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TBR News April 16, 2020

Apr 16 2020

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. April 16, 2020: Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose.

Comment from April 16, 2020: ” Whenever an unexpected event occurs, trust me, loony theories rush out from the back wards like ants at a picnic.
I do not believe one word of the new story that the corona virus ‘escaped from a Chinese virus lab.’.
Bird flu, swine flu, bat flu, goat flu, is very, very common in the agricultural parts of China and has been for a long, long time.
Such viral diseases very often transfer to humans.
These concepts are not new and no one has challenged them.
And earlier, the alleged “poisoning ” of a retired Russian traitor in England has more holes than a Swiss cheese.
Next, we will be reading on the Internet the breathless news that powerful forces are causing terminal flatulence in thousands and that Russia/China/Cuba/Mexico/or possibly the penguins of Antarctica, are responsible.
Jointly or severally.
Stories like this are created by people who cry in shrill, piping voices, “Listen to me! Listen to me! I have secrets for you!”
And people do listen.
Too bad Fat Jones got bagged for drunk driving or we would be reading on Infowars that the entire coronovirus was a Hollywood movie script.”

The Table of Contents
• Trump fans flames of Chinese lab coronavirus theory during daily briefing
• The Evil Corona Virus plot
• Theory that Coronavirus Escaped from a Lab Lacks Evidence
• Pentagon looked ‘hard’ into theory Covid-19 came from Chinese lab, but ‘inconclusive’ evidence still suggests natural origin
• ‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline
• COVID-19: Trump’s Bizarre Performance Blocked His Emergence as a ‘Hero’
• Trump’s move to cut WHO funding prompts world condemnation
• An appreciation: Chalmers Johnson’s writings on American empire
• Government-Approved Rip-Off

Trump fans flames of Chinese lab coronavirus theory during daily briefing
The president attacked those who favored China, including the WHO, for which he previously announced a hold on funding
April 15, 2020
by David Smith in Washington
The Guardian
Donald Trump has fuelled a media theory that the coronavirus pandemic began when the pathogen accidentally escaped a Chinese laboratory, teasing that “more and more we’re hearing the story”.
The US president’s TV network of choice, Fox News, has reported that “multiple sources” in the American government believe initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human in a virology lab in Wuhan. Due to weak safety protocols, an infected lab worker then went to a wet market where the virus spread.
When Fox News reporter John Roberts put this to Trump at a press briefing on Wednesday, he replied: “Well, I don’t want to say that John, but I will tell you more and more we’re hearing the story.”
The president is notorious for recycling content from Fox News in his remarks or tweets, and it was unclear whether he was privy to any other information to back the claim. He added: “We’ll see. When you say ‘multiple sources’, now there’s a case where you can use the word ‘sources’. But we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.”
Trump added that he did not want to disclose any discussions he had with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, about the laboratory.
The Pentagon’s top general, Mark Milley, cast doubt on the lab theory earlier this week, saying that US intelligence has looked into the possibility but that the “weight of evidence” thus far pointed towards “natural” origins.
Since the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan in December, more extreme conspiracy theories have suggested that it was engineered as a bioweapon. There is no evidence for this. The scientific journal the Lancet has stated the virus appears to have come from wildlife. An analysis by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology suggests that the virus’s genome is 96% similar to a coronavirus found in bats.
But the story running prominently on Fox News begins by stating the virus began “not as a bioweapon”, alleging incompetence rather than a malicious attack. This idea has gained more traction, especially among anti-China hardliners in Washington.
On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that state department cables had warned two years ago of safety issues at a Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses. The Post said: “The cables have fueled discussions inside the US government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus – even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.”
China’s extreme censorship and lack of openness about the virus have done little to quell the speculation. But conversely, healthy scepticism is guaranteed because of Fox News’ widely panned coverage of the pandemic as well as Trump’s habit of searching for distractions and excuses to shift blame.
At Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing, he lambasted the Voice of America radio station for its China coverage – “what things they say are disgusting toward our country” – and the World Health Organization (WHO) for giving Beijing the benefit of the doubt.
“It took them a long time to realise what was going on, but I have a feeling they knew exactly what was going on,” he said without evidence, having previously announced a hold on WHO funding. “Tragically, other nations put their trust in the WHO and they didn’t do any formal [travel] ban.”
Meanwhile Trump, under pressure to restart the economy, struck an optimistic note for America’s fight against the virus on a cold day in the White House rose garden. “The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” he said, without giving details to support the claim. “Hopefully that will continue, and we will continue to make great progress.
“These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalise guidelines on states for reopening the country.”
The White House will release the guidelines on Thursday, he added, after he and vice-president Mike Pence hold calls with governors. “We think that some states can actually open up before the deadline of May 1.”
Trump added: “We’ll be the comeback kids – all of us … Tomorrow’s going to be a very big day … We’ll have some openings that will exceed our expectations. And they’ll be safe, they’ll be strong, but we want to get our country back. We’re going to do it, and we’re gonna do it soon.”
The reopenings are bound to be phased geographically and require flexibility. Pence, who heads the coronavirus task force, said: “The American people will be encouraged to know as we stand here today, 24% of the counties of this country have no reported coronavirus cases. In fact, half of the states in America have less than 2,500 cases per state.”
But public health experts have warned that the US, which has the biggest caseload in the world, must boost testing and contact tracing before loosening restrictions. Trump said the US has surpassed 3.3m completed tests but failed to answer governors’ concerns over how the process can be stepped up.
In an unexpected turn, he also threatened to force Congress into a formal recess so that he can make recess appointments of federal officials, including judges. He falsely accused Democrats of leaving key administration positions unstaffed and making it “very hard” to govern.
“We have a tremendous number of people that have to come into government and now more so than ever before because of the virus … If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress.”
Trump added: “The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro-forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis.”
Michael Beschloss, an author and historian, tweeted: “No President in history has ever used the Constitutional power to adjourn Congress … Wilson, Taft and FDR were all urged to adjourn Congress and all refused.”

