pelosi. He said he would NOT vote for her for Speaker, and did. Will kill 2A. Voted to impeach (on nothing). A TOTAL & COMPLETE Sean Parnell Endorsement

    Trump was responding to this tweet from Sean Parnell:

    In 2006 I was wounded in Afghanistan.
    I was medically retired from the Army in 2010 & left the military with next to nothing. I was in rough shape.
    10 yrs later the President of the United States is giving me shoutouts.
    Democrat or Republican this is damn cool!
    God Bless America!

    Commentary:

    […] Besides the misspelling, Lamb can hardly be called a “puppet” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) — he was one of 15 Democrats who did not vote for her for speaker in 2019.

    Sean Parnell, also a veteran, is running unopposed in the Republican primary on June 2.

    The Cook Political Report ranks the race “likely Democratic,” though the district, Pennsylvania’s 17th, has a Republican lean of +3.

    TPM link

  184. blf says

    An opinion column in the Grauniad by an anonymous UK civil servant on that twittering (see @192/@197), The rogue civil service tweet spoke for most of us. I hope the author isn’t found (excerpted emphasis in the original):

    […]
    It wasn’t me, but I can probably speak for most of the 400,000-odd civil servants when I say I wish it had been. The (presumed) rogue official whose hastily deleted tweet on the government’s official Civil Service account certainly lit up the WhatsApp groups around Whitehall on Sunday evening. In an age of increasing command-and-control comms, this brave heretic has already become something of a civil service legend. Very well played.

    Consider. “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine working with these truth twisters?” wasn’t a leaked document, a shocking secret or a devastating meme. It was a simple, excoriating judgment of the prime minister’s incoherent defence of Dominic Cummings that not even Larry the Downing Street cat would disagree with.

    This was speaking truth to power. This was a shot across the bow. This was a tiny flare sent up from the government trenches, in solidarity with anyone who has ever felt like they’ve been “sent over the top” by an implacable ruling class for whom the rules themselves are increasingly a disposable commodity.

    Sure, that account might have been hacked, but to me its brevity and its polite lucidity reek of authenticity and suggests the act of a single brave individual.

    The Cabinet Office quickly announced that the tweet had been deleted, and that it was launching an investigation into what happened. But I hope they never find its author. And if they do, I’d argue that he or she should qualify for the protection that the government by law has to provide for whistleblowers, who, after all, are allowed to break government omertà when there are miscarriages of justice, fraud, dangers to health and safety, or attempts to conceal any of the above.

    That kind of argument probably won’t be enough to convince any future employment tribunal that this anonymous hero was justified in breaking the civil service code, but it’s a hell of a lot stronger than the arguments deployed in defence of Cummings. If there’s any justice, if my colleague is uncovered, he or she will face the same consequences as the prime minister’s chief adviser did, which will be bugger all (although Durham police might have other ideas).

    […]

    Meanwhile, the sobering reality for the civil service twitterer is that the Cabinet Office praetorian guard will spend more energy trying to identify them than it ever will on investigating Cummings’s lockdown misdeeds. The hunt may now be on, but the resistance continues.

  185. blf says

    More on teh NKofE’s “Stephen Miller” (Dominic Cummings) excuses for blatantly and, apparently, repeatedly, violating both the technical details and intent of lockdown (see various previous comments in this series of poopyhead threads), ‘A political gale’: world’s press on Dominic Cummings’ self-defence:

    […]
    World media have reacted with disbelief to Dominic Cummings’ defence of his trip to Durham, saying that what the “machiavellian” adviser saw as reasonable behaviour did not appear so to many and risked damaging not just Boris Johnson’s government but democracy.

    “No regrets, no excuses, no resignations … Il ne regrette rien,” said Libération, telling the story of “an extraordinary press conference during which Dominic Cummings confirmed that he had rewritten for himself the rules of the lockdown laid down by the government for which he works”.

    Only once did the prime minister’s chief adviser appear confused, the French paper said, “almost taken aback by the question. Why no, he had not offered his resignation, or even thought of offering it, because he had absolutely no idea why he should have. Over and over again he repeated: I acted reasonably.”

    Of Cummings’ Easter jaunt to Barnard Castle, undertaken — by his account — to check that his eyesight was up to the journey back to London, Libération remarked: “To many, driving 30 miles with blurred vision and a four-year-old in the back might not be considered entirely reasonable. But not, apparently, to Dominic Cummings.”

    Le Monde was equally astonished. “Usually, special advisers remain in the shadows,” it said. “At worst, when things go wrong, they quit. They never speak in public … But for more than an hour, Cummings delivered his version of the facts, assuring all that he had acted reasonably, without breaking the rules.”

    [… and on and on. And on. You get the drift…]

    The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said Cummings had “gone down in history as the first adviser to give a live press conference in Downing Street”. Usually, the paper said, “political advisers work for the government. In Cummings’ case, it is ministers who work for the adviser: one after another has been sent out to defend him.”

    […]

    In a crisis such as the coronavirus, [Australia’s The Age] said, “those who wield power — especially when they do so largely behind the scenes — cannot be exempted from accountability for their actions. In arguing, as Cummings has, that his is an exceptional case, he has given the impression he is beyond reproach. That is not a healthy position for anyone in a democracy to occupy.”

  186. says

    Here’s a link to the May 26 Guardian coronavirus liveblog.

    From there:

    Control over Germany’s lockdown measures is increasingly slipping from Angela Merkel’s grasp as more federal states announced unilateral steps to loosen restrictions, creating a patchwork of wildly varying rules on social distancing within the country.

    Winfried Kretschmann, the premier of Baden-Württemberg, announced on Tuesday his state would from 1 June allow seated public events with up to 100 people, adding that there were no plans for further plans to hold the video conferences in which the leaders of Germany’s 16 Länder had until now coordinated their handling of the pandemic.

    Other states simultaneously announced they would loosen restrictions around different parts of public life: the mayor of Hamburg, for example, said the city state would over the coming days reopen cinemas, open-air swimming pools and gyms.

    On Monday, Merkel’s government had postponed a meeting of its “corona cabinet” after the premier of Thuringia announced plans to end both the obligatory wearing of face coverings and the limit on the number of people allowed to gather within the next two weeks.

    Leftwing state premier Bodo Ramelow said on Tuesday that mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, as well as the required 1.5-metre safety distance, would remain in place for now.

    On Wednesday, Merkel’s cabinet will vote on a motion to lift the current travel warning on 31 European countries by 15 June, thus potentially allowing German tourists to travel abroad for their summer holidays this year.

    Under the proposal, the general travel warning that has been in place since 17 March would be replaced by individual travel advice tailored to the spread of the pandemic in each country.

  187. says

    I was expecting this – Guardian – “Brazil media boycott Bolsonaro residence after abuse of reporters”:

    Some of Brazil’s top news organisations are to suspend reporting from outside the presidential residence in the latest sign of deteriorating press freedoms under the country’s media-bashing president, Jair Bolsonaro.

    The decision – the equivalent of British outlets ceasing to report from outside No 10 – follows months of verbal attacks on reporters outside the Palácio da Alvorada in Brasília by hardcore supporters of the far-right president.

    The harassment reached new heights on Monday as journalists were subjected to a vicious torrent of abuse from Bolsonaristas, with footage showing reporters being called scum, rats, extortionists, rogues, crooks and sons of [b—–s].

    “Communist, sellout media. Bunch of crooks,” one man shouted.

    The news organisations withdrawing journalists include the television broadcasters Globo and Band, the radio station CBN, the websites G1 and Metrópoles and a trio of leading newspapers – Valor Econômico, O Globo and Folha de São Paulo.

    “The lack of security for its journalists outside the Palácio da Alvorada has led Grupo Globo to decide that its professionals will no longer work there,” Brazil’s largest media group said in a statement.

    Verbal attacks on journalists have become a hallmark of Bolsonaro’s presidency, with Brazil’s Trump-admiring leader often egging on supporters outside his home.

    Bolsonaro’s third son, Eduardo, who is the representative of Steve Bannon’s far-right The Movement in South America – regularly attacks what he calls the “extrema imprensa” (extreme press) .

    On Monday, the president suggested Brazil’s overseas image was being damaged by a leftwing media conspiracy, after the British Daily Telegraph described him as “the man who broke Brazil” because of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

    “Trump suffers a lot with this,” Bolsonaro said.

    Politicians from across the political spectrum condemned the Bolsonarian attacks on the media.

    Alessandro Molon, a member of the Brazilian Socialist party who is leader of the opposition in the chamber of deputies, told Folha de São Paulo: “This just shows the extent to which Bolsonaro remaining in the presidency threatens our democracy and our fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression. What we are witnessing is very serious. Either our institutions stop Bolsonaro or he will destroy the country.”…

  188. says

    Guardian – “Government minister resigns over Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trip”:

    A government minister has resigned over Dominic Cummings’ decision to drive across England with his sick wife during the lockdown, saying many people did not share the adviser’s interpretation that he had stuck to the rules.

    Douglas Ross, the MP for Moray, stepped down as a Scotland Office minister, saying he accepted Cummings felt he had acted in the best interests of his family but these were “decisions others felt were not available to them”.

    “While the intentions may have been well meaning, the reaction to this news shows that Mr Cummings’ interpretation of the government advice was not shared by the vast majority of people who have done as the government asked,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

    “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

    The resignation deepens the crisis engulfing the government, with more than 20 backbench MPs calling on Boris Johnson to sack his chief aide and considerable anger among some ministers about Cummings’ actions.

    Another Tory MP said they expected more junior ministers to quit over Cummings’ lockdown breaches.

    However, Johnson has rallied behind his senior aide – a key architect of Brexit and the prime minister’s election victory – and marshalled top cabinet ministers, including Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock, to do the same.

    Michael Gove, a Cabinet Office minister, insisted on Tuesday that “fair-minded people” would have to make up their own minds.

    The longtime ally of Cummings was sent out to defend him in broadcast interviews the day after the aide gave a statement explaining why he drove 264 miles from London to Durham during the lockdown and risked spreading coronavirus.

    Police, medics and scientists continued to say that Cummings’ actions risked undermining the lockdown and public health advice.

    Key contradictions about Cummings’ story remain, with Gove pressed to explain how the government can continue to claim that the adviser acted within the rules.

    In a round of broadcast interviews, Gove was asked:…

    Questions asked of Gove and his insultingly ridiculous and internally contradictory answers atl. (It was OK to leave London for the country, potentially spreading the virus, because his wife didn’t have classic symptoms so they didn’t really know she had it, but the reason they had to go to the country was that they suspected they both had it and would become too sick to care for their kid….)

  189. KG says

    On Monday, the president suggested Brazil’s overseas image was being damaged by a leftwing media conspiracy, after the British Daily Telegraph described him as “the man who broke Brazil” because of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. – SC quoting the Guardian @236

    For those unfamiliar with the British press, the Daily Telegraph is an absolutely reliable supporter of the Conservative Party – it’s aimed at middle-class Tories.

  190. says

    Ian Dunt at Politics.co.uk – “Cummings scandal: The culture war doesn’t work anymore”:

    It all seems to be falling apart for them. If there’d been a quick apology from Dominic Cummings when the story broke, he might have been able to kill it. Certainly if he’d resigned, with a quiet arrangement between him and Boris Johnson to return in a year, he’d have been fine. But that’s not how they operate. So instead Johnson staked his reputation on his adviser and then, through the pitiful mechanism of copy-and-paste block tweets from Cabinet ministers, that of his entire government.

    Now they are trapped in a great whirlpool of lies. Whatever Cummings says becomes gospel, so ministers are charged with going out and pretending that it is entirely reasonable. First they sacrificed the lock-down, replacing it with a fine-print independent-judgement don’t-you-care-for-your-kids bespoke version. Now, in a series of media rounds this morning, Michael Gove seemed to be rewriting driving law with a half-hearted insistence that driving was a perfectly reasonable way to check if you are capable of driving.

    It’s like the Cabinet are chained to a mad dog. Whenever it runs off barking somewhere, they’re pulled along behind it, insisting this is exactly where they wanted to go on a walk in the first place.

    Most of the press have been extremely critical of Cummings, but there are a few hold outs, especially in the Sun newspapers and the more dispiriting parts of right-wing social media. Their argument is that this is all an effort by sore Remainers to get revenge on the man who secured Brexit. It’s nonsense of course – the anger seems quite universal in the country and certainly there are many Brexiters in the media and parliament who are livid about what they’re reading.

    But it is actually an odd experience for Remainers to watch all this. They have known two central facts for some time now: first, that this government lies, and second, that it is not very good at it. So it feels weird to suddenly have it all recognised by the country at large when it seemed perfectly obvious a long time ago.

    They watched for months as Johnson’s Vote Leave administration issued the most baffling stream of nonsense about every aspect of Brexit…

    One of the things which made the Brexit period quite lonely for Remainers was that these demonstrable untruths were not branded as such. They were treated as propositions which were of equal standing with those which challenged them. The entire world got lost in a sense of false balance, emphasised by a media approach which felt it had to reflect both positions even-handedly.

    But now that’s changed. The quality and persistence of the lies is precisely the same, but the subject matter is different. They now concern an area of public life which is universal: public health in the face of a pandemic. And more than that, it is severely felt. It has deeply touched all our lives, sometimes only in inconvenience and boredom, sometimes in acute tragedy. The Cummings story cuts through because it is a singular expression of a general experience. His actions and indifference serve to undermine the sacrifices everyone else made.

    As soon as the culture war architecture is removed, Cummings and Johnson have no protection. They stand exposed for what they really are and how they really operate. The consequences, in just a few days, have been catastrophic for them….

  191. says

    Adam Bienkov:

    So they’re now claiming that Dominic Cummings’ wife was simultaneously:

    a) Not so ill that he needed to self-isolate.
    b) So ill that he needed to break lockdown rules by transporting her and the virus across the country.

  192. says

    Jim Sciutto:

    New: Despite an emotional plea from widower of Lori Klausutis to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the company will *not* remove tweets by President Trump insinuating without basis that Joe Scarborough was responsible for Klausutis’ death.

    “We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements & the attention they are drawing, are causing the family. We’ve been working to expand existing product features & policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward.” – @Twitter spokesperson

    What makes Twitter’s handling of all of this worse is that they’re constantly announcing new “product features & policies” which are always imminently to be enacted but somehow never actually are.

  193. says

    Guardian liveblog:

    The World Health Organization (WHO) says the Americas are the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting in particular the rapid growth of cases in Central and South America.

    In a videoconference, the WHO regional director Dr Carissa Etienne said outbreaks were accelerating in countries such as Brazil, where the number of deaths reported in the last week was the highest in the world for a seven-day period since the coronavirus pandemic began.

    Etienne said she expected the number of coronavirus infections to accelerate in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua and that now was not the time for countries to be relaxing restrictions.

    Peru, Chile, and Mexico all look terrible right now (I’m also very concerned about India, Saudi Arabia, and Belarus).

  194. says

    White House underwhelms with new national testing strategy report
    The good news is, the White House met its deadline for a new national testing strategy. The bad news is, it isn’t much of a testing strategy.

    In late April, as federal policymakers negotiated the latest economic aid package, one of the sticking points was a specific Democratic demand: Dems insisted that the Trump administration had to prepare a national testing strategy. It was not open ended: the White House was required to submit the plan to lawmakers by Sunday, May 24.

    Eventually, Republican negotiators accepted the provision, the bill passed, and Donald Trump signed the package into law.

