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‘Do it now’: Lindsey Graham asks older judges to retire before November — when GOP could get routed
Published May 28, 2020
By Brad Reed

With the 2020 presidential election nearly five months away, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is calling on older conservative judges to retire en masse as his party faces the possibility of getting routed in the fall.

As the Washington Post reports, Graham told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that now is the time for older judges to step down to ensure that they are replaced by Senate Republicans.

“So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status, now would be a good time to do that, if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center,” Graham said.

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Trump family dealt a legal blow as ‘pyramid scheme’ lawsuit is set to play out in public
Published 1 min ago on May 19, 2020By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

One of the many lawsuits that the Trump Organization and members of the Trump family have faced allegations that they engaged in an illegal pyramid scheme. Attorneys for the company have tried to get the class action lawsuit placed on hold, but Judge Lorna G. Schofield — a federal judge in New York — has refused to stay the case.

In Law & Crime, reporters Matt Naham and Aaron Keller explain, “The class action plaintiffs allege that the Trump family business promoted a multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme known as ACN Opportunity, LLC. ACN, the plaintiffs said, was a ‘get-rich-quick scheme’ that relied on Trump and his family (conning) each of these victims into giving up hundreds or thousands of dollars,’ in violation of various state laws.”

Members of the Trump family named in the lawsuit include President Donald Trump and three of his children: Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump and White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump.

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Florida removes data scientist who refused to manipulate COVID-19 numbers to support reopening
Published 3 hours ago on May 19, 2020By Travis Gettys

The architect and manager of Florida’s coronavirus dashboard says she has been removed from her post because she refused to manipulate data.

The online dashboard has been a valuable resource for researchers, reporters and the public to access and review COVID-19 cases, testing and death data, and had won wide praise for its transparency and accessibility, reported Florida Today.

However, the site has crashed and gone offline in recent weeks, data has disappeared without explanation — and Rebekah Jones, who led a team of Florida Department of Health data scientists and public health officers to set up the site, announced her removal as of May 5.

“I understand, appreciate, and even share your concern about all the dramatic changes that have occurred and those that are yet to come,” Jones wrote her colleagues in an email.

As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months,” she added. “After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.”

Jones confirmed to WPEC-TV that she was removed because she was ordered to censor some data, but she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

The state’s Department of Health declined to comment, but researchers blasted the move as an example of government censorship.

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Politics / Obama tweets 'vote' after Trump promotes 'Obamagate'
« on: May 15, 2020, 12:12:08 AM »
Obama tweets 'vote' after Trump promotes 'Obamagate'
Marina Pitofsky
1 hr ago

Former President Obama had a simple message for the public on Thursday after his successor went after him on social media: Vote.

Obama's one-word tweet came after President Trump blasted him in a series of messages on Twitter, promoting the term "Obamagate" and demanding that Senate Republicans call on the former president to testify on Capitol Hill.

The former president shared similar messages on Facebook and Instagram, calling on supporters to "vote."

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As Coronavirus Overruns Russia, Doctors Are Dying on the Front Lines
Anton Troianovski
1 hr ago

MOSCOW — Dr. Rimma Kamalova says her hospital’s leadership ignored her warnings about an unexplained pneumonia outbreak back in March. She kept working.

The hospital admitted more than 50 people for planned procedures the day that the staff learned a deceased patient had tested positive for the coronavirus, records show. She kept working

The hospital was ordered quarantined, with Dr. Kamalova and more than 1,200 other staff members and patients trapped inside. Days later, she grew feverish, but she kept working, relying on her own intravenous line for relief.

“Give yourself a drip, get up, treat, lie down, give yourself another drip, get up, treat,” Dr. Kamalova, head of the rheumatology department at Kuvatova Republican Clinical Hospital in the south-central Russian city of Ufa, said in a telephone interview. “You had no choice.”

Russia is hailing its medical workers as heroes, their photographs plastered on billboards and their stories glamorized on state TV. But as the country develops into one of the global epicenters of the disease, those workers are suffering astonishing levels of infection and death in their ranks.

And as the number of reported coronavirus cases in Russia grows, many fear the worst is yet to come.

A website memorializing health care workers who have died during the pandemic lists more than 180 doctors, nurses, paramedics and others.

At one top Moscow hospital, a department head said that 75 percent of the department’s staff was sick. In St. Petersburg, 1,465 health care workers have caught the virus, the governor said on Wednesday, accounting for more than one in six of the city’s total cases.

Russia’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, said on Wednesday that 400 Russian hospitals had suffered outbreaks of the coronavirus.

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General Discussion Forum / How Pandemics End
« on: May 14, 2020, 11:48:17 PM »
How Pandemics End

An infectious outbreak can conclude in more ways than one, historians say. But for whom does it end, and who gets to decide?

By Gina Kolata

    Published May 10, 2020
    Updated May 13, 2020

When will the Covid-19 pandemic end? And how?

According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.

“When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins.

In other words, an end can occur not because a disease has been vanquished but because people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease. Allan Brandt, a Harvard historian, said something similar was happening with Covid-19: “As we have seen in the debate about opening the economy, many questions about the so-called end are determined not by medical and public health data but by sociopolitical processes.”

Endings “are very, very messy,” said Dora Vargha, a historian at the University of Exeter
. “Looking back, we have a weak narrative. For whom does the epidemic end, and who gets to say?”


In the autumn of 1918, Victor Vaughan, a prominent doctor, was dispatched to Camp Devens near Boston to report on a flu that was raging there. He saw “hundreds of stalwart young men in the uniform of their country, coming into the wards of the hospital in groups of ten or more,” he wrote. “They are placed on the cots until every bed is full, yet others crowd in. Their faces soon wear a bluish cast, a distressing cough brings up blood stained sputum. In the morning the dead bodies are stacked up in the morgue like cord wood.”

The virus, he wrote, “demonstrated the inferiority of human inventions in the destruction of human life.”

After sweeping through the world, that flu faded away, evolving into a variant of the more benign flu that comes around every year.

“Maybe it was like a fire that, having burned the available and easily accessible wood, burns down,” Dr. Snowden said.

It ended socially, too. World War I was over; people were ready for a fresh start, a new era, and eager to put the nightmare of disease and war behind them. Until recently, the 1918 flu was largely forgotten.

Other flu pandemics followed, none so bad but all nonetheless sobering. In the Hong Kong flu of 1968, one million people died worldwide, including 100,000 in the United States, mostly people older than 65. That virus still circulates as a seasonal flu, and its initial path of destruction — and the fear that went with it — is rarely recalled.

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McConnell: U.S. Republicans open to future possible coronavirus relief bill
4 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday he is open to another relief bill to help alleviate economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, and is talking to members of President Donald Trump's administration about possible legislation.

The top Republican in the U.S. Congress, though, declined to say in an interview with Fox News when his party might begin negotiating another stimulus bill and said their "red line" is including liability protection for companies and other institutions.

"We're all talking about this. And I talked to the Secretary of the Treasury about it yesterday, to the president's chief of staff and to the President," he said. "We all believe another bill is probably going to be necessary."

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US medical mask maker: 'I've been ignored for so long'
By Caroline Kelly, Amanda Watts and Cat Gloria, CNN
3 hrs ago

An executive for a US mask producer bemoaned, in heated and emotional testimony Thursday to Congress, how his warnings of insufficient domestic medical mask production had been ignored by the federal government for years until the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mike Bowen, the vice president of the Texas-based medical supply company Prestige Ameritech, said the US dependence on foreign masks has been a national security issue for years.

Bowen described conversations over the past 13 years in which he had offered manufacturing deals to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that included "mak(ing) sure that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration always has masks," adding that "I couldn't get anybody interested in it."

"Forgive me for being angry; I'm angry because I've done this for so, so long," Bowen said, appearing to fight back tears. "And I've been ignored for so long. And I apologize."

"Well, Mr. Bowen, I don't think you need to apologize," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat who's the chairwoman of the committee, who called his testimony "some of the most important testimony that Congress could be hearing."

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White House quietly sets up panel for possible Biden transition
Mike Memoli and Carol E. Lee
9 hrs ago

WASHINGTON — Mark Meadows will helm the White House panel, required by law, to begin planning for a possible transition of power to a new Democratic administration, the Trump administration informed lawmakers on Wednesday.

A memo to House and Senate committee leaders from a representative in the General Services Administration was the first public acknowledgment by any administration official that the White House was fully complying with legal deadlines, only recently established, to ensure a smooth transfer of power in the executive branch.

Meadows, the new White House chief of staff and a former North Carolina congressman, will serve as chair of the White House Transition Coordinating Council. Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, will serve as vice chair.

The panel will also include Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and other West Wing officials. There will also be a “transition representative for each eligible candidate” — this is likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.

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McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan

Jordain Carney
2 hrs ago

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday walked back comments made earlier this week, where he said the Obama administration didn't leave behind a "game plan" for a pandemic.

McConnell, asked about his comments during a Fox News interview, said that "I was wrong."

"They did leave behind a plan. I clearly made a mistake in that regard," he said.

"As to whether or not the plan was followed and who is the critic and all the rest, I don't have any observation about that because I don't know enough about the details of that ... to comment on it in any detail," he added.

McConnell's comments come after he appeared to blame the Obama administration for not leaving guidelines behind for the Trump White House during the transition in 2017. President Trump and his allies have made similar remarks.

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‘Eye-popping’ new Senate polls ‘imply a Democratic wave of epic proportions’: elections analyst

Although control of the Senate is widely seen as a 50-50 tossup, FiveThirtyEight elections analyst Nathaniel Rakich points to a series of new polls showing Democrats in very strong position to take over the chamber.

In particular, Rakich singles out new polls from Colorado, North Carolina, and Montana to argue that Democrats seem to have gained the upper hand in the battle for the Senate.

“Some recent Senate polls have been so eye-popping that we’re compelled to write about them — if only to sound a note of caution,” he writes. “Those polls imply a Democratic wave of truly epic proportions.”

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Republicans Tried To Sneak Measure Into Bill Allowing Employers To Stop Paying Into Social Security For Rest Of The Year

Republicans are always trying to screw the American people. Always.

Stephen D. Foster Jr.   4 seconds ago

The last thing our country’s most vulnerable citizens need right now is to worry about the solvency of the Social Security trust fund, but Senate Republicans added a provision within the stimulus bill that would fundamentally weaken it.

President Donald Trump has been obsessed with suspending the payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, a move that would harm both programs which millions of Americans rely on, especially the disabled and retirees.

That particular idea seemed to die down after much criticism and outrage. But Senate Republicans used the phase three stimulus bill to include a sinister provision allowing employers to forgo paying into Social Security for the rest of 2020.

According to Common Dreams:

Section 2302 of the nearly 900-page legislation would let companies defer until next year their payment of the employer payroll tax, one of the primary funding mechanisms for Social Security. The bill would require that companies pay 50% of their owed 2020 payroll taxes by December 31, 2021.”

This is particularly alarming because weakening the trust fund would give Republicans an excuse to call for ending the program, especially if they retain the Senate and the White House after the election.

The Democrats are walking right into the trap,” Social Security Works deputy director Michael Phelan warned. “If Trump and Republicans retain power after November’s elections, they will make sure that corporations never repay Social Security. Then, Republicans will use the reduced trust fund as an excuse to destroy our Social Security system. The only way to escape this trap is to avoid stepping into it in the first place. That’s why the House must remove the cut to Social Security’s dedicated funding before this bill passes.”

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare CEO Max Richtman condemned the provision and explained why it is dangerous.

“Social Security is an earned benefit fully funded by the contributions of workers throughout their working lives,” he wrote. “A payroll tax suspension or deferral chips away at that fundamental idea, making it easier each time it is enacted to turn to it again to meet some future crisis, until the payroll tax is permanently eliminated.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic majority must reverse this attack on Social Security. Allowing corporations to get away with not paying into Social Security while they receive trillions in bailout money from taxpayers is a double robbery.[/size] Getting help to Americans is important but giving corporations another tax cut—and one that would destroy Social Security in the process no less—is morally repugnant and proves that Republicans don’t care about the American people.

Politics / Trump losing badly to Biden with one key voter group
« on: May 12, 2020, 08:11:35 PM »
Trump losing badly to Biden with one key voter group

Published 2 hours ago on May 12, 2020
By Travis Gettys

President Donald Trump is losing badly to Joe Biden in one key voting block who helped sweep him to an unlikely victory in 2016.

Voters who hated both Trump and Hillary Clinton backed the former reality TV host over the former secretary of state, but this time the “haters” hate the former vice president much less than the incumbent president, reported Politico.

“People like [to] choose the devil they don’t know,” said Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Republican consultant.

Nicholas described Clinton, who had served under President Barack Obama and had also been first lady and a U.S. senator, as something as an incumbent four years ago.

“What’s different in 2020?” Nicholas said. “He’s the incumbent. So, he’s the devil you know … That’s why those numbers have flipped so precipitously from ’16 to ’20, and there’s nothing inherent you can do about that, because Trump is the incumbent.”

In 2016, Trump outperformed Clinton by about 17 points among the nearly 20 percent of voters who disliked both candidates, according to exit polls, but polls now show that same group prefers Biden by more than 40 percent.

“It’s a huge difference,” said Patrick Murray, who oversees the Monmouth poll. “That’s a group that if you don’t like either one of them, you will vote against the status quo. And in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton represented more of the status quo than Trump did. In this current election, the status quo is Donald Trump.”

Trump’s weakness among those voters worries Republicans, who must find a way to make Biden less likable than the deeply unpopular president, but the former vice president and longtime senator goes into the election much more popular than Clinton did.

“You disqualify Biden, and then there’s so many factors outside of his control,” said GOP strategist Greg McNeilly. “If the country is kind of the way we started the year … you get back to that, with Biden’s negatives up high, [Trump] can pull this off.”

But that strategy still carries risk during a global pandemic that has destroyed the economy.

“If you run Biden’s negatives up and everybody’s super dour on the country,” McNeilly added, “they’re still going to be willing to try something new.”

Pelosi Unveils $3T Coronavirus Aid Package...

25 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more than $3 trillion coronavirus aid package Tuesday, providing nearly $1 trillion in aid for states, cities and local governments, aid to essential workers, and a new round of cash payments to individuals.

The House is expected to vote on the package as soon as Friday, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no “urgency” to act on new legislation.

The so-called Heroes Act would provide nearly $1 trillion for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs and additional $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, according a summary.

It will offer a fresh round of $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, increased to up to $6,000 per household, and launches a $175 billion housing assistance fund to help pay rents and mortgages. There is $75 billion more for virus testing.

It would continue, through January, the $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits. It adds a 15% increase for food stamps and new help for paying employer-backed health coverage. For businesses, there’s an employee retention tax credit.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bill “will be ready” to call lawmakers back to Washington for the vote.

But the legislation is heading straight into a Senate roadblock. Senate Republicans are not planning to vote on any new relief until June, after a Memorial Day recess.

President Donald Trump has already signed into law nearly $3 trillion in aid approved by Congress.

The package extends some provisions from previous aid packages, and adds new ones.

There are other new resources, including for the U.S. Postal Service, the 2020 Census and the November election. The bill also provides $3.6 billion to help local officials prepare for the challenges of holding elections during the pandemic.

The popular Payroll Protection Program, which has been boosted in past bills, would see another $10 billion to ensure under-served businesses and nonprofit organizations have access to grants through a disaster loan program.

As states weigh the health risks of re-opening, McConnell said the nation needs to “regroup and find a more sustainable middle ground between total lockdown and total normalcy.”

The Republican leader on Tuesday called the emerging Democratic bill a “big laundry list of pet priorities.”

“To those who would suggest a pause, I would say the hunger doesn’t take a pause, the rent doesn’t take a pause,” Pelosi said late Monday on MSNBC. “We have a big need. It’s monumental.”

One provision holding up the package is how best to funnel direct cash to households. A proposal from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, could be crucial to winning votes from the more liberal lawmakers. It would provide three-months of guaranteed paychecks for those making less than $100,000 a year.

Hoyer said the Jayapal proposal remains “under consideration.”

But Senate Republicans are in no rush to spend what could be trillions more on aid.

“I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately,” McConnell told reporters Monday at the Capitol.

McConnell said he has been in close contact with the White House, assessing the aid Congress has already approved in response to the virus outbreak and next steps.

Trump is expected to meet Tuesday with a group of Senate Republicans. “If we decide to go forward, we’ll go forward together,” McConnell said. His priority is to ensure any new package includes liability protections for health care providers and businesses that are reopening.

Senate Republicans are not expected to act on any further aid until after the Memorial Day recess, according to a senior Republican aide unauthorized to discuss the planning and granted anonymity.

The Senate is set to recess at the end of next week for a previously scheduled break, with senators scheduled to return June 1.

The Senate recently reopened its side of the Capitol while the House remains largely shuttered due the the health concerns.

Senators have been in session since last week, voting on Trump’s nominees for judicial and executive branch positions and other issues. The Senate majority, the 53-member Senate Republican conference, is meeting for its regular luncheons most days, spread out three to a table for social distance. Democrats are convening by phone. Many senators, but not all, are wearing masks.

At least a dozen Capitol police officers and other staff have tested positive for the virus, and at least one senator, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, is in isolation at home after exposure from a staff member who tested positive. Other lawmakers have cycled in and out of quarantine.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned that if Trump and congressional Republicans “slow walk” more aid they will be repeating President Herbert Hoover’s “tepid” response to the Great Depression.

“It should be big and it should be bold,” Schumer said Monday.

Associated Press writer Nick Riccardi in Denver, Colo., contributed to this report.

Trump is getting a failing grade on Ronald Reagan’s key test for re-election

When Ronald Reagan ran against President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, the country was in turmoil. The unemployment rate was high, and so was inflation. The Iran hostage crisis had dominated the news, and Carter couldn’t crack it. So when Reagan took to the debate stage a week ahead of the vote, he delivered a devastating argument for his candidacy that may well have propelled him to victory:

Next Tuesday is Election Day. Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don’t agree, if you don’t think that this course that we’ve been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.

The incisive attack wasn’t necessarily fair. Countries can experience any range of shocks and tragedies that are no fault of the president at the time. And Reagan’s economic policies were not the panacea he claimed them to be. But it was an impeccable volley in a political debate, and politicians have to play the hands they are dealt. Reagan took the opportunity to aggressively skewer his opponent, and the phrase “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” has become a perennial cliche of re-election politics.

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