Usher’s News & Analysis for July 26, 2020

If each of those 2.31 million people who kept their jobs had gone on unemployment instead, and received a $600 check from the federal government each week, it would have cost Washington just $9,600 a head—$22 billion total—over four months. With the money left over, the feds could have given states an extra $10 billion to hire more staffers to process UI claims, spent another $293 billion doubling the checks the IRS sent to families, and still had another $192 billion left over to help businesses like bars, restaurants, movie theaters, salons, and gyms that were shut down for public health reasons keep paying their rent.

You can’t blame Congress for not writing a perfect program on the fly in the middle of a global catastrophe. Lawmakers were hurriedly trying to stitch together a parachute for the economy while it was already in free fall. But even in March, there were other, potentially better models available. Much had already been written about Denmark’s approach, which only covered pay for workers who were furloughed, and covered 100 percent of normal expenses for businesses like restaurants and hairdressers that were ordered closed. A similar program in the U.S. might have prevented law firm partners from pocketing subsidy dollars while also decreasing the political pressure on states to reopen early from business owners who were worried about covering their rent.

I’m not upset about the PPP. What has bothered me is the lack of follow-through.

The problem lies with the fiscal hawks, regardless of party, who either don’t understand where money comes from and what low interests really means or have been simply shilling as the corporatists they mostly are.

We needed a great deal more fiscal spending. I’d say nearly 10 times as much. It could have been progressively more targeted.

Instead, we’ve had a bunch of overpaid foot draggers using the crisis to further enrich the privatizers at the general expense of all the rest of us.

They all need to be turned out of office ASAP and never allowed to return as deficit hawks! In fact, we need to stop governmental borrowing and rather just issue the money. That would permanently end all the deficit nonsense once and for all.

The Paycheck Protection Program Was a Flop

This foolish move by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is exactly why ransomware works. Bitcoin has been absolutely valueless other than for crime.

Banks Won’t Rush to Hold Crypto – But OCC’s Regulatory Approval Makes It Harder to Ignore

No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no entrance, no service. Violators will be prosecuted. Why don’t we have it? Trump.

There is no federal mandate to wear a mask, and many state and local governments have not required wearing one. This has forced retailers to navigate a patchwork system and left them in the position of having to create their own policies.

“Many retailers feel like they have to act since some governors haven’t,” said Melissa Murdock, spokesperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents companies such as Walmart, Target, Walgreens and others. The group wrote to the National Governors Association on July 6, saying that public officials should issue uniform mask mandates across all 50 states.

“Either security or management needs to tell people that they must wear a face mask in order to be served. It’s no different than wearing shoes or a shirt,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. If companies “are not requiring customers to wear a mask within their store, then they never had a requirement.

Walmart and others will still serve customers who refuse to wear masks, despite new rules

… Alaska is experiencing the rainiest five years in its century-long meteorological record. Extreme weather on both ends of the spectrum—hot and dry versus cool and wet—are driven by an aspect of climate change called Arctic amplification. As the earth warms, temperatures in the Arctic rise faster than the global average.

While the physical basis of Arctic amplification is well understood, it is less known how it will affect the permafrost that underlies about a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, including most of Alaska. Permafrost locks about twice the carbon that is currently in the atmosphere into long-term storage and supports Northern infrastructure like roads and buildings; so understanding how a changing climate will affect it is crucial for both people living in the Arctic and those in lower latitudes.

Alaska is getting wetter. That’s bad news for permafrost and the climate

Crispr had made the cuts it was supposed to. But then it made some more. So in the location where Van Eenenaam and Owen had intended to paste a single copy each of SRY and GFP, it got much messier. On one arm of chromosome 17, the new DNA didn’t take at all. The cell randomly grabbed 26 DNA letters to fill the gap. (That’s pretty normal for how cells repair double-stranded DNA breaks.) It was the other arm where the real action happened. In about 90 percent of cells, seven copies of SRY and GFP had been plopped in. Two of them had been inserted backwards. And the bacterial plasmid was in there too. In about 10 percent of cells, there were three (properly oriented) copies of the SRY-GFP construct and one plasmid.

