America on Trial

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In the fifth century A.D., Pope Gelasius declared that Christians have dual citizenship under “two sovereigns,” one divine and one temporal, that must not be combined.

In the 11th century, a monk and future bishop argued that people are released from submission to any king who “transgress[es] the contract by virtue of which he is chosen.”

In the 12th century, the canonist Gratian wrote that “princes are bound by and shall live according to their laws”—a departure from the previous understanding that royals were above legal formalities.

In the 13th century, St. Dominic asked that his 12 monasteries elect delegates to convene and write the rules that would govern the Dominican order.

In America on Trial, Westminster Institute Director Robert R. Reilly cites each of these examples to show that such concepts as representative democracy, consent of the governed, separation of church and state, and the right to resist tyranny grew out of the fertile soil of classical Christianity. The book is a rejoinder to a cadre of conservative scholars who have called into question the moral underpinnings of the American experiment.

For critics such as Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen, the liberal principles on which the United States was founded are products of post-Enlightenment modernity representing a decisive and misguided break with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Reilly compellingly asserts that the opposite is true: The American project is an application of ideas whose roots are in ancient Greece, the Hebrew Bible, and medieval Christendom.

There can be no Declaration of Independence without natural law, Reilly suggests, and no natural law without the revolutionary notion that God made man in his own image and did not wish him “to have dominion,” as St. Augustine put it, “over those who are by nature its equal, that is, its fellow man.”

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Laches and the Pennsylvania election litigation

An amicus brief was filed earlier this week in the Pennsylvania election litigation by Erwin Chemerinsky, Marin Levy, Leah Litman, Portia Pedro, and Rick Swedloff. I’m not competent to assess the Purcell-principle arguments, but the laches arguments are excellent.

Here’s a key paragraph:

Laches has particular force in the context of election challenges. Indeed, laches often bars equitable relief in actions brought by tardy plaintiffs prior to the relevant election. See Navarro v. Neal, 904 F. Supp. 2d 812, 816-817 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (collecting cases); see also Stein v. Boockvar, Civ. No. 16-6287, 2020 WL 2063470, at *19 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 29, 2020). And for good reason. Plaintiffs who sleep on their rights only to bring last-minute challenges create “a situation in which any remedial order would throw the state’s preparations for the election into turmoil.” Nader v. Keith, 385 F.3d 729, 736 (7th Cir. 2004). By strictly applying laches in the election setting, courts properly encourage parties to litigate their claims at the earliest possible time, resulting in the least disruption to the election and, ultimately, the voters. See Richard L. Hasen, Beyond the Margin of Litigation: Reforming U.S. Election Administration to Avoid Electoral Meltdown, 62 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 937, 998 (2005) (“Courts should see it as in the public interest in election law cases to aggressively apply laches so as to prevent litigants from securing options over election administration problems.”).

The brief is here.

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Laches and the Pennsylvania election litigation

An amicus brief was filed earlier this week in the Pennsylvania election litigation by Erwin Chemerinsky, Marin Levy, Leah Litman, Portia Pedro, and Rick Swedloff. I’m not competent to assess the Purcell-principle arguments, but the laches arguments are excellent.

Here’s a key paragraph:

Laches has particular force in the context of election challenges. Indeed, laches often bars equitable relief in actions brought by tardy plaintiffs prior to the relevant election. See Navarro v. Neal, 904 F. Supp. 2d 812, 816-817 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (collecting cases); see also Stein v. Boockvar, Civ. No. 16-6287, 2020 WL 2063470, at *19 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 29, 2020). And for good reason. Plaintiffs who sleep on their rights only to bring last-minute challenges create “a situation in which any remedial order would throw the state’s preparations for the election into turmoil.” Nader v. Keith, 385 F.3d 729, 736 (7th Cir. 2004). By strictly applying laches in the election setting, courts properly encourage parties to litigate their claims at the earliest possible time, resulting in the least disruption to the election and, ultimately, the voters. See Richard L. Hasen, Beyond the Margin of Litigation: Reforming U.S. Election Administration to Avoid Electoral Meltdown, 62 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 937, 998 (2005) (“Courts should see it as in the public interest in election law cases to aggressively apply laches so as to prevent litigants from securing options over election administration problems.”).

The brief is here.

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WHO Sends Another Team Of Scientists To Investigate Origins Of Coronavirus In Wuhan

WHO Sends Another Team Of Scientists To Investigate Origins Of Coronavirus In Wuhan

Tyler Durden

Fri, 11/27/2020 – 05:45

Health authorities in Beijing are bracing to finally allow a team of WHO scientists to visit Wuhan and other parts of the PRC as international curiosity about the origins of the virus appears to peak alongside the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to the SCMP, groundwork for the mission was originally laid back in July and the WHO at the time said the international team would arrive “in a matter of weeks”. However, it appears that original mission was insufficiently “transparent”, as the US and Europe almost immediately started to plot a return visit.

