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Republican Ohio State Lawmaker Refuses to Wear Face Mask Because God Created Humans Without One

Republican Ohio State Representative Nino Vitale said on Facebook Monday that despite the risk of community spread coronavirus, he would not wear a face mask because covering the face would hide the image of God.

Vitale has opposed coronavirus guidelines issued by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and the director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Amy Acton. On social media, Vitale has used the hashtag #MasksDoNotWork on some of his posts.

Acton said during an April news briefing that Ohians may be wearing face coverings for a year in order to help quell the spread of coronavirus. “Don your mask,” Acton said. “Don your cape.”

On his Facebook page, Vitale said he would defy the requests of his state’s government’s on religious ground.

“This is not the entire world,” Vitale wrote. “This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles. One of those principles as that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask.”

“When we think about the image and likeness of God—we’re created in the image and likeness of God—when we think of image, do we think of a chest or our legs or our arms? We think of a face,” Vitale said in a video on his Facebook page. “That’s the image of God right there, and I want to see it in my brothers and sisters.”

Watch Acton, Gov. DeWine and Rep. Vitale in this 90-second video “On Wearing Masks.”

Watch Dir. Acton, Gov. DeWine and Rep. Vitale in this 90-second video “On Wearing Masks.”“Don’t use masks they won’t stop the spread – Dr. Acton” (early April), “Mandate Masks – Dr. Acton” (late April), “No mandate for masks – Gov. DeWine” (late April), “All – Don your cape and mask” – Dr. Acton-Early May), “Mandate for only employees – Dr. Acton” (early May), “masks were a bridge too far” – Gov DeWine (yesterday).(Wearing a Mask)…”was just a bridge too far that people were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.” – Yesterday on Sunday Television – Gov DeWineDr. Acton spent weeks telling us that masks make no difference in stopping the spread and were not needed for the general public. Then she spent all of last week telling us to “don our cape and mask”, and that in other counties, this is the norm and we should make it the new normal in Ohio and even the entire nation forever.DeWine was on national television on Sunday stating, “masks were just a bridge too far.” Just in the past 6 days, they have changed their mind about masks 4 times.What is my response? “This is not the entire world. This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles. One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask.” – Rep. VitaleSee Acton, Dewine and Vitale in this 90 second video.It is time to do what Preble County did, ignore the unelected Dr. Acton’s orders, open your counties now, before it’s too late. This is not based on logic, this is based on fear and propaganda and every statistical, data driven study done in the last 2 weeks says death counts are low, the models were wrong, and this is more like the flu.Additionally, these orders were NOT voted on by 2/3rds of a vote of the legislature, as need to be done in cases of emergencies in Ohio. These are INVALID orders. The highest law of Ohio, the Ohio Constitution states … “emergency laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, shall go into immediate effect. Such emergency laws upon a yea and nay vote must receive the vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each branch of the general assembly…” Article 2 Section 01d – Emergency Laws#SpreadTruthOhio – SHARE THIS POST – Don’t forget to like this page and stay up on posts.#OhioIsOpen
#MasksDoNotWork – says Dr. Acton herself (sometimes)

Posted by Rep. Nino Vitale on Monday, May 4, 2020

Newsweek reached out to Representative Vitale and Dr. Acton for comment.

Ohio Representative Nino Vitale said Monday he would not wear a face mask because blocking the view of one’s face was the same as obstructing the image of God.

Customers in Ohio stores are not required to wear masks, but Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted said that face coverings should be worn because it shows “mutual respect for one another.”

“This is a virus that you can carry and you don’t know,” Husted said Wednesday. “We want to protect employees. We want to protect customers. Everybody should do it but you’re not required to do it.”

Vitale has been a strong proponent of reopening Ohio’s economy, decrying Acton and DeWine for extending Ohio’s stay-at-home orders until nearly the end of May.

Governor DeWine said reopening Ohio too quickly would be “totally irresponsible.”

“I have an obligation as the governor of this state to do two things right now at work every day,” DeWine said during an April news conference, “get people back to work and keep them safe. That would not be consistent with keeping people safe.”

Vitale disagreed with the decision to extend the stay-at-home orders.

“Your basic human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not come from an unelected Globalist Health Director, who signed the order in the dark of night,” Vitale wrote on Facebook Friday.

Many consider the term “globalist” to be an anti-Semitic term. Dr. Acton is Jewish. Cleveland, Ohio’s branch of advocacy group the Anti-Defamation League called on Vitale to apologize for his statement.

“Whether Rep. Vitale purposely invoked anti-Semitism or not,” the group wrote on Friday, “we strongly urge him to remove that term from his vocabulary, and to issue an apology to Dr. Acton and the entire Jewish community.”

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U.S. Senate returns to Washington amid concerns about coronavirus risk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate convened in Washington for the first time in nearly six weeks on Monday, despite concern it might put lawmakers and staff at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but made clear it could take weeks to pass any new relief legislation.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks to reporters inside the U.S. Capitol as senators returned to Capitol Hill amid concerns that their legislative sessions could put lawmakers and staff at risk of contracting the coronavirus in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Party leaders raised partisan differences as soon as the Senate opened over the next step in how to combat the pandemic, nominations for senior government posts put forward by President Donald Trump and even the decision to return.