… Cosmo’s SRY pile-up is precisely the kind of unforeseen consequence that Crispr critics worry about when it comes to the risks of gene editing. Other experiments abroad, aimed at bringing designer farm animals to market, have turned up strange side effects in recent years, including enlarged tongues in rabbits, pigs with extra vertebrae, and premature deaths of cattle. …

… In Australia, researchers are using Crispr to identify the sex of a chicken the day its egg is laid—so that eggs with male embryos can be destroyed before they develop into feeling, cheeping chicks. In Germany, researchers are using Crispr to edit pig sperm so that all their offspring are female, because males grow up to produce an appetite-ruining chemical cocktail called “boar taint” in their meat. Today, farmers often try to avoid that by castrating male piglets without anesthetics, a brutal practice Germany’s government has recently banned. (The law goes into effect next year.) And dozens of other projects aiming to use Crispr to make animals less susceptible to disease and other cruelties of industrial agriculture are in progress in other parts of the world too. Cosmo will have plenty to teach all of them.

A Crispr Calf Is Born. It’s Definitely a Boy

Interesting effort:

The drugs were first identified by high-throughput screening of more than 12,000 drugs from the ReFRAME drug repurposing collection—the most comprehensive drug repurposing collection of compounds that have been approved by the FDA for other diseases or that have been tested extensively for human safety.

New study identifies 21 existing drugs that could treat COVID-19


Radiation-Absorbing Fungus From Chernobyl Might Help Protect Settlers on Mars, Study Says

We must fully subsidize the greening of our housing stock.

The good news is that by simply following existing trends, US housing can do its part to meet the 2025 goals. That will not, however, get us to the more challenging 2050 goals. That’s primarily because many homes will continue to use fossil fuels, rather than electricity, for things like heating and cooking. This can be overcome in part by boosting the rate of heat pump systems, which use electricity to power both heating and cooling, to three times their current rate. When that’s combined with distributed solar, better grids, and efficiency retrofits, housing can potentially reach the 2050 target. But increasing the number of smaller and multi-unit dwellings would greatly increase our chances.

Separate from everything that has to be done is the matter of how to pay for it. Multiunit dwellings are more likely to involve rentals. In many of these, the building’s owner won’t be paying the energy bills, and therefore doesn’t have much incentive to do the needed retrofits. The authors also note that there are 25 million households in the US where poverty is severe enough that the energy bill competes with food. Figuring out how to overcome these hurdles is a society-level challenge.

How to change US housing to hit Paris Agreement goals

Excellent, short report:

… if we keep up our current pace, the amount of plastic waste that finds its way into our oceans will actually triple in the next 20 years. The effects of this are cascading: from trash killing marine life and impacting entire ecosystems to microplastics working their way up the human food chain (yes, the microplastics problem has a direct impact on us as we eventually eat our own trash because of this problem).

New Report Says Plastic Waste in the Ocean Will Triple in 20 Years

Some great ideas:

Towards a Common Practice of [building-construction] Material Recycling

Recycling Warehouses: 25 Adaptive Reuse Projects

… Tony Juniper called on the government and planners to change their thinking to ensure environmental considerations were designed into new housing estates, as well as road and rail projects, at the beginning, rather than being a hasty “add-on” or “mitigation” at the end.

We’ve never had a better chance …

… to make a greener world. Covid-19 has delivered unusual environmental benefits: cleaner air, lower carbon emissions, a respite for wildlife. Now the big question is whether we can capitalise on this moment.

Make nature part of ‘build build build’ policy, green watchdog says

Renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels, driven by wind and solar replacing coal. That’s fast progress from just nine years ago when fossil fuels generated twice as much as renewables.

Renewable Energy is Now the EU’s Main Source of Electricity

They need to push hard to make it the only source.

Just because it has something to do with plants doesn’t mean it’s green.