    […] The New York Times reported over the holiday weekend:

    The Trump administration’s new testing strategy, released Sunday to Congress, holds individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all coronavirus testing, while planning to provide some supplies needed for the tests. The proposal also says existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak. But epidemiologists say that amount of testing is orders of magnitude lower than many of them believe the country needs.

    […] The Washington Post obtained the 81-page document, which is called the “Covid-19 Strategic Testing Plan.” Even the name proved to be a point of contention: I spoke to a Capitol Hill staffer over the weekend who noted that the law required the administration to develop a “national” testing strategy, and the White House report omitted the word “national” from the title.

    Democratic leaders from both chambers issued a joint statement on Sunday, panning the “disappointing” report as inadequate.

    “In this document, the Trump Administration again attempts to paint a rosy picture about testing while experts continue to warn the country is far short of what we need,” the statement read in part. “We still need clear explanations for how targets were set, how they will be met, and what will be done if they are not. The Trump Administration still does not take any responsibility for ramping up our nation’s testing capacity, instead pushing the burden onto the states — forcing states to compete with each other to procure vital supplies to administer tests from the private market.”

    […] while it’s reasonable to expect states to implement some aspects of the testing, it makes less sense to expect states to compete for supplies in a global supply-chain marketplace.

    “That’s our biggest question, that’s our biggest concern, is the robustness of the supply chain, which is critical,” Becker said. “You can’t leave it up to the states to do it for themselves. This is not the Hunger Games.”

    At this point, the White House appears to disagree.

  195. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign news:

    Joe Biden made his first public appearance in quite a while yesterday, laying a wreath to honor the fallen at a Delaware war memorial. (The former vice president and his wife both wore masks at the event.) As NBC News’ report added, “The visit comes during a solemn week for the Biden family. This Saturday, May 30, marks five years since the death of his son Beau from brain cancer. His son was an Iraq war veteran, having served there in the Delaware Army National Guard.” […]

    Two weeks after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced plans to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the state, the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups filed suit challenging the policy and hoping to make it less easy for Californians to cast ballots.

    The latest Minneapolis Star Tribune poll found Biden with a modest lead over Trump, 49% to 44%. The Great Lakes State is literally the only state to back the Democratic ticket in every election cycle since 1976, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton won by only two points.

    On a more surprising note, a new UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2 News poll found Trump leading Biden in Utah, but only by 3 percentage points, 44% to 41%. The president carried Utah four years ago, of course, but he won the state with only 45% of the vote, reinforcing impressions that Utahans were not overly impressed by him.

    Bill Stepien, perhaps best known for his alleged role in Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal in New Jersey, has a new job: he’ll serve as the deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump’s re-election effort.

    Link

  196. says

    100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

    From Mark Sumner:

    On Tuesday morning [this morning], the United States officially passed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.

    It’s very easy to complain about The New York Times. Especially so when they’re […] bending logic into pretzels to generate bothsidesism, or when devoting every single column of the front page to the possibility that there might be more unknown Hillary Clinton emails (spoiler: there were not). But every now and then, the Grey Lady remembers that it is The New York Times, dammit. And this weekend was one of those.

    That weekend front page, and four interior pages, were devoted to the names and barest bone details of just 1% of those who have died. The website also has a similar honor to those who have fallen. As the introduction heartbreakingly says, “they were us.” Compare that reality … to this Memorial day prediction from Mike Pence.

    Mike Pence said the coronavirus pandemic could be over by Memorial Day. If that’s not incredible enough, Pence didn’t say that in January, when the virus was still poorly understood, or in early February when, thanks to a lack of testing, no one understood the true extent of the outbreak already beginning in the United States. Nope.

    As Bloomberg reported, Mike Pence said this just one month ago, on April 24. “I think honestly, if you look at the trends today,” Pence told listeners to Geraldo Rivera’s radio show, “that I think by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.”

    In case you’re wondering, that was right after the United States had passed 50,000 deaths.

    Link

    There’s no “both sides” to this. Trump and his lickspittles are ignorant, dangerous asshats.

  197. blf says

    Lynna@249, “There’s no ‘both sides’ to this. Trump and his lickspittles are ignorant, dangerous asshats.”

    hair furor and his dalekocrazy are ignorant, dangerous, profiteering, lying, etc, etc, etc…

  198. says

    Well, this is different. Some oil and gas leases have been rescinded.

    A federal court in Montana invalidated 440 oil and gas leases sold across the West, ruling Friday the Trump administration did not properly follow a plan to protect sage grouse habitat.

    U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Trump administration “undercut” the 2015 plan the agency created […]

    The decision strikes down a 2018 memo that sought to change that plan, meaning the government will have to return millions of dollars for oil and gas contracts spread over some 336,000 acres.

    “The errors here occurred at the beginning of the oil and gas lease sale process, infecting everything that followed,” Morris wrote.

    Environmentalists are hopeful the decision will lead to reversals on more oil and gas leases in other states.

    “The court’s decision […] reaffirms the historic plan that BLM worked out with farmers, ranchers, conservationists, energy groups, and government officials,” Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman, who represented conservation groups in the suit, said in a release. “It confirms that the Trump administration violated the law in bulldozing those commitments in its haste to sell off lands that are owned by all Americans to the oil and gas industry.” […]

    Link

  199. says

    blf @250, right. Also add narcissistic, afflicted with Dunning-Druger Effect, prone to elevating mediocrity (or incompetence) to a virtue, willfully ignorant (which is worse than ignorant), etc.

    Larry Kudlow, trumpian lickspittle, is almost always wrong. He has been wrong in the past. Now he is newly wrong:

    White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that he doesn’t think that the $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits will be extended in subsequent coronavirus relief legislation, suggesting that a future package would instead include alternatives to encourage people to go back to work.

    “I frankly do not believe the $600 plus up will survive the next round of talks, but I think we’ll have substitutes to deal with that issue,” Kudlow, the director of President Trump’s National Economic Council, said in an interview on Fox News.

    The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package Trump signed on March 27 provides a $600 per week increase to unemployment benefits through the end of July to help the millions of Americans who abruptly lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. The benefits were increased by a flat amount so that states could quickly administer the change.

    Democrats are largely supportive of the increased benefits, with House Democrats passing a bill earlier this month that would extend the $600 weekly boost through January 2021. But Republicans argue that the increase is creating a disincentive for people to go back to work, since some people are receiving more in unemployment benefits than they were in wages before they lost their jobs.

    The Republicans have a keep-the-poor poor policy.

    Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), have floated the idea of a “back to work bonus,” in which people who reenter the workforce could keep some portion of their unemployment benefits for some amount of time.

    Kudlow said that this idea is something that the White House is “looking at very carefully.”

    “The trouble with the $600 plus up, and maybe we needed it in that emergency period, but frankly it’s a major disincentive to go back to work and we don’t want that, we want people to go back to work,” he said.

    The fucking rampant coronavirus is a disincentive to go back to work!

    Kudlow also that a payroll tax holiday for employees, which Trump supports, would also incentivize work because it would increase people’s after-tax incomes. […]

    Link

    The payroll tax holiday would damage the social security benefit system.

  200. says

    Biden’s commitment to raising the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $15 an hour is one of the least talked-about plans at stake in the 2020 election.

    Link

    Much more at the link.

  201. says

    Packing 20,000 people into an arena for the RNC is a bad idea.

    Trump wants it to happen anyway. Trump’s push for a normal Republican Party gathering is the latest indication he doesn’t get how the coronavirus works.

    The idea of 20,000 people traveling from all parts of the United States to pack themselves into an arena amid an outbreak of a highly communicable, deadly disease that spreads especially efficiently indoors might sound ill-advised to most of us. But most of us are not […] Donald Trump.

    Ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, the GOP planned to have its 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. For obvious reasons, that’s no longer a sure thing — and Trump isn’t coping well with the uncertainty.

    Despite new coronavirus cases continuing to show an upward trajectory in the state, Trump on Monday demanded immediate assurances from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper that more than 20,000 people will be allowed to pack into Charlotte’s Spectrum Center for the RNC in August.

    In a string of tweets, Trump threatened that without such a guarantee, “We will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

    […] seemingly ignoring the fact that it is impossible for Cooper to provide a specific date by which the coronavirus will no longer be a threat. […]

    Cooper has good reason to be cautious. For one, his state’s coronavirus outbreak is not yet under control — in fact, it isn’t even clearly trending in the right direction.

    […] the 1,070 new cases reported in the state on Saturday constituted a single-day high. Some of that is due to increased testing, but the state’s recent single-day positivity rate of 9 percent is still significantly above the 5 percent number the World Health Organization has identified as the minimum standard for reopening. […]

    Cooper is moving forward anyway. Under pressure from local Republicans, the state on Friday transitioned to the second phase of a “Safer at Home” order that allows some businesses to reopen, but still limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people or fewer in most circumstances. […]

    So while it’s not totally unreasonable to believe the coronavirus could be somewhat under control by late August, it’s unlikely that it will be so under control that having a mass gathering on the scale of the RNC will make sense. But Trump, as he is wont to do, is engaged in wishful thinking. […]

    Trump either doesn’t seem to understand how communicable diseases work or doesn’t care. He has made it abundantly clear that he’s more concerned about doing everything possible to resuscitate the economy ahead of November’s election than he is about slowing the spread of the coronavirus. And if he can take shots at a Democratic governor while pushing for a full reopening of businesses, that’s even better. […]

  202. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comments 244 and 246.

    From Wonkette:

    […] Trump should obviously be banned from Twitter, just like Kamala Harris insisted, because he uses it for lies and slander and abuse and slander and lies and abuse and also, sometimes, to incite violence. But Timothy Klausutis wasn’t asking for that. He just wanted Twitter to delete Trump’s constant fucking lies about his wife. […]

    Anyway, Twitter also said Trump’s tweets accusing an innocent man of murder and personally traumatizing the husband of a woman who died just really aren’t violations of its terms of service. We guess we missed the part of the terms of service that say “if Donald Trump does it, then it’s OK.” […]

    Twitter, as usual, has chosen to do nothing. And still can’t figure out how to distinguish between a person who should be verified and a verified Nazi!

    What a ridiculous company.

    Link

  203. blf says

    The village’s almost-daily update on the local Covid-19 situation contains this tidbit (paraphrased translation), Somewhere in France Sars-CoV-2 was detected in wastewater, so various spots around the coastline were tested. No traces of the virus have been found in the seawater or in molluscs.

    I wasn’t aware the virus had been found in runoff or sewage or whatever (anywhere (not just France)), albeit it does make some sense, as does the testing of waters and creatures like molluscs (filter feeders who process a great deal of water). And it was a bit alarming as I had a fine dinner of (probably local) mussels the other day!

    Locally, the outdoor markets will resume in full (rather than the current half the traders, alternating each opening) in about a week. Today’s market was less of a disaster than the same one a week ago, albeit the traders still weren’t spreading out (much) and there were still no hand-sanitising stations. Probably precisely because I made it a point to visit very early, there weren’t too many people about and hence no problems per se with social distancing. At a different outdoor market last weekend, the traders were well spread out (good!), albeit still no hand-sanitising stations (not good). Best news is that market moved back to its traditional, safer (no traffic), and larger area (which also happens to be almost outside my door). Long story, it was moved a few years ago due to construction activities but then never moved back once the construction was done, much to the annoyance of many as the “new” location was cramped with a lot of traffic on the street.

    It’s anticipated that starting early-June there will some sort of limited opening of restaurants (as least in “green” areas such as locally), and the council is now working on plans. The government is due to announce the rules, &tc, for the next phase of “deconfinement” within a week (they are operating on a three-week cycle; this is the start of the third week of the first cycle).

  204. says

    Joe Biden with Face Mask makes Fox News Heads explode.

    From Britt Hume:

    This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public. Biden today.

    https://twitter.com/brithume/status/1265045009323241472 Image available at the link.

    One response to Britt Hume:

    Looks like he cares about the health and well being of others. Only superficial SOBs care what they look like!

    Trump retweeted Britt Hume’s stupid tweet.

    From Barb McQuade:

    [Joe Biden] Looks like a responsible, respectful, compassionate leader.

    From Judith Feldman:

    Wearing a mask proves @JoeBiden understands science and has respect for Americans. @realDonaldTrump is poorly educated and doesn’t care about anyone but himself.

    From Janet Johnson:

    Do you mock people who wear life vests and seatbelts too?

    From Brian Tyler Cohen:

    Is this not an attractive enough look for you Brit? Would a ventilator be better?

    Stephen King @StephenKing Trump doesn’t wear a mask in public because he’s afraid of what the press might say. That makes him a coward in my book. Anyone who is afraid of looking bad is cowardly.

    Gregg Gonsalves @gregggonsalves Yes, Brit, let’s not lead by example. Let’s not protect our friends, family and co-workers. Wearing a mask is the right thing to do. Just because @realDonaldTrump decides not to do it, doesn’t like it, doesn’t like what it looks like, still makes his decision wrong.

    Amy Siskind @Amy_Siskind Biden is wearing one because science says it stops the spread, and he is being respectful of his fellow Americans.This saddens me honestly Brit, because I don’t agree with your politics, but I respected your PoV before Trump. You have gone down the conspiracy theorist hole.

    Will Saletan @saletan One candidate has allowed nearly 100,000 Americans to die in a plague. The other wears a mask to set an example for public health.Tough call.

    Holly Figueroa O’Reilly @AynRandPaulRyan It’s almost like there is a pandemic or something. Also: Biden looks cool as hell out here setting an example. You know, like presidents are supposed to do.

    Jeff Tiedrich @itsJeffTiedrich Biden is a badass. the president is a hopped-up-on-drugs bloated creampuff with dainty baby hands dangling from his withered t-rex arms, teetering on 3″ lifts in his shoes and a girdle that makes him pitch forward like he’s about to face-plant. but whatever you say, Brit

    Bruno Amato @BrunoAmato Yeah Britt, because Trump doesn’t look ridiculous enough in public with the raccoon look with orange face paint and a rat on his head, teetering over like an overweight penguin with a red tie hanging over his man boobs to below his massive waistline, all while wearing diapers.

    Pé @4everNeverTrump What—and I cannot stress this enough—the fuck is wrong with you?It’s not about HOW YOU LOOK… it’s about WHAT IT DOES…

    Palmer Report @PalmerReport Nah it’s because Trump is an insecure narcissist and he wears easily smearable orange face paint.

  205. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lynna… @ # 257 (quoting Bruno Amato): … the raccoon look with orange face paint …

    Not that it matters in The Big Pic, but does anyone know of anyone with good photo-editing skills who has taken a photo of DJT where a bit of his (apparently) actual skin shows and re-colored his face to its (if that word even applies) natural color?

  206. blf says

    Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times writing in the Grauniad, Cummings’ contempt for lockdown rules makes the public feel like fools:

    […]
    It is not news that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings treat rules with contempt. But there is one rule even they might be expected to obey, because it is crucial to the maintenance of power. Never, ever, make the people who place their faith in you feel like fools.

    Or, to put it another way, never let the people who think they are making a sacrifice realise that in fact they are the sacrifice. Before breaking this rule so flagrantly, Johnson and his consigliere would have done well to consider the fate of what used to be one of the most powerful institutions on these islands: the Irish Catholic church.