The Evil Corona Virus plot
Fact Check:
The Guardian
April 15. 2020
Did the coronavirus originally escape from a laboratory in Wuhan, infecting a lab assistant, his girlfriend, and then finding its way to a wet market where it started the pandemic?
Trump answered a long-winded question from a Fox News reporter on Wednesday suggesting as much.
Rather than shutting down the widely-debunked theory, Trump said “I don’t want to say” and “We’ll see”.
“I will tell you more and more we’re hearing that story”, Trump said. “We are doing a very thorough examination of how this horrible situation that happened”.
Conspiracy theories have circulated since the origins of coronavirus that the virus originated in a lab, giving rise to theories it was engineered as a bioweapon.
In fact, epidemiologists say there is no evidence the virus was created in a lab. A statement published in scientific journal the Lancet said the virus appears to have come from wildlife and another analysis of the virus by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology suggests that the virus’s genome is 96% similar to a coronavirus found in bats.

Theory that Coronavirus Escaped from a Lab Lacks Evidence
The pathogen appears to have come from wild animals, virologists say, and there are no signs of genetic manipulation in the SARS-CoV-2 genome.
Emily Makowski
March 5, 2020
The Scientist
Since the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic, theories have circulated about the origin of the novel coronavirus causing the disease, SARS-CoV-2. One prominent rumor is that it first escaped from a lab in Wuhan studying bat coronaviruses and then spread to the public. This theory has also evolved into claims that the virus was genetically engineered to be a bioweapon. But scientists say that while there’s not enough information to pinpoint where the virus came from, there is no evidence that it was created in a lab.
The lab-escape theory had been circulating on social media and various blogs for weeks, but gained considerable visibility in a New York Post article in late February. In it, Steven Mosher, a social scientist and the president of the Population Research Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, summarizes why he believes SARS-CoV-2 may have been accidentally spread by China’s National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers have studied bat coronaviruses.
In the article, Mosher describes several lines of reasoning, namely, that the lab is less than 10 miles away from the seafood market where a cluster of COVID-19 cases was first discovered, and that after the 2003 SARS outbreak, the SARS-CoV virus escaped from virology labs multiple times in China. He also describes how Chinese virologist and bioweapons expert Major General Chen Wei went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology with military scientists in January to study the new virus, which Mosher sees as a form of damage control.
“The circumstantial evidence surrounding it is pretty compelling. . . . The idea that the epicenter of this epidemic would be just a few miles from the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, which is where we know that dangerous pathogens are being kept and looked at as potential bioweapons, I think the odds against that are just astronomical,” Mosher tells The Scientist.
We don’t need to come up with farfetched theories when the genome sequences and the characteristics of these viruses support what we’re seeing.
—Paul McCray, University of Iowa
Dimitrios Paraskevis, an epidemiologist at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, tells The Scientist that while it’s not possible to rule out the idea of lab escape, he believes that it is unlikely. “Any person who works in a lab must follow very strict safety regulations. It sounds to me very extraordinary that something happened and nobody took care about such an accident,” he says. The World Health Organization updated SARS surveillance guidelines in 2004 after the lab-based outbreaks, urging labs to follow proper biosafety procedures, and China replaced the director of its Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
One problem leading to a lot of apprehension and speculation about the new coronavirus is that scientists “don’t know what the actual source of the virus was,” Anthony Fehr, a coronavirus researcher at the University of Kansas, tells The Scientist. Additionally, researchers don’t know if SARS-CoV-2 immediately started to spread in humans after a single transmission from an animal, or if it took multiple zoonotic events between an infected animal population and humans.
Despite the question mark around the exact source of the disease, it does appear to have originally come from wildlife, according to a team of international public health scientists who wrote a statement published in The Lancet. An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology suggests that the virus’s genome is 96 percent similar to a coronavirus found in bats.
Mosher agrees that animals were the likely origin. “That doesn’t mean [the virus] wasn’t collected, brought to the lab, and was being tested on in various ways, and escaped from the lab,” he says. Mosher also does not claim that China genetically engineered the virus. “I’m not saying this has been genetically engineered to be a bioweapon that’s escaped from the lab. . . . I’m just saying that [China is] collecting dangerous pathogens, [and] they have a history of letting them escape from the lab,” he says.
Transmission from an animal, with no lab experiment or genetic manipulation involved, fits best with what scientists know about how other coronaviruses have made the jump to humans. In the past, these viruses have spread through wild bats that infect another type of animal—an intermediate host—that then spreads it to humans. SARS-CoV, for example, was transmitted from bats to civets to humans, while camels were an intermediate host in MERS, according to Quanta. The civet version of SARS-CoV was 99.8 percent similar to the one found in humans—much more closely related than the bat and human varieties of SARS-CoV-2—so researchers believe the new coronavirus also infected another type of animal on its way from bats to humans. But they have not found a candidate so far, according to Nature.
This ability to move in between different animal hosts is a characteristic feature of coronaviruses, according to Paul McCray, a pulmonologist at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine whose lab studies coronaviruses. “It’s exactly what we’ve learned in studies of SARS in 2002 and 2003, and MERS in 2012. . . . So the concept that this is happening again should come as no surprise,” he says. “For people that work with these viruses, this is completely unsurprising. We don’t need to come up with farfetched theories when the genome sequences and the characteristics of these viruses support what we’re seeing.”

No signs of engineering in SARS-CoV-2 genome
In addition to the claim that a naturally evolved virus escaped from a lab by mistake, some conspiracy theories have posited that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered. In fact, researchers throughout the world, including in the US and China, have conducted research involving the creation of experimentally engineered hybrid coronaviruses. But there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered, says Paraskevis, whose genomic analysis of the new virus was reported as a preprint in January.
I’m not saying this has been genetically engineered to be a bioweapon that’s escaped from the lab. . . . I’m just saying that [China is] collecting dangerous pathogens, [and] they have a history of letting them escape from the lab.
—Steven Mosher, Population Research Institute
RNA viruses, which include coronaviruses, “accumulate mutations at a rate one million times faster than human DNA [does]. . . . It gives them the ability to survive against an immune response,” Paraskevis says. While the new coronavirus does have some genetic differences to other known viruses due to mutations, “there’s no evidence that this is the result of a human experiment,” he says, adding that if the virus were engineered, scientists would expect to see additional genetic material in its genome. For example, an early bioRxiv preprint on SARS-CoV-2 found HIV-like genetic sequences, but online commenters pointed out that “the findings were at most a coincidence” and that research has since been retracted, reports STAT.
As there are still many unknowns about SARS-CoV-2, researchers worldwide are trying to uncover as much as they can about the virus. Chinese researchers “released the genomic sequence incredibly rapidly online. . . . They were very public in sharing the most important first piece of information” about it, McCray tells The Scientist. “The fact that scientists all over the world had access to that genomic sequence” made a lot of early research possible, he says.

Pentagon looked ‘hard’ into theory Covid-19 came from Chinese lab, but ‘inconclusive’ evidence still suggests natural origin
April 15, 2020
RT
The US military looked ‘hard’ at rumors the coronavirus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters, but the evidence so far is ‘inconclusive’ and points to it emerging naturally.
“It should be no surprise to you that we have taken a keen interest in that, and we have had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that,” General Mark Milley said at a news briefing on Tuesday.
At this point it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we do not know for sure.
His top medical officer, Joint Staff Surgeon Brigadier-General Paul Freidrichs, flatly answered“No” when asked the same question last week.
While Milley did not name any outlets speculating about the virus’s origins, earlier in the day the Washington Post published an opinion piece that suggested the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) had been conducting “risky” experiments on bats back in 2018. Columnist Josh Rogin said he obtained correspondence from US diplomats who visited the lab because it was receiving US funding for the research, and were concerned about the bats transmitting the virus to humans.The research showed that “various SARS-like coronaviruses can interact with ACE2, the human receptor identified for SARS-coronavirus. This finding strongly suggests that SARS-like coronaviruses from bats can be transmitted to humans to cause SARS-like diseases,” said one cable.
SARS was the respiratory virus that emerged in southern China in 2002, infecting some 8,000 people and killing 744. The novel coronavirus that has so far infected 1.97 million people around the globe and killed over 125,000 was officially designated SARS-Cov-2. Its first officially recorded case was in Wuhan, in December 2019.
The official point of origin for the virus remains unknown. That has not stopped everyone from the Chinese government to the US mainstream media from denouncing as a “conspiracy theory” any suggestion that it may have escaped from a WIV lab. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) was panned by the same Washington Post back in February for pointing out that WIV was located not far from the “wet market” where the virus was originally believed to have originated – a claim that Beijing has since declared false as well.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao suggested last month that the virus might have come from the US, causing the State Department to summon the Chinese ambassador to Washington for an explanation. The government in Beijing has neither endorsed nor disavowed Zhao’s comments.
Mainstream US media have settled into a narrative of blaming President Donald Trump, who they say should have predicted the pandemic and done more to stop it.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has accused China of suppressing information about the virus’ origins and characteristics, thus making the impact of the pandemic worse. The virus has infected over 600,000 Americans so far, killing more than 25,000 as of Tuesday evening.

‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline
April 14, 2020
by Tom McCarthy
The Guardian
The president was personally warned about the growing crisis beginning in mid-January – but continued to give false assurances to the American public
‘It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline
“What a problem. Came out of nowhere.”
That’s how Donald Trump described the coronavirus pandemic in early March, during a televised visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For weeks he had been giving Americans the same advice: “We have it totally under control”; “USA in great shape!”; and, of course, “Fake news”.
But privately, Trump was being warned of a “full-blown Covid-19 pandemic” and “1-2 million” American deaths, according to internal emails, memorandums and other recently unearthed evidence documenting internal deliberations.
It turns out that Trump was personally warned, repeatedly, about the growing crisis beginning in mid-January. But he continued to give false assurances to the American public.
Here’s a timeline of the main notifications Trump received and the disinformation he was simultaneously spreading.
8 January
CDC issues alert
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues an alert advising that it “is closely monitoring a reported cluster of pneumonia of unknown etiology (PUE) with possible epidemiologic links to a large wholesale fish and live animal market in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China”.
18 January
Trump receives briefing
The health secretary, Alex Azar, calls Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and briefs him on the coronavirus threat, but “Trump spent much of the conversation wanting to talk about vaping”, the AP reported.
21 January
First confirmed US case
A man in his 30s who had traveled to China is hospitalized in Everett, Washington, near Seattle. He tests positive for Covid–19.
22 January
Trump: ‘We have it totally under control’
While attending the Davos conference in Switzerland, Trump makes his first public comment about coronavirus. “We have it totally under control,” he tells the US cable channel CNBC. “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
27 January
White House aide raises alarm
Joe Grogan, the head of the White House domestic policy council, tells the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and others in a meeting that the fight against coronavirus would dominate public life for months and “the administration needed to take the virus seriously or it could cost the president his re-election”, according to a Washington Post report.
29 January
Aide warns of ‘full-blown Covid-19 pandemic’
Economic adviser Peter Navarro warns the national security council in a memo that coronavirus could kill half a million Americans and deliver a $5.7tn hit to the economy, Axios reports.
30 January
Azar warns Trump again
As the World Health Organization declares a global health emergency, Azar, the health secretary, again warns Trump about the looming threat. Taking Azar’s call aboard Air Force One en route to a campaign rally, Trump dismisses him as “alarmist”, the New York Times reported.
Trump: ‘Only 5 people in US’
31 January
US declares ‘public health emergency’
Azar declares a public health emergency. Trump announces a ban on entry to the US for foreign nationals who had recently visited China.
January and February
Intelligence warnings
US intelligence agencies file classified reports warning about global destabilization from a coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post report.
5 February
‘They aren’t taking this seriously’
After a coronavirus briefing with White House officials, senators express concern that the administration is downplaying the threat. “No request for ANY emergency funding,” notes Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
19 February
‘When we get into April…’
Addressing a group of governors, Trump predicts the virus will disappear. “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus.”
21 February
Taskforce concludes social distancing needed
Following a mock exercise modeling pandemic response, the White House coronavirus taskforce concludes that aggressive social distancing would be necessary, according to a New York Times report.
23 February
Aide warns of ‘full-blown pandemic’
“There is an increasing probability of a full-blown Covid-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls,” Navarro, the economics adviser, writes in a memo obtained by Axios.
24 February
Trump: ‘Very much under control’
25 February
I have not heard anything other’
In a CDC telebriefing, Nancy Messonnier the director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says: “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country” and “disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things that people need to start thinking about now.”
At a news conference in New Delhi, Trump says: “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are – in all cases, I have not heard anything other.”
On the way back from India, Trump reportedly called Azar and complained that Messonnier was scaring the stock market.
Larry Kudlow, the director of the national economics council, is asked about Messonnier’s comments on CNBC.
“We have contained this,” he says. “I won’t say airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.”
26 February
‘Fake News’
“The infection seems to have gone down over the last two days,” Trump says at a White House news conference. “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time.”
27 February
‘It will disappear’
“It’s going to disappear,” Trump says in a White House briefing. “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
29 February
First confirmed US death
The US marks its first confirmed coronavirus death, a man in his 50s near Seattle.
Almost six weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed, the Food and Drug Administration allows laboratories and hospitals to conduct their own Covid-19 tests to speed up the process.
5 March
Trump: ‘Highest rating ever’
6 March
Trump visits the CDC laboratories and calls the pandemic “an unforeseen problem”.
“What a problem,” he says. “Came out of nowhere.”
The stock market begins to plunge in earnest, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average shedding more than 20% in next two weeks.
9 March
Flu comparison
9 March
‘4m tests by the end of the week’
Former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert publishes an op-ed: “It’s now or never for the US if it hopes to keep coronavirus from burning out of control.”
In an evening news conference, White House officials say the United States will have tested 1 million people that week and thereafter perform 4m tests per week. “We’ve been moving progressively to bring that test closer and closer and closer to the patient,” Azar says.
The number was false by multiple orders of magnitude. Through 12 March, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had completed 4,000 tests – not 4m.
10 March
‘When people need a test, they can get a test’
“When people need a test, they can get a test,” Trump says at a White House briefing. “When the professionals need a test, when they need tests for people, they can get the test. It’s gone really well.”
12 March
A ‘million tests out now’
Dr Anthony Fauci tells Congress that the United States does not have sufficient testing. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” he says. “That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”
But Trump says at a White House briefing there are a “million tests out now” and “if you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test”.
13 March
‘I don’t take responsibility at all’
Trump declares a national emergency over coronavirus. Trump announces a supposed Google site under development to help people across the country find testing, but it is a sham.
“We’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-through tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals,” Trump adds, but a month later only a handful had materialized.
Says Trump: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”’It will disappear’: the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline
The president was personally warned about the growing crisis beginning in mid-January – but continued to give false assurances to the American public

COVID-19: Trump’s Bizarre Performance Blocked His Emergence as a ‘Hero’
April 10, 2020
by Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
IDN
NEW YORK (IDN) – For a man who is a self-absorbed, power hungry narcissist who wants to be recognized as one of the greatest presidents of the United States while desperately trying to be reelected, Trump failed miserably to rise to the occasion precipitated by the unfortunate advent and spread of the coronavirus.
Instead of minimizing the ominous danger of the virus and ignoring the warning of top scientists about the prospective disastrous consequences it could unleash, he could have mobilized from the onset of this pandemic every national resource to tackle the virus head on.
This includes the military, the National Guards, and thousands of companies and medical institutions to produce critical equipment and testing on a national scale, and creating an aggressive national program to fight this virus as a war on all fronts.
Had he done that, he could have realized just about everything he wanted. In fact, he would have been able to emerge from this tragic outbreak as a hero. The public would have forgiven him for his incessant lies, deliberate misleading statements, idiosyncrasies, and corruption. I also believe that Trump would have been able to handedly beat any prospective Democratic nominee, including Joe Biden, come November.
The question is, why didn’t Trump pursue this logical course of action? There are a number of reasons that explain his bizarre behavior, albeit none should have obscured the gravity of the situation—if he only wasn’t so immersed with himself. From his vantage point, everything starts first and foremost with what can serve his personal interests.
From the onset, Trump sought to disassociate himself from the outbreak of the virus by denying that he failed to prepare the country for such epidemic, when in fact he greatly contributed to the country’s unpreparedness. In the spring of 2018, he dismantled the team in charge of responding to pandemics, including the departure of its head, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer.
In addition, he cut funding for the CDC and continues to push for reducing US funding of the World Health Organization. Moreover, he seems to be unwilling to embrace testing on a national scale because he does not want to show that the number of those infected is exponentially increasing, leaving the country more vulnerable that it has ever been.
Trump’s concern with the economy was first and foremost in his mind. As he sees it, the continuing economic boom was central to his reelection campaign, and he rebuffed anything that could adversely impact the health of the economy. Thus, he had to minimize the dire implications of the coronavirus, even though he knew about the virus early in January and dismissed the scientific evidence suggesting that the impact of the virus would be catastrophic if the country was not fully mobilized to deal with the epidemic.
As customary for Trump, he never takes responsibility for anything that turns sour, but he rushes in and relishes taking credit for anything good, perceived or real, like the record-breaking stock market or the lowest unemployment rate in a generation which, in fact, was largely precipitated by Obama’s economic recovery plans.
In this case, he put blame for the lack of essential medical supplies squarely on the Obama administration, and various governors who were told that they are on their own: not only because it was convenient, but because it would also distinguish himself from the “failings” of his predecessor whom he intensely disliked.
Being totally consumed by his reelection campaign is an understatement. For Trump, nothing else matters. He was determined to treat COVID-19 as a side distraction and not allow the rapid spread of the virus to interfere in his reelection efforts.
Having finally realized the severity of the pandemic, as the number of deaths and those infected rose exponentially, Trump was quick to capitalize on it by conducting a daily press conference, which has become a replacement for his campaign rallies.
Finally, Trump was quick to take full credit for the passage of the largest economic stimulus bill, to the tune of $2.2 trillion. For him, the bill is essential in order to keep unemployment—which has exploded in recent weeks—as low as possible and allow the stock market to regain some of its substantial losses.
To be sure, Trump wants to present himself as the savior of the economy, knowing that short of a significantly improved economic outlook in the immediate future, his reelection prospects will be dim at best.
While Trump was focusing on what serves his personal interests, COVID-19 was claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and infecting hundreds of thousands more (14,696 deaths and 427,460 cases at the time of writing). Much of this tragic infliction could have been prevented had his administration been better prepared, and had Trump himself acted in good faith.
Instead, he sought to push unproven and under-tested pharmaceuticals in the hopes that they would prove beneficial, so that he could present it to the nation as another sign of his great success in handling the pandemic.
The problem with Trump though is his obsession with himself, which blinds him from seeing the larger picture. Trump’s ignorance prevented him from realizing that one can engender a breakthrough from a breakdown. Had he been honest with himself and with the American public, he could have simply admitted that the country was unprepared and that he will fight this deadly virus with all of America’s might. He could have also offered assistance to other countries in need, restoring some of America’s global leadership.
Indeed, assuming responsibility and rising to the occasion to right the wrongs would have put Trump in a completely different light. He could have emerged from this historic pandemic a truly decisive, strong, and visionary leader—attributes that have only eluded him when they were at his very grasp.

Trump’s move to cut WHO funding prompts world condemnation
April 14, 2020
by Jeff Mason amd Paulina Duran
Reuters
WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic prompted condemnation on Wednesday from world leaders who appealed for cooperation and unity.
Trump, who has reacted angrily to accusations his administration’s response to the worst epidemic in a century was haphazard and too slow, had become increasingly hostile towards the U.N. agency before announcing the halt on Tuesday.
The WHO, which is based in Geneva, had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred, Trump said.
WHO had failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China’s Wuhan province, where the virus was first identified in December, that conflicted with Beijing’s accounts about the spread and “parroted and publicly endorsed” the idea that human to human transmission was not happening, Trump said.
“The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump told a White House news conference on Tuesday.
A U.S. official told Reuters that Trump made the move despite pushback within his administration, especially from top health advisers. There was no immediate reaction from the WHO, which has been appealing for more than $1 billion to fund operations against the pandemic.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.
Nearly 2 million people globally have been infected and more than 127,000 have died since the disease emerged in China late last year, according to a Reuters tally.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was not the time to reduce resources for the WHO.
“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” he said in a statement.
China, which has won WHO praise for its actions to curb the virus’s spread, urged the United States on Wednesday to fulfil its obligations to the WHO.
“This decision weakens the WHO’s capability and harms international cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter: “Deeply regret U.S. decision to suspend funding to WHO. There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said apportioning blame did not help. “The virus knows no borders,” Maas said on Twitter.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the WHO was essential to tackling the pandemic.
“At a time like this when we need to be sharing information and we need to have advice we can rely on, the WHO has provided that,” she said. “We will continue to support it and continue to make our contributions.”
‘BLAME CHINA, NOT WHO’
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathised with Trump’s criticisms of the WHO, especially its “unfathomable” support of re-opening China’s “wet markets”, where freshly slaughtered, and live, animals are sold.
“But that said, the WHO also as an organisation does a lot of important work including here in our region in the Pacific and we work closely with them,” Morrison told an Australian radio station.
“We are not going to throw the baby out of with the bathwater here, but they are also not immune from criticism.”
John Sawers, the former head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service, said China concealed crucial information about the outbreak from the rest of the world and that it would be better to hold China responsible rather than the WHO.
In its latest Strategy Update, the WHO said countries that ease restrictions should wait at least two weeks to evaluate the impact before easing again.
It said that the world stands at a “pivotal juncture”.
More than 2,200 people died in the United States on Tuesday, a record toll according to a Reuters tally, even as it debated how to reopen its economy.
New York City, hardest hit by the outbreak, revised its death toll sharply up to more than 10,000, to include victims presumed to have died of the lung disease but never tested.
U.S. health advocacy group Protect Our Care said Trump’s WHO funding withdrawal was “a transparent attempt … to distract from his history downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis and his administration’s failure to prepare our nation”.
“To be sure, the World Health Organization is not without fault but it is beyond irresponsible to cut its funding at the height of a global pandemic,” said Leslie Dach, who chairs the group.
Global shares dipped into the red on Wednesday as warnings of the worst global recession since the 1930s underlined the economic damage done during the pandemic.[MKTS/GLOB] The International Energy Agency forecast a 29 million barrel per day dive in April oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years.
The world economy is expected to shrink by 3% this year, the International Monetary Fund said, marking the steepest downturn since the Great Depression.
Trump, who has declared he will decide when to lift U.S. lockdowns, suggested some Democratic state governors were “mutineers” after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would refuse any order that risked reigniting the outbreak.
Writing by Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Philippa Fletcher

An appreciation: Chalmers Johnson’s writings on American empire
April 12, 2020
by Richard Drake
Responsible Statecraft
It has been nearly ten years since Chalmers Johnson died, and twice that long since the publication of “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.” That Johnson’s condemnation of American imperialism originated in a conservative political and philosophical tradition makes him a somewhat unusual figure. Such viewpoints more characteristically come from the left than the right. The “Blowback” series, eventually comprising three volumes, remains a prime source for understanding the motives of American foreign policy in the Trump era and merits a retrospective appreciation.
A longtime political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Johnson was one of that institution’s most publicly visible conservatives during the anti-war protests of the 1960s. In “Blowback,” Johnson described himself as an Eisenhower Republican. He had believed in America’s anti-communist Cold War mission. After serving as a naval officer during the Korean War, he earned graduate degrees in political science at Berkeley and became a leading expert on China and Japan at his alma mater. He performed consulting work for the CIA where the term “blowback” was used to refer to unintended consequences of government policies.
Only after the end of the Cold War did Johnson begin to question the assumptions of the American foreign policy he had served in and out of uniform. He had understood the need for a far-flung American military presence to oppose the murderous tyranny of the Soviet Union. Why even after the Soviet Union had disappeared, however, did the United States continue to maintain an ever-increasing network of military bases? In “Blowback,” he set out to find answers to this question.
Johnson began with a confession. Although abysmally ignorant about the dysfunction and oppression in communist societies, the Berkeley radicals had understood the nature of American capitalism better than he had. American foreign policy did make sense only in the light of economics. During the Second World War, the United States had taken the lead in creating the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as the financial means of creating a global capitalist order. To defend that order, an American empire of military bases would ring the globe. Everything everywhere would be a concern of the United States in its self-appointed role as the guardian of the status quo. The Soviet Union had been more a pretext than a reason for these worldwide operations, as the continued existence of an American empire of bases after the Cold War made manifest.
Keeping a lid on the cauldron of international problems stemming from a world order in which billions of people lived on less than two dollars a day and whole cultures suffered from the resentments of ethnic or religious marginalization would have the United States perpetually on the march fighting endless wars. This would be one form of blowback. Terrorism would be another.
Ironically, Johnson’s economic interpretation of American foreign policy resembled in some key respects the radical political views he always had opposed. Unlike the Berkeley radicals touting Herbert Marcuse and Frantz Fanon, however, Johnson looked to the country’s oldest traditions for inspiration. He found in George Washington’s “Farewell Address” a summa of responsible statecraft.
Johnson praised Washington for his sagacious criticisms of overgrown military establishments and for his support of a foreign policy predicated on the principle of no entangling alliances. The president wanted his country to mind its own business. He hoped that the government would devote its energies and resources to the cultivation of republican virtue in the American people, not detract from their well-being with initiatives favoring or demonizing foreign nations bound to involve us in expensive conflicts.
Our current leaders, Johnson contended, never would be quoting from Washington’s “Farewell Address” on foreign policy questions. It was much too subversive a document. The president’s address seemed to him a prophetic warning about blowback. Johnson thought that this forgotten legacy of the American Enlightenment should be the natural starting point for a sane foreign policy of peace and amity with all nations.
“Blowback” attracted little notice at the time of its publication, the year before 9/11. As Johnson later observed, it was dismissed as the compilation of “the oddball thoughts of a formerly eminent Japan specialist.” It took the destruction of the World Trade Center for the book to become a bestseller and achieve a large readership across a broad spectrum of political opinion, left to right.
A sequel appeared in 2004, “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.” Here Johnson presented a survey of America’s world-spanning military bases and explained how 9/11 should be understood as a textbook instance of blowback. Terrorism attacks of this kind resulted from antagonistic reactions not to American values but to American policies formulated by a corrupt lobby-infested political system.
American foreign policy, Johnson argued, did not flow as a natural tributary from the mainstream of a republican culture promoting the common good of the people. Instead, the United States interacted with the rest of the world mainly according to the wishes of dominant lobbies working for the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, oil, and Israel — the chief architects, promoters, and beneficiaries of the American empire. These groups bore a heavy responsibility for our sorrows of empire: perpetual war, terrorism, the loss of democracy, disinformation, militarism, and insolvency. He concluded: “Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us.”
The third book in Johnson’s trilogy, “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic,” appeared in 2006. The classical past provided a comparative framework for his critique of the American empire. Reading Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” he saw a parallel between ancient Rome and the United States, where republics had given way to militarized empires. Rome’s imperial system had ended in bankruptcy, defeat, and dissolution. The United States would end the same way, our national delusions about American exceptionalism notwithstanding. It took five hundred years for the Roman Empire to fall, but Johnson felt certain that Nemesis was already close to settling accounts with America.
In a valedictory book published in 2010, the year of his death, “Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope,” Johnson argued that for the republic to be revived, the country’s oligarchic political system would have to end. Money ruled and set the agenda for the presidents from both parties, including and above all in this book President Barack Obama. On foreign policy, Obama imperturbably inherited, maintained, and enhanced the militarism and imperialism of his predecessors. For the enormities of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Johnson did say that George W. Bush would rank as the country’s worst president, but he did not differ in principle on foreign policy issues from Clinton and Obama.
The commanding lobbies have had a cooperative partner in Trump as well. Typical of presidents since the Second World War, though with a style all his own, he has kept America on the course of empire. Yet Trump’s special devotion to the Israel lobby has resulted in his most serious foreign policy innovations. Of all the presidents, he has gone the furthest in linking America’s national interest with Likud Party aims. Exiting the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and imagining that lasting peace in the Middle East can ensue from a total disregard of Palestinian claims for justice expresses the perfect meeting of minds between Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.
The killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad earlier this year takes its place in the same series of Trump’s Middle East foreign policy decisions. Before giving this order, he doubtless did not pore over the “Farewell Address” for guidance. Apart from any moral, constitutional, and international law considerations about murdering a military officer and national icon of a country with which we were not at war, such a dramatically destabilizing act in a region already seething with anti-American discontents and vendettas is a taunt to the gods, daring them to do their worst with unprecedented blowback.

