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Pelosi Drops Hints On Democrat Plans For Next Coronavirus Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dropped hints on what the Democrats plan to put in the next bill designed to tackle the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Pelosi: “We Have Won the Argument”

Pelosi said that the Democrats had “won the argument” with the coronavirus relief fund bill that passed in the Senate, claiming they had got what they wanted from the final version, but that “jiu-jitsu” negotiations they engaged in with Republicans were not the end of what they had planned.

“As I’ve said, there are so many things we didn’t get in any of these bills yet in a way that we need to,” Pelosi said, referring to the three previous coronavirus bills that had been passed, not just the one in the Senate.

She hinted that the Democrats would fight for a “better definition of who qualifies for family and medical leave,” a 15% increase in food stamps, and more OSHA red-tape, to be included in the next coronavirus bills.

“We said free testing, free testing, free testing, but with free testing is the visit to the doctor’s office, the treatment that goes with it, and that has to be free as well,” Pelosi added.

RELATED: Why Does The Senate Coronavirus Stimulus Provide $350 Million For Migrant and Refugee Assistance?

We Cannot Give In!

Pelosi was slammed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week for pushing a “wish list” of unrelated items onto the Senate’s coronavirus relief bill.

“They ought to be embarrassed,” McConnell said, as he listed off some of their demands:

Tax credits for solar energy and wind energy, provisions for employees to give special and new treatment to big labor? And listen to this: new emissions standards for the airlines. Are you kidding me? This is the moment to debate new regulations that have nothing whatsoever to do with this crisis? That’s what they’re up to over there, and the Democratic people need to know it! The Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal!

RELATED: Tucker Carlson: Democrats Want to Bailout Immigrants Before American Workers During Coronavirus Crisis

In a CNN interview, Pelosi attempted to defend herself from the criticism, arguing that “if we’re giving tens of billions of dollars to the airlines, we could at least have a shared value about what happens to the environment.”

What sort of argument is that? Now is the time to direct funding where it needs to go, not get into debates about the environment, or talk about gender pay gap or whatever other social justice program the Democrats care about this week. I really hope they aren’t able to strong-arm Congress into giving in to their upcoming insane demands.

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DOJ charges small-time actor for Instagram coronavirus cure scam

The FBI arrested a small-time actor and bodybuilder in an undercover operation after the California man allegedly peddled false coronavirus cures to his millions of Instagram followers.

It is the Justice Department’s first criminal case related to COVID-19 hoaxes, following a successful civil enforcement action shutting down a fraudulent coronavirus test kit website earlier in the week.

Keith Middlebrook, 53, was arrested Wednesday night following a criminal complaint filed against him in Los Angeles, charging him with one count of attempted wire fraud, a felony that brings a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The Justice Department said Middlebrook was arrested during a sting operation in which he delivered the fake coronavirus cure pills to an undercover agent who was posing as an investor.

Middlebrook, who had bit parts in TV shows such as The Sopranos, Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, and a small role in the movie Iron Man 2, repeatedly pitched his 2.4 million Instagram followers on a fake cure he’d concocted to cure the coronavirus.

The Justice Department said during its sting operation, “Middlebrook fraudulently solicited funds with promises of massive profits for a company he called Quantum Prevention CV Inc.” and he “falsely claimed to at least one potential investor that Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson was a member of the board of directors.” Investigators said that Johnson, the retired Los Angeles Lakers superstar point guard, “confirmed to investigators that he knew nothing about Middlebrook’s company.”

Middlebrook told undercover agents posing as investors that his company would mass produce the fake COVID-19 prevention pills he claimed would prevent COVID-19. According to the indictment, the California man promised a $300,000 investment would earn $30 million and claimed his company had received “a current $10 billion offer from an unnamed buyer in Dubai.”