    Watching the Cummings road movie made me think, disturbingly enough, of my mother. She was, for almost all of her life, a devout Catholic — and it’s the “almost” that is most interesting. She was a kind and compassionate woman, and she did not judge other people. But she followed the rules. There was one rule in particular she found awfully hard: the church’s ban on contraception. But she believed in the authority of the church. She made the sacrifices, and did what she was told.

    I will never forget her rage and disgust when, in her late 70s and early 80s, she discovered that the same church she loved and obeyed had been covering up the sexual abuse of children for decades. She was revolted by those crimes, of course. But she also felt that the bishops had made a mockery of her faith. They made her feel gullible. Her belief that she and the people she looked up to were together in this thing, that they had shared a tough commitment and the pain it involved, had turned out to be a charade.

    She was not alone. And there was no going back from this moment of betrayal. The authority of the church melted away in the heat of this anger. For while people forgive their leaders a great deal — often far too much — there is no forgiveness for that terrible moment when you realise that the anguish you have endured for the greater good was, to those in authority, just a mark of your credulousness and inferiority.

    If Cummings were half as smart as he is supposed to be, he would have shown in his press conference some glimmer of understanding that this kind of betrayal is of a completely different order to the one he and Johnson engage in so routinely. The ordinary treachery of saying one thing and doing another — there will be £350m extra every week for the NHS; there will never be a border in the Irish Sea [both brexit lies –blf] — is mother’s milk to them. Perhaps because it is so habitual or because they are so used to getting away with it, their sense of how it works has become dulled. They missed the crucial fact that this time it’s different. This time it’s personal.

    [… I]n Johnson’s defence of Cummings, the only value is the individual “instinct” of the members of the ruling caste. To use the Blitz analogy that England apparently cannot escape, it’s fine to leave your lights on during the blackout if you’re an important person with documents to read.

    As the Catholic church found in Ireland, people don’t forgive this violation of the sense of meaning that gives dignity to their own sufferings. They don’t forgive because they can’t forget. This kind of betrayal is not just an event out there in the public world of media and politics and power. It is an experience that happens to every citizen individually and privately. It is not possible for people to think about it without thinking of love and loss, of the grief they have felt and the intimacies they have foregone. To do so is to hear, as the soundtrack to the images stored from these months in the mind and the heart, an unpardonable snig[redacted†]r of elite condescension.

    The readers’s comments seem to be as brilliant as Mr O’Toole’s column, a few choice selections:

    ● “In breaking fake news, the Government has announced that anyone seeking an eye test can break the lockdown rules by driving as far as they want, and that this was the case right from the start. It has also consulted Prince Andrew on alibi management.”

    ● “Mr Cummings and the PM suffer from crony-virus; so their behaviour is unsurprising.”

    ● “Did ‘Mr Magoo’ Cummings buy the wife a birthday card, flowers and a cake, it’s the least he could have done in the circumstances?”

    ● “Thank you, Fintan, as ever! The key word is contempt, and since Sunday evening it is nakedly, unashamedly, transparent that the denizens of No 10 have sheer contempt for the People of Britain. […]”

    ● “[…] This is stinging many many people at a visceral level I’ve not seen in a bloody long time. One seeing comments by friends who would normally never get close to a subject like this, apoplectic about their own sacrifices and having this man rub their noses in it. It’s that — the very British sensibility of fair play that’s been so blatantly abused here. That grudge will last.” (I used eejit quotes despite the lucidity of this comment because that alleged sense is very very racist and conditional / situational, it’s perhaps one of the worse self-deceptions some NKofEers have.)

    And on and on and on. And on. And then on some more. And still on and on…

      † Poopyhead’s filter does like this harmless and often appropriate word (sometimes spelt “snicker” but that doesn’t, perhaps, have quite the same meaning / impact) because it happens to contain the n-word.

  207. blf says

    A snippet from Tory unrest increases pressure on PM to sack Dominic Cummings:

    As the number of excess deaths registered in the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak reached nearly 60,000, and an international comparison confirmed the country has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus deaths per capita, the Downing Street press briefing was dominated by questions about Cummings for a fourth consecutive day.

    I like the not-so-snarky reference to “excess deaths”, as it circumvents the underreporting (deliberate or not). E.g., at the moment John Hopkins puts the NKofE death toll as c.37,000; their numbers are compiled from released (mostly?) Covid-19 data and so are an undercount. (Which is not John Hopkin’s fault!)

  208. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current main pandemic live blog:

    Twitter has added a fact-check warning to the bottom of a tweet by US President [sic] Donald Trump.

    Trump tweeted: There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..

    Bellow the tweet there is now a link with the text “! Get the facts about mail-in ballots” […]

    The Grauniad has messed-up their hyperlinking, but the fact-checking link says:

    Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud

    On Tuesday, President [sic] Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.

    What you need to know

    — Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to a Rigged Election. However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.

    — Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there. In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.

    — Though Trump targeted California, mail-in ballots are already used in some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.

  209. blf says

    Asterix artist’s cartoons raise €390,000 for Paris hospitals:

    Drawings were donated by widow of Albert Uderzo, whose death was linked to coronavirus

    [… Albert Uderzo’s] widow, Ada, said the charity auction on Tuesday was a way of thanking “our new heroes who have resisted the invader”, a reference to the virus that has killed more than 28,000 people in France.

    The four original cartoons sold for €390,000 (£347,000), the auction house Artcurial told AFP.

    […]

    The (short) article doesn’t say how much Artcurial skimmed (scammed) off the top, albeit their PR, Astérix soutient la Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris — Hôpitaux de France implies nothing: « Frais Acheteur 0 % — Compte tenu du caractère caritatif de cette vente, aucun frais ne sera perçu en sus des enchères. »

  210. tomh says

    They are so pathetic.

    House Republicans to sue Pelosi remote proxy voting in pandemic

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Republicans will sue Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi over rule changes that allow members to vote on each other’s behalf during the coronavirus pandemic, Republican aides said on Tuesday.

    The lawsuit, to be filed in federal court in Washington, will seek to block the new system passed by the Democratic-majority House and intended to allow the chamber to function while observing social distancing guidelines. It will argue that the rule changes are unconstitutional, the Republican aides said.
    […]

    Pelosi condemned the lawsuit in a statement, calling it a “sad stunt.”

    Proxy voting is in widespread use in Senate committees. You’d think someone would have noticed if it were unconstitutional.

  211. blf says

    This is from the beginning of this month (May), and whilst the original song is not at all one I care for, the video scenes of healthcare workers are rather well done, ‘You Are the Champions’: Locked-down rockers Queen record health worker anthem:

    Rock band Queen and singer Adam Lambert are raising money for health workers fighting COVID-19 with new single “You Are The Champions”, an updated version of classic hit “We Are The Champions” recorded on mobile phones under lockdown.

    […]

    The single came to life when [guitarist Brian] May posted a video online of himself playing his part, inviting the public to jam. He then urged drummer Roger Taylor and Lambert, who tours with the band in the place of late singer Freddie Mercury, to join in.

    The band discussed whether to update the lyrics. In the end, Lambert swapped in “you” for “we” in the final verse, and left the rest of the words unchanged. It was an unusual move for Queen to alter even a single word of a classic song written by Mercury more than 40 years ago.

    “But I think this is the type of event that warranted such a change. And it really, because it’s such a well-known title, changing that one word makes a huge impact,” Lambert told Reuters from his home in Los Angeles.

    […]

    The musicians and Mercury’s estate are donating their proceeds to a World Health Organization fund for health workers. The music video shows footage of frontline workers around the world, including Taylor’s daughter, Dr Rory Taylor, a family doctor in West London.

    […]

    Video at Queen + Adam Lambert — ‘You Are The Champions’ (New Lockdown version! Recorded on mobile phones!), which contains quite a lot of advertising for this sub-par band at the end. Arseholes. Well-intentioned arseholes, but still arseholes.

  212. blf says

    Follow-up to @261, from the Grauniad’s current States pandemic live blog (quoted in full):

    The Trump campaign has responded to Twitter adding fact checks to the president’s false tweets about mail-in voting by attacking the social media company.

    We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President [sic] Trump getting his message through to voters, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said. There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.

    It is important to note here that Twitter Inc. banned political ads in October 2019 — necessitating that the Trump campaign pull all its advertising from Twitter months ago.

  213. KG says

    SC@242,

    On the Grauniad’s UK coronavirus thread, a couple of commenters have been blaming the journalists who reported Cummings’ violations of lockdown rules for any subsequent additional deaths due to others feeling: “If it’s OK for him to make up his own version of the rules, then it’s OK for me”. They are getting a lot of pushback of course. The fear the scandal could lead to additional deaths is in itself valid – but if Johnson even now had the decency to sack Cummings, the vital perception that “The rules apply to everyone” would be strengthened rather than weakened.

  214. says

    Here’s a link to the May 27 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From their most recent summary:

    The French government has stopped the country’s hospitals using the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug Donald Trump said he was taking as a precaution, to treat Covid-19 patients after serious concerns about its safety.

    There have now been 118,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the 54 nations of Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s regional office for the continent. So far, about 48,000 people in Africa who have tested positive for the virus have recovered, while 3,500 have died.

    Greece is ready to welcome back tourists and has lifted many of its curbs on the general population – but movement restrictions for refugees in all island camps and a number of mainland camps have been extended until 7 June.

    South Korea may need to reimpose social distancing measures eased in April, its top infectious diseases expert has said, as coronavirus transmissions creep up in the Seoul metropolitan area.

    Officials in Strasbourg have appealed for hundreds of spectators who attended an illegal football match at the weekend to be tested for Covid-19. An estimated 400 people played in or watched the game and authorities have called on them to attend a testing centre for anonymous screening.

    Russia’s [official – SC] death toll neared 4,000, after authorities confirmed that 161 people with coronavirus died in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 3,968. Officials have also reported 8,338 new infections, pushing the country’s overall figure of confirmed cases to 370,680.

    France’s economy could contract by around 20% in the second quarter as lockdown measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus slashed activity, the national statistics agency Insee says.

    Bulgaria will allow restaurants, bars and cafes to reopen at full capacity on Monday, further easing restrictions imposed in mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus.

  215. blf says

    Every now and then a so-called “red top” tabloid “newspaper” in the UK succeeds — they are normally best avoided except for cleaning up the evil cat’s vomit — and apparently one of them, the notorious Daily Star, has succeeded (link is to the Grauniad), Daily Star includes free Dominic Cummings ‘do whatever the hell you want’ mask:

    […]
    The Daily Star has printed a cut-out-and-keep Dominic Cummings mask on its front page with a pledge that it will allow the wearer to “do whatever the hell you want” […]

    The Star — which tends to avoid politics stories […] — told readers: “Can’t be arsed to stick to the rules like the rest of us? Simply wear this handy Dom face covering and you’ll get away with murder.”

    The newspaper also included a “Thought for the day” bubble that reads “imagine having to defend this bloke on TV with a straight face” after further questions about the aide’s decision to undertake a 60-mile round trip from Durham to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight was good enough to drive.

    The front page also included a picture of the singer Stevie Wonder [supposedly†] commenting on the story, which was justified by the line: “Police have warned people not to copy PM’s aide Dominic Cummings by driving to check your eyesight, especially if you have vision problems like singer Stevie Wonder.”

    […]

    It my opinion, the icing on the cake is the snark after the headline (my emphasis), “Cops: Don’t Drive if You’re Blind — Shock new advice for Britian’s ruling elite“.

    Image at the link.

      † The Daily Star makes things up (as do all the tabloids), they are genuine fake news. I doubt Stevie Wonder has commented at all on crook Cummings, and just to drive the (probable) fictitious quote home, it is accompanied by a presumably-manipulated image of Stevie Wonder driving.

  216. says

    Guardian – “How South Africa’s action on Covid-19 contrasts sharply with its response to Aids”:

    Twenty years ago Nelson Mandela made an impassioned plea for international cooperation on “one of the greatest threats humankind has faced”.

    Aids was ravaging lives and overwhelming health systems, at its peak killing up to 1,000 people a day in South Africa.

    Mandela’s successor as president, Thabo Mbeki, was in obstinate denial. On the sidelines of the conference where Mandela made his appeal, Mbeki’s controversial health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, scolded scientists for daring to oppose the government’s stance.

    One of those scientists, Salim Abdool Karim, now leads South Africa’s Covid-19 advisory team, earning this government plaudits from the World Health Organization for its response to the pandemic. Tshabalala-Msimang succumbed to liver problems in 2009 and left a legacy of 300,000 preventable deaths.

    In early April, two weeks into South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, Abdool Karim led a live two-hour briefing explaining the reasoning behind the strict measures, which confine people to their homes and prohibit public exercise and the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

    It is in sharp contrast with the Aids response two decades ago.

    “I’m impressed that the powers that be took this seriously,” he said. “They didn’t need to be convinced, they didn’t waffle around, they didn’t procrastinate.”

    The 59-year-old last year joined the world’s most respected scientists to become a fellow of the Royal Society. He has shared several of his many professional awards with his wife, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, also a widely acclaimed Aids researcher.

    Despite his groundbreaking scientific contributions in HIV prevention and treatment, Abdool Karim knows enough to know that little is understood about Covid-19.

    “I don’t claim that we’re not making mistakes,” he said in the briefing. “If you make no mistakes when tackling a disease of this nature that means you’re not being sufficiently proactive.”

    Mia Malan, editor-in-chief of the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, who reported extensively on Aids as a health reporter for the South African Broadcasting Corporation, says leaders are doing things better this time around. But the government’s past failures to provide an effective and early HIV response has left South Africa with millions of HIV infections that could have been prevented. As a result people with weaker immune systems (four out of 10 HIV-positive South Africans are untreated) could be more vulnerable to developing Covid-19, she says.

    “The most obvious lesson is the difference an early response can make. With HIV, the government started an evidence-based response much too late.” South Africa only had 550 coronavirus cases when it closed borders and decided on a strict lockdown that lasted at least five weeks.

    Communicating a clear and unambiguous message from government was another lesson, and partnerships have been struck with the media to make this possible – and to fight disinformation. “Activists and the media were the complete enemy during that time [of Aids], but now the minister of health at his briefing would thank the media for being partners,” she says. “It’s not that we don’t criticise them, but we are on the same side.”

    Putting science above politics is also crucial, she says. “Abdool Karim was world-renowned at that time [during the Aids pandemic] already, and he was rejected. Now he is chair of the [government’s Covid-19 advisory] committee.”

    Compassion is vital. When child activist Nkosi Johnson died of Aids-related complications aged 12 in 2001, Mbeki was silent. Now, Malan says, [current health minister Zweli] Mkhize offers deep condolences in every statement announcing new Covid-19 deaths. “Mkhize and [president Cyril] Ramaphosa will come out of this and it will possibly define their legacy – very much the opposite to Mbeki and Manto.”

    More atl.

  217. blf says

    SC@268 quotes the Grauniad as saying France has revoked permission to use hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19. Yes it has (e.g., France24, France revokes decree authorising use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19), but perhaps unsurprising quack Didier Raoult is livid. Le Monde (Coup d’arrêt pour l’hydroxychloroquine en France) says, in translation, “In a video posted on Monday, Professor [sic] Raoult judged that the Lancet study was ‘messed up‘ and rejected its conclusions” (emphasis in French original). No quack, your so-called original “study” was the one that was completely « foireuse » — with a totally fake 100% success rate! — and ignoring the dangers of using hydroxychloroquine (not to mention the effect on lupus patients, etc., of not being able to obtain a needed medicine).

