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Monthly Archives: April 2020


What If the Court Saw Other Rights as Generously as Gun Rights?

Both gun-rights advocates and educational equity activists use similar legal strategies. Why does the Supreme Court treat them so differently?

MARCH 7, 2020

Aaron Tang

Professor of law at the University of California, Davis

 

This is an essay about two words no one wants to see in the same story: guns and schools. But this isn’t about school shootings. This is instead about two starkly different social-activist groups: gun-rights proponents and educational-equity advocates. It’s about their steadfast pursuit of wildly divergent civil rights. It’s about a surprising similarity in their legal strategies. And more than anything, it’s a story about law and ideology, and the difficulty of deciding the former without the influence of the latter.

 

Both groups have long courted the Supreme Court’s intervention. Spearheaded by new leadership at the NRA in the late 1970s, gun-rights activists engaged for decades in an effort to persuade the Supreme Court to recognize an individual Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense at home. The Court ultimately enshrined that right 12 years ago in D.C. v. Heller, displacing a long-standing consensus to the contrary. In the years after Heller, however, conservatives such as Justice Clarence Thomas frequently complained that the Court had ignored this fledgling right by refusing to expand its reach beyond the facts of Heller itself, effectively resigning the right to “second-class” status.

John Paul Stevens: The Supreme Court’s worst decision of my tenure

Second-class no more. In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, a major case argued in December, the Court appears poised to expand the Second Amendment to protect gun possession outside the home as well. Just how far is an open question, though gun-rights groups have focused for now on enshrining a right to transport guns to shooting ranges and second homes.

For educational-equity advocates, the Court’s involvement has not been as helpful. The Court declared in 1973 that the Constitution guarantees no right to an education. That ruling paved the way for today’s radically unequal public-school spending patterns—patterns that reinforce and exacerbate existing socioeconomic and racial inequalities.

Like the gun activists, educational-equality proponents have not given up their vision of a constitutional solution. Equity advocates’ present litigation strategy is exemplified by a case known as Gary B v. Whitmer, which is currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The complaint in the case is painful to read: Many classes in Detroit public schools are taught by unqualified substitutes, and many classrooms use textbooks that are decades old, or lack them altogether. School buildings are in complete disrepair; the temperature had risen to 110 degrees in one building because of the lack of air conditioning, and students have to wear jackets and hats inside a number of schools during the winter months because of the lack of heat.

These schools, the plaintiffs argue, have deprived Detroit schoolchildren of their basic right to literacy, in violation of the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. A district judge rejected the plaintiffs’ theory in 2018, but a panel of judges on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals seemed more receptive during oral argument in October. And regardless of the outcome of the case in the Sixth Circuit, the Supreme Court will likely have the final say, perhaps as early as in 2021.

At first glance, the gun rights movement and the pursuit of educational equity seem to have little in common. But they in fact share an approach: Both promote arguments that rely on what are called “implied” or “unenumerated” constitutional rights.

Start with the gun activists’ position in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. One of their primary objectives is to vindicate a constitutional right to transport their firearms to any shooting range of their choosing. (New York City forbade certain gun owners with premises licenses from bringing their guns to shooting ranges outside city limits—at least, that is, before the city and state both amended the law to permit such travel. The gun-owning plaintiffs wanted to shoot at ranges in New Jersey.)

The argument for a constitutional right to train at any shooting range is far from obvious. The Second Amendment speaks of a right to “keep” and “bear” arms, but says nothing about a right to train or practice. And indeed, cities and states at the founding often restricted gun owners to practicing only at prescribed locations.

So what do the gun activists argue? It’s worth reproducing this argument from their brief verbatim, with emphasis added to a single word: “The right to possess firearms for protection implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use … after all, the core right to keep and bear arms for self-defense wouldn’t mean much without the training and practice that make it effective.” The Second Amendment may say nothing about the right to practice at a shooting range of one’s choosing, in other words, but that right ought to be recognized implicitly because it is important for an express constitutional right to have full meaning.

Now consider the argument advanced by advocates of a constitutional right to basic literacy. Like gun activists and their right to firearms training, educational-equity advocates recognize that the Constitution says nothing explicit about education. But surely a guarantee of basic literacy skills must be implicit in the document in order for its express rights to have meaning. As the Gary Bcomplaint puts it, “without access to basic literacy skills, citizens cannot engage in knowledgeable and informed voting,” cannot exercise “their right to engage in political speech” under the First Amendment, and cannot enjoy their “constitutionally protected access to the judicial system … including the retention of an attorney and the receipt of notice sufficient to satisfy due process.”

The identical logical structure that underpins these otherwise distinctive arguments presents a puzzle for the Supreme Court. How can it in good faith accept a theory of implied constitutional rights for gun owners only to reject the same argument for schoolchildren? Yet the consensus among close followers is that this is the most likely outcome: Gun-rights activists believe the Court is primed to deliver them a victory in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, while educational-equity advocates recognize that the Court’s conservative majority is unlikely to rule in their favor.

Should it come to pass, a pro-gun, anti-schoolchildren result would reveal some bleak lessons about the Supreme Court and the influence of political ideology on its justices. When logic cannot support the Court’s divergent decisions, the public is left with the impression that the Court is just engaged in politics by another name—that the “Supreme Court is not a court and its justices are not judges.” This has happened before: The Rehnquist Court famously took a cramped view of Congress’s power to regulate violence against women and (ironically enough) gun possession in school zones under the commerce clause. But when faced with a similar attack against Congress’s power to criminalize homegrown-marijuana production and use, the Court did a sudden about-face, broadly defending congressional authority.

Perhaps, then, a neutral theory of implied rights—one founded on first principles instead of politics—ought to shape constitutional law. Under such a theory, starting with shared values seems fitting. To that end, consider Chief Justice John Marshall’s famous declaration two centuries ago that “we must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding.” A constitution’s very “nature,” Chief Justice Marshall explained, “requires that only its great outlines should be marked, its important objects designated, and the minor ingredients which compose those objects be deduced from the nature of the objects themselves.”

Put another way, implied rights are a necessary consequence of the shared effort to live in a democracy bound by a timeless and embracing constitutional document. The Constitution is short for a reason: It lets people work out their problems over time, as they develop. Thus, many of America’s proudest judicial moments champion implied rights: the right to vote in state elections, the right to appeal a criminal conviction, and even the right to procreate. Like the right to vote, in particular, the right to education is “preservative of other basic civil and political rights,” and should be recognized for the same reason. And if one agrees with Heller’s individual, self-defense interpretation of the Second Amendment right—an assumption that, to be sure, is subject to powerful counterarguments—then an individual right to train with firearms would be entitled to the same logical underpinning.

