Sunday, December 20, 2020

Retribution Execution, Con't

The Trump regime is sabotaging America's global internet access agency in order to hurt the UN and help autocrats like Putin, Xi Jinping, Iran's theocracy, and friends, because the Trump regime was using it for its global pro-Trump propaganda outlet and got caught.

The Trump appointee who oversees the government’s global media operations is moving to shut down a federally funded nonprofit that helps support internet access around the world, documents show, a decision that could limit people’s ability to get around constraints in places that tightly control internet access, like Iran and China.

The appointee, Michael Pack, the chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media is seeking to restrict the nonprofit, the Open Technology Fund, from receiving federal funding for three years, in part because of a dispute over whether the fund should support work done by the Falun Gong, the spiritual movement known for spreading anti-China, pro-Trump misinformation.

His action, a month before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office, would be difficult for the new administration to undo.

The nonprofit, which is funded by the global media agency, helps develop technology that makes it easier for more than 2 billion people in over 60 countries to access the internet. It is known for helping create tools like Signal, an encrypted messaging application, and Tor, a web browser that conceals a user’s identity while logged onto the internet.

Officials at the fund have 30 days to appeal Mr. Pack’s decision, according to documents. Mr. Pack, an ally of Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former adviser and strategist, will oversee any appeal, legal experts said. His final decision must be made by Jan. 19, one day before Mr. Biden takes office, the documents show.

Legal experts said that Mr. Biden will likely not be able to immediately overturn Mr. Pack’s decision, indicating it could be months before all legal questions surrounding Mr. Pack’s decision are answered.

During that time, the Open Technology Fund would not be able to receive any money from the federal government, and will only have enough funds to keep its staff of 10 employed until June, officials at the nonprofit said.

Without funding, projects that help provide nearly 1 in 4 Iranian citizens and 10 million people in China access to the internet could be at risk of stopping, the officials added.

“This is the kill shot,” Laura Cunningham, acting chief executive officer of the Open Technology Fund, said in a statement to The New York Times. “Without OTF, users around the world will be cut off from the global internet.”
The real reason is that the Trump regime was using Voice of America radio network, also a part of the USAGM, as part of the Trump campaign, and Trump's flunky is now exacting a price for investigating him

There is a “substantial likelihood” that top leadership at the U.S. Agency for Global Media engaged in wrongdoing, according to an ongoing investigation by the independent agency that oversees civil service law.

The Office of Special Counsel made this determination on Wednesday following numerous complaints by the Government Accountability Project (a whistleblower advocacy group) about U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack and other top political officials. GAP said this type of finding is “notable and rare.” Pack––a former conservative filmmaker and an ally and former colleague of Steve Bannon, former Breitbart News executive and White House chief strategist–– took over about six months ago and his tenure has been marred with controversy and fears about politicization of the agency’s journalism.

“Our clients – current and former staff at [the global media agency], [Voice of America] and its sibling organizations – have reported to federal whistleblower agencies egregious and continuing acts of wrongdoing by Mr. Pack and his enablers,” said David Seide, GAP senior counsel. “It is gratifying that one of those agencies, OSC, has independently determined that there is a significant probability that our clients’ information reveals wrongdoing. It is a significant step, but far from the last one.”

Based on its assessment of the whistleblower complaint, OSC asked Pack to order a review of several actions at the agency since he took over in June and then report back, according to a press release by GAP. Some of them include:
  • Alleged violations of the law that protects the “firewall” that prevents political interference at VOA;
  • Termination of the presidents of Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (the news organizations under USAGM);
  • Dismissal of the news organizations’ bipartisan board members and replacement with mainly political officials;
  • Termination of the president and CEO of the Open Technology Fund, an independent nonprofit within the agency dedicated to internet freedom;
  • Prohibition of the offices of General Counsel, Chief Strategy, and Congressional and Public Affairs and others from talking with outside parties, without approval from the front office;
  • Hiring and contracting freeze;
  • Pressure on career staff to “illegally repurpose” appropriated funds; and,
  • Refusal to renew visas for non-U.S. citizen journalists working for VOA.

“It would be problematic for the head of the agency to investigate himself for misconduct,” GAP’s Seide told Government Executive.
Pack knows he's done on January 20, so he's planting time bombs to go off as soon as he leaves. Again, it will take every single day of Biden's term, and that of any future Democratic presidents, to just start to fix the damage that four years of Trump have done to America.

