It’s always worse than you think… Fun with Daddy’s car… Give us Liberty AND give us Death… The past is a different country… Tweet not for whom the bell trolls… Granny’s World (under construction).

 

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk join the satellite space race | Financial ...

Elon Musk ‘built by aliens’ shock. (Seen here with Cap’n Lucky Pick’n’mix aboard the Starship Free Enterprise,)

 

It’s always worse than you think

“Our data is (sic!) also trusted and used by the UK Government, Johns Hopkins CSSE, the Government of Thailand, the Government of Vietnam, the Government of Pakistan, Financial Times, The New York Times, Business Insider, BBC, and many others.”

The BogPo has relied for months on Covid data from the Worldometers website, which is presented clearly in realtime with simple graphs and updated fully at midnight, GMT, with a link back to the previous day’s numbers. Thus one can easily see when new cases in, say, the USA have topped 70 thousand in one day, and where every country’s place is in the league table of infections. (Sadly, the UK has slipped down to 12th place and may be about to lose its Number Three spot in the global death tolls.)

Clicking on a country, you can drill down further into the data, for instance see the headline numbers broken down by state or other administrative region; and there’s an alphabetical list of over 200 countries with links directly to their official sources, from where the numbers are derived. It’s all very impressive.

“Worldometers is cited as a source in over 10,000 published books and in more than 6,000 professional journal articles and was voted as one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world.”

But apparently that’s not good enough for The Guardian‘s opinion writers and columnists, or those of the Washington Post, and of many other publications and media outlets who – although they usually claim to be reliant on Johns Hopkins university’s published figures, which in turn are apparently derived from Worldometers, are invariably running between three and five thousand cases and many hundreds of deaths behind the curve, regardless of the time of the published dateline.

For some reason known only to himself, lockdownitis probably, your Old Uncle finds himself becoming infuriated when, for instance, a splash headline records that the numbers have just passed some significant milestone, another million or whatever, and claims that it has some political significance, when according to the Worldometers’ site it did so three days earlier, AND I KNEW ABOUT IT!

Or when an MSNBC host criticizing the Trump administration’s pathetic response to the coronavirus, tells us it has led to ‘130 thousand American deaths’, when the Worldometers number at that moment is running at a rather more shocking 142 thousand.

It somehow seems important to get these things right, Lord knows why.

4 Aug: Guardian ‘update’ – “US cases hit 4.7 million”. Worldometers table: USA 4,862,513.

 

Fun with Daddy’s car…

“Most cars weigh between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds (1,100 to 1,360 kilograms), but many will float for a period of time if they’re in as little as 12 inches (30 cm) of water. How is that possible? Let’s find out with this at-home activity from AccuWeather….” – website.

 

Give us Liberty AND give us Death

At least 20 thousand Germans. supposedly the most disciplined and serious people in Europe, marched through Berlin at the weekend to protest at the federal Government’s coronavirus measures, designed for their own protection. Their placards demanded freedom from tyranny.

The organizers, none of whom so far as we know was President Trump, insisted that 1.2 million had turned out, while 133 were arrested as pockets of sporadic violence broke out against the police, who were trying in vain to enforce masking and social distancing regulations. The Guardian reported:

“The demonstrators spanned a wide range of interest groups, from left to rightwing extremists, including members of the neo-Nazi NPD party and Reichsbürger or Citizens of the Reich – who reject the legitimacy of the German state – as well as followers of QAnon, the rightwing conspiracy theory group , members of the Querdenken or Lateral Thinkers movement, followers of the anti-Islam protest group Pegida, anti-vaxxers and self-declared esotericists. Some individuals said they were not affiliated to any group.”

Stolid, stable, now peaceable Germany is signing on once again with the crazies.

The perception that the British government has been taken over by rabid Brexiteers who have lost any sense of danger or social and economic responsibiity is enhanced by the latest analysis that the driving force behind Johnson’s nominally Conservative cabinet is a set of principles developed over 20 years ago by a tiny ‘sect’ of pseudo-intellectuals calling itself the Revolutionary Communist Party, whose revolutionary ideas have apparently now come to the fore.

Admittedly, there’s not a lot revolutionary about wanting to grab all the money for yourself and screw everyone else, but perhaps I’ve misunderstood, so we’ll press on.

Former leading members of the party have been receiving odd preferments. Ms Munira Murzi is head of the Downing Street Policy Unit, number two only to Dominic Cummings, who has recently been praised for his self-aggrandizing ideas by the American alt-right-nihilist and well-heeled contrarian, Steve Bannon. Johnson, it’s said, was in thrall to Mirza while Mayor of London, claiming that she is one of the five people who have had most influence on his life – clearly his mother isn’t among them; while the libertarian one-woman awkward squad, Claire Fox has just received a life peerage for doing absolutely fuck-all for the benefit of the nation.

“Despite its name”, writes political journalist Andy Becket in a thought-provoking Guardian Opinion, “most of its stances were not communist or revolutionary but contrarian: it supported free speech for racists, and nuclear power; it attacked environmentalism and the NHS.” RCP alumni hold important posts, write challenging articles in rightwing media, run well-funded thinktanks through which have come other Tory politicians, for instance Michael Gove at the Policy Exchange.

And now, like their own dirty underpants, they smell power.

So don’t look to Number Ten for echoes of Thatcherism; only for wacky ideas re-presenting the Tory party as the exciting home of social paradigm shifters bearing us all away to an unplanned future – somewhat at odds with the notion of, er… conserving anything.

Unlike the crude blend of well-armed dissent in the United States, occupying town halls – driven by dull-witted conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Confederate throwbacks to the Jim Crow era, survivalists, ‘Right-to-lifers’, demented shock-jocks and followers of so-called evangelical christianity, that has nothing whatever to do with the biblical teachings of Christ but argues instead that Trump has been sent directly from God to redeem them.

These boobies have taken to their hearts, beliefs in alien visitations, the Zionist program (mainly involving poor George Soros, who only ever tries to do good) for world domination and the ‘blood libel’, imagining that Jews, rather than Trump’s border Nazis, are stealing babies for sacrificial purposes, and mixed them with notions of Satanic possession, Democrat party cannibal pedophilia rings, the evils of vaccination and modern science, the approaching ice-age, the Rapture and God-knows what-else.

The obtuse contrarianism of their attitudes is being pointed up by their violent support of 2nd-amendment gun rights, that they fear losing more than life itself. The ‘right to bear arms’ was aimed squarely at resisting the power of an overweening government royally imposed from England. Trump, as overweening a royal personality as you can get, a man who believes he has the right to interfere in any part of the national life that momentarily diispleases him, or for electoral advantage, is busily establishing an autocracy deploying irregular forces on American streets to suppress dissent – and they love it!

Trump has given them something to live for.

Just as long as you don’t try to force them to take precautions against a pandemic many still believe is a hoax. In that case they will threaten to lynch you.

Yet they refuse to confront the real enemy staring them in the face: gangster capitalism, that has wiped out all hopes of economic progress for the vast majority, and is taking away the social supports and healthcare apparatus – however little – they depend on.

Your old Uncle is increasingly convinced that a kind of millennarian anarchy is taking hold, reminiscent of the many loony-fruit little tribal groups that sprang up at the end of the 19th century, especially in the world of the Arts; but magnified by social media. He’s been casting about online for evidence of earlier groups popping up, similarly attached to nutty ideas, defying both authority and orthodoxy in times of plague or famine. He feels sure they existed, but Google Search holds on to their secrets for now.

You’d think we’d be over that, but the Age of Enlightenment came under impossible pressure after the technological obscenities of the first and second world wars, the trauma of the nuclear standoff – humanity’s PTSD. With a newer, faster generation of nuclear weapons-lite that military men are reportedly contemplating as being more usable and a little less existentially threatening to the entire planet, the clock is standing at just 110 seconds to midnight.

If the nukes don’t getcha, the climate crisis is really hotting up. The odds that, even without an El Niño, 2020 will be the hottest year on record (since 2018) are stacking up as vast swathes of north America, the Middle East and northern India are posting temperatures many experts are telling us are not survivable, although so far they observably are, just about, for most people caught in them.

Wildly anomalous temperatures too have come to the Arctic; vast areas are burning again, including the Brazilian rainforest – while Australia is approaching its Spring season, two months away, with the risk that uncontrollable wildfires might once again kill another three billion members of non-human species that cannot escape. While the IPCC and the media continue to prate about holding the line below 1.5 degrees celsius, we’re already well past that, post-1750. Three degrees is perfectly attainable within the next two or three years.

As we are asked to breathe an atmosphere containing a higher concentration of CO2 than the world has known since before Mankind divagated from the apes, and since we know that high concentration of CO2 does cause cognitive decline, it’s no wonder the human mind and society are rapidly disintegrating.

As TS Eliot put it, we can only take so much reality.

 

The past is a different country

A tailpipe to the above, as an editor of History books I once had some dealings with a founder member of the RCP, prof. Frank Furedi. The editor of History Today, he’d pulled together 50 past articles for an omnibus to celebrate the half-centenary of the magazine. One of them intrigued me: I forget the author, it may have been AJP Taylor. It argued that the Nazis had supported the Zionist movement and even financed the building of factories in Palestine, to encourage Jews to emigrate from Germany.

Years later, poor old Ken Livingston was booted out of the Labour party for repeating this dreadful heresy.

 

“Russia has said the 33 – claimed to be members of the shadowy Wagner mercenary group – were only transiting via Belarus en route to Istanbul. And Russia insists they had no mission to interfere in the Belarus presidential election.”

Obviously on their way to Specsavers….

 

Tweet not for whom the bell trolls

Meanwhile, the Orange Nightmare has tweeted that one of his top “as seen on TV” medical advisors, Dr Deborah Birx, universally known as ‘scarf lady’, is “pathetic”, appeasing the Democrat party’s response to his failed leadership on coronavirus, after she warned that deaths could rise to 300 thousand by December unless people took a more responsible attitude.

Well, she is pathetic. Why doesn’t she just tell the tottering old tyrant where to stick his fucking job? It would do her no harm at all, ratings-wise. In the meantime, another of his top cabinet people has tested positive, I forget which – Acting National Security Advisor? Whatever. Take some hydroxy, you’ll be fine.

Tweet not for whom the bell trolls, Mad King Donald. It trolls for thee.

 

Testing times

A family in Texas who took their young son for a test at a private drive-in facility after he started displaying possible symptoms of Covid-19 found that their insurance company had been billed $175 for the test and $1,784 for a doctor to check his temperature in the emergency room. When they examined the health facility’s terms they found they had been lucky: the upper limit for charging for testing had been set at $100 thousand. – Washington Post.

Mr Geoff Pugh, of Edmonton, North London, was “flabbergasted” to receive by post, a £90 parking fine, that he had incurred while queuing for 20 minutes with his family for a test in a local shopping center car park. The parking contractor explained apologetically that no-one had told them the area was being used for Covid testing that day.

 

The madness….

Having threatened on grounds of data security to shutdown the Chinese-owned TikTok web platform beloved of millions of young Americans, massively depressing the share price, Trump instead decided to shakedown Microsoft to buyout the US-registered company. With negotiations at an advanced stage, he has tweeted out that he expects the US Treasury to get a substantial – but illegal – cut of the purchase price in order to speed regulatory approval.

He wanted credit, he said, for having thought of the idea. We have yet to hear what he imagines China is going to do with the personal data of millions of Taylor Swift fans.

 

Granny’s World

Middle East: temperatures during the past week topped 53C, 128F in Iraq and Kuwait. In Yemen, however, heavy rain has continued to cause devastation. 111.8 mm of rain fell in Hodeidah governorate in 24 hours to 4 Aug. The heavy rain has caused flooding, buildings to collapse and dam failure. At least 20 fatalities have been reported in the last few days as a result. (Floodlist)

Afghanistan: “As many as 14 people died and 6 more injured in flash flooding after heavy rain in Nangarhar province, 02 Aug. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. Flooding was also reported in Parwan Province where homes and roads were damaged or destroyed in areas of the provincial capital, Charikar.” (Floodlist)

India: “Flooding in the state of Uttar Pradesh has worsened over the last few days, with over 300 villages affected. Heavy monsoon rainfall caused rivers to rise in mid July. Further heavy rain has fallen in river catchments since then, in particular in Nepal. As of 3 Aug. the Ghagra, Rapti and Ganges rivers were flowing above severe flood alert levels in 5 locations.” (Floodlist)

Sudan: “Floods have left at least 5 people dead and over 2,300 homes damaged or destroyed.” In Blue Nile province a dam gave way, destroying 1200 homes. “Flooding and heavy rainfall damaged around 1000 houses in the capital Khartoum and surrounding areas.” (Floodlist)

“There’s also been heavy flooding in North Darfur after 125mm of rain fell in 8 hours on 1 Aug. Dozens of homes have been damaged or severely destroyed in areas around Al-Laite.”

South Korea: “14 people have been killed and more than 1,000 forced from their homes as 42 consecutive days of rain, South Korea’s longest monsoon in seven years, triggered floods and landslides. The victims included 3 New Zealanders from the same family, who were found dead on 3 Aug. after a landslide hit holiday cottages in Gapyeong county, north-east of the city.” (Guardian)

Vietnam: as the world’s poster child for coronavirus response starts to struggle with a fresh outbreak originating in Danang, Floodlist reports, at least 2 people have died in flash flooding after heavy rainfall brought on by Tropical Storm Sinlaku.

“Meanwhile hundreds of homes have been flooded as the storm dumped heavy rainfall making its way over Laos and Thailand. The storm is expected to move towards Myanmar, where heavy monsoon rainfall has (already) affected thousands of people in recent days.”

USA: temperatures in California during the week hit 53C, 128F in Death Valley. Major wildfires have broken out. The Apple Fire was straddling Riverside and San Bernardino counties near Los Angeles, Sunday and consumed more than 23 sq miles of dry brush and timber, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (AccuWeather) “In a Sunday evening update, officials said there were 2,266 personnel, 29 hand-crews, 9 helicopters, 260 engines and 11 water tenders fighting the fire. (CNN) 8,000 people are on evacuation watch.

“Isaias lashed the Bahamas as a Category 1 hurricane, making landfall around midday 01 Aug., before it approaches the Florida coast on Sunday and then eyes the southeastern U.S. coast early in the week.” AccuWeather. Up to 10-in rain can be expected.

Update: from New York Times, 5 Aug: “At least 2 people were killed after a tornado spawned by the tropical storm touched down in Bertie County, N.C. At least 12 people were hospitalized, and 3 were unaccounted for. In New York, a person was killed after a tree fell on a vehicle in Queens.” 3 million experienced power outages.

Behind Isaias, which had strengthened again to a Cat 1 hurricane before making landfall, 2 more tropical waves out of Africa are being given a small chance of developing. “The next names on the list of tropical storms for 2020 in the Atlantic are Josephine and Kyle.”

Europe: As the heatwave recedes southwards after baking Paris at 38C, 100F during the past week, Switzerland, southern Germany, western Austria and northern Italy can expect supercell storms, with severe winds, tornadoes, large hail and torrential/excessive rainfall with flash floods. (Severe-weather.eu)

The Pumpkin – Issue 134: Me, me, me. It’s all about tragic little me… Breakdown… The madness… Following the money… Megacity… Granny’s World – bumper edition.

QotW

“Russia used to be a thing called the Soviet Union. Because of Afghanistan, they went bankrupt, they became Russia… The last thing that Russia wants to do is get too involved in Afghanistan, they tried that once and it didn’t work out.”

– Donald Trump, explaining to Axios why he refuses to criticize Mr Putin for paying bounty money to the Taliban to kill US soldiers. The intelligence reports, he said, were “fake news”.

 

Insert amusing photo with satirical caption here?…Ed.

“He’s got this high approval rating. So why don’t I have a high approval rating with respect – and the administration – with respect to the virus? We should have it very high. So it sort of is curious, a man works for us, with us, very closely, Dr Fauci and Dr [Deborah] Birx also, very highly thought of – and yet, they’re highly thought of, but nobody likes me? It can only be my personality, that’s all!”

Me, me, me. It’s all about tragic little me.

Thus the bizarre man-child struggling to be the president of the United States, a person with zero education, competence, curiosity or intellect, wondering aloud why Fauci, a world-renowned epidemiologist with decades of experience, has a higher public trust rating on coronavirus than a six-times bankrupt property developer and ex-third-rate TV show host who has been described by his own officials as a “moron” who believes you can cure disease by injecting disinfectant.

Damn right it’s his personality. He’s pathetic.

On the day deaths from a pandemic disease in America passed the 150 thousand mark, another milestone in his disastrous presidency, with 4.5 million accrued cases, many of whom will add to the death toll in due course, he has nothing whatever to say to the nation, no message of sympathy or regret, no message of positivity. He can only worry about his fucking ratings while lying once again that he has a great plan that will be revealed shortly.

There is no plan. He has abandoned you and is retreating into a world of self-pity and fear.

What Hell is this, that we’ve all been pitched into, when a whiny little bitch, a three-year-old toddler trapped in the lumbering corpse of a 74-year-old burgers-and-Adderall addict, suddenly and for no good reason becomes the most powerful individual on the planet? One whose clinical narcissism, whose me-worship blinds him totally to any reality beyond his own introspective world of ignorance and sloth?

At a disastrous daily press briefing yesterday, after another weekend on the golf course, when questioned about his continuing to promote an anti-malarial drug that he claims to have successfully trialled as both a preventative and a cure for the virus – it’s not an antiviral – when every respectable clinical trial of the drug has proved it has no effect whatsoever on Covid-19 outcomes, he lied:

“Many doctors think it is extremely successful, the hydroxychloroquine. Some people don’t.”

“Some people” are actually the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration – not to mention their equivalents and researchers in every developed nation in the Western world where mass trials have been carried out – on thousands of patients, not on one self-obsessed hypochondriac who worries he’s not getting enough attention.

