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TBR News April 18, 2020

Apr 18 2020

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. April 18, 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 18, 2020: ” Throughout his career, Trump has always felt comfortable operating at or beyond the ethical boundaries that constrain typical businesses. In the 1980s, he worked with La Cosa Nostra, which controlled the New York cement trade, and later employed Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, both of whom have links to the Russian Mafia. Trump habitually refused to pay his counter parties, and if the people he burned (or any journalists) got in his way, he bullied them with threats. He also used LLCs which he created for the purpose of swindling firm who, for example, laid new carpet in one of his hotels. The vendor billed the LLC which promptly went bankrupt. This has been a favorite gambit of Trump. “

The Table of Contents
• Coronavirus: Could Donald Trump delay the presidential election?
• FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control Webpage Sidesteps Trump’s Lies
• U.S. coronavirus crisis takes a sharp political turn
• Operation reopen America: are we about to witness a second historic failure of leadership from Trump?
• The Trump Family’s History With the KKK
• Donald Trump’s father was arrested at Ku Klux Klan riot in New York in 1927, records reveal
• Trump as dual personality
• The Empire in Collapse

Coronavirus: Could Donald Trump delay the presidential election?
April 17, 2020
by Anthony Zurcher
BBC News
As the coronavirus pandemic grinds much of the US economy to a halt, it is also playing havoc with the American democratic process during a national election year.
Primary contests have been delayed or disrupted, with in-person polling places closed and absentee balloting processes thrown into doubt. Politicians have engaged in contentious fights over the electoral process in legislatures and the courts.
In November voters are scheduled to head to the polls to select the next president, much of Congress and thousands of state-government candidates. But what could Election Day look like – or if it will even be held on schedule – is very much the subject of debate.
Here are answers to some key questions.
Could President Trump postpone the election?
A total of 15 states have delayed their presidential primaries at this point, with most pushing them back until at least June. That presents the pressing question of whether the presidential election in November itself could be delayed.
Under a law dating back to 1845, the US presidential election is slated for the Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years – 3 November in 2020. It would take an act of Congress – approved by majorities in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate – to change that.
The prospect of a bipartisan legislative consensus signing off on any delay is unlikely in the extreme.
What’s more, even if the voting day were changed, the US Constitution mandates that a presidential administration only last four years. In other words, Donald Trump’s first term will expire at noon on 20 January, 2021, one way or another.
He might get another four years if he’s re-elected. He could be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden if he’s defeated. But the clock is ticking down, and a postponed vote won’t stop it.
What happens if the election is delayed?
If there hasn’t been an election before the scheduled inauguration day, the presidential line of succession kicks in. Second up is Vice-President Mike Pence, and given that his term in office also ends on that day, he’s in the same boat as the president.
Next in line is the Speaker of the House – currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi – but her two-year term is up at the end of December. The senior-most official eligible for the presidency in such a doomsday scenario would be 86-year-old Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the president pro tem of the Senate. That’s assuming Republicans still control the Senate after a third of its 100 seats are vacated because of their own term expirations.
All in all, this is much more in the realm of political suspense novels than political reality.
But could the virus disrupt the election?
While an outright change of the presidential election date is unlikely, that doesn’t mean the process isn’t at risk of significant disruption.
According to University of California Irvine Professor Richard L Hasen, an election-law expert, Trump or state governments could use their emergency powers to drastically curtail in-person voting locations.
In the recently concluded Wisconsin primary, for instance, concerns about exposure to the virus, along with a shortage of volunteer poll-workers and election supplies, led to the closure of 175 of the 180 polling places in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city.
If such a move were done with political interests in mind – perhaps by targeting an opponent’s electoral strongholds – it could have an impact on the results of an election.
Could states contest the results?
Hasen also suggests another more extraordinary, albeit unlikely, scenario. Legislatures, citing concerns about the virus, could take back the power to determine which candidate wins their state in the general election. There is no constitutional obligation that a state support the presidential candidate who wins a plurality of its vote – or that the state hold a vote for president at all.
It’s all about the Electoral College, that archaic US institution in which each state has “electors” who cast their ballots for president. In normal times, those electors (almost always) support whoever wins the popular vote in their respective states.
It doesn’t necessarily have to work that way, however. In the 1800 election, for example, several state legislatures told their electors how to vote, popular will be damned.