Sunday Long Read: The Most Human Of Races

Our Sunday Long Read this week is Ed Yong's chronicle in The Atlantic of the medical science community's global response to find the COVID-19 vaccine, and how science prevailed in record time, despite America's Trumpian failures at every turn.
In fall of 2019, exactly zero scientists were studying COVID‑19, because no one knew the disease existed. The coronavirus that causes it, SARS‑CoV‑2, had only recently jumped into humans and had been neither identified nor named. But by the end of March 2020, it had spread to more than 170 countries, sickened more than 750,000 people, and triggered the biggest pivot in the history of modern science. Thousands of researchers dropped whatever intellectual puzzles had previously consumed their curiosity and began working on the pandemic instead. In mere months, science became thoroughly COVID-ized.
As of this writing, the biomedical library PubMed lists more than 74,000 COVID-related scientific papers—more than twice as many as there are about polio, measles, cholera, dengue, or other diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries. Only 9,700 Ebola-related papers have been published since its discovery in 1976; last year, at least one journal received more COVID‑19 papers than that for consideration. By September, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine had received 30,000 submissions—16,000 more than in all of 2019. “All that difference is COVID‑19,” Eric Rubin, NEJM’s editor in chief, says. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told me, “The way this has resulted in a shift in scientific priorities has been unprecedented.”

Much like famous initiatives such as the Manhattan Project and the Apollo program, epidemics focus the energies of large groups of scientists. In the U.S., the influenza pandemic of 1918, the threat of malaria in the tropical battlegrounds of World War II, and the rise of polio in the postwar years all triggered large pivots. Recent epidemics of Ebola and Zika each prompted a temporary burst of funding and publications. But “nothing in history was even close to the level of pivoting that’s happening right now,” Madhukar Pai of McGill University told me.

That’s partly because there are just more scientists: From 1960 to 2010, the number of biological or medical researchers in the U.S. increased sevenfold, from just 30,000 to more than 220,000. But SARS-CoV-2 has also spread farther and faster than any new virus in a century. For Western scientists, it wasn’t a faraway threat like Ebola. It threatened to inflame their lungs. It shut down their labs. “It hit us at home,” Pai said.

In a survey of 2,500 researchers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, Kyle Myers from Harvard and his team found that 32 percent had shifted their focus toward the pandemic. Neuroscientists who study the sense of smell started investigating why COVID‑19 patients tend to lose theirs. Physicists who had previously experienced infectious diseases only by contracting them found themselves creating models to inform policy makers. Michael D. L. Johnson at the University of Arizona normally studies copper’s toxic effects on bacteria. But when he learned that SARS‑CoV‑2 persists for less time on copper surfaces than on other materials, he partially pivoted to see how the virus might be vulnerable to the metal. No other disease has been scrutinized so intensely, by so much combined intellect, in so brief a time.

These efforts have already paid off. New diagnostic tests can detect the virus within minutes. Massive open data sets of viral genomes and COVID‑19 cases have produced the most detailed picture yet of a new disease’s evolution. Vaccines are being developed with record-breaking speed. SARS‑CoV‑2 will be one of the most thoroughly characterized of all pathogens, and the secrets it yields will deepen our understanding of other viruses, leaving the world better prepared to face the next pandemic.

But the COVID‑19 pivot has also revealed the all-too-human frailties of the scientific enterprise. Flawed research made the pandemic more confusing, influencing misguided policies. Clinicians wasted millions of dollars on trials that were so sloppy as to be pointless. Overconfident poseurs published misleading work on topics in which they had no expertise. Racial and gender inequalities in the scientific field widened.

Amid a long winter of sickness, it’s hard not to focus on the political failures that led us to a third surge. But when people look back on this period, decades from now, they will also tell stories, both good and bad, about this extraordinary moment for science. At its best, science is a self-correcting march toward greater knowledge for the betterment of humanity. At its worst, it is a self-interested pursuit of greater prestige at the cost of truth and rigor. The pandemic brought both aspects to the fore. Humanity will benefit from the products of the COVID‑19 pivot. Science itself will too, if it learns from the experience.
Science will survive and continue to thrive, but it's easy to see just how close we came to a genocidal disaster, one America and the world barely escaped this time...and may not escape the next time.

The Coup-Coup Birds Take Flight, Con't

We've reached the point where Trump's cultists are now openly calling for the end of American democracy and a martial law military coup that keeps Trump in power "as long as necessary". Not only are they confident in saying it, but they are increasingly confident that it will happen, and that Democrats will be rounded up and disposed of.

An 1807 law invoked only in the most violent circumstances is now a rallying cry for the MAGA-ites most committed to the fantasy that Donald Trump will never leave office.

The law, the Insurrection Act, allows the president to deploy troops to suppress domestic uprisings — not to overturn elections.