“If it’s essential that the brave healthcare workers, grocery store workers, truck drivers and many other Americans continue to carefully show up for work, then it’s essential that their U.S. senators carefully show up ourselves and support them,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer accused McConnell of calling senators back to pursue a Republican political agenda, not help the country.

“As we return to work under the cloud of crisis, Senate Republicans should concentrate on helping us recover from COVID-19, not confirming right-wing judges or protecting big businesses that threaten to put workers at serious risk,” Schumer said.

Democrats and Republicans are at odds over the contents of any new coronavirus legislation. Democrats want up to $1 trillion to help state and local governments. Republicans are demanding liability protections for businesses, as a condition for moving forward on any bill.

Trump said during a Fox News town hall on Sunday that he would not consider any measure that did not include a payroll tax cut.

With Washington still under a stay-at-home order, lawmakers were advised by the congressional physician to wear masks, stay six feet (2 meters) apart and limit the number of staff on Capitol Hill.

Senators wore masks during their first vote on Monday evening, walking into the chamber only one or two at a time and raising their hands, mostly in medical gloves, to indicate their approval.

The Senate confirmed Robert Feitel as inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 87 to 0.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives chose to remain in recess this week because of potential health risks and has not announced when it will reconvene.

With some Democrats warning the Senate’s return could risk spreading the virus, the Trump administration last week offered Congress 1,000 coronavirus tests.

McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down the offer over the weekend, which drew fire from Trump.

“By Congress not wanting the special 5 minute testing apparatus, they are saying that they are not ‘essential,’” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, also said he disagreed with the decision in an interview with Politico.

Senate committees scheduled nomination hearings on Tuesday, for Republican U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence and Brian Miller, a White House lawyer, tapped to oversee the Treasury’s handling of coronavirus relief funding.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and David Morgan; additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; writing by David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatisnand Tom Brown

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Syrian army says Israeli jets hit military outposts in Aleppo province

AMMAN — Syrian air defenses thwarted an Israeli missile attack on a research center and a military base in the northern province of Aleppo state media said on Monday in the fifth such strikes in two weeks on suspected Iranian targets.

The Syrian army said in a statement that Israel hit military barracks in al Safirah in the eastern Aleppo countryside. Earlier, state television had said a research center was targeted. The army said it was now assessing the damage caused by the strikes.

A regional intelligence source said Israel was stepping up raids in Syria at a time when world attention and the region, including Syria, were distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.

An Israeli army spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

Western intelligence sources say Iranian-backed militias have long been entrenched in Aleppo province where they have bases and a command center and installed advanced weapons, part of a growing presence across government-controlled Syria.

The Scientific Studies and Research Center is one of several facilities where Western intelligence and opposition sources suspect Syria with the help of Iranian researchers work on developing chemical weapons they accuse Syria of having used against civilians in rebel-held areas.

Damascus and its ally Moscow deny they have used chemical weapons that have killed hundreds of civilians in the course of the nine-year conflict and blame jihadist rebels for such attacks.

Israel has previously struck several military research facilities believed to have been a center for chemical and biological weapons.

Israeli helicopters fired several rockets from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on targets inside southern Syria known to be a base for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, Syria and intelligence sources said.

The Syrian government does not say Iranian bases are targeted when it announces details of Israeli raids.

Major blasts in an ammunition depot near Homs city on the same day were also believed to be from an Israeli strike, a war monitor and intelligence sources said.

Israel has acknowledged in recent years it has conducted many raids inside Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 where it sees Iran’s presence as a strategic threat.

Regional intelligence sources say that Israel’s escalating strikes on Syria are part of a shadow war sanctioned by Washington and part of the anti-Iran policy that has undermined in the last two years Iran’s extensive military power without triggering a major escalation.

Israeli defense minister Naftali Bennett told Israeli media last week that Israel would step up its campaign against Iran in Syria.

Separately, a regional intelligence source said Israeli jets are believed to have hit Iranian-backed militias entrenched in the border town of Albukamal near the border with Iraq where Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary groups have a strong foothold.

The U.S. military last January struck Iran-backed militia groups in areas in Iraq and Syria along that border area in what U.S. officials then said was a response to escalating provocations from Iran.

Iran’s support alongside Russia has helped Syrian President Bashar al Assad turn the tide against a military opposition that had seized large tracts of territory and sought to overthrow his authoritarian rule.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

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New Jersey Senators Urge Councilwoman To Resign After She Calls Gay Mayor A ‘Pedophile’

A New Jersey councilwoman who apologized for anti-Semitic comments in 2019 is being told to resign after reportedly calling Trenton’s first openly gay mayor a “pedophile” and other derogatory names during an outburst, numerous sources reported.

Councilwoman Robin Vaughn, who is a Democrat according to her Twitter bio, went on a vulgar diatribe against Mayor Reed Gusciora during a nearly one-hour call intended to update legislators on the number of coronavirus cases in the state, the Trentonian reported Saturday.