Middlebrook told a cooperating witness in a text message, “I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19” and falsely claimed that a patient in Los Angeles who “tested positive for CoronaVirus got up and walked out 51 hours after my Injection,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Middlebrook told the cooperating witness investors who came in “at ground level” with $1 million would “parachute” away with $200 million to $300 million as a “conservative minimum.”

Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said, “There’s a particular opportunistic cruelty in seeking to profit based on the fear and helplessness of others.”

“As the country reacts to the current crisis, and while many suffer from losing a loved one or losing their livelihood, the last thing Americans need are con artists who hawk miracle cures they know are not tested, guaranteed, nor approved,” Delacourt said. “The FBI is using a variety of tools to identify anyone who exploits the current crisis … and is proactively warning investors to thoroughly research any salesperson or any product claiming to save lives, before losing their money, or creating false hope.”

Attorney General William Barr has urged every U.S. attorney nationwide to prioritize coronavirus-related prosecutions during the pandemic.

There were more than 521,000 confirmed coronavirus cases around the world as of Wednesday afternoon and at least 23,568 deaths tied to the infection, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, there have been more than 79,000 cases, which have resulted in at least 1,124 deaths.

Middlebrook’s Instagram profile describes him as a “Real Iron Man, Genius Entrepreneur, Inventor: COVID19 Immunity & Coronavirus Cure, Speaker, 800 Scores Business Real Estate, Actor, Reverse Aging Inc.”

In Instagram and YouTube videos viewed millions of times, Middlebrook peddled the false coronavirus cure, the Justice Department said.

In a video last week with more than half a million views, Middlebrook told his millions of followers: “Yes I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19. After 6 Weeks of Intense Focus and Development (and very little sleep). I am currently going into Mass Production. … The CDC, WHO and Mainstream Media have created a Pandemonium environment. To answer this (just because it’s what I do) I have created a CoronaVirus Prevention Pill” (After 3 Days of taking it the person is Immune to the Virus and STAYS immune as long as they continue taking it once a day it the morning) and also the COVID-19 Formula Vaccine Cure to Satisfy the Physiological and Phycological Need at large.”

Middlebrook showed his followers a pill in another video with more than one million views and told them that if he took the pill and walked into the Staples Center filled with people positive for COVID-19, he would be immune from contracting the virus.

“FACT: Keith Middlebrook beat the Feds on September 13, 2016 in court but the Mainstream Media and the Government won’t inform the public that Keith WON,” Middlebrook claimed a couple weeks ago. “This a true Example of how Evil and Sick they both can be. Keith is now suing the government for 1 Billion for damages. Keith Middlebrook Net Worth 2020 $30 Million, Keith Middlebrook Enterprise Net Worth 2020 1 Billion. Much more to come, stay tuned.”

Middlebrook is being held in federal custody until his initial court appearance, which is expected to be Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

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Coronavirus Pandemic: Neil Ferguson Didn’t Walk Back His COVID-19 Predictions

A narrative rocketed around social media earlier today: An Imperial College study said that COVID-19 could kill 500,000 Brits, but in recent testimony, Neil Ferguson, the head of the group behind the study, put the number below 20,000. Clearly the lying alarmist was walking back his ridiculous predictions!

Well, no. The paper actually offered simulations of numerous scenarios. The one resulting in 500,000 deaths was one where Great Britain just carried on life as before. Other scenarios, where the country locked down whenever it was necessary to stop the disease’s spread, put death totals below 20,000. (See the rightmost death columns of Tables 4 and 5.)

Since the paper came out, Great Britain has adopted a strategy of aggressively containing the virus and expanded its intensive-care capacity, so a prediction of a much lower death toll and less stress on ICUs hardly seems surprising.

Models like this will always turn out to be wrong in some way or other, because they rely on very strong assumptions about aspects of the disease we haven’t thoroughly studied yet. If nothing else, the original Imperial model will be obsolete soon, because it didn’t predict what could happen with extensive testing and contact tracing, which is likely the next step once the spread is contained and we have enough tests to go around. But it hasn’t been walked back just yet.