“Many doctors” were a bunch of half a dozen bogus quacks who dressed in white coats and released a disinformation video on Instagram starring “Dr” Stella Immanuel, an evangelical preacher in her spare time, who believes that drug companies have access to alien DNA, that vaccines are being developed to prevent people from practising religion and that dreaming about having sex with demons gives women ovarian cysts.

She also claims to have cured “350” Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine and zinc. The Qanon people are loving it.

A woman clearly as mentally disturbed as he is, Trump described Immanuel as “spectacular”, an “important voice”, immediately contradicting himself in his trademark fashion, “but I know nothing about her”, before cutting off any further questions from journalists and stomping angrily out of the room.

If you want to see the person the President thinks is a “spectacular” medical person and an “important voice” in the management of a national crisis, so that he is furious that her video he is promoting has even been taken down by Facebook, here’s CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BUyUuh6A94

God help us all.

(Reporting: Guardian; Daily Beast)

 

Breakdown

On 30 July, figures came out showing that on an annualized basis, the US economy has shrunk by 32.9 per cent because of business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“On July 31, approximately 25 million people across the U.S. will stop receiving weekly $600 federal unemployment checks. Under new proposals by Senate Republicans, those benefits would be cut by 43% and replaced with a reduced weekly payment of $200.”

But the proposals haven’t been agreed. The $3 trillion relief bill passed by the House ten weeks ago has been sitting on the desk of Senate leader ‘Moscow’ Mitch McConnell, the most corrupt and obstructive member of Congress, who is refusing even to meet with leading Democrats to discuss it.

A group of hardline Republicans has apparently decided to destroy the country, leaving them in perpetual power and with unbridled opportunities to enrich themselves. Landlords have already begun sharpening their quills, giving tenants their 30-days’ notice, as the emergency provision banning landlords from evicting tenants will also expire in two days.

With more than 30 million people unemployed and signing-on at the rate of 1.5 million more a week, 80% of the population just one $400 emergency bill away from broke, tens of thousands overextended on mortgages and car loans, companies floating on a bubble of debt, an extraordinary crisis is looming. Forbes reports:

“An analysis from global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross estimates that more than 40% of renter households in the U.S. are going to experience rental shortfall during the Covid-19 crisis with just under 12 million facing eviction over the next four months alone. Around 17 million are likely to be impacted throughout the pandemic.”

17 million men, women and children thrown out in the street, winter coming, Coronavirus raging unchecked – heavily armed Department of Homeland Security goon squads roaming the cities on an unaccountable mission to protect Confederate statues and defend the Republic against all those millions of BLM “anarchists”.

State of emergency. Crackdown by DHS goonshow. Sorry folks, no elections. Too dangerous.

President for Life.

The madness…

Faced with disastrous economic figures, a 33% contraction in the economy, rising unemployment, bankruptcies, homelessness – Trump has tweeted already that the election is rigged and the most dishonest in history, because of mail-in ballots – there being no evidence whatever that mail-in ballots, that he uses himself, lead to fraud; although they can help to defeat Republican candidates merely by increasing the numbers of citizens who aren’t prevented from voting.

Meanwhile his placeman as director of the US postal service, Louis DeJoy, has been working hard to ensure that mail gets delayed through cutting overtime pay for mailmen. (Washington Post)

And Trump further went on to suggest that the election might be postponed until it was safe to hold it.

i.e. after the statute of limitations has run out on his crimes?

Dear Vlad….

Trump has unilaterally ordered the withdrawal of 11,600 US troops permanently stationed in Germany.

Acting Defense Secretary, Alex Esper denied that the decision was motivated by Trump’s frequently expressed desire to teach Berlin a lesson for not spending enough on defense. The Pentagon put out a statement to say it was to increase the flexibility of troop deployments in Europe to deter Russian aggression.

Minutes later, The Guardian reports, the president told journalists at the White House he had ordered the troop withdrawal because Berlin was being “delinquent” by not spending enough on defense. “We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills.”

It’s a week since Trump held a conversation by phone with Vladimir Putin, which at his insistence was not witnessed by any White House, Intelligence or Pentagon officials.

“Vladimir, I need a favor, though….”

And the madness of Mike Pompeo….

“Senator Jeanne Shaheen asked him whether the impact (of the troop withdrawal) on relations with Germany had been taken into account, to which Pompeo replied: “This is personal for me. I fought on the border of East Germany when I was a young soldier, I was stationed there.”

“Pompeo was stationed in West Germany as an army lieutenant in the late eighties. There was no fighting there.” (Guardian)

 

Gradually, the disgusting little bugs may begin to emerge shily from the woodwork.

Following the money

The former prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak has been convicted of money laundering, abuse of power and other charges in connection with the $6 billion 1MBD sovereign wealth fund scam, $10 million having allegedly found its way into his private bank accounts to help pay for a somewhat luxurious lifestyle of cars, homes, yachts, etc., the sorts of things normally denied to dutiful career politicians.

Razak, still a powerful political figure, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined nearly $50 million.

The unresolved question still remains, of where one of his suspected accomplices, the Malaysian-Chinese playboy financier known as Jho Low, is hiding from an Interpol arrest warrant; and what if anything his exile probably in Beijing might have had to do with China’s arrest on bogus corruption charges in 2019 of the president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, who convenently pleaded guilty to accepting over $2 million in bribes.

Oh, and another unresolved question. How exactly did $100 thousand linked to Jho Low (real name Low Taek Jho) end up in Donald Trump’s Victory 2020 PAC in 2017, and why? Because as any fule kno’, it’s illegal to accept foreign donations either directly or indirectly for electoral purposes. A large chunk of the money was then channeled onward to the RNC.

According to reports, the money may have been laundered through a US investment company, LNS Capital, owned by Republican donor Larry Davis, who denies having received a deposit of $2 million from Mr Low. Mr Low in turn has managed to smuggle out an email from wherever he is, also denying any such association. (Wall Street Journal; Independent)

In 2018, however, the New York Times published a major report on the multifarious activities of a Californian financier and Republican party fundraiser, convicted in 2009 of a New York bribery misdemeanor over which he’d turned state’s evidence for a lesser sentence, Elliott Broidy.

Mr Broidy formerly led a complex existence in the background of the Trump transition, as a ‘mover and shaker’ lobbying on behalf of members of some of the filthiest regimes on earth and charging them hefty sums for access to the new President. He is said to have raised over $100 million for the Republican cause.

It is entirely beyond the intellectual scope of The Pumpkin to begin to comprehend all the interlocking shitty deals this unfortunate-looking individual has denied being involved in, including the attempt by Saudi Barbaria and the United Arab Emirates to shakedown Qatar in order to bail out the President’s near-bankrupt son-in-law, Jared Kushner; following which Broidy tried to sue the Qatari government for hacking his emails. A link to the Times article is below. Here is a flavor:

“Through the transition and the early days of the administration, Mr. Broidy entertained discussions about using his newfound connections in Washington to help an array of foreign clients. After being approached by a lawyer working with Russian executives who were under sanctions, Mr. Broidy devised a plan to try to lift the sanctions in exchange for $11 million — a deal that ultimately was not pursued.

“Separately, Mr. Broidy discussed helping to end a Justice Department investigation into a flamboyant Malaysian financier who was suspected of embezzling billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund. The financier, Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, transferred $6 million to the law firm of Mr. Broidy’s wife, Ms. Rosenzweig, to finance the effort…”

Oh, did we mention Mr Low before? And his suspected embezzlement of $billions of Malaysian government money?

A largely ignored figure in the tangled story of Trump’s grubby connections, Mr Broidy is also mentioned in dispatches as someone who, under the guidance of Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model, Shera Bechard, under a non-disclosure agreement ensuring her silence over an affair that ended with an abortion – and allegations of violence. Few people are convinced the affair was with Broidy, as he claims. Just look at him. Anyway, he wasn’t running for election and keen to reassure the Pro-Lifers.

Little has been heard of any recent Justice Department activity in relation to Broidy’s dealings with a wanted fugitive, but the conclusion of the trial of Mr Razak might reawaken interest. The Straits Times reported in 2018 that Broidy had attempted to shake down Mr Low for the astonishing sum of $72 million in exchange for somehow making the FBI’s interest in him go away. That $100 thousand begins to look like chickenfeed.

Gradually, the disgusting little bugs may begin to emerge shily from the woodwork.

Nor can The Pumpkin even begin to explain the involvement of US bankers, Goldman Sachs in the 1MDB scandal, for which they recently agreed to pay a $2 billion fine and fire a lot of people. He throws his hands up in the air at the whole farrago, frankly. Someone must be able to join the dots, it’s totally beyond me.

http://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/us/politics/elliott-broidy-trump.htmlwww.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/us/politics/elliott-broidy-trump.html

http://www.thedailybeast.com/jho-low-doj-probes-if-1mdb-playboy-fugitive-donated-to-trump-re-election-fund

 

Megacity

Your Uncle B. has bogld before about his years of confusion over the word ‘miniseries’. He had no idea what it meant. It sounded faintly religious, in an administrative sort of way. Eventually the penny dropped: there was a missing hyphen.

He just wanted then to drop by for a brief discussion of ‘megacity’, but I told him to go away and not to bother me with trifles.

And he said, you’re showing an unfortunate tendency to megacity, Mr Pumpkin.

Should I have the heart to tell him?

 

Granny’s World – bumper edition

From Floodlist:

Pakistan: “Karachi’s drainage systems were overwhelmed and several parts of the city and surrounding areas were flooded (with garbage). Power lines were downed and buildings damaged or destroyed. At least 10 people died as a result of either electrocution or structural collapse.” 3 people died and others injured after a landslide in Punjab.

Myanmar: Torrential rain, Irrawaddy river breaking its banks, floods, 20 thousand threatened, hundreds evacuated.

Mexico: 2 people have died and 6 are missing after heavy rain from remnant hurricane Hanna caused severe flooding in Monterrey province. Servicio Meteorológico Nacional reported up to 533mm of rain fell locally in 24 hours to 27 July. Up to 400 mm fell as Hanna made landfall on the Texas coast near Corpus Christi, causing local flooding.

Japan: “More torrential rain has caused flooding and mudslides following the disaster in southern prefectures that left over 50 dead or missing earlier this month. Heavy rain has been falling in northern area of the country since 27 July. Several locations in Yamagata recorded more than 200mm of rain in 24 hours on 28 July.” The Mogami River broke its banks, flooding houses and roads, while over 500 people have been cut off by landslides.

Niger: at least 9 people have died in “widespread floods triggered by heavy rains affecting parts of Niger and (neighboring) Mali since late June, resulting in casualties and damage” with over 2 thousand properties destroyed and losses of livestock. Up to a quarter of a million people are potentially affected in the region as rivers reach flood stage.

Korea: “At least 2 people have died in South Korea in the third deadly flood event in the country this month. Parts of Daejeon recorded almost 200 mm of rain in 24 hours to 30 July, with 80 mm falling in just 1 hour (Met agency). Further heavy rainfall is expected over the coming 24 hours.”

AccuWeather reports:

Iraq: The week got off to a blazing start in Baghdad, with a temperature reading of 50.6 °C (123.1 °F) on Monday. But on Tuesday, the temperature climbed even higher. According to preliminary reports from the area, the temperature reached 51.7 °C (125 °F) in the afternoon, surpassing the all-time record high temperature of 51.2 °C (124 °F) for the city. Similar heat was felt across the Middle East with temperatures in the upper 40s °C (115-120°F) across the region on Monday and many areas reaching above 50 °C (122 °F) on Tuesday.

The Washington Post reports that the temperature in Karbala, Iraq on Tuesday reached 52.4 °C (126.3 °F), while Lebanon and other countries across the region were also breaking records.

USA: Surprise, “A wide swath of the central United States from Nebraska and Kansas, to Kentucky and Tennessee, will likely encounter flash flooding issues into the weekend. Thunderstorms may unleash more rain than typically falls during an entire month as a stalled out weather pattern brings repeated downpours to the nation’s midsection.”

Temperatures as high as 107 °F, 41.6 °C, have been plaguing the Pacific Northwest, challenging several records.

And from BBC Weather:

“US weather forecasters have issued warnings of a potentially life-threatening heat wave over the weekend in south-western areas of the country. The National Weather Service said temperatures could reach 50 °C (122 °F) in southern California on Saturday.”

UK: Temperatures around the London area came close to the hottest day recorded in Britain, 37.8 °C (100 °F) at Heathrow, on 31 July. Here in Boglington however a promising morning clouded over and turned into a normal, muggy western British summer day.

Severe-weather.eu has:

Leeward Islands: “Tropical Cyclone Nine will produce heavy rains and potentially life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides this week across the northern Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Haiti/Dominican Republic.” Still strengthening, as Tropical Storm or even Hurricane Isaias the system could bring very heavy rain and strong winds to Florida at the weekend.

Update: The Mail reports, Isaias intensified to a Cat 1 hurricane over the Bahamas on 30 July, and is on a forecast track to run up the East Coast past Florida with a possible impact on New York early next week.

Europe: Much of western Europe is under a heatwave going into the weekend, temperatures reaching 42 °C, 98 °F in France and up to 33 °C in the UK. where 31 July is forecast to be the hottest day of the year, so far! (But it’s not set to last.) It’ll have to go some, your Old Granny recorded 33.9 °C in the shade in her front garden back in April (Good Friday). Hasn’t been beaten since.

Slovenia: Very hot weather over central Europe “resulted in a violent supercell storm over central Slovenia in the early evening of July 29th. A narrow swath from towns Vodice to Domžale was severely hit by hailstones up to around 10 cm in diameter.” Roofs and cars were damaged.

Arctic: A deep cyclone is ongoing in the Beaufort Sea this week. With its central pressure below 970 mbar, it’s the 2nd lowest-pressure Arctic storm ever measured. The very large storm formed over central and eastern Siberia on Sunday before tracking out to sea. It’s expected to contribute to further shrinking of the already record low Arctic sea-ice extent.

Guardian Green Light has:

Argentina: “A raging fire described as ‘completely out of control’ is threatening one of South America’s major wetland ecosystems.” More than 4 thousand separate fires have been recorded throughout the the Paraná River basin near the city of Rosario since June. “Giant plumes of smoke from the fires raging since February have at times covered the streets of Rosario and other places along the Paraná with a layer of ash from scorched plants and animals. The air in Rosario has been unbreathable for weeks at a time.”

The Watchers reports:

Australia: …”strong winds, heavy rainfall, flooding, and damaging surf (affected) parts of New South Wales over the weekend.” (26, 27 July) Volunteers responded to more than 2,200 emergency calls, rescuing stranded motorists and animals from floodwaters. The storm left about 15 thousand properties without power.

India: The city of Mumbai (Bombay) has recorded almost 1.5 meters of rain during the month of July. Only one day was without any, and it’s forecast to carry on into August. The death toll in floods in Bangladesh has reached 119.

Saudi Barbaria: heavy rain and flash flooding brought traffic to a halt in Taif City, Mecca, as the Covid-19-reduced Hajj gets underway.

Tunnel….

Countricide: A quarter of Britain’s native mammals – 20 species – are “at imminent risk of extinction”, according to a new UK Redbook published by the Mammal Society. Populations of the UK’s most important species have plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970, making Britain one of the most wildlife-depleted countries in the world. (Guardian Green Light)

AI: A sobering tailpipe, the following very well-researched article in The Atlantic this month provides a terrifying glimpse into our dystopian future – mainly because it’s here now:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/china-ai-surveillance/614197/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20200729&silverid-ref=NjYyNzM0MTYxMTE5S0

Grim Reaper

A co-chairman of ‘Black Voices for Trump’ and former candidate to run for president, Pizza company boss Herman Cain, who loyally refused to wear a mask at Trump’s abortive rally in Tulsa, Okahoma, last month, has died from Covid-19.

No, don’t say it.

 

Spanish practices… V. interesting… Capital show… Defending modern medical science… Granny’s World…

A group of friends sit together – without wearing masks – though spaces were left between rows of seats at the Oval.

Portrait of five fuckwits: 0 degrees of separation, Kennington Oval, 26 July.

QotW

“Trump’s America is many things. Even I struggle to express the extent of the calamity in words by now. It’s a place where mass death is an everyday affair. Trump’s America is a plague state, wracked by illness and disease. Trump’s America is an economic trainwreck. It’s a society whose social bonds have been blown apart by hate and brutality and selfishness. It’s a budding police state — those “federal agents” are coming to your streets. It’s a collapsing nation — one imploding into authoritarianism, poverty, disease, and death.

“Heed the warning this time, because this is the last time. The last chance.” – Umar Haique: link to: eand.co/do-americans-get-that-trump-is-instituting-martial-law-86362b107b1c

 

Spanish practices

Last Saturday night, with only four hours’ notice, word began to get around the extended if temporary British diaspora – holidaymakers – in Spain, our most popular holiday destination. Return to the UK, the messages were saying, and you’ll have to quarantine yourselves and the kids at home for an extra fortnight. It’ll be great!

“Oh, but some of us are expected back at work and have things arranged”, the cry went up. “No matter”, quoth the Raaab, “it’s for your own good. See how kind to you we are.”

The coronavirus was erupting again across the peninsula. Everyone was taken completely by surprise, having felt, they said, safer in Spain than in Britain.

It had been only three weeks since Her Majesty’s government had given the green light to locked-down Brits to head for the sun, sex and sangria resorts of Alicante, Torremolinos; Mallorca and Ibiza. Many had already had flights and hotels booked since the winter, that they had begun to imagine might never happen, that they would have to join the exhausting battle for grudging refunds. Permission to cut loose was irresistible. And now this.

Many visitors were not those terrors of the all-night bars and the sweltering Happy Hour All-Day strips, the notorious horde of drunken British eighteen-somethings dancing on cars and losing their virginities in the puke-filled gutters. They were ordinary, complicated families yearning to breathe free, people able for the first time since March to visit their retired old parents who’d emigrated to Spain to die in the 40 deg. C sunshine.