If a state made such a “hardball” move today, Hasen admits, it would probably lead to mass demonstrations in the streets. That is, if mass demonstrations are permitted given quarantines and social-distancing edicts.
Will there be legal challenges?
The recent experience in the Wisconsin primary could serve as an ominous warning for electoral disruption to come – and not just because of the long lines for in-person voting at limited polling places, staffed by volunteers and national guard soldiers in protective clothing.
Prior to primary day, Democratic governor Tony Evers and Republicans who control the state legislature engaged in high-stakes legal battles, one of which was ultimately decided by the US Supreme Court, over whether the governor had the legal power to postpone the vote until June or extend the absentee balloting deadline.
In March Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had a similar court battle before his successful move to delay his state’s primary.
A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday issued an order that made fear of contracting the coronavirus a valid reason to request an absentee ballot in November. The state’s requirements for mail-in voting had been some of the most stringent in the nation.
What changes could reduce the risk?
In a recent opinion survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 66% of Americans said they wouldn’t be comfortable going to a polling place to cast their ballot during the current public-health crisis.
Such concerns have increased pressure on states to expand the availability of mail-in ballots for all voters in order to minimise the risk of viral exposure from in-person voting.
While every state provides for some form of remote voting, the requirements to qualify vary greatly.
“We have a very decentralised system,” Hasen says. “The states have a lot of leeway in terms of how they do these things.”
Five states in the western US, including Washington, Oregon and Colorado, conduct their elections entirely via mail-in ballot. Others, like California, provide a postal ballot to anyone who requests it.
Why don’t some states like postal-voting?
On the other end of the spectrum, 17 states require voters to provide a valid reason why they are unable to vote in-person in order to qualify for an absentee ballot. These states have faced calls to relax their requirements to make absentee ballots easier to obtain – although some leaders are resisting.
Mike Parson, the Republican governor of Missouri, said on Tuesday that expanding absentee ballot access was a “political issue” and suggested that fear of contracting the virus is not, by itself, a reason to qualify for an absentee ballot.
Republicans in other states, including North Carolina and Georgia, have expressed similar sentiments.
Congress could step in and mandate that states provide some minimum level of absentee balloting or mail-voting system in national elections, but given the existing partisan gridlock at the US Capitol, chances of that are slim.
Do the parties agree on how to protect the election?
No. Given the intense polarisation of modern politics, it shouldn’t be surprising that whether – and how – to alter the way elections are conducted during a pandemic have become an increasingly contentious debate.
Donald Trump himself has weighed in against expanded mail-in voting, saying that it is more susceptible to fraud. He also has suggested that increased turnout from easing balloting restrictions could harm Republican candidates,
“They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he said in a recent Fox News interview.
But the evidence that conservatives are hurt more by mail-in voting is mixed, as Republicans frequently cast absentee ballots in greater numbers than Democrats.
Is US democracy at risk?
The coronavirus outbreak is affecting every aspect of American life. While Trump and other politicians are pushing for life to return to some semblance of normalcy, there’s no guarantee all will be well by June, when many states have rescheduled their primary votes, the August party conventions, the October scheduled presidential debates or even November’s election day.
In normal times, the months ahead would mark a drumbeat of national political interest and activity that grows to an election day crescendo. At this point, everything is in doubt – including, for some, the foundations of American democracy itself.
“Even before the virus hit, I was quite worried about people accepting the results of the 2020 election because we are very hyperpolarised and clogged with disinformation,” says Hasen, who wrote a recent book titled Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.
“The virus adds much more to this concern.”

FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control Webpage Sidesteps Trump’s Lies
April 17, 2020
by Nick Turse
The Intercept
There are no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for the treatment of Covid-19. But if you tune into President Donald Trump’s daily press conferences, you could be forgiven for coming away with a different take.
In March – apparently on the advice of his consiglieri Rudy Giuliani, among others – the president began hyping an anti-malarial medication. “Now, a drug called chloroquine — and some people would add to it ‘hydroxy,’ hydroxychloroquine … it’s shown very encouraging — very, very encouraging early results. … It could be a game changer,” Trump said on March 19.
“I just hope that hydroxychloroquine wins,” said Trump on April 5. “I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it.” In the days since, he’s continued to tout the drug while offering half-hearted caveats (“I’m not a doctor, as you possibly have found out.”)