  218. blf says

    More from the Grauniad’s current UK pandemic live blog:

    Further evidence that the Dominic Cummings has ruffled feathers all over the place. Here is an exceptionally sassy Dublin Airport, winning the internet:

    Apparently, the pilot is testing his eyesight just to make sure he’ll be ok for a transatlantic flight in a day or two. Sorry, that’s obviously not the case. It’s collecting information for a mapping software company.

    The Grauniad has again messed-up the hyperlinking, the twittering is https://twitter.com/DublinAirport/status/1265641616787767302

  219. tomh says

    This should seal his fate with Trump.

    Dr. Fauci on CNN in response to France banning hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19.
    “…But clearly, the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it…particularly with regard to cardiovascular and the arrhythmias that may be associated with it. …as data comes in it becomes more clear. So I’m not so sure you’d want to ban it, but certainly the data are clear right now.”

  220. blf says

    Follow-up to @261 & @265, Trump threatens social media after Twitter puts warning on his false claims:

    ● Twitter added warning on tweets that spread falsehoods
    ● President [
    sic] vows to strongly regulate … or close them down

    Donald Trump has threatened to strongly regulate or close down social media platforms that do not meet his standards for ideological balance, a day after Twitter, for the first time, slapped a warning label on a pair of Trump tweets spreading lies about mail-in voting.

    Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices, Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.

    Trump also repeated his attacks on mail-in voting, which is common in the United States but could expand further during the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans fear that an expansion of the franchise could result in their members being ejected from office.

    Trump in the past has made threats about media censorship that he did not then act on, and any attempt by the White House to shutter a media organization would encounter robust first amendment challenges in the courts. In 2018 a federal judge ruled the president could not block people on Twitter, because it violates their first amendment rights to participate in a “public forum”.

    As his election-year polling numbers have deteriorated, however, Trump has grown increasingly wild in his threats against media organizations and the voting system, and more aggressive in removing mechanisms for oversight in the federal government and in installing loyalists. His takeover of the federal courts could put future first amendment claims on new and dangerous ground.

    Most recently, Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and on a cable news host, Joe Scarborough, have created controversies and put a great deal of pressure on Twitter, Trump’s preferred bullhorn, to modulate the president’s [sic] speech.

    The husband of a former aide to Scarborough, who died when the MSNBC host was a member of Congress, formally asked Twitter this week to remove “horrifying” tweets by Trump wrongfully and recklessly accusing Scarborough, a frequent Trump critic, of murder.

    Twitter declined to remove those tweets, citing a relatively new policy crafted with Trump in mind to allow itself to leave up tweets by world leaders.

    But the company took unprecedented action on Tuesday in response to lies tweeted by Trump about mail-in voting. Twitter added links to the Trump tweets inviting users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots”.

    The company confirmed its decision was in keeping with its “civic integrity policy”, which bars users from “manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”. [†]

    […]

    Claims that Twitter polices content from the right more aggressively than content from the left have been the subject of US Senate hearings, but no conclusive data has been compiled, in part because most of the most blatant violations of the platform’s rules, racist and hate speech, are categorized as “conservative.”

    In the past, Trump has praised Twitter for allowing him to take his message directly to followers […]. His current campaign has rebuilt a targeted advertising operation on Facebook that was widely credited with helping Trump win [sic] in 2016. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter were — and are — staging grounds for foreign propaganda campaigns meant to scramble and empoison US politics and society. Those campaigns have also been credited with helping Trump’s 2016 victory [sic].

    […]

      † Normally, I’d put those quotes from twitter in eejit quotes as the claims aren’t very plausible and/or are applied erratically (if every actually proactively applied at all). In this particular case, and in acknowledgment they have indeed been essentially proactive, I’m omitting the commentary-by-typesetting.

  221. blf says

    In the Grauniad, in collaboration with OpenSecrets, [… C]onservative group fighting to restrict voting tied to powerful dark money network:

    Honest Elections Project, part of network that pushed supreme court pick Brett Kavanaugh, is now focusing on voting restrictions

    [… T]he Honest Elections Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and started stoking fears about voter fraud. Backed by a dark money group funded by rightwing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family, the Honest Elections Project is part of the network that pushed the US supreme court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the escalating fight over voting rights.

    The project announced it was spending $250,000 in advertisements in April, warning against voting by mail and accusing Democrats of cheating. It facilitated letters to election officials in Colorado, Florida and Michigan, using misleading data to accuse jurisdictions of having bloated voter rolls and threatening legal action.

    Calling voter suppression a myth, it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump. By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort.

    Despite appearing to be a free-standing new operation, the Honest Elections Project is just a legal alias for the Judicial Education Project, a well-financed nonprofit connected to a powerful network of dark money conservative groups, according to business records reviewed by the Guardian and OpenSecrets.

    “These are really well-funded groups that in the context of judicial nominations have been systematically, over the long term but also the short term, kind of pushing an agenda to pack the courts with pretty extreme right wing nominees,” said Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The infrastructure that they’ve built over the years has been a really important vehicle for them to do this.”

    […]

    The Judicial Education Project is also closely linked to Leonard Leo, one of the most powerful people in Washington who has shaped Donald Trump’s unprecedented effort to remake the federal judiciary with conservative judges.

    […] The Honest Elections Project is merely a fictitious name — an alias — the fund legally adopted in February. The change was nearly indiscernible because The 85 Fund [its now-current legal name –blf†] registered two other legal aliases on the same day, including the Judicial Education Project, its old name. The legal maneuver allows it to operate under four different names with little public disclosure that it is the same group.

    The Judicial Education Project is closely aligned with the Judicial Crisis Network, a group with unmatched influence in recent years in shaping the federal judiciary. The Judicial Crisis Network spearheaded the campaigns to get Gorsuch and Kavanaugh confirmed to the US supreme court, spending millions of dollars in each instance. It has also spent significantly on critical state supreme court races across the country.

    There is a lot of overlap between the Honest Elections Project and the Judicial Crisis Network. Both groups share personnel, including Carrie Severino, the influential president of the Judicial Crisis Network. Both groups have been funded by The Wellspring Committee, a group Leo raised money for until it shut down in 2018. Both have also paid money to BH Group, an LLC Leo once disclosed as his employer, that made a $1m mystery donation to Trump’s inauguration.

    […]

    Gupta said seeing a group that has been extremely successful in pushing judicial confirmations turn its attention to voting rights was alarming.

    “It isn’t any surprise to those of us that do work in both of these spaces that our opponents [who] want to constrict access to voting, access to the courts, who are seeking an anti-inclusive, anti-civil rights agenda are one in the same,” she said.

      † I’m a bit surprised the (now-current) legal name isn’t The 88 Fonds.

  222. KG says

    blf@269,273,

    I think what will make Cummings smart is the way people are taking the piss out of his “testing my eyes” excuse for the trip to Barnard Castle. Honestly, Mr. Supergenius had six weeks to think up a better story than that!

  223. tomh says

    The Cummings story really shows a difference between the UK and US. In Trump’s America, where governors proudly publish pictures in crowded restaurants (with Trump’s approval,) where Ivanka and Jared, both White House officials, took a similar trip in April, Cummings’ stunt would barely make the news. America’s ‘lockdown’ is a slipshod affair that Trump has fought every step of the way. We’ve got 100,000 deaths to show for it.

  224. blf says

    KG@277, I’m not confident. Cummings strikes me as the sort of alleged-person (wannabe-dalek in poor disguise) who is convinced the hoi polloi are imbeciles, and may use the anger, etc., to harden itshis views.

  225. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign news.

    As part of his threat to move the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump said yesterday he expects some kind of definitive direction from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) “within a week.” Pointing to nothing in particular, the president added that the governor has been acting “very suspiciously.”

    North Carolina’s secretary of Health and Human Services, Mandy Cohen, wrote to Republican officials yesterday, requesting that they help prepare a public-health plan for the event’s attendees and organizers.

    As part of his party’s ongoing efforts to limit voting right, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced yesterday plans to appeal a federal court ruling striking down the state’s so-called “poll tax” against former felons. [Of course he did.]

    The AFL-CIO, which includes 55 unions representing 12.5 million workers, officially threw its support behind Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy yesterday, following a vote of the organization’s general board.

    In the state of Washington, a SurveyUSA poll for the NBC affiliate in Seattle found incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) with large leads over each of his would-be Republican rivals. The same poll found Biden leading Trump in the Evergreen State, 57% to 31%.

  226. blf says

    tomh@278, Yes! Good point.

    SC@280, so is the Grauniad’s current NKofE live pandemic blog (link is to the earliest entry about the hearing). As you imply, Wow!, just wow…

    The hearing is NKofE PM Borris Johnson in front of Parliament’s Liaison Committee, which I recently read someplace is the only(?) committee that can summon(? compel?) the PM to attend. (An “oversight” the torys will presumably soon “correct”.)

  227. says

    Transcript of Maitlis’ opening (from the link @ #284):

    Dominic Cummings broke the rules.

    The country can see that and it is shocked the government can not.

    The longer ministers and the Prime Minister tell us he worked within [them] the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.

    He was the man remember, who always got the public mood. Who tagged the lazy label of elite on those who disagreed.

    He should understand that public mood now. One of fury, contempt and anguish.

    He made those who struggled to keep [to] the rules feel like fools and has allowed many more to assume the can now flout them.

    The Prime Minister knows all this but despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his back benchers, the dramatic early warning from the polls and a deep national disquiet – Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it.

    Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10.

    We do not expect to be joined by a Government Minister but that won’t stop us asking the question.

  228. says

    Why Trump lies so aggressively about the integrity of US elections

    So now we’ve come so near the bottom of the sewer that we have to judge not if Trump is lying but how aggressively he is lying.

    Ahead of Election Day 2020, Trump is eager to delegitimize his own country’s electoral system.

    Donald Trump continued his campaign against postal balloting yesterday, peddling a familiar series of discredited claims via Twitter, and concluding that the 2020 election cycle in his own country “will be a Rigged Election.” […]

    set the stage for an interesting discussion about social-media giants, their role in preventing the powerful from disseminating misinformation, and how irresponsible, authoritarian-minded leaders might try to “strongly regulate” or “shut down” media companies they don’t like.

    But as important as that debate is, and as relevant as the results of the discussion are, let’s not miss the forest for the trees. As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted last night, “The president aggressively attempting to undermine the administration of free and fair elections in the midst of a pandemic is not really in any important way a story about Twitter.”

    Quite right. Politico had a notable report on this on Memorial Day.

    Trump’s increasingly amped-up rhetoric surrounding the integrity of the November election is beginning to bring to center stage a previously muted conversation. With the president lagging behind Joe Biden in public opinion polls six months before the general election, his opponents are becoming increasingly anxious that Trump may attempt to undermine the results of the election if he loses — or worse, might attempt to cling to power regardless of the outcome.

    […] after Trump won [in 2016], he continued to argue that the election that elevated him to power was unreliable, largely as a way to make himself feel better about having come in second in the popular vote.

    But the political conditions now are … different. Ahead of Election Day 2016, Trump wanted a talking point to justify failure. Ahead of Election Day 2020, Trump appears a little too eager to delegitimize his own country’s electoral system for reasons that are far less obvious.

    The headline on the Politico article read, “Trump sees a ‘rigged election’ ahead. Democrats see a constitutional crisis in the making.” I can appreciate what the editors meant, but the phrasing wasn’t quite right: the president doesn’t “see” a rigged process; he wants his chunk of the electorate to perceive a rigged process by peddling nonsense that falls apart under scrutiny.

    His efforts raise the prospect of some alarming scenarios. If Trump’s efforts to subvert the process fail and he loses in November, how far is the Republican prepared to go to contest the results? To what extent is the president prepared to resist a peaceful transition of power?

    The fact that these questions exist at all […] is an extraordinary development. […]

    It’s possible, for example, that the president simply enjoys playing the role of victim, whether it makes sense or not. It’s equally likely that Trump is pushing for voting restrictions simply because he believes it’ll improve his chances of success.

    But I’ve found myself thinking lately about Michael Cohen, the president’s former fixer, who told a congressional committee last year, “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump. I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

  229. blf says

    This is not particularity coherent writing (it’s a translation from a French original), Telephone campaigning, proxy voting: An unusual second round for France’s municipal elections:

    The second round of French municipal elections will be held on June 28, three and a half months after the first round. [Second rounds are normally held a week later, but the lockdown happened about then… –blf] Covid-19 health sanctions mean that candidates still in contention will have to campaign without meeting voters, who are themselves encouraged to vote by proxy or to wear masks in the voting booth.

    […]

    Candidates will therefore have to mount a campaign without holding meetings with their teams, without handing out publicity leaflets in markets and without canvassing door to door. Instead, they should revert to old-school techniques such as the telephone calls to targeted voters, while at the same time relying on a digital campaign.

    In Paris, candidates can consult the prefecture’s register of voters to find out the identity of abstainers. “We can then cross-reference this information with our membership files to find out exactly who to call,” Agnès Evren, candidate for Les Républicains in the 15th arrondissement (district), told France 24.

    […]

    To cope with the increased expenses of this extraordinary campaign, the ceiling for reimbursement of expenses will be officially increased by 20 percent, [Interior Minister Christophe] Castaner announced on May 24.

    “The official campaign will start on June 15, but everything that has already been spent, including since the first round and up to today, will be included in the campaign account,” he said.

    […]

  230. says

    Trump picks a fight over pre-existing conditions he cannot win

    Trump seems eager to have a discussion over his record on protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. He won’t like where this discussion ends up.

    Donald Trump stopped by Capitol Hill yesterday to speak with Senate Republicans, and after the private gathering, the president stopped to tell reporters how impressed he is with his own record. He focused specific attention on “all of the things we’ve done on health care,” including “pre-existing conditions.”

    The president didn’t elaborate on what exactly he thinks he’s done to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, but he made the boast anyway, adding no details. Yesterday, Trump brought this up again, during an unrelated White House event.

    “[M]y administration will always protect Medicare and Social Security — and, by the way, pre-existing conditions…. We’ll always protect you on pre-existing conditions, much more so than the Democrats…. We’re always working on pre-existing conditions and saving your pre-existing conditions. And as long as I’m president, you’ll always be protected on pre-existing conditions.”

    The idea that Team Trump “will always protect Medicare and Social Security,” sounds nice, though it’s belied by the latest White House budget plan, unveiled just a few months ago, which proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

    But putting that aside, the president seemed almost preoccupied with pre-existing conditions, to the point that his rhetoric was almost incoherent. The administration is “always working on pre-existing conditions”? I don’t know what that means. Trump is “saving your pre-existing conditions”? This is practically gibberish.

    […] Trump is already on the wrong side of the issue, and his assurances to the contrary are demonstrable lies.

    the truth is politically inconvenient, but stubbornly inflexible: the president fought to strip Americans with pre-existing conditions of their current protections — those established by the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act — through a series of misguided and far-right repeal-and-replace proposals he couldn’t get through a Congress led by his own party.

    Making matters worse, Trump’s efforts are ongoing: the White House is helping champion a federal lawsuit, which is currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, which would strip protections from Americans with pre-existing conditions.

    These are basic, uncontested facts, which the president expects the public not to notice.

  231. says

    WTF? What kind of fuckery is this?

    Targeting science again, Trump ponders whether to ‘use insulin’

    By all appearances, the point of yesterday afternoon’s White House event was to announce a program to cap copay costs for Medicare recipients who rely on insulin treatments. But many of those who saw the display in the Rose Garden were struck not by what the president announced, but rather by what he said about insulin.

