Monday, June 15, 2020

Last Call For Trump Goes Viral, Con't

As the US closes in on 120,000 COVID-19 deaths and growing spikes in a dozen-plus states, the FDA is quietly pulling emergency use of hydroxychroloquine because it's not an effective treatment of the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday withdrew emergency use authorizations for two coronavirus treatments that President Donald Trump promoted despite concerns about their safety and effectiveness.

The agency revoked the authorizations for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine after a request from Gary Disbrow, acting director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

After reviewing new information from large clinical trials the agency now believes that the suggested dosing regimens "are unlikely to produce an antiviral effect," FDA chief scientist Denise Hinton said in a letter announcing the decision.

Critics have accused the agency of caving to political pressure when it authorized use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in hospitalized Covid-19 patients in late March despite thin evidence. More recent randomized controlled trials have found the drugs do not benefit coronavirus patients, and doctors have reported that hydroxychloroquine can cause heart problems.

Because hydroxychloroquine is approved for other uses — treating lupus and arthritis — doctors could still use it "off label" to treat coronavirus patients, and clinical trials examining their use against Covid-19 can continue. The FDA noted that the version of chloroquine that had been authorized for emergency use is not approved in the U.S. so all use of that drug, donated by Bayer, will now end.

The administration’s focus on the malaria medicines in the early months of the pandemic deepened a divide between the White House and its health agencies. Several administration officials told POLITICO they felt the drugs got outsized attention while FDA scrambled for solutions in March. Other current and former Health and Human Services officials later said that the emergency authorities and White House demands cast a shadow on FDA as it struggled to remain independent.

Rick Bright, the former BARDA director whom Disbrow replaced, has accused health officials of removing him from his role overseeing millions of dollars to develop treatments and vaccines because he raised health concerns about hydroxychloroquine and resisted its widespread use.

Trump pushed the drug as a treatment and the right latched onto it, declaring the pandemic over in dozens of states and ending social distancing.  Bright was fired for raising questions.  Now, Bright's replacement has done the same thing, and I fully expect Trump to fire him as well and to demand the FDA reinstate the drug's emergency use status from the FDA before the end of the week.

If he doesn't, Trump admits defeat and that he utterly failed on COVID-19 in every concievable way. The micron-thin hope that hydroxycholroquine actually was effective was the last hope Trump had politically to salvage this disaster, not to mention a path to actually helping sick Americans.

It's gone now.

Trump should resign, for the 419th time, but he won't.

A Supreme Day All Around

Mondays in June mean that the US Supreme Court hands down major case decisions, and today was one of the biggest in history. The Roberts Court ruled 6-3 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964's protected classes against job discrimination does indeed include LGBTQ Americans.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment, a resounding victory for LGBT rights from a conservative court.

The court decided by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title VII that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against LGBT workers.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The Court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous. Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity,’” Alito wrote in a dissent that was joined by Thomas.

The outcome is expected to have a big impact for the estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers across the country because most states don’t protect them from workplace discrimination. An estimated 11.3 million LGBT people live in the U.S., according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school.
The cases were the court’s first on LGBT rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and replacement by Kavanaugh. Kennedy was a voice for gay rights and the author of the landmark ruling in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States. Kavanaugh generally is regarded as more conservative.

The Trump administration had changed course from the Obama administration, which supported LGBT workers in their discrimination claims under Title VII.

And yeah, Neil Gorsuch wrote this opinion playing the role of the late Justice Antonin Scalia saying "Sorry conservatives, technically this is correct if we look at the law" and Chief Justice Roberts signed on along the right side of history with the four liberals.

So yeah, this is a huge, huge decision. You can no longer be fired for being gay.

And that brings us to the other major decision of the Court, the decision to reject taking up any of the major gun control cases next term.

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a host of challenges to state laws placing restrictions on firearms, declining to take up the contentious matter of gun rights in the U.S. after sidestepping the issue in April.