Trump’s chloroquine fixation is just one element of the roiling cauldron of half-truths, conspiracies, and misinformation the internet is serving up in the age of Covid-19. The strange brew includes claims that Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is in league with Hillary Clinton and deep-state forces to use Covid-19 to trigger an economic collapse that could undermine Trump, as well as an inchoate idea that caused an engineer to intentionally derail his freight train earlier this month, sending it careening toward the USNS Mercy, a Navy medical ship providing relief to hospitals overburdened with coronavirus patients.
Luckily, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has leapt into action with a solution: a webpage titled “Coronavirus Rumor Control” that offers the following advice to help “the public distinguish between rumors and facts” about the coronavirus pandemic:
• Don’t believe the rumors.
• Don’t pass them along.
• Go to trusted sources of information to get the facts about the federal (COVID-19) response.
But in the age of Trump, how are Americans to know which sources can be trusted? The president himself lies daily about the nation’s response to the virus. Why should anyone believe the other organs of his government, such as FEMA?
The agency has, for example, pushed back on rumors that it has blocked shipments of ventilators to certain states. But why would someone who believes that FEMA blocked shipments of ventilators to their state turn to FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control webpage for the truth and take the word of FEMA? I wondered this, and asked the agency. They sent this bewildering reply: “Check our Coronavirus Rumor Control page. What you are referencing is a rumor.”
Great, thanks!
The FEMA webpage does include a modest effort to counter some of Trump’s misinformation — even if the president isn’t mentioned by name. “Currently, there are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs specifically for the treatment of COVID-19,” it says. For more, Coronavirus Rumor Control recommends that Americans “go to trusted sources of information like Coronavirus.gov or your state and local government’s official websites.” But coronavirus.gov – the government’s online clearing house for information on Covid-19 — is a joint effort of the CDC, FEMA, and the very same White House whose main occupant helped to influence an Arizona couple to ingest a product meant for ornamental fish.
“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” said the widow of the Arizona man who died after ingesting a fish tank additive containing chloroquine phosphate. “Don’t believe anything the president says — and his people — ’cause they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
FEMA’s rumor-fighting webpage doesn’t take on the anti-Fauci fallacies or whatever reportedly convinced 44-year-old Eduardo Moreno, the train engineer, to believe that the USNS Mercy “had an alternate purpose related to Covid-19 or a government takeover.” But it is slightly clearer about other misinformation. Is 5G cellphone technology causing coronavirus? Nope. Do I need to hoard food? Negative. Should I be worried about hantavirus, which spreads primarily through mice and rats? Probably not.
So is the president undermining FEMA’s authority on this issue? Does the agency want him to stop pushing chloroquine? FEMA won’t say.
The agency’s press office declined a request for an interview about countering such misinformation. But after I sent written questions, including whether FEMA would debunk the president’s misleading statements, there was a glimmer of hope.
“We’re working on getting your hardcore official questions answered,” Alex Bruner of FEMA’s press office told me by phone. But FEMA never did, and Trump’s spurious assertion that “people with lupus” who take hydroxychloroquine “aren’t catching this horrible virus,” his baseless claim in January that “we have [Covid-19] totally under control,” his February fictions that the virus “will go away in April” and “within a couple of days [the number of Americans with Covid-19] is going to be down to close to zero,” among many other presidential mistruths, have been ignored by FEMA.
What about Trump’s repeated claims that the Obama administration left him with an “empty” national stockpile for emergencies? “We took over a stockpile where the cupboard was bare,” he said in an April 7 White House briefing.
But when NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce visited one of the government warehouses in 2016, she reported that “shelves packed with stuff stand so tall that looking up makes me dizzy.” At the time, $7 billion worth of emergency supplies were distributed among six supersized facilities. Two years later, when Lena Sun of the Washington Post took a look inside one of the warehouses — “the size of two super Walmarts” — she found “hundreds of thousands of shrink-wrapped boxes of medicines.” If medications from all the warehouses were laid flat, she wrote, they would “cover more than 31 football fields — or 41 acres of land.” Hardly a bare cupboard. So where is the FEMA pushback?
“We are focused on the spread of the rumor and its relevance to the FEMA response — rather than its source — when determining what we may need to respond to,” Lea Crager, director of FEMA’s Ready Campaign, told The Intercept by email. “We aim to promptly respond to inaccurate information to minimize concern from the public and reduce anymore uncertainty that may already exist.”