The team assembled by the WHO includes a wide range of experts from those focused on animal welfare to virologists aiming to examine the route of zoonotic transmission that (according to Beijing) kicked off the outbreak at a ‘wet market’ in the city of Wuhan, which was not far from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Biosafety Level 4 facility, that many suspect is the true source of the outbreak. Scientists include Ken Maeda of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Vietnamese scientist Hung Nguyen (the co-leader of the Animal and Human Health Program.

Though many suspect that the virus infected humans after originally infecting bats, the exact route that the virus took from the animal kingdom to infecting at least 60 million humans.

The scientific mission’s phase one work centers around Wuhan, the city where the first cluster of cases originally emerged late last year. While much ink has been spilled about the role of local leaders in trying to cover up the virus, only to see it swiftly overwhelm the city’s medical infrastructure, necessitating a brutal lockdown that lasted for nearly 3 month, the global scientific community actually doesn’t have a great understanding of how this all started.

Even the SCMP acknowledges that the role of the ‘wet market’ was never proven, while also pointing to the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is the centerpiece of a “conspiracy theory” claiming that the deadly virus leaked out of the laboratory after a worker was accidentally infected. A lack of “analytical epidemiological study” has made it difficult to say anything about the early days of the outbreak with conviction.

Though that hasn’t stopped scientists and social media companies from dismissing ‘conspiracy theories’ about the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology that just happened to be situated near the epicenter of the outbreak (it was also known that the lab was being used to study potentially dangerous strains of coronavirus to try and head off any other SARS-like outbreaks).

Last time around, the WHO team declined to investigate the laboratory. They declined, despite a US government report pointing to the lab as the most likely source of the virus. Could that change this time around?

With Joe Biden apparently on his way to the White House, we suspect that holding China accountable for the virus will no longer be a high priority of the American government in Washington.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3lgjDl0 Tyler Durden

Brickbat: Evacuating from Vietnam

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Facebook has already agreed to comply with a demand by the Vietnamese government to censor “anti-state” material. But the government wants the social media company to block even more material, and the company is balking at that demand. So the government is now threatening to ban Facebook if it doesn’t comply with that demand. Facebook reportedly has revenues of almost $1 billion annually in Vietnam.

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Rare Footage Shows Russian Warship ‘Chasing’ US Destroyer In Border Incident

Rare Footage Shows Russian Warship ‘Chasing’ US Destroyer In Border Incident

Tyler Durden

Fri, 11/27/2020 – 05:00

Via AlMasdarNews.com,

The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Vinogradov stopped the US Navy destroyer “John McCain” after it reportedly entered its territorial waters near the Gulf of Peter the Great.

The incident occurred in the Gulf of Peter the Great in the Far East at 06:17 (Moscow time) Tuesday, the details were reported by the Ministry of Defense.



USS John McCain, Getty Images

The department clarified that the US Navy destroyer went 2 km beyond the border line, invading the territorial waters of the Russian Federation. The Russian military warned the Americans that they were ready for a ramming maneuver.

“The Admiral Vinogradov, a large anti-submarine ship of the Pacific Fleet, which is directly tracking the American destroyer, warned the foreign ship through the international communication channel about the inadmissibility of such actions and the possibility of using a ramming maneuver to force the intruder out of the territorial waters,” the Defense Ministry said.

After that, the John McCain immediately went into neutral waters: “the American destroyer did not make repeated attempts to enter them.”

Watch footage of the rare confrontation in the Sea of Japan below:

Earlier in October, China announced the violation of the country’s territorial waters by a US warship, which caused an uproar and resulted in Beijing issuing a strongly-worded warning to Washington about such breaches.

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France Pushes For EU Sanctions On Turkey Over Mediterranean Gas Row

France Pushes For EU Sanctions On Turkey Over Mediterranean Gas Row

Tyler Durden

Fri, 11/27/2020 – 04:15

France’s leading efforts to push for European sanctions on fellow NATO member Turkey has picked up steam, with Paris expected to propose the punitive action next month with the backing of Greece and Cyprus, but so far with lack of enthusiasm from other EU governments. 

It comes after the months-long standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean over Turkish hydrocarbon exploration and drilling, which France says is a violation of Cyprus and Greece’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones.

According to Reuters, “Paris says Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has not heeded EU leaders’ warnings on Oct. 1 to back down in a dispute over gas exploration in the Mediterranean or face consequences.”