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U.S. lawmakers working to crack down on price gouging during COVID-19 crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — Attorney General William Barr says anyone trying to profit off the current coronavirus pandemic will face criminal prosecution.

Barr says the Department of Justice has seen evidence of hoarding critical medical supplies and trying to sell them at higher prices.

“It is mostly personal protective gear, surgical masks. It also includes some drugs, sanitizers, ventilators,” says Barr.

This week, President Trump signed an executive order to crack down on retailers hiking up prices.

Barr says the order is not aimed at consumers who are stocking up on essential supplies for their own use.

“We are talking about middlemen who come into the market and try to buy this equipment and important material up for the purpose of jacking up the price,” he says.

Barr has ordered every U.S. Attorney’s Office to appoint a lead prosecutor to tackle coronavirus-related price gouging.

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Criticism mounts as DeSantis resists statewide stay-at-home order

Former Vice President and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has joined a mostly-Democrat chorus of critics in demanding Gov. Ron DeSantis issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Florida.

Biden called on DeSantis to “explain why” he is going against “science-based” advice from public health experts who say a statewide stay-at-home order would temper coronavirus spread and to “let the experts speak to the public.”

DeSantis has resisted calls to order a blanket stay-at-home order, repeatedly explaining a more targeted approach is better-suited to containing geographically isolated outbreaks. There are no reported cases across a third of the state and only light reports of COVID-19 in another third, he said, while the outbreak is severe in south Florida.

DeSantis has closed bars, gyms, state parks, the Lottery and south Florida beaches. He’s restricted restaurants to take-out or delivery and ordered arrivals from New York and several other hot spots to remain in self-isolation for at least two weeks. The governor, however, has left shelter-in-place decisions to local governments.

Several Florida cities and counties have done so. Broward and Miami-Dade counties have closed all nonessential businesses. Orange County’s stay-at-home order goes into effect Thursday night for 1.3 million people.

“You simply cannot lock down our society with no end in sight,’’ DeSantis said Tuesday.

Biden on Tuesday night, however, called on DeSantis to “let the experts speak to the public” so they can understand how dangerous not imposing a shutdown could be.

“In this moment of growing uncertainty and anxiety, Floridians want – and deserve – to hear from the public health officials leading the charge,” Biden said. “To get through this, we need our leaders to listen to the public-health experts and their guidance.”

Ten of Florida’s 13 Congressional Democrats also dispatched a letter to DeSantis on Tuesday, urging him to order a statewide shutdown the way governors have in other states, noting of the 10 states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, only Florida and Georgia do not have statewide stay-at-home orders.

“Without an FDA-approved vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, our already-strained health-care system could be overwhelmed,” the Democrats wrote. “That is why we need a statewide order as soon as possible.”

The Congressional Democrats’ letter came a day after Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s lone statewide-elected Democrat, called on DeSantis to issue a stay-at-home order.

Florida Director of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz, a former south Florida Democratic state representative, said DeSantis was analyzing options that include limiting open business to “essential businesses,” instituting curfews and issuing a shelter-in-place order.

A New York-based commercial analytics company that tracks GPS movement on mobile phones and other devices is offering DeSantis and other decision-makers access to a free “real-world graphing” tool that could provide a treasure trove of data in analyzing what works and what doesn’t.

Unacast unrolled its Social Distancing Scoreboard on Tuesday. It gives Florida a B grade overall in its coronavirus response, based on a 39 percent reduction in travel. States and places that topped 40 percent earned A grades.

According to Unacast, daily travel since March 10 is down 56 percent in Palm Beach County, with mobility down by at least 50 percent in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Osceola counties. They all received A grades, as did Seminole County with a 43 percent reduction in mobility.

Pinellas, Hillsborough, Lee, Duval and Alachua were among counties with B grades. Eight counties – mostly rural – received F grades, including Sumter, which includes The Villages, where daily movement is down only 6 percent from normal.