But Trump – who has ramped up a war on government truth-tellers under the cover of the pandemic — continues to make this difficult.
Earlier this month, Dr. Fauci expressed disbelief that every state hadn’t implemented stay-at-home orders. New data and recent modeling indicates that Americans have, however, been diligent enough about social distancing to have a real impact on the pandemic. “With the increase and the real adherence to the physical separation … we’re seeing rather dramatic decrease in the need for hospitalizations,” Fauci said last week. “That means that what we are doing is working, and therefore we need to continue to do it.”
Days later, however, Trump undercut that message with a new, bizarre pronouncement. The president — who previously claimed that the economic impact of stay-at-home orders would lead to “far greater numbers” of suicides than deaths from coronavirus — seemed to liken stay-at-home orders themselves to the lethality of Covid-19, which is now the leading cause of death in the United States.
“Staying at home leads to death,” said Trump over Easter weekend, while also retweeting a Covid-19 skeptic’s call to fire Fauci. “If you look at numbers — that leads to a different kind of death, perhaps, but it leads to death also.”
This from a man who has survived numerous business failures and bankruptcies.
It remains to be seen whether “Coronavirus Rumor Control” will take on Trump’s new home-equals-death conspiracy theory in the days ahead, or simply let it join America’s virulent ecosystem of misinformation unchecked.

U.S. coronavirus crisis takes a sharp political turn
April 17, 2020
by Maria Caspani amd Nathan Layne
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. coronavirus crisis took a sharp political turn on Friday as President Donald Trump lashed out at four Democratic governors over their handling of the pandemic after having conceded that states bear ultimate control of restrictions to contain the outbreak.
The Republican president targeted three swing states critical to his re-election bid – Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia – where his conservative loyalists have mounted pressure campaigns challenging those governors’ stay-at-home orders.
Amplifying a theme that his supporters have trumpeted this week in street protests at the state capitals of Lansing, St. Paul, and Richmond, Trump issued a series of matching Twitter posts touting the slogans: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA!”
Michigan has become a particular focus of agitation to relax social-distancing rules that rank among the strictest in the nation after Governor Gretchen Whitmer, widely seen as a potential running mate for presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, extended them through the end of April.
Protesters defying the restrictions from the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday shouted “lock her up,” a chant that was a staple of Trump’s campaign rallies and originally referred to his 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Whitmer said on Friday she was hopeful her state, which suffered one of the country’s fastest-growing coronavirus infection rates, can begin to restart parts of its economy on May 1. But she urged doing so cautiously to avoid reigniting the outbreak just as it was being brought to heel.
Responding to Trump’s critique later in the day, Whitmer said Michigan will re-engage its economy when it’s safe, adding: “The last thing I want to do is to have a second wave here.”
Trump also took renewed aim at one of his favorite political foils, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, suggesting on Twitter that his state, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, had asked for too much assistance that was never fully used.
At his daily news briefing, Cuomo shot back saying Trump should “maybe get up and go to work” instead of watching TV, and accused the president of favoring the airline industry and business cronies in a recent bailout package that left little for the states.
The flare-up in political sparring came as the number of known coronavirus infections in the United States surpassed 700,000, the most of any country. At the same time, the tally of lives lost from COVID-19, the highly contagious lung disease caused by the virus, has soared to more than 35,000. New York state accounts for nearly half those deaths.
While the death toll continued to climb, the rate of hospitalizations and other indicators have been leveling off, a sign that drastic social-distancing restrictions imposed in 42 of the 50 U.S. states were working to curtail the outbreak.
Stay-at-home orders and the closure of non-essential businesses have also strangled U.S. commerce, triggering millions of layoffs and forecasts that America is headed for its deepest recession since the economic collapse of the 1930s.
The result has been mounting pressure to ease the shutdowns, leading to clashes between Trump, who had touted the strength of the U.S. economy as the best case for his re-election in November, and governors in hard-hit states who warned against lifting restrictions too quickly.
Trump, who played down the coronavirus threat in its early stages, had been pressing to restart idled businesses as soon as May 1, at first declaring “total” authority to do so and branding governors who resisted his approach, many of them Democrats, as “mutineers.”
In the end Trump acknowledged it was up to the governors to decide when and how to relax the restrictions they themselves had imposed since last month, presenting new federal guidelines on Thursday as recommendations.