… “plant-derived” detergents are caprylyl glucoside and laureth-6. These compounds are not found in plants, but the raw materials from which they are made are. Laureth-6 is a detergent that is synthesized from lauryl alcohol that is produced from palm kernel oil or coconut oil. That production involves a number of chemical steps, starting with hydrogenation to liberate the lauryl alcohol from the triglycerides (fats) in the oil. Caprylic acid is a minor constituent of palm kernel and coconut oils and can be reacted with glucose to form caprylyl glucoside, a compound that does not occur in nature.

The “Greenwashing” Effect | Office for Science and Society – McGill University

… at least for now, there’s an advantage to getting your rare earths by recycling materials that already contain the mix you want. Otherwise, as demand for dysprosium increases, you could be stuck producing ten times that amount in lanthanum just to get the dysprosium you want.

… “If we think about the way things are designed, it’s designed to enhance usage. It’s not designed to think about things at the end of the life of a product,” Jowitt said.

If it were easier to disassemble a device and separate the components into different recycling streams, recyclers could skip brute-force tactics like shredding devices and sifting through the pieces.

We need to stop relying on capitalism to handle this. It needs to be handled as a publicly owned and operated utility. “Profit” should have nothing to do with it, only environmentalism.

Are we ready to recycle the “rare earths” behind an energy revolution?

… “radical efficiency” comes to the rescue; by reducing demand so significantly (as you do with Passive House) that the red and blue heating and cooling bars almost disappear. Then you don’t need much PV at all, the building itself helps out as a thermal battery, and you get very close to zero operating carbon emissions without a net.

It’s time to throw away the net, to forget about the “fuzzy math” of offsets which were never serious for flying and are not much better in building. It’s time for true zero carbon as the new target. It’s hard, but it can be done.

The New Green Standard: Zero Carbon Without a Net

A very interesting thought:

… quantum particles like the graviton live on the lower-dimensional surface and encode the familiar force of gravity in higher-dimensional space-time.

How the Bits of Quantum Gravity Can Buzz

I’m a progressive (not a liberal), an anti-war, economic leftist, and I disagree with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the vast majority of US-foreign-policy issues but not with the following:

Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pompeo said: “We must admit our truth that should guide us in the years and decades to come, that if we want to have a free 21st century, and not the Chinese century of which Xi Jinping dreams, the old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done,” he said. “We must not continue it and we must not return to it.”

Chinese fugitive taken into custody as US claims Houston consulate was a part of espionage network

Authors: How Bush Family, Western Elites Corrupted By Chinese Communist Party Money

Clive Hamilton & Mareike Ohlberg share the inspiration for their book, Hidden Hands: Exposing How The Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping The World, and explain what went into writing it.

When they were planning the Three Gorges Dam, I thought it was a very bad idea.

… for humanitarian, economic, and geopolitical reasons, the world should obviously hope the Three Gorges Dam holds. 2020 has already been enough of an annus terribilis.

The Risks of China’s Three Gorges Dam’s Flooding

I sure hope this guy loses his election. I hope the people of Kentucky wake up and realize he’s a disaster for the economy and tens of millions of people around the country struggling simply because of his work for plutocrats rather than all voters and citizens.

McConnell hopes to send coronavirus relief bill to the House in the next few weeks

… Mr. Ren said the party’s strict limits on free speech, including the silencing of whistle blowers, had exacerbated the crisis. At one point, he referred obliquely to Mr. Xi, who has tried to craft an image as a commanding, transformative leader, as a power-hungry “clown.”

“I see not an emperor standing there exhibiting his ‘new clothes,’ but a clown who stripped naked and insisted on continuing to be an emperor,” Mr. Ren wrote. He said he hoped the party would “wake up from ignorance” and oust the leaders getting in its way.

It is not the first time that Mr. Ren has faced punishment for criticizing Mr. Xi. In 2016, the party placed him on a year’s probation for denouncing Mr. Xi’s propaganda policies in comments online and shut down his social media accounts, where he had attracted tens of millions of followers.