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We Just Barely Averted a Gigantic Pandemic Grift by Big Pharma

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a special classification reserved for medicines intended to treat rare diseases: “orphan drug status.”

Pharmaceutical companies covet this classification. Orphan drugs face less intense regulation and are therefore less expensive to develop. The classification also comes with tax breaks and a guarantee of seven years without generic competitors.

These incentives are meant to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for which there is low market demand. And once they’re developed, they can be sold at whatever price corporations can fetch. Every single one of the world’s ten most expensive medicines is an orphan drug, making the classification an enormous cash cow for pharmaceutical companies.

The latest drug to be granted orphan status by the FDA is remdesivir, in development by the pharmaceutical giant Gilead, which has the potential to treat COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. Of course, we’re currently in the middle of a global coronavirus pandemic. Billions of people could be infected. If COVID-19 were a rare disease, the kind of disease the orphan classification was meant for, the world wouldn’t be panicking right now.

Gilead was able to secure orphan status for remdesivir because not that many people have COVID-19 yet, according to reporting by Sharon Lerner and Lee Fang in the Intercept. Once the designation was announced, the company’s stock price immediately saw a 2 percent bump. Gilead was poised to profit mightily from the unfolding pandemic.

This posed a problem for humanity. Orphan drug status “could severely limit supply of remdesivir by granting Gilead Sciences exclusive protection over the drug and complete control of its price,” wrote Fang and Lerner. The status blocks generic versions, meaning that if you want the orphan drug, you or your insurer (if they want to) pay whatever price the patent holder asks.

Exclusive rights and restricted supply of a coronavirus treatment meant a pretty penny for Gilead — and needless suffering and death for untold numbers of people.

Fortunately, the maneuver didn’t go unnoticed. While pharmaceutical companies often abuse patent laws and get away with it, the quality and volume of public attention on drug development is different when a pandemic threatens to undo the social and economic fabric of society, and the whole world is desperate for a cure.

The first reports on Monday of Gilead receiving orphan status were neutral. Politico reported simply that “Gilead’s antiviral gets a rare disease nod ensuring 7 years of market exclusivity,” with no editorialization. The Washington Post said gently that it might “seem inappropriate given the rapidly expanding threat of the outbreak” but then quoted an analyst calling it “pretty standard.”

A separate article in US News and World Report reveals that the analyst quoted in the Washington Post is a financial analyst at an investment bank and asset management firm called Piper Sandler. In that article, the Wall Street analyst further defended Gilead’s procurement of orphan drug status: “It says nothing about profiting off of the pandemic, but it does provide protection if remdesivir turns into a business in subsequent years.”

The media coverage of the orphan drug classification was neutral or at most lightly critical — until Lerner and Fang’s article was published on Monday evening in the Intercept. Outrage on social media soon followed. On Tuesday, several more critical news stories followed in the left and mainstream press.

Also on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders took up the charge. His statement read in full:

It is truly outrageous that after taxpayers put tens of millions of dollars into developing remdesivir, Trump’s FDA is exploiting a law reserved for rare diseases to privatize a drug to treat a pandemic virus. The Trump Administration must rescind this corporate giveaway to Gilead and make any treatment and vaccine free for everybody.

Now is not the time for profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry. Now is the time to bring our scientists together to develop and produce the best treatment for the coronavirus as quickly as possible.

When Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine 65 years ago, he understood the tremendous value it would have for all of humanity, and he refused to patent it. Right now, we must put human life above corporate profit. We cannot give pharmaceutical corporations a monopoly on treatments that could save millions of people during this crisis.

Sanders was right to link the Trump administration to the decision. As Fang and Lerner pointed out, a member of the White House coronavirus task force was a lobbyist for Gilead between 2011 and 2017.

In addition to public-facing criticism, Gilead also faced pushback from health advocacy groups. For example, consumer group Public Citizen published an open letter signed by multiple high-profile community and health organizations. Many of them were HIV/AIDS-related organizations, which was no surprise: Gilead has faced scrutiny in the past for its handling of the drug Truvada, the brand name of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which prevents the transmission of HIV.