While the guidelines call for a phased-in, science-based strategy in keeping with the advice of leading health experts, the plan hinges on widespread testing to gauge the scope of infections and how many people might have developed immunity to the virus.
At a White House briefing on Friday, Trump’s coronavirus task force members, through statements and graphics, pushed back against criticism from some governors and lawmakers that limited testing ability is impeding the country’s return to normalcy.
“We believe today that we have the capacity in the United States to do a sufficient amount of testing for states to move into phase one in the time and manner that they deem appropriate,” Vice President Mike Pence told reporters.
Cuomo argued earlier that the Trump administration was foisting responsibility for a massive testing program on the states without providing necessary financial resources.
“Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is passing the buck without passing the bucks,” Cuomo said.
Even as Cuomo was addressing reporters, Trump immediately took to Twitter in Washington to fire back, saying he “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’”
Trump struck a more conciliatory tone during the White House briefing. Asked about criticism leveled at him earlier in the day by Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat who accused Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion” with his “LIBERATE” tweets, the president demurred.
Trump denied he was suggesting that Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia lift their stay-at-home orders altogether, but added, “I think elements of what they’ve done are too much.”
Of the protesters, Trump said, “These are people expressing their views.” He added, “They seem to be very responsible to me. … But they’ve been treated a little bit rough.”
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Nathan Layne, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Grant McCool and Steve Gorman; Editing by Frank McGurty, Howard Goller and Daniel Wallis

Operation reopen America: are we about to witness a second historic failure of leadership from Trump?
Without mass testing, contact tracing, and protective equipment for health workers – all in critically short supply – the president’s plan could be disastrous
April 18, 2020
by Ed Pilkington and Dominic Rushe in New York
The Guardian
On Thursday evening, Donald Trump took to the dais in the White House press briefing room and declared that he was leading America in a “historic battle against the invisible enemy” that amounted to the “greatest national mobilisation since world war two”.
Warming to his theme, the US president said the country was now ready to move to the next phase in the war against coronavirus. It was time, he said, “to open up. America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open”.
Unveiling new guidelines for the loosening of the lockdown, he committed his administration to a “science-based reopening”. “We are starting our life again, we are starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”
Beyond the cloistered confines of the White House an alternative interpretation of events was gathering force. On a day in which the US suffered its highest death toll from Covid-19, with a total of more than 680,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths, public health experts were scrutinising the president’s new guidelines and coming to rather different conclusions.
“This isn’t a plan, it’s barely a powerpoint,” spluttered Ron Klain on Twitter. Klain, the US government’s Ebola tsar during the last health crisis to test the White House, in 2014, said the proposals contained “no provision to ramp up testing, no standard on levels of disease before opening, no protections for workers or customers”.
On 28 March the Guardian exposed the missing six weeks lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. Jeremy Konyndyk, another central figure in the US battle against Ebola, told the Guardian that the Trump administration’s initial response was “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times”.
Now that the US is contemplating a shift into the second phase of the crisis – tentative reopening of the economy – scientists and public health officials are agreed that three pillars need to be put into place to manage the transition safely. They are: mass testing to identify those who are infected, contact tracing to isolate other people who may have caught Covid-19 from them, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline healthcare workers from any flare-up.
A chorus of expert voices has also begun to be heard warning that those three essential pillars remain in critically short supply throughout the US. Less than a month after the Guardian’s exploration of the missing six weeks, the chilling recognition is dawning that the country is heading for a second massive failure of governance under Trump, this time on an even bigger scale.
Unless testing capability is dramatically ramped up and a giant army of health workers assembled to trace the contacts of those infected – right now – the consequences could be devastating.
“I’m fearful,” said Dr Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Testing remains scarce in many parts of the country and it’s slow to scale up – we are weeks if not months away from having enough test capacity.”
Frieden, who now heads the global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives, told the Guardian in an interview conducted shortly before Trump released the new reopening guidelines that time was being wasted. The federal government’s misplaced insistence in February that its China travel ban would be enough to make the virus go away had “lost precious weeks” in tackling the first wave of coronavirus.
Now, as the US contemplates reopening, Frieden said he was afraid a repeat performance was imminent.
“I fear there’s an analogous mistaken belief that sheltering in place will make this virus go away, that we can then choose a date and all come out. It’s not about the date, it’s about data and building a national response at scale.”