Now was their chance. Infection rates in both countries were assuredly falling, falling; an air corridor had been created by mutual negotiation. In both countries, the hotels, the airports, the budget airlines were starved of revenue. Tapas bars and resort hotels were dying. Cheap, ubiquitous Ryanair had carried 42 million passengers in the first half of last year, in plague-ridden 2020 numbers had fallen below 500 thousand, profits had slumped to a €186 million loss. Everyone was raring to go.

The minister in charge of air corridors, Conservative Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, had taken himself at his word. That’s how useless he is. He probably plays air guitar too. The sudden, urgent quarantine regulation so poorly promulgated on a Saturday night that few arriving at airports for their home flights even knew about it, caught him on the hop too, holidaying with his family in Spain. Unkind Comment posters have suggested his civil servants must really hate him, to play a trick like that. They probably do.

Experts in employment law went on TV to make everything clear: it was a gray area. Would employees who had just taken two weeks of their annual, probably only 24 days’ total paid holiday time, have any rights if they had to take another two weeks out, by order of the government? Possibly not. Did the employers have an obligation to pay them, for instance sick pay, let alone a salary? Probably not, unless they were sick. Could they be furloughed? Probably not, if they had already been furloughed and were now expected back. Could they be fired? Possibly they would be, yes. Could they claim benefits? Ha ha, you have to be kidding. With a 25 days’ wait for registration? Maybe, no.

Total fucking chaos, as usual.

I chanced upon a friend today while out walking the dog as the clouds lowered and the rain began to spit. We agreed, nodding sagely across our 2-metre void, that too many people seem to be in denial; to be failing to understand, this is not 2019, nor even 1919, they can’t just carry on as if nothing has happened. We were going nowhere ourselves, and they shouldn’t be going anywhere either. Death stalked the land. What was so much better in Spain that you couldn’t find in the rain, here in Wales? (Drier tomorrow. Pubs due to reopen on Monday…)

The world has changed in ways most people are too preoccupied with getting on to make sense of, except in terms of what they know, which isn’t much nowadays, as nobody seems to be paying attention. It explains the gay abandon with which so many people voted for a party led by a Baris Johnson, a Trump, a Bolsonaro, believing that the chaos surrounding these bumbling figures of distraction was all a circus act, that they must surely one day get serious in defence of sound economics, public wellbeing and the rule of law.

The pandemic has torn away the mask. They don’t know how. All they know is how to leverage from the supposed limitations of their powers and intellects, a crude model of repressive governance centered around themselves and their donors alone.

It was only ever about the validation of immature personalities: once at the top of the mountain, there was no way down. Could we trust the Covid figures, that had allowed the authorities to risk premature reopenings of irreparably damaged economies and avoid at least some of the embarrassment, that could not all be blamed on China or the science? Without a recovery plan?

It seems not. All across the world the virus is punishing the risk-takers, doubling-down on disaster, offering no way back. We need to realize, it ain’t over yet.

We’re in for the long haul. Whatever they tell you, everything is NOT okay!

 

V. interesting

Reading a piece by the doyen of political sketchwriters, John Crace, this morning, I learned that Mr Grant Shapps, the ‘shapless’ Transport Secretary who has had to cut short his Spanish holiday in order to face the wrath of British holidaymakers and the Spanish government, has adopted an extra, spurious initial.

He apparently signs himself Grant ‘V’ Shapps, when he is not using one of his many alter-egos, under which he has registered a number of small businesses – Michael Green being the best known. Yet he has no known second name beginning with V.

Your Uncle B. is now signally alarmed. As we know from the former Trump administration SPAD, the  ‘missing-link’, Sebastian L v. Gorka, at one time a thoroughly discreditable White House advisor on global security and all-round thug, the unattached ‘v.’ has a sinister significance. I’m not sure about the L, I think we can discount it. Liar might be one interpretation, but we won’t go there.

No, Gorka’s v. stands for Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian neo-Nazi organization founded by Admiral Horthy in the 1920s, to which Gorka claims he does not belong, despite the evidence that a) he wears their pin-badge, in honour, he says, of his presumably neo-Nazi father, and b) the head of the organization agrees, he’s a member.

So what of Mr Shapps? It’s not the most English of names. Hungarian? Of course, it’s been a habit for 100 years among the American, mainly, literati to adopt free-floating initials, in the ‘Rufus T Firefly’ school of perplexing Marxian humor. Who now can fully identify Dorothy L Sayers, or F Scott Fitzgerald?

There was a novel called V., by Thomas Pynchon (no middle initial), that is no relation to a 2005 dystopian futuristic film called V for Vendetta, from which the now ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask above was taken up as a potent symbol of citizen rebellion and a useful face covering in the age of surveillance capitalism.

Perhaps Shapps’ V. is just a piece of satirical political theatre?

Anyway, I think we should be told.

 

Capital show

An important debate is raging in America.

Black Lives Matter people are demanding that editors should respectfully use a capital B for Black. Some others are arguing that White folks should therefore have a capital W. But that apparently smacks of white supremacy, so….

Someone who is unafraid to reveal her middle name is historian, Nell Irvin Painter. Quoted in the Washington Post, she writes: “One way of remaking race is through spelling — using or not using capital letters. A more potent way, of course, is through behavior.”

Exactly. Behaving like you’re not racist. Which most of us do.

It’s less than 100 days until an election on which the future of the Republic, the global environment and maybe thousands of lives literally depend.

Notice the capital R? See what I did there, Nell?

 

Defending modern medical science

Donald Trump Jr has complained bitterly about having his Twitter account temporarily suspended, after retweeting a claim made by a “medical doctor” that hydroxychloroquine is a cure for Covid-19, which it demonstrably isn’t.

The “medical doctor” cited as an authority by Mr Trump is Dr Stella Immanuel, of Houston, Tx. Buzzfeed records:

“She has often claimed that gynecological problems … are caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by ‘reptilians’ and other aliens.”

Donald Trump Jr is said to be high on a list of potential Republican candidates to run for president in 2024. (Reporting: Guardian) Asked at a press briefing about the doctor in the video, Donald Trump Sr replied: “I thought she was very impressive”.

Although there is no physical resemblance whatever between the elder and the younger Trump, you can see where Moron Jr gets it from.

 

Granny’s World

Welcome back from holiday, Floodlist. I hope it didn’t rain! And that you’re not in quarantine.

We’ll start and finish with the Arctic, because it’s quite important. Arctic News reports, 27 July:

“Arctic sea ice fell by 3.239 million km² in extent in 25 days (i.e. from July 1 to 25, 2020). Melting will likely continue for another two months. If it continues on its current trajectory, the remaining 6.333 million km² of Arctic sea ice could disappear completely within two months’ time.”

To be fair, the legendary Blue Water Event has been a bit of a stalking horse for the Sam Carana collective over the past few years. Will they achieve their nightmare scenario this year? It’s quite a big target, 6.333 milllion km², but you never know.

Yemen: On top of civil war, Covid and cholera, “at least 17 people have lost their lives in recent floods. Meteorological Service reported heavy rain in the country from 22 to 25 July, with several areas seeing more than 50mm in 24 hours.”

Thailand: “Monsoon rain has caused flooding and landslides in northern, central and eastern areas of the country over the last 10 days. Dozens of homes have been damaged, along with roads, bridges and dams.” 1 fatality is reported.

Bangladesh: “Flooding (since the end of June) has inundated over 34,000 km² of land, (a quarter) of the entire country. 3.3 million people have now been affected. More than 90 people have died, including 41 children.” Despite the Covid pandemic, “approximately 56,000 people have been displaced to shelters. (Roads and) thousands of latrines and wells have been damaged or destroyed and 7 districts are out of safe drinking water. Over 1,900 schools have been damaged, leaving 800 thousand children without access to education.”

India: Almost a million people are affected by flooding in Bihar state, where rivers including the Ganges are at severe flood stage. 93 thousand people have been evacuated, and 10 people have died. (Floodlist) India now occupies third place in the coronavirus league table with getting on for 1.5 million cases – still almost a million behind Brazil. (Worldometers)

USA: Hurricane Hanna made landfall 26 July near Corpus Christi in southern Texas, as a Category 1 storm with 90 mph sustained winds. A tidal surge caused damage to coastal fixtures. Tornado warnings were issued and tens of thousands of homes experienced power outages. Some areas have had more than 1 ft of rain. Hanna is now downgraded to a tropical depression and fizzling out over the mountains of northern Mexico. (AccuWeather)

In the Pacific, Category 3 Hurricane Douglas is expected to weaken to a Tropical Depression and to mainly pass by Hawaii, owing to local weather conditions and cooler waters. Significant amounts of rainfall are still expected in some of the islands. (Force-13)

Yakutia, northern Siberia, July 2020.

Russia: “More than 400 people are surrounded by fire in the village of Svatay in the extreme north of Yakutia, with flames reaching as close to the houses as 500-700 metres. Visibility is near zero due to thick smoke, with gusty wind blowing fires stronger and helping them spread.” Villagers … “are building wide strips of mineral soil to prevent the fire from reaching the village.” Three fire tenders have broken down, and: ‘Currently the situation in Svatay is out of control’, local media reports. (Siberian Times)

Arctic: And the heat goes on… Severe-weather.eu writes, “record heat was reported from Svalbard this Saturday, July 25th. The airport in Longyearbyen reported the maximum temperature of +21.7 °C. That is the highest temperature ever recorded at the station, breaking its previous record set in 1979.” Part of Norway, the island of Svalbard is the most northerly permanent settlement in the Arctic region. The average summer high temperature is about 6 °C.

The Pumpkin – Issue 133: Wild swimming… The madness… The game without rules… more Granny’s World more to follow.

 

Donald Trump catches a ball while hosting youth baseball players at the White House on opening day for Major League Baseball, in Washington
“So can Sleepy Joe do this? Many doctors say I have amazing mind over matter. The most, maybe ever, I don’t know…” Etc.

Wild swimming

“He’ll tell you about it, that island was a cesspool. An absolute cesspool.” Donald Trump – former coked-up swinging party partner of Jeffrey “He liked ’em on the younger side” Epstein, speaking in a recovered video of a 2015 Bloomberg interview. He was talking about Epstein’s friend, Prince Andrew the Reluctant, of whom more incriminating photos have come to light.

And what of Ghislaine Maxwell, accused trafficker of 14-year-old girls and madam for the cesspool – Epstein’s private Bahamian island, among other properties?

I haven’t been following it too closely, to be honest. … I just wish her well frankly. I’ve met her numerous times over the years especially since I lived in Palm Beach… I guess they may have lived in Palm Beach, I don’t know (drivel, sniff)… I just wish her well, whatever it is.”

Whatever it is, is:

  • conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
  • enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
  • conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
  • transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and
  • perjury (two counts).

A trifle tendentious on the part of the New York prosecutors, but you get the idea.

Thus, someone called Elie Honig tweets: “I can think of four times when Trump has publicly extended his best wishes to people charged with federal crimes by DOJ: Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort — and now Ghislaine Maxwell.” Three of them, so far, tried and found guilty in New York district courts, and three of them sprung from gaol by Attorney-General, Bill “Screw the Pooch” Barr.

While a Federal prosecutor on Twitter interprets the president’s weird remark, that came in the middle of press questions at a TV briefing on coronavirus, “I wish her well”, as: “Keep your mouth shut and maybe we can fix something for you.”

Other tweeters, however, interpreted a more sinister meaning to the sentence.

(Reporting: BuzzFlash et al)

Postscriptum: Papers from a previous court case involving Maxwell are expected to be released to the media by court order in the next week.

 

The latest musical treat from the immortal Randy Rainbow is out now!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUiDLcp_hIw

 

Dogs in Germany have been trained to detect signs of coronavirus iinfection in humans. Trials have shown a 94% success rate – far better than swab testing, which is only about 70% accurate.

 

The madness….

Since the Fox News interview where he was mocked by Chris Wallace for boasting that he had ‘aced’ a basic test for Alzheimer’s, with ‘really difficult questions’, like “what day is this and in which city are you?” (Help! I don’t live in a city! Ed.), that had amazed many doctors with how smart he was, more than anybody else, and Joe Biden couldn’t pass it, Trump has felt the sting of public ridicule.

Back on the Fox channel, he has insisted on dragging in a senior medical specialist, Prof Mark Siegel from New York University, to agree with him that he is the smartest person ever, nobody ever finished the 10-minute test before, where your score is not a pass-fail, zero-sum game like the rest of Trump’s rotten life,  but an indicator of mental degeneration – and spent some of the time Trumpsplaining earnestly to the good doctor, how the test worked. Who knew? The Guardian takes up the story:

“Trump went on to explain the test, saying that after several questions, the doctor returned to the list of words, asking Trump to repeat them. ‘And you go, ‘person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ They say, ‘That’s amazing. How did you do that?’ ‘I do it because I have like a good memory? Because I’m cognitively there.’”

“The list of words (to briefly memorize) that features on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, the test Trump is referring to, is ‘face, velvet, church, daisy, red.’”

The childlike earnestness with which he still insists the test is designed to measure intelligence rather than warn of potential cognitive impairment is in itself testimony to his fundamental disconnection from the real world, his utter unfitness to be entrusted with the leadership of the world’s most powerful military nation in a time of multiple existential crises.

How would he cope with a real 5-hour set of psychometric, verbal analysis and IQ tests, we wonder? Selection tests for any large corporation? He surely is, in the immortal words of his friend, Rupert Murdoch, a “fuckin’ idiot”, and fits the description offered by his neice, of an overgrown toddler starved of parental approval.

Mind you, if the daily crossword clues offered up by even serious US publications like The Atlantic are anything to go by, he may be the smartest American in the room. This morning’s offering:

“Dog breed beloved by Queen Victoria – 3.”

Er… Cat?

“I’ll bet you couldn’t even answer the last five questions. I’ll bet you couldn’t, they get very hard, the last five questions,” he said. “I guarantee you that Joe Biden could not answer those questions.”

But Trump has several times during his endless whistlestopping appeared to forget which city he is in, one of the questions, or which state; even identifying dead acquaintances among the audience. Did he really ace the test, or did he pay a classmate to do it for him?

Okay, well, confession time, there was one part of one question in the “difficult” last five even your Pumpkin couldn’t answer, because it is ambiguous and, being born under the star sign of Libra, halfway up the spectrum on the Baron-Cohen autism test, he gets quite conflicted sometimes with having to rationalize everything and see every side of the debate.

You are asked to find the link between pairs of words, eg orange and banana (both flavors of smoothie?): “train – bicycle” is presumably modes of transport, although I should have thought the dissimilarities outweighed the similarities, but “watch – ruler”? Watch can be a noun with three distinct meanings, or a verb. Ruler has two distinct meanings. Unless you are wary in case the teacher is about to hit you with one, I can see no obvious connection between any of the possible meanings. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

Send for the men in white coats! I’m obviously more cognitively impaired than the president, who scored a perfect 100! (Out of 30, “maybe 35″…).

 

The game without rules

Since the shining booby, David Cameron, got together with his friends Manny Macron of France and Obama of the USA to bomb the bejasus out of Libya, and a fleeing Col Muammar Gadaffi was dragged from hiding in a storm drain and bayoneted up the arse, Edward 11-style, before being put out of his countrymen’s misery, a tribal war has been going on between the eastern and western halves of the country, that shows no signs of ever ending.

One that makes the bewildering complexity of Syria look like the Montreal Test.

Muh gudfriend Bogler over at the BogPo reminds me he once long ago wrote a synopsis for a story, never finished, about world powers setting aside a large region of the earth where they could engage in gladiatorial combats between whole armies to settle disputes. The warfare would be never-ending, there would be no rules, but at least they would leave the rest of the planet to go about our business in peace.

It was intended as science-fiction, but alas, as Shakespeare perceptively wrote, nothing is but thinking makes it so. Thus, with a stroke of his quill he invented Netflix….

There’s so much shit goin’ down everywhere now that it’s odds-on that virtually no-one has any idea or cares that the Libyan war is still going on, ten years after. The mainstream print media is being gradually emasculated by the loss of gullible advertisers to Facebook and other misleading outlets, The Guardian announcing the latest round of journalistic redundancies, 180 of them – including, I hear, star political cartoonist Steve Bell, a huge loss if true – despite its parent Trust sitting on a cash pile of over £900 million, and despite rising online revenue of £70 million last year, through what sounds like malignant incompetence at the top.

http://www.ft.com/content/4cd77a00-a2b6-11e3-9685-00144feab7de

The attritional cutbacks to BBC News and to the major US networks are also eroding our ability to obtain factual information about many areas of the globe that have gone as dark as the Broadway and West End theatres. But a rare report in the Washington Post last week raised the curtain on a desperate situation in Libya, where numerous external states are pitching in behind their chosen factions and confronting one another indirectly in a polyvalent theater of war with, of course, that “beautiful” Libyan oil as the prize.

I imagined in a Post years ago, that President Trump probably confuses the name of the self-styled rebel leader, General Hifter with that of another of his famous role models. Hifter, or Haftar as some call him, a joint Libyan-US national, is the principal warlord fighting from his power base in the east, in Benghazi, to wrest control of the western half, based in Tripoli, from the recognized government, the NGA.

The Post reported:

“On the ground, the battle involves thousands of Syrian militiamen, Sudanese mercenaries and Russian contractors. In the air, countries are deploying a growing number of drones, fighter jets and missiles. Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warned that ‘foreign interference’ was ‘reaching unprecedented levels.’

“The biggest victor this summer seems to have been Turkey, which came to the rescue of the U.N.-recognized government based in Tripoli and pushed back the months-long offensive waged by the forces of renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter.”

While Erdogan has been flexing his muscle in the region, hoping to show he’s a global player, and to stick one in the eye to his hated anti-Islamic Brotherhood rival, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the military dictator of Egypt has come piling in on the side of Hifter, who is already backed by “the Emiratis, the Russians and, to a lesser extent, France.” Also, Saudi Barbaria and Greece, and a bunch of Syrian mercenaries. Opposing them to one degree and another are Turkey, Britain, Italy and Qatar – plus the United Nations.

It’s the next world war in miniature.

If all this seems a bit crazy – Former North African colonial powers Italy and France on opposite sides in a war just across the Mediterranean? – it’s actually getting very serious, as the warring parties are rapidly ratcheting up the hardware with the latest jets, missiles and drones, while all the players are engaged in campaigns of cyber warfare and disinformation tactics. (Reporting: Defense One)

For once, America seems disinterested in the outcome, having withdrawn its forces protecting Tripoli early last year, as Trump called Hifter to congratulate him on a victory that hadn’t quite yet happened.

Why was Trump siding with Hifter when US and UN forces had been committed to supporting the officially recognized NGA goverment? Oh, could it possibly be because Hifter or Haftar is supported by Putin and so, as in Syria, Trump has felt obligated to get out of his way? Or was it just that his then security advisor, John Bolton thought it was a fun idea to keep the war going?

Along with the international brigades, tribal militias and Islamic insurgents are continuing their local operations, petty power grabs, gangsterism, with ISIS fighters still a feature on the ground.

Whoever controls Libya eventually has access to drilling rights in the Gulf of Sirte and a potential say in the development of huge gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. The Pumpkin has been speculating since Day One of the Trump administration on how US energy companies have been lobbying both Turkey and Israel for the rights to exploit offshore reserves and to construct a pipeline to bring gas to Europe, bypassing both Syria and Ukraine.

It doesn’t seem to have worked, as the principal US company involved, Noble Energy has been snapped up cheaply by Chevron, in the midst of a long drawn-out legal battle in Tel Aviv. Covid-19 is changing the shape of the energy industry. I would tell you more but I’m stymied by so many paywalls. There’s a useful analysis of Israel’s position in Haaretz, for instance, but they’re refusing to believe I’ve switched off Adblock. I’m not going to subscribe just to read one bloody article.

Suffice to say, Oil Price reports, “The Chevron-Noble deal is expected to boost Chevron’s portfolio of assets in the Permian, DJ, and Eagle Ford basins, as well as diversify Chevron’s portfolio with large-scale producing assets in the Eastern Mediterranean.” Thus the game goes on.

A State Department official told the Post, “First and foremost, this is a European problem.” But it’s one in which at least six NATO allies and a variety of Middle Eastern petro-states seem to be confronting one another across a bleak wasteland whose strategic importance is defined only by what is underneath it. Defense One concludes that Libya, with its thousands of foreign mercenaries on all sides cheaply recruited from impoverished communities in war-ravaged countries, is changing the face of warfare:

“As a substitute for soldiers, we could see a trend developing that looks a lot like the model playing out in Libya: emerging technology coupled with proxy forces and social media campaigns.”

It’s a game with no rules. And as usual, the people pay the price.

 

The other game without rules

“The American ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson IV, told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that President Trump had asked him to see if the British government could help steer the world-famous and lucrative British Open golf tournament to the (loss-making) Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland.” – New York Times

“Woody” Johnson apparently summoned the Scottish secretary in London to a meeting to have a go, but the British government has no power to influence where major sporting events are staged, especially in Scotland, a semi-autonomous region with its own devolved government.

In fact, the annual Open event is ruthlessly controlled by the fiercesome Royal & Ancient golfing society, the “R&A”, based at St Andrews in the cradle of the game’s mythical birth, and may only be held at one of ten approved courses throughout the UK, of which Turnberry is not one.

Since then, Johnson has fired his deputy, Lewis Lukens, who had advised him that it was a possible breach of ethics and may have filed a complaint. Rachel Maddow reports, the matter was being investigated by the Inspector General for the State Department, when he too was fired.

That’s the point about Trump’s corruption, it’s all done in the open and with no sense of proportion, so that everything becomes a chaotic mess of pointless cover-ups, manufactured excuses, finger-pointing  and denials, innocent people being dragged in, careers heedlessly trashed. Trump uses people, abuses them and chucks them away like a snotty Kleenex when things go wrong.

As the Times says, “Beyond the legal and ethical red flags, asking for such a favor from his host country would put Mr. Johnson in an untenable position as the emissary of the United States.” Now, ABC News reports, the official review of the affair was completed in May and has been filed away in the basement, marked Classified.

Trump has denied knowing anything about it.

 

Granny’s World

The first of two tropical depressions heading into the Gulf of Mexico is scheduled to make landfall near Corpus Christi in Texas at the weekend. Tropical Storm Hanna acquired her name as she intensified on Thursday night. There’s still time, says AccuWeather, for Hanna to become the first 2020 hurricane to make landfall in the continental USA. Up to a foot of rain could fall in some parts of the state.

Update Saturday, Hanna rapidly intensifying to low-end Cat 2 – 80 to 100 mph. Water temperature is in “the upper 80s”. Major storm surge warnings out and possibility of 18-in. of rain in places. (Force-13) Houston may get away with 2 to 4-in of rain.

Meanwhile, having left the coast of Venezuela, Tropical Storm Gonzalo has just managed to reach hurricane strength to become the first of the Atlantic season and is heading across the eastern Caribbean to the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, etc. After an early start, experts say all signs are pointing to one of the most active seasons on record in the Atlantic Basin.”

Out in mid-Pacific, Tropical Storm Douglas heading towards Hawaii intensified to an upper Category 2-3 hurricane but is weakening slowly as it approaches the islands. CBS News reports, “If it does make landfall at hurricane strength, it would only be the third time in record-keeping history that Hawaii has seen a landfalling hurricane.”

And there’s a report of a new tropical wave coming out of West Africa in the classic Cape Verde development – possibly next Hurricane Isaias.

Tunnel….

Mmmmmn, tasty lumps… The BogPo reported this week, the US Food and Drugs Administration has agreed with the chicken producers’ council of America to overturn a ban on selling chickens for human consumption that are displaying cancerous tumors, to reduce unprofitable wastage.

Writing in the Guardian, Labour’s shadow Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry, warns: “Under the terms of the Trade bill an agreement can be negotiated with the US government entirely in secret, laid before parliament, and can officially become law after 21 days without any vote or substantive debate by MPs.”

At least the chlorine will keep the Covid at bay.

Grim Reaper

RIP Peter Green, 73 – guitarist extraordinaire, vocalist and founder-member of late-60s megaband, Fleetwood Mac and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, “The Green God”, who retired from touring in 1970 owing to mental health issues. Schizophrenia, sometimes attributed to excessive drug use, for which he underwent electrotherapy. Anecdotally, acid burnout on a weird German tour “Peacefully in his sleep”. Peter Greenbaum made his recording debut with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mayall opining that he was a better player than former member, Eric Clapton.

RIP Screen legend, Dame Olivia de Havilland, 104 – no doubt I will be proved wrong but with the death of Kirk Douglas earlier this year, the double Oscar-winner must surely have been the last survivor of the 1930s Hollywood studios star system with its oppressive contracts, that she helped to break by taking on the moguls in court and winning. “She remains best remembered for her performance as stoical Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind” (Guardian obit.).

 

Your new BogPo lunches with Mike: We’re all good little Americans now… Department of the bleedin’ obvious… Mr Disgusting… Granny’s world.

Image

“So, Baris, you up for another lunch?”

Joke:

“Russia has long tried to interfere in the British political system, and those efforts were ignored by several U.K. governments, a long-awaited report shows.” (Washington Post)

Yes,

We’re all good little Americans now

Seriously, what everyone keeps saying about the Russia report, because it’s in the report, is that we know something did, but we can’t now investigate what we suspect might have happened in 2016, in advance of the disastrous referendum on EU membership, because nobody looked into it at the time and it was all so long ago.

Oh, really?

We managed to investigate the crushing to death of 96 spectators at the Hillsborough football ground in Sheffield, didn’t we? The tragedy happened way back in 1989. A report was rushed out by Lord Taylor in 1990, urgently recommending all-seated grounds; a false narrative was created to shift blame onto the visiting Liverpool fans, but the full facts and the case against the police weren’t fully investigated until public pressure forced the inquiry to be reopened 23 years later, in 2014. The subsequent inquest ruled two years after that, completely exonerating the fans.

The past is hardly a foreign country. In 1972, the so-called Bloody Sunday massacre took place in Derry, Northern Ireland, when 13 unarmed protestors were shot and killed by British paratroopers. As with Hillsborough there was a partial inquiry carried out by Lord Widgery, that was immediately condemned as a total fantasy, whitewashing the Army and blaming the victims for reasons of national security as the war hotted up. Wikipedia takes up the story:

“The Saville Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville …, was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the incident. Following a 12-year investigation, Saville’s report was made public in 2010 and concluded that the killings were both ‘unjustified’ and ‘unjustifiable’.”

And the police are still contemplating prosecution of one of the surviving soldiers, 38 years on.

If the events leading to a series of vaguely substantiated allegations and counterclaims can be laid bare after all these years, having been officially occluded, what’s four years since the referendum? Just because nobody investigated fully at the time doesn’t mean the facts and figures, the evidence collected for those original reports, have vanished into some mythical realm known as antiquity.

I could go on. I might do.

Up until a couple of years ago, Israel and Germany were still prosecuting war crimes cases against old Nazi SS members and camp guards, of whom there can be almost none left, and even fewer surviving witnesses. Yet the traces of their crimes remain as a stain on the past, that lawyers can examine and draw conclusions from. Cases remain open even today.

Then, there was the notorious Chilcot report into the origins of the 1991 Iraq invasion. That started in 2009, took seven years, and ran to two million words, ultimately attaching blame to the Blair government for going along with the neocon project in Washington, based on intelligence that was known to be flawed. Unfortunately, Lord Chilcot’s painstaking conclusions were boiled down in the media, essentially, to: “Try to do better next time, chaps”. Blair remains at large.

To this day, the intelligence services insist their reservations about Iraq’s WMD were ignored, even deliberately subverted; while Trump continues to rely on that one egregious instance of apparent failure to accuse the NSA and CIA of incompetence and unreliability, even of plotting against him; preferring to rely on the word of his friend, Vladimir Putin when it comes to believing “hoax” accusations of Russian skulduggery.

A whole industry has grown up to discredit the notion that Russia was responsible in any way for helping Trump win the presidency.

In several countries, ours included, the past has come back to haunt us with a jarring thud. The extrajudicial killing by the callous indifference and racially-biased thuggery of police officers of one black man among so many killed in America, George Floyd, has triggered mass protest marches. Riots and controversial statue-removals and calls for the defunding or complete disbandment of police forces followed, demands for a new kind of community policing. A sternly revisionist view of the history of white racism in the light of historical slavery has grown into a heady debate about the evils of Empire.

We are not incapable of revisiting the past even at a distance of two hundred years, albeit many of us have little learning or evidence to work with, turning a mirror toward prejudice merely to show its image reflected back to itself in the hope that collective shame will reshape our wilful societal blindness to injustice.

If an entire social movement to revisit past crimes can be achieved in a few weeks, imagine what a forensic examination of the events of 2016 could achieve, while there is still abundant evidence; as, for instance, is contained in the 448 pages of the Mueller report.

In his first volume, the Special Counsel examined Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in minute and crushing detail – from which it is clear that several international security and intelligence agencies including our own GCHQ were aware of suspicious activity as early as 2014 but were largely ignored and later made fatal errors in communication. Nevertheless, the evidence they uncovered will still be there, buried in boxes somewhere.

There have also been Congressional committee inquiries, for instance the Senate Intelligence Committee report in early 2020 that rather surprisingly concluded that President Trump had been lying to the American people about the illegal origins of the FBI and other agencies’ investigations into his campaign’s known dealings with Russian intelligence, that he has portrayed as a conspiracy of the so-called Deep State. The agencies, it concluded, did their job perfectly, no blame attached.

(Immediately after signing off the report, chairman Richard Burr, a devout Republican, found himself accused by the Justice Department of insider trading. It really doesn’t do to piss Trump off.)

For three years, your Old Uncle has conducted a desultory campaign to try to tell people about a brief exchange at the House Intelligence committee hearings in March of 2017, that nobody else appeared to have heard. When asked if he believed Russia had interfered with the UK referendum, the then FBI Director, James Comey, replied “Yes, Sir, I do”. FBI Directors do not go around making statements like that lightly.

So the assumption must be that the FBI, too, has or had evidence of collusion between Russia and malicious political bad actors campaigning in Britain against their own electorate, such as we now know from the 55-page Commons committee report actually happened.

There have been desultory British investigations, too, into the sources of donations to the various Leave campaigns that looked suspiciously large, even for the supposedly wealthy individuals behind them, although nothing has yet been proved. All of whom, incidentally, appear to have at least some connection to Russia.

But – oh dear, it’s impossible now to investigate how it happened, and why, and what was done, and who was behind it – it was all so long ago.

Mr Johnson’s refusal to hold a further inquiry seems to put him the same camp as Trump, of senior politicians with chequered histories who must now be suspected in view of their recalcitrance on matters Russian to be subject to some influence from the Kremlin.

The tragic fact is, several people and organizations in Britain DID investigate at the time, what was evidentially a corrupted democratic process. Were Carole Cadwaladr at The Guardian, or Peter Geoghegan at Open Democracy, asked by the Commons Security and Intelligence committee for their evidence when they looked into the matter in 2018 before producing a highly critical report, that Johnson kicked into the long grass for over ten months until he was safely elected? And then tried to rig the committee?

Government ministers have taken to the airwaves to gaslight voters, playing for time until Parliament rises for six weeks’ vacation. Oh, but the Russian donors who paid for access to senior politicians with massive donations to the party are British Citizens! British Citizens who (having bought their Tier One residency, their £30 million Mayfair townhouses and their Harrod’s store cards with money stolen from the Russian people) have an absolute right, nay a positive duty to partake in the life of our great democracy! (Yes, one of them actually said that this morning, unless I’d fallen back to sleep and was having a wee nightmare.)

Did anyone, for instance, note a news item on BBC radio in September 2016 from their Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, in which she first referred to apparent voting irregularities in the referendum, a story that seems never to have been followed up? What exactly did cause the voter registration website to crash, 48 hours before it closed? Is no-one aware of research done by Cornell University in the States in 2018 that found over 2,720 Twitter accounts believed to be controlled by Russian operatives had posted and reposted the majority of anti-EU tweets during the campaign?

Have there not been investigations into Julian Assange and the role of his Wikileaks group in the theft of political data by Russian intelligence, the GRU – the hacking teams in St Petersburg known as Guccifer 2 and Fancy Bears? Mueller even knows their names! If MI5 does not know in great detail what he got up to while self-exiled in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years, then why is Assange languishing in Belmarsh, our highest security prison, facing extradition to permanent silence in a US military dungeon?

Would evidence collected in that surveillance operation not be valuable to anyone conducting an inquiry into Russian interference in 2016? And did we not also devote considerable media resources to investigating the role of Cambridge Analytica in illegally obtaining and weaponizing voter data from Facebook and other social media, under the guidance of Russian-born data scientist Aleksandr Kogan? Are the results of those investigations not relevant and available? Or is it all subsumed into the great British obsession with official secrecy?

It’s said, and I have no reason not to believe, although it sounds incredible, that you cannot permanently expunge a single keystroke made on a computer; that everything transmitted over the internet, every email or document file is still there, stored for eternity like our mortal sins, somewhere in one of those vast arrays of servers in some parched desert community where there’s no-one to talk to but the Joshua trees. Oh, and in the Irish Republic.

It’s surely the principle on which modern cyber intelligence rests, that no-one will ever get away with any crime involving communications data because all the evidence is there in perpetuity – who you spoke to, what you wrote, what you thought about writing, your Google searches, where you were, where you went next. We interrogate the data all the time when dealing with Islamist terror suspects, or so we’re told, so why not ex-Soviet-era intelligence officers and their Western proxies?

Ex-spook and Russia analyst, Christopher Steele, he of the Trump “pee-pee” dossier, has written a foreword to the Commons committee’s report. He gave evidence to them in confidence. He clearly knows about Russian dirty ops, and probably knows of more evidential sources than he’s letting on publicly, let’s hear from him.

It’s simply a matter of having the will to look – which the British police signally failed to do, after compelling evidence of financial irregularities in the funding of the various Leave campaign groups was brought to their attention in 2017. And why? “It’s too politically sensitive” was the excuse under the Theresa May regime, and it still is today. Russian interference in international affairs often seems matched by expedient government interference with the operation of justice, on the ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ principle. People are getting fed up with being lied to, actually.

A fanatical cabal of mostly wealthy Brexit diehards and craven Atlanticists in hock to conservative US billionaires is firmly in control of the British government, determinedly driving the ship of state onto the rocks of permanent subservience to putative gobal free trading partners (there being no free passes to be had out there) for their own profit and that of their friends, perpetuating social divisions and economic inequality. Isn’t that Putin’s agenda, to destabilize the international order?

As everyone, even opposition politicians, is moaning that it’s all too difficult, and anyway they’re now all on holiday until the Autumn, any chance that the National Crime Agency, with its underfunded and inadequate cyber-policing unit, might be roused to look into what all that dirty Russian money flooding into the country ultimately bought the Kremlin in June of 2016 now looks vanishingly small.

It will be up to a future political generation to look back on the destruction of our democracy by a handful of self-interested conmen in collusion with a foreign adversary and conclude, with a shrug, that maybe we should have done better when it mattered.

