Propaganda, Money-Printing, & Trump-Tweets Cannot Overcome A Global Pandemic

Propaganda, Money-Printing, & Trump-Tweets Cannot Overcome A Global Pandemic

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

Spirits In The Material World

There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

As I was driving home from work last week, an almost forty-year-old song began emanating from my radio. I’ve always appreciated the music of The Police, but was never a huge fan. Spirits in the Material World was a relatively minor hit from their 1981 Ghost in the Machine multi-platinum album. I’ve probably heard it hundreds of times over the last four decades, but the lyrics struck me as particularly apropos at the end of a week where lunatic left-wing politicians staged a battle royale of ineptitude, invective, and idiotic solutions, in front of a perplexed public in a Vegas casino. Sting wrote the lyrics to this song in 1981 at the outset of the Reagan presidency. It is less than 3 minutes in length, but says much about humanity and the world we inhabit.

The interpretation of Sting’s (Gordon Sumner) lyrics depends upon your position in the generational kaleidoscope of history. As a boomer, Sting came of age during the 1960s and 70s. He was thirty years old in 1981 as the Second Turning (Awakening) was winding down and Reagan’s Morning in America was about to launch the Third Turning (Unraveling) in 1984.

His passionate idealism and search for spiritual solutions to the problems of the day had not been extinguished. The raging inflation of the 1970s had led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Cold War was at its coldest. Politicians had been discredited as criminal (Nixon) or incompetent (Carter). Sting and many others of his generation had lost faith in the political system. His viewpoint fit perfectly into the Strauss and Howe assessment of our last Awakening period (1964 – 1984).

“Young activists and spiritualists look back at the previous High as an era of cultural poverty. America’s most recent Awakening was the “Consciousness Revolution,” which spanned from the campus and inner-city revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early ‘80s. Coming of age during this Awakening was the Prophet archetype Boom Generation (born 1943 to 1960), whose passionate idealism and search for authentic self-expression epitomized the mood of the era.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Sting’s opening lyrics were accurate in 1981. The spiritual was about to give way to the material. Another turning was in progress. Individualism and self-actualization were about to come into vogue. The “Me” generation was taking control. Society was about to be transformed by a “greed is good” mentality. The term “material world” was about to transform our nation. For the next two decades stock markets boomed, taxes were slashed, crony capitalism flourished, deficit spending became the norm, consumers consumed on credit, globalism was preached by the ruling class, and we devolved into debt serfs.

As the Unraveling unraveled in the early 2000s, with the dot.com debacle, 9/11, Iraq War, Wall Street created housing collapse, and ultimately the financial system crash in 2008, a pervasive distrust of institutions and leaders swept over the country.

The Fourth Turning had arrived.

The “no bloody revolution” lyric struck a nerve when I heard it. Sting was right in 1981. Bloody revolutions don’t happen during Awakenings or Unravelings. But they do happen during Fourth Turning Crisis periods. There is no possibility of political solutions. The nation has split into competing camps, with no possibility of compromise or negotiated settlements. Our culture has been degraded. After decades of gorging on iGadgets, luxury automobiles, McMansions, and keeping up with the Joneses, the cynicism and desperation of the masses is palatable.

Greed, swindles, delusion and avarice have created an unpayable mountain of debt, severely risking the future of our country, and producing social disorder which will lead to bloodshed. There is a simmering rage just below the surface of a superficial civility, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. The 2016 ascension of Trump against the wishes of the Republican establishment and Sanders’ current ascension against the wishes of the Democrat establishment is proof the existing social order is rapidly losing control and will be swept away in a torrent of violence once the debt dam ruptures. The mood darkens by the day.

Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail you
They subjugate the meek
But it’s the rhetoric of failure

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

Sting’s inspiration for the song was the writings of Hungarian author and philosopher Arthur Koestler, whose book Ghost in the Machine was employed as the album name. Koestler’s life had many similarities to other authors of his time, like Orwell, Huxley, Steinbeck and Hemingway. In his youth he supported socialist causes, but like Orwell, became a staunch anti-communist. Koestler believed outside influences could destroy our spirit and restrict our thinking. The “spirits” and “ghosts” Koestler wrote about were the individual’s higher sense of life that gets lost in the “machine”, twisted by overbearing governments, mega-corporations, and a traitorous Deep State.

Our so- called leaders speak and offer nothing but lies, misinformation and propaganda. The ruling class has subjugated the meek by using government schooling to dumb down the masses, using Bernaysian propaganda techniques to control their wants and needs, and manipulating their ignorance by convincing them buying material goods with high interest debt leads to wealth. It’s the rhetoric of failure for average Americans, but the rhetoric of success for bankers, politicians, corporate executives, and the billionaire oligarch class. Sting explained his thought process regarding the song:

“I thought that while political progress is clearly important in resolving conflict around the world, there are spiritual (as opposed to religious) aspects of our recovery that also need to be addressed. I suppose by ‘spiritual’ I mean the ability to see the bigger picture, to be able to step outside the narrow box of our conditioning and access those higher modes of thinking that Koestler talked about. Without this, politics is just the rhetoric of failure.”

Sting perfectly captures a fundamental truth of our manipulated society. We have been conditioned through hidden mechanisms wielded by the Deep State, forming our habits, beliefs and opinions as they decree. The ruling class allows the plebs to believe they make their own choices at the voting booth, but they hand pick the politicians and tell you who to choose, at least until recently. Politics is nothing but a rigged game, just like our financial markets. It’s a failure for hard working honest people, but enriches the corrupt chieftains calling the shots.  Edward Bernays revealed the truth about how the world really works ninety-two years ago:

“We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda – 1928

We are spirits in this material world. The physical world dominates the thought processes and actions of the majority and it most certainly is all that matters to the ruling class. Only the earthly success measurements matter to those controlling our society. Wealth, power and control over others drives the actions of these arrogant, despicable, evil men. They have no interest in the spiritual realm, the welfare of mankind, or doing what is moral and right. Money and materialism have become the golden calf worshipped by the heathen oligarchs and desired by the common people. We’ve traded the treasure of everlasting spiritual enlightenment for transient earthly mammon. Our culture of greed and celebrating aberrational behavior has sunk to a new low.

Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If it’s something we can’t buy
There must be another way

We are spirits in the material world

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

There must be another way. We are halfway through this Fourth Turning and answers are few. The questions are many. Humanity’s tendency toward self-destruction is a spectacle which reaches its zenith during Fourth Turnings. Decades of bad choices, living for today, accumulating insane levels of debt, and being deluded by the powers that be, has created a culture of alienation, greed, violence and materialism. The coronavirus pandemic, rapidly spreading across the globe, has the potential to dramatically shift the stranglehold of big business, big government, globalism, and Deep State surveillance over our lives.

Are the ghosts about to conquer the machine? Will the spiritual side of humanity arise once again and defeat the powers of evil who currently control the levers of society? A struggle against dark forces awaits the good people who choose the truth over the lies plied by the corrupt establishment.