Turkish frigate Gaziantep escorts a drilling ship in the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus. Turkish Defense Ministry/AFP

The European Parliament on Thursday is expected to call for sanctions, decrying Erdogan’s visit earlier this month to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island of Cyprus,” Reuters continues.

It’s expected that the French sanctions would target shipping, banking, and energy sectors – all vital to Turkey’s oil and gas exploration initiatives. 

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian issued a bit of an ultimatum at a French parliamentary hearing this week: “Confrontation or collaboration, it’s up to them,” he said.

But one unnamed EU diplomat cited in Reuters underscored that “Turkey is a key partner in many areas, so there’s no consensus in the Council (of EU governments). It is still too early” – which suggests a likely uphill battle before any European sanctions actually become a reality.



Via CNN

France in the past months has gone so far as to join naval and aerial exercises with the Greek and Cypriot militaries in the Mediterranean as a “warning” to Turkey. However, Erdogan has appeared undeterred. 

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Brickbat: Evacuating from Vietnam

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Facebook has already agreed to comply with a demand by the Vietnamese government to censor “anti-state” material. But the government wants the social media company to block even more material, and the company is balking at that demand. So the government is now threatening to ban Facebook if it doesn’t comply with that demand. Facebook reportedly has revenues of almost $1 billion annually in Vietnam.

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Saudi Aramco’s Landmark IPO Is Costing The Kingdom Billions

Saudi Aramco’s Landmark IPO Is Costing The Kingdom Billions

Tyler Durden

Fri, 11/27/2020 – 03:30

Authored by Simon Watkins via OilPrice.com,

The initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco that was heralded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as being a showcase flotation for raising massive new capital for the Kingdom and anchoring a major expansion of its international equities market presence has proven only to put Aramco into a debt spiral and highlighted a myriad of problems in Saudi Arabia to international investors. Now, Aramco is digging itself further into serious debt through bond issuances simply to pay for the huge dividend payments promised by MbS that were absolutely required to persuade anyone to buy into the omni-toxic IPO.

At this rate, the debt taken on by Aramco and other Saudi bond offerings to pay for the dividends will be far more than the amount of money raised in the IPO. As a direct result of MbS deciding to go ahead with yet another oil price war at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering pace and destroying demand for oil, Aramco’s finances have suffered a massive hit. For the first half of this year, the company saw a 50 percent plunge in net profit and at the beginning of this month, it reported another massive drop in profits of 44.6 percent for the third quarter, falling to SAR44.21 billion (US$11.79 billion) from SAR79.84 billion in the same period last year. On the other side of the balance sheet, though, is the stark fact that because the company’s IPO was so toxic on so many levels that it was shunned by Western investors and had to be off-loaded to buyers who were either bullied or bribed into buying the stock Aramco is left having to pay massive guaranteed dividend payments for the foreseeable future to those shareholders.

This huge guaranteed dividend payment of US$18.75 billion per quarter – US$75 billion for a full year – will have to be paid for through budget cuts over and above the US$15 billion in Aramco’s annual capital spending alluded to by Aramco’s chief executive officer, Amin Nasser, just after the first half profits figures were unveiled. This will take the total down from around US$40 billion to around US$25 billion. Further reports have stated that even this US$25 billion figure is set to be reduced by another US$5 billion, taking the total capital spending in this year from US$25 billion to US$20 billion. 

Whatever the cuts, it remains the case that the first two dividends together for the first two quarters of this year – US$37.5 billion – far outstripped Aramco’s total free cash flow of US$21.1 billion for the same period. The latest profits number for the third quarter, meanwhile, covers just 62.88 percent of the dividend payment, never mind any other expenses or investment for projects ongoing or planned that Aramco may have had in mind. To put this even more clearly: Aramco’s entire profit for the third quarter cannot even cover the dividend it owes for the same quarter, not even two-thirds of it!

As a result so far of the slide in Aramco’s profits, the once much-vaunted flagship US$20 billion crude-to-chemicals plant at Yanbu on Saudi’s Red Sea coast has been indefinitely suspended, according to various reports. The similarly high-profile purchase of a 25 percent multi-billion-dollar stake in Sempra Energy’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Texas is also apparently under threat, although Sempra for its part has said that it continued to work with Aramco and others “to move our project at Port Arthur LNG forward.” In the same vein, according to various news sources, Aramco has suspended its key US$10 billion deal to expand into mainland China’s refining and petrochemicals sector, via a complex in the Northeastern province of Liaoning that would have seen Saudi supply up to 70 percent of the crude oil for the planned 300,000 barrels per day refinery. In sum, it appears that all of Aramco’s principal projects aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia away from the relatively zero added-value pursuits of just pumping and selling crude oil are now subject to review and/or outright suspension.