“Continue to suck Reed Gusciora’s d**k all you want to, motherf**ker,” she said according to audio reviewed by the Trentonian.

After Gusciora asked her to name one of the capital city’s “do-nothing” organizations she criticized on Twitter, Vaughn began hurling slurs and curse words, calling him a “pedopile” and accused another city official of performing a sex act on Gusciora. 

She also referred to him as a “woman” and “bitch ass,” and suggested that the only thing Gusciora brought to City Hall was “a bunch of young boys, and they’re sitting up there in the mayor’s suite.”

Vaughn had also faced censure after defending anti-Semitic statements made by Council President Kathy McBride in September, who said “I’m sad for her that they were able to wait her out and Jew her down for $22,000 with pins in her knee that can never, ever be repaired,” referring to a legal settlement. (RELATED: Ilhan Omar To Join Black-Jewish Caucus Despite Repeated Allegations Of Anti-Semitism)

After initially defending McBride, Vaughn apologized and said, “My comments were wrong. Never was it my intention to hurt, disrespect or demean anyone when I described a racial slur or its usage, as a verb.”

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s office condemned “the hateful and homophobic comments made by Councilwoman Vaughn in the strongest terms,” according to

“Hateful language is never acceptable, and audio of the Trenton conference call demonstrates multiple parties engaging in an inappropriate and deeply troubling exchange,” the statement added, also requesting Vaughn “resign immediately.”

Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker also called on Vaughn to resign, the former calling the language she used “downright reprehensible” and the latter saying she has shown a “pattern of intolerance that has no place in Trenton City Council,” according to

Vaughn did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. 

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Two Top Republican Lawmakers Demand FBI Director Wray Review Bureau’s Handling Of Flynn Probe

Two top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter Monday to FBI director Christopher Wray demanding a review of the bureau’s  handling of its probe into former  national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a letter obtained by

Ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties asked Wray in the letter why he has failed to disclose what they believe is ‘the FBI’s misconduct’ in Flynn’s case.

In the letter, the lawmakers ask Wray to “explain when you personally first learned of the FBI’s misconduct with respect to LTG Flynn,” and they specifically ask Wray to explain “why the committee and the American public are learning of the FBI’s misconduct with respect to LTG Flynn from court filings rather than from you.”

The context of the lawmakers’ requests for answers to their questions couldn’t be stronger and “reflect a growing distrust within the administration of Wray’s role in keeping information regarding the bureau from the public,” said one U.S. official, who asked that they not be named. “There is enormous frustration that Wray is doing more to protect the bureau than clean house.”

Johnson and Jordan were referring to the recent Brady material disclosure made by the FBI to Flynn’s defense attorney Sidney Powell. The stunning information was reported by this news outlet and the 15 documents, which include texts, handwritten notes and emails revealed that the FBI officials involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation had set Flynn up for a fall.

“On April 29,2020, a United States District judge unsealed documents that had been previously withheld from LTG Flynn and his legal team,” the letter states. “These documents reveal that the FBI had apparently sought to set a perjury trap for LTG Flynn during an interview on January 24, 2017, reportedly written by FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Bill Priestap, explained that the FBI’s objective was ‘to get him [Flynn] to lie, so we can prosecute or get him [Flynn] fired.”

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan first unsealed four pages of FBI emails and handwritten last week, and then within 24 hours unsealed 11 more pages of documents and text messages that continued to show a pattern that the bureau was targeting Flynn directly.

In the letter sent Monday to Wray, the Republican congressmen stated their concerns saying, “the FBI’s mission is to do justice dispassionately. But these documents suggest that the FBI ignored protocol to confront LTG Flynn about a potential violation of an obscure and rarely charged offense, with the real goal of forcing LTG Flynn’s resignation or prosecution.”

“The FBI pursued LTG Flynn despite knowing that he was not a Russian agent and even after the FBI  became aware that a central piece of evidence of alleged Russian collusion – the so-called Steele dossier -was based on Russian disinformation,” said Jordan and Johnson. “Placing these events in context rev weals the extent to which the FBI facilitated an incorrect public impression of alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.”

A slew of news stories after the Jan. 24, 2017 FBI interview at the White House between Flynn and former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, who was fired by the bureau, and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka, who is still employed by the bureau, not only led to his firing but to a public persecution of the retired general that publicly defamed him.

Further, highly classified information that was purposefully leaked by an official in the Obama administration with access to the call records about Flynn’s conversation with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in Dec. 2016, to The Washington Post has yet to be investigated.

The letter to Wray goes on to list critical dates when the “FBI facilitated an incorrect public impression of alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.”

Some hot points from the lawmakers letter to FBI Director Wray: 
  • Immediately review the actions of the FBI in targeting LTG Flynn 
  • Make former FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap and FBI agent Joe Pientka available for transcribed interviews regarding LTG Flynn. 
  • Ask your staff to contact the Committee as soon as possible. 
  • Produce all documents and communications referring to or related to ‘Crossfire Razor’ the FBI code name for its investigation into LTG Flynn. 
  • Produce all documents and communications between or among the FBI and other executive branch agencies, including but not limited to the Executive Office of the the President, for the period of December 1, 2016 to January 20, 2017, referring or relating to LTG Michael Flynn’s Dec. 30, 2016, conversation with Sergey Kislyak. 
  • Explain whether you or any other member of the FBI’s senior leadership prevented or delayed the disclosure of additional exculpatory information to LTG Flynn and his legal team. 
  • Certify that the FBI has produced all responsive documents as part of the review ordered by Attorney General Barr to LTG Flynn’s case.