    […] Trump pondered on Tuesday whether he should be taking insulin, a hormone typically prescribed to diabetics, during an announcement for a plan which would aim to drastically reduce the price of insulin for people on Medicare. “I don’t use insulin,” Trump said. “Should I be? Huh? I never thought about it. But I know a lot of people are very badly affected, right? Unbelievable.”

    […] a reporter, likely picking up on Trump’s comments, asked the president, “Is there any reason why someone who does not have diabetes would take insulin? Is there any sort of medical reason for that?” Trump didn’t want to answer, so he passed it off to Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who reminded the president that his body already makes insulin.

    “People such as you and I, we make our own insulin,” Adams explained. “So, yes, we do utilize insulin, but we make it ourselves.” […]

    let’s not lose sight of the larger context.

    Just over the last month or so, Trump has talked up the possible benefits of disinfectant injections. And treating COVID-19 by putting lights “inside the body.”

    The president has also encouraged Americans to take potentially life-threatening medications. And questioned the value of flu shots. And took issue with “the whole concept” of virus testing. And suggested that those who wear masks during a deadly pandemic are merely being “politically correct.”

    Remember, these are just examples since late April. If we widen the aperture, we see Trump making ridiculous declarations on everything from climate science to vaccines to hurricanes. The president hasn’t just demonstrated a strange skepticism for science; he’s been aggressively hostile towards it throughout his time in public life.

    In early March, Trump visited the CDC offices in Atlanta, [where Trump said], “I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”

    Mr. President, if you see this, please know that you may naturally have insulin, but don’t naturally have an ability to understand science.

  232. says

    From Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican:

    If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is. Otherwise, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self interests are to blame.

    Some of the Inspectors General that Trump fired:
    Michael Atkinson, Intelligence Community
    Steve Linick, State Department (Linick was investigating Pompeo)
    Christi Grimm, Health and Human Services (she reported PPE shortages)
    Glenn Fine, Pentagon (not fired, resigned after being sidelined by Trump)

  233. says

    Even some trumpian sycophants are not falling in line with Trump when it comes to the issue of wearing a mask.

    From Fox News host Sean Hannity:

    “If you can’t social distance, please wear the mask. … Do it for your mom, your dad, your grandma, your grandpa,” Hannity said, referring to the practice as “common sense.”

  234. says

    Bloomberg – “Bolsonaro Allies Targeted by Probe Into Spread of Fake News”:

    Brazil’s federal police targeted allies of President Jair Bolsonaro as part of an investigation mandated by the Supreme Court into the spread of fake news, potentially fueling an institutional crisis between the three branches of government. Search and seizure orders were carried out in six states today under a probe led by Justice Alexandre de Moraes, police said in a statement, without providing details.

    Businessman Luciano Hang, owner of the Havan department store chain, former federal lawmaker Roberto Jefferson, and three bloggers were among the people targeted by the operation, G1 website reported. They are all seen as allies or supporters of Bolsonaro. The Supreme Court also approved the questioning of six federal lawmakers and two members of the Sao Paulo state legislature within 10 days.

    It’s the second consecutive day that Brazilians wake up to a high-profile police operation. On Tuesday, investigators searched the official residence of Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel to probe misuse of funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic — an allegation the governor denies. Witzel, who was elected on a law-and-order platform very similar to Bolsonaro’s, has now become one of the president’s most vocal opponents….

  235. Akira MacKenzie says

    Is it just me, or is anyone else having trouble getting on Twitter?

  236. lumipuna says

    Joe Biden with Face Mask makes Fox News Heads explode.

    When Trump was briefly sighted wearing a mask at some occasion, I saw lefties on Twitter mocking his appearance. I think part of it was about him looking generally weird as usual, part was about the look of the mask itself, and part was schadenfreude about Trump apparently (reluctantly) admitting that his earlier anti-mask posturing had been stupid.

    I think this kind of mockery is immature and sends very much the wrong message. I wouldn’t praise Trump for every small step in the right direction, but I also wouldn’t mock him for such petty reasons.

  237. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lynna @ # 282 – Thanks!

    We probably, for the sake of accuracy, shouldn’t call him those orange/mango/cheeto sobriquets any longer.

    I still wonder what the sallow psychopath’s countenance (& hair) would look like without all that dye.

    But if I get my wish, I will surely regret it.

  238. says

    Very trumpian: Gov. Jim Justice is West Virginia’s richest man. Over the last three decades, lawsuits over unpaid bills have cost his constellation of companies more than $128 million in judgments and settlements.

    […] Raymond Dye had a buildup of blood behind his left eye that prevented him from seeing. David Polk had an abnormal heartbeat, and his wife had high cholesterol. Roger Wriston’s wife had a bad back.

    All the men had worked for a collection of coal companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family, which had pledged to provide health insurance after the miners retired. Last year, though, the retirees learned that those firms had stopped paying their premiums. And as a result, their coverage had been terminated. […]

    the United Mine Workers of America, the same miners’ union that had endorsed Justice’s election as governor in 2016, went to court last year and asked a federal judge to force the Justice companies to pay.

    Lawyers for Justice’s companies initially opposed the union’s request for such an order, arguing the miners had not followed proper procedures for appealing a denial of health-benefit claims. Then, the companies settled, promising to clear up the matter and ensure benefits were provided.

    […] Jim Justice, a billionaire and the state’s richest man, frequently touts his experience as a businessman, saying that his long career in coal and other industries makes him uniquely suited for the role of the state’s chief executive. […]

    over the last three decades, Justice’s constellation of companies has been involved in more than 600 lawsuits spanning more than two dozen states — including many filed by workers, vendors, business partners and government agencies, all alleging they weren’t paid. […]

    Among the plaintiffs: a mining equipment company in Virginia, a farm machinery dealer in South Carolina, a bank in Maryland, an insurance company in New York, state tax collectors in Kentucky, and even lawyers and accountants hired by the Justice companies to represent them. Coal miners working for Justice companies have filed at least a half-dozen suits to collect money they said was due to them when they were laid off without legally required warnings or when their paychecks bounced. […]

    In multiple cases, plaintiffs had to go back to court to try to collect after either winning a case against a Justice company or settling with the governor’s empire. […]

    “He does not pay his bills. I know that very well,” said Will Brownlow, president of New London Tobacco Market Inc., which last September won a $35 million ruling in what appears to be the largest courtroom loss for Justice’s empire. […]

    As recently as last month a federal judge found Justice to be personally liable for $6.9 million in damages for unpaid fees for the use of a coal shipping terminal in Newport News, Virginia. […] opponents have branded him a billionaire scofflaw.

    […] some lawsuits over coal debt date back to the 1990s, well before the downturn of the last decade. Moreover, the debts are hardly limited to coal; they span Justice’s business empire. Tens of thousands for an irrigation system at a farming operation in South Carolina. Hundreds of thousands for flood cleanup work at The Greenbrier resort’s golf courses. Millions for a new helicopter. […]
    The legal entanglements echo those of Justice’s Republican ally, […] Donald Trump, who himself has been sued thousands of times over his business career, often by aggrieved vendors. Like the president, the governor has said that at the start of his term he turned over day-to-day control of his businesses to his adult children. But he still retains an interest in 120 corporate entities and continues to guide his empire. […]

    “I do a lot of financial institution work, and banks want to get paid, certainly, but they do not want to raise public ire,” William Thorsness, a lawyer for the bank, told a federal judge in New York during a June 2018 hearing. “Suing a sitting governor is not something they take joy in.” […]

    Using his public office as a shield against lawsuits.

    […] With the June 9 primary election approaching, Justice’s companies have recently moved to settle some major cases. […]

    Jim Justice took over his family’s coal business in 1993, after his father died. Nonpayment suits dogged operations from the start. […]

    Like much of the industry, Bluestone used a web of small contracting firms to mine its coal, maintaining that those firms were responsible for paying into the workers compensation system.

    But the state argued that Bluestone, like many coal companies, actually controlled its contractors, who had failed to pay millions in premiums. […]

    Mining companies quickly settled, but the deal with the new administration allowed them to avoid millions in accrued interest. […]

    Justice’s wealth ballooned in 2009 when his family soldthe company to Mechel, a Russian mining and metals firm, for $436 million in cash. The Justice family, however, still maintained unrelated mining properties in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. And the debt problems continued there, with suits over unpaid bills, late coal shipments and missed royalty payments. […]
    After Justice’s election in 2016, dozens of miners sued coal companies Justice had bought back from Mechel. […]

    Lawyers for Justice’s companies initially tried to have such cases thrown out, arguing they were filed too late. A federal judge disagreed, and the companies ultimately settled, agreeing to pay the miners. The companies made initial payments, but they fell behind on an agreed-to schedule. The miners had to go back to court to force payment, […]

    Justice companies have failed to pay even their own lawyers, […] Justice companies were sued by law firms that had represented them. […] One lawsuit in federal court in Louisiana listed unpaid invoices totaling nearly $410,000.

    When the companies still didn’t pay, the firm sought approval of the arbitration ruling from a New York court in May 2016.

    A week after the court filing, the Justice companies “promptly paid the full amount” without filing any sort of response with the court,[…]

    Sometimes, it appears that the Justice companies stop paying their lawyers in the middle of a case […]

    one Justice company owed unpaid property and mining-related taxes to Knott County in Kentucky, records show. The county filed suit against Kentucky Fuel to collect what was owed, plus interest and late fees. Over the course of two years, an $870,000 tax bill had ballooned to nearly $2 million. […]
    In October 2018, the agrochemical giant said Justice Family Farms hadn’t paid a bill for more than $800,000 of seed. A year went by, and the company made just one payment, for $25,000, records show. Even that was made two months late. […]it’s unclear from court records whether the Justice company ever paid.

    […] Corporate Shell Game
    In recent years, several plaintiffs have argued that Justice, his companies and his family operate what amounts to a complicated corporate shell game, moving money from one part of the business empire to another, all to avoid big debts, costly liabilities, even fines. […]

    “While Justice Energy Company Inc. may be a corporation, it is, in reality, an alter ego and shell controlled by the Justices […] the Justices transferred property and other assets in anticipation of losing the debt collection case. In one instance, the suit says, about $1.8 million from the sale of coal leases was “diverted” by wire transfer to Jay Justice’s personal brokerage account at Goldman Sachs. […]

    Jay Justice, the governor’s son and CEO of the mining operations, said in a press release, “but we can’t sit back and let the government take advantage of our good faith efforts to resolve this matter.” […].

    Link

    So that’s how its done by the scofflaw billionaires.

  239. says

    Akira @297, I had trouble with Instagram earlier. I don’t know what is going on there.

    Now for some good news: New Zealand officials report no current coronavirus patients in country’s hospitals. Link

    And some bad news: ‘It’s a ticking clock’: Soaring unemployment is sending U.S. toward a wave of evictions. Link

    […] The House’s $3 trillion HEROES Act includes $100 billion for housing assistance, but that’s one of the many parts of the bill that Senate Republicans would strip out—when and if they finally get around to the next round of coronavirus relief. That leaves millions of families hanging on by their fingernails, lying awake nights wondering how long it will be before they’re thrown out on the street. “I think we will enter into a severe renter crisis and very quickly,” Columbia Law School housing expert Emily Benfer told The New York Times. If the government doesn’t act—and again, Republicans aren’t interested in doing so—“we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.” […]

  240. says

    From the New York Times:

    In late February, [Trump] said there were only 15 coronavirus cases in the United States, understating even then the actual number, and declared that “the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” In the annals of the American presidency, it would be hard to recall a more catastrophically wrong prediction. Even after he later acknowledged that it would not be zero, he insisted the death toll would fall “substantially below the 100,000” mark.

    NBC News’ total coronavirus death toll is currently 99,716. Other sources show slightly more. Anyway you look at it, the USA is likely to reach an official death toll of 100,000 this afternoon.

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] For the most part, the president seems eager to talk about anything but the staggering number of fatalities in his own country. It’s probably why Trump has spent the last few days focusing his attention on “Obamagate” (a made-up controversy he still can’t explain), attacking voting rights, and accusing an MSNBC host of being a murderer.

    When you’ve made one of the most “catastrophically wrong” predictions in “the annals of the American presidency,” such a public-relations strategy probably seems appealing.

    That said, Trump has argued that he deserves credit for his coronavirus-related successes. In a tweet over Memorial Day weekend, for example, the president said he “banned, in late January, people coming in from China.” In the next sentence, he added that the United States “let in 44,000 people” from China after he imposed the so-called “ban.”

    How did Trump resolve the contradiction? He didn’t even acknowledge it. Similarly, the president failed to note that the travel restrictions came in February, not January, and that the United States was roughly the 38th country — not the first — to take such a step.

    And yet, there was the president again this morning, insisting he imposed a so-called “ban” — the one that came with 44,000 exceptions — “long before anybody thought necessary.”

    That’d be easier to believe, if dozens of other countries hadn’t already acted beforehand.

    Complicating matters, Trump’s decision wasn’t entirely his own. A Washington Post report noted over the holiday weekend, “[W]hile the president has depicted that decision as one he made before anyone else recognized it was necessary, in reality major airlines were forcing his hand.”

    The article added, “Delta and American had announced on Jan. 31 they were suspending routes to China before Trump announced the restrictions. United informed the White House it had already decided to do the same but was willing to hold off on announcing it publicly if Trump was prepared to act swiftly in issuing an order, officials said. Eager to claim credit for acting to contain the virus, Trump’s announcement came within hours.”

    As we reach the 100,000-death threshold, the president has so much to answer for — his mismanagement, his tragically false predictions, his obvious lies, his repeated failures — and so little to offer in response. Even the one talking point he clings to like a life-preserver fails to stand up to scrutiny.

  241. says

    From Joe Biden:

    “George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine. It mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. At least it should have,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said at the outset of a virtual conversation with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. […]

    “Watching [Floyd’s] life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words … is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but a part of an ingrained, systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Biden said.

    “It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and in dignity, and it sends a very clear message to the black community and to black lives that are under threat every single day,” he added.

    Although Biden said he was “glad” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey “stepped up right away” by announcing Tuesday the firings of the four officers involved in the arrest, the former vice president insisted “they have to be held more fully accountable” — referencing the ongoing FBI investigation into Floyd’s death and his call for a separate Justice Department probe.

    “We have to get to the root of all this. You know, we have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they’re entitled to,” Biden said. “And as a nation … we have to work relentlessly to eradicate these systemic failures that inflict so much damage on not just one family, one community, but on the people of color all across this nation.”

    Link

  242. says

    @lumipuna 298
    Agreed. Mocking Trump for wearing a mask is just giving in to mockery for its own sake. It’s counter productive, sends mixed messages when we do want to be able to direct Trump’s behavior in good ways, and is a good subject of criticism because it reveals someone who needs to think about their political behavior.

  243. says

    5 ways to prevent another 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the US (and beyond)

    It’s time to fix the glaring gaps in death data and drastically improve measures to keep the coronavirus out of nursing homes.

    As we hit a gruesome milestone — 100,000 reported deaths from the novel coronavirus in the United States — we must focus on the single most important part of the response: saving the most lives.

    […] As we confront the most devastating infectious disease threat the world has faced in a century, unless we are more careful, there will be many more avoidable deaths, not just from Covid-19 but also from the disruption it causes.

    If there’s one constant in the varying effectiveness of responses in different cities, states, and countries, it’s the tight correlation between how fully political leaders are guided by and support public health (for example, in Singapore, Germany, New Zealand, Seattle, and elsewhere) and how well they prevent their people from being killed by the virus.