This story is part of the project “The Battle for the Constitution,” in partnership with the National Constitution Center.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

AARON TANG is a professor of law at the University of California, Davis, focusing on constitutional law, education law, and federal courts.

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We need to avoid the madness of TOTUS and remember to vote if you want change.MA

 

24April

by Jon Katz

(Note: The purpose of my pieces on politics are not to hate anyone or boost anyone, but to try to explain to confused and frightened people what is really going on, using my own experience as a former TV news producer (CBS News) and as a political writer and reporter and media critic. I see a lot of argument, but very little honest insight and analysis. People need it, judging from my e-mail. I don’t do left-right parroted dogma, nor do I argue my ideas on social media. If you don’t want to think about things, go somewhere else, thanks.)

The first thing to understand is that President Trump is neither crazy nor stupid.

If he were either of those things, he would not be where he is, and I would not be writing about him, and you would not be reading what I write.

In political terms, he has accomplished the impossible and is now the most formidable force in American politics. It is imperative to understand how this happened and is happening.

The second is a quote from George Orwell: “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your choosing.” We can see that happening every day. That is his power.

Donald Trump has made it quite clear that he knows nothing about curing the coronavirus, or about medications and how they work or if they work. Nor does he care if what he is saying is true or false, or if it might kill people if we took it.

He is a survivor, and he will do what he has to do to survive, at all costs and by any means.

His survival now depends on him being accepted as a true leader during this crisis. If not for the partisanship crippling our politics, he would probably have resigned by now.

As it is, victory remains within reach for him, providing he can establish himself as a powerful and competent leader.

So what is really happening here, when a President of the United States suggests people might inject themselves with disinfectant to fight off a Pandemic? I look at it this way: I’m not interested in joining the chorus of outrage,  but in exploring this extraordinary window – his mind-numbing advice – into who he is and how he uses outrage for gain.

We’re not playing by the old rules, the way America processes things is radically different than what most of us know and accept, or what I grew up with. I take Donald Trump seriously.

This is something we need to understand if we want to know what is happening and how to respond to it.

Last night was another triumph for Trump, it worked for him in every possible way, and I want to try to explain why.

Every morning, we awake to a new and shocking Trump “controversy,” and all of the media oxygen in America is his. He takes up all the space in the media universe, day after day, more than any political figure in American history.

Every morning we – the people from the previous world – wake up in shock, anger, and disbelief. It works for him every time. No one has ever understood how modern media works better than President Trump. His political opposition has no idea what he is doing or why and how and why we are all complicit in his rise.

As a politician, Trump works the dark side, not the bright side. He doesn’t evoke a city on a hill, as Reagan did. He lives and works on the dark side of fear, grievance, and xenophobia. That’s where his political soul resides. That’s where his strength is.

This morning, the outrage of the day was his sly – and yes,  seemingly insane – ruminations about how ultra-violet light and sipping Bleach and disinfectant might cure the coronavirus.

Almost in unison, his many critics fumed and screamed – this is outrageous, irresponsible, dangerous. As they are ethically obliged to do, every responsible physician in America tweeted and sounded the alarm: don’t drink disinfectant, don’t try drinking bleach.

The people who dislike him freaked out, wringing their hands at yet another horror coming from the mouth of this President.

They made this President very happy, yet again. It worked one more time.

For President Trump, being outrageous is like pushing a button and watching Times Square light up at night. He can grab his remote switcher, lie in bed, watch the fireworks,  and see his image everywhere.

He makes Big Brother look like a pretzel vendor on the street.

The elemental truth there is that one can’t understand what he is doing by putting him down as an ignorant lunatic or getting stressed and discouraged.

This completely misses the point of what is happening. Media wise, Trump is pure genius, being outrageous is his core ideology, the reason he is President and might be once more. And in this corporate media climate – ratings and profits are everything, there is no other ethic – it just keeps on working.

To Trump, saying outrageous things is now an art form, he can sit back and watch journalists and millions of educated people jump up and down like hungry puppies. For cable news, it’s now a ritual, broadcast everything he says, and then argue about it. Everyone has bought into it.

What a travesty.

And everyone in the universe this morning has one thing in common: they are talking about one thing: Donald Trump, they are talking about him and thinking about him. There is nothing else; Trump takes precedent over everything,  even the deaths of 50,000 people.

Without this greedy corporate media, Trump would have long ago become a fringe figure. If I were looking for blame, I could go there. What a wide-open door for a demagogue.

That is what real power is—every day. So chalk up another win for the President.

Once again – for perhaps the thousandth time – everyone bit this morning, everyone did what they were supposed to do and what he wanted them to do. He wins by losing.

The so-called “Left” – liberals, progressives, college people, elitists, smarty-pants, etc. were outraged, angry, and lining up to condemn this unquestionably irresponsible, even dangerous idea.

How can he say such things? How does he get away with them?

How can we not know the answer to this question by now?

And when will we finally learn it, and move onto the next chapter in our political lives?

Once again, Fox News rushed to defend him. MSNBC rushed to attack him. CNN rushed to fact-check him, each pretending they are the honest brokers, that they care about the truth and health of people, each pulling in big ratings and billions of dollars. The serious print press – the New York Times, the Washington Post – tracked down various experts to explain to us why gulping down bleach isn’t a good idea.

By being “insane,” Trump is the story again, all day.

Once again, his followers rushed to defend him against the bureaucrats, elitists, and entrenched experts who are again plotting to thwart him and his so-called war against the norm.

Everybody bit, everyone followed his script. If it weren’t so disturbing and fraught, it would be boring.

I should say here that when I was a producer at CBS News, just before the corporate takeovers of TV and TV news, we would never have aired Trump’s press conference live for two hours every night in an election year.

That is how much things have changed in the media landscape. Donald Trump has been paying attention all along.

When I was hired at CBS, my boss told me that only one thing could get me fired instantly, and without any discussion or due process, and that was airing something I wasn’t sure was 100 percent true. If you’re not sure, he said, wait until you are.

If it’s inflammatory, or politically expedient, or irresponsible, don’t dare put it on the air.

The networks were hardly angelic then, but they were owned by individual people who had pride in them, and who felt accountable for what they puy on the air. There were four hundred fact-checkers at CBS News when I worked there, there is a handful now.

I don’t mention this to rail about the old days, but to point out the radical change in media ethics that is standard now in almost all of the broadcast media, online and off.  This and social media have transformed our politics.

They created a system that makes Donald Trump inevitable, as well as successful.

Facebook, one of the largest news organizations on the earth, is proud of taking no responsibility for what they publish. It is the kingdom of lies and provocations.

If CNN is concerned about airing President Trump’s calculated lies and misinformation about the coronavirus, they won’t air his press conferences for two hours every single night, so that they can “correct” them.

If MSNBC thinks the President is dishonest and dangerous, why broadcast his daily show and talk about him for hours and hours every single day?