 

Corona v. us

As total cases since December pass 15 million worldwide (22 July), it’s worth noting that the death rate in the 9.8 million cases that have had an outcome – discharge or recovery – has fallen from 9 per cent a month ago, to just 6 per cent now. Only 1 per cent of the roughly 6 million active positive cases falls into the serious or severe category. (Numbers: Worldometers)

There’s no data on the numbers of so-called “long-haulers” – people who have persistent symptoms after discharge ranging from tiredness and breathing difficulties to brain damage and organ failure. For many, the symptoms are like the ephemeral condition myalgic encephalitis, ME, which might explain why too many doctors are still unaware or dismissive of the problem.

 

Department of the bleedin’ obvious

From the Office of National Statistics, that last week brought us (I paraphrase with humorous intent): “You’re more likely to test positive for coronavirus if you’ve been in contact with someone with coronavirus”, comes the following gem:

“Women carried out significantly more daily childcare duties than men during lockdown.”

Do bears attend mass? After this crisis is over, a bonfire of the quangos might be forgivable.

 

A gunman in Ukraine armed with an automatic rifle and grenades has surrendered to police and released 13 hostages from a bus he had hijacked, after the country’s president consented to his demand to recommend the public watch the 2005 film Earthlings, starring Joaquin Phoenix. (Guardian)

 

Mr Disgusting

Owning just 11% of the stock in Amazon, Jeff Bezos has made $74 billion since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, as a consequence of people on lockdown resorting to online ordering. Yesterday (20 July) alone, his bank balance increased in one day by $10 billion. Yet he seems entirely unrepentant.

Bezos’s $189bn fortune, as estimated by Bloomberg, means he is personally worth more than Exxon- Mobil, Nike or McDonald’s. “He has more than enough money to buy Britain’s big four banks – HSBC, Barclays, RBS and Lloyds,” with change over to buy Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer as well. “His fortune dwarfs the GDPs of Hungary, Ukraine and Qatar.”

Apart from having created the online giant in 1995 selling books from his bedroom, this bizarre shopkeeping phenomenon does, from what anyone can see, fuck-all for his money, other than to make modern slaves of his workforce.

Show us your willy, Jeff.

(Reporting: Guardian)

 

Granny’s World

Bangladesh: BBC Weather reports, probably a third of the country is underwater as rivers rise to record levels, with over a meter of rain falling in just 4 days over the mountains inland threatening to swell rivers even further in the coming days. In NE India, record floods in the states of Assam and Bihar are affecting millions of people and have claimed hundreds of lives. Another 100 mm of rain is expected before the monsoon eases off after the weekend.

China: Tens of thousands of people in Anhui and Hubei provinces are being evacuated amid severe flooding and landslides triggered by some of the heaviest rainfall in decades. In eastern Anhui, rescue workers evacuated 16,000 people from the town of Guzen after weeks of torrential rain caused a nearby river to overflow, drowning 13 villages and cutting off electricity to the whole region. (Al Jazeera) More rain is forecast.

In central Hubei province, more than 8,000 people were evacuated after a landslide blocked a major tributary of the Yangtse river and created a barrier lake that threatens to submerge the city of Enshi and neighbouring villages. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtse is reportedly 16 meters (52 ft) above its official warning level.

Korea: For some reason nobody reported torrential rains, floods and landslides more than a week ago that killed ‘several people’ in southern South Korea. Your Granny finds this out from a report on AccuWeather that North and South Korea are once again afflicted with heavy downpours coming out of China, as successive storm systems move across towards southern Japan, bringing 4 to 8 inches of rain to already saturated ground and swollen rivers. 66 people died in floods in Kyushu two weeks ago.

Tunnel:

Trade: The US Food and Drugs Administration has ruled in favor of an appeal by the National Chicken Council of America that chickens infected with Avian leukosis (cancer) tumors are perfectly safe to eat.

Terra trema: Tsunami warnings went off across the Pacific northwest, 22 July, after a powerful M7.8 earthquake in the Bering Sea shook the Aleutian islands 65 miles (105 km) south-southeast of the town of Perryville, Alaska. USGS later revised its estimate of the depth of the quake from 6 to 27 miles.

Hurricane watch: 2 disturbances, one pushing northwards out of the Gulf brings a warning of yet more heavy rainfall affecting 50 million people in southern states of the US, and another behind it, off the coast of South America. Tropical Storm Gonzalo, heading for Cuba, looks like it could rapidly intensify into the first hurricane of the season and already holds the record for the earliest-ever ‘G’ of the year.

Out in the eastern Pacific, another tropical storm is expected to become hurricane Douglas within the next 2 days as very favorable conditions are present in the region. The system will track across the Eastern Pacific and could reach the Hawaiian archipelago later this weekend or early next week. (AccuWeather)

Heatwave: Phoenix, Az. has had no measurable rainfall since 12 April and 67 days of temperatures above 100°F, 38°C. (AccuWeather) 21 July, the highest low overnight temperature at the main airport being recorded at 89°F, 32°C.

CO2: A study published in Nature Geoscience says permafrost melt will accelerate a process that boosts the amount of CO2 released from roots as plants die, increasing microbial respiration, previously unaccounted for in calculating the effects of permafrost loss on rising CO2 levels. An additional 80 billion tonnes of CO2 could be released as the Arctic warms and plant growth increases. (Mail)

Another study has found large amounts of methane gas leaching out of the seabed off Antarctica. A normal microbial process that digests the methane appears to have failed. (Guardian Science)

Fracking hell: A study, published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives found that pregnant women who lived near areas where gas flaring at the wellhead is common have 50 percent greater odds of giving birth prematurely than those who did not. Again, it’s BAME women who are worst affected.

Cognition: Can you ever change the mind of a Trump supporter? The answer is probably no, as liberals and conservatives use different parts of their brains to make decisions. “Those on the left and right appear to use substantially different cognitive processes to interpret events in the world around them”, Canadian researchers studying American subjects’ brain activity have found. (New York Times)

Grim Reaper

RIP legendary jazz vocalist, film actress and child star Annie Ross, 89, London-born Scots soloist and one-third of the great close harmony group, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, at her home in New York. Emphysema.

RIP David Kaiser, 50. An unsung hero of the environmental movement, he used his family’s power and wealth to expose the double-dealing of Exxon Mobil, proving they had known and lied for decades about the connection between burning oil and climate change. All the more unusual, he was the great-grandson of Standard Oil billionaire, John D Rockefeller. (New York Times) Brain tumor.

 

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 132 emerging from self-isolation: You don’t have to be Caracas but it helps… The madness of King Donald – Venting wildly… Beanz Meanz Sleaze…

 

Donald Trump shared a picture of himself posing with Goya products in the Oval Office on Wednesday

“With Goya beans your farts smell less like cheeseburger…” The President strikes back.

Editor’s note: some of this content appeared previously in last week’s edition of the BogPo but seemed better suited to a new Pumpkin, sorry. Now carry on…

You don’t have to be Caracas but it helps

The forgotten war against the Maduro regime in Venezuela appears to be hotting up again, and may be another candidate for whatever macho image-rebuilding his floundering re-election machine has in mind, under new management – given that China and Iran might be more to bite off than Trump can chew.

A bit of muscle-flexing in their own backyard might be enough to convince the wavering voters of key swing states, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to give their orange avatar another go at making America great again by bullying a smaller, poorer country into submission to the mighty corporate machine.

Trump has ordered the tightening of sanctions on Caracas that effectively amount to a complete blockade of the country. It’s rumored that he has put a bounty of $15 million on President Maduro’s head, and some time ago moved US troops into Colombia, threatening the border. Sanctions are also being expanded worldwide, to threaten any company daring to try to export much-needed food and medical supplies, in a bid to starve the Venezuelan people into rising up against their well-stocked Chavist dictator.

Even world shipping has been put on notice that registrations will be withdrawn, interdicting portage anywhere for any vessel known to have docked at any of Venezuela’s ports. A policy now being masterminded by Elliot Abrams, a thuggish old neocon dating from the Nixon epoch and a veteran of Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, it is total strangulation by the American bully-boy of a nation that has not done the US any harm.

Or, as the UN rapporteur on Venezuela puts it, a crime against humanity.

On a recent visit to his Doral resort in Florida, Trump offered one of his frequent gnomish warnings, of the kind that preceded the murder of General Suleimani – and boosted the stockmarket for the profit of his Mar-a-Lago hangers-on last Christmas. “Something will happen with Venezuela. That’s all I can tell you,” he said in an interview with Noticias Telemundo on Friday, expressing support for the self-proclaimed alternative president, Juan Guaido – embroiled in corruption scandals – adding that Washington “will be very much involved.” (venezuelanalysis.com)

As with Cuba, the Venezuelan expat community has been playing a big part in lobbying the Trumpistas; and was behind the recent, total fiasco of an invasion attempt by a handful of rightwing dissidents and US mercenaries, that would have been reminiscent of the Bay of Pigs from 1961, if it hadn’t been less well resourced by the CIA and comically botched. Several were killed or captured. Secretary Pompeo is resisting attempts to extradite the organizer, a former Green Beret called Jean Goudreau, who bravely failed to go on the raid because he was ‘locked-down’ by the coronavirus, and has denied any government connection. (Bloomberg)

But Trump will see an advantage in attracting more votes from the strangely named Latinx community, especially in Florida, where the exiles go to hatch their endless plots, by being seen as strong for the cause of rightwing populism in South America. No doubt his crude “take the oil” philosophy – pun intended – will also play a part in his thinking. Venezuela has the world’s largest reserves, but has been unable to capitalize on them since Hugo Chavez’s last, failed term in office owing to plummeting world oil prices, government corruption and those vengeful US sanctions.

Meanwhile, 5 million Venezuelan refugees have already crossed the borders into Colombia and Honduras, seeking any relief from Trump’s vicious campaign of regime change. Many have already died, child mortality has rocketed – but he doesn’t mind, after all, 142 thousand of his own people have already been sacrificed on the altar of his re-election campaign. As a new Lincoln Project commercial points out, so many coffins placed upright, side-by-side, would complete his border wall.

While, God forbid any South American politician should develop a social conscience.

(Based on reporting by Thom Hartmann: “Did Trump announce coup in Venezuela?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxYkDM1ai1Q)

 

Police in Oakville, Ontario, are investigating the defacing of a memorial to fallen Ukrainian members of the Waffen SS as a “possible hate crime”.

 

The madness of King Donald….

A Fox News poll at the weekend put Biden ahead of Trump “on coronavirus, race relations and the economy and eight points up nationally.” Trump told interviewer Chris Wallace: “I’m not losing, because those are fake polls” and refused to say if he would accept the result if Biden won in November. “I have to see,” Trump said. “I have to see.” (Guardian)

A disturbing piece in Newsweek last week detailed a convoluted but apparently constitutional route by which if he loses even by a convincing margin, Trump could still overturn the result. http://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975

Meanwhile he claims to have a list of cities like Portland where he is threatening to send in more heavily armed goons in unofficial vehicles to teargas and snatch police brutality protestors illegally off the streets, using banned weaponry and detaining them without charge, without recourse to local law enforcement or elected authorities.

These are not the National Guard, which is under States’ control, nor are they Federal agents as the supine media keeps describing them, but an entirely new paramilitary force without local accountability or known command structure, weilding undefined powers that have not been voted by the Congress. The Department of Homeland Security has become Trump’s Brownshirts. If he has formed his own private army, it is an extremely disturbing development.

Venting wildly….

Trump decided a while ago, possibly before the USA’s total numbers of Covid-19 patients topped 3.5 million, that he would crown himself, quote, “The King of Ventilators”. In a bizarre account on ProPublica, it seems that with home demand peaking, he set the USAID international aid organization the task of distributing US-made ventilators all over the world – thousands of them – as free gifts.

A predictably unplanned and incoherent operation ensued, hundreds of ventilators being sent to wealthy countries within the NATO group where they’re not needed, even to Russia – and others to ass-poor countries in South America, Africa and the Pacific islands – whether they wanted them or not. It appears nobody checked to see where they were needed and in what quantity, as every delivery had been ordered and allocated apparently arbitrarily, with only a vague sense of geography, in easy round numbers.

The unit costs of buying and distributing ventilators from three favored manufacturers, says ProPublica, have ranged from $400 per unit, to $77 thousand – a huge discrepancy put down to “shipping costs”. Total expenditure to date – cost to the increasingly cash-strapped taxpayer – is in excess of $200 million.

Many poorer countries lack the hospital facilities, the specialist consultants, trained nursing staff and maintenance technicians and don’t have the necessary supporting technology, consumables or even a reliable power supply to operate more than a few ventilators for a while. Death rates for patients put on ventilators are very high, survival being better guaranteed by simple oxygenation and drug treatments.

Only, Trump is not sending oxygen, for which many countries are becoming desperate – just ventilators. A panacea as universally efficacious as hydroxychloroquine, by the look of it.

Many countries, like Vietnam, have had only a couple of hundred live cases and zero deaths. Nevertheless, they got ventilators. Many countries are desperately in need of more PPE, whose export from the USA, where PPE is also desperately needed as hospitalizations skyrocket, is banned. Those countries too have been overwhelmed by donations of unusable ventilators.

So what was behind it, apart from Trump’s manic ideation? The briefing memo to USAID referred to the need: “to further the U.S. national-security interest of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic”.

In other words, to make sure Trump’s inept and cynical domestic response to a deadly disease rampaging through his nation looks good on the hustings because the country can still afford his largesse, he might appear to have a commanding presence on the world stage (!) – and to attempt in some small measure to regain international goodwill lost by three and a half years of bullying, sanctions and threats to get his own way on trade.

What a klutz.

http://www.propublica.org/article/trump-is-donating-ventilators-to-countries-that-dont-need-or-cant-use-them?utm_source=sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter&utm_content=feature

Beanz Meanz Sleaze….

Trump likes to invite his corporate donors to the Oval Office as a little treat. Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue attended a “Hispanic event” at the White House on Thursday last week and creeped three-quarters of the nation out by crawling far up Trump’s furry old fundament, fulsomely announcing on camera how “blessed” he felt that Trump was his president.

So egregiously slimy was the man that the Tittersphere lit up, and Goya Foods rapidly became the object of a fairly desultory consumer boycott from the never-again Trumpers. In retaliation, both the president and his lap-doll daughter, Ivanka, had themselves photographed pumping Goya beans and grains on Instagram under a corny made-up slogan: “If it’s Goya it’s got to be good”.

While the president is legally free to make a complete tit of himself, in Ivanka’s case it was a clear and unambiguous breach of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from promoting – well, anything, and making political capital out of it. Recalling the incident with the upside-down bible in the churchyard, we can assume this terrible publicity stunt that will hopefully backfire on them was another of her dumb ideas.

The photo above shows the depth of Trump’s insanity, the President of the United States of America gurning like a third-rate reality TV show host having to announce his own commercial messages… oh, wait…! Cheato leering over a cheapo brand of canned beans lined up on the Resolute desk – a sacred icon of the Republic – nakedly pursuing the ‘Latinx’ vote in the midst of America’s covoid crucifixion.

A WH spokesmouth lit out at the critics:

“Only the media and the cancel culture movement would criticize Ivanka for showing her personal support for a company that has been unfairly mocked, boycotted and ridiculed for supporting this administration – one that has consistently fought for and delivered for the Hispanic community.”

Not a word there about her breaking the law. Nor offering to return thousands of kidnapped, trafficked and abused children, some as young as 18 months, to their desperate parents interned at the Mexico border. How about delivering for them Hispanics, eh, Trump?

If this is culture, I’m all in favor of canceling it.

In his demented Rose Garden rant, among the weirder things Trump accused his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden of, is planning to abolish suburbs. That ran second to his claim that Democratic governors were sending out millions of mail-in ballots to dogs.

The Thing

The 20-year-old son of US District Court of New Jersey judge Esther Salas was killed by an unkown gunman disguised as a FedEx courier on the doorstep of the family home last week, and the judge’s criminal prosecutor husband seriously wounded. Judge Salas was due to hear a case this week concerning Jeffrey Epstein’s relations with Deutsche Bank.

 

Granny’s World….

India: “Severe flooding in Assam and neighbouring Nepal has killed at least 200 people and displaced millions, severely hampering efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus”, writes Guardian Green Light, 20 July. “In Assam, heavy monsoon rains burst the banks of the Brahmaputra River, causing more than 2,000 villages to be enveloped in floods and mudslides and displacing 2.75 million people in the past two weeks. There have been 85 deaths reported in the state. Heavy rain is expected to continue over the next few days.” A wildlife reserve, home to the largest concentration of endangered one-horn rhino, has been 85% inundated, with many losses.

Irony of ironies: torrential rain led to flash flooding in the capital, New Delhi on 19 July, causing a house to collapse into a giant construction pit being dug to accommodate the car park of a new development slated to house the offices of the World Health Organization. No one was injured. (AccuWeather)

New Zealand: 8 major roads were blocked by landslides, others closed because of flooding, homes and and infrastructure were damaged, including water treatment plants, after a storm and torrential rain in the Northland region on 17 to 18 July. Over 250mm of rain (10 in.) fell on some areas in 24 hours, 150mm in just two hours was recorded at Whangarei. Householders are being urged to conserve water. (Floodlist)

Indonesia: Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain have killed 3 more people, this time in West Papua. Meanwhile thousands of people have been affected by flooding in Southeast Sulawesi. Flood water was up to 1.5 meters deep. Houses and a medical centre were flooded. Hundreds of vehicles stranded, severely disrupting traffic.” (Floodlist) In total, 35 people have died in the recent heavy rains.

USA: AccuWeather recalls the deadly heatwave of 1995, when unusual humidity combined with 100-degree heat over three days to kill 740 people in Chicago. This year, with the pandemic raging, won’t compare – it’s worse. “Chicago’s summer of 2020 is on track to be hotter than the summer of 1995, the second-warmest summer on record. Chicago’s average temperature from June 20 to July 13 has been 78.8 degrees, which is 5.9 degrees above average. In comparison, Chicago’s meteorological summer of 1995 averaged 75.2 degrees, which is 2.2 degrees above average.”

Tunnel….

A squirrel near Denver, Colorado, has tested positive for Bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis). Residents are being warned.