Xu Zhangrun, a law professor who had repeatedly denounced Mr. Xi’s authoritarian policies, was briefly detained this month after writing essays blaming officials for delays and obfuscation in the early days of the epidemic. The police accused Mr. Xu of consorting with prostitutes, a charge his friends said was untrue and used as a slur to discredit him. He has since been dismissed from his teaching position at Tsinghua University in Beijing, friends say.

Xu Zhiyong, a legal activist, was detained in February, activists say, after accusing Mr. Xi of trying to conceal the coronavirus and calling on him to step down. He was formally arrested last month.

A Chinese Tycoon Denounced Xi Jinping. Now He Faces Prosecution

The striking themed in the FBI interview notes is that Mr. Danchenko relied on a group of like-minded friends, some drinking buddies, for stunning allegations against Mr. Trump and his associates — all of which eventually proved untrue. There are no first-hand Russian sources.

In a followup interview in March 2017, Mr. Danchenko told the FBI his sub-sources’ information was not worth “a grain of salt.”

Steele dossier source outed: Researcher Igor Danchenko

Frankly, anyone who actually believed the Steele Dossier was extremely naive at best. The same applies to the “Intelligence Report” that only speculated Russia was behind all the hacking or even any of it. Lump in all the extreme exaggeration concerning a Russian companies buying a few ads here and there (ads spanning the ideological spectrum), and you have the sum total of Russiagate. Ukrainegate was, in fact, an even bigger farce, as Trump did the right thing asking for an investigation. I would have done the exact same thing.

UK ‘Russia report’ fear-mongers about meddling yet finds no evidence

Pushback with Aaron Maté

A long-awaited UK government report finds no evidence of Russian meddling in British domestic politics, including the 2016 Brexit vote. But that hasn’t stopped the fear-mongering: the report claims the UK government didn’t find evidence because it didn’t look for it, and backs increased powers for intelligence agencies and media censorship as a result. Afshin Rattansi, a British journalist and host of RT’s “Going Underground”, responds.

Guest: Afshin Rattansi, British journalist and host of RT’s “Going Underground.”

If this woman did the wrong thing, than why is the US government supporting al Qaeda in Syria?

Arizona woman tried sending money to al Qaeda to ‘kill American soldiers,’ feds say

Twenty-five Swedish doctors and scientists published an open letter attacking the government’s approach to tackling the virus and claiming immunity rates were well below those mentioned by the agency, and possibly as low as 10 percent.

One of the authors of the letter, virologist Lena Einhorn, acknowledged that cases of COVID-19 — and the death rate from the disease — are falling in Sweden, but she disputed the idea that immunity is a big factor.

She cited better hygiene routines within elderly care homes and the fact that many Swedes are social distancing at summer homes as more important factors.

The number of deaths per million in Sweden, at 561, is below the worst-hit countries in Europe, including the U.K. and Spain, but has now spiked to nearly 12 times that of neighboring Norway and around 10 times that of Finland.

Comparisons to the UK and Spain are nothing short of goofy. Spain got caught with it’s pants down, and the UK took forever to even begin to get its act together. It’s not even there yet.

Sweden split on coronavirus immunity

Police use of rubber bullets, bean bag rounds has left a bloody trail for decades. Those maimed say enough is enough.

The thing about the following is that with all the censorship, you’re not being allowed to look into any of the claims on either side or any side. You’re simply being told what to think without thinking. It’s important to understand the magnitude of the vaccine industry and that it is entirely profit driven. The negatives associated with vaccines are either completely ignored, downplayed, or even completely denied.

You’ll often hear or read that all vaccines are safe and effective. That could not be further from the truth, and that’s exactly what the vaccine industry doesn’t want you to know or to think or to even contemplate and especially not be able to research.