Corporations – including Fox News – are constructed to care about one thing: profits and ratings bring benefits, and President Trump brings ratings and big profits. He doesn’t hate fake news, he loves fake news, and they love him in return.

While Fox News anchors dismissed the virus as a Democratic plot, the corporation was sending workers home to quarantine themselves and stay out of the office.

As for Trump himself, he understands well the lessons of modern media. It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong, honest, or lying. What matters is that you are out there, that your image is ubiquitous. In media terms, Trump is everything all the time. In politics, air time is more precious than anything.

How often have you seen Joe Biden on TV in recent weeks? This is what it means to be complicit.

There is no one else. Just think of that when you consider the political implications in an election year.

Trump’s genius comes from understanding that the more shocking, outrageous, and irresponsible he is, the more the media and “progressives”  will hate him,  his followers will worship him and accept him and rationalize him. What does he have to lose?

The process is stuck in the wrong place, and Trump knows how to milk this cow for all it’s worth. It’s simple enough to hate him for it, but it’s getting harder and harder to blame him for it.

Trump is like the cheeky schoolkid who dares to get up in front of the teacher and read a book report when it’s obvious he hasn’t read the book. Most of the class loves him for it.

To his followers, he is the rebel, the outlier, the renegade, challenging the system, and its conventional wisdom every single day.  In this sense, they see him as one of them. If every doctor goes on TV to say never inject yourself with disinfectants, he says think about it, study it, don’t let the establishment tell you what to do or think.

And if there’s anything his followers hate more than journalists, it’s rich doctors that they and their children can’t afford to go and see. Why should they listen to them?

It’s an appealing message to the alienated and dispossessed.  Whatever the establishment says, say the opposite. All criticism is a conspiracy.

For President Trump, the essential thing is topping himself almost every day by being outrageous and, to some, offensive. Open up the states (kind of), stop giving money to the WHO (maybe), ban all immigration (mostly), think about sipping Bleach to kill the coronavirus. And this is all in one week.

He knows most people can’t even keep track of all the outrageous feints, promises, and falsehoods. In our country, outrage has a shorter lifespan than milk. TV is never static, up and running 24/7; it is even needier than the Presidents’ Grievance Machine.

What on earth would they do without him?

And what is the common denominator? The so-called “elites” are angry and messed up and outraged. Always. They are offended at the Presidente so often that outrage isn’t even outraged any longer, it’s reflex.

His followers get to admire his courage and daring, the media has a dream story that will earn them lots of money day after day, and they get to pretend to be virtuous,  holier than thou, and full of “truth.”

And yes, our minds are being torn to pieces.

Trump has mastered Orwell’s doublethink more than anyone in the history of modern media.

It is a major reason he is President and the primary reason he needs to be outrageous, each day more than the next.  He has created a monster that is hungry and needs to be fed: every day.

Doublethink, wrote George Orwell, is the power that comes from holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.

One day the President admits in writing to the quid pro quo, the next day he says it’s a hoax. And nearly half the country believes today that it was a hoax. Call him anything you want, but don’t call him crazy.

If you study the texts of his outrages and outright lies, you can see the calculation and animal instincts in play. He isn’t just running his mouth; he knows precisely what he is doing.

One day he calls the Governor of Georgia to commend him for opening up businesses in his state when every medical expert says it’s too soon.

The next day at his press conference, he cuts the governor’s legs off by saying that he told him opening up was a huge mistake.

This is how doublethink works so well for him  – he can hold two or three different truths at one, tearing human minds to pieces and putting them back together again in new shapes of his choosing.

When reporters challenge him, he further delights his followers by calling them names and insulting them, showing them how tough he is, how willing he is to stand up against his conspiratorial detractors and accusers.

The difficult questions do not harm him; they strengthen him, give him some martyrdom. Every night there, he is,  for two hours at a pop, an extraordinary gift of free television for a political candidate. In the moral inversion that Trump has so skillfully created, there is no lying, no penalty for being false.

Every lie is a win. And all of us are enablers.

The befuddled and abused journalists in the White House press room are perfect foils for Donald Trump; they are content to be both abused and used. Why else would he submit to their questions when he fires anyone else who disagrees with him?

Early on in his first campaign, a friendly reporter asked him why he seemed to hate the media so much?

“I don’t hate them at all, he said, I need them. I call them fake so that when I do something wrong, and they report it, no one will believe them.”  Does that sound dumb to you?

The political challenge in 2020 is that Trump understands his followers better than anyone else running for office or hating him understands them. Dismissing them as stupid fools is not understanding them, it is feeding them – and him –  more fuel.

This morning, his followers had yet another reason to hate the media and the doctors and bureaucrats and governors telling them what to do, calling them dumb and irresponsible, taking away their jobs, and threatening their families.

Outside the convenience store this morning, the men in trucks were already on it: he’s just trying to come up with a cure, he didn’t tell people to drink Bleach, he just asked if they were testing the idea,  look at how they jump all over his ass because he’s trying to help people. They’ll do anything to destroy him.

That is the genius of Trump right there if you wish to understand what’s happening.

You take people who have been lied to and left behind for generations now, and come along and say I will take this system and set it on fire. It’s the perfect storm of the Demagogue.

Every outrageous thing he says or does or that shocks or goes against the grain, becomes a part of the revolution they so badly want, and believe is at hand.

Every criticism becomes part of the vast conspiracy to make him fail.

Being outraged with and to one another doesn’t accomplish much but tear us to pieces. People will have to put it somewhere, that means something if it is to matter politically.

The shrinks always talk about accepting death, and they might also suggest accepting Trump, and not turning every stupid thing he says into Watergate. He’s not getting into my head in that way, I promise.

Trump, or somebody in his orbit, is a student of George Orwell, and especially of his landmark book,1984.

In a righteous world, the networks would not cover his press conferences. There is no real news in them, and they are thinly disguised and re-furbished political rallies, the kinds he could go outside for before the coronavirus.

Why should the networks give him so much political rallying time when they admit every day that he is spouting lies and misinformation?

Producers know the only reason they air them at all is so that they can either defend him or attack him the next morning, and make even more money—our political structure as a circus.

It’s like the Weather Channel has a record-breaking blizzard to report on every single day. Their ratings and their revenues would go through the roof.

To understand  Trump, I believe, I must appreciate him as a Media Creature, from beginning to end. He spends most of his time watching TV in his bedroom or office, and projecting and experimenting with his image and surviving one catastrophe after another, including four separate bankruptcies, after which he published a best-selling book about his business genius.

I can’t speak to his business skills, but I can testify to his media genius. Politicians will be studying his methods for generations.

The challenge for the polis – for the body politic is different. I don’t ask whether Donald Trump is right or wrong, or accurate or dishonest, or crazy or sane.

