"Trump administration outlines audacious plan to deliver ‘hundreds of millions’ of Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of 2020" by Lev Facher, May 15, 2020
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday rolled out a hyper-ambitious plan to develop and manufacture hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2020, outlining an aggressive process that, if successful, would shatter conventional wisdom about the typical process for developing vaccines for emerging infectious diseases.
At a Rose Garden press conference, the president and his deputies acknowledged their goal, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” was lofty. Trump said the project was “risky and expensive.” Gustave Perna, a four-star general who oversees logistics for the U.S. Army, called the task “Herculean.” Moncef Slaoui, the pharmaceutical executive Trump has appointed to lead the initiative, said the goal was “extremely challenging,” but they allowed themselves little ambiguity. Mark Esper, the defense secretary, pledged to deliver a vaccine “at scale” to the U.S. and its foreign partners by the end of the year.
The rollout highlights an overt shift in the White House’s messaging on vaccines. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease researcher, has long warned Americans that, even optimistically, developing a Covid-19 vaccine would take between 12 and 18 months. Even that timeline, Fauci has said, would represent something of a biomedical miracle.
The Trump administration’s scientific muscle, however, was notably silent. During his remarks, the president was flanked by three physician-researchers: Fauci; Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator; and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health. The three doctors were the only federal officials who appeared on stage wearing masks. None spoke at any point during the press conference.
That is $cientifically $peaking, of course.
Instead, it was Slaoui, the former GlaxoSmithKline executive who Trump has appointed to lead the vaccine initiative, who delivered yet another strikingly confident prediction. “Mr. President, I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine,” he said to applause. “These data make me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.”
What if we don't want it and refuse?
I mean, he has connection to Bill Gates and an infamously botched vaccination.
Slaoui, who resigned his position on the board of the drug manufacturer Moderna to accept the government appointment, was likely referencing the company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, which was the first in the U.S. to enter a Phase 1 clinical trial.
He is one of the top five executives at Moderna have sold more than $89 million worth of stock so far this year, and what do you mean page not found?
According to federal financial disclosures, he still holds over 156,000 Moderna stock options, worth over $10 million at the company’s current stock price, creating a potential conflict of interest if the company’s vaccine is the first to be proven effective. Numerous progressive groups in Washington have already criticized Trump over Slaoui’s appointment.
The first trial was a catastrophe, and yet the pre$$ hailed it as a success and the government has approved a second set of trials.
The project will rely in part on allowing drug manufacturers to begin scaling up their manufacturing efforts prior to receiving approvals regarding a potential vaccine’s effectiveness, officials said.
The vaccine’s price has been a consistent topic of debate among Democratic lawmakers in Washington, some of whom have attempted to pass new laws that would include affordability requirements for any vaccine developed via taxpayer-funded research.
That's when the printed tube went empty.
Nonetheless, Trump, separately, delivered a markedly optimistic message in terms of the vaccine’s price. “The last thing anybody’s looking for is profit,” he said.
Trump also downplayed concerns about whether, as some public health experts have feared, the race to develop a vaccine could devolve into an international showdown that leaves foreign governments to compete to secure vaccine allotments for their populations.
We have already called dibs.
He said that the U.S. would work with foreign governments to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine regardless of which companies, or which countries, are first across the finish line. The federal government, he said, has “no ego” regarding vaccine development.
“We want to get to the solution,” Trump said. “We know exactly where the other countries are, and we’ll be very happy if they are able to do it. We’ll help them with delivery, we’ll help them with it in every way we can.”
The pledge, he indicated, even applies to China, the country where Covid-19 was first identified. Trump has repeatedly expressed anger over China’s handling of the outbreak in early 2020, casting doubts on its reported death toll, blaming its government for not containing the virus within its borders, and even labeling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.”
The new initiative is the latest sign of the federal government’s far-reaching efforts to accelerate research into coronavirus tests, treatments, and vaccines. Those initiatives, in some cases, have tested the practical boundaries of biomedical research. To date, the U.S. government has announced a “Shark Tank”-like competition to develop new Covid-19 diagnostics and a series of partnerships with drug companies on both therapeutics and vaccines, yet Trump also warned that his plans to reopen the U.S. economy are not contingent on the development of a vaccine.
Do you know who is in charge of the boundaries?
At one point, he repeated the unscientific claim that the virus will “go away” even without a vaccine. Separately, he attempted to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, noting that despite nearly 90,000 recorded U.S. deaths to date, many Americans who contracted the virus displayed few symptoms and are likely now immune.
What does he and Pence know that we do not?
“We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future,” Trump said. “If we do, we’re going to really be a big step ahead. If we don’t, we’re going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in. It’ll go away at some point. It’ll go away. It may flare up, and it may not flare up. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Trump Regime Hazardous to Human Health Operation Warp Speed for Mass Vaxxing
Coronavirus Gives a Dangerous Boost to DARPA’s Darkest Agenda
Techno-Tyranny: How the US National Security State Is Using Coronavirus To Fulfill an Orwellian Vision
They plan to tattoo the mark of the beast into you in the dark of winter.
Donald Trump is planning to RESUME US funding for the WHO
They got that one wrong anyway.
Department Of Homeland Security Compiles List Of All Bloggers, Journalists, & “Social Media Influencers”
Does that include the doctors?
"One of the world’s oldest and best-known medical journals on Friday slammed President Trump’s ‘‘inconsistent and incoherent national response’’ to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accused the administration of relegating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a ‘‘nominal’’ role. The unsigned editorial from the Lancet concluded that Trump should be replaced. ‘‘Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics,’’ said the journal, which was founded in Britain in 1823. The strongly worded critique highlights mounting frustration with the administration’s response among some of the world’s top medical researchers. Medical journals sometimes run signed editorials that take political stances, but rarely do publications with the Lancet’s influence use the full weight of their editorial boards to call for a president to be voted out of office. The Lancet published the editorial as the death toll in the United States surpassed 85,000 and many states moved to reopen businesses and ease coronavirus restrictions that experts say are necessary to contain the virus. The journal said that while infection and death rates have declined in hard-hit states such as New York and New Jersey after two months of virus restrictions, new outbreaks in Minnesota and Iowa have raised questions about the efficacy of the Trump administration’s response. The authors accused the administration of undermining some of the CDC’s top officials, saying the agency ‘‘has seen its role minimized and become an ineffective and nominal adviser.’’ They said the agency, which is supposed to be the primary contact for health authorities during crises, had been hamstrung by years of budget cuts that have made it harder to combat infectious diseases. The editorial also alleged the administration left an ‘‘intelligence vacuum’’ in China when it pulled the last CDC officer from the country in July. The Lancet took the CDC to task, too, criticizing its botched rollout of diagnostic testing in the critical early weeks when the virus began to spread in the United States."
Trump really appears worried:
"President Trump expressed no concerns Friday about a rapid coronavirus test that the White House has been relying on to ensure his safety, despite new data suggesting the test may return an inordinate share of false negatives. Trump expressed his confidence in the test from Abbott Laboratories after a preliminary study by New York University researchers reported problems with it. Trump and his deputies have been promoting the 15-minute test as a “game changer.” The Food and Drug Administration announced late Thursday it was investigating preliminary data suggesting the Abbott test can miss COVID-19 cases, falsely clearing infected patients. “Abbott is a great test; it’s a very quick test,” Trump said at a Rose Garden event to highlight his administration’s efforts to develop a vaccine for the virus, “and it can always be very rapidly double-checked.” The test is used daily at the White House to test Trump, key members of his staff, as well as any visitor to the White House complex who comes in close proximity to the president or Vice President Mike Pence."
The test report false positives about 80% of the time, and one can only hope corona runs rampant in the White House.