Government-Approved Rip-Off
This is rapidly becoming a decade of official deceit and public disillusion.
The issue under discussion here is MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System).
MERS, set up by the government in 1995, now claims to be a privately-held company and their official function is stated to be ‘keeping track of a confidential electronic registry of mortgages and the modifications to servicing rights and ownership of the loans.’
MERS is actually a U.S. government initiated organization like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac and its current shareholders include AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, CitiMortgage, Countrywide, GMAC, Guaranty Bank, and Merrill Lynch.
All of these entities have been intimately, and disastrously, involved with the so-called “housing bubble,” and were subsequently quickly bailed out by the then-supportive Bush administration
In addition to its publicly stated purpose of simplifying mortgage registration MERS was also set up to assist in the creation of so-called ‘Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)’ and ‘’Structured investment Vehicles (SIV).’
The CDOs is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS) whose value and payments are derived from a portfolio of fixed-income underlying assets. CDOs securities are split into different risk classes, or tranches, which permits these entities to be minced into tiny tranches and sold off by the big investment banks to pensions, foreign investors and retail investors who in turn have discounted and resold them over and over.
It is well-known inside the American banking institutions that these highly questionable, potentially unsafe investment packages were deliberately marketed to countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia, that are not in favor with elements of the American government and banking industry and were, and are, marketed with full knowledge of their fragility.
A number of countries, including Germany, through the American-controlled Deutsche Bank, are involved.
MERS, set up by the U.S. government in 1995, now claims to be a privately-held company and their official function is stated to be ‘keeping track of a confidential electronic registry of mortgages and the modifications to servicing rights and ownership of the loans.’
MERS is actually a U.S. government initiated organization like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac and its current shareholders include AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, CitiMortgage, Countrywide, GMAC, Guaranty Bank, and Merrill Lynch. All of these entities have been intimately, and disastrously, involved with the so-called “housing bubble,” and were subsequently quickly bailed out by the supportive Bush administration
In addition to its publicly stated purpose of simplifying mortgage registration MERS was also set up to assist in the creation of so-called ‘ Collateralized’ debt obligations (CDOs) and Structured investment Vehicles (SIV). The CDOs is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS) whose value and payments are derived from a portfolio of fixed-income underlying assets. CDOs securities are split into different risk classes, or tranches, which permits these entities to be minced into tiny tranches and sold off by the big investment banks to pensions, foreign investors and retail investors, who in turn have discounted and resold them over and over.
It is well-known inside the American banking institutions that these highly questionable, potentially unsafe investment packages were deliberately marketed to countries, such as China, Germany and Saudi Arabia, that are not in favor with elements of the American government and banking industry and were, and are, marketed with full knowledge of their fragility.
The basic problem with this MERS system that while it does organize the mortgage market, it also knowingly permits fiscal sausage-making whereby a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (75 million by conservative estimate) are sliced up, put into the aforesaid “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign.
This results in the frightening fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own. Because of the diversity of the packaging, it is totally and completely impossible to ascertain what person or organization owns a specific mortgage and as a result, a clear title to MERS-controlled property is impossible to get at any time, even if a mortgage is fully paid. No person or entity, has been, or never can be, identified who can come forward and legally release the lien on the property once the loan is paid.
In short, MERS conceals this fact from the public with the not-unreasonable assumption that by the time the owner of the home or business discovers that they have only been paying rent on property they can never get clear title to, all the primary parties; the banks, the government agencies, the mortgage companies, or the title companies, will be dead and gone. MERS is set up to guarantee this fact but, gradually, little by little, mostly by word of mouth, the public is beginning to realize that their American dream of owning a house is nothing but a sham and a delusion.
The basic problem with this MERS system that while it does organize the mortgage market, it also knowingly permits fiscal sausage-making whereby a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (59 million by conservative estimate) are sliced up, put into the aforesaid “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign.
This results in the frightening fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own. Because of the diversity of the packaging, it is totally and completely impossible to ascertain what person or organization owns a specific mortgage and as a result, a clear title to MERS-controlled property is impossible to get at any time, even if a mortgage is fully paid. No person or entity, has been, or never can be, identified who can come forward and legally release the lien on the property once the loan is paid.
In short, MERS conceals this fact from the public with the not-unreasonable assumption that by the time the owner of the home or business discovers that they have only been paying rent on property they can never get clear title to, all the primary parties; the banks, the government agencies, the mortgage companies, or the title companies, will be dead and gone. MERS is set up to guarantee this fact but, gradually, little by little, mostly by word of mouth, the public is beginning to realize that their American dream of owning a house is nothing but a sham and a delusion.
The solution to this is quite simple. If a home or business American mortgage payer, goes to the property offices in their county and looks at their registered property, they can clearly see if MERS is the purported holder of the mortgage. This is fraudulent – MERS has never advanced any funds in the transaction and owns nothing. It is merely a registry. If MERS is the listed holder, the mortgage payers will never, ever, get clear title to their property.
In this case, the property occupier has two choices: They can either turn the matter over to a real estate attorney or simply continue pouring good money after bad.
And is there relief?
Indeed there is. In case after case (95% by record) if the matter is brought to the attention of a court of law, Federal or state, the courts rule that if the actual owner of the mortgage cannot be located after a reasonable period of time, the owner receives a clear title from the court and does not need to make any further payments to an unidentified creditor!
It will stop any MERS based foreclosure mid process and further, any person who was fraudulently foreclosed by MERS, which never held their mortgage, and forced from their home can sue MERS and, through the courts, regain their lost homes.

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