The winner-take-all battle between good and evil approaches swiftly. Those with a spiritual basis for their actions will be pitted against those driven by greed, authority and oppression. This coronavirus pandemic, whether biologically weaponized by government authorities to further their agenda of control through fear, or organically formed through genetic mutations in filthy third world countries, appears to be the catalyst which will propel us into the ether of death and devastation, pervasive during the climax of Fourth Turnings. I’ve never been less sure about the future than I am today.

Is the planet about to experience a worldwide contagion that kills millions and brings global economic activity to a standstill, triggering a collapse in outrageously overvalued markets and implosion of the mountain of global debt? Or will the Deep State and their pliable servants utilize standard fear mongering techniques to further enslave a populace insufficiently capable of distinguishing reality from make believe.

The establishment will continue to lie and cheat because they are anchored in the material world and its ephemeral riches. They hate those who do not fall into line and can’t be corrupted by earthly riches. Either scenario will ultimately result in a showdown between good and evil. We all have choices to make. Will we ascend into the light of the spiritual or descend into the darkness of demons?

A complete collapse in trust is on the horizon. The excesses of materialism and greed have reached their zenith. Propaganda, money printing and Trump tweets cannot overcome a global pandemic. The ineptitude of government agencies and cluelessness of government bureaucrats has been on display in China and will be laid bare in the U.S. when the coronavirus continues its rampage across the globe. It will also reveal the propensity of government to act in a totalitarian manner when they are given free rein to control our lives. This virus will expose the fascist nature of our surveillance state and their incompetent response to a life or death crisis on our doorstep.

A crisis where life or death hangs in the balance will force people to focus on the spiritual aspects of life and make choices about what kind of world they want to leave for future generations. As this coronavirus brings our interconnected global just in time economy to a halt and millions once again see their 401ks evaporate, materialism will lose the admiration of the masses and people will begin to realize humanity can only survive and thrive if we adjust our priorities towards liberty, reason, responsibility, and doing what’s right today in order to leave a viable future for our children. The dark clouds of a monster storm on the horizon beckons. We will be forced to make difficult choices. Hopefully, enough people will make the right choices.

Perceptive paleontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s quote captures the essence of our existence on this earth and our true purpose during our eighty year or so presence in this world:

*  *  *

The corrupt establishment will do anything to suppress sites like the Burning Platform from revealing the truth. The corporate media does this by demonetizing sites like mine by blackballing the site from advertising revenue. If you get value from this site, please keep it running with a donation.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 17:45

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Dozens Of Turkish Soldiers Killed In Russian Airstrike; Erdogan Holds Emergency Meeting

Dozens Of Turkish Soldiers Killed In Russian Airstrike; Erdogan Holds Emergency Meeting

Within hours of a meeting between Turkish and Russian diplomats in Ankara ending which saw the Turkish delegation urge its counterparts to immediately establish a cease-fire in Idlib, there are new reports of that dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed by a new wave of Russian airstrikes.

Reporters on the ground in Syria say that between 32 and 37 Turkish soldiers were killed. Turkish state sources have confirmed at least 22 dead with scores wounded.

Journalist Lindsey Snell has cited Turkish Free Syrian Army (TFSA) sources which confirm 32 Turkish national troop deaths so far in the strike.

Amid the breaking reports The Washington Post’s Liz Sly says Turkish President Erdogan has called an emergency security meeting of his military leaders over the alleged Russian attack. 

Despite widespread initial reports that it was a Russian airstrike, Turkish state media has thus far used the interesting wording of “Assad regime forces” conducting the strike and not Russia.

This after heavy clashes today in Idlib towns have been ongoing related to the Syrian Army’s major offensive in the south of the province. 

Regional reporter Emma Beals writes

Initial reports say a large number of Turkish soldiers killed today in Idlib. Lots of activity now at Reyhanli hospital in Turkey. Erdogan chairing an emergency meeting right now, with CHP party chairing their own tonight as well.

“If all confirmed, could signal major escalation,” she added of the breaking story.

“Updated reports indicate a two-story building used by Turkey’s military as a command headquarters was leveled in a targeted Russian airstrike,” Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister writes

“Requests by Ankara to fly in helicopters to evacuate casualties were rejected by Hmeymin Airbase; casualties were driven by land,” he added.

And immediately on the heels of today’s dramatic escalation, Sen. Lindsey Graham is urging Trump to impose a No Fly Zone over Idlib.

Turkey appears to have cut off Twitter access to the entire country.

developing…


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 17:25

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/396JI0J Tyler Durden

Steven Seagal Charged By SEC For Unlawfully Touting 2018 ICO

Steven Seagal Charged By SEC For Unlawfully Touting 2018 ICO

Authored by Andrey Shevchenko via CoinTelegraph.com,

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged actor Steven Seagal for promoting an initial coin offering (ICO) without disclosing that he was paid for it. He was ordered to pay back over $330,000 to the commission.

image courtesy of CoinTelegraph

In March 2018, Steven Seagal was contracted by ICO project “Bitcoiin2Gen” (B2G) to promote the sale on his social media channels, as well as appearing as a brand ambassador in the project’s marketing materials.

While he was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 in B2G tokens, the Feb. 27 disclosure by the SEC maintains that he only received $157,000 from his promotional deal.

The actor agreed on settled charges with the commission, promising to pay approximately $330,000 to the commission. The sum corresponds to double the amount he received from the project, plus $16,000 of prejudgement interest.

The SEC specifically targeted Seagal for failing to disclose that his endorsement of the project was paid for, which is a direct circumvention of its regulations.

“Celebrities are not allowed to use their social media influence to tout securities without appropriately disclosing their compensation,” noted Kristina Littman, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit.

Steven Seagal’s background

The actor is known for several high-profile action films released between the late 80s and the early 2000s, including “Under Siege,” “The Patriot” and “Above the Law.”

Seagal is a Buddhist, claiming in 1997 to have been given the title of tulku — the reincarnation of the Buddhist lama — by a Buddhist high priest. For this reason, he was announced by the B2G project as a “Zen master.”

Seagal currently lives in Moscow, Russia, and he acquired both Serbian and Russian citizenship. In 2018 he became a special envoy of the Russian government to “promote friendly relations” with the United States.

In 2013, he was a special guest of Ramzan Kadyrov, the governor of the Chechen Autonomous Republic. Kadyrov is known for his strongman attitude and alleged human rights violations.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 17:05

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Tjyu2h Tyler Durden

A New Book Reveals Facebook’s Problems Started Way Before the 2016 Election

“It remains uncertain whether anything that happened on Facebook made a significant difference in the 2016 election,” Steven Levy writes in his introduction to Facebook: The Inside Story. This is a sentence the reader has to keep in mind throughout Levy’s new book, which documents how the seeds of what has gone wrong for the company were planted years before 2016 in a series of heedless or needlessly aggressive decisions that are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the company itself. 

When it comes to what we actually can prove about the 2016 votes in the United Kingdom (which resulted in Brexit) and in the United States (which gave us President Donald Trump), it’s never been demonstrated that Facebook and its ad policies made any difference. Even so, it’s now indisputable that various political actors (including Russia) have tried to use Facebook that way, and that the company made it easy for them to try. 