A senseless waste of a bad joke… Nitwit loqueris?… BLM: So where are we today?… Corona v. us… Granny’s World. Meeting next Thursday’s deadline today!

Princess Eugenie shares support for dad Prince Andrew on his 60th birthday

“But Dad, you promised to treat me to dinner!” Pizza Express to close 75 restaurants.

QotW

“…at every PMQs Boris merely reveals more of the true character he is trying to conceal. The thin-skinned, unprepared opportunist who cannot tolerate a word of scrutiny or criticism. It’s like dealing with a toddler. If you’re not 100% behind him, saying how marvellous he is, then you are totally against him. There are no in betweens. In terms of emotional development, Boris is barely out of nappies.”

– John Crace, master political sketchwriter for the Guardian, skewers Johnson after yet another petulant and bad-tempered showing of his inability to master his brief and his propensity to prevaricate nastily under even mildly forensic questioning from Sir Keir, QC, about his government’s truly dire performance on the coronavirus pandemic.

A senseless waste of a bad joke

Perhaps the most telling moment at Wednesday’s PMQs (15 July) was when Johnson was forced to admit, he hadn’t bothered to read a new report from the SAGE scientific committee, warning that more preparedness was needed to combat a possible second coronal wave, perhaps combined with a widespread ‘flu outbreak in the winter. He was, he fluffed, “aware” of it.*

This from the Prime Minister who has managed to attend only one COBRA emergencies committee meeting of his own cabinet in the past five months.

But look, a few people have been saying the parallels between the UK and the USA in the current multiple crises are extraordinary, including me. They’re surely not wrong. I never am.

Just take the carnage in care homes, resulting in part from central government orders to evacuate untested elderly patients or with special needs to unprotected care homes, to free up hospital beds. Britain did that, 40% of our total Covid casualties resulted – it’s been an uncannily similar story in the US, yet we have completely different healthcare systems. How was that? Oh, is what we have in common maybe a policy of killing off the elderly social dependents?

The BogPo has in the past alluded to certain character traits our transatlantic leaders, Mini-me, me and Maxi-me, me, share in common with the former German dictator, Herr Hitler – as revealed in the lauded BBC documentary The Rise of the Nazis. Principally, sheer laziness combined with a fragile ego revealing early parenting stresses, multiplied by a sociopathic lust for power devoid of empathy for those weaker than yourself, any  intellectual content, plus a certain brittle charm.

None of the three men has or had an interest in taking expert briefings. The opinions and advice of others being just a boring distraction from The Master Plan, merely undermining their unquestionable authority in matters general.

Let’s put it down for the record before we’re whirled away by the media to the next plateau of crass indifference, that when asked en fin if he would say something comforting to the bereaved families of the 45 thousand sadly British dead, Johnson replied of the lawyerly Starmer: “He’s got more briefs than Calvin Klein.”

Not only was it probably the worst attempt at humor in British parliamentary history, it didn’t even make sense in the context of the question. Perhaps because it was the only pre-rehearsed statement he has ever made.

Thus, the Johnson premiership = a senseless waste of a bad joke.

A pants joke.

*Scorn appeared to work. The following day he announced that a further £3 billion he hasn’t got would be pumped into the NHS to increase winter resilience. Probably not new money either, it’s the thought that counts.

 

Do you speak nitwit? (Nitwit loqueris?)

Born in the tenth month under the star sign of Libra, ‘the scales’, I keep in my fuzzy old head a perpetual, 180-degrees alternative reality to balance whatever it appears I’m expected to perceive, or agree with: an oppositional view that sometimes I have to let out or I’ll burst.

Just as I often fear I may have detected some actual, meaningful content hidden within Donald Trump’s meandering effusions, that nobody else seems to “get”, imagining him to be merely imbecilic: sometimes, even a hint of a perverse sense of ‘Yuma’, which The Mooch – former communications director for a week, Anthony Scaramucci – says his friend the Prez used to possess, so it is with Baris Johnson.

Many leftish commentators and volunteer commenters airily dismiss him as a fraud, a dilettante, a public-school windbag quoting spells in Latin without a trace of irony to disguise his hidden lack of genuine intellect. It’s easy and amusing to perceive him that way, and he seems to encourage it with his tiresome antics. However….

A 180-degree handbrake turn, smokin’ rubber, brings us to Harry Mount, editor of The Oldie magazine and a well-connected member of the bien-pensant set (see, I can do it too! Only in French), who knows Baris and his ilk better than Crace, or Marina Hyde, or any of the quasi-literate numpties who feel free to Comment in the Guardian “BTL”, as the jargon goes.

Mount, an occasional Mail and Telegraph conservative hack, assures us (The Oldie, 14 July) that his man can genuinely spellbind classical academics on aspects of Ciceronian rhetoric just as easily as he can knock-out some bumbling drivel for the masses – or for the Parliamentarians he so clearly fears and loathes.

It’s not that he’s lazy. He just finds it all too easy not to bother with the hard stuff, so his well-stocked (if intolerably needy and overentitled) brain engages at different times on different levels, depending on ergs required. Mount recalls:

“Boris,” I once asked him, “I’ve got to write an introduction to your collected wit and wisdom. I was just wondering whether you ever use any classical devices in your speeches or your articles.”

“Oh yes, I most certainly do,” he said, slipping on his ultra-serious skin, “there’s one particular Roman oratorical trick I use the whole time. Couldn’t survive without it.”

“Oh really. What is it?”

“It’s absolutely crucial – it’s called imbecilio.”

‘Nuff said.

Queen Elizabeth receives Andrei Kelin, Russia’s ambassador to the UK

“Is this the Russia report, your Exellency? Well, just bloody let go!”

So where are we today?

In the same old place, it seems.

There’s been a mass of publicity lately concerning our national propensity for polite racial prejudice, together with an air of embarrassed self-flagellation and calls for change. There have been marches, statue-bashing, even a little light rioting over the matter of racial profiling and police obtuseness. No-one could be unaware of it.

So when the Editor of British Vogue since 2017, Edward Enninful OBE, a successful black man in the world of high fashion, in charge of our national edition of probably the most famous fashion publication in the world, walked into the foyer of the magazine’s London offices yesterday, you can imagine his surprise when a security guard approached him and told him he had to use the loading bay entrance.

The exact wording the guy used is not reported, but no-one has yet offered the excuse that it was for security reasons.

Covid-19, it transpired shortly thereafter, is not the only reason so many people today are finding themselves having to apply for Universal Credit. The man was unceremoniously advised shortly afterwards by the head of HR to visit the unloading bay exit, forthwith.

 

Corona v. us

Oh dear, the UK is slipping down the leader board and now with only 290 thousand cases has fallen to the number 10 spot, as South Africa and Peru race away; although we’re still holding on firmly to the position of third highest death toll in the world. We’d do better, I guess, if we had more people to infect.

With a population of only 66 million, how are we supposed to compete with the likes of Brazil and the US? The former has just recorded its 2 millionth case, including that of the unpleasant fascist president, Cap’n Bolsonaro – we wish him a speedy recovery, along with the Amazon – while Trumpland posted another staggering record number, 77 thousand cases just yesterday, 15 July, passing the 140 thousand deaths mark. USA, USA!

Another number that’s on the slide in the UK is tests. Despite Johnson insisting we have a world-beating test and trace system, the numbers both tested and traced continue to fall. Good news that Oxford University thinks Public Health England (boo!) may have overestimated coronavirus deaths by counting anyone who’d ever tested positive, whatever they might have died of. Except that the figures they’ve been giving out have, according to the Office for National Statistics (hurrah!), consistently underestimated the true numbers by ignoring those dying at home and anyone with Covid-19 certificated only as a contributory factor.

A rate of nuts….

The New Mathematics also proves Trump’s Theorem, that the fewer people you test, the fewer cases you get. And his other theory, that a marginal increase in employment in June as people on furlough were forced back to work or starve, outranks the other 1.3 million jobs being lost every week. (Also, the widely expressed media theory, that a reduction in the amount of CO2 being emitted because of Covid shutdowns might somehow reduce the amount already in the atmosphere.)

Luckily the UK infection rate has been slowing all by itself, although the almost total relaxation of lockdown restrictions in England that few were still taking notice of anyway in the wake of the Cummings affair; the incomprehensible instructions to maintain the “2-metre, or 1.5 meter” prescribed social distance, and to wear a mask in a shop, on a train but not in the office or in a takeaway queue, because, er…. the millions cavorting on beaches or celebrating Leeds’ promotion to the Premiership en masse, will take a little while to work through into a new peak.

A dose of the clap….

I have to get this off my chest. Sorry.

We’re constantly being exhorted to go out in the street to applaud ‘our heroes’ in the NHS. Doubtless, you have to be fairly heroic to throw yourself into the blazing radioactive hell of our coronavirus Chernobyl, inadequately protected by a kiddies’ play apron and a week-old paper mask.

But I look at the numbers, and note that Britain’s death rate per case hospitalized is about the highest in the developed world; higher even than America. The pachyderm in the parlour appears to be that, however heroic the staff, we’re not very good at treating this thing.

You gotta have friends….

The European Union is negotiating advance purchase deals of potential Covid-19 vaccines with drugmakers Moderna, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson and biotech firms BioNtech and CureVac, two EU sources told Reuters.

Russia will unveil a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the pharmaceuticals giant and Oxford University, its wealth fund head said. (Guardian)

Good to know whose side we’re on.

 

The BogPo: a joke.

Q How do you get rid of Huawei technology?

A Have you tried switching it on, then off again?

 

Granny’s World

Colombia: “Wide areas have seen heavy rainfall since the start of July. According to the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD), the rain has caused over 80 incidents of flooding or landslides in 19 departments of the country, with over 5,000 families affected.” (Floodlist) Thousands of homes have been damaged, roads and bridges washed out, local states of emergency declared as rivers burst their banks. At least 5 people have died.

Bangladesh: A “second wave of flooding is sweeping through the country, inundating wide areas and affecting almost 1.4 million people across 15 districts. The first wave of flooding began in late June and continued into July.” (Floodlist) Many rivers are at danger level and more than 15 thousand people are in temporary shelters where the risk from coronavirus is growing.

China: More heavy rain is forecast for central areas. “In Hubei, the flood response was raised to Level II, the second highest on a four-level scale, after a record-breaking 426 mm (16.8 inches) of rain fell on Sunday, July 5, the official China Daily reported. In Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, after being locked down for months, residents were told to stay indoors again, this time due to severe flooding” as the Yangtse overflowed its banks. (Accuweather) Around 40 million peole are affected, 2 million are in evacuation centers and the total of dead and missing stands at 141.

USA: Driven by strong winds, as the 90°F-plus heat stifling the whole of the western, midwestern and southern US maintains its record-breaking grip, “the Mineral Fire has consumed more than 22 square miles of brush near Coalinga in Central California, an area with no known fire history, and was only 15% contained late Wednesday (15 July), according to the Fresno County Fire Protection District.” (The Weather Channel) About 60 properties are in its path. The fire forced evacuations northwest of the city and closed a nearby state highway.

Elsewhere, more ‘damaging’ localized storms are predicted at the weekend almost anywhere across the midwest, with heavy hail, rain, intense lightning and 80 mph winds. (Accuweather) Meanwhile, the heatwave is expanding into the northeast, bringing 90°F-plus temperatures as far north as Vermont. 90°F (32°C) is now the AVERAGE temperature taken across the entirety of the contiguous United States.

I have not seen a single mention of this phenomenon in relation to the spread and rapidly increasing rate of Covid-19 infections.

Italy: “Severe flash flooding swept through the city of Palermo, capital of Sicily, after torrential rain on 15 July. Several buildings were evacuated. A search is continuing for 2 people thought to be trapped in a vehicle in a flooded underpass. Some reports said that 115.8mm of rain fell in around 2 hours – the equivalent locally of a year’s worth.

Iberian peninsula: “While the rest of Europe remains trapped in a cold weather pattern, extreme heat conditions are now worsening over Portugal and Spain, as an extreme heatwave is expected this weekend (18/19 July). Temperatures should push well above 40°C, locally reaching near 43-44°C (110°F)” (Severe-weather.eu)

 

For the planet’s sake, get your story straight… It’s the emergency, stupid… Granny’s World, and other stuff to follow.

“As you probably know, Obama and Biden stopped their testing. They just stopped it. I’m sure you don’t want to report it, but they stopped testing. Right in the middle, they just went, ‘no more testing’ … this is probably the worst thing that’s happened since 1917 (sic)”

– Imagining his predecessors to have been involved with a viral pandemic – if it was Ebola the US had 4 cases – Donald Trump responds to a question from a journalist about why the Covid-19 numbers are still going up if it’s not just a statistical phenomenon, as he continues to argue, caused by doing “more testing than any country in the world”, a myth he keeps on repeating to himself despite the lack of a national testing strategy.

In an hour-long rambling Rose Garden speech of unprecedented vapidity and rodomontade, peppered with lies and vainglory laced with disgusting self-pity, trotting out all the old tropes about the Russia hoax, the Chinese ‘flu, the Persecuted President, liberally blaming everyone and everywhere but himself and the nation he believes he owns, sniffing loudly, fantasising about his own greatness, he is visibly and audibly descending into madness.

Will no-one help him?

 

For the planet’s sake, get your story straight

“The continuing migration of climate zones toward the poles is likely to be disrupted by developing stadial effects and differential warming and cooling effects, leading to major weather disruptions and storminess. Continuing release of greenhouse gases and their amplifying feedbacks could lead to tropical Miocene-like conditions about 4 to 5 degrees Celsius warmer than late Holocene climate conditions which allowed agriculture and thereby civilization to emerge.”

Another climate scientist blowing hot and cold in prose to make your toes fall off.

Dr Andrew Glikson is professor of paleo-climatology at the University of Australia. Writing in Arctic News, 9 July, for about the Nth time in the past year – can’t they find anyone else? Can’t he move on from repeating pretty much the same piece over and again? – he appears to be explaining to us that the melting of the polar ice sheets is proceeding more rapidly than ever, but that this in itself will cool large areas of the oceans, destabilizing the major currents that move warmer and cooler water around the planet.

Which in turn could lead possibly to ‘stadial’ events, ie medium-term interruptions to general global heating when we can expect very cold conditions to develop more locally – greater perturbations in our weather (global heating not being uniform, the growing disparities at the boundaries between hot and cold, dry and wet regions are already producing chaotic effects), and points to prominent instances in the distant past where this has happened.

But of course, we cannot predict where and to what degree these stadials will occur – there is currently a huge and persistent ‘cold spot’ in the North Atlantic, south of Greenland, which may give us a clue – and so it makes it nigh on impossible to predict the trajectory of global heating, I should imagine. Certainly, it won’t be linear. While Dr Glikson makes no mention of other possible causes of stadials, such as increased geological seismicity, biological imbalances or large meteoritic impacts.

And today, we read in Guardian Science that:

“Animal farming and fossil fuels have driven global emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to the highest level on record, putting the world on track for dangerously increased heat levels of 3C to 4C. (By when? Ed.) Since 2000, discharges of the odourless, colourless gas have risen by more than 50m tonnes a year, equivalent to 350m cars or double the total emissions of Germany or France, according to the latest Methane Budget study by a global team of scientists.”

Who also find that, contrary to everything your Old Granny has read or seen anywhere else, methane emissions from thawing permafrost and the warming Arctic ocean destabilizing hydratic methane clathrates on the seabed are having almost no effect on global heating – one of the main tipping points referred to by Dr Glikson and many others, that some are claiming has already been triggered. Their view being that Arctic methane is already contributing to a ‘carbon equivalent’ concentration of almost 500 parts per million – bearing in mind that 560 ppm, twice the pre-industrial concentration –  is reckoned to produce 3 to (more probably ) 5 degrees Celsius of atmospheric forcing.

The methane survey takes us up only as far as 2017, so it is possible that the vast quantities of methane seen on Google’s Climate Reanalyser satellite mapping to be pouring out of the Arctic post-date the results. Quantities that the “Sam Carana” collective, which produces the increasingly poorly edited and numbingly repetitive Arctic News website, there being only so much doomsterism one can take, has been warning for at least those three missing years are now at post-industrial record highs. We are continually being warned of the imminent possibility of a ‘methane burp’ – the sudden explosive release of around 50 Gt. from the various Arctic ‘sinks’ where the gas is locked up in huge quantities, on a temperature ‘hair-trigger’, that could within weeks encircle the earth and produce another degree or two of instant warming.

No doubt, the Arctic is rapidly heating, by land and sea. Either 1.5, 2.5 times or maybe even 10 times as fast as the rest of the planet, apart from the Antarctic, also rapidly heating up. This year’s ice extent may fall below the previous lowest record in 2012, advancing the possibility of a ‘blue water’ event – another possible tipping point. But ice volume is down by 95% since records began, enabling heating of the water from beneath. The built environment of northern Russia is rapidly destabilizing, having its foundations on supposedly permanently frozen ground – permafost – that is turning to slush. Verkhoyansk, north of the Arctic circle, famously recorded a temperature of 100 Fahrenheit, 38 Celsius on 17 June, 2020 (by 2 July it was -5C and snowing…. A few days later the temperature was back up in the 30s. See below.)

With surface level temperatures on sunny days reaching 45C, this heating of the tundra regions, accompanied by vast areas of smouldering peat bog and blazing boreal forest, cannot not be contributing to the methane burden. Yet ‘scientists’ seem convinced it isn’t, yet. Except for those other scientists who are equally convinced it is…. Other methane ‘sinks’ too, such as in the Himalayan region, where the gas in summer is observably pluming out of the thawing upland tundra, appear to be receiving little or no attention.