In declining to take up the appeals, the justices leave intact laws from several states that gun rights supporters said violated their Second Amendment rights. Among the cases turned away were legal battles over laws in at least four states — Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey — that require residents to meet certain criteria in order to get a permit, including demonstrating a specific need, to carry a handgun outside the home.

In one of the cases out of Massachusetts, the justices declined to weigh in on the state's ban on certain semiautomatic firearms and high-capacity magazines. A dispute over a similar rule in Cook County, Illinois, was also rejected by the Supreme Court. In the case from California, the justices turned away a challenge to a state law that requires handguns sold in the state to use microstamping technology and meet specific design requirements.

The legal battle from New Jersey involved a state law that requires residents to demonstrate they have a "justifiable need" to carry a firearm, which can be satisfied if a private citizen can "specify in detail the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant's life that cannot be avoided by other means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun."

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, dissented from the court's denial of certiorari in the New Jersey case, writing it is time for the Supreme Court should not prolong its "decade-long failure to protect the Second Amendment."

"This Court would almost certainly review the constitutionality of a law requiring citizens to establish a justifiable need before exercising their free speech rights. And it seems highly unlikely that the Court would allow a State to enforce a law requiring a woman to provide a justifiable need before seeking an abortion," Thomas wrote. "But today, faced with a petition challenging just such a restriction on citizens' Second Amendment rights, the Court simply looks the other way."

The cases presented the Supreme Court with the chance to expand the scope of the Second Amendment, which it has declined to do since its last major ruling in a gun rights case in 2010.

You only need four justices to agree to hear a case, which means the four conservatives (note that Alito and Gorsuch did not sign on the Thomas and Kavanaugh's dissent) don't think they would win in a 5-4 Roberts decision, and that the four liberals were happy enough to leave the laws in Massachusetts and New Jersey alone.

That means that for now, SCOTUS won't go after striking down firearms safety laws in states, and it means that Roberts probably isn't willing to be the fifth justice to strike down those laws in the future.  Yet.

We'll see.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Donald Trump's personal executive agency axe man, John McEntee, is making major hiring and firing decisions by going over the heads of agencies and even cabinet heads to ensure 100% loyalty to Dear Leader.

President Trump, in a highly unusual new effort, has begun making significant staffing changes inside top federal agencies without the consent — and, in at least one case, without even the knowledge — of the agency head, according to officials familiar with the effort.

Why it matters: This campaign — helmed by Trump's loyalty enforcer, a 30-year-old former body man who now runs hiring for the government — is part of the systematic purging or reassigning of those deemed insufficiently supportive of Trump. 
The effort's pace has alarmed top officials, according to 11 current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation.

Behind the scenes: Trump has empowered John McEntee, director of the Presidential Personnel Office, in a way his predecessors never were. In his short time on the job, McEntee has flexed this power, steamrolling Cabinet officials and agency heads to install his chosen candidates. 
An extraordinary scene played out late in the morning on March 26, according to two administration officials with direct knowledge of the events, when Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, learned he would have a new head of public affairs at his agency. 
A crucial position such as this would normally be appointed only with the agency head’s support. But Wolf learned about his new public affairs chief, Alexei Woltornist, by reading the White House's public press release. 
Wolf was furious, according to these sources. He called the White House Situation Room to try to reach McEntee to find out how this could happen without his knowledge, let alone consent. And he complained privately to colleagues about how PPO treated him.
McEntee's PPO has also clashed with the acting chief of immigration and customs enforcement over personnel, as Politico first reported.

The other side: Wolf is an acting Cabinet secretary, so McEntee can overrule him on staffing in a way he wouldn’t do with a favored Cabinet official like Mike Pompeo. And given the importance that both the president and his conservative allies place on immigration, they are determined to install their preferred political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security.

If all of this seems very, very Soviet Politburo to anyone my age or older, that's because it is.  Trump is compelling ongoing loyalty tests and those who fail get removed.

Who would want to work for the guy in the first place though?

Why, the people who think Soviet-style governance in America is a good idea.


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