If Truvada were universally available, widely used, and cheap or free, new HIV infections could grind to a halt. But Gilead has repeatedly hiked the price of this miracle drug, raking in billions of dollars in profits per year. To improve its public image, the company has entertained compassionate use requests, including offering to subsidize copays, but it has not always honored its promises. (In a similar maneuver, it just suspended its compassionate use program for remdesivir.) In February, Gilead lost a patent feud with the US government, which accused it of profiting off a drug, Truvada, that taxpayers paid to develop.

Gilead appears to have been afraid of another public relations fiasco, especially one linked to an acute pandemic. On Wednesday, as the pressure mounted, the company backpedaled and announced that it would be asking the FDA to rescind remdesivir’s orphan status. The company claimed altruism, declaring that it had only pursued orphan status because it offered a faster development track, but that it will now be seeking to expedite development of the drug through other means instead.

The announcement is a victory for those keeping a watchful eye out for pandemic profiteering, not least among them journalists at left outlets like the Intercept and leftist politicians like Bernie Sanders. But more importantly, it’s a victory for a besieged society.

To prevent needless mass suffering, a coronavirus treatment must not only be developed quickly, but it must also be universally and easily available — something that would have been impossible if a notoriously profit-hungry pharmaceutical giant had been granted an exclusive patent for the drug that allowed them to set prices and block competitors.

There are deeper lessons in this story we should heed. Contrary to free-market catechism, the pursuit of profit frequently runs contrary to the public’s well-being. This is especially true in an industry devoted to inventing and manufacturing health-giving and life-saving drugs.

One of the reasons we were so blindsided by the coronavirus epidemic is that the pharmaceutical industry sees insufficient financial inducement to develop new antivirals and antibiotics. And as this story makes evident, where incentives are artificially introduced they’re subject to abuse by corporations whose mission is not public health but private profit.

For the sake of humanity, we have to bring the pharmaceutical industry under public control. In the meantime, we should keep turning up the heat on the pharma profiteers endangering us all in the name of curing us.

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‘Quid Pro Joe’ Biden admits to talking with foreign leader in last two weeks

Joe Biden (Image: YouTube screen grab)

For the last three-plus years, Democrats and their allies in the liberal propaganda machine known as the mainstream media have been pushing the narrative that Donald Trump reached out to foreign leaders to help him win in 2016 and intends to do so in 2020. That, after all, was the basis of the whole sham impeachment effort.

On Wednesday, however, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden admitted that he spoke to a foreign leader just two weeks ago.

“With regard to speaking to foreign leaders, I haven’t spoke with a foreign leader in the last — uh, probably two weeks,” he said in an interview with NBC.

When pressed for details, Biden clammed up.

Trending: Ilhan Omar called out for ‘communist’ plan to take over hospitals during coronavirus crisis

“Who was the last foreign leader that you spoke with? Did you talk about coronavirus at all?” he was asked.

“I talked about how it affected their country but no — I – I’m not gonna — it was an off-the-record discussion that I had so I’m not gonna indicate who,” he said.

Here’s video:

Perhaps we need to get the FBI involved and maybe insert a spy or two into his campaign just to make sure he’s not colluding with a foreign power, like, say, China or the Ukraine.

Needless to say, if a Republican had confessed to the same dereliction, the media would be screaming “Logan Act.” But as we saw during the impeachment circus, the Left has two sets of standards for judging “crimes” depending on the party affiliation of the actor. When Joe Biden as vice president pressured the president of Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating his son by threatening to withhold aid, no quid pro quo was to be found.

Related:

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Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves Blocks Local Social Distancing Measures

The Washington PostGetty Images

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)

Being our semi-regular weekly survey of what’s goin’ down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin’ gets done and where every day is the same thing, out the door.

