Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested Wednesday that politicians who impose lockdowns or curfews to limit COVID-19 are acting like dictators. The comments came as López Obrador once again fended off questions about why he almost never wears a face mask, saying it was a question of liberty. The Mexican leader said pandemic measures that limit people’s movements are “fashionable among authorities ... who want to show they are heavy handed, dictatorship.”
On Tuesday Gabriel Sterling of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office spoke forcefully against post-election threats and rhetoric directed at election staff.
Control of the United States Senate hinges on two January 5 runoff elections in Georgia, where incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock respectively. Most immediately, the race is a contest over whether President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic Party will be able to govern — especially by passing another big coronavirus rescue package.However, Loeffler and Perdue are also excellent examples of what interests the Republican Party serves — namely, the ultra-rich, which includes both Loeffler and Perdue personally. These are two people who were rich before they got into politics, and leveraged their power as senators to make themselves even more rich — by profiteering off the pandemic. It is government of, by, and for the top 0.1 percent.Let me consider their cases in turn. David Perdue is a longtime businessman who served as CEO of Dollar General in the mid-2000s, where he worked diligently to source more products from China. According to his financial disclosures, he is worth between $15 million and $43 million.As Michela Tindera writes at Forbes, Kelly Loeffler and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher own a big stake in International Exchange, a financial clearinghouse company that Sprecher founded and where he remains CEO and chairman. (That company also owns the New York Stock Exchange, where Sprecher is again chairman.) After closely examining Loeffler's financial disclosure forms and other information, Tindera estimates that the couple is worth at least $800 million, and likely over $1 billion — or roughly quadruple the wealth of the second-richest member of Congress, Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah).Here's how the pandemic profiteering worked. On January 24, there was a private all-Senate briefing about the looming disaster — long before there was a broad public understanding that the U.S. was going to get slammed by COVID-19. Immediately afterward, both Loeffler and Perdue started trading strategic stocks. As The Daily Beast reported at the time, Loeffler executed 29 transactions valued between $1.275 and $3.1 million in the following days before the market crashed, almost all of them sales — one exception was a purchase of Citrix, which sells teleworking software. (Also, Loeffler recently violated the legal prohibition on soliciting campaign funds in a Senate office building.)Perdue made a similar number of trades, but bought more than Loeffler — in particular, an investment of up to $850,000 in DuPont, which manufactures personal protective equipment. And as The Associated Press reports, in late January he sold between $1 million and $5 million in shares of Cardlytics, a financial technology firm, at $86 per share. Then, when the market had bottomed out in March, he snapped up between $200,000 and $500,000 of Cardlytics shares at $30 apiece; since then the share price has shot back up to $121. Nice tidy little profit to counterbalance the 270,000 dead Americans. (The Daily Beast also reports that in 2019, Perdue bought up shares of a submarine parts manufacturer before voting to give the company a lucrative contract, then sold it for another handsome profit.)When reports of these trades first came out, both Loeffler and Perdue insisted they had nothing to do personally with the moves. "I have never used any confidential information I received while performing my Senate duties as a means of making a private profit ... professionals buy and sell stocks on our behalf," wrote Loeffler in an April 8 Wall Street Journal op-ed. Perdue told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that advisers made his investment decisions on their own.In the first place, candidates not taking direct control of their stock trades does not actually remove the conflict of interest. If you are a senator, and you hire a bunch of asset managers to look after your investments without any kind of blind trust, you still know what those investments are. You can make decisions knowing that your Goldman Sachs lackeys will make the profit-maximizing move in response — which is the best-case scenario of what happened here.But realistically speaking, it is virtually impossible to believe that all these trades had nothing to do with the two senators. Are we really to believe it was a coincidence that these asset managers started making "there is a pandemic coming" trades the very same day the two were receiving classified briefings on the disaster? Come on. Indeed, The New York Times recently reported that Perdue was lying with his blanket denial — he did directly instruct his manager to sell the Cardlytics shares after receiving a cryptic email mentioning "upcoming changes" from the company's then-CEO. (Perdue and Loeffler have been cleared of legal wrongdoing by the Department of Justice, but given that Attorney General Barr is a shameless Trump stooge, that is hardly reassuring.)Since then, both Perdue and Loeffler have largely downplayed the pandemic. Unlike Ossoff and Warnock, both have been holding large, in-person rallies. In July, both Loeffler and Perdue came out against extending the boost to unemployment insurance in the CARES Act, and since then neither have answered questions about further economic rescue measures from Atlanta Magazine. Instead, since the election they have amplified Trump's flagrant lies that Georgia's Republican governor and secretary of state somehow helped Joe Biden steal the election there.Over the last decade or so, there has been a long discussion of why Democrats are bleeding votes in rural areas (precisely where Republicans run up huge margins in Georgia). And on one level it's an important debate — there is good evidence that as Democrats embraced austerity, deregulation, and free trade that harmed such places, it hurt their vote share.But on another level, it is frankly staggering that the Republican Party has swooped in to replace them. The Democrats may not be much of a friend to the working class or rural farmers, but Republicans are straight-up picking their pockets. If you want a couple senators to govern solely on behalf of their massive asset portfolio while leaving everyone else twisting in the wind, vote Perdue and Loeffler.More stories from theweek.com Our parents warned us the internet would break our brains. It broke theirs instead. Freshly pardoned Michael Flynn shares message telling Trump to 'suspend the Constitution' to hold a new presidential election Americans are choosing death over deprivation
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday expressed his opposition to a bill approved by parliament the previous day to suspend U.N. inspections and boost uranium enrichment, saying it would be “harmful” to diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal and easing U.S. sanctions. The tug-of-war over the bill, which gained momentum after the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last month, reflects the rivalry between Rouhani, a relative moderate, and hard-line lawmakers who dominate parliament and favor a more confrontational approach to the West. The bill would suspend U.N. inspections and require the government to resume enriching uranium to 20% if European nations fail to provide relief from crippling U.S. sanctions on the country's oil and banking sectors.
From a private island to a tiny Vermont tree houseOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
A tight race for a congressional seat in upstate New York is being further complicated by the discovery of 55 uncounted ballots, a Chenango County attorney announced on Tuesday.In New York’s 22nd Congressional District Republican Claudia Tenney led Democratic Representative Anthony Brindisi by just 12 votes on Monday, which should have been the last day for election officials to report vote totals in the district.On Tuesday, Chenango County Attorney Alan Gordon told Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte about the newly discovered ballots, which were cast during New York’s early voting period in the 22nd Congressional District.“Those ballots were apparently mislaid and never counted,” Gordon wrote. “I have advised our Board of Elections to not open any of those ballots and to secure them in their offices,” he said.Eleven of the 55 ballots appear to be from unregistered voters, while the remaining 44 could undo Tenney's lead. However, the New York Supreme Court is expected to rule this week on challenges that have been made against over 2,000 other absentee and affidavit ballots in the race.Chenango County Elections Commissioner Carol Franklin told Syracuse.com she did not know why the votes had not been counted.“My guess is they came in early and they were put aside and mislaid,” Franklin said. "I would hope that we could open them tomorrow with representatives present from each campaign.”The race has taken a number of twist and turns since Election Night, when Tenney initially led by 29,000 votes before mail-in votes were counted, eliminating her lead. Last week, Brindisi picked up a double-digit lead that later disappeared after two counties said they had made tabulation errors.
Parents of twenty Spanish children have taken legal action after hair sprouted all over the youngsters' bodies after they were mistakenly given hair restorer for stomach ailments. Photographs showed the hair-covered skin of the children who live in the city of Torrelavega in Cantabria northern Spain. Local officials admitted that a group were mistakenly given minoxidil, a medication commonly used for hair growth, instead of omeprazole, a drug used to treat gastric reflux. The mislabelled syrup was delivered to pharmacies in Granada, Cantabria and Valencia where chemists mixed it into a formula to treat reflux. Over a year after the medical error came to light in 2019, the families of some children have complained that despite treatment the hair keeps growing and they are demanding compensation. Javier Díaz Aparicio, a lawyer representing the families, is taking civil and criminal legal action against the laboratory and several companies for importing and distributing the drug for manufacturing and selling. Spain's health ministry said it took two months for authorities to realise that the labelling error had taken place, to shut down the laboratory where the mistake took place and to recall the medicine. “Why does it take more than two months to test a medicine,” said Amaia, a mother whose baby was affected, told Antena 3 television last year. “I was asked if we had anyone in the family who had lots of hair but it was not the case. My daughter has hair all over her face.” She said her daughter had taken a high dose of the medication and that no one had called at the time to advise on her next steps. Families are also taking legal action against two pharmacies in Cantabria which were acquitted by a judge. The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products ordered that several batches from Farma-Química Sur SL, a Malaga-based pharmaceuticals company, should be taken out of circulation in July 2019. The children who were affected had taken minoxidil developed hypertrichosis, which is the appearance of excess hair on the body which is sometimes referred to as 'werewolf syndrome'. In its normal form, hypertrichosis is a disease that has no cure but it is unclear whether it will be possible to reverse the effects of the drugs on the Spanish children.
Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn into the Senate on Wednesday, narrowing Republican control of the chamber and underscoring his state's shift from red to blue. Kelly, 56, defeated GOP Sen. