February 19, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 PM


Israel reportedly expands Dimona nuclear complex (Times of Israel, 2/19/21)

Israel's top-secret nuclear research facility near the southern city of Dimona is undergoing a major expansion, according to a Thursday report.

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:29 AM


Indiana Republican lawmakers shout down, boo Black colleagues speaking about discrimination (Arika Herron & Kaitlin Lange, 2/19/21, Indianapolis Star)

 Tensions flared at the Indiana Statehouse Thursday when Republican lawmakers shouted down and booed Black lawmakers during floor debate on a bill that some see as discriminatory. 

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, walked off the House floor after several Republican lawmakers loudly objected to his warnings of discrimination in House Bill 1367. Porter, a member of the Black caucus, said the bill would allow students in a St. Joseph County township to leave the South Bend Community Schools, which are racially diverse, to join a nearby school district that's smaller, more rural and made up primarily of white students.

For the Right, the whole point of school choice is escaping from black students, not helping them get better educations. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:25 AM


Iran Offers to Reverse Its Nuclear Deal Violations if Sanctions Are Lifted (VOA News, February 19, 2021)
"U.S. unconditionally & effectively lift all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labeled by Trump," Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's declared in a tweet. "We will then immediately reverse all remedial measures. Simple:#CommitActMeet."

Given that reimposing sanctions resulted in as many as 15k excess deaths from Covid, they ought not let America off the hook so easily.  At a minimum, they should insist on a free trade and travel deal. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:17 AM


Americans Remain Largely Dissatisfied With U.S. Gun Laws (MEGAN BRENAN, 2/19/21, Gallup)

As Biden calls for stricter gun laws, 41% of the public is dissatisfied with current gun laws and wants them made stricter; 8% are dissatisfied and want them to be made less strict; and 7% are dissatisfied but want them to remain the same.

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


US pushes China over Uyghur Muslim rights with new trade bill (MEMO, February 19, 2021)

"We have watched in horror as the Chinese government first created, and then expanded a system of extrajudicial mass internment camps targeting Uyghurs and Muslim minorities," said Democrat Representative Jim McGovern when reintroducing the bill.

Meanwhile, according to a report published by the Heritage Foundation, between 1.8 million and 3 million Uyghurs have been collectivised and interned in political re-education camps in China since 2018.

Trump told China's president that building concentration camps for millions of Uighur Muslims was 'exactly the right thing to do,' former adviser says (David Choi and Sonam Sheth Jun 17, 2020, Business Insider)

Xi "explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang," Bolton wrote, citing the interpreter's account. The interpreter added that "Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do," according to the book.

Bolton also wrote in the book that Matthew Pottinger, a retired US Marine and the current deputy national security adviser, "told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China."

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


U.S. businesses have strongest expansion in almost six years in February, Markit PMI data show (Greg Robb, 2/19/21, MarketWatch)

The numbers: The flash reading of the IHS Markit U.S. composite purchasing managers index rose to 58.8 in February from 58.7 in the prior month. Any reading over 50 indicates improving conditions. It is the strongest reading in almost six years.

...and the seas have stopped rising...

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Trump's former fixer Cohen interviewed by Manhattan DA's office and newly hired litigator (Jason Szep and Peter Eisler, 2/19/21, Reuters) 

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office and a newly hired high-profile litigator interviewed Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Thursday, as part of a criminal probe of the former president's business dealings, said two people familiar with the investigation.

The interview came after Mark Pomerantz, who has extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases, joined District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s team investigating the Trump family business. Pomerantz started on Feb. 2 as special assistant district attorney, said Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance.

Pomerantz's hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance's investigation, including the issuance in recent days of roughly a dozen new subpoenas, according to the sources. One of those went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president's commercial real estate holdings, the sources said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


Navigating the first 100 days (Navigator, 2/18/21)

There is vast and resilient support for Biden's American Rescue Plan, but most are not hearing much about it in the news.

Biden and Democrats in Congress are more trusted than Republicans to handle coronavirus relief.

Three in five feel Biden's pandemic response favors the middle and working class, while a majority say Republicans in Congress's response favors the wealthy and big corporations.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


QAnon Hardliners Are Doubling Down on Theory Donald Trump Will Be Reinstated on March 4 (EWAN PALMER, 2/19/21 , Newsweek)

Experts have warned the potential for further humiliation next month after another one of their predictions fails to come to pass will not damage the QAnon movement and they will continue to pose an extremist threat.

Followers of the radical movement, listed as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI, have penciled in March 4 as the next significant date in their calendar, believing this will be the day Donald Trump is reinstated as president.

The latest theory, following on from the failed prediction that Trump would order the mass arrest and executions of satanic pedophiles during Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, uses arcane reasoning heavily lifted from the beliefs of the sovereign citizen movement.