"President Trump told reporters Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for about a week and a half and that the White House physician knows he is taking the antimalaria drug despite the fact that he continues to test negative for the novel coronavirus. Clinical trials, academic research, and scientific analysis indicate that the danger of the drug is a significantly increased risk of death for certain patients, particularly those with heart problems. Trump dismissed those concerns, saying he has heard about the drug’s benefits from doctors and others he has spoken with. ‘‘I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it,’’ he told reporters at the White House. ‘‘It’s been around for 40 years — for malaria, for lupus, for other things. I take it. Front-line workers take it. A lot of doctors take it.’’ Evidence showing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has been scant, and the Food and Drug Administration last month warned against its use outside of a hospital setting, weeks after it approved an emergency use authorization for the drug. Trump has frequently pitched the drug as a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19, asking would-be patients, ‘‘What the hell do you have to lose?’’ He repeated that thought Monday, telling reporters that he’s ‘‘had so many letters’’ from people who support the use of the drug. ‘‘I want the people of this nation to feel good,’’ Trump said. ‘‘I don’t want them being sick, and there’s a very good chance that this has an impact, especially early on.’’
Trump says he is taking unproven malaria drug hydroxychloroquine
Are they poisoning him?
Pelosi criticizes Trump for taking hydroxychloroquine
You would think she would be for it then.
Now pucker up:
Andrew Parsons/Getty Images/Getty Images)
"The prevalence of the nonromantic kiss has waxed and waned over the years. The Black Death in the 14th century made it particularly unfashionable, and at the time of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic it tended to be reserved for family members, but..... the earliest known cases of the so-called Spanish flu in Boston were documented in August 1918 when several sailors on Commonwealth Pier suddenly became ill. The virus was very contagious and proved to be lethal. In an effort to curb its spread, public officials in Massachusetts shut down all sorts of establishments and gathering places. “They closed the MFA, the Boston Public Library, schools, bars, barber shops, theaters," Rhoads said. “You name it, it was closed down.”
So the LOCKDOWN STRATEGY FAILED THEN, too, and COVID-19 is NOT NEARLY AS LETHAL!
What is wor$e, the 1918 lockdown did not destroy the economy!
"Trump’s emergency powers worry some senators, legal experts" by Deb Riechmann Associated Press May 16, 2020
You ain't shitting.... literally:
WASHINGTON — The day he declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency, President Trump made a cryptic offhand remark.
“I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,’’ he said at the White House.
Trump wasn’t just crowing. Dozens of statutory authorities become available to any president when national emergencies are declared. They are rarely used, but Trump last month stunned legal experts and others when he claimed — mistakenly — that he has “total” authority over governors in easing COVID-19 guidelines.
Their authority actually tops his.
That prompted 10 senators to look into how sweeping Trump believes his emergency powers are.
They have asked to see this administration’s Presidential Emergency Action Documents, or PEADs. The little-known, classified documents are essentially planning papers.
The documents don’t give a president authority beyond what’s in the Constitution, but they outline what powers a president believes that the Constitution gives him to deal with national emergencies. The senators think the documents would provide them a window into how this White House interprets presidential emergency powers.
“Somebody needs to look at these things,” Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine, said in a telephone interview. “This is a case where the president can declare an emergency and then say, ‘Because there’s an emergency, I can do this, this, and this.’ ’’
They are not concerned when it is a mayor or governor, though.
King, seven Democrats, and one Republican sent a letter late last month to acting national intelligence director Richard Grenell asking to be briefed on any existing PEADs. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, wrote a similar letter to Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
“The concern is that there could be actions taken that would violate individual rights under the Constitution,’’ such as limiting due process, unreasonable search and seizure, and holding individuals without cause, King said.
Where you been the last two months?
Not only that, they just voted more surveillance power, too!
“I’m merely speculating. It may be that we get these documents and there’s nothing untoward in their checks and balances and everything is above board and reasonable.’’
Joshua Geltzer, visiting professor of law at Georgetown University, said there is a push to take a look at these documents because there is rising distrust for the Trump administration’s legal interpretations in a way he hasn’t seen in his lifetime.
They prematurely ejaculated impeachment.
The most publicized example was Trump’s decision last year to declare the security situation along the US-Mexico border a national emergency. That decision allowed him to take up to $3.6 billion from military construction projects to finance wall construction beyond the miles that lawmakers had been willing to fund. Trump’s move skirted the authority of Congress, which by law has the power to spend money in the nation’s wallet.
Maybe, but Trump’s preferred construction firm landed a $1.3 billion border wall contract, the biggest so far, as the border wall land grabs accelerate and scandal erupts at the Texas naval air station. The only hope is the courts for some type of explanation about the release of children as the Supreme Court weighs their fate.
“I worry about other things he might call an emergency,” Geltzer said. “I think around the election itself in November — that’s where there seems to be a lot of potential for mischief with this president.”
Well, there was some uncertainty about whether the presidential election would happen in November as scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic, what with Trump stepping up attacks on voting by mail as the states open the door for it.
The Globe is of the opinion that the state needs an automatic vote-by-mail system given the coronavirus outbreak, and it only makes sense to protect in-person voting while also expand access to the ballot so more voters can participate in the democratic process.
The lawmakers made their request just days after Trump made his startling claim on April 13 that he had the authority to force states to reopen for business amid the pandemic.
“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said, causing a backlash from some governors and legal experts. Trump later tweeted that while some people say it’s the governors, not the president’s decision, ‘‘Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.”
Trump later backtracked on his claim of “total’’ authority and agreed that states have the upper hand in deciding when to end their lockdowns, but it was just the latest from a president who has been stretching existing statutory authorities “to, if not beyond, their breaking point,’’ said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.
Questions about Trump’s PEADs went unanswered by the Justice Department, National Security Council, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Elizabeth Goitein, codirector of a national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said PEADs have not been subject to congressional oversight for decades. She estimates that there are 50 to 60 of these documents, which include draft proclamations, executive orders, and proposed legislation that could be swiftly introduced to “assert broad presidential authority” in national emergencies.
She said the Eisenhower administration had PEADs outlining how it might respond to a possible Soviet nuclear attack. According to the Brennan Center, PEADs issued up through the 1970s included detention of US citizens suspected of being subversives, warrantless searches and seizures, and the imposition of martial law.
“A Department of Justice memorandum from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration discusses a presidential emergency action document that would impose censorship on news sent abroad,” Goitein wrote in an op-ed with lawyer Andrew Boyle published last month in The New York Times.
‘‘The memo notes that while no ‘express statutory authority’ exists for such a measure, ‘it can be argued that these actions would be legal in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack based on the president’s constitutional powers to preserve the national security.’ ”
Bobby Chesney, associate dean at the University of Texas School of Law, said some fears might be exaggerated because while Trump makes off-the-cuff assertions of authority far beyond past presidents, he doesn’t necessarily follow up with action.
Says Chesney: “His actions don’t match the rhetoric always — or even often.”
Thank God (or whoever) for that.
Alex Brandon/Associated Press/Associated Press)
And when HE is King:
"Saudi Arabia’s big dreams and easy living hit a wall" by Vivian Yee New York Times, May 16, 2020
BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia knows about head-spinning change.
Now the kingdom faces yet more whiplash.
Not only is the coronavirus redefining daily life for Saudis, but plummeting oil prices are robbing the kingdom of the enormous wealth that was underwriting the new Saudi Arabia. The twin blows threaten to sink Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s sweeping social and economic agenda, and have already curtailed the vast welfare state that has given most Saudis a comfortably subsidized life.
Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, has upended his country out of a recognition that the kingdom could not keep living off oil forever. Alongside the social reforms have come swaggering moves to diversify the Saudi economy by building up tourism, entertainment, and even a futuristic new city called Neom, under a grand scheme he called “Vision 2030,” but with tourism canceled, concerts out of the question, and oil prices crashing, a country that was jangling with nervous excitement a few months ago is confronting a very different future from the one Prince Mohammed had promised.
“I think Vision 2030 is more or less over,” said Michael Stephens, a Middle East analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “I think it’s finished.”
So much for the fun and sun in Saudi Arabia as it all falls apart.
Saudi Arabia, he said, was facing “the hardest time it’s ever been through, certainly the most difficult period of Mohammed bin Salman’s tenure.”
The crown prince has given no indication of scratching any specific plans, and his finance minister, Mohammed al-Jadaan, told Bloomberg News that projects such as Neom would simply be delayed.
Still, Saudis long accustomed to generous fuel and electricity subsidies, cushy government jobs, and free education and health care may live far less comfortably than previous generations did, rewriting the relationship between Saudis and their rulers.
"Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled oil giant retained its massive dividend despite a 25 percent plunge in profit, and signaled it would keep spending in check as it braces for deeper damage from the oil crisis. Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable listed company, will pay a dividend of $18.75 billion for the first three months of 2020. That would leave it on track to meet its full-year goal of $75 billion, though it didn’t specify if it was still committed to that number. The payout is crucial for the kingdom, which holds about 98 percent of Aramco and is facing its worst financial turmoil in decades as revenue falls."
"Saudi Arabia announced Monday it was tripling taxes on basic goods, raising them to 15 percent, and cutting spending on major projects by around $26 billion as it grapples with blows from the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices on its economy. Saudi citizens will also lose a bonus cost-of-living allowance that had been in place since 2018, according to the country’s finance minister. Despite efforts to diversify the economy, the kingdom continues to rely heavily on oil for revenue. Brent crude now hovers around $30 a barrel, far below the range Saudi Arabia needs to balance its budget. The kingdom has also lost revenue from the suspension of Muslim pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, which were closed to visitors due to the virus. The new measures are the most drastic yet by a major Gulf Arab oil producer since oil prices plunged by more than half in March, signalling that neighboring countries may also seek to impose higher taxes on residents this year. The United Arab Emirates said Monday it currently had no similar plans to raise taxes."
That could spark another Arab Spring.
The government announced Monday that it would triple the country’s value-added tax on goods and services from 5 percent to 15 percent, strip a roughly $266 monthly allowance for state workers, and review other financial benefits paid to employees and contractors.
“We are facing a crisis the world has never seen the likes of in modern history,” al-Jadaan said in a statement. The changes in taxes and benefits, he said, “as tough as they are, are necessary and beneficial to maintain comprehensive financial and economic stability.”
While the austerity measures may not make a noticeable dent in the lives of the rich, they are likely to hit hard in the rest of the country.
“A lot of things that were free may not be free anymore,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, an analyst at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “It’s a test of the new nationalism. It’ll be more, ‘You’re part of this nation, you have to contribute to the nation.’ ”
The government has taken care of its own during the pandemic in ways that Americans can only dream of: It has paid to fly Saudis from around the world back home, quarantined them in hotels at government expense, and subsidized up to 60 percent of the salaries of private-sector workers.
So the coronavirus that is riddling the House of Saud just so happens to help the king lockdown dissent?
By tripling the tax, Saudi Arabia is accelerating the shift away from a welfare state, argued Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator. The kingdom’s huge public payroll, which provides stable and well-paying jobs to a majority of Saudis in the labor force, will cushion the tax’s impact, and the coronavirus would have kept people from spending much this year anyway, he said.
Other analysts found the move counterproductive. Instead of helping businesses and consumers stimulate the economy, Stephens said, the government was putting the burden of austerity on the people least equipped to weather it.
On social media, some Saudis responded with resignation or patriotism. Others questioned why the Saudi sovereign wealth fund was financing a $370 million takeover of Newcastle United, an English Premier League soccer team, while the government cut spending at home.
If the flashy investments and spending on star-studded concerts continue, analysts said, the kingdom could risk public grumbling, but probably no more than that.
Saudi Arabia has not hesitated to spend heavily on benefits when needed to shore up domestic support and to use force to squelch dissent, and many Saudis remain grateful for the generous benefits they have received. The regional turmoil of the last decade “taught Saudis they have a good deal, warts and all,” said Shihabi, the Saudi analyst. Khalid, a 50-year-old government employee, said he understood the need for cutbacks, though they would force him to trim spending.