We begin in the Dakotas this week, where the Standing Rock Sioux won a victory in a federal court far away in Washington, D.C. At issue were the 2016 federal permits for the Dakota Access pipeline that the Army Corps of Engineers reaffirmed. The Court concluded that the Corps neglected to account for a number of factors in reaffirming the permits. It ordered that a full review of all elements of the proposed pipeline be conducted. From Reuters:

The court granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which had petitioned to nullify federal permits for Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline on grounds that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued permits in 2016 without conducting adequate environmental reviews.

“This court ultimately concludes that too many questions remain unanswered. Unrebutted expert critiques regarding leak-detection systems, operator safety records, adverse conditions, and worst-case discharge mean that the easement approval remains ‘highly controversial’ under NEPA,” the court ruling says. The court remanded the matter to the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement and ordered the parties to “brief the issue of whether the easement should be vacated during the remand” and oil can continue flowing.

This is a significant legal win for the Native people who have been fighting the pipeline for almost a decade. The court left open the possibility that the pipeline could be shut down if the Corps doesn’t take the concerns of the residents, as validated by the court, more seriously this time around.

US-ENVIRONMENT-GREENPEACE-ACTIVISM

The pipeline battles continue.

AFP ContributorGetty Images


We slide on down the Mississippi to…Mississippi, where Governor Tate Reeves isn’t about to take any nonsense from mayors and town councils. If he says Mississippi is open for bidness, then, dammit, Mississippi is open for bidness. From Bidne…excuse me…Business Insider:

The governor of Mississippi has issued an executive order overriding all previous coronavirus responses in the state, and classifying a wide range of businesses including gun shops, department stores, and real estate offices as “essential.” Executive Order 1463, issued by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, declared that businesses such as gun shops, real estate offices, home repair services, banks, mass transit, and Uber and Lyft cars were essential…

…The order overrides a raft of public-health responses that had previously been called for or enacted by authorities below the state level. It said: “Any order, rule, regulation or action by any governing body, agency or political subdivision of the state that imposes any additional freedom of movement or social distancing limitations on Essential Business or Operation, restricts scope of services or hours of operation of any Essential Business or Operation, or which will or might in any way conflict with or impede the purpose of this Executive Order is suspended and unenforceable during this COVID-19 State of Emergency.”

I am old enough to remember when conservative dogma was unshakable on the point that the government closest to the people was best able to take care of their needs—states rather than the feds, and cities and towns rather than the states. Of course, Governor Tate has kept his eye on the ball in other areas. From CBS News:

In a press conference Tuesday, Reeves told reporters that the state’s directive to postpone all “elective” and “non-essential” medical procedures applies to abortion services, and he vowed to levy “whatever action we need to to protect the not only the lives of unborn children, but also the lives of anyone who may contract this particular virus.”

Of course, in his haste to appease his fetus-fondling base, Governor Tate is ignoring the fact that, right next door, Louisiana is turning into the country’s next hot zone, and that people have been known to cross into Louisiana for fun and frolic not available to them in, say, Hattiesburg.


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Tony Spell is a damned fool.

wafb.com

I think we can all agree that the Middle East is a fairly conservative area, religion-wise. Yet, as AFP reports, even the hierarchies there are making accommodations to the pandemic. Which makes this guy down in Louisiana even more of a holy damned fool. From NBC News:

The pastor, Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, said he does not believe his congregation is at risk of getting COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, according to CBS affiliate WAFB. “It’s not a concern,” Spell told the outlet. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.” Spell said 1,170 attended his service Sunday, according to WAFB. “We have 27 buses on Sundays picking up people in a five-parish area,” he said.

Of course, the president*’s vaunted “public-private partnership”—drink every time Mike Pence uses that phrase, die of liver failure—has turned the demand for vital medical supplies into a serious Lord of the Flies situation, as the Washington Post reports.