    To save as many lives as possible, both from the coronavirus and other causes, public health specialists must guide and political leaders must fully support five things at the core of public health.

    1) Fix the glaring gaps in data about deaths
    Although deaths are not an early indicator of the spread of the coronavirus and other health trends, tracking death rates is crucial to understanding and counteracting the impact of the pandemic. Tracking deaths identifies increases from the virus missed by testing and tracking systems and provides an early warning if deaths from other conditions increase.

    […] every US state and every country must report all-cause mortality every week. Many higher-income countries can start weekly reporting by age group compared with historical levels, as Switzerland and others have done. [charts and graphs available at the link]

    […] We need to change the expectation so that we learn the death rates every week, in every community — both deaths caused by the coronavirus and all deaths. In lower-income countries where basic vital registration systems are often weak or lacking, this will require training, supporting, and paying community health workers and hospital registrars and also improving the capacity to collect, analyze, and disseminate real-time data. […]

    2) Protect our health care workers to keep our health care systems functioning so they can prevent both coronavirus and non-coronavirus deaths
    It is appalling that more than 100,000 health care workers have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The health and economic consequences of losing health care workers and overwhelming health care facilities are catastrophic.

    This does not have to be. I began my public health career documenting and stopping the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in hospitals; it is possible to make health care much safer. […]
    3) Preserve non-coronavirus health care
    In New York City, between mid-March and mid-May, there were more than 4,000 “excess” deaths — deaths that may have been but are not known to have been related to the coronavirus. It’s likely that many people died from non-coronavirus causes because they did not seek care, for example for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US.

    Avoiding an increase in non-coronavirus deaths is a particularly urgent priority in Africa. If we don’t take steps to preserve care, over the coming years more than 10 million people in Africa could die from malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, vaccine-preventable diseases, and other causes due to the pandemic’s disruption of health care systems. […]

    If we fail to preserve the programs that address preventable killers, the number of people who die from the coronavirus directly might be a small fraction of those killed by other diseases because of the disruption the pandemic causes. […]

    4) Protect the most vulnerable
    One-third of the US coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes, revealing that facilities for the elderly will be coronavirus death traps until we drastically improve efforts to keep the virus out, find it fast when the first staff or residents become infected, and stop outbreaks from spreading.

    The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has made a good start requiring an end to nonessential visitors, but regulators, payors, and nursing home administrators will all need to keep the virus out with strict policies. These include universal wearing of masks, limited visitors, and extensive testing. Nursing homes need to find the virus fast with rapid and repeated testing, and they need to stop outbreaks before they spread widely with rapid-response teams and test-based strategies. We need to identify and protect the highest-risk facilities — not just nursing homes, but also prisons, homeless shelters, and factories, and the highest-risk individuals, including the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

    5) Balance saving lives with preserving livelihoods
    Health versus the economy is a false dichotomy. Poverty increases ill health, and until people are confident, they will not resume economic activities. […]

    It’s not a “guns or butter” dilemma. We can save the most lives and protect our economy most effectively by urgently strengthening public health […]This means widespread use of face masks, hand-washing, staggered shifts, telework, and prompt contact tracing to prevent cases from becoming clusters, clusters from becoming outbreaks, and outbreaks from forcing another retreat into our homes. […]

    As future waves of the virus hit, we need to be ready to adapt rapidly to reduce spread, stop outbreaks, and protect the vulnerable. In every step we take, we must first remember: Illness and economic damage are reversible. Death is not.

  244. says

    Weather has postponed the historic space launch. The first crewed orbital launch from U.S. soil in many years was rescheduled for Saturday. The launch will use SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 booster.

  245. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lynna#307. Since Trump showed up and the lunch was scrubbed, Mother Nature must be in the pay of Soros and the Deep State to embarrass him. /s

  246. johnson catman says

    Since Trump showed up and the lunch was scrubbed, . . .

    So . . . he was deeply disappointed because they had planned on serving Big Macs and “Fish Delights” (his words not mine)?

  247. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Johnson catman #309, yes my #308 had an offering to tpyos. Mea culpa.

  248. KG says

    tomh@278,

    Worth noting that the UK still has a considerably higher death rate per capita from Covid-19 than the USA. Moreover, a recent study by the Financial Times* shows the UK with a higher rate of excess deaths per million** over those expected for the time of year than any other country for which adequate data exist. Meanwhile:
    1) A Tory peer, wife of a Tory MP, and CEO of a phone company at a time it exposed the personal details of huge numbers of its customers has been appointed to head the “test-and-trace” programme in England. (A programme which has been beset by confusion and setbacks already.)
    2) Two ex-Tory-MPs have been given roles in official tourism bodies, despite having no relevant experience.
    3) A government minister (as it happens, another who appears to have broken lockdown rules) has admitted his approval of a former Tory donor’s housing scheme was unlawful.
    4) The BBC has decide it must be impartial as between truth and lies (see SC’s comments on Emily Maitlis above).

    While Johnson has admittely not yet recommended injecting disinfectant, the YooKay can certainly give the USA a run for its money when it comes to corruption and an incompetent response to the pandemic!

    *It used to be said that the Daily Telegraph contains what the British ruling class want the middle classes to think, the Times what they want foreigners to think, and the Financial Times what they think themselves. How this stands up now Murdoch owns the Times, and the ruling class has been badly split over Brexit, I’m not sure, but the Financial Times is certainly not anti-Tory.
    **Probably the best single measure of how badly a country has been hit by the pandemic.

  249. blf says

    A few snippets from More than 100,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Here is that tragic story in figures:

    […]
    ● Up to half of the deaths in some US states have been nursing home residents or workers […]

    ● Dozens of medical workers have died; the CDC says at least 27 are confirmed to have died, but this is likely to be a significant undercount. […]

    ● A more than 1,000% surge in online demand for hydroxychloroquine came after Donald Trump backed the anti-malaria drug as a potential treatment for Covid-19 […]

    ● Almost 23% of adults in one poll said they would not be willing to take a vaccine against Covid-19 if it became available […]

    ● Only 20% of black workers reported being eligible to work from home, compared with about 30% of their white counterparts […]

    ● Up to 43 million people face losing their job-based health coverage since the coronavirus […]. That is nearly one-quarter of all Americans who rely on job-based insurance.

    ● As many as 7 million people will be unable to find new health insurance coverage, […] joining 28 million who already lacked insurance.

    ● An average of 63% more food was being sought by food banks and pantries around the US in the wake of widespread job losses […]

    I’ve omitted some of the better-know figures, such as (but not limited to) the disproportionate effect on African-Americans.

  250. blf says

    Hair furor is still stung by twittering showing some backbone and fact-checking two (just two!) lies, Trump draft order could expose Twitter and Facebook to more lawsuits:

    Review planned of law that protects social media firms from responsibility for users’ content

    Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a law that has long protected Twitter, Facebook and Google from being responsible for material posted by their users, according to a draft executive order seen by Reuters.

    […]

    The executive order would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for material their users post. […]

    The order asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the platform forfeiting its protections under section 230.

    It requires the agency to look at whether a social media platform uses deceptive policies to moderate content and if its policies are inconsistent with its terms of service.

    The draft order also states that the White House Office of Digital Strategy will re-establish a tool to help citizens report cases of online censorship.

    The White House tech bias reporting tool will collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    […]

    The draft order also requires the attorney general to establish a working group including state attorneys general that will examine the enforcement of state laws that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts.

    The working group will also monitor or create watchlists of users based on their interactions with content or other users.

    Federal spending on online advertising will be reviewed by US government agencies to ensure there are no speech restrictions by the relevant platform.

    […]

  251. johnson catman says

    Nerd of Redhead @310: My apologies to you. I was not trying to insult you, but to make a joke on the inadvertent typo.

  252. says

    Bits and pieces of campaign-related news:

    * Texas’ Supreme Court, led entirely by Republicans, ruled yesterday that most of the state’s voters need a good reason to vote by mail, and fearing a deadly pandemic can’t count as a good reason.

    * Election officials in Wisconsin yesterday announced plans to send absentee ballot applications to voters this fall, though as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted, Democratic and Republican officials will need to “agree on the wording of the mailing,” which may be impossible.

    * Donald Trump this morning promoted online content featuring a supporter saying, “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to a conclusion where the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Couy Griffin, who leads Cowboys for Trump, added in the video that he wasn’t talking “in a physical sense.” How reassuring.

    * The Lincoln Project, led by anti-Trump Republicans, launched a new ad today taking aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The 60-second spot labels the senator “Rich Mitch,” noting how wealthy the Republican became during his time in D.C.

    * Business Insider reported yesterday that Brad Parscale remains Trump’s campaign manager, but Jared Kushner has placed former Chris Christie aide Bill Stepien “as the campaign’s new de facto campaign manager.” Tim Murtaugh, the president’s campaign communications director, denied the accuracy of the report. [sounds like chaos inside the campaign]

    * Joe Biden told a group of donors yesterday he expects to announce his running mate around Aug. 1. If the former vice president sticks to that schedule, it would mean the announcement would come about two weeks before the start of the Democratic convention.

    * Trump has said he has to vote by mail because he’s not in his adopted home state of Florida, but CNN reported that in March, ahead of the state’s presidential primary, he had multiple opportunities to take advantage of in-person early voting; he just didn’t want to.

    * And Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton in January in the midst of the congresswoman’s ill-fated presidential campaign, reversed course yesterday, announcing that she’s dropping the case.

    Link

  253. says

    Kellyanne Conway said:

    People are very proud to show up and go to the polls. They wait in line at Georgetown Cupcake for an hour to get a cupcake. So I think they can probably wait in line to do something as constitutionally significant as cast their ballot.”

    Commentary:

    […] The line was more revealing than the Republican advisor probably intended.

    At face value, the comparison is itself silly. Cupcake access is not legally protected. There’s a reason you haven’t heard of the landmark Cupcake Rights Act of 1964.

    What’s more, while some D.C.-area residents have the time and resources to go to Georgetown and wait an hour for premium tasty treats, many do not. […]

    Georgetown Cupcake, like many places nationwide that serve food, is currently a delivery-only establishment. During a pandemic, it’s not safe for locals to wait in line on a sidewalk for a cupcake, but customers can still place an order and Georgetown Cupcake will dispatch the treats to their door.

    Similarly, there are reasonable concerns about the public-health effects of forcing Americans to go to crowded venues to cast a ballot during a crisis, but plenty of states are prepared to send ballots directly to people’s homes.

    The cupcake comparison, however, was really only part of the problem with Conway’s pitch. Just as important was her suggestion that it’s admirable to force Americans to go to the polls during a public-health crisis, putting themselves and others at risk, simply to exercise their right to vote. “People are very proud to show up and go to the polls,” Conway said, presumptively describing the feelings of people she does not know.

    “I think they can probably wait in line” to vote, she added.

    And this is the White House’s position in a nutshell: officials could make it easier for Americans to cast a ballot, but it’s better to make it harder. Sure, there are safe and convenient alternatives, but they should be rejected, deliberately, because Trump and his team pretend there’s nobility in forcing voters to wait in lines — even if Trump and White House officials choose not to wait in those lines themselves.

    Link

  254. says

    Florida forced medical examiners to stop reporting death results, and now we know why

    Back in April, it became clear that Florida was intentionally hiding a list of daily deaths that had previously been compiled by county medical examiners. Since that time, those examiners, as well as hospitals and local officials, have complained that the number of COVID-19 deaths being reported in Governor Ron DeSantis regular updates, doesn’t match what they’re seeing in their areas. Last week, the scientist behind Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard was fired after she says she refused to alter numbers as she was told.

    With 52,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Florida is in the top ten states when it comes to infections. But the 2,300 recorded deaths is less than half of those from Michigan, a state with a similar number of cases. Considering the number of elderly residents and retirement communities, Florida’s relatively light death toll seemed somewhat miraculous, and DeSantis has been bragging both about the “success” of his policies and sneering at pundits that warned of potential disaster from his refusal to enforce social distancing guidelines.

    But there’s still more evidence that “miracle” isn’t the right word. The correct word is “con.” Because it looks like DeSantis has been taking COVID-19 deaths out of one column and inserting them into another. […]

    As a infectious disease expert from George Mason University made clear, “It is likely that they missed some COVID-19 deaths and reported them as respiratory deaths [in April].” However, while it might have been possible that deaths in March and early April were missed simply because state officials weren’t keyed to look for COVID-19 deaths, that certainly wasn’t true after that day.

    On May 7, the Miami Herald called on DeSantis to stop hiding the true toll of deaths from the novel coronavirus. […]

    But DeSantis didn’t open up. He didn’t open the list of deaths, or any other information. As the firing of Dr. Rebekah Jones made clear, Florida has only continued to hide and alter more information over time.

    And it seems there really was something to hide. […] Florida is one of several states where a particular category of deaths that have happened in 2020 represents a sharp increase over past years. That category is deaths due to “flu or pneumonia.” As compiled by the CDC, in the first six months of 2020, Florida has logged 5,248 deaths due to pneumonia. Of those deaths, 960 were identified as being connected to COVID-19. That leaves 4,288 pneumonia deaths which were reported, but not logged against the COVID-19 deaths. Looking at the period between 2014 and 2018, Florida has averaged 2,870 deaths from pneumonia … over an entire year.

    That leaves an excess of 1,418 deaths from pneumonia over past years. […]

    It’s also worth noting that Florida isn’t the only state with a spike in pneumonia cases not attributed to either flu or COVID-19. Across the country, the total number of deaths logged to COVID-19, flu, or pneumonia was 139,925 on May 27.

  255. says

    JFC. This is still a thing. Rudy Giuliani Is Looking for $10 Million to Finance a Ukraine-Biden Film

    Rudy Giuliani won’t give up. Even though his crusade to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine led to the impeachment of his client, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer continues to use this Ukrainian non-scandal to try to undo Biden’s presidential bid.

    […] Giuliani and two associates—a Republican fundraiser and a California cannabis entrepreneur—have been trying to round up $10 million to finance the production of a Biden-Ukraine documentary that can be released this year. […] Giuliani and his collaborators are recruiting investors at $1 million a pop and they have considered the possibility of drawing in investors from overseas […] Any overseas investment in the project would raise the question of whether Giuliani, who has been looking for information from past and present Ukrainian officials for his anti-Biden work, is attempting to orchestrate foreign involvement in the current presidential election.

    It’s no secret that Giuliani has been plotting to cook up a documentary focused on Hunter Biden and Ukraine […] The documents obtained by Mother Jones reveal new details about this venture and its financing.

    Giuliani has already produced a program promoting his Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory for the ardently pro-Trump One America News Network. And he bangs away on this topic on his podcasts. […] Giuliani envisions this film as the culmination of his efforts and a possible “kill shot” on Biden. “The goal is to do a documentary, get it discussed on Twitter, shown in the White House,” this source says. “It’s very propagandistic.”

    According to the documents, a company named SeeView Media, which was incorporated in Delaware in February, has been set up to finance the film. […]

    Dickson is the founder and CEO of Cannasortium, which is based in Scotts Valley, California. “Launching from the heart of California’s cannabis industry and with a global reach,” the firm’s website says, […] Dickson has also been the CEO and president of Seismic Warning Systems, which boasted it “manufactures systems and services that provide reliable earthquake detection.” (Giuliani’s previous partners in skulduggery—Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who each were indicted for campaign finance violations related to Ukraine scandal-chasing—were also pursuing deals in the cannabis business. […])

    The SeeView Media documents—a term sheet and draft agreements for potential investors—note that Yale [California Republican fixer and fundraiser Tim Yale] and Dickson are seeking $10 million for the project, with a minimum investment of $1 million. […] None of the documents mention Giuliani by name and do not state whether he will receive any of the funds that are raised. But Yale tells Mother Jones that Giuliani is the driving force of this project and that he should be contacted for any details regarding it. […]

    The draft note purchase agreement suggests that the group has considered selling shares in the project to foreigners, for it contains a clause regarding the obligations of any “Non-United States person” who signs up as an investor. According to the source familiar with the venture, the project has been seeking financial backers overseas. […] The term sheet also has a confidentiality clause: “No Investor will disclose the terms or existence of this Term Sheet to any person, other than…[those] who have a need to know.”

    A project like this could run into problems with the Federal Election Commission. The documents indicate that Yale and Dickson are attempting to fashion this venture as a commercial and not a political operation. But if the movie engages in what the FEC calls “express advocacy” (urging viewers to vote for or against Biden) or “electioneering communication” (an effort clearly intended to sway voters within 60 days of a general election), the commission could regard this endeavor as no different than the work of a campaign or a super PAC. That would mean that it would be subject to campaign spending and disclosure rules. One such rule prohibits contributions from overseas. […]

    In the case of any FEC action—which is unlikely given the FEC is barely functioning these days—Yale, Dickson, and Giuliani would probably claim the documentary is an act of journalism, not a political hit piece […]

  256. says

    Miley Cyrus and the EU:

    […] The U.S. president hasn’t joined the EU’s global fundraising drive to fight the coronavirus pandemic, but [Miley] Cyrus and other American celebrities and big-name philanthropists are now on board as the EU-led push to raise money for tests, therapies and vaccines shifts into its second phase.

    So far, the Commission’s Coronavirus Global Response has raised €9.8 billion, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Thursday that the EU would partner with Global Citizen, the New York-headquartered worldwide anti-poverty movement, to initiate the campaign’s second phase, called “Global Goal: Unite For Our Future.”

    The goal now is to raise donations from everyone — not just major countries and philanthropists — to help find diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to fight coronavirus. […]

    the Commission — rather than the U.S. — is stepping up as the leader to rally countries to a global coronavirus response and prevent a brawl over access to badly needed medical innovation.

    In her announcement, von der Leyen said the second phase has 15 countries partnering as co-sponsors: Austria; Belgium; Canada; France; Germany; Italy; Mexico; Morocco; New Zealand; Norway; Saudi Arabia; South Africa; Spain; the United Arab Emirates; and the U.K.

    Although the list is still missing the U.S., it does have plenty of celebrities. Actor Hugh Jackman, comedian Chris Rock and pop stars Justin Bieber and Shakira are all on the roster with Cyrus, along with billionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg to “help rally citizens to the cause.”

    […] much of today’s announcement emphasized the anticipated coronavirus vaccine — there are currently 100 projects in development. […]

    Link

  257. says

    Follow-up to blf’s comment 276.

    The Right-Wing Legal Network Is Now Openly Pushing Conspiracy Theories

    The right-wing legal network spawned by the Federalist Society has finally gone full Trumpian. It has morphed from a group of apparently principled conservatives debating high-minded theories of legal interpretation into a secretly funded cabal spouting conspiracy theories such as the myth of widespread voter fraud. […] we have now approached peak hackery, and that hackery is now being directed at manipulating elections. […] a dangerous development that threatens the rule of law.

    While the Federalist Society continues to claim officially that it plays no role whatsoever in politics, policy, or judicial nominations, and the group itself scrupulously avoids taking stances on issues like voter fraud, Leonard Leo—who until recently ran operations at the Federalist Society—has developed a network of political groups, none of which disclose their donors, funded at about a quarter of a billion dollars. So far, that effort has been mostly directed at seating deeply conservative judges on the federal bench for decades to come. But there is a new initiative afoot: an effort to engage in political dirty tricks to manipulate democracy itself.

    […] the Federalist Society […] became a large, powerful network of conservative and libertarian lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students who meet at conferences, […] Conservative Supreme Court justices including Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch have addressed the group, and many conservative judges are members.

    All of that activity continues today. There’s nothing nefarious about like-minded people coming together to debate the issues of the day from a particular political perspective and to network with others of a similar mindset. […] There’s been a recent controversy over whether it is inappropriate for federal judges to formally be part of the Federalist Society or the ACS, but even if these judges gave up their formal ties, the fact remains that the network and pipeline of clerkships and judgeships would remain intact. […]

    As the Federalist Society has retained its formal role as an elite debating and networking club, however, things have taken a darker turn on the network’s periphery. […] now spearheading an all-out effort to capture the federal judiciary and to seat judges who are likely to rule in favor of those secret monied interests. That is more of an investment plan than a means of preserving an independent judiciary.

    The Senate Democrats’ report details how an interlocked group of anonymous donors has been directing the judicial nominations process through media and lobbying campaigns. Many of these campaigns, including the Judicial Crisis Network, have ties to Leo, who has twice taken a formal “leave” from the Federalist Society to advise […] Trump on his Supreme Court nominations, then hopped back into his old post, while boasting that his organization was in firm control of the nominations process.

    The senators’ report also notes that the Judicial Crisis Network “spent $7 million opposing President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. It then spent $10 million more to support the confirmation of […] Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch […] Nobody knows where the money came from. We know only that some people, or maybe even just someone, spent millions to buy some Supreme Court seats. […] the Treasury Department and IRS have just finalized regulations that will excuse some of these politically active tax-exempt groups from having to disclose their high-dollar donors to the IRS, let alone the public.

    […] the big news today is where that conservative network is heading: Their activities now go well beyond dark money political hardball into conspiracy-mongering and election-meddling efforts around the November presidential elections that endanger our democracy.

    One early sign of the turn away from normal politics and toward dirty tricks occurred when conservative legal activist Ed Whelan advanced an unhinged conspiracy theory that used Zillow pages, Facebook, and yearbook photos to claim that it was not Kavanaugh who committed the attack on Christine Blasey Ford, but rather his classmate, whom Whelan named outright. […] The baseless theory injected just enough confusion into the allegations, Kavanaugh was confirmed, and Whelan has paid no price for it.

    Now things have taken a turn from court packing to a side grift in vote suppression. According to new reporting from the Guardian and OpenSecrets, Leo, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, and their dark-money backers are promoting the Orwellian-named “Honest Elections Project” to pressure elections administrators to limit access to the ballot and to undermine trust in elections. […]

    Whitehouse told us, in an email, that “while Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court deliver decisions greenlighting GOP voter suppression, Leo and his network mobilize to tip elections by making it harder for people to vote. […]

    The idea that voter fraud in the United States is widespread has been debunked many times. […] some Republicans have turned to suppressing the vote—by voter roll purges, voter disenfranchisement, voter intimidation, and the closing of polling places—when they fear they cannot win an election fairly. It is also not in dispute that vote by mail is not rife with fraud, that many states already allow for no-excuse vote by mail, and that attempts to stop the franchise by discouraging mail-in voting are simply the newest flavor of vote suppression for the pandemic era. That’s why the president is dementedly tweeting about it, even as he is being debunked in real time. And that’s why Leonard Leo and his confederates are directing untraceable dark money away from the judge-picking business and into the apparently booming vote-suppression business. […]

    It takes an immense amount of cynicism to move from debating conservative jurisprudential theories to taking secret money to buy and sell judicial nominations. But the cynicism required to use that once-vaunted perch to shut down free elections is still breathtaking, even if it should no longer surprise us at all.

  258. says

    Crises may change presidents, but Trump remains the same

    […] If he intended to have any success at all, Trump would have to recognize the enormity of the circumstances, the scope of the crisis, and the need for measured, responsible leadership.

    Presidents “forge their legacies in crises,” a New York Times analysis noted on March 11, and this would serve as a test of Trump’s mettle.

    He’s failed that test spectacularly — in part because [Trump] doesn’t want to adapt to crisis conditions, in part because he doesn’t know how, and in part because he doesn’t even see the need to grow or evolve.

    Before a single American had contracted the virus, Trump’s presidency featured a variety of unmistakable staples. The Republican embraced conspiracy theories, obsessively avoided blame, ignored experts, wildly accused perceived adversaries of “treason,” attacked global institutions, fueled division and social strife, lied uncontrollably, and pursued political vendettas shaped by his preoccupation with grievances.

    And now that 100,000 people in his own country have died as a result of the pandemic, consider the president’s recent antics.

    Embracing conspiracy theories? Check.

    Obsessively avoiding blame? Check.

    Ignoring experts? Check.

    Wildly accusing perceived adversaries of “treason”? Check.

    Attacking global institutions? Check.

    Fueling division and social strife? Check.

    Lying uncontrollably? Check.

    Pursuing political vendettas? Double check.

    See the link to access embedded links to back up the “check” notes above.

    In theory, if Trump’s political allies were abandoning him in droves, and his approval rating slid to Bush-in-’08-like levels, we might see the president looking for ways to tweak his style, at least a little.

    But since Republicans aren’t forcing his hand, the Donald Trump we saw before the crisis is the Donald Trump we’re seeing during the crisis, who will remain the Donald Trump we’ll continue to see so long as he occupies the nation’s highest office.

  259. says

    Barr names yet another very special prosecutor in the ongoing effort to make ‘Obamagate’ happen

    Another day, another U.S. attorney retasked by William Barr to follow up on a nonexistent “crime.”

    This time, Barr has taken John Bash, the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Texas, and given him the task of checking out “unmasking” of people whose identity was concealed in intelligence documents. These claims that members of the Obama White House were inappropriately unmasking citizens who appeared in foreign intelligence have been part of the Republican narrative since the beginning of Donald Trump’s Russia scandal.

    There are only two real problems with this investigation: First, unmasking isn’t a crime. It happens all the time, and in the case of an investigation into cooperation between U.S. citizens and Russian diplomats, it was often critical that the name of the person involved be revealed. Second, the name most often brought up in connection with unmasking—that of former Trump National Security Advisor and recent beneficiary of Barr’s largess, Michael Flynn—was never masked in the first place.

    At this point, Barr has sent so many U.S. attorneys scurrying after whatever bee is currently trapped in Trump’s hair-bonnet that it’s an open question as to whether any are left to deal with actual crimes. […]

  260. blf says

    In Armenia, US government is funding website spreading Covid-19 disinformation:

    State Department-backed Armenian project to promote democracy instead features false information

    The US government is funding a website in Armenia which is spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, including warnings that Armenians ought to refuse future vaccine programmes.

    The website, Medmedia.am, was launched with the help of a US State Department grant meant to promote democracy, but instead has been used to promote false information about Covid-19, according to an investigation by the British news website openDemocracy.

    Among Medmedia’s most popular articles are pieces that have called Covid-19 a fake pandemic and falsely reported that a morgue offered to pay hundreds of dollars to a dead patient’s family if they claimed the death had been caused by the coronavirus.

    The grant was awarded by the State Department to a group called the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, which launched the website last year and is led by a controversial doctor called Gevorg Grigoryan.

    He has been known for his strong criticism of the government’s health ministry and its vaccine programmes, and has a history of anti-LGBT statements, including remarks posted on Facebook in 2014 in which he called for gay people to be burned.

    This quack is presumably auditioning for a job in hair furor’s dalekocrazy.

    [… the quack quacks…]

    Armenia has reported about 7,100 coronavirus cases and a rising rate of infections. The country has also grappled with a drop in childhood vaccine rates, which the health minister, Arsen Torosyan, has blamed on anti-vaccine propaganda.

    [… T]he openDemocracy investigation found that, while Medmedia had published some news articles, most of its opinion pieces were republished Facebook posts that spread false information.

    […]

    Asked specifically about the articles, he [the quack] said that he didn’t share their opinions but said they would not be taken down. It’s not fake news, he said. It’s the opinion of a specialist, the opinion of a doctor, of the head of an NGO. It’s an opinion. So it’s not fake news.

    Sounds like the sort of eejit who’d claim being fact-checked is an interference with freezing peaches.

    […]
    Grigoryan said his past anti-LGBT statements, including one that said he would always fight against gays, had been misinterpreted and were prompted by specific cases of anti-social behaviour. Asked about a Facebook post from 2014 in which he wrote that gays should be burnt and in a public place, he said that the post was a reference to the film Pulp Fiction and was meant as a joke.

    Aw yes, the retrospective admittance of attempting to be a standup comedian from one’s mother’s house’s basement. Very convincing.

  261. blf says

    I know nothing at all about this Festival (and in fact, am not certain I’ve ever even heard of it below), but the clearly not-manipulated image in this story is brilliant, The show will go on: Paris Fringe theatre festival goes online.

    Sort-of related, France is moving into its 2nd Phase of “deconfinement”, with the 100km travel restriction being lifted, the re-opening of restaurants, bars, and cafes (with sensible restrictions), and so on. (I’m a bit uncertain on the details, as the announcement was just made — which I missed, as I got confused and though today was Wednesday!)

  262. blf says

    Freeze peach! Freeze peach!! Surprising no-one, hair furor really doesn’t like being criticised / mocked, Trump campaign attempts to remove satirical cartoon from online retailer:

    Cartoonist Nick Anderson calls president [sic] ‘adolescent’ after work parodying bleach-injection claim sparked a legal manoeuvre

    The Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Nick Anderson has described Donald Trump as an “adolescent wannabe authoritarian”, after the US president’s [sic] re-election campaign failed to pull one of Anderson’s cartoons mocking Trump’s inaccurate suggestion that injecting disinfectant could protect against Covid-19.

    Anderson put his cartoon The Trump Cult up for sale on the online retailer Redbubble this month. The illustration shows Trump with supporters in Maga hats, serving them a drink that has been labeled “Kool-Aid”, then “Chloroquine” and finally “Clorox”, a US bleach brand. […]

    See image at the link.

    Redbubble pulled Anderson’s illustration from sale following a trademark infringement claim made by Trump’s campaign organisation […]. Writing on the Daily Kos, Anderson said that he believed the claim was made due to his depiction of Maga hats, and described the situation as “absurd”.

    “We live in a strange time when the #POTUS can falsely accuse someone of murder with impunity (violating @Twitter’s terms of service), while at the same time bully a private business into removing content it doesn’t like,” Anderson added on Twitter.

    The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and other free speech organisations subsequently got involved, sending a group letter to Redbubble that accused Trump’s campaign of having “misused Redbubble’s reporting mechanism to suppress protected political expression in the form of parody, critique, and satire”, and arguing that the work and those who publish it are protected by the first amendment.

    Redbubble reinstated Anderson’s cartoon this week, saying that it strives “to respect IP rights and freedom of speech, but we sometimes make mistakes, as we did here […].”

    In a statement, Anderson praised Redbubble for recognising the error, but said there were some “troubling issues” raised by the affair, including that the cartoon was removed less than 24 hours after he posted it, before he had received a single order.

    “I doubt anyone had even seen it yet on the site,” he said. “This reveals that the Trump campaign has a system in place, trawling for material they find objectionable. […]”

    He added: “It must be pointed out: the president [sic] of the United States is a hypocrite who complains about the violation of his free speech on Twitter, then tries to actively suppress the free speech of others. These are actions of an adolescent wannabe-authoritarian.”

    […]

  263. says

    blf @326, that’s a good cartoon. I’m glad to see that it was reinstated.