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Education Dept. Welcomes GOP Lawmakers’ Probe Into ‘China’s Infiltration of US Colleges’

The Chinese Communist Party’s lies and coverup of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic have led many to question China’s deep-seated ties in our country including China’s relationship with our institutions of higher education, which are not only central places of learning, but also places of proprietary research. That issue has become central to a probe launched Monday by Republican lawmakers representing seven House committees requesting that the U.S. Department of Education investigate “China’s infiltration of U.S. colleges.”

That group of lawmakers includes House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, Virginia Foxx, ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Mac Thornberry, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Frank Lucas, ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Michael McCaul, and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“China has strategically invested in U.S. academia to attempt to steal confidential information and technology from U.S. companies, and even the U.S. government. Besides China peddling money for influence in U.S. institutions of higher education (IHE), China is restricting any research regarding the origins of COVID-19 that does not comport with CCP propaganda. To nations battling peak pandemic outbreaks, the CCP’s machinations undoubtedly hamper the global response to the pandemic,” their letter to Education Secretary Betsy Devos stated.

DeVos has raised concerns over the national security implications of that funding and launched an investigation into American universities receiving foreign funding early last year. In their preliminary findings, the Department discovered that six universities received $1.3 billion from countries including China, Russia, and Qatar, but that they failed to report that to the federal government.

More recently, DOE issued a requirement that universities disclose any foreign gifts and contracts that amount to $250,000 or more. The National Association of College and University Business Officers, which represents 1,900 colleges and universities across the country, however, argued that in light of the pandemic, the move should be delayed.

“Secretary DeVos is grateful for the support of these members of Congress as we continue our work to hold institutions accountable for accurately reporting their foreign gifts and contracts,” a spokesperson for the DOE told in a statement. “American students and taxpayers deserve transparency from schools that receive funding from foreign countries and individuals or their agents. This work is especially important because we know some institutions solicit and accept large sums of foreign funding from nations hostile to our national security and economic interests. We look forward to continued collaboration with Congress and other federal agencies to ensure that colleges and universities follow the laws of foreign gift and contract reporting.”

The lawmakers’ letter noted that “for some time, we have been concerned about the potential for the Chinese government to use its strategic investments to turn American college campuses into indoctrination platforms for American students.”

“For example, a 2018 Hoover Institution report notes the presence of some 110 ‘Confucius Institutes’ on college campuses as well as over 500 “Confucius Classrooms” in secondary schools. While the stated mission of such institutes and classrooms is to teach Chinese language and culture, the report notes, ‘faculty and other watchdogs have warned that they may present risks to intellectual freedom by using American universities as vehicles through which to advance Chinese Communist Party propaganda,’” it stated.

The letter also underscores the need to hold American universities accepting U.S. taxpayer funding accountable for providing portions of their budget to China. That issue has also been central to the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which, earlier this year, charged one Harvard University professor and two Chinese nationals for “aiding the People’s Republic of China.”

Dr. Charles Lieber, the professor charged, received $15 million from the National Institute of Health and Department of Defense but failed to disclose several conflicts of interest including that he was a ‘Strategic Scientist’ at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT), which is located in the city where the COVID-19 pandemic originated. According to reports, Harvard has received the most “monetary gifts, contracts” from China, which amounts to $93.7 million since 2013.

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How Joe Biden’s response to the Tara Reade allegations hit a Senate snag

As part of his sweeping denial of any sort of inappropriate behavior with Reade, Biden sought to cast himself as bending over backward to be transparent about the existence of any such complaints.

“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be — the National Archives,” Biden said in a statement released last Friday. “The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”

Except, well, there’s a problem.

Because the secretary of the Senate — Julie Adams — released a statement on Monday that makes clear she can’t legally do what Biden is asking. “The Secretary has no discretion to disclose any such information as requested in Vice President Biden’s letter of May 1,” she wrote.

Now, do I think the Biden team knew that the secretary of the Senate couldn’t legally ask the National Archives for any personnel paperwork related to Reade when the candidate put out his statement on Friday? I don’t. (Yes, many conservatives would disagree — insisting Biden and his campaign knew this was a dead end.)

But whether or not they knew that the secretary of the Senate wouldn’t comply with the request actually doesn’t even matter all that much at this point. Because the fact, now, is this: Biden has a transparency problem. And here’s why.

The Biden campaign responded to the secretary of the Senate on Monday, with attorney Bob Bauer asking the office to answer whether the existence of records is also confidential, whether there is anyone the records could be lawfully disclosed to, such as Reade, and whether the Senate could release what the procedures in 1993 would have been in handling a complaint like Reade’s.