Levy’s introductory chapter is designed to show both the reputational heights Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his company briefly reached and the depths to which they’ve both now fallen. The author draws a brisk line between Zuckerberg’s triumphant surprise visit to Lagos, Nigeria, in August 2016—where he meets a range of programmers and would-be startup entrepreneurs as well as top government officials—and the unexpected outcome of the American election in November that year. The latter inspired a gathering storm of critics to point directly at Facebook as the source of that outcome’s unexpectedness. 

This juxtaposition works to draw readers into the thematic heart of the book but also suggests, a bit misleadingly, that Facebook’s massive loss of public regard starting in 2016 was an abrupt, unexpected one. But what the author documents in his introductory chapter and throughout the book is that Facebook’s unforced errors have amounted to a car crash more of the slow-motion variety; you can’t look away, but also it never seems to end.

Nothing in Levy’s narrative arc for Facebook and its principal founder will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the company’s fortunes over the 15 years. You could fill a specialty bookstore with nothing but Facebook-related books published in the last decade or so, starting with Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, later adapted by Aaron Sorkin for the David Fincher-directed movie The Social Network. Mezrich’s book, and almost all of the books published about Facebook since then, fall into two broad categories: (1) Look At The Great Things These Geniuses Have Done, or (2) Look At All The Pathological Things These Twisted Guys Have Done. With the exception of David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect (a book on the company’s early years that Levy credits by name in his acknowledgments), the authors of most of these other books typically have tried to distill the story of Facebook into lessons—either what not to do or what must be done—regarding social media and big tech-company successes. One way or another, they’ve almost all had axes to grind.

That was never going to be the kind of story Levy—whose 2011 book on Google, In The Plex, is the best journalistic account of that company’s history and its impact on the tech world—would write about Facebook. Levy’s books and his admirably accessible body of tech journalism for journals from Newsweek to MacWorld to Wired consistently demonstrate how he’s driven by the facts rather than by any philosophical or political agenda. And that’s exactly why, once Levy has layered on so many new facts about Facebook, its principals, and its various lapses and betrayals, piling on the details from hundreds of interviews, putting all the pieces of every part of Facebook’s story into one place, his most even-handed conclusions are still damning:

“The troubled post-election version of Facebook was by no means a different company from the one it was before, but instead very much a continuation of what started in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room 15 years earlier. It is a company that benefits from and struggles with the legacy of its origin, its hunger for growth, and its idealistic and terrifying mission. Its audaciousness—and that of its leader—led it to be so successful. And that same audaciousness came with a punishing price.”

And what was that price? Per Levy, “Facebook now admits that the damage [from the company’s decisions to promote rapid growth over everything else] turned out far more extensive than expected, and is not easily repaired. All the while Mark Zuckerberg and his team insist, despite the scandals, that Facebook is still overwhelmingly a force for good in the world.”

Even now—even after reading Levy’s increasingly unhappy account of Facebook’s growth in size and profitability on the one hand and its growth in scandalously negligent or callous treatment of users and their data on the other—I’m still inclined to agree that Facebook is a force for good. I’m biased: Were it not for our ability to stay in touch on Facebook while half a world apart, the woman who became my wife in 2017 and I would not be married today. But, just as important, I’ve seen so many instances in which individual users and communities have found constructive uses for Facebook’s many features, ranging from the broadly political to the deeply personal. I’ve been a defender of some of Facebook’s approaches to real problems, such as its Internet.org project (later known as Free Basics) and its (apparent) commitment to end-to-end encryption.

But again and again in Levy’s book I stumble across things like Facebook’s deployment of a mobile app called Onavo Protect, which purported to provide VPN (virtual private network) services for one’s phone, but whose real purpose was to gather user data about how they used other apps. For a year or two I had that Onavo app on my own damned phone! As Levy writes, “it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to present people with a privacy tool whose purpose was to gain their data.”

Far more common in the Facebook story than perverse examples like Onavo Protect are the occasions in which the company failed to anticipate problems that would arise from the markets it pushed itself into with little awareness of how its services might be misused—especially in the absence of Facebook personnel who spoke the dominant languages in those markets and who might at least theoretically identify content that violated Facebook’s content policies or other problematic uses. Take Myanmar, for example. Levy shows that Facebook learned in 2014 about how its services were being used maliciously in Myanmar, a country where large-scale mobile-phone internet access was just taking off. 

I learned about Facebook’s impact in Myanmar at roughly the same time through my contacts in Burmese civil society, and my first reaction was just as brain-dead as Facebook’s turned out to be. When I was told that incidents of civil violence were being reported on Facebook, my first thought was that this was positive—that the increasing ubiquity of smartphones with cameras was making rogue government officials and factions more accountable. What I didn’t immediately grasp (my Burmese friends politely schooled me), and what Facebook took far longer to grasp, was that false reports of crime and sexual assaults were being used to stir up violence against innocents, with a growing genocidal focus on the country’s oppressed and persecuted Rohingya minority. Levy then outlines how Facebook’s property WhatsApp, with its end-to-end encryption features and its built-in ability to amplify messages, including pro-violence messages, exacerbated the civil-discord problem in Myanmar (just as it eventually was shown to have done in the Philippines and in Brazil):

“Facebook contracted with a firm called BSR to investigate its activity in Myanmar. It found that Facebook rushed into a country where digital illiteracy was rampant: most Internet users did not know how to open a browser or set up an email account or assess online content. Yet their phones were preinstalled with Facebook. The report said that the hate speech and misinformation on Facebook suppressed the expression of Myanmar’s most vulnerable users. And worse: ‘Facebook has become a useful platform for those seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm.’ A UN report had reached a similar conclusion.” 

It’s fair to note, as Facebook’s defenders (who sometimes have included me) have noted, that all new communications technologies are destined to be misused by somebody. But Facebook’s reckless stress on its grow-first-fix-problems-later strategy more or less guaranteed that the most harmful aspects of the misuses of these new media would be exacerbated rather than mitigated. By 2018, the company began to realize it was at the bottom of a reputational hole and needed to stop digging; when Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate in 2018, he responded to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D–Vt.) question about Myanmar by saying “what’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more.”

That last line is a theme that appears again and again in the final third of the book, uttered by different top executives at Facebook. “We know we have more work to do,” an exec responded when reporters revealed that Facebook’s AI-fueled self-service ad product created the targeted category “Jew haters.”

Writes Levy: “Investigative reporters at ProPublica found 2,274 potential users identified by Facebook as fitting that category, one of more than 26,000 provided by Facebook, which apparently never vetted the [category] list itself.” When Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a Google veteran, met with the Congressional Black Caucus, she didn’t have a particularly strong defense for Facebook’s having (in Levy’s words) “hosted Russian propaganda that fueled white prejudice against black people” or violating civil-rights laws “because it allowed advertisers to discriminate against African-Americans.” Sandberg was reduced to “repeating, almost like a mantra, ‘We will do better.'” Sandberg later told Levy that “I walked out of there saying we, and I, have a lot of work to do.” This has become the paradigmatic Facebook response when any new scandal emerges from the company’s shortsighted strategic choices to privilege growth over due diligence. 

If there is one major exception to the company’s institutional willingness to plunge ahead into new markets and new opportunities to reap revenue, it is its cautiousness in dealing with American conservatives, primarily driven by Facebook’s head of global policy, Joel Kaplan. Levy writes that

“for years right-wing conservatives had been complaining that Facebook—run by those liberals in Silicon Valley—discriminated against them by down-ranking their posts. The claim was unsupported by data, and by many measures conservative content was overrepresented on Facebook. Fox News routinely headed the list of most-shared posts on the service, and even smaller right-wing sites like the Daily Wire were punching above their weight.” 

Facebook’s intense desire to be perceived as lacking political bias seems to have led to policies and outreach efforts—including a big powwow in Menlo Park where Zuckerberg and Sandberg personally attempted to mollify prominent conspiracy theorists like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck–that added up to white-glove treatment for American conservatives. Beck, at least, told Levy he was impressed with Zuckerberg’s sincerity: “I sat across the table from him to try to gauge him [and he] was a little enigmatic, but I thought he was trying to do the right thing.” Even so, Levy writes, “after leaving Menlo Park the conservatives returned to complaining about Facebook’s treatment of them—while piling up millions of views because of their skill in exploiting Facebook’s algorithms.”

The attempts to accommodate conservative critics, occurring simultaneously with Facebook’s promises to “do better” on other content moderation issues, illustrate the bind in which the company now finds itself. It’s voicing its commitment to be more proactive in moderating malicious content and disinformation while simultaneously reassuring the squeakiest political wheels that, no, their content and policies won’t be subjected to any Facebook-imposed test of factuality or truth. In other words, it’s promising both to police more content and to police content less. Facebook’s laboring now to create a “content oversight board,” a kind of “Supreme Court” where Facebook content decisions can be appealed.

I’m skeptical of that whole oversight-board project—not least because it seems largely to sidestep the other big bucket of problems for Facebook, which is its handling of user data. I’m also skeptical about broad claims that Facebook’s content algorithms and ads truly manipulate us—in the sense of robbing us of ordinary human independence and agency—but that skepticism has no bearing on the ethical question of whether Facebook should allow malign actors to exploit user data in efforts to manipulate us (e.g., by suppressing voter turnout). Whether those efforts are effective or not isn’t relevant to the ethical questions, just as when a drunk in a bar misses when he swings at you has no bearing on whether he can be charged with attempted assault. 

Finally, I’m most skeptical as to whether anything Facebook tries to do on its own is going to either restore Facebook’s public reputation or blunt the impulse of government policymakers, both in the United States and elsewhere, to impose hobbling and even punitive regulation on the entire social-media industry (and on the tech industry generally). 

It’s clear that one reason Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been scrambling to find an accommodation that works—first and foremost with the U.S. government but also with the European Union (E.U.) and with non-E.U. nations—is that they know they need to get out of the crosshairs, especially as more of their company’s story continues to come to light. Their problem now is that Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story has instantly become the indispensable single-volume resource for all policymakers everywhere when it comes to Facebook—not because it sets out to take the company down, but because the facts it reports leave readers with no choice but to recognize how the company’s indisputable successes have been undermined by its indisputable systemic deficiencies. 

My takeaway is that Facebook could still manage a win out of all this—if it seizes this moment as an opportunity to embrace an ethical framework that’s designed for something bigger than just solving Facebook problems. I don’t believe the company’s bad behavior (or negligence—there’s plenty of both) can tell us what to think of this whole sector of the internet economy and what industry-level regulation or law should look like. As I’ve argued in my own book, I believe a new ethical framework has to be built and shared, industry-wide (affecting more companies than just Facebook). It needs to be informed by all stakeholders, including users, governments, and civil society as well as the companies themselves—and it needs to privilege fiduciary obligations to users and the general public even over any commitment to growth and profitability. Part of these obligations will entail, yes, a commitment to fighting disinformation, treating it as a cybersecurity problem—even when political stakeholders complain. 

That’s just my view—other critics will argue for different approaches, some of which will center on more regulation or laws or other government interventions, while others will argue for fewer but better-crafted ones. But what all Facebook’s critics, and the tech industry’s critics, will have in common is this: going forward, we all will be citing stuff we learned from Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story.

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Is Trump Deliberately Sandbagging New York’s Landmark Transportation Policy?

New York’s plan to impose a congestion toll on drivers entering the lower parts of Manhattan has hit a bump in the road, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) repeatedly claiming that federal officials are slow-walking needed approval of the policy.

“The federal approval, frankly, we just assumed it was going to be almost pro forma. They’re now using that opportunity to stop congestion pricing,” Cuomo told reporters on Monday, according to The New York Times.

The governor made the same claim last week according to the New York Post, saying in another press conference “Will [the Trump administration] hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes. That’s how they do business.”

New York’s congestion pricing plan was passed in April 2019 as part of the state’s budget. It would impose a toll on all drivers entering Manhattan streets below 60th Street, save for motorists who drive only on the island’s West Side Highway or FDR Drive.

The plan requires that some 80 percent of the revenue from these congestion tolls be spent on the city’s subway, with another 10 percent being dedicated to regional rail services.

The plan calls for having the tolls in place by January 2021, but there are still a number of details to be worked out, including how high congestion tolls should be, and who should get credits or exemptions.

That requires difficult political wrangling with powerful constituencies, from cops to truckers, who all have argued they deserve a carve-out. It also requires New York to get permission from the federal government.

Currently, there exists a general prohibition on states and localities adding tolls to roads that were funded in part by the federal government. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) does administer a couple of programs that make exceptions to this ban. That includes the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP), through which the federal government can approve pilot congestion pricing programs to reduce congestion on existing roads.

Receiving authorization through VPPP also requires proposals to go through environmental reviews mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). How long that will take all depends on what level of NEPA review federal officials deem appropriate.

If New York were lucky, it would receive a categorical exemption from NEPA. More likely it will have to prepare an Environmental Assessment (an intermediate level of review) or worse, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Those run an average of 670 pages and can take years to complete.

Right now, the FHWA is in the middle of determining which level of NEPA New York’s congestion pricing scheme requires. That determination will tell New York officials what information they’ll have to prepare for the feds.

Officials with the New York City government and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—the state agency that runs buses and trains in New York City—say they’ve been trying to get an answer from the feds about what kind of report they need to prepare since April 2019.

An FHWA spokesperson told Reason that the agency didn’t receive the supplemental information it needed to make a NEPA determination until January 2020, and it’s that delay, not Cuomo’s claimed political interference, that’s dictating the pace of federal review.

As recently as February 8, Cuomo told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn’t concerned about the potential for the Trump administration to hold things up for political reasons.

The governor could be doing a lot more to speed things along in the face of federal delays, argues Manhattan Institute transportation scholar Nicole Gelinas, who wrote in the New York Post:

[Cuomo could] have directed the MTA to take a more aggressive posture. The MTA could have prepared a short “environmental assessment,” hiring consultants to say the scheme will help the environment by discouraging people from driving. The MTA could start preparing the longer document, just in case. It requires public hearings, which are a pain, but the city completed its environmental-impact statement for its four-borough jails from start to finish in 14 months, meaning the MTA would be almost done now.

The fact that Cuomo hasn’t done those things, says Gelinas, suggests that he’s already gotten all the political mileage out of congestion pricing he can, and sees only liabilities in actually implementing the policy.

Cuomo risks pissing off motorists who will now have to pay for something they used to enjoy for free. This dynamic isn’t made better by the specific design of New York’s congestion pricing scheme, says Baruch Feigenbaum of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.

“I think the concern is that very little of the money from the congestion price is going to improve roadways,” he said, adding that the proposed toll levels seem to have more to do with hitting revenue targets for funding transit than with easing congestion.

Feigenbaum notes that Trump isn’t above petty retribution when it comes to New York, noting his administration’s brazenly political decision to bar residents from that state from participating in Trusted Traveller programs that allow quicker passage through airport security.

Still, Feigenbaum says he hasn’t seen any evidence that this is the case with congestion pricing. Indeed, Trump has proposed reforms that would speed up NEPA reviews of projects, and limit the use of EIS.

Congestion pricing as a concept has a lot to offer a place like New York City, says Feigenbaum. There’s a lot of demand for driving on the roads, but very little space for adding new road capacity. As with most major reforms, it’s the politics of implementation that are slowing things down.

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A New Book Reveals Facebook’s Problems Started Way Before the 2016 Election

“It remains uncertain whether anything that happened on Facebook made a significant difference in the 2016 election,” Steven Levy writes in his introduction to Facebook: The Inside Story. This is a sentence the reader has to keep in mind throughout Levy’s new book, which documents how the seeds of what has gone wrong for the company were planted years before 2016 in a series of heedless or needlessly aggressive decisions that are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the company itself. 

When it comes to what we actually can prove about the 2016 votes in the United Kingdom (which resulted in Brexit) and in the United States (which gave us President Donald Trump), it’s never been demonstrated that Facebook and its ad policies made any difference. Even so, it’s now indisputable that various political actors (including Russia) have tried to use Facebook that way, and that the company made it easy for them to try. 

Levy’s introductory chapter is designed to show both the reputational heights Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his company briefly reached and the depths to which they’ve both now fallen. The author draws a brisk line between Zuckerberg’s triumphant surprise visit to Lagos, Nigeria, in August 2016—where he meets a range of programmers and would-be startup entrepreneurs as well as top government officials—and the unexpected outcome of the American election in November that year. The latter inspired a gathering storm of critics to point directly at Facebook as the source of that outcome’s unexpectedness. 

This juxtaposition works to draw readers into the thematic heart of the book but also suggests, a bit misleadingly, that Facebook’s massive loss of public regard starting in 2016 was an abrupt, unexpected one. But what the author documents in his introductory chapter and throughout the book is that Facebook’s unforced errors have amounted to a car crash more of the slow-motion variety; you can’t look away, but also it never seems to end.

Nothing in Levy’s narrative arc for Facebook and its principal founder will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the company’s fortunes over the 15 years. You could fill a specialty bookstore with nothing but Facebook-related books published in the last decade or so, starting with Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, later adapted by Aaron Sorkin for the David Fincher-directed movie The Social Network. Mezrich’s book, and almost all of the books published about Facebook since then, fall into two broad categories: (1) Look At The Great Things These Geniuses Have Done, or (2) Look At All The Pathological Things These Twisted Guys Have Done. With the exception of David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect (a book on the company’s early years that Levy credits by name in his acknowledgments), the authors of most of these other books typically have tried to distill the story of Facebook into lessons—either what not to do or what must be done—regarding social media and big tech-company successes. One way or another, they’ve almost all had axes to grind.

That was never going to be the kind of story Levy—whose 2011 book on Google, In The Plex, is the best journalistic account of that company’s history and its impact on the tech world—would write about Facebook. Levy’s books and his admirably accessible body of tech journalism for journals from Newsweek to MacWorld to Wired consistently demonstrate how he’s driven by the facts rather than by any philosophical or political agenda. And that’s exactly why, once Levy has layered on so many new facts about Facebook, its principals, and its various lapses and betrayals, piling on the details from hundreds of interviews, putting all the pieces of every part of Facebook’s story into one place, his most even-handed conclusions are still damning:

“The troubled post-election version of Facebook was by no means a different company from the one it was before, but instead very much a continuation of what started in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room 15 years earlier. It is a company that benefits from and struggles with the legacy of its origin, its hunger for growth, and its idealistic and terrifying mission. Its audaciousness—and that of its leader—led it to be so successful. And that same audaciousness came with a punishing price.”

And what was that price? Per Levy, “Facebook now admits that the damage [from the company’s decisions to promote rapid growth over everything else] turned out far more extensive than expected, and is not easily repaired. All the while Mark Zuckerberg and his team insist, despite the scandals, that Facebook is still overwhelmingly a force for good in the world.”

Even now—even after reading Levy’s increasingly unhappy account of Facebook’s growth in size and profitability on the one hand and its growth in scandalously negligent or callous treatment of users and their data on the other—I’m still inclined to agree that Facebook is a force for good. I’m biased: Were it not for our ability to stay in touch on Facebook while half a world apart, the woman who became my wife in 2017 and I would not be married today. But, just as important, I’ve seen so many instances in which individual users and communities have found constructive uses for Facebook’s many features, ranging from the broadly political to the deeply personal. I’ve been a defender of some of Facebook’s approaches to real problems, such as its Internet.org project (later known as Free Basics) and its (apparent) commitment to end-to-end encryption.

But again and again in Levy’s book I stumble across things like Facebook’s deployment of a mobile app called Onavo Protect, which purported to provide VPN (virtual private network) services for one’s phone, but whose real purpose was to gather user data about how they used other apps. For a year or two I had that Onavo app on my own damned phone! As Levy writes, “it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to present people with a privacy tool whose purpose was to gain their data.”

Far more common in the Facebook story than perverse examples like Onavo Protect are the occasions in which the company failed to anticipate problems that would arise from the markets it pushed itself into with little awareness of how its services might be misused—especially in the absence of Facebook personnel who spoke the dominant languages in those markets and who might at least theoretically identify content that violated Facebook’s content policies or other problematic uses. Take Myanmar, for example. Levy shows that Facebook learned in 2014 about how its services were being used maliciously in Myanmar, a country where large-scale mobile-phone internet access was just taking off. 

I learned about Facebook’s impact in Myanmar at roughly the same time through my contacts in Burmese civil society, and my first reaction was just as brain-dead as Facebook’s turned out to be. When I was told that incidents of civil violence were being reported on Facebook, my first thought was that this was positive—that the increasing ubiquity of smartphones with cameras was making rogue government officials and factions more accountable. What I didn’t immediately grasp (my Burmese friends politely schooled me), and what Facebook took far longer to grasp, was that false reports of crime and sexual assaults were being used to stir up violence against innocents, with a growing genocidal focus on the country’s oppressed and persecuted Rohingya minority. Levy then outlines how Facebook’s property WhatsApp, with its end-to-end encryption features and its built-in ability to amplify messages, including pro-violence messages, exacerbated the civil-discord problem in Myanmar (just as it eventually was shown to have done in the Philippines and in Brazil):

“Facebook contracted with a firm called BSR to investigate its activity in Myanmar. It found that Facebook rushed into a country where digital illiteracy was rampant: most Internet users did not know how to open a browser or set up an email account or assess online content. Yet their phones were preinstalled with Facebook. The report said that the hate speech and misinformation on Facebook suppressed the expression of Myanmar’s most vulnerable users. And worse: ‘Facebook has become a useful platform for those seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm.’ A UN report had reached a similar conclusion.” 

It’s fair to note, as Facebook’s defenders (who sometimes have included me) have noted, that all new communications technologies are destined to be misused by somebody. But Facebook’s reckless stress on its grow-first-fix-problems-later strategy more or less guaranteed that the most harmful aspects of the misuses of these new media would be exacerbated rather than mitigated. By 2018, the company began to realize it was at the bottom of a reputational hole and needed to stop digging; when Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate in 2018, he responded to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D–Vt.) question about Myanmar by saying “what’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more.”

That last line is a theme that appears again and again in the final third of the book, uttered by different top executives at Facebook. “We know we have more work to do,” an exec responded when reporters revealed that Facebook’s AI-fueled self-service ad product created the targeted category “Jew haters.”

Writes Levy: “Investigative reporters at ProPublica found 2,274 potential users identified by Facebook as fitting that category, one of more than 26,000 provided by Facebook, which apparently never vetted the [category] list itself.” When Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a Google veteran, met with the Congressional Black Caucus, she didn’t have a particularly strong defense for Facebook’s having (in Levy’s words) “hosted Russian propaganda that fueled white prejudice against black people” or violating civil-rights laws “because it allowed advertisers to discriminate against African-Americans.” Sandberg was reduced to “repeating, almost like a mantra, ‘We will do better.'” Sandberg later told Levy that “I walked out of there saying we, and I, have a lot of work to do.” This has become the paradigmatic Facebook response when any new scandal emerges from the company’s shortsighted strategic choices to privilege growth over due diligence. 

If there is one major exception to the company’s institutional willingness to plunge ahead into new markets and new opportunities to reap revenue, it is its cautiousness in dealing with American conservatives, primarily driven by Facebook’s head of global policy, Joel Kaplan. Levy writes that

“for years right-wing conservatives had been complaining that Facebook—run by those liberals in Silicon Valley—discriminated against them by down-ranking their posts. The claim was unsupported by data, and by many measures conservative content was overrepresented on Facebook. Fox News routinely headed the list of most-shared posts on the service, and even smaller right-wing sites like the Daily Wire were punching above their weight.” 

Facebook’s intense desire to be perceived as lacking political bias seems to have led to policies and outreach efforts—including a big powwow in Menlo Park where Zuckerberg and Sandberg personally attempted to mollify prominent conspiracy theorists like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck–that added up to white-glove treatment for American conservatives. Beck, at least, told Levy he was impressed with Zuckerberg’s sincerity: “I sat across the table from him to try to gauge him [and he] was a little enigmatic, but I thought he was trying to do the right thing.” Even so, Levy writes, “after leaving Menlo Park the conservatives returned to complaining about Facebook’s treatment of them—while piling up millions of views because of their skill in exploiting Facebook’s algorithms.”

The attempts to accommodate conservative critics, occurring simultaneously with Facebook’s promises to “do better” on other content moderation issues, illustrate the bind in which the company now finds itself. It’s voicing its commitment to be more proactive in moderating malicious content and disinformation while simultaneously reassuring the squeakiest political wheels that, no, their content and policies won’t be subjected to any Facebook-imposed test of factuality or truth. In other words, it’s promising both to police more content and to police content less. Facebook’s laboring now to create a “content oversight board,” a kind of “Supreme Court” where Facebook content decisions can be appealed.

I’m skeptical of that whole oversight-board project—not least because it seems largely to sidestep the other big bucket of problems for Facebook, which is its handling of user data. I’m also skeptical about broad claims that Facebook’s content algorithms and ads truly manipulate us—in the sense of robbing us of ordinary human independence and agency—but that skepticism has no bearing on the ethical question of whether Facebook should allow malign actors to exploit user data in efforts to manipulate us (e.g., by suppressing voter turnout). Whether those efforts are effective or not isn’t relevant to the ethical questions, just as when a drunk in a bar misses when he swings at you has no bearing on whether he can be charged with attempted assault. 

Finally, I’m most skeptical as to whether anything Facebook tries to do on its own is going to either restore Facebook’s public reputation or blunt the impulse of government policymakers, both in the United States and elsewhere, to impose hobbling and even punitive regulation on the entire social-media industry (and on the tech industry generally). 

It’s clear that one reason Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been scrambling to find an accommodation that works—first and foremost with the U.S. government but also with the European Union (E.U.) and with non-E.U. nations—is that they know they need to get out of the crosshairs, especially as more of their company’s story continues to come to light. Their problem now is that Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story has instantly become the indispensable single-volume resource for all policymakers everywhere when it comes to Facebook—not because it sets out to take the company down, but because the facts it reports leave readers with no choice but to recognize how the company’s indisputable successes have been undermined by its indisputable systemic deficiencies. 

My takeaway is that Facebook could still manage a win out of all this—if it seizes this moment as an opportunity to embrace an ethical framework that’s designed for something bigger than just solving Facebook problems. I don’t believe the company’s bad behavior (or negligence—there’s plenty of both) can tell us what to think of this whole sector of the internet economy and what industry-level regulation or law should look like. As I’ve argued in my own book, I believe a new ethical framework has to be built and shared, industry-wide (affecting more companies than just Facebook). It needs to be informed by all stakeholders, including users, governments, and civil society as well as the companies themselves—and it needs to privilege fiduciary obligations to users and the general public even over any commitment to growth and profitability. Part of these obligations will entail, yes, a commitment to fighting disinformation, treating it as a cybersecurity problem—even when political stakeholders complain. 

That’s just my view—other critics will argue for different approaches, some of which will center on more regulation or laws or other government interventions, while others will argue for fewer but better-crafted ones. But what all Facebook’s critics, and the tech industry’s critics, will have in common is this: going forward, we all will be citing stuff we learned from Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story.

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Is Trump Deliberately Sandbagging New York’s Landmark Transportation Policy?

New York’s plan to impose a congestion toll on drivers entering the lower parts of Manhattan has hit a bump in the road, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) repeatedly claiming that federal officials are slow-walking needed approval of the policy.

“The federal approval, frankly, we just assumed it was going to be almost pro forma. They’re now using that opportunity to stop congestion pricing,” Cuomo told reporters on Monday, according to The New York Times.

The governor made the same claim last week according to the New York Post, saying in another press conference “Will [the Trump administration] hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes. That’s how they do business.”

New York’s congestion pricing plan was passed in April 2019 as part of the state’s budget. It would impose a toll on all drivers entering Manhattan streets below 60th Street, save for motorists who drive only on the island’s West Side Highway or FDR Drive.

The plan requires that some 80 percent of the revenue from these congestion tolls be spent on the city’s subway, with another 10 percent being dedicated to regional rail services.

The plan calls for having the tolls in place by January 2021, but there are still a number of details to be worked out, including how high congestion tolls should be, and who should get credits or exemptions.

That requires difficult political wrangling with powerful constituencies, from cops to truckers, who all have argued they deserve a carve-out. It also requires New York to get permission from the federal government.

Currently, there exists a general prohibition on states and localities adding tolls to roads that were funded in part by the federal government. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) does administer a couple of programs that make exceptions to this ban. That includes the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP), through which the federal government can approve pilot congestion pricing programs to reduce congestion on existing roads.

Receiving authorization through VPPP also requires proposals to go through environmental reviews mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). How long that will take all depends on what level of NEPA review federal officials deem appropriate.

If New York were lucky, it would receive a categorical exemption from NEPA. More likely it will have to prepare an Environmental Assessment (an intermediate level of review) or worse, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Those run an average of 670 pages and can take years to complete.

Right now, the FHWA is in the middle of determining which level of NEPA New York’s congestion pricing scheme requires. That determination will tell New York officials what information they’ll have to prepare for the feds.

Officials with the New York City government and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—the state agency that runs buses and trains in New York City—say they’ve been trying to get an answer from the feds about what kind of report they need to prepare since April 2019.

An FHWA spokesperson told Reason that the agency didn’t receive the supplemental information it needed to make a NEPA determination until January 2020, and it’s that delay, not Cuomo’s claimed political interference, that’s dictating the pace of federal review.

As recently as February 8, Cuomo told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn’t concerned about the potential for the Trump administration to hold things up for political reasons.

The governor could be doing a lot more to speed things along in the face of federal delays, argues Manhattan Institute transportation scholar Nicole Gelinas, who wrote in the New York Post:

[Cuomo could] have directed the MTA to take a more aggressive posture. The MTA could have prepared a short “environmental assessment,” hiring consultants to say the scheme will help the environment by discouraging people from driving. The MTA could start preparing the longer document, just in case. It requires public hearings, which are a pain, but the city completed its environmental-impact statement for its four-borough jails from start to finish in 14 months, meaning the MTA would be almost done now.

The fact that Cuomo hasn’t done those things, says Gelinas, suggests that he’s already gotten all the political mileage out of congestion pricing he can, and sees only liabilities in actually implementing the policy.

Cuomo risks pissing off motorists who will now have to pay for something they used to enjoy for free. This dynamic isn’t made better by the specific design of New York’s congestion pricing scheme, says Baruch Feigenbaum of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.

“I think the concern is that very little of the money from the congestion price is going to improve roadways,” he said, adding that the proposed toll levels seem to have more to do with hitting revenue targets for funding transit than with easing congestion.

Feigenbaum notes that Trump isn’t above petty retribution when it comes to New York, noting his administration’s brazenly political decision to bar residents from that state from participating in Trusted Traveller programs that allow quicker passage through airport security.

Still, Feigenbaum says he hasn’t seen any evidence that this is the case with congestion pricing. Indeed, Trump has proposed reforms that would speed up NEPA reviews of projects, and limit the use of EIS.

Congestion pricing as a concept has a lot to offer a place like New York City, says Feigenbaum. There’s a lot of demand for driving on the roads, but very little space for adding new road capacity. As with most major reforms, it’s the politics of implementation that are slowing things down.

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White House To Hold Emergency Press Conference

White House To Hold Emergency Press Conference

It appears the White House press pool has been ushered to the West Wing this evening for an unscheduled event, reported Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove. President Trump wants to talk about the correction in the stock market.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 16:58

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/38c0gTS Tyler Durden

CDC Waited Days To Test California’s Latest ‘Mystery’ Patient For Coronavirus: NYT

CDC Waited Days To Test California’s Latest ‘Mystery’ Patient For Coronavirus: NYT

By the time President Trump kicked off his coronavirus press conference last night, top officials in California’s Department of Health were preparing an announcement of their own in conjunction with the CDC: They were preparing to confirm a Washington Post report about a new coronavirus patient whose infection was of unknown provenance.

But according to a story published Thursday morning by the New York Times, Californian health officials could have known about the infection – and thus taken the critical early steps to quarantine the individual – days earlier if it weren’t for restrictive federal criteria determining when federal or state officials can use one of the limited number of coronavirus testing kits available in the US.

One of the CDC’s virus testing kits

When the patient, who reportedly lives somewhere in Solano County, was first admitted to Davis Medical Center a week ago, doctors suspected she might have the virus. But they weren’t able to secure a test…

Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center considered the novel pathogen a possible diagnosis when the patient was first admitted last week.

But the federal agency that conducts the testing did not administer the test until days later because the case did not fit the agency’s narrow testing criteria, university officials said in a letter to the campus community late Wednesday.

…Because the case didn’t fit the CDC’s ‘criteria’…

The C.D.C. has restricted testing to patients who either traveled to China recently or who know they had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

…Even though the patient was already on a ventilator and suffering from severe pneumonia when she arrived at UC Davis from another hospital in Northern California.

The patient was transferred to the medical center from another hospital in Northern California with a suspected viral infection, and was already on a ventilator upon arrival, according to the university’s letter.

Interestingly the NYT never explains why the patient – who also happens to be the 60th confirmed case in the US – was finally given a test.

“Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be Covid-19,” the letter said. The medical center requested testing from the C.D.C. “Since the patient did not fit the existing C.D.C. criteria for Covid-19, a test was not immediately administered. U.C. Davis Health does not control the testing process.”

Though doctors have developed a theory that the patient may have been exposed to one of the other California cases in passing, it’s apparently relatively thin. As the NYT explains, if doctors can’t identify the source of the patient’s infection, that could be a sign that more infected people are out there, still spreading the virus.

Until now, public health officials have been able to trace all of the infections in the country to a recent trip abroad or a known patient, and to identify the sources of exposure.

“The thing that would immediately make all of us uneasy is if this person has no direct contact with someone who comes from an affected country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

“That would suggest there are other undetected cases out there, and we have already started some low-grade transmission.”

If you ask us, we’re pretty uneasy already – and by the looks of it, most of the market feels the same.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 16:45

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3ab0wnd Tyler Durden

The Global Economy Was Sinking Long Before The Coronavirus Appeared

The Global Economy Was Sinking Long Before The Coronavirus Appeared

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

In order to determine if a geopolitical or economic threat is legitimate, I find it helps to watch how the mainstream propaganda narrative flows and changes. For example, for the past year as almost every fundamental indicator was flashing warning signs on the global economy the primary message in the mainstream was that central banks would never allow any major shocks to the financial system.  In other words, they would pour in cash at the slightest hint of trouble.  The conclusion for the investment world?  To “buy the F’ing dip!”   Why not?  You can’t lose.

Despite the fact that fraudulent stock markets artificially inflated by corporate stock buybacks are irrelevant to the health of our system, they still represent a psychological placebo for the masses.  Very few people care that it is a historic bubble; as long as everything is in the green they assume that all is well with the economy.

In the past, anyone who pointed out that this attitude was a recipe for disaster, anyone who argued that the system was breaking and the Everything Bubble was popping was called a “doom monger” or “chicken little”.

I’ve noticed very recently (in the last week) that this attack response is shifting in an interesting way. Where propaganda peddlers used to call us “paranoid”, now they argue that “our prepping or precious metals stacking won’t save us…”  People are “coming to take our supplies…” they say. That’s quite a 180 degree flip flop. As preppers and alternative economists are proven more and more right everyday, the narrative has changed from telling us we’re wrong, to telling us we will be sorry for being right.

Well, I’m not sorry for being right and neither should any other liberty analyst or preparedness advocate. I believe the information we have provided to millions of people has encouraged them to remain vigilant and ready for crisis, and hopefully this will keep them alive in the future.  The so-called “skeptics” seem to be determined to convince people to do absolutely nothing; to remain blind to any data that does not fit the recovery narrative and to have no backup plan in the event that something goes wrong. Why all the hostility towards the idea of simply being prepared?

Who benefits the most if you and the majority of people have no contingency plan? Who has something to gain by trying to convince you to ignore the obvious?

As mentioned, if they can’t win by conning the liberty movement into turning a blind eye to the facts, they have decided to let us know that it doesn’t matter and we will still be made to suffer for our defiance. This confirms my long-time argument that prepping is only the beginning of the fight; it is a means to an end. The real fight will be for our freedoms and the freedoms of future generations. Those who think the goal is only about survival are severely mistaken. Personal survival would be nice, but the survival of our principles and our way of life takes precedence, and this will require us to do a lot more than merely stock supplies and hide out in the woods.

I have also noted in recent days that the public narrative of globalists has also changed in a strange but rather predictable way. In past articles I have outlined instances in history when the global elites have openly admitted to the mechanics of an impending crisis right before it happens. The Bank For International Settlements did this right before the crash of 2007, warning specifically that crash of the credit bubble was imminent. Of course, what the globalists do not mention is that they are so good at predicting these events because they helped to create them in the first place.

I was amused the other day to watch an interview by Bloomberg of globalist Mohamed El-Erian in which he essentially spilled the beans on the reality of the coronavirus situation. Some people might be surprised to hear El-Erian sound a whole lot like an alternative economist in the Liberty Movement, admitting that the virus will disrupt the global supply chain and that it will have far reaching consequences for the economy for much longer than many people assume.

El-Erian and certain other globalists in the BIS and IMF have been setting themselves up as the prognosticators of the coming collapse, while other globalists and their media outlets have worked tirelessly to attack alternative analysts for the same exact observations. The message is clear – there can be only one group that the public listens to as the crash unfolds, and the liberty movement is not it. The globalists want to have their cake and eat it too; they want to cause a crash, and then they want to be worshiped as the saviors that warned people about the crash.

El-Erian’s comments on the coronavirus outbreak and its far reaching effects suggest to me that this is indeed one of the trigger events we have all been waiting for and warning about. But the narrative that the coronavirus is itself the cause of all of this economic chaos is an elaborate lie. The economy was crashing well before the virus ever appeared.

Remember the market shock at the end of 2018 when the Federal Reserve tightened liquidity and cut its balance sheet? Remember how the mainstream finally had to admit that recession was a distinct possibility even though they had been telling us for years that the economic recovery was a fact and that the central banks had saved us? A considerable amount of jawboning and global central bank stimulus measures (primarily from China) was used to keep the economy crawling for another year, but the banks never intended to actually fix anything.

The underlying mechanics of that event have not changed. Dollar liquidity is still disappearing as Federal Reserve repo markets indicate the massive demand for easy cash by banks and other companies continues.  They cannot survive for long without it, which is not how an economy in recovery is supposed to function. Yet, the Fed says it intends to cut off that cash flow in the coming months. The Fed knows as many of us know that their repo purchases are nothing but a stop gap, and that without bailouts and real QE on the level of the $16 trillion TARP measures there is no way to stall the crash for much longer.

Another issue that I think goes largely ignored is that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell knew all along that tightening liquidity into economic weakness would cause a crash.  He is even recorded in the October 2012 Fed minutes as saying so.  Yet he did it anyway and then pretended as if the systemic crash response was nothing to be concerned about.  Why?  Well, my theory has always been that the Fed and the international bankers WANT a crash, on a timetable of their preference.

From the chaos they hope to implement a new order in the form of a fully centralized one world economic authority and monetary system; a plan which has slowly been entering the mainstream discussion the past couple of years.  It is a scheme that Mohamed El Erian has even mentioned in his own editorials.

It would be awfully convenient for them to cut liquidity again while the world is in the shadow of a viral pandemic; after all, whatever happens, the virus will be blamed and the fed will escape most scrutiny.

In the meantime, global and US exports, manufacturing and freight shipments have ALL be telling us for months that a recession/depression is on the way.

  • The export crash was not only limited to the US and China, multiple top economies including Japan and Germany have been witnessing extensive declines in manufacturing and export demand.

  • Japan’s GDP contracted 6.3% in the final quarter of 2019 and their exports shrank for 12 months in a row.

  • Germany’s economic growth slowed to a six year low as their official GDP hovers near recession territory. German exports continue to slump as global demand crumbles.

  • In the US, freight shipments and volume have collapsed by 9.4%; the most since 2009.  US manufacturing remains weak and 4th quarter retail sales have been revised down, showing consumer activity slowing. And, all of this data is for the months BEFORE the coronavirus appeared.

But don’t be surprised when the media and the globalists use the virus event as the end all excuse for why the economic system is breaking down. Certainly, the disruption of the supply chain will be the final nail in the coffin of the Everything Bubble, and people dying in large numbers from a SARS-like virus can really put a damper on economic activity.  But the central banks killed the economy years ago by feeding the largest debt bonanza in history, addicting companies and markets to easy cash and then cutting that liquidity just enough to cause the system to go into convulsions. Currently, corporate debt, consumer debt and national debt are all at historic highs.

There is no stimulus measure that can fix this problem – at the most the central banks could prolong the inevitable for another year perhaps, but why would they when they have multiple scapegoats to blame the crash on?

Donald Trump continues to set himself up as one of these scapegoats as he still dismisses the coronavirus pandemic as nothing to be worried about, claiming “some people think” it will be gone by April.  His constant habit of attaching his administration to the performance of the stock market is bizarre when one takes into account that he called the markets a massive “bubble” inflated by the Fed during his 2016 campaign.

I continue to believe according to the evidence that this is his job. The banking elites he is surrounded by in his cabinet call the shots in the White House. Trump’s purpose is to act as a magnet for controversy and distraction while ignoring blaring alarms of impending crisis; he is meant to play the role of the bumbling villain.  His response to the Cov19 virus so far fits that theory.

Whatever happens in the coming months, never forget that the economic and geopolitical situation has been dire for years. The coronavirus, while a legitimate threat that must be taken seriously, is also highly beneficial to a select group of elites who now have perfect cover to move forward with an economic collapse that they have been planning for some time.

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Tyler Durden

Thu, 02/27/2020 – 16:24

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2VpLExj Tyler Durden