In a series of tweets posted in reaction to the new White House guidelines, Konyndyk echoed the anxiety about more lost weeks. He said the Trump administration had “wasted February, and the White House guidance on ‘opening up’ leaves me worried that we’re about to waste April too”.
Konyndyk said that for states to reopen before they were ready “would be a disaster. It’s no great insight to say we need more testing, tracing, PPE [protective gear for health workers] – it’s been obvious for a month and a half. But each of those face huge bottlenecks and the document doesn’t acknowledge them, much less propose how to resolve them.”
Trump, launching the new reopening guidelines on Thursday, insisted that the US was in “excellent shape” on testing. “We have great tests. We have done more testing now than any country, in the world, by far.”
The US has so far tested about 3.3m people, about 1% of its population. Per capita, that is small compared with several countries including Germany and South Korea. Iceland has tested people at 10 times the US rate.
“Testing has been an unnecessary disaster,” said Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security. “Trump says we have the best testing, but the US is in the last percentage of tests administered to its population.”
Not one of the 50 states is currently in a position to carry out tracking of Covid-19 infections on the scale needed, whatever Trump said about their readiness to reopen. Many states, including the hardest hit, New York, are still experiencing testing shortages, 12 weeks after the first US case was recorded.
Individual states continue to have to compete for critical supplies against each other, and against the federal government, driving up prices. Components including nasal swabs, reagents and RNA extraction kits are running short.
Daily testing has flattened out and is now hovering around 150,000 tests a day – vastly below the level that would be needed to detect localized pockets of disease as the economy reopens. Most alarmingly, the number of tests carried out by commercial labs has actually plummeted in recent days due to shortages in test samples, leaving the labs sitting idle.
At the White House briefing, Trump insisted that the phenomenon of the idle labs was a “great thing”, a sign that states were finding local solutions and an “affirmation that testing is growing at a historic rate”.
All of these impediments have put the US on the back foot as it seeks to pull off the daunting feat of getting back to work without risking a renewed surge of contagion.
“We have had cases circulating in communities undetected for several weeks, and because of the delay in the roll-out of testing we never had the chance to be on top of it,” said Anita Cicero. She is joint author of one of the most definitive scientific plans for reopening the US, produced by a team from the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins.
“That means it’s going to require much more ubiquitous testing,” she said.
Estimates vary on how much testing will be needed, but they are all substantially greater than present provision. Even at the lower end, as posited by the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration Scott Gottlieb, some 2m to 3m tests a day are recommended – up to three times the current level.
Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics argues that is too few. It calls for tens of millions of tests every day, way beyond existing capacity.
As the Johns Hopkins plan makes clear, diagnostic testing is only the start. It must be combined with relentless detective work, called “contact tracing”, to track down anyone who has come into contact with an infected person and who might need quarantining to stop the virus spreading again.
The Johns Hopkins plan envisages a nationwide army of 100,000 contact tracers. “That might sound eye-popping, but it’s reasonable and may be a low estimate,” Cicero said, pointing out that in Wuhan, China, the authorities employed a workforce three times the size per capita.
With contact tracing, too, there is no sign that Trump recognizes the urgency of the moment. Frieden told the Guardian that many states were already struggling to ramp up contact tracing to a level that would support reopening. Health departments are overwhelmed, and some have “trouble even conceiving the scale of operations they are going to need”, he said.
Faced with a wide gap between nationwide demand for testing and contact tracing and insufficient supply, Trump has flip-flopped in his positions. He began by insisting that he had “absolute authority” to overrule the states in deciding when to reopen, a posture widely denounced as king-like and anti-American.
On Thursday he effected a 180-degree about-turn and passed the buck to the 50 states. “You are going to call your own shots,” he told governors on a call on Thursday.
Trump’s sudden switch to offloading federal responsibility to the 50 states has prompted questions about his motive. Current and former senior officials in the Trump administration told the Washington Post that he wanted to “shield himself from blame should there be new outbreaks after states reopen”.
The former head of Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017, Andy Slavitt, commented on Twitter that the White House guidelines were sending a clear message to the states: “Your state didn’t open, that’s on your governor. Your state opened and people died, that’s on your governor.”
Trump attempted to sell the idea of devolving responsibility by presenting his vision of America as a “beautiful puzzle”. He said: “I call it a beautiful puzzle. You have 50 pieces. All very different. But when it’s done … a very beautiful picture.”