The coronavirus may be too much even for doublethink; what we see and feel might be too powerful for even a genius to manipulate.

Trump has set his outrageous bar so high that it may be impossible for him to maintain it without blowing up the country altogether. If it’s a mistake to glory the common man and woman, it would be a mistake to underestimate them.

I keep thinking of the Greek playwrights – the hero always goes too far and sets himself on fire. Hubris is his real enemy, not the millions of people fussing or fuming over him every day. They are all, to a one, his greatest allies, and enablers.

When I saw the headlines this morning, I reminded myself not to waste a minute of time or peace of mind wondering why he would tell such irresponsible lies yesterday.

The challenge is not to argue that what he says is true, or succumb to hatred,  but to understand why he is saying it and why so many people might believe it.

As Orwell argued, you really can’t fight doublethink with rational argument, but with comprehension and understanding.

Reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else.

I’m a betting man, and if I had to bet, that’s what I would bet on. What I won’t be doing is taking his bait every single day. I want to keep the pieces of my mind together, and in one place.

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This is another deflection and a dig at Jeff Bezos of Amazon, as the article shows below, the reason for the USPS cash issues results from a 2006 law requireing pre funding 75 years of pensions. MA 

Grace Panetta

Apr 24, 2020, 12:18 PM

 

  • Trump confirmedWashington Post reporting that his administration is considering using a $10 billion emergency loan as leverage to require the cash-strapped US Postal Service to make big changes.
  • The CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last month, includes $10 billion in additional borrowing power subject to approval by the US Treasury Department. 
  • Top Trump administration officials are considering requiring the Postal Service to charge higher rates on its package delivery services and weaken the authority of powerful postal service unions.
  • On Friday, Trump called the Postal Service “a joke”and suggested that the Postal Service quadruple the rates they charge for shipping packages if they want federal government assistance.

 

In Friday comments to reporters, President Donald Trump confirmed a Thursday Washington Post report that the administration is considering using a $10 billion emergency loan as leverage to require the cash-strapped US Postal Service to make big changes to its structure and management.

The Postal Service, which doesn’t take taxpayer funding and operates based on the postal fees it charges, has been particularly hard-hit by the decline in mail caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last month, includes $10 billion in additional borrowing power subject to approval by the US Treasury Department.

Now, Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, want to use the promise of the loan to force the agency to implement long-sought-after changes, multiple sources told the Post. Both Trump and Mnuchin have previously quashed efforts to provide emergency relief to the Postal Service.

In his Friday bill signing of a new $484 billion coronavirus relief package, Trump called the Postal Service “a joke” and confirmed the Post’s reporting, suggesting that the Postal Service quadruple the rates they charge for shipping packages if they want federal government assistance, the Post’s Phil Rucker reported.

But Trump sang a markedly different tune on his Twitter feed later that afternoon, saying he would “never” let the agency “fail.”

Donald J. Trump

✔@realDonaldTrump

 

 

I will never let our Post Office fail. It has been mismanaged for years, especially since the advent of the internet and modern-day technology. The people that work there are great, and we’re going to keep them happy, healthy, and well!

The Post reported on Thursday that Trump administration officials are considering requiring the Postal Service to charge higher rates on its package delivery services, exerting greater control of the selection of top postal service officials, and weakening the authority of powerful postal service unions that represent thousands of employees around the country as conditions for approving the loan.

In total, the changes would shift much of the decision-making power over the Postal Service’s management and business operations away from the agency’s Board of Governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission to the Treasury Department.

The Post stressed, however, that none of these concessions are finalized since the Postal Service has not officially asked for the $10 billion loan included in the CARES Act.

Representatives for both the Postal Service and the US Treasury Department confirmed to the Post that while the agencies are in early talks on what the conditions for the loan could look like, officials haven’t formally agreed on any terms.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Gerry Conolly, who runs the subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, sounded the alarm a month ago that the agency could run out of funding altogether by June if Congress doesn’t act.

“Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House,” the two said in a March 23 joint statement, calling on Congress to appropriate $25 million in emergency funds to the agency.

On April 9, Postmaster General Megan Brennan told lawmakers that the massive expected decline in mail volume is expected to cause losses of up to $13 billion this year. He estimated that the agency wouldn’t be able to continue providing reliable service and pay its over 600,000 person workforce by September without immediate help.

The agency’s Board of Governors is now requesting $25 billion to help the agency deal with the immediate consequences of the pandemic, $25 billion in grant money to help it adapt, and an additional $25 billion in borrowing authority, CBS News reported. 

But Trump, who has vocally criticized the way the USPS is structured and the rates they charge, is actively opposed to any measures to help the Post Office. He refused to sign the CARES Act if it included a bailout for the agency, the Washington Post reported on April 11.

“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” an administration official told the Post. “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”

The Post reported that while Congress initially intended to give the Postal Service a $13 billion grant, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stepped in to quash it, telling lawmakers, “you can have a loan, or you can have nothing at all.”

Connolly told the Federal News Network in March that the $10 billion in credit “is, frankly, a meaningless gesture. It’s a slap in the face, and it’s not what they need … they don’t need more debt capacity, they need debt forgiveness.”

Trump has frequently criticized the Postal Service for, in his view, not charging high enough rates to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon for package delivery, or charging enough in its contracts with private logistics companies like FedEx and UPS to deliver packages to “last mile” areas.

But as the Post noted, USPS raising its package delivery rates could make it more difficult for them to compete with Amazon and other shipping companies like UPS and FedEx, hurting their financial state in the long run.

The significant decline in Americans using the Postal Service during the COVID-19 outbreak is only exacerbating existing financial woes, which were manufactured in part by Congress.

The agency is especially burdened by 2006 legislation that required the agency to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of employee pensions in advance. The service saw its annual losses double to $8.8 billion in 2019, and currently has $11 billion in outstanding debt.

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BRIAN NAYLOR

President Trump has repeatedly attacked Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service in recent days for acting as Amazon’s “delivery boy” and implying the online retailer has been getting a sweetheart deal for delivery of its packages.

President Trump has been insisting in recent days that the post office has been undercharging Amazon for delivering its packages to homes around the country. Here’s the president yesterday at a White House meeting.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The post office is losing billions of dollars, and the taxpayers are paying for that money because it delivers packages for Amazon at a very below cost.

KELLY: NPR’s Brian Naylor takes a look at that charge and finds that’s not quite the case.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The U.S. Postal Service delivers an estimated 40 percent of Amazon’s packages. And per package, while we don’t know for sure, they probably do pay less than we would if we were mailing a present to Aunt Ruth, in part because the logistics are a bit different, too.

MICHAEL PLUNKETT: When Amazon hands a package over to the Postal Service, they’re doing it very close to its destination, and it’s ready to be handed over directly to the carrier who’s going to deliver it, unlike when you or I take a package into our local post office.