The chances of these – and other stalled projects – being resuscitated with money from other Saudi government departments looks minimal, as MbS’s second oil price war has similarly decimated these finances too. Figures released at the end of September showed that Saudi Arabia’s economy contracted 7 percent year-on-year (y-o-y) in the second quarter of 2020, with the Kingdom’s private sector showing a negative growth rate of 10.1 percent, while the public sector recorded negative growth of 3.5 percent. Saudi’s oil revenue in the first half of the year was 35 percent lower than a year earlier, while non-oil revenue fell by 37 percent. Moreover, in the second quarter of 2020 alone, the Kingdom’s petroleum refining activities recorded a 14 percent y-o-y drop. All of this resulted in a current account deficit of SAR67.4 billion (US$18 billion), or 12 percent of GDP, in Q220 compared with a surplus of SAR42.9 billion, or 5.8 percent of GDP, a year earlier, according to Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics. 

Therefore, Aramco has little choice but to continue to fund the dividend payments to its own shareholders by taking on more debt, in direct contrast to the influx of new money that MbS said would flow into Aramco and then more broadly into the Saudi Tadawul stock market following the ‘landmark IPO’. In essence, Aramco has been left to take on debt to pay the people who bought it shares, which is akin to a family who decides that it has to sell the precious family silver to pay off debts but then ending up having to take out more debts to pay people to buy the silver. 

Moreover, judging from last week’s bond sale by Aramco, it appears that even those investors who have been willing to buy the company’s paper – so increasing their risk exposure to not just to the omni-toxic Aramco but also to Saudi as a sovereign issuer – might be reaching the limit of their appetite for either. Saudi had been looking to raise US$8 billion from the five-part bond deal, which it did, but crucially it attracted just US$48.1 billion in orders for the debt sale, less than half of the amount that it received for its debut bond sale last year when it raised US$12 billion. Even more indicative of increasing investor caution in taking on more exposure to Saudi risk – especially that of the increasingly indebted (bonds plus dividend obligations plus revolving credit lines) Aramco – is that in last year’s bond sale Aramco was able to price the bonds at a tighter spread to the benchmark than Saudi sovereign debt but this time Aramco’s bonds were priced wider.  

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Dutch Study Involves Exposing Hundreds Of People To COVID-19 To Test Effectiveness Of Vaccines

Dutch Study Involves Exposing Hundreds Of People To COVID-19 To Test Effectiveness Of Vaccines

Tyler Durden

Fri, 11/27/2020 – 02:45

What was that President Trump used to say about not letting the cure be more painful than the disease?

The latest group of intrepid scientists to test the boundaries of virology and medical ethics belongs to the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. A team of Dutch researchers has already recruited a team of more than 240 volunteers for what’s called a “human challenge” study.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a “challenge” study involves deliberately exposing subjects – animals, or (in this case) human volunteers – to the virus to test the effectiveness of various vaccine candidates.

One could call it a ‘trial by fire’.

So far, Moderna and Pfizer have touted headline numbers claiming their vaccines are 95% effective. Only time will tell whether these vaccines actually prevent infection in 19 out of 20 recipients. Meanwhile, the “dosing error” that led AstraZenaca and Oxford to offer conflicting assessments of its adenovirus-vector vaccine depending on different dosing regimens is only the one of the trial’s shortcomings. It has also been revealed that the vaccine’s best data was gleaned from a group of exclusively younger patients, meaning older more vulnerable patients may be at risk of seeing serious infections develop anyway.

The plan for the “challenge study” is being championed by an organization called 1Day Sooner, which is dedicated – as its name suggests – to accelerating the quest for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Quarantine facilities in London have already been reserved by the group, which said it expects the trials to begin in January – provided regulators grant their blessing.

With vaccine development and administration still a far-off prospect for millions of Americans, the Trump Administration has promised to start vaccinating health-care workers and the most vulnerable patients by mid-December.

Officials have said vaccines will begin to ship out hours after the FDA grants emergency use approval to Pfizer and/or Moderna. Markets appear to have already internalized this outcome, evidenced by the Dow’s record close yesterday.

1Day Sooner has allies in the biotech space that are willing to supply the equipment the company would need to conduct the study. One British biotech firm said last month that it was already in advanced talks with HMG over permission to create and provide strains of the virus for what would be a groundbreaking study.

Though Reuters didn’t name it in the version of its report published online, the biotech firm referenced above appears to be Open Orphan, a British firm that one Twitter user said “is the only company in the world with a commercial human challenge study model for Covid 19.”

According to a press release published in October, Open Orphan is already working with two British institutions on a “challenge” study using Orphan’s plan. Results are expect by May. At this point, with the biggest economies set to have a virtual monopoly on the first wave of vaccine product, a study like this that could accelerate development of other more traditional vaccine approaches could be enormously valuable.

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