With the National Archives potentially not an option in terms of finding the alleged Reade complaint, attention will, rightly, turn to the University of Delaware, where Biden’s voluminous Senate papers are currently held. The problem? Neither Biden nor the University seems willing to open up the records.

“The papers from my Senate years that I donated to the University of Delaware do not contain personnel files,” Biden said in that statement last Friday. “It is the practice of Senators to establish a library of personal papers that document their public record: speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills.”

And a spokeswoman for the university told CNN this:

“The University of Delaware received the Biden Senatorial Papers as a gift from Vice President Biden. We are currently curating the collection, a process that we estimate will carry at least into the spring of 2021. As the curating process is not complete, the papers are not yet available to the public, and we are not able to identify what documents or files can be found within the collection.”

So, if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse. Which is bad news for Biden. Because the only way this story goes away is if people become convinced that he has done absolutely everything he can to be as transparent as humanly possible.
This, from The New York Times editorial board over the weekend, makes that reality plain:

“Any serious inquiry must include the trove of records from Mr. Biden’s Senate career that he donated to the University of Delaware in 2012. Currently, those files are set to remain sealed until after Mr. Biden retires from public life — a common arrangement. There are growing calls for Mr. Biden to make those records available to see if they contain any mention of Ms. Reade or perhaps others who raised similar complaints about his behavior.”

(Worth noting: That editorial was written before we knew that the secretary of the Senate would not — or could not — ask the National Archives for any personnel files related to Reade.)

Biden’s path forward here is plain: Ask the University of Delaware to open his papers and search for anything related to Reade in any way, shape or form. If Biden is right that there are no personnel matters in his Senate papers, then this is a simple ask since nothing about Reade will be found!

And if nothing is found — and the secretary of the Senate continues to say her hands are tied, legally speaking — then Biden can say, with full confidence, that he has done everything in his power to prove that the Reade allegations are simply untrue. Unless and until Biden takes that step with the University of Delaware, he will continue to face questions about whether he is being fully transparent.

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What Socialists Can Take From Corporate Strategic Management

Socialists have long argued that the failures of capitalism can only be overcome by a shift from private to public ownership and from market competition to economy-wide coordination. A growing number of our compatriots are open to our ideas; under the pandemic, even some Republicans are calling for more socialist measures like handing out cash payments to unemployed workers.

The emergency conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic open space for our advocacy. We still face the challenge of convincing people that a socialist transformation of our entire economy — where public ownership and control would be economy-wide and not limited to health care and emergencies — could be both democratic and effective. One obstacle is that we simply don’t have any example we can point to. However, as I argue in my recent book The 99 Percent Economy, we have at hand an impressive working model of socialism, albeit in a surprising place — in some of our biggest businesses.

Perhaps the easiest way to make the argument for a socialist transformation of the economy is through the climate emergency — an emergency that will soon dwarf the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, if we stay on our current course the United States will see increasingly frequent and destructive wildfires, hurricanes, ice storms, and heat waves over the coming decades. Lower water tables and rainfall levels will cause massive crop failures. Rising sea levels will force millions to flee coastal areas.

Climate scientists tell us that the world must get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a chaotic breakdown. Moreover, wealthier countries such as the United States will need to fully decarbonize much faster than that — by 2030 at the latest — to accommodate the poorer countries’ slower decarbonization trajectory.

And in order for us to meet this 2030 goal, industry will be forced to abandon or rebuild trillions of dollars worth of assets. That means not only rapidly shutting down the fossil fuel companies such as Chevron and ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy, but also radically transforming the working assets of companies whose products run on oil — companies such as General Motors, Boeing, United Airlines, and FedEx.

Further afield, there are vast swaths of our economy whose products and processes contribute to climate change, and which therefore must be radically and rapidly transformed — agriculture, cement, mining, forest products, water systems, chemicals, plastics, and many consumer products. Moreover, beyond the transformation of these industries, climate change will necessitate massive investment in new infrastructure — a new power grid, sea walls to protect against rising sea levels, new water systems, rebuilding roads, bridges, sewage, and rail systems.

Capitalist companies can’t be expected to voluntarily make these kinds of changes, ones that would saddle their shareholders with huge losses. Moreover, even if we elect a government determined to drive this transition, we cannot meet this goal without bankrupting a huge number of firms.

Given those hurdles, it is very difficult to see how that transition can happen without socializing the ownership of most of our industries and using that control to drive a comprehensive overhaul of our infrastructure and systems of production.

Beyond the climate crisis, it is the internal dynamics of capitalist development themselves that drive us to a socialist transformation. As capitalism advances, profit-driven businesses must reduce costs and increase sales, and this stimulates capitalism’s characteristically rapid technological change. Transportation and communications technologies are revolutionized, and the corresponding costs fall dramatically. Businesses grow and progressively monopolize whole industries.

Hungry for lower-cost inputs and new markets, they globally expand their networks of suppliers and customers. Economic activity thus becomes ever more interdependent, both within ever-larger firms and across ever-larger networks. Productive activity becomes, in Marx’s terms, progressively more “socialized.”