NAYLOR: That’s Michael Plunkett, who was a vice president at the Postal Service and now leads PostCom, an association of large mailers.

Plunkett says no one really knows what kind of deal Amazon made with the Postal Service because the details are sealed. But he says contrary to what the president tweeted – that they lose a fortune – the Postal Service does not lose money delivering Amazon’s or anyone else’s packages.

PLUNKETT: The Postal Regulatory Commission does review the Postal Service’s contracts, and they’ve concluded the opposite – that the Postal Service does make money from its shipping contracts.

NAYLOR: Plunkett says the Postal Service’s deal with Amazon is probably unlike what it has arranged with other shippers.

PLUNKETT: Amazon probably looks very different from the rest of the Postal Service’s shipping business because they have enough volume in their own network of distribution centers, so the vast majority of their packages are being entered locally, and they’re very cost-efficient for the Postal Service to handle for the most part.

NAYLOR: In fact, package deliveries have been the bright spot in the Postal Service’s financial picture the last several years. It reported more than $19 billion of revenue from package deliveries last year – an increase of 11 percent.

Still, that wasn’t enough to put the Postal Service into the black. In part, that’s because fewer people are mailing first-class letters and bills. The Postal Service lost some $2.7 billion last year. Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware says there’s another reason for the red ink – something few, if any, other businesses have to deal with.

TOM CARPER: The other thing that’s hurting the Postal Service’s bottom line is a requirement to pay off, over a 10-year period of time, health care costs for their pensioners. That’s what’s really choking the Postal Service – that and the decline in first-class mail.

NAYLOR: Carper and other lawmakers have proposed allowing the Postal Service to pay its future retirees health benefits over a 40-year period, rather than 10 years, and to shift retirees onto Medicare. If the president wants to have a say in postal matters, there’s one thing he could do, Carper says. Appoint some members to the Postal Board of Governors.

CARPER: There are no folks on the Postal Board of Governors now who come from outside the Postal Service. And this is like, imagine one of the two or three largest companies in America not having a board of directors. It would be unheard of. Well, that’s essentially where the Postal Service is.

NAYLOR: There are three nominations to the board pending, but even if they were confirmed, the board would still be short of a quorum needed to meet. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio recording

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Social media which is more the mainstream than Newsprint, magazines and sometimes Visual media has had the effect of promoting false fake and untrue information for the sake of the offeror. The uncommon situation we are currently in has shown how inept TOTUS is. His minions and the abetting Congress have no abated his incompetency. Our sole responsibility at this time is to stay well and safe while using common sense in our actions. Our only leaders in this are the State leaders (well most of them) not the Pimp in the Whitehouse. I could write about TOTUS on a daily basis but it would take time from other things that have more importance than his incompetence which is ever present. Lets address the underlying issues and events. Some states have people demonstrating against the lockdowns and not observing the social distancing and use of masks and gloves. Some are even showing armed (gun rally?). Behind these demonstrations are the groups that don’t really support TOTUS but use his idiocy as a hat to cover their own nefarious and detrimental agendas. These are extremists among us whose agendas will serve only their causes and not the country as a whole. We must be mindful and careful of the messages presented by those factions as most if not all are as close to radical as you can get and serve no one but themselves. Think of these groups in the same way you would think of Radical Islam whom we know are not serving the public good.

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IN MY OBSESSIVE reading about the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve avoided articles that focus on the early missteps that could have stopped COVID-19 if only we’d been more attentive, organized, and responsive. Those articles were wreaking havoc with my anxiety level. The time for “coulda, woulda, shoulda” would be later, I figured; what matters now is whatever needs to be done in the next few days, and the next few days after that.

There’s also a personal reason why I’ve boycotted articles about early warning signs: Scientists were detailing those early warning signs decades ago, and a handful of science journalists were writing about their work. I was one of those journalists.

When I started researching A Dancing Matrix in 1990, the term “emerging viruses” had just been coined by a young virologist named Stephen Morse, who would become the main character in my book. I wrote about how experts were identifying conditions that could lead to the introduction of new, potentially devastating pathogens—climate change, massive urbanization, the proximity of humans to farm or forest animals that serve as viral reservoirs—with the worldwide spread of those microbes accelerated by war, the global economy, and international air travel. Too many of us, I wrote, were blithely going about our business despite the growing threat. Sound familiar?

“The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.” I used that searing quote from Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, who was president of Rockefeller University and Morse’s boss, in the introduction to my book. Back then I thought it was a little bit melodramatic. Now it strikes me as terrifyingly accurate.

The other day, I phoned Morse to see how he’s holding up. He’s a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and in the age range of the most vulnerable now, he told me. (I am, too.) He and his wife are self-quarantining in their apartment on New York City’s Upper West Side.

“I’m discouraged, yes, to find we’re not better prepared after all this, and we’re still deep in denial,” Morse said. He went straight to a favorite quote, from management guru Peter Drucker, who once was asked, “What is the worst mistake you could make?” His answer, according to Morse: “To be prematurely right.” Your actions alone can’t save the planet—but these habits can help

 

But Morse and I didn’t get it exactly “right,” of course, prematurely or otherwise. Nobody did. When I was asked on my book tour what the next pandemic was likely to be, I replied that most of my sources said it would be influenza.

“I never liked lists,” Morse told me now, adding that he always knew the next plague could come from anywhere. But in the early 1990s, his colleagues did tend to focus on influenza, so I did, too. Maybe that was a mistake; telling people the next pandemic would be caused by influenza didn’t make it seem nightmarish at all. The flu? I get that every year. We have a vaccine for that.

So maybe the warnings were too easy to dismiss as “just the flu”—though I insisted, throughout my book and every time I talked about it, on calling the virus by its full name, influenza, to strip it of any possible familiarity. Maybe my book was too obscure, or I should have worked harder to promote its message. Maybe I should have stayed on the emerging virus beat instead of wandering off to write about so many other things.

But other journalists also were writing books with the same message. Some of them were huge bestsellers; I used to jokingly refer to mine as the “prequel” to the books that made a mark just a year later, The Hot Zone by Richard Preston and The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett. (More recently there was another bestseller, Spillover by David Quammen, a follow-up to a story he wrote about emerging diseases for National Geographic in 2007.) All of them describe the same dire scenarios, the same war games, the same cries of being woefully unprepared. Why wasn’t any of that enough?

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Unfortunately what ever TOTUS says is usually false or misunderstood by him. MA

 

Shane Harris, Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis

2 Days ago

President Trump said on Sunday that the federal government is stepping up efforts to obtain vital supplies for coronavirus testing, hours after several governors from both parties faulted his administration for not doing enough to help states.

Public health experts say testing on a larger scale is a crucial step before resuming normal social and economic activity in the country. But Trump defended the administration’s approach of leaving testing largely to states.

“Testing is a local thing,” Trump said at a White House briefing. He said that too many governors were relying on state government labs and should turn to commercial labs to help them process more tests. He didn’t name any particular states or officials.

But earlier Sunday, Republican and Democratic governors were unanimous in putting the onus on the federal government to help secure vital testing components, including swabs and reagents, the chemical solutions required to run the tests, which the governors said have been in short supply.

“To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false,” Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from all across the world.”

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, which is working closely with officials in neighboring Maryland and the District, called Trump administration claims of sufficient testing “delusional.”

“We’ve been fighting for testing,” Northam, a physician, told CNN. “It’s not a straightforward test. We don’t even have enough swabs, believe it or not. And we’re ramping that up.”

Trump, displaying a nasal swab to reporters, said the federal government was procuring millions more swabs, and then claimed some states had lost the ones they were already sent.

“We also are going to be using, and we’re preparing to use the Defense Production Act to increase swab production in one U.S. facility by over 20 million additional swabs per month,” Trump said. “We’ve had a little difficulty with one. So we’re going to call in — as we have in the past, as you know, we’re calling in the Defense Production Act, and we’ll be getting swabs very easily. Swabs are easy.”

White House officials did not respond to requests for details about how the measure would be implemented (and as of Sunday evening there was no official paperwork released showing that the Defense Production Act had been invoked for swabs).

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced that nursing homes will be required to inform the CDC when they confirm a positive case of covid-19 in their facilities. Some of the most severe outbreaks have occurred in those facilities.

 

The pushback from governors came on a day that the total number of confirmed deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, passed 40,000. Although some states have reported a leveling off in the number of deaths and new infections, nationally those figures are still rising. More than 749,000 confirmed infections have been reported as of Sunday night.

Trump suggested the number of deaths nationally could eventually reach 60,000, though that figure seemed optimistic considering the toll so far.

Experts say the number of tests has not kept pace with the severity of the infection. Nationally, the number of tests has plateaued to an average of about 146,000 per day. But some state officials, business leaders and public health experts say that is woefully short of the several hundred thousands or perhaps even millions of daily tests it might take to safely restart the economy.

Some governors said only the federal government had the authority to make decisions that could speed up the deployment of testing kits.

Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, said his state’s “big problem” is that the federal Food and Drug Administration has not prioritized companies that are “putting a slightly different formula together” for their testing kits. “I could probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight” if the FDA would do that, DeWine told NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on NBC that her state has “the capacity to double or triple the number of tests that we are doing, but we need some of these supplies.”

“The reagents and the swabs are absolutely essential,” she said. “You can’t process all these tests if you can’t take the sample and protect it and move forward through testing. And so while our capabilities are there, these important supplies are not.”

© AP/AP Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., on Friday.

In Massachusetts, which is now seeing a surge in infections of covid-19, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker emphasized that states need “guidance” from federal agencies, including the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “especially the ability to put the foot on the accelerator with respect to advancements in testing.”

“Everything associated with testing ultimately has to be approved by the CDC and the FDA,” he said on CBS New’s “Face the Nation.”

Trump defended his administration’s performance, tweeting on Sunday afternoon: “Just like I was right on Ventilators (our Country is now the ‘King of Ventilators’, other countries are calling asking for help-we will!), I am right on testing. Governors must be able to step up and get the job done. We will be with you ALL THE WAY!”

For all the bipartisan agreement that testing must increase, there were signs that the public’s patience was fraying with restrictive orders to remain at home and stop working.

In Washington state, more than 2,000 protesters showed up at the capitol in Olympia calling on Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to lift a stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of the virus, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Smaller protests have erupted across the country in response to state stay-at-home orders. Trump has signaled his support for some, tweeting that residents of Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota should “liberate” their states following demonstrations last week.

On Saturday, a few dozen protesters gathered outside the Utah state capitol, demanding that officials allow people to return to work.

Protests were planned for Monday in California and Pennsylvania and later this week in Missouri and Wisconsin.

Vice President Pence, asked on Sunday talk shows if Trump was inciting citizens to rise up against their state governments, defended Trump’s comments and pledged to work with governors to safely reopen the economy.

A former head of the FDA, who served under Trump, agreed with governors who were critical of the administration and said that the federal government must do more to safely resume normal activity.

The administration has pursued a “loose strategy” and needs to focus more closely on obtaining supplies, Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”

“I think states are largely on their own trying to get testing resources into their states,” he said, noting the shortage of swabs and reagents is a more urgent matter than lack of lab capacity.

“If you have the government more engaged in trying to manage that supply chain, getting supplies to the states that need it most, and trying to look for ways to increase manufacturing at a national level, that could help the states get the supplies they need,” he added.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), whose state has seen by far the largest numbers of infections and deaths from covid-19, said states also must begin wide testing for antibodies, which could indicate who was already infected with the virus and may be immune. He pledged at a news conference that New York would pursue antibody testing “in the most aggressive way in the nation.”

The FDA has authorized four antibody tests on an emergency basis, but dozens more have been put on the market without any review by the federal agency. Some experts, including at the FDA, are concerned that those unvetted tests may be of dubious quality and yield unreliable results.

Since the first case of covid-19 was confirmed in the U.S., public health officials have called for more testing, both as a means of understanding how many people were infected and isolating people with the virus before they can infect others.

Deborah Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, shifted the emphasis of the debate slightly, telling CBS that mass testing in areas that do not have known outbreaks of the virus could be counterproductive.

“Testing needs to be focused critically where you start to see early evidence [of transmission] because no test is 100 percent specific and 100 percent sensitive,” she said. “And so if you test and overtest in areas where there isn’t virus, you can end up with false positives and false negatives.”

Experts agree that future testing will need to focus aggressively on outbreaks and be accompanied by contact tracing of the people who may have been exposed to the infected patient. But before that can ocurr, health officials say they need much more testing to develop baselines that will indicate when a new outbreak is happening.

Birx said that the White House task force was “working with every laboratory director across the country . . . to really understand and find solutions for them on their issues related to supplies.”

She questioned whether nearly a million tests a day were necessary and emphasized that outbreaks have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, rather than with a single national approach.

“[T]his has to be looked at as a community by community,” she said, resisting questions about when the country would know that it was safe to begin a return to normal life. “It needs to be down to the communities so the communities can see what happens in their communities and make decisions with the local and health officials and the state officials, what can be opened and what needs to remain closed.”

Some communities have decided that time is now.

In Florida, local officials allowed the public back onto some beaches, after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said beachfront governments could make those decisions on their own.

Despite admonitions to maintain social distancing, local news showed photos and videos of shoreline dotted with people closer than six feet apart.

shane.harris@washpost.com

felicia.sonmez@washpost.com

mike.debonis@washpost.com

Meryl Kornfield, Samantha Pell and Steven Goff contributed to this report.

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There are important lessons in this story/ MA

By Brenda Goh

2 days ago

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – Dressed in a hazmat suit, two masks and a face shield, Du Mingjun knocked on the mahogany door of a flat in a suburban district of Wuhan on a recent morning.

A man wearing a single mask opened the door a crack and, after Du introduced herself as a psychological counsellor, burst into tears.

“I really can’t take it anymore,” he said. Diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in early February, the man, who appeared to be in his 50s, had been treated at two hospitals before being transferred to a quarantine centre set up in a cluster of apartment blocks in an industrial part of Wuhan.

Why, he asked, did tests say he still had the virus more than two months after he first contracted it?

The answer to that question is a mystery baffling doctors on the frontline of China’s battle against COVID-19, even as it has successfully slowed the spread of the coronavirus across the country.

Chinese doctors in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, say a growing number of cases in which people recover from the virus, but continue to test positive without showing symptoms, is one of their biggest challenges as the country moves into a new phase of its containment battle.

Those patients all tested negative for the virus at some point after recovering, but then tested positive again, some up to 70 days later, the doctors said. Many have done so over 50-60 days.

The prospect of people remaining positive for the virus, and therefore potentially infectious, is of international concern, as many countries seek to end lockdowns and resume economic activity as the spread of the virus slows. Currently, the globally recommended isolation period after exposure is 14 days.

So far, there have been no confirmations of newly positive patients infecting others, according to Chinese health officials.

China has not published precise figures for how many patients fall into this category. But disclosures by Chinese hospitals to Reuters, as well as in other media reports, indicate there are at least dozens of such cases.

In South Korea, about 1,000 people have been testing positive for four weeks or more. In Italy, the first European country ravaged by the pandemic, health officials noticed that coronavirus patients could test positive for the virus for about a month.

As there is limited knowledge available on how infectious these patients are, doctors in Wuhan are keeping them isolated for longer.

Zhang Dingyu, president of Jinyintan Hospital, where the most serious coronavirus cases were treated, said health officials recognised the isolations may be excessive, especially if patients proved not to be infectious. But, for now, it was better to do so to protect the public, he said.

He described the issue as one of the most pressing facing the hospital and said counsellors like Du are being brought in to help ease the emotional strain.

“When patients have this pressure, it also weighs on society,” he said.

The plight of Wuhan’s long-term patients underlines how much remains unknown about COVID-19 and why it appears to affect different people in numerous ways, Chinese doctors say. So far global infections have hit 2.5 million with over 171,000 deaths.

As of April 21, 93% of 82,788 people with the virus in China had recovered and been discharged, official figures show.

Yuan Yufeng, a vice president at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan, told Reuters he was aware of a case in which the patient had positive retests after first being diagnosed with the virus about 70 days earlier.

“We did not see anything like this during SARS,” he said, referring to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak that infected 8,098 people globally, mostly in China.

Patients in China are discharged after two negative nucleic acid tests, taken at least 24 hours apart, and if they no longer show symptoms. Some doctors want this requirement to be raised to three tests or more.

China’s National Health Commission directed Reuters to comments made at a briefing Tuesday when asked for comment about how this category of patients was being handled.

Wang Guiqiang, director of the infectious disease department of Peking University First Hospital, said at the briefing that the majority of such patients were not showing symptoms and very few had seen their conditions worsen.

“The new coronavirus is a new type of virus,” said Guo Yanhong, a National Health Commission official. “For this disease, the unknowns are still greater than the knowns.”

REMNANTS AND REACTIVATION

Experts and doctors struggle to explain why the virus behaves so differently in these people.

Some suggest that patients retesting as positive after previously testing negative were somehow reinfected with the virus. This would undermine hopes that people catching COVID-19 would produce antibodies that would prevent them from getting sick again from the virus.

Zhao Yan, a doctor of emergency medicine at Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital, said he was sceptical about the possibility of reinfection based on cases at his facility, although he did not have hard evidence.

“They’re closely monitored in the hospital and are aware of the risks, so they stay in quarantine. So I’m sure they were not reinfected.”

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said the virus may have been “reactivated” in 91 South Korean patients who tested positive after having been thought to be cleared of it.

Other South Korean and Chinese experts have said that remnants of the virus could have stayed in patients’ systems but not be infectious or dangerous to the host or others.

Few details have been disclosed about these patients, such as if they have underlying health conditions.

Paul Hunter, a professor at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich School of Medicine, said an unusually slow shedding of other viruses such as norovirus or influenza had been previously seen in patients with weakened immune systems.

In 2015, South Korean authorities disclosed that they had a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome patient stricken with lymphoma who showed signs of the virus for 116 days. They said his impaired immune system kept his body from ridding itself of the virus. The lymphoma eventually caused his death.

Yuan said that even if patients develop antibodies, it did not guarantee they would become virus-free.

He said that some patients had high levels of antibodies, and still tested positive to nucleic acid tests.

“It means that the two sides are still fighting,” he said.

MENTAL TOLL

As could be seen in Wuhan, the virus can also inflict a heavy mental toll on those caught in a seemingly endless cycle of positive tests.

Du, who set up a therapy hotline when Wuhan’s outbreak first began, allowed Reuters in early April to join her on a visit to the suburban quarantine centre on the condition that none of the patients be identified.

One man rattled off the names of three Wuhan hospitals he had stayed at before being moved to a flat in the centre.  He had taken over 10 tests since the third week of February, he said, on occasions testing negative but mostly positive.

“I feel fine and have no symptoms, but they check and it’s positive, check and it’s positive,” he said. “What is with this virus?”

Patients need to stay at the centre for at least 28 days and obtain two negative results before being allowed to leave. Patients are isolated in individual rooms they said were paid for by the government.

The most concerning case facing Du during the visit was the man behind the mahogany door; he had told medical workers the night before that he wanted to kill himself.

“I wasn’t thinking clearly,” he told Du, explaining how he had already taken numerous CT scans and nucleic acid tests, some of which tested negative, at different hospitals. He worried that he had been reinfected as he cycled through various hospitals.

His grandson missed him after being gone for so long, he said, and he worried his condition meant he would never be able to see him again.

He broke into another round of sobs. “Why is this happening to me?”

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul, Elvira Pollina in Milan, Belen Carreno in Madrid, and Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Philip McClellan)

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Monday, April 20, 2020

By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor

 

Experience is a good teacher. During the American Revolution a smallpox outbreak threatened to wipe out the Continental Army as it had thousands of Native Americans. Despite political opposition, George Washington, the army’s commander in chief, embraced science-based medicine, ushering in the new country’s first public health policy.

 

Washington’s initial move: immediately isolating anyone suspected of infection and limiting outside contact. He “prevented a disastrous epidemic among the Continental troops,” historian Ann Becker says. The military forbade anyone in Boston from entering the military zone. But Washington did more than that, Andrew Lawler writes for National Geographic. He moved to contain the threat.

 

As a teenager, Washington had suffered from the disease, caused by a variola virus, which killed as many as one in two victims. He, like many of the soldiers who had previously been exposed to the virus, was immune. As the epidemic spread, however, thousands—including many soldiers—died.

 

Washington, in conflict with the Continental Congress, ordered all troops inoculated against the virus, arguing that “necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure.” The procedure, called variolation, was controversial because it entailed making a small incision in a patient’s arm and inserting a dose of the live virus—large enough to trigger immunity but small enough to prevent severe illness or death. Infection rates dropped from 20 percent to one percent.

 

As infection rates dropped, colonies lifted their bans on variolations, America’s first major public health legislation. Today, research teams around the world are trying to identify a vaccine to halt the spread of the new coronavirus that has infected more than 2.4 million people and killed more than 165,000 worldwide.

 

The legacy of Washington’s order to inoculate his troops lived on . Army recruits for World War II received medical injections in Virginia in 1942.

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Indications of the so called “deep state” or Conservative factions who apparently back the extremes of TOTUS as allies or as a cover are attacking folks who contradict the current administrations fictions. MA

Ben Gilbert Apr 19,2020,2:21 PM

Bill Gates has advocated for pandemic preparedness for years and famously gave a TED talk in 2015 that warned of the potentially staggering death toll a worldwide pandemic could create.

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the world, Gates has pledged $250 million to fight the disease and create a vaccine.

Incredibly, it’s these two factors that provide the foundation of a new set of conspiracy theories that point to Gates as the origin of coronavirus — and those conspiracy theories have rapidly gone from fringe online conspiracy theorists to the mouths of conservative pundits.

Here’s what we know:

In 2015, Bill Gates gave a TED talk titled, “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.”

TED

In his 2015 TED talk, Gates examined the ebola outbreak that killed thousands of people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. He highlighted the factors that kept the disease from spreading worldwide, and warned against the potential for a much more contagious, worldwide pandemic.

“The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than ebola,” he said. “You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane, or they go to a market.”

Indeed, that is exactly the case with the novel coronavirus — symptoms of the disease don’t necessarily manifest for up to 14 days, and potentially longer.

Citing that talk, and the Gates Foundation’s $250 million contribution to fight the disease, some right-wing conspiracy theorists claim Gates is the mastermind that created the novel coronavirus.

The conspiracy theories connecting Gates to coronavirus started in late January, according to a recent New York Times investigation, with a “YouTube personality linked to QAnon” who claimed Gates had prior knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic.

Days later, the website Infowars — the site run by Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who claims the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax — published a piece that incorrectly stated the Gates Foundation “co-hosted a pandemic exercise in late 2019 that simulated a global coronavirus outbreak.”

The Infowars piece attempted to connect the Gates Foundation’s ongoing investments in fighting global pandemics to prior knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a FactCheck.org followup, “There was in fact an exercise (called ‘Event 201’) that took place in October that was hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security — which the Gates Foundation participated in — that focused on emergency preparedness in the event of a ‘very severe pandemic.’ But it didn’t deal with 2019-nCoV [novel coronavirus], and it didn’t make real-life predictions about death tolls.”

That distinction, however, was ignored by conspiracy theorists.

For the next two months, conspiracies that Gates knew of the virus beforehand or was directly responsible for its creation exploded. And now it’s reached one Fox News host.

Two examples of coronavirus-related Bill Gates conspiracy theories online, in shareable meme form, found on Twitter in April. Twitter

Mentions of coronavirus-related Bill Gates conspiracy theories have exploded on social media and TV: They were mentioned 1.2 million times in the last two months, according to data provided to the New York Times by the media intelligence firm Zignal Labs.

Those conspiracy theories have spread from fringe right-wing conspiracy theorists, like Alex Jones, to conservative pundits like Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “Digitally tracking Americans’ every move has been a dream of the globalists for years,” Ingraham tweeted in early April. “This health crisis is the perfect vehicle for them to push this.”

The commentary was attached to another tweet, which linked to an article about Bill Gates on a conspiracy theory website that cites an answer Gates gave during a Reddit AMA earlier this year. Gates spoke of a hypothetical “digital certificate” that would certify if people were vaccinated from coronavirus.

According to the piece, “The inevitable mass vaccination campaign to eradicate COVID-19 would be the perfect opportunity to introduce a worldwide digital ID. This system would store a wealth of information about each individual (including vaccination history) and would be used to grant access to rights and services.”

It baselessly claimed that Gates — alongside other rich and powerful people — is using the coronavirus pandemic as a means of instilling a worldwide caste system based on a digital ID.

Ingraham’s followers understood the message: “I will not take a #BillGatesVaccine,” one responded.

Former Trump staffer Roger Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison earlier this year, was more direct than Ingraham. “Whether Bill Gates played some role in the creation and spread of this virus is open for vigorous debate,” Stone said in a radio interview, according to a New York Post report. “I have conservative friends who say it’s ridiculous and others say absolutely.”

Why Bill Gates? Why now? Even pandemics are partisan.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the billions that Gates earned from co-founding Microsoft and turning it into an international powerhouse is being used to fight contagious disease around the world. They’ve spent millions on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and polio.

Gates also co-founded The Giving Pledge with his friend and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet, a campaign to get billionaires to promise to give away the majority of their fortunes to philanthropic causes. But Gates has also voiced opposition to President Trump’s federal coronavirus response.

“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” he tweeted on April 15, just after President Trump announced intentions to cut funding for the World Health Organization. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

Despite Gates not mentioning the president, responses to his tweet are notably partisan — and several challengers accuse Gates, through association with former President Bill Clinton and the late convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, of being part of an Illuminati-esque cabal.

Despite being especially vocal lately, Gates hasn’t said much in response to the conspiracies. “It’s ironic,” he told GCTN in a televised interview.

Gates declined an interview with the New York Times for its report on coronavirus-related Bill Gates conspiracy theories — a rare no from a man who’s made numerous press appearances lately in an attempt to get out the message on coronavirus prevention.

He did, however, answer a question about those conspiracy theories in a televised interview with Chinese broadcast channel GCTN.

“I’d say it’s ironic that you take someone who’s doing their best to get the world ready and putting, in my case, billions of dollars into these tools for infectious diseases, and really trying to solve broadly infectious diseases — including those that cause pandemics,” Gates said. “But we’re in a crazy situation, so there’s going to be crazy rumors.”

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