Broad generalizations and unrealistic plans of action to mitigate climatic effects that no-one seems to be able to agree on are really getting us nowhere, handing an easy hostage to the fortunes of the well-funded denial brigade. I have to say that the confused and contradictory messaging coming out of the climate science industry is doing absolutely nothing to make a persuasive case for urgent political initiatives, as no-one seems to agree about what the fuck is going on. Should we care about 3 meters or 5 meters of sea-level rise ‘by 2100’ if the tipping points will push global average temperature beyond the limits of survivability over most of the planet in the next 10 years?

Sorry for the unscientific language. But far more, and more widespread, research is obviously needed, supported by government funding, ad more professional communications, to produce a coherent picture everyone can agree on, with no politically-enhanced downplaying of the facts by the IPCC.

And that’s not likely, is it.

 

A 15-year-old girl in Michigan has been sent to prison for failing to complete her homework online, after the school closed because of coronavirus. Diagnosed with ADHD, she had previously been put on probation for taking another pupil’s cellphone after her mother took hers away until she tidied her room and then called the police when her daughter bit her finger during a row in the car. The judge declared her “a danger to the community”. Oh, and guess what….

 

It’s the emergency, stupid

A piece in today’s Guardian by George Monbiot asks what the hell is going on, when the ‘government’, which now appears to consist of a stumbling, disoriented post-Covid figurehead in Baris Johnson, ably operated by the semi-criminal duumvirate of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings, has been handing out confetti contracts reminiscent of the Grayling ‘No ferries’ debacle, only without the jeers of the popular blatts.

Monbiot refers to a pest control company with assets of just £18 thousand handed a contract to supply £108 million-worth of PPE, later reduced to only £32 million, despite receiving thousands of offers, many from large medical suppliers – and:

“…the employment agency with net assets of £623 that was awarded an £18m … contract to supply face masks; the confectionery wholesaler that according to the GLP (The Good Law Project, that has been obtaining details through a series of court orders) was given a £100m contract to supply PPE; and the £250m channelled through a “family office” registered in Mauritius, specialising in currency trading, offshore property and private equity, also to supply protective medical equipment.

“Altogether, billions of pounds’ worth of contracts appear to have been granted, often to surprising companies, without competition. I think we may reasonably ask what the hell is going on.”

Monbiot’s list is necessarily truncated, but in confining itself to the procurement side, omits to mention the lucrative contracts for testing awarded to a French catering company; an American outsourcer more concerned with private prisons management; a large firm of accountants, and a chain of high street chemists who might at least know something about medical supplies.

It begins, however, with the very latest scandal, referred to in a previous BogPo, of the £££ half-million or so in research contracts, plural, awarded without any kind of tendering process to a husband-and-wife PR power couple, James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, both of whom previously worked alongside Gove and Cummings: Wolf having penned the Tories’ 2019 election manifesto, now consigned to the dustbin of history. And the government’s defence? It was an emergency. Right.

“Official data analysed by the Guardian,15 May, shows state bodies have awarded at least 177 contracts worth £1.1bn to commercial firms in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.” Most of them, 145, without proceeding to tender. The fear being that the emergency – some might say panic – response, overriding existing rules on government procurement where necessary, might just somehow turn into a permanent gravy train for cronies of ministers.

It’s obviously all part of the replacement for dreary old democracy that we were promised; evidence of that famous Conservative fiscal prudence. But it’s not confined to these shores. Trump Hotels was being investigated for charging $137 thousand a night to the Saudi delegation at Trump’s inaugural bash, the profit from which ended up in a $26 million slush fund held in the account of a friend of Melania Trump’s, party planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Must have been some party.

Trump’s brother Bob, we recall, received a $33 million contract recently to provide security services to Federal prisons, that already have their own security services. Needtoimpeach.dot com website reported:

Federal law states that “full and open competition” should be required for government contracts in order to maintain a fair and unbiased process. In the Trump era, full and open has been completely bypassed, and instead replaced with favoritism and cronyism. This is particularly apparent with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the undeserving contract he awarded to Whitefish Energy this past October, following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico.”

When it comes to awarding contracts to obscure pop-up businesses with no connection to the purpose, “No ferries” Chris Grayling has some way to go. Whitefish Energy Holdings was a company in rural Montana employing two people, that was handed an advance payment of $3.7 million ahead of a $300 million contract to repair the island’s devastated power grid, quoting rates of $250 an hour for a technical repairman. A year after the disaster, 40 per cent of the islanders were still without elecricity.

Unlike our power-struck duo, Gove and Cummings, ‘Govemings’, who appear to have secured unlimited access to taxpayer funds to do as they please, and no oversight.

It’s an emergency alright.

 

Keeping a straight face, Donald Trump has told a CBS interviewer that “more white people than black are killed by police”. A swift factcheck by journalists confirmed the news that twice as many blacks are being killed than whites, but a quarter of American voters will believe him because, well, wouldn’t it be great if it were true! Hey, the cops are killing us! MAGA!

 

Granny’s World

Indonesia: Heavy rain continues to fall in parts of the country, causing flooding and landslides across several provinces, leaving at least 17 dead and over 40 missing since 11 July. The worst of the flooding is in South Sulawesi, where at least 16 people have died. Previously at least 5 major incidents of flooding were reported in the country during the first days of July following heavy rain unusual for this time of year. (Floodlist)

South Korea: “2 people died after torrential rain triggered flash flooding on 13 July.” Several locations recorded more than 200mm of rain in 24 hours. 277 mm of rain fell in Sancheong. Rates of over 30mm per hour were reported in South Gyeongsang province, where floods and landslides blocked roads and damaged homes including in the large port city of Busan. (Floodlist)

Pakistan: More torrential rain in the region of the Khyber Pass has set off flooding, with yet another glacial lake outburst that has destroyed homes and damaged buildings in the Lower Chitral district. Power and water infrastructure were damaged and roads washed away, cutting off remote communities. 2 people died in floods in South Waziristan on 13 July. (Floodlist)

USA: “Stormy weather has triggered severe flooding in northern New Hampshire, clogging roadways and pouring through a hospital on Tuesday, flooding out the operating rooms. Aon Insurance reports, US weather-related disasters have cost $10 billion already this year – and no hurricanes yet! (Accuweather)

Much of America remains swelteringly hot. Washington DC has had 19 straight days of temperatures in the 90s F, 35C-plus. On 13 July, at least 13 high temperature records were matched or broken in cities across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Among those records, reports AccuWeather, San Antonio logged its hottest July day when the thermometer reached 107 F, 41.6 C. Del Rio, a city about 160 miles west of San Antonio, tied its record for hottest all-time temperature at 112 F. Severe-weather.eu reports, humidity across the SW states is set to increase, raising the Heat Index to danger levels.

Russia: Hens’ egg-sized hailstones fell during a sudden storm in Yakutia, northern Siberia on 13 July, smashing through roofs and battering cars. More than 60 houses were damaged. A herd of cows were electrocuted after a power line was brought down by strong winds. The temperature in the nearby provincial capital, Yakutsk, had just managed to hit a record 35 C, 95 F before the storm struck. Meanwhile, to the north and west of Yakutsk, more than 50 wildfires are raging – many in remote areas where they can’t be reached by firefighters.

Hail, fires and tropical storms, with temperature hitting record +35C in world’s coldest city

Seen from space, a fire rages within 35 km of the Arctic ocean, 13 July. Many fires are too remote to be tackled.

Tunnel…

Russia: Norilsk Nickel has suffered a second major fuel spillage in a month after a pipeline operated by a subsidiary burst, sending 45 tonnes of aviation fuel into waterways feeding the Yenisei river. A state of emergency has been declared. (Siberian Times) Operations are continuing to try to mop up the earlier disaster when a bund wall ruptured, sending 21,000 tonnes of diesel fuel, much of it into waterways flowing into the Kara Sea.

This stinks (ça pue la gouvernement)… Is there no end? #137… Corona-v-Us v Something else?… The madness… Granny’s World. A new BogPo takes wing and flaps about before being spotted by the cat of fate.

“I didn’t doubt for a moment that there would be thousands of mediocre journalists, broadcasters, lawyers and administrators who would happily work for the new regime if it pandered to their vanity by giving them the jobs they could never have taken on merit.” – Nick Cohen, from an interview with Anne Applebaum in Observer Books, 12 July.

Her explanation of the new populism, that democracy is a casualty of what is essentially a mediocracy inhabited by the resentment of failed elites, is a persuasive one that disturbingly reflects Hannah Arendt’s view that communist and fascist dictatorships both replaced “first-rate talents” with “crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity” was the best guarantee of their loyalty.

Trump and Johnson watchers especially, take heed!

“Just take this round to the Cabinet Office…”

This stinks (ça pue la gouvernement)

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/jun/16/horse-racing-tory-donations-and-a-swift-return-from-lockdown-matt-hancock

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jul/10/firm-with-links-to-gove-and-cummings-given-covid-19-contract-without-open-tender

Back-to-back stories in The Guardian, 10 July illustrate perfectly, the depth and stench of the swamp of corruption, influence-peddling and sleaze oozing out of Downing Street under the ‘power behind the throne’ duopoly of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings, an arrangement from Hell for which, surely, almost nobody but their mothers voted.

As if the formation of the latest iteration of the Parliamentary committee on Intelligence and Security, with a loyalist  Conservative majority and an unconstitutional recommendation from Johnson that the famously useless Chris Grayling, whose name has become a byword for administrative bungling, should be the chairperson*, were not enough to convince voters that we are living in a parallel world to Trump’s America.

Well, the dumbfucks neither know nor care. They just want Brexit done, their invisible “sovereignty” back and the immigrants out. Followed by the deepest recession since the 1930s, which they were warned about. (The UK’s economy shrank by 19 per cent between March and May. And that’s before a No Deal Brexit.)

The final connection being Russia: a long-delayed report from 2018 on whose influence on the Brexit referendum and the 2017 election now rests in the hands of the said committee, that is likely, Downing Street explains, to take several more months to settle in, get to understand its own remit – funny, newly appointed ministers are usually expected to hit the ground running – and only then to read, digest and release the report, after putting in an order for another hundred gallons or so of black highlighter.

This administration stinks to high heaven. That, unfortunately, is no more nor less what the 43 per cent of voters who stupidly put it in power expected it to do, holding their noses and rejecting more competent and caring alternatives on the grounds that “They’re all the same”.

I seriously doubt that the Labour party is or was so deeply in bed with the horseracing fraternity that they would have condemned possibly hundreds of punters to an agonizing slow death by allowing the lucrative Cheltenham Festival of racing to go ahead in March, despite warnings from public health professionals.

Or that they would be handing out Covid contracts like taxpayer-funded candy bars to dubious entities run by their mates, no questions asked, while ignoring the existing support networks of qualified public services.

Except that we do have one or two precedents set by ‘Failing’ Grayling that might have given them the odd clue.

*It’s not in the Prime Minister’s gift to nominate the chair of the committee, it’s up to the committee itself to vote… Oh, er, right. They’re mostly Tory gong scourers** who will do anything they’re told for a knighthood.

**In medieval times, a gong scourer was a lowly municipal employee who collected up the night soil people chucked out of their upstairs windows. Today it’s pretty much the same.

 

“There is simply no aspect of the British state that is regarded as too big to Grayl. In the event of nuclear devastation, almost certainly somehow caused by Chris Grayling, Chris Grayling would not simply survive, but there would be someone surveying the ash cloud and the onset of nuclear winter going: “You know what, clearing this up looks like a job for Chris Grayling.” – Marina Hyde, writing in Guardian Opinion, 10 May.)

Your Old Uncle has just discovered a dedicated website produced by researchers at the Unison trade union, called http://www.howmuchmoneyhaschrisgraylingwasted.org. The answer is, apparently, £2.778 billion.

 

Is there no end? #137

Oh God, here we go again. It’s Deutsche Bank time, and a 2013 memo that’s just turned up warning them with all kinds of red flags against doing business with Trump’s friend, murdered society pimp and child-abuser, Jeffrey Epstein.

Only they did.

And have just paid a $150 million fine for compliance “failures”, for which read that, despite knowing he was a convicted pedophile and pimp, Epstein’s bank accounts were used to channel millions of dollars from his clients to his shadowy enablers, mainly Wall Street figures, and to less savoury recipients. The Hill reports:

“…transactions identified by state regulators included payments to individuals who have been publicly accused in lawsuits filed by Epstein’s alleged victims to have played a role in enabling the sexual abuse of young women; payments totaling over $7 million to law firms for what appear to be settlements as well as payments totaling over $6 million to law firms for what appear to be legal expenses for Epstein and his alleged co-conspirators; and payments to Russian models and other women with Eastern European surnames to cover hotel expenses, tuition and rent.”

So, well-regulated law firms were being paid for five years by Epstein – until he was charged a second time – to help him to conceal his predatory activities worth many millions of dollars, out of the same accounts as he was using to pay Russian prostitutes to recruit and tutor underage girls in how to have sex with wealthy men. (Other banks are under investigation.)

And they knew!

“Regulators cite numerous instances in which bank officers escalated concerns about Epstein-related transactions to bank executives, who permitted the activity to continue with minimal increased oversight”. (The Hill) In connection with which, records appeared to vanish into thin air.

It gets worse.

In November last year, a former Deutsche Bank private wealth division executive, Thomas Bowers, was found hanged in his Malibu beach house, just days (according to an unreliable source, Reddit) before he was due to be interviewed by the FBI over what he knew about Epstein’s accounts, the old Florida trafficking case against Epstein having been reopened by a New York court after more witnesses came forward.

Bowers – who left the bank in 2015 – was reported at the time to have been the boss of Rosemary Vrablic, the manager who greenlit almost $2 billion in loans to Epstein’s former friend, Donald Trump – ignoring similar memos warning that Trump was a serial defaulter possibly involved in illegal money laundering. Trump was introduced to Vrablic by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who described her as his “favorite banker”.

She was also Epstein’s, it seems, having recommended taking him on as a client who had “a powerful network of friends” the bank might be able to do business with. (Report: Saagar Enjeti – The Hill Rising, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA7j9XMwfTs ) It seems she too had been taken in by his glib charm: the son of a humble New York park groundsman, living in a $70 million Lower East Side mansion, a “gift” from Victoria’s Secret founder, Les Wexner, who had been virtually his only client at Goldman Sachs; and the owner of a Bahamian property the locals called ‘Pedophile Island’.

Those wealthy concealers really had to work for his living.

Trump, we recall, after his usual way of rewarding guilty enablers with secrets to spill, handed the post of Secretary of Labor in his administration to Alexander Acosta, the former Florida attorney who brokered a plea bargain in 2007 that saw Epstein given the lightest of sentences, 13 months in an open “come and go” prison, for trafficking a minor for sex. Acosta was obliged to resign in 2019 when the case was reopened on further charges, after Epstein’s “friend”, Ghislaine Maxwell tried to sue one of his victims for slander and, in best Oscar Wilde fashion, managed to incriminate herself while losing the case.

Arrested in her agreeable, $1.1m, 165-acre New Hampshire bolthole after a year on the run, Maxwell is now being held on remand in a New York prison, awaiting trial on charges of aiding and abetting the trafficking of minors; while in Windsor Castle  another “friend” of hers and Epstein’s, His Royal Highness The Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward, Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, Baron Killyleagh, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Personal Aide-de-Camp to The Queen (possibly not any longer), squirms on a hook of his own making.

As the song goes, “You gotta have friends”.

To push the conspiracy theory boat out into the turbid floodwaters of insanity, the Mail reported in January: “Revealed: How Prince Andrew’s tycoon friend and £6m Tory party donor David Rowland hatched a plot to become Kim Jong Un’s private banker.

And we all know who Kim’s best friend is, don’t we!

PS Not to be outdone, your Old Uncle once worked with a colleague who’d been Idi Amin’s personal PR man! And lived to tell the tale.)

 

‘I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.’ – last words of a dying 30 year-old patient who attended a “Covid party “in Texas for unconvinced Americans wanting to meet other people who have tested positive, to see if the virus is real. And you wonder why they vote for Trump.

 

Corona-v-Us v Something else?

The South China Morning Post is reporting on a mystery outbreak of a pneumonia-like virus that is affecting three areas of Khazakstan, a former Soviet republic, that are many hundreds of kilometers apart. An official is reported as saying they are experiencing 300 new cases a day in the capital; other sources put the numbers at up to 500, 1,770 in June, from which 648 patients have died. It’s not clear if it is connected with Covid-19 or, as Chinese health officials seem to think, it is a different virus. (Thousands of Russian cases of Covid were initially put down on death certificates simply as ‘pneumonia’.)

Nevertheless, the Chinese embassy is warning its citizens to take precautions. “The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus. The country’s health departments are conducting comparative research into the pneumonia virus, but have yet to identify the virus,” said a spokesman. Khazak health authorities have dismissed the warning as alarmist and are insisting it’s just ordinary pneumonia brought on by the usual range of causes. The WHO says it it is not aware of any new emerging disease in the region.

President Trump has postponed an election rally, apparently in an attempt to avoid a repeat of his embarrassingly low numbers in Tulsa three weeks ago, since when the city has reported a spike in Covid-19 cases. The Guardian reported:

“Trump said Tropical Storm Fay (see below) had ‘forced’ his campaign to postpone his planned rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which was supposed to take place tomorrow night.” His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden immediately backtweeted to point out that, in an echo of Sharpiegate, when Trump had a weather chart hastily doctored to cover-up an error he’d made in forecasting the path of a hurricane, the storm is not expected to go anywhere near Portsmouth.

“A dog in Texas has become the first animal in the state to catch coronavirus. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s veterinary lab received the positive test back on Tuesday that confirmed the dog has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, according to The Dallas Morning News. The dog was tested after the owners contracted the virus.” (AccuWeather) It’s not showing symptoms.

The White House has launched a campaign to discredit America’s leading epidemiologist, Dr Anthony Fauci, who has dared on occasion to contradict the Dear Leader’s medical opinion. The press office has published a list of 12 things he said going back to January that they claim were “wrong”.