Although governors and hospital leaders welcome the many U.S. companies stepping forward to make masks and ventilators, they fear the voluntary efforts will be too scattershot without federal coordination. “When we went to war, we didn’t say, any company out there want to build a battleship? Who wants to build a battleship?” Cuomo said.

President Trump and his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, have repeatedly said they don’t need to force companies to produce under the Defense Production Act because so many manufacturers are volunteering to make medical supplies. Trump seemed to acknowledge the chaos on Tuesday, however, calling the world market for masks and ventilators “crazy” in a tweet, adding that it was “not easy” to acquire them. But he also tweeted that he hasn’t had to use the Defense Production Act “because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.” In a briefing Tuesday evening, Trump added: “Companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do. It’s called leverage.”

In this semi-regular weekly survey, we often joke about the whole “laboratories of democracy” business, especially the conservative shibboleth concerning how much better states can handle their problems without the interference of the federal government. The corollary to that, of course, is the dogma that The Market can handle national problems better without interference from the national government. Both of those principles have failed so utterly in the present crisis that nobody ever should utter them in public again. The president* and Navarro are fools married to nonsense. And it looks as though the president* is going full speed ahead with making things unspeakably worse.

SWITZERLAND-US-CHINA-TRADE-DIPLOMACY-UN-UPU

Navarro is part of the problem.

FABRICE COFFRINIGetty Images


But we grind on to our customary conclusion in the great state of Oklahoma, where Blog Official Antibody Wrangler Friedman of the Plains brings us the tale of yet another house of worship which isn’t exactly a house right now. From Fox23 in Tulsa:

Pastor Justin Graves says Foundation Church will host a service every Thursday until further notice on the east side of the drive-in. “This will be a completely different set of worship songs and a different message than you’ll watch on Sunday mornings,” Graves says. The free service will be one hour long — starting at 8 p.m. The concession stand is closed, but anyone can bring their own snacks and drinks to have in their cars. The restrooms are open — but the goal is to keep quarantine standards while maintaining a sense of community. The east side can take up to 600 cars, but they will either add more space or more services if more people show up.

If Pastor Graves isn’t using the old “Five minutes ’til showtime” cards on the big screen, I’ll be very disappointed.

This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.

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Pelosi eyes next relief package as Republicans downplay need

“The bill that was passed in the Senate last night and that we will take up tomorrow is about mitigation,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday. “There’s so many things we didn’t get in any of these bills yet in the way that we need to.”

Some of the things Democrats are pushing for include additional funding for state and local governments to address the rapidly spreading virus; expanding the pool of people who qualify for family and medical leave; more federal dollars for food aid; stronger worker protections for first responders; funding to offset coronavirus treatment costs; and stabilizing pensions.

Pelosi also said she doesn’t think “we’ve seen the end of direct payments” and even raised the idea to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday of transmitting the first round electronically.

But the House’s top Republican has downplayed the need for additional relief measures at this time, pouring cold water on Pelosi’s aspirations for a fourth coronavirus package — at least for now.

“We have now just passed what would be the third bill. Let’s let this work. Let’s let this work inside America,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Fox News Thursday morning. “We have now given the resources to make and solve this problem. We don’t need to be crafting another bill right now. Let’s let these $2 trillion go to work for us, plus the $8 billion ahead of time and the billions of dollars we just passed on the second bill.”

Pelosi initially said she would be taking the lead on drafting the fourth tranche of legislation before telling reporters she actually thinks it should be a “four corners” negotiation, meaning she, McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hammer out a deal.

Schumer has also signaled this week that additional aid will be needed, saying, “We should be willing, able to come back in a bipartisan way and do more if we need it, and I believe we’ll probably have to do that, one way or another.”

Still the timeline is unclear for when the fourth bill will be complete or even for when lawmakers will return to the Capitol. The Senate is out until at least April 20 — unless an emergency brings senators back to Washington — and the House is also planning to recess for several weeks after the Friday vote.

Part of both Pelosi’s and McCarthy’s stances is member management. For Pelosi, she wants to assure her caucus that there will be more chances to include Democratic priorities that didn’t make it into the first three bills. And for McCarthy, he needs to calm jittery conservative hard-liners who are wary of big government spending and might have objections to allowing the Senate package to pass by voice vote.

McConnell, meanwhile, has been noncommittal about their next legislative steps, instead focusing his energy on getting the $2 trillion economic rescue package over the finish line first.

“The real problem here is it’s on the health side and we’re all hoping that we’re going to begin to bend the curve here in the next few weeks. So I don’t have an announcement to make about the future yet,” McConnell said in an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday. “We’re hoping and praying that we’re going to begin to get a handle on this pandemic.”

The massive relief package expected to clear the House Friday is the third in a wave of bills Congress has quickly mobilized to pass as the coronavirus spreads across the U.S., infecting thousands and shutting down massive sectors of the economy.

Congress passed a bill with $8.3 billion in emergency funding in early March and the Senate followed that by clearing the House’s “Phase 2” bill last week, which greatly expanded federal safety programs to address the virus.

Democrats and some Republicans have said a fourth piece of legislation — and maybe more — is needed to ensure the U.S. doesn’t enter into a full-blown depression. Just on Thursday, unemployment claims reached a record high, skyrocketing to 3.3 million according to the Labor Department.

“In this case, it’s about public sentiment. People say, ‘Oh, why do we need another bill?’” Pelosi said. “These are needs that people have. … this is all about the coronavirus. It’s not about anything else.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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U.S. Justice Department Charges Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro With Drug Trafficking, Corruption – Reason.com

It’s a sign of the times that the U.S. government indicting a foreign head of state on drug trafficking charges is almost a side story in today’s news cycle.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was indicting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on charges related to drug trafficking and corruption. The DOJ is also offering a $15 million reward for information that leads to Maduro’s arrest or conviction.

“For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the [Colombian rebel group] FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities,” said U.S. Attorney General William Barr in a statement. “Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government.”

The DOJ also announced charges against more than a dozen other individuals, including the Chief Justice of Venezuela’s Supreme Court and the country’s defense minister. The Washington Post reports that Maduro could face a 50-year mandatory minimum prison sentence if extradited to the U.S. and convicted.

For his part, Maduro has dismissed the charges against him, saying on Twitter that they are part of a U.S. and Colombian conspiracy to destabilize his country.

Charging another head of state with drug trafficking is extraordinary, but not entirely unprecedented. In 1988, Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega was indicted on federal drug and money laundering charges. He was ousted from power by a U.S. invasion the following year, and was later convicted and imprisoned in the U.S.

As the Washington Post notes, “Venezuela’s far better-equipped military and Russian support for Maduro would complicate any U.S. attempt to take him into custody the same way.”

It’s true that President Donald Trump has spent the last few years trying to oust the Venezuelan leader. Throughout 2018, his administration tightened sanctions on Venezuelan government officials and the country’s state-controlled oil sector. In January 2019, Trump went so far as to recognize opposition leader, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, as interim president.

That latter move lessens the diplomatic consequences of today’s indictments, as officially the U.S. does not recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s leader.

In July of that year, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing the Maduro government’s use of arbitrary arrests, torture, and death squads to maintain power in the economically devastated country.

It’s nevertheless worrisome that the U.S. government is relying on unjust drug laws to make that happen. While the DOJ’s press release accuses Maduro and his cronies of using “cocaine as a weapon” against American cities, the domestic effects of our own domestic war on drugs have been far more devastating. Without the massive black market created by drug prohibition, crooked communist governments would have to find some other illicit activity to keep their regimes afloat.

The timing of these indictments is also worrying. Right now, everyone is focused on how best to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and the related economic fallout. The DOJ’s action is, therefore, setting off fewer alarm bells than it normally would.

Nevertheless, the consequences of trying to indict a foreign leader are going to be felt long after this current crisis subsides.