A “beautiful puzzle” may be an appealing concept to the incumbent of the Oval Office in an election year. But it fits uncomfortably with a virus that is highly contagious, relatively deadly, and dismissive of state boundaries.
“The states are not islands, their borders are not closed and they do not have water around them,” Cicero said. “So it will be a bumpy road going forward in terms of managing the virus.”
States still held in the grip of the contagion, such as New York, are finding it difficult to accept the idea that the buck stops with them in a country with the most powerful national government on Earth. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has repeatedly called on the Trump administration to do more to help.
“I understand that the federal government’s not eager to get involved in testing. But the plain reality here is we have to do it in partnership,” he said on Thursday.
At Trump’s disposal is the formidable wartime power of the Defense Production Act, which allows the administration to order corporations to redirect their efforts to the cause of fighting Covid-19. So far the president has deployed this capability only sparingly.
The president said there were 29 states which are in “extremely good shape” and could reopen soon, some “literally tomorrow”. He declined to name them, though it has been reported that several Republican governors are champing at the bit to loosen lockdowns.
Florida, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi are at the head of the line, according to Axios. Florida began to reopen its beaches on Friday, a controversial move given that the late closure of its beaches during spring break helped spread Covid-19 across the US.
The danger of Trump’s “beautiful puzzle” approach is illustrated by New York City, where the death toll continues to be heartwrenching. The probable tally of deaths from Covid-19 in the city now stands at more than 11,000 – more than double the normal monthly loss of life from all other causes.
“I’m moved and crushed by what’s happening in New York right now,” said Frieden, who until 2009 was the city’s health commissioner.
About 10,000 New Yorkers a day are currently being tested for coronavirus. Mark Levine, chair of New York City council’s health committee, told the Guardian that the frequency would need to be stepped up twentyfold were the city to have a fighting chance at reopening.
Yet even now New York is just days away from running out of testing kits.
Levine said he worries that the window for federal action is rapidly closing. “Trump has the authority to order manufacturers to retool to produce test kits. Unless the White House issues the order immediately, we are going to be out of time.”

The Trump Family’s History With the KKK
Linda Gordon on Fred Trump, plus Nancy MacLean on the roots of the right.
by Jon Wiener
The Nation
The KKK of the 1920s had millions of members outside the South. It targeted Catholics and Jews as well as blacks, and had impressive success at electing governors and congressmen. It passed anti-immigrant restrictions that remained in effect until 1965. And Fred Trump, the president’s father, was arrested as a young man at a Klan march in New York City. Historian Linda Gordon explains—her new book is The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan and the American Political Tradition.
Nancy MacLean uncovered the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America: the historical connection between the Koch brothers’ anti-government politics, the white South’s massive resistance to desegregation, and a Nobel Prize–winning Virginia economist. Nancy is an award-winning historian and the William H. Chafe professor of history and public policy at Duke University. Her Democracy in Chains was named “most valuable book” of 2017 by John Nichols on The Nation‘s Progressive Honor Roll.

Donald Trump’s father was arrested at Ku Klux Klan riot in New York in 1927, records reveal
President heavily criticised for failing to single out violent actions of white supremacists demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia
August 14, 2017
by Philip Bump
The Independent/UK
When he was asked on CNN’s State of the Union whether he would condemn the praise of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke last year, Donald Trump declined to disavow Duke’s comments.
“I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay,” Trump said. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. I don’t know, did he endorse me? Or what’s going on. Because I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.”
In 2000, Trump declined to run for president as a member of the Reform Party because the “Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr Buchanan, and a communist, Ms Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.” As Trump himself noted on Twitter, he also disavowed Duke in a news conference earlier this week.
Donald Trump condemns neo-Nazis and KKK following criticism
But this incident also brings to mind another report, unearthed in September by the technology blog Boing Boing.
On Memorial Day 1927, brawls erupted in New York led by sympathisers of the Italian fascist movement and the Ku Klux Klan. In the fascist brawl, which took place in the Bronx, two Italian men were killed by anti-fascists. In Queens, 1,000 white-robed Klansmen marched through the Jamaica neighbourhood, eventually spurring an all-out brawl in which seven men were arrested.
One of those arrested was Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road in Jamaica.
This is Donald Trump’s father. Trump had a brother named Fred, but he wasn’t born until more than a decade later. The Fred Trump at Devonshire Road was the Fred C. Trump who lived there with his mother, according to the 1930 Census.