Public disapproval of Trump’s handling of the pandemic now stands at 67% (ABC poll)

 

The madness…

As Mexico’s president Lopez Obrador departs Washington after a suckup Oval Office visit to celebrate a few pointless amendments to the NAFTA treaty, a meeting Canadian PM Justin Trudeau declined to attend, President Trump has claimed that the US would be “inundated” with Covid-19 cases had he not built the border wall with Mexico. “They have some big problems there”, he opined hopefully. But, he said, thanks to the wall “our numbers on the border … are very small.”

That’s Texas and Arizona, where new infections are jointly running at 20 thousand a day.

What he seems not to want to know is that only 250 miles of steel barrier has been erected so far along a border 1,950 miles long. The “wall” cannot stop anything. Then, there is the minor disparity between the two nations:

The US has 3 million, 285 thousand cases of the virus as of midnight GMT, 10 July. A record 65 thousand new cases were reported just today, hospitals in some states are putting up tents to cope with the overflow of serious cases, ICU beds are maxed-out and many health professionals to whom Trump is not listening and who have been sidelined by the White House, fear the disease is out of control.

Mexico has 282 thousand cases and has been attempting to prevent Americans from entering the country. Maybe they will have to pay for a wall after all.

 

Granny’s World

Nepal: “Further deadly flooding and landslides have struck again in Nepal, where disaster authorities have reported 7 fatalities and 20 missing in the last 2 days.” (Floodlist) A major highway connecting with the Chinese border has been blocked in several places. Over 250 mm of rain fell in 24 hours.

Update, 13 July: “Dozens” of villagers have now died in a series of landslides and floods across much of the country, as up to 10 in. of rain has fallen in some places within 24 hours. The cumulative known death toll since 9 July is 47, but more than 50 people are still missing. (Floodlist)

Ukraine: “Forest fires have killed at least 6 people and ravaged several villages in the Luhansk region, near areas held by Russian-backed separatist forces. High winds and soaring temperatures have contributed to the spread of the fires. President Zelensky visited the area and promised compensation for those affected. Earlier in July heavy flooding hit nearly 300 towns and villages in the west of the country.” (BBC Weather)

Bulgaria: “Areas around the capital, Sofia were hit by heavy rain, lightning strikes and strong winds overnight 6 to 7 July. Emergency services received 750 calls for assistance. One person was injured. Streets, metro stations, underpasses and buildings were all flooded. The Perlovska River broke its banks flooding roads in the city causing traffic problems and damaging vehicles.” (Floodlist)

Turkey: At least 2 people have died and 5 more injured in flooding and landslides in the Çayeli district of Rize Province bordering the Black Sea in the northeast of the country. Over 270 mm of rain fell in 24 hours to 14 July, causing houses to collapse. (Floodlist)

India: “At least 8 people have died after flooding and landslides in the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Incessant rains for the last five days have triggered landslides and floods, leaving a trail of devastation in the state, damaging roads and houses and inundating low-lying areas.” (Floodlist)

China: Is bracing for more torrential rain. Flooding in central and eastern provinces has worsened, with (update, 14 July) over 34 million people affected across the worst hit provinces. Rivers (including the Yangtse) peaked well above danger levels in over 80 locations.” (Floodlist) “After weeks of intense seasonal flooding in southwestern and central China, torrential rains have caused more floods along the Yangtze River, with nearly 300,000 people evacuated in the eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangxi as homes have been destroyed, roads paralysed and many left stranded without food or electricity.” (South China Morning Post) 121 people are known to have died in floods and landslides since May. The all-important national university exams sat by 10 million students annually have been disrupted.

USA: Tropical Storm Fay, the record sixth this year and earliest ‘F’-designated Atlantic storm on record, has turned into a super-soaker as it trundles at 10 mph northwards along the east coast, heading for Maine and Nova Scotia over waters warmed to 82F. Flood warnings are out. (AccuWeather) Latest: it’s taken a bit of a left turn and is clobbering New York City.

The brutal heatwave affecting the southwest is set to continue. “Temperatures in Death Valley, California, often the hottest daily location in the United States, are forecast to stay above 120 F (48.8 C) into the middle of next week. The daily high hasn’t dropped below 100 F (38 C) in Phoenix, Az. since 9 June. 11 July, Palm Springs posted a near-record 119 F, 48 C.

Yet another band of damaging “severe” thunderstorms is forecast over the midwest this week.

Brazil: Floodlist reported, 11 July – Several rivers have broken their banks in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, after days of heavy rain. Authorities report 2 people have died and over 7,000 people displaced. The flooding comes just days after areas of southern Brazil were hit by a deadly cyclone.

Arctic: sea ice extent is chasing down the record low set in 2012, while volume is less than ever. A high pressure weather system over the Arctic seems stuck, bringing unprecedented heat anomalies. Current sea ice extent over the Laptev sea, off northen Siberia, is at levels normally seen in August. (Severe-weather.eu), whose geeks have worked out:

“If we could reduce the size of the Arctic ice cap down to that of a sheet of paper, the ice cap would be around 800 times thinner!”

This week continues here: Testing times… An atmosphere of incredulity… Corona v. Us… Granny’s World

QotW

“I was wandering around my house, as traumatized as many other people but in a more personal way: it felt as though 62,979,636 voters had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of my malignantly dysfunctional family.”

– Mary L Trump PhD: “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”. Out now!

Keir Starmer in London this morning.

“You’re not fooling anyone with that disguise, Jeremy.”

Testing times

“Around 2.5m coronavirus tests sent out have effectively been wasted, government figures suggest. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says that since testing started a total of 10.5m tests have been “made available” but only 8m of those have been “processed”. That means that as many as a fifth of tests are either not being sent back to laboratories or are not capable of being processed.”

In tandem with that item, it was announced at the daily briefing, 6 July, the ‘government’ has abandoned attempts to provide a daily figure for the number of individuals being tested for coronavirus. This, according to a spokesmouth, is because some people have had more than one test but they only get counted once so the numbers of daily tests sent out don’t match the number of people tested, or something.

When asked why they couldn’t just change the system so that even if a person has been tested before they would be counted as a new test on any given day, the spokesmouth flopped open like a stranded guppy and admitted that it didn’t know.

The Guardian report goes on: “He was also unable to explain why the government has continually given a figure for the number of testing kits sent out, but no figure for the number of testing kits sent out that do not get returned.”

See above for rationalisation. But a clue: it may have something to do with the government not wanting to admit it has never yet reached its testing target.

Testing tsarina, the hapless Dido Harding, quizzed by the House of Lords Science committee on the failure of the tracing app, said what she was trying to build is a “digitally assisted human service”, not a purely digital service. She says she is doubtful whether people would be willing to give up their freedom for two weeks just on the basis of a text message.

So, er… Why did we bother designing the thing in the first place? Could £millions not have been saved, and a certain amount of face, by employing a behavioral scientist for five minutes before hiring a bunch of beanbags to design an app from scratch, that was never likely to work?

From the Sunshine Belt of the United States, for instance, where infections are roaring away like Trump’s fantasy economy, at the rate of 50 thousand new cases every day, it’s being reported that a goodly proportion of people testing positive are refusing to tell tracers who they’ve been in contact with, on libertarian grounds.

While from the UK, we learn that 16% of those polled say they will refuse a shot of vaccine if one becomes available.

Also, you remember last week Number 10 published a list of 74 countries you could happily go to and not have to quarantine yourself when you get back? Well, it appears the list doesn’t tally with the other list of countries – those that won’t let people from Covid-riddled Britain in without either a recent negative test or having to be quarantined for 14 days until they can be let loose. The spokesmouth referred people battling to make their 28-day holiday bookings to the Gov.uk website.

Somehow, we feel that may be a fairly futile exercise.

 

Corona v. Us

What’s the best way to protect yourself against the coronavirus? Well, between March and May, Americans bought 2.1 MILLION “more guns than usual”. (U. of California) It seems they couldn’t wait to try them out, as 160 Americans were shot dead and 500 injured just over the 4th of July weekend, including a number of children.

Another way is to make lots of money out of it. Rapper and showbiz egomaniac, Kanye West’s personal brand empire received ‘between 2 and 5 million dollars’ in small business support loans, while Trump’s lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, also benefitted from a ‘huge loan’ under the paychheck protection package. Lawrence O’Donnell reported for MSNBC, that the terms of the loans mean they will never have to be paid back.

West recently announced he was running against his friend Trump on a pro-life, anti-vaccine ticket. (Some contradiction there? Ed.) Other Trump cronies to receive state handouts included Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, whose student debt collection companies benefited from “at least” 6 million dollars. Mrs DeVos is a billionaire, married to a billionaire. Between them, they own ten yachts. Meanwhile, the Foundation named after the über-libertarian goddess, Ayn Rand has ironically also been queuing up for a government welfare handout worth several millions of dollars.

The USA went over the 3 million cases mark on Monday or Tuesday, depending on your source, as the world exceeded 12 million. Hailing the “lowest death rate in the world” (not true, Big Fat Lie – 8 countries sit above Trumpland on that count), Trump continued to assert that his administration was on top of the virus and accused the ‘fake news’ media of failing to report his historic success. Yesterday set a record of 60 thousand new cases. Hospitals are being overwhelmed and there’s no PPE again.

Robert Reich cites an official report claiming that up to 23 MILLION American home renters are likely to be evicted for non-payment by the end of September, most of them black, Latinos, single mothers and the disabled, as the enhanced unemployment pay scheme ends on 31 July, making the average family $600 a week worse off.

At least 1,335 people have tested positive in child care facilities in Texas, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday. Of those infected, 894 were staff members and 441 were children. President Trump has again insisted that schools must reopen in the fall, arguing (counterfactually) that children are less likely to get and pass on the virus. (CNN)

Hillingdon hospital in NW London has had to close its A&E unit after 70 staff tested positive and went into isolation, leaving wards under-staffed. In an astonishing abdication of responsibility, chief executive Sarah Tedford issued a memo chastising the staff for failing to take precautions. Like some third-rate girls’ boarding-school headmistress, she wrote:

“I am told some of you are not wearing appropriate masks and you are not adhering to social distancing. This has resulted in an outbreak on a ward where our staff have contracted Covid-19. If you do not follow the guidance, we cannot keep you safe.”

It must have escaped her notice that hers was the hospital where a healthcare assistant made news not long ago by resigning after a manager refused to allow her to wear a mask on the ward. And that a new report has excoriated NHS executives for not listening to women damaged by unchallenged medical procedures and birth-deforming drugs. Clearly ‘lessons’ have not been learned since the Thalidomide scandal of the late 1960s.

Clap for the NHS? Not while inadequate executives like this terrible, self-exonerating cow are in charge.

 

An atmosphere of incredulity

Your Old Uncle has frequently bogld his suspicion that humanity is suffering serious cognitive decline as a result of having to breathe a more carbon-rich atmosphere than the world has known in hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of years.

A “safe” threshold – whatever that means, whoever decides it – of 350 parts per million was crossed years ago, and we are now well up over 417 ppm. Research on the “toxic office” environment – where CO2 builds up and oxygen levels are depleted and employees’ heads slump forward onto their desks by four o’clock – has for many years been reported to show that intellectual ability is impaired as the CO2 content of the air combined with the consumption of Blueberry muffins increases.

That too is something I feel sure we all already know from personal experience. Just put your head in a paper bag for a while. See, no hiccups!

What else but cognitive decline can be responsible for the conclusion of the UK’s Office for National Statistics, say, that the more people who inhabit the same household, the more likely you are to get a positive test result for Covid-19?

Or that more people test positive who commute to work outside the home than those who stay in and work from home?

Or that more people test positive after coming into contact with a known case of the coronavirus than if they haven’t?

I suspect that you or I could probably have come to those conclusions at any time in the past 50 years, the galling thing being that we wouldn’t be getting paid for it and The Guardian wouldn’t publish a list of our lapidary, halfwitted pronouncements of the bleedin’ obvious as if there was serious intellectual content to them.

But nothing could have prepared me for the article I read in the Washington Post this morning, claiming that scientists are worried that the World Health Organization appears not to have accepted that the virus can be spread through microscopic airborne droplets and is not only caught from contaminated surfaces and shaking unwashed hands with Baris Johnson.

I don’t know where to start unpacking that news. I’ve assumed for months now that you can catch coronavirus by breathing it in when you find yourself in a dense enough cloud of the stuff. Have I been laboring under a serious misapprehension?

What, for instance, is all the hoo-ha about masks, if we haven’t been talking about airborne transmission and the size of particles? What are all those time-lapse sequences we are invited to watch, of clouds of scary aerosols surrounding people’s heads when they sneeze, showing how far viral plumes can spread? Why is anyone making those videos? What was all that about coughing into your elbow – a feat of contortion I’m unable to replicate, having atttractively long arms?

Why do I spend a great deal of energy assiduously diving into the bushes and cursing volubly whenever I detect a jogger approaching, panting and sweating at the head of a tunnel of potentially virus-laden aerosols, on the footpath? Which, being partially sighted, gives me little time to react. Are you telling me they’re not extra-toxic compared with sensible, elderly dog-walkers?

Why would anyone have assumed that an infectious disease – say, for instance, the common cold, which is also caused by a coronavirus – could not be spread by coughing into someone’s face, instead of waiting for it to fall on to a surface? As if we didn’t already know that it could? And that the smaller the particles, logically, the longer they are going to persist in air?

It’s hard to work out which group is the bigger bunch of Monty Python fans – the WHO, or the worried scientists? Or, indeed, the Washington Post?

Is there any source of information we can actually trust?

 

A new musical parody from the wondrous Randy Rainbow is now on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lJondUzeKk

 

Masked and ready … a National Gallery staff member with Holbein’s The Ambassadors.

“And you’ll observe that visitors were social distancing even in 1533…”

Holbein’s cleverly executed anamorphic skull in the foreground of his famous painting, The Ambassadors, is a symbol of life’s unpredictable brevity. Especially if you try to crane your neck too far to see it in its proper perspective. Alternatively…

…Water up your nose? Swimmers escaping lockdown on sunny beaches be warned, a case of Naegleria fowleri has been reported in Florida. The deadly brain-eating amoeba is contracted nasally from inhaling contaminated water and has claimed over 140 lives in the USA since first identified in the 1960s…

…Or if you have any official business in Mississippi, where 26 members of the State legislature have gone down with the virus after refusing to wear masks in the capitol bulding. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Trump controversially held an unprotected rally two weeks ago, more than 400 new cases have been reported spiking in the past few days.

 

Granny’s World

India: A “southwesterly monsoon has brought heavy rain to western parts of the country, causing widespread disruption and flooding roads and buildings. 2 fatalities were reported in the state of Gujarat and 2 in Karnataka. One district in Gujarat recorded 434 mm (17 in.) of rain on 5 July, with 292 mm falling in 4 hours. (Floodlist) In Pakistan, 6 people have died in floods and collapsing buildings in the city of Karachi. High winds tore the cladding off the side of an apartment block.

Bangladesh: over 1 million people are affected by flooding and a further 6 million are at risk as rivers overflow.

Japan: “Rescuers are racing against time to save people stranded by floods and landslides that have devastated southwestern Japan and left dozens dead. Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) on Tuesday issued its second-highest emergency warning for heavy rain and landslides over vast swaths of the Kyushu region, which has been pounded by downpours since late on Friday. At least 50 deaths have so far been confirmed but officials expect the toll to rise, with more than a dozen people reported missing.” (Al Jazeera) 3.5 million people have been advised to evacuate as the rains move north.

Update: Images of Kyushu island after the floods show extensive devastation, with many buildings reduced to twisted piles of steel and rubble and cars tossed about. The death toll now stands at 58. (Accuweather)

Russia: Remember Verkhoyansk? The ‘world’s coldest city’ in northeastern Siberia, 6 degrees north of the Arctic circle, where on 17 June the temperature hit a record 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 38 Celsius? And was still at 80F, 27C last week? Where wildfires have been raging?

It’s snowing. (Siberian Times, 6 July)

Mongolia: 8 more people are known to have died as a second wave of floods hit the country in the past few weeks. Thousands of homes are affected and livestock losses are estimated at over 7 thousand. (Floodlist)

UK: Ex-tropical storm Edouard that formed last week off the coast of the Carolinas has raced across the Atlantic like an America’s Cup yachtsman and is forecast to hit Ireland and western Britain, particularly Wales, where up to 90mm of rain is forecast, on 7/8 July.

Edouard holds the record for a fifth named Atlantic storm of the season to form so early in the year and its arrival over the British Isles in early July is “an unusual event”, according to Severe-weather.eu.

USA: Another system, Tropical Depression Fay is already brewing off the southeastern US coast and warnings are out for dangerous tidal conditions on the Grand Banks. Searing heat continues over the Southwest and central Plains, with temperatures in Phoenix, Az. expected to peak at 118 F, 48 C on Saturday, 10 Jul., the 30th straight day of temps over 100 F.

Pacific: Tropical Storm Cristina is intensifying in the eastern Pacific and is expected to become the first official hurricane of 2020. It’s not threatening any land areas.

Snow in Verkhoyansk district

From +38C to -5C: the scene near Verkhoyansk, north Yakutia in July.

Footnote…

My spam filter has taken to admitting many messages of breathless admiration and support every day from the following obscure ID: ปั้มไลค์.

In fact, almost all my spam is now coming from that address.

Assiduous inquiries have resulted in the suggestion that the word may mean ‘Wow.like’, a dotcom site of uncertain provenance, while the writing is Vietnamese. No wonder the Americans couldn’t win.

I’m still struggling to understand the point of all these spam messages. I never open them or reply, assuming they wish to plant malware on me. Why the WordPress spammeister seems to imagine I would is anybody’s guess.

Possibly among the other, almost 13 thousand spam messages Arkayla claims to have intercepted on my behalf there may be some that are genuine, I shall never know. My apologies if I have not replied.

But the fame of the BogPo has clearly spread far and wide.