But that hasn’t stopped the act from becoming a buzzword and cure-all for prominent MAGA figures like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, two prominent pro-Trump attorneys leading efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and even one North Carolina state lawmaker. Others like Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who was recently pardoned for lying to the FBI, have made adjacent calls for Trump to impose martial law. The ideas have circulated in pro-Trump outlets and were being discussed over the weekend among the thousands of MAGA protesters who descended on state capitols and the Supreme Court to falsely claim Trump had won the election.

At its core, the Insurrection Act gives the president authority to send military and National Guard troops to quell local rebellions and violence, offering an exemption to prohibitions against using military personnel to enforce domestic laws. Historically, it has been used in moments of extreme national strife — the Civil War, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, violent labor disputes, desegregation battles, rioting following Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

Only once, however, has it been used in the wake of an election — and that was to stop a literal militia from seizing the Louisiana government on behalf of John McEnery, a former Confederate officer who had lost the 1872 governor’s race.

Nonetheless, in the minds of some authoritarian-leaning and conspiracy-minded Trump supporters, the Insurrection Act has become a needed step to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from assuming the presidency. Their evidence-deficient reasoning: Democrats illegally rigged the election and are attempting a coup, and Trump must send in the troops to undo this conspiracy.

The conviction shows how hard-edged MAGA ideology has become in the wake of Trump’s election loss. While scattered theories about a “deep state” arrayed against Trump have long circulated in MAGA circles, calls for troops to stop a democratically elected president from taking office have taken those ideas to a more conspiratorial and militaristic level. It also displays the exalted level to which Trump has been elevated among his most zealous fans as his departure looms.

“The central theme here is that there supposedly exists a network of nefarious actors trying to undermine Trump and destroy the United States, and that this is a tool that Trump could use to save the day,” said Jared Holt, a research fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, who focuses on far-right extremism.

The Insurrection Act has been rarely invoked since the civil unrest of the 1960s — the last time was to quell violence during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. And when it has been used over that period, it was always at the request of a state governor.

But over the past several years, it has gained popularity among the far-right fringes, mainly as a way for Trump to solve all their problems, from expelling undocumented migrants, to arresting generals and other “deep state” actors for allegedly plotting coups against Trump.

The idea has also become intertwined with the QAnon movement, the far-reaching and baseless conspiracy that Trump is secretly working to disrupt a cabal of pedophiliac, sex trafficking Democrats and global elite.
This is what they want, their fever dreams dark and rich with the blood of dead Black folks, brown folk, and "race traitor" whites, and they are waiting for Trump to give them permission to slaughter.  Republicans are terrified of losing 'their power' to anyone they deem inferior to them, and what they want is to be allowed to kill with impunity, to drag us out into the streets and empty their firearm clips into our bodies.
President Donald Trump convened a heated meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, including lawyer Sidney Powell and her client, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, two people familiar with the matter said, describing a session that began as an impromptu gathering but devolved and eventually broke out into screaming matches at certain points as some of Trump's aides pushed back on Powell and Flynn's more outrageous suggestions about overturning the election. 
Flynn had suggested earlier this week that Trump could invoke martial law as part of his efforts to overturn the election that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden -- an idea that arose again during the meeting in the Oval Office, one of the people said. It wasn't clear whether Trump endorsed the idea, but others in the room forcefully pushed back and shot it down. 
The meeting was first reported by the New York Times
White House aides who participated in the meeting, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone, also pushed back intensely on the suggestion of naming Powell as a special counsel to investigate voter fraud allegations Trump's own administration has dismissed (or, as seems more feasible, hiring her in the administration for some kind of investigatory role). Powell has focused her conspiracies on voting machines and has floated the notion of having a special counsel inspect the machines for flaws. 
Another idea floated in the meeting was an executive order that would permit the government to access voting machines to inspect them. 
One person described the meeting as "ugly" as Powell and Flynn accused others of abandoning the President as he works to overturn the results of the election. 
"It was heated -- people were really fighting it out in the Oval, really forceful about it," one of the sources said. 
One of the sources described an escalating sense of concern among Trump's aides, even those who have weathered his previous controversies, about what steps he might take next as his term comes to an end. 
Shortly after that meeting, Trump's campaign staff received a memo from the campaign legal team on Saturday instructing them to preserve all documents related to Dominion Voting Systems and Powell in anticipation of potential litigation by the company against the pro-Trump attorney.  

They think Trump is going to give them that, and they are willing, some of them, to fight and die for him. And he very well might.

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen says elected representatives who refuse to accept the peaceful transition of power should be sanctioned. “These senators and members of Congress who have refused to acknowledge that we had a free and fair election in which Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by over 7 million votes, are bordering on sedition and treason in thinking that they are going to overturn a duly elected president,” she said.

Make the price for supporting Trump's sedition higher than accepting Biden's win.
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