The predication for the Klan to march, according to a flier passed around Jamaica beforehand, was that “Native-born Protestant Americans” were being “assaulted by Roman Catholic police of New York City.” “Liberty and Democracy have been trampled upon,” it continued, “when native-born Protestant Americans dare to organise to protect one flag, the American flag; one school, the public school; and one language, the English language.”
It’s not clear from the context what role Fred Trump played in the brawl. The news article simply notes that seven men were arrested in the “near-riot of the parade,” all of whom were represented by the same lawyers. Update: A contemporaneous article from the Daily Star notes that Trump was detained “on a charge of refusing to disperse from a parade when ordered to do so.”
When news of the old report surfaced last year, Donald Trump vehemently denied his father’s arrest. “He was never arrested. He has nothing to do with this. This never happened. This is nonsense and it never happened,” he said to the Daily Mail. “This never happened. Never took place. He was never arrested, never convicted, never even charged. It’s a completely false, ridiculous story. He was never there! It never happened. Never took place.”
Given the politics and cultural constraints of 1927, the Klan wasn’t the sort of thing that a politician would necessarily be asked to condemn. An article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from that December notes that the Klan would probably weigh in heavily against the potential presidential nomination of then-New York Governor Al Smith, given that he was a Catholic and a “champion of ‘alienism.’”

Trump as dual personality
April 18, 2020
by Michael Hunt
Trump has been a manipulative, thoroughly dishonest, businessman as evident in his methodology of non-payment of bills, planting false information, threatening those who dare to criticize him, constant boasting, chronic lying and short-term memory problems.
He has, unfortunately, brought his defects to the Oval Office and we constantly see such fictions rampant as ‘The Poisoned Russians in Britain,” “Spies in the Presidential campaign,” threats to put tariffs on various foreign imports, theats to use military force on perceived uncooperative former allies, and a host of other actions that Trump hopes will energize legions of far-right and Jewish voters to support him in the next election.
Because Trump has led an insulated life and gets what he wants by connivance and threats, he is out of touch with reality.
His negative actions are seen daily on the Internet and in the media and these build up with even the most stupid voter.
He has, often deliberately, antagonized such a large field of potential opponents that his hubris will destroy him and, in the end, cause chaos and disruption in the United States and many other countries.
Since Trump is used to having his way in the business world, he is of the opinion that his successful techniques in that field will work just as well in the political one.
The only positive aspect of the coming storm is that many disparate groups will join against Trump in a common cause and force him from the White House.
There will be many far right supporters, Jewish groups and others who will mourn his passing and as a parallel, today in Russia, who is fortunate to have a successful and effective president, there are still some who yearn for the return of the murderous Josef Stalin.
Washington has always been a city filled with rumors, speculations, gossip, and many manifestations of self-importance.
I had lunch the other day with a member of one of the alphabet agencies who told me, in strict confidence, that his agency had ‘positive proof’ that Trump had gay connections when he was younger and still lived back in the closet.
He said that Trump’s very aggressive (and blatantly crude) attitudes towards women was a sure indicator of his orientation and that his wife was keeping their attractive son as far away from his attentions as she could.

The Empire in Collapse
by Christian Jürs
Because of the growing, and serious, public discontent that had been manifested during the course of the Vietnamese War from 1950 through 1973, the American governmental establishment resolved to take steps to recognize, infiltrate and neutralize any significant future national anti-government actions.
Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country. The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public
This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.
The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2019.
•Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
•Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.
This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.
•Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
•Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
•The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
•The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
•The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.
By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.
It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.
Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.
About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent. Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)
Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.
Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.
Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.
Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.
Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.
Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.
The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:
• One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
• More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
• The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
• The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.
The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.
There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)
This results in the 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.
Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.
This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.
Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.
America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.
A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.
Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.
But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.
The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.
Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.
This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.
Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.
The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.
This movement has played into the hands of far-right American political manipulators.
It is their intention to clandestinely arm these groups and use them to cause violent public confrontations with the far left groups.
By causing this potential violence, the manipulators intend to use the American military to move into unstable area to, as they say, ‘establish law and order’ while in reality, they will use martial law to firm up their basic control of a potentially fractious public.
It is then intended, according to information, to incorporate organized, para-military groups into a sort of domestic Federal police force. These people will not be punished for their actions but rewarded and utilized to ensure further right-wing control of the country.

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