    Trump has too much “bully wins most of the time” success.

    Trump promotes offensive content all the time:

    Sometimes, Donald Trump publishes his own offensive online content. And once in a while, he promotes others’ offensive online content.

    If there was ever a tweet tailor-made for promotion by […] Trump, it might be this one: A video by an account called “Cowboys for Trump” in which the speaker begins by saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” The speaker quickly qualifies that he’s not speaking literally. At precisely midnight, the president felt this was the kind of message that people needed to see. “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” he said in a retweet.

    As always, context matters. In this case, the president was promoting a video featuring Couy Griffin, who leads a group called Cowboys for Trump, who was filmed making the comments at a New Mexico church on May 17. […]Griffin was at the church “to defy a public safety order pertaining to the coronavirus.”

    Nevertheless, the president’s supporter added that he wasn’t calling for Democrats’ death in a “physical” sense, but rather, in a “political sense.” Griffin nevertheless added in a Daily Beast interview that he believes some Democratic governors may be guilty of treason, the punishment for which is deadly.

    “You get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope,” Griffin said.

    Asked about far-right protestors and their willingness to consider violence in response to coronavirus-related restrictions, the Cowboys for Trump leader added, “I’ll tell you what, partner, as far as I’m concerned, there’s not an option that’s not on the table.”

    It’s against this backdrop that the president decided to promote this guy’s comments, complete with the “only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” remark. […]

    A White House spokesperson told TPM in a statement that Trump and his administration “condemn violence in all forms as we have stated many times.” [bullshit]

    I wish that were entirely true, but whether the White House is prepared to acknowledge this or not, the president has made comments about political violence that are hard to forget.

    In June 2017, after Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that the president has never “promoted or encouraged violence,” the Washington Post noted that the claim was “laughable,” adding, “Even if you don’t believe Trump has technically incited violence (which he has been sued for), he clearly nodded toward violence at his campaign rallies. Sometimes it was veiled; other times it was unmistakable. Sometimes he was talking about self-defense, but it was clear he was advocating for a ‘form of violence.'”

    There are plenty of examples to bolster the point. As regular readers may recall, in late 2018, Trump publicly celebrated a Republican congressman for his unprovoked violence toward a journalist. What’s more, during his time as a candidate, Trump frequently seemed to encourage violence toward protesters who disrupted his rallies.

    With this in mind, when the president directs the public to a video saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” it’s tough to shrug it off as meaningless.

    Link

  264. says

    Trump retweetied a claim from The Federalist that masks aren’t about health but “social control,” and that Joe Biden wearing a mask endorses “slavery.”

  265. says

    Minneapolis Banned Warrior-Style Police Training. Its Police Union Kept Offering It Anyway.

    The union’s resistance to reform is coming under renewed scrutiny after the killing of George Floyd.

    […] While an investigation is underway over the use of the chokehold in Floyd’s death, it’s worth taking a look at the “warrior-style” police training that for years had been popular with the city’s top police union.

    […] the training, as we reported in 2017, generally espouses a “killology” vision of law enforcement that’s frequently likened to “fear porn.” Experts say the training, which has been linked to high profile police-related killings around the country, including Philando Castille’s 2016 shooting death, also in Minnesota, often runs the risk of the use of unnecessary, and sometimes, fatal force:

    This approach to policing is outdated and ineffective, says Stoughton, and, “some of it is dangerously wrong.” Samuel Walker, a criminal-justice professor and expert on police accountability, says the “Bulletproof Warrior” approach is “okay for Green Berets but unacceptable for domestic policing. The best police chiefs in the country don’t want anything to do with this.”

    Citing the “killology” mentality, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey ultimately banned the training last year but the move infuriated Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll. Shortly after the decision was announced, Kroll called the ban illegal and said that the union would continue to make the training available to any interested officers. “It’s not about killing, it’s about surviving,” Kroll said at the time. […]

    “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable,” Kroll said while speaking at a Trump rally in October. “The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around…he decided to start let cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of on us.”

  266. says

    From Joe Biden:

    My fellow Americans, there are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they’re forever fixed in each of our hearts. Our shared grief today is one of those moments .100,000 lives have now been lost to this virus here in the United States alone, each one leaving behind a family that will never again be whole.

    I think I know what you’re feeling. You feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. It’s suffocating. Your heart is broken. There’s nothing but a feeling of emptiness right now. For most of you, you weren’t able to be there when you lost your beloved family member or best friend. For most of you, you were unable to be there when they died alone.

    With the pain, the anger, and the frustration you’ll wonder whether or not you’ll ever be able to get anywhere from here. It’s made all the worse by knowing that this is a fateful milestone we should have never reached. It could have been avoided according to a study done by Columbia University, if the administration had acted just one week earlier to implement social distancing and do what it had to do. Just one week sooner as many as 36,000 of these deaths might have been averted.

    To all of you who are hurting so badly, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know there’s nothing I or anyone else can say or do to dull the sharpness of the pain you feel right now. But I can promise you from experience, the day will come when the memory of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes. My prayer for all of you is that they will come sooner rather than later. But I promise you it will come, and when it does you know you can make it.

    God bless each and every one of you and the blessed memory of the one you lost. This nation grieves with you. Take some solace from the fact that we all grieve with you.

  267. says

    Does Trump Want Iran to Try to Go Nuclear?

    Despite a pandemic, a looming cold war with China, and the harshest economic crisis since the Great Depression, […] Trump still has room on his plate for provoking a war with Iran.

    That is the only plausible interpretation of his decision, reported by the Washington Post this week, to end the sanction waivers that allow Russian, Chinese, and European companies to do work at Iranian nuclear sites.

    The odd thing about this decision is that those companies were helping to prevent Iran from reviving its nuclear program. With the waivers removed, the brakes will be lifted, and Iran is likely once again to enrich uranium at levels approaching what’s needed to build bombs. The Post quotes Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, as saying, “The Trump administration is shooting itself in the foot with this move.”

    This would be true if Trump’s prime motive in dealing with Iran were to block it from going nuclear. But the move makes perfect sense if his larger aims are to put the final nail in the coffin of the Iran nuclear deal, which his nemesis, Barack Obama, negotiated in 2015—and to crush the Iranian regime, in part by forcing it to get back in the nuclear business, which would provide an excuse for Trump to bomb its facilities and perhaps other targets too.

    The 2015 accord—which was signed by the U.S., Iran, and five other countries, then codified into a U.N. resolution—required Iran to dismantle nearly all of its nuclear infrastructure, in exchange for which the other countries would lift most of their economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. (Some sanctions, penalizing Iran for its ballistic missiles and its support of terrorists, would remain.) When Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 (against the advice of his top advisers at the time), he reimposed the sanctions—then, one year later, imposed “secondary sanctions” against other countries that did business with Iran.

    However, even Trump’s most hawkish advisers on the subject realized that not all business with Iran should be canceled or penalized. One aspect of the 2015 deal called for Russia to take away spent fuel from Iranian reactors and return it in a form that could not be used to make bombs. Another article allowed Iran to import uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent purity, which was required for operations at the Tehran Research Reactor. Still another clause allowed other countries to help modify Iran’s Arak heavy-water research reactor so it’s unable to produce plutonium, another path to atomic weapons. If those activities were halted, Iran would have no choice but to enrich its own uranium to 20 percent or to process plutonium. A foreign presence at the nuclear sites also helps ensure that Iran is abiding by the deal—supplementing the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. […]

    These are the waivers that Trump has now decided to cancel. After a 60-day period, allowing the foreign companies to wind down their programs, the United States will apply sanctions if they continue to help Iran—even though they’re stopping Iran from going nuclear.

    […] Pompeo has long been an insistent advocate of regime change in Tehran, and he has shrewdly pushed Trump in that direction at key moments. […]

    The 2015 deal barred Iran from enriching uranium at levels above 3.67 percent over the subsequent 15 years. Enrichment below this level—much too low to produce an A-bomb—is permitted not only by the deal but also by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran signed long ago. Weapons-grade uranium requires enrichment of 90 percent purity. But once enrichment reaches 20 percent, it doesn’t take much effort or time to get to 90.

    If the Iranians start enriching uranium to 20 percent, or start undoing the modifications at the Akar heavy-water reactor, Pompeo will no doubt sound the alarm that they are on the verge of becoming a nuclear-armed state—and push for action to prevent that. He will make this push with no support from European or Asian allies and much bitterness from his own colleagues within the Trump administration. The next move would be up to Trump, who may have to decide between bombing Iran or letting Iran approach the verge of going nuclear. If he faces this dilemma, it will be the result of his own decisions—first, to pull out of the deal; second, to lift the sanction waivers. It’s not too late now to reconsider the latter—for his own good, as well as for the rest of us.

  268. says

    The Trump Administration initially dispensed a scarce covid-19 drug to some hospitals that didn’t need it.

    Washington Post link

    The Trump administration mishandled the initial distribution of the only approved coronavirus medication, delaying treatment to some critically ill patients with covid-19 […]

    The first tranche of 607,000 vials of the antiviral medication remdesivir, donated to the government by drugmaker Gilead Sciences, was distributed in early May — in some cases to the wrong hospitals, to hospitals with no intensive care units and therefore no eligible patients, and to facilities without the needed refrigeration to store it, […]

    Demand for remdesivir soared after the National Institutes of Health announced on April 29 that a clinical trial had shown that hospitalized patients with advanced covid-19 who received the experimental drug recovered faster than similar patients who received a placebo. Two days later, the Food and Drug Administration, citing those results, approved the drug to treat severely ill patients. […]

    “We think the earlier you get it when you’re critically ill, the more likely it is to be beneficial, so delays could end up making the difference between whether the drug is effective or not,” said Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and a practicing physician. “The fact that we’d be so incompetent in our distribution of this that we’d … inefficiently distribute the one therapy we have is stunning. How can we make that mistake? What are you working on that’s more important than this?”

    The government’s initial distribution in the first week of May was so problematic that White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx shared fallout from state health and hospital officials with senior staffers on the task force […]

    The missteps also raised concerns about how the government might handle the distribution of vaccines, which are likely to be in even greater demand when they become available. […]

  269. blf says

    Hair furor, still obviously peeved two (just two!) of his lies were fact-checked, has signed an executive order about freezing peaches, from the Grauniad’s current US pandemic / politics live blog:

    Trump signs social media executive order

    […]

    The president [sic], appearing alongside attorney general William Barr, said the executive order would look to modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants liability protections to social media companies.

    […]

    However, experts have already said Section 230 can likely only be amended by Congress, leaving Trump’s executive order very vulnerable to a legal challenge.

    Later (quoted in full):

    As he prepared to sign his social media executive order, Trump complained about Twitter fact-checking two of his inaccurate tweets, calling the effort political activism.

    We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers, Trump said, slamming social media companies as a monopoly.

    When asked why he had not deleted his Twitter account if he thinks the platform is biased, Trump blamed the media.

    If we had fair press in this country I would do that in a heartbeat, Trump said.

    And later:

    Before signing his social media executive order, Trump once again criticized states’ efforts to expand vote by mail.

    […]

    Repeating a false claim that was fact-checked by Twitter, Trump said, Anybody in California that’s breathing gets a ballot. When a reporter tried to correct the president, Trump cut him off, saying, I’m not finished.

    In reality, California governor Gavin Newsom has only asked local officials to mail ballots to registered voters.

    When a reporter noted this, Trump replied, Oh really? So when he sends out 28 million ballots and they’re in all the mailboxes and kids go and they raid the mailboxes and they hand them to people that are signing the ballots … you don’t think that happens? There is no evidence that this is happening.

    Meanwhile, fracebork’s “founder Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News on Thursday that the company should step away from regulating online speech.”, Zuckerberg says Facebook won’t be ‘arbiters of truth’ after Trump threat:

    […]
    Twitter slapped a factcheck link on two Trump tweets this week in which the president spread lies about the integrity of mail-in voting. Trump accused Twitter of censorship — in a tweet […].

    In his Fox News interview, Zuckerberg appeared to move to head off the possibility. Since its platform was hijacked by foreign propaganda campaigns and harvested for private data by malicious actors during the 2016 election season, the company has stepped up government lobbying campaigns in Washington, Britain and worldwide.

    To assist the effort, Zuckerberg hired and promoted Joel Kaplan, a Republican operative in Washington, and Nicholas Clegg, Britain’s former deputy prime minister, the New York Times reported.

    Trump […] has not criticized Facebook for months. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, credited a targeted advertising campaign on Facebook as a crucial tool in Trump’s 2016 win [sic]. The 2020 Trump campaign is reprising the effort.

    […]

    And pointing out the obvious, Donald Trump’s move against Twitter factchecking could backfire: “[… T]he regulation could backfire, at least in terms of creating the internet Trump desires. By barring social media companies from using the nuanced forms of moderation they currently employ, the executive order could force them to resort to heavy-handed actions: deleting posts, or blocking users, rather than simply factchecking or reducing the reach of the worst material.” (And other criticisms of hair furor’s ideas about freezing peaches.)

  270. blf says

    Steve Bell in the Grauniad on hair furor’s sulking about being fact-checked, Donald Trump’s social media threat (cartoon).

    Gruniad editorial, Covid-19 and cults of strength: the weakest response:

    Trump, Bolsonaro and Putin [ and Johnson –blf] have taken a cynical political gamble with the lives of citizens

    […] Trump brushed aside warnings of the approaching crisis, failed to prepare his country and has pushed for reopening in his desperation to see some improvement in economic conditions ahead of November’s elections. Third in the tally of confirmed cases is Russia, where Vladimir Putin announced an end to the lockdown he imposed at the end of March even as infections hit a record high. More than 375,000 have now tested positive, though the death toll remains strikingly — many say suspiciously — low. Though officials claim the rate of infections has begun to slow, the polls suggest that the Russian president, like Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro, is now paying a political price.

    India is further behind, with around 150,000 cases, but catching up fast. The disastrous failure of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, to address the needs of millions of migrant workers when imposing lockdown created a humanitarian crisis and helped to facilitate the disease’s spread through the country. Now he is easing restrictions without introducing other effective measures such as test and trace, effectively telling Indians that they must just accept the risk.

    Last week, the World Health Organization noted that these four countries accounted for two-thirds of all new cases. Instead of prioritising saving lives while finding ways to ameliorate the suffering caused by lockdowns, leaders have made the same cynical gamble: taking the shortest route to reopening their economies, blaming anyone more cautious for the lost jobs and hungry households – and anyone convenient for the death toll resulting from their own inaction.

    Abandoned by their national leaders, many states, cities, businesses and institutions have taken matters into their own hands to reduce the spread of the disease. So have individuals and communities. […]

    […] These men have sold a cult of strength that mocks and dismisses the weak, yet are too feeble to shoulder the burden of responsibility. They use their power to protect not their countries but themselves. Will they ultimately pay, as their people have?

    I find it odd the Grauniad never mentioned teh NKofE nor Johnson — albeit it’s refreshing they almost completely avoided using the misleading title “President” for any of those they did mention — since I can’t see any substantive difference between NKofE’s / Johnson’s actions (and, mostly, inactions) and those of the others. And, the NKofE currently has, according to John Hopkins, the second highest death total and fourth highest confirmed cases total.

    And suggesting the perhaps obvious, Why Twitter should ban Donald Trump:

    Trump has used and abused the platform for long enough. And his latest executive order is just another distraction

    The president’s [sic] executive order on social media will kick off a heated debate over free