“Since we’re Saudi, the government gave us a lot for years, and it was there for other countries when they needed help,” he said. “We accept the decision if it will help the government.”
That is the only way to get food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
How quickly they forget Khashoggi, 'eh?
And awaaaaaaay we go:
President Donald Trump stands in the Oval Office during the presentation of the United States Space Force Flag in the White House, Friday, May 15, 2020, in Washington (Alex Brandon/AP)
Good Lord, they have usurped the values of Star Trek with the that jackass on the far right grinning like a fool over the Space Force!
Trump thinks he is ready for Mount Rushmore, but his claims of success against the coronavirus pose political risks as does his $teward$hip of the economy.
"President Trump’s plan to celebrate the first space launch of American astronauts from US soil in nearly a decade on Wednesday hit a snag when the mission was postponed at the last minute because of bad weather. The president and first lady Melania Trump arrived at Cape Canaveral to a steady drizzle more than an hour before the scheduled 4:33 p.m. liftoff, but officials announced shortly before the scheduled launch that it would have to be put off until Saturday....."
Here is what forecasters are predicting for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and future splashdowns.
Maybe is right. In the Era of Stupid, Trump’s moronic behavior is the defining feature of American life.
"The Trump administration called on the United Nations this week to remove any references to reproductive health, including abortion, from a humanitarian response plan to address the rippling consequences of the coronavirus. In a letter to UN leadership Monday, John Barsa, the acting administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said the inclusion of “sexual and reproductive health services” in the international body’s guiding framework would “add unnecessary discord” to the response. The $6 billion effort is meant to guide individual governments and international agencies on how to address preexisting humanitarian crises, particularly in regions where UN workers are already maintaining an outsize presence. It comes with funding requirements for member nations, including the United States, and lists “sexual and reproductive health services” alongside objectives such as nutrition and food security, shelter, and sanitation, a move that Barsa called controversial. “The United States stands with nations that have pledged to protect the unborn,” Barsa wrote. “The UN should not use this crisis as an opportunity to advance access to abortion as an ‘essential service,’ ” but human rights groups shot back, saying his request would target a key part of a longstanding UN framework. Besides abortion, the request would remove topics such as contraception, maternity care, and HIV diagnosis from the response plan, the groups said, at a time when gender-based violence is on the rise."
Maybe they could hold a meeting on it:
"President Trump said Wednesday that he is considering reviving plans to host a summit of the world’s largest industrialized democracies in June at Camp David, the rustic presidential retreat in Maryland, as a sign of “normalization.” Trump shared his thinking in a morning tweet, saying the United States and other members of the Group of Seven are “beginning their COMEBACK.” The gathering had been scheduled to begin June 10 but it was scuttled in March amid global travel restrictions and other responses to the pandemic. “Now that our Country is ‘Transitioning back to Greatness’, I am considering rescheduling the G-7, on the same or similar date, in Washington, D.C., at the legendary Camp David,” Trump tweeted. “The other members are also beginning their COMEBACK. It would be a great sign to all — normalization!” In March, the White House said G-7 leaders would huddle by video conference this year. The president’s message came a day after United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres signaled a more cautious approach to gathering world leaders. Guterres, in a letter to the president of the UN General Assembly, called for a scaled-down gathering in New York this fall, saying it is “highly unlikely that heads of state and government from all member states will be able to travel to New York in September,” because of the ongoing pandemic."
At least they can dine out in Maryland, and this should add a $en$e of normalcy:
"Maryland officials are seeking an investigation into a politically connected company that contracted to provide the state with $12.5 million worth of personal protective equipment that never arrived. The Wall Street Journal reported that the state signed a deal on April 1 with Blue Flame Medical LLC for 1.5 million N95 masks and 110 ventilators, but the equipment never showed up and Maryland canceled the contract. Blue Flame Medical was founded in late March by Mike Gula, a former Republican Party fund-raiser, with John Thomas, also a GOP consultant, according to multiple news reports. A spokeswoman for Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh confirmed receiving a referral about the contract, but declined to comment."
Keep the fire going.
"Trump administration wraps up overhaul of banking law" by Ken Sweet Associated Press, May 20, 2020
NEW YORK — The Trump administration is moving forward with its overhaul of the law that protects borrowers from discrimination by banks, despite both banks and community groups saying an major overhaul during a pandemic is poorly timed.
The Comptroller of the Currency said it had finalized on Wednesday its new regulations governing the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1970s law aimed at stopping redlining and bank discrimination against poor and low-income borrowers.
The law hasn’t been updated since the 1990s, when online banking was in its infancy.
The core of the administration’s overhaul deals with how the government will measure a bank’s lending and presence in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Under the current law, a bank’s compliance with the CRA largely depends on how a government examiner views a bank’s activities, whereas the new approach would use more qualitative measurements. Both banks and community groups agree on this approach.
What banks and community groups do not agree with is the timing of the change. The country is grappling with a historic pandemic that has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs and banks are suddenly facing billions of dollars in losses from loans.
Banks have been asking publicly for more time to implement the Trump administration’s changes, citing the pandemic, the millions of Americans behind on their debts, and that they’re trying to underwrite loans for the Paycheck Protection program.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is also moving alone with its change, leaving the two other regulators — the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Federal Reserve — behind to come up with their own regulations for the CRA. The Fed has not been on board with the OCC’s approach for months. The FDIC has said it is focused on the pandemic.
For big changes like this, typically the three regulators would move together so not to cause confusion in the banking industry. This means that one bank could be regulated differently under the OCC’s new rules while another bank could be using rules adopted by the FDIC or Fed.
Comptroller Joseph Otting has made overhauling the law his top priority. Several news outlets have reported that Otting plans to step down now that the rule is finalized. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, OCC officials said Otting was “not available” and declined to discuss the reports.
Expect a long delays as a backlogged IRS struggles to open mail and answer the phones.
NEXT DAY UPDATE:
I couldn't help but notice that the Zyphyr video has been taken down, and that doesn't bode well for the future. They must be watching.
"Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman joined other finance-industry leaders in warning that operations won’t be fully back to normal this year. “Under no circumstance will the employees be forced to come back in 2020 to their desk when they have any concern or fear over their health and safety,” Gorman said at the firm’s virtual shareholder meeting. He said he expects closer to 50 percent of employees back in offices by the end of the year."
"Delinquencies on US home loans surged by 1.6 million in April, the biggest one-month gain ever, as soaring job losses fueled a 90 percent jump in missed payments and government programs offered penalty-free delays. Mortgages at least 30 days in arrears almost doubled to 6.45 percent, the highest rate since January 2015, according to data compiled by Black Knight Inc. About 3.4 million loans were more than 30 days late and an additional 211,000 properties were in foreclosure or on track for repossession by lenders. A federal relief program allows borrowers impacted by the virus an initial six-month payment deferral without penalty. About 4.7 million borrowers were in forbearance as of May 12, according to Black Knight. The pace of delinquency increases is unprecedented but it’s still uncertain whether the volume of problem loans will return to the levels they reached after the last decade’s foreclosure crisis. About 7.9 million mortgages were noncurrent in January 2010, according to Black Knight. In another sign of housing weakness, US sales of previously-owned homes sank 17.8 percent in April from a month earlier, the biggest drop since 2010, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday."
"In May alone, some 27 companies reporting at least $50 million in liabilities sought court protection from creditors — the highest number since the Great Recession. They range from well-known mainstays such as J.C. Penney and J. Crew to air carriers Latam Airlines Group and Avianca, their business decimated as travelers stayed put. In May 2009, 29 major companies filed for bankruptcy, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and year-to-date, there have been 98 bankruptcies filed by companies with at least $50 million in liabilities — also the highest since 2009, when 142 companies filed in the first four months."
Remember, remember, the 3rd of November.