According to QAnon followers, a secret law was passed in 1871 which turned the U.S. into a corporation. As a result of this, all other presidents after Ulysses S. Grant have been illegitimate, meaning Trump will become the 19th president during a new inauguration on March 4.

The reason behind the March 4 date is that this is when presidential inauguration ceremonies used to take place before it was moved to January 20 in 1933. That year is significant to sovereign citizens as it was when the U.S. went off the gold standard, which they take to mean the country had become bankrupt.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


The Prius of airplanes (Joann Muller, 2/19/21, Axios)

 Fully electric planes, while promising, are limited by available battery technology.

Batteries cost less and pack more energy into a smaller package than they did a decade ago, but they're still too heavy to allow planes to fly long distances or carry heavy loads.

They do work, however, in low-flying air taxis for short runs across a city or to the airport.

These new electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft are getting a lot of attention on Wall Street, but they won't be widely available until around 2035, according to a Deloitte analysis.

Yes, but: For medium distances of 50 to 500 miles -- the city-hopping routes ignored by hub-and-spoke airlines -- hybrids offer a practical solution that can be ready in just a few years.

UBS, the Swiss investment bank, forecasts a $178 billion market for hybrid-electric aircraft.

Driving the news: Surf Air Mobility, a regional air travel service, said this week it would acquire Ampaire, a developer of hybrid electric powertrains for aviation.

Surf Air co-founder and CEO Sudhin Shahani called Ampaire's technology a step toward "the next great shift in air travel: sustainable aviation that's accessible to everyone."

For now, the company's plan is to upgrade existing turboprop aircraft with Ampaire's hybrid technology on short, regional routes while the industry works toward fully electric aviation for all trips.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Biden's farm problem: Booming sales raise questions about bailout money (RYAN MCCRIMMON, 02/18/2021, Politico)

President Joe Biden and Congress are facing an unfamiliar sight as they craft another round of pandemic relief programs: a farm economy that's rapidly heating up after years of decline.

Fueled by surprisingly strong exports to China, shrinking supplies of crops and some of the highest commodity prices in seven years, many farmers are anticipating a highly profitable 2021 harvest.

The upbeat forecast is raising questions about whether Washington should start peeling back the extensive subsidies that have kept producers afloat for years long before the coronavirus pandemic devastated the U.S. economy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


America's Hidden Gulag: The nationwide federal detention of immigrants in county jails perpetuates a profit-driven system of mass incarceration. (Jacob Kang-Brown and Jack Norton, February 19, 2021, NY Review of Books)

In the summer of 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents brought hundreds of people--flown thousands of miles from the Mexico-US border--to the Albany County Jail in upstate New York. With the Trump administration's immigration policies in full force that summer, ICE and Border Patrol agents were tearing families apart, putting children in cages at the southern border, and moving their parents to private detention centers, state prisons, and local county jails all over the country. By July, 330 of these migrants detained by ICE were being held at the Albany County Jail.

Albany County has a 1,040-bed jail across from the Albany Airport. Originally constructed in 1931, the jail was rebuilt and expanded in the 1980s at a cost of $30 million, with renovations and further additions in the years following. Over the last four decades, numerous other counties--both across New York and nationwide--have been building new and bigger jails at enormous cost. Altogether, these developments amount to a vast expansion of carceral capacity, much of it in rural counties and regional cities like Albany. Incarceration rates have been rising in much of the country, even as incarceration rates in large metropolitan areas have fallen. The jail boom in rural America, fueled in part by federal policies, is being used by federal agencies like ICE and the US Marshals Service (USMS).

There are over 3,000 counties in the United States, and almost every one has a jail, usually run by the local sheriff's department. ICE and the USMS use space in many county jails to detain immigrants, people seeking asylum, and those in pre-trial custody on federal charges. Federal detention in county jails is an often-overlooked facet of mass incarceration in the US. During the past four decades, this relationship between federal agencies and county jails has encouraged jail expansion, and has, in many cases, rewarded anti-immigrant policy among sheriffs and county administrators. At the same time, increased jail capacity nationwide has provided ICE with more sites for detention, forcing advocates and organizers to find new approaches to combat the arbitrary and capricious ways that federal agencies can transport people to jails and detention centers all over the country.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


China Blocked Clubhouse App Fearing Uncontrolled Public Discourse (Jin Zhe, February 18, 2021, VOA)

 For a brief time before Beijing banned the audio chat app Clubhouse, tech-savvy Chinese joined global discussions on taboo topics -- Beijing's placement of Uighurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang, Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests -- absorbing perspectives and information far outside the lines drawn by the Communist Party.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Biden Withdraws Trump's Restoration of UN Sanctions on Iran (Associated Press, February 19, 2021)

The Biden administration on Thursday rescinded former President Donald Trump's restoration of U.N. sanctions on Iran, an announcement that could help Washington move toward rejoining the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at reining in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Help ameliorate the violence done by sanctions with a trade deal.