At the same time, as a consequence of this socialization trend, the production and investment decisions made by individual firms have ever-wider and ever more damaging “externality” effects. More powerful technologies wreak more damage on the environment. Bigger companies make business decisions that periodically throw millions out of work and out of their homes, undermining the economic viability of whole regions. Financial and economic crises originating in one location rapidly spread across the globe. In our private enterprise system, firms make decisions that maximize their individual profits, and when they do that in an increasingly interdependent world, they impose ever more damage on communities and on the natural environment.

The growing interdependence of productive activity represents a profoundly progressive legacy of capitalist development, but it is increasingly in tension with the system of profit-driven decisions about production and investment made by independent individual businesses. The socialization of production is increasingly out of sync with the capitalist system of private property of the means of that production. And this mismatch results in ever-deeper and wider crises on every front. The only path forward is to socialize the ownership and control of our economic resources to match the degree of socialization of economic activity itself.

But given the antipathy to socialism that, even in the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, still dominates in the United States, the argument for socialization can be difficult to impress. It is for this reason that socialists like Richard Wolff have argued that we should redirect our attention away from the structure of the wider economy and to define socialism as a matter of workplace relations. Wolff tells us that socialism is “less a matter of state versus private workplaces, or state planning versus private markets, and more a matter of democratic versus autocratic workplace organization. A new economy based on worker co-ops will find its own democratic way of structuring relationships among co-ops and society as a whole.”

Today, however, in the face of the climate emergency, we cannot afford to defer the question any longer. We need to push for democratic control over investment and production across the entire economy. This control should, of course, be as decentralized as possible, but some degree of centralization will be necessary to ensure wise and equitable use of our resources.

This idea rings alarm bells for many people. It’s hard to see how such a system could be effective or democratic, let alone both. History provides us no examples.

My research suggests that we have something like a working model of such a system right under our noses, in many of our largest corporations.

Indeed, many of our CEOs behave like closet socialists. Most large firms are divided into more or less self-sufficient “strategic business units” charged with developing new products and assuring their production, sale, and profitability. In public, their CEOs defend the superiority of markets and competition over coordination and planning, but inside their own corporations, where they could leave these business units to compete with each other, they rely instead on comprehensive strategic management.

Such strategic management aims to ensure that the various business units that make up the corporation coordinate their production, investment, and other plans to achieve the best outcomes for the corporation as a whole. Yes, there are some corporations that try to emulate the market in their internal operations, but that approach is relatively rare. In most firms, the activity of business units is coordinated by a strategic vision and plan — much like the activity of enterprises across the country would be coordinated under democratic socialism.

Moreover, in this internal strategic management process, corporations confront in miniature — in the microcosm of the firm — the same challenges as those that bedeviled economic planning on the wider scale in the USSR. The four biggest of these challenges are how to assure democracy, innovation, efficiency, and motivation. The USSR was notoriously weak on all four.

Many committed socialists dismiss the magnitude of these challenges, confident that they could easily be overcome. But if we are going to bring others to our side, we need to offer them more than our confidence — we need to offer them some plausible image of socialism in which they can see how these challenges could be resolved in practice.

Perhaps counterintuitively, corporate strategic management gives us just such an image, because corporations have developed rather effective techniques to deal with these four challenges — techniques that could be deployed on a wider scale and to even greater advantage in a socialist economy. Let’s review each in turn.

Centralized planning in the USSR promised to overcome the irrationality of the capitalist system based on market competition. Negative externalities such as unemployment (and today we would say CO2 emissions) could be minimized; positive externalities could be harvested as synergies across enterprises; economies of scale could be assured.

But this promise was seriously compromised by the undemocratic character of the planning process. The Soviet top-down process meant that plans did not adequately reflect the opportunities and challenges experienced by workers, citizens, enterprises, and regions. And as a result, those at lower, local levels of the system had little reason to put much effort toward the goals decreed at the higher, central level. While these limitations did not stop a remarkably rapid initial industrialization, they came to hobble the country’s subsequent growth.

A similar dynamic can be seen in many business firms. Their CEOs see the potential benefits of strategic coordination, but the top-down character of their planning process means that the plans do not reflect the opportunities and challenges experienced in the business units. And these units have little reason to embrace the goals that top executives decree.

To overcome this challenge, some firms have become smarter about which decisions need to be centralized and which are better handled by the business units. More surprisingly, where decisions need to be centralized so as to assure consistency across the units, some firms have developed techniques for engaging the participation of lower-level managers and, in some cases, even of frontline staff (see samples of the research here, here, here, and here). This typically happens in three cycles (goal-setting, planning, and budgeting) wherein each cycle, top executives formulate proposals, elicit feedback from below, and revise their proposals in light of that feedback.

Of course, strategic management in these big corporations is not anywhere nearly as democratic as socialists would want to see — most obviously because top executives are appointed by investor representatives, rather than by our elected representatives — and their planning is terribly constrained by the overriding importance of profitability; but we sometimes find surprising levels of participation.

It is not hard to see how this strategic management process could be made more democratic, and how such dialogues could be broadened and scaled up in the socialist planning process. Imagine that our nationally elected leaders, examining the problems and opportunities the country faces, propose a set of goals for the next Five-Year Plan covering our economic, social, and environmental needs.