This situation is no different than the tobacco industry that covered up all the negatives of smoking and the coal, oil, and gas industries covering up all the negatives of such massive carbon burning, including global warming. It’s no different than Wall Street funding the securitization of all the toxic mortgages that led to the Great Recession. Let’s not forget the military industrial complexes push for the Iraq War with totally false claims of WMDs there, yellow cake, and that Hussein was involved in 9/11. Remember the powers that be telling us that the US government doesn’t spy on us. Then remember James Clapper having to apologize to us for that lie. Even after that, they still want to kill Edward Snowden, who simply let the world know that the US government had been violating the Bill of Rights on a regular and deliberate basis. It goes on and on and on.

Don’t be a dupe. Don’t just take the corporatist-MSM’s reporting as the Gospel concerning vaccines. Demand to hear what insiders have been trying to tell us for decades.

Local TV stations across the country set to air discredited ‘Plandemic’ researcher’s conspiracy theory about Fauci

The federal response has been collective punishment, which is against the law.

… Christopher J. David, a Navy veteran who said he went to the protests for the first time last weekend to ask officers whether they felt their actions violated the Constitution.

As he stood still in front of the officers, one began hitting him with a baton. Mr. David said the attack broke his fingers.

Mr. Obermeyer cited that case as one of the motivations of the “Wall of Vets.”

Another veteran, Clint Hall, said he came out to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Carrying a “Disabled Veterans 4 BLM” sign, the Army veteran said the federal presence in the city had simply increased the tension.

“Things were getting better, and then they came here and made it worse,” Mr. Hall said. “Enough is enough.”

After suffering through the tear gas that was shot into the crowd, Mr. Hall said that the tear gas was so strong that it was leaving burns on his skin. He said it felt worse than the tear gas he recalled from his time in the Army.

“This response from the feds is over the top,” he said.

A ‘Wall of Vets’ Joins the Front Lines of Portland Protests

Good, neutral overview:

Stimulus: Here Are The Latest Numbers For Second Stimulus Checks, Student Loans, Unemployment And More

The Democratic plan is vastly superior for our overall economy, firms, and households.

The secretary called the $600 weekly aid “ridiculous” and a disincentive for people to go back to work.

There aren’t enough safe jobs for all the people to go back to work. Over 30 million people have been unemployed. Plus, the virus has had a field day because officials reopened grossly prematurely. Lastly, the enhanced unemployment has been a stimulus. We still need that.

Second stimulus check updates: Coronavirus aid package soon, with $1,200 checks by August, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says

… the U.S. Justice Department argued that the inability to use pepper spray, blast balls and other devices might actually lead to more police use of force, not less, the Times reported.

They usually use those things when it’s completely unnecessary. That’s why they’re so heavily criticized. They should simply allow protesting and only go after those engaging in violence and property destruction. They should work with protesters so local businesses won’t suffer due to blockages.

Federal judge blocks Seattle council’s law banning police anti-riot gear

Landlords should lobby hard to not let this happen.

“The wave of evictions has already begun, and now Congress needs to act to prevent it from becoming a tsunami,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“If the federal ban is not extended, if the state and local eviction moratoriums that are scheduled to expire in the coming weeks do, and if no emergency rental assistance is provided, then from the end of August through fall, millions of Americans will be evicted from their homes,” Yentel said.

Renters brace for evictions as moratorium ends

Good move:

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and several busts honoring Confederate figures have been removed from the Virginia statehouse.

Among the eight busts that were removed were ones of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy.

Robert E. Lee statue and other Confederate busts removed from Virginia statehouse

If people aren’t treated in a civilized manner, if they aren’t given equal rights, if those rights aren’t enforced, they will fight against those oppressing them. There is no good reason not to treat people fairly.

Armed members of NFAC all-black militia march in Louisville to demand justice for Breonna Taylor

Hundreds of NFAC activists, clad in black and carrying weapons, marched through the city of Louisville, Kentucky, calling for the investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death to be expedited.

US erupts | Major American cities gripped by a wave of protests

US sees huge Black Lives Matter protests in major cities, with the biggest confrontation taking place in Seattle, where police declared a riot and made 45 arrests