A wide process of democratic consultation — in face-to-face meetings in workplaces and neighborhoods, in regional governing bodies, via digital polls — allows us to feed back up to the national leadership proposals for revising those goals. The refined goals are then sent back out to democratically elected industrial and regional councils, asking them to propose plans for how they can contribute to achieving the plan’s objectives. These plans are then collated centrally, and any inconsistencies or gaps prompt a round of revision. And finally, in a third cycle, budgets are allocated by the national investment bank in accordance with the goals and plans we have agreed to, and local participatory budgeting forums determine precisely how those budgets are used.

Centralized planning enabled the USSR to invest massively in the development of leading-edge science and engineering. Research organizations at the national and industry level generated impressive breakthroughs. But their innovation efforts were often poorly targeted, not addressing the real needs of industry. Even when innovations were useful in principle, there was little incentive for enterprises to adopt them in practice. The gap was too difficult to bridge between, on the one side, centralized organizations that specialized in research, and on the other, dispersed enterprises that specialized in production.

Many American businesses recognize the potential benefits of coordination and planning over reliance on market competition for assuring their innovative capacity. Following a socialist logic, they fund centralized R&D units through taxes on the business units. This avoids duplication of innovation efforts across their internal business units. It also ensures that research can look further out into the future than the business units would be willing to do in their local R&D. But just as in the USSR, specialization often leaves this centralized R&D unit out of touch with the needs of the business units: it develops concepts the units don’t need or can’t use or have little incentive to use.

Better-managed corporations have found ways to avoid this problem. They draw local business unit leaders into the governance of central R&D. They ensure that central R&D teams work collaboratively with staff from the units on innovation projects. And they invest in developing the skill base of staff in the operating units so they can participate effectively in these projects.

A socialist planning system could dramatically accelerate innovation by following just such a model. Imagine the acceleration that would result from a policy of funding democratically governed, industry-level, and regional R&D centers, chartering them to collaborate with the relevant enterprises in their innovation efforts, and investing in the development of the innovative capacity of the entire workforce so everyone can participate.

Innovation would also be accelerated under socialism by expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship. If they proposed new ways of achieving our plan goals, entrepreneurial ventures, established as worker cooperatives, could get access to financing from public investment banks or from existing enterprises. This would greatly lower the impediments to innovation created by our current venture (“vulture”) capitalist system.

Socialism promises a great increase in efficiency over capitalist competition. Instead of letting each enterprise work according to its own processes and rely on its own component and module designs, Soviet planners standardized best practices and optimal designs for use across the entire economy. Workers, however, often experienced this standardization of procedures as alienating, and the standardization of components often led to products that were cheap but mediocre.

Many capitalist firms also recognize the potential benefits of standardization for efficiency. Following the same logic, they create central staff units that standardize best practices and optimal designs across their business units. But as in the USSR, workers often resist the regimentation of their work, while business units resist the adoption of standardized components.

The smartest businesses have overcome this challenge by involving frontline staff in these standardization efforts. When standards are not decreed from on high, but are developed jointly by staff experts and frontline personnel, these standards can be designed to support, rather than limit, creativity and judgment, and as a result they are experienced as enabling rather than coercive.

In a socialist system of strategic management of the entire economy, massive improvements in efficiency could flow from similarly participative efforts to standardize components and best practices across entire industries and regions (for surprising examples, see here and here). We would use this increase in efficiency to dramatically reduce working hours, freeing up workers’ time for self-cultivation and to participate in the democratic processes governing the economy.

It is commonly observed that socialist central planning in the USSR failed to motivate either workers or entrepreneurs. Collectivist values only go so far: without adequate encouragement for individual effort and creativity, both efficiency and innovation falter.

Our big businesses face a similar dilemma. They need employees to be collectivist enough to willingly comply with policies and procedures, but they simultaneously need employees to be individualistic enough to fuel divergent thinking and creativity. The common solution to this dilemma is to specialize roles, with most people being relegated to routine tasks where compliance is more important, while the privileged few work on innovation tasks where creativity matters more. The cost of ignoring the creative capacities of so many, however, is enormous. (See, for example, Gallup’s research on the costs of employee disengagement.)

The smartest businesses therefore create cultures and reward systems that support a synthesis of individualism and collectivism that I call “interdependent individualism.” (For one example, see here.) People can be honored and rewarded for their individual contribution to the organization’s goals, and for their ability to collaborate with others in that effort. Modest financial rewards for individuals are paired with modest financial rewards for teams and with generous symbolic rewards for these efforts. The organization invests in training and incentives to stimulate the innovative capacity of all its personnel.

While as socialists we are reluctant to attribute too much importance to differentiated financial incentives, nothing stands in the way of a socialist economy following a similar policy. Our democratically elected councils at the national level can set general policy regarding the pay of different categories of workers, and enterprise-level councils would rely on that policy guidance to set pay for individual workers. The culture of twenty-first-century socialism must transcend the opposition of individualism and collectivism, and the experience of some of these capitalist firms shows us that this is possible and how we might do it.

If socialism is going to be an advance on capitalism, it is in part because it can build on capitalism’s accomplishments, of which the socialization of production is perhaps the greatest.

This socialization has yielded not only dramatic progress in technologies, but also powerful new techniques for management in huge, complex enterprises. The strategic management techniques that some of our leading firms have developed are a precious legacy. Critics are surely correct when they argue that these techniques — just like their material technology counterparts — are currently designed and used to buttress capitalist exploitation and domination. But it stands to reason that democratic socialism can nevertheless derive much benefit from the principles that underlie these techniques and technologies, adapting them to our society’s needs.

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Democratic Party May Not Back Alabama Senator Doug Jones With Cash

The election-night party at the headquarters of Doug Jones a couple of years back was one of the most joyous political events it has been my good fortune to attend. I have not been in many happier crowds in my life. These were people who had waited for a moment like this for decades. These were Alabamians who wanted their state redeemed from two centuries of racial savagery and a half-century of televised racial savagery. Here they had a chance to vote for the guy who finally brought to justice one of the perpetrators of a notorious act of racial savagery at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963, and they lined up joyfully to do so, and they piled into a ballroom to celebrate.

True, it had been a wonderful confluence of the weird that had gotten them to that point. The Republicans in Alabama nominated Roy Moore, the Gadsden Mall Creeper, who’d been a one-man carnival of fools for years before his creepy predilections became public knowledge. This was a real break for Jones and the Democrats. When the race finally was called in his favor, the room detonated in unabashed happiness. Just walking around, I was hugged by at least five strangers.

Since then, Jones has been as resolute in the Senate as he was in that federal courthouse, when he made sure Bobby Frank Cherry would never leave federal prison. He voted to convict the president* on the Articles of Impeachment brought by the House, and that surprised a lot of people who shouldn’t have been surprised, because a guy who faced down the Klan in Alabama wasn’t going to back down to Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. Jones is up for re-election this fall, and his re-election is a long shot, and, according to Politico at any rate, the Democratic establishment is keeping a white flag handy.

The two leading Senate Democratic campaign groups reserved nearly $100 million for the fall in half a dozen states with Republican incumbents. But so far they have put down nothing to protect their most vulnerable incumbent and aren’t yet formally committing to spend big dollars for him…

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s primary job is to defend incumbent senators. And Senate Majority PAC is aligned with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Democratic leader. So it’s notable that, as of May, neither has fully committed to Jones’s uphill race…“The polling does not show enough separation there to justify giving up on it. But it also doesn’t necessarily show that you’ve got to put money in right now,” said one Democratic senator. “Amongst the base, there is tremendous enthusiasm for Doug.”

It is true that Jones doesn’t have an opponent yet, and that he’s got a tidy $8 million in the bank for his campaign. But having the party folks in Washington expressing even this much timidity is thoroughly lousy politics. Doug Jones should be a priority. Keeping Jefferson Beauregard Sessions out of the Senate should be a priority. (Sessions is favored to beat former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in the July Republican runoff.) Making those people in that ballroom happy again should be a priority. They want it more than most people and deserve it more than anyone, because, in Alabama, it was paid for in blood.

Respond to the post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

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Internal Chinese report warns country faces biggest backlash since Tiananmen Square

If you were wondering why China has been pushing out so much anti-U.S. propaganda lately, here’s your answer. An internal report compiled by a think tank connected to China’s intelligence service concludes the coronavirus is creating the biggest anti-China backlash since 1989:

The report, presented early last month by the Ministry of State Security to top Beijing leaders including President Xi Jinping, concluded that global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the sources said.

As a result, Beijing faces a wave of anti-China sentiment led by the United States in the aftermath of the pandemic and needs to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for armed confrontation between the two global powers, according to people familiar with the report’s content, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

The report was drawn up by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, China’s top intelligence body.

China has reacted strongly to any suggestion that it could be held accountable for the damage caused by the coronavirus. Last week a Chinese ambassador made threats of a boycott after Australia recommended an investigation into the origins of the virus:

China has accused Australia of parroting the United States in its call for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization to determine the origins of COVID-19 and how the world responded to the emerging pandemic.

Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye used an Australian newspaper interview this week to warn that pursuing an inquiry could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia as well as of sales of major exports including beef and wine…

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attacked China’s coercion and urged U.S. partner countries to also demand transparency and answers.

“I saw some comments from the Chinese foreign ministry talking about coercive activity with respect to Australia, who had the temerity to ask for an investigation. Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” Pompeo told reporters in Washington.

There are probably lots of reasons China doesn’t want the world looking into the origin of the virus and the details of its response. Jazz wrote about one of those earlier today, i.e. China spent the early weeks of the outbreak downplaying the severity of the virus while simultaneously buying up the world’s supply of PPE and other medical supplies.

For the moment China continues it’s two-track approach to the world response. On the one hand it is issuing diplomatically worded pleas for for international cooperation. On the other hand it is openly lying about the origin of the virus, threatening those who push back on the lies and also openly mocking other nations. The most recent example of the mockery approach is this video which China’s Xinhua state media put out last week. The full clip is here. It was not only shared by state media but by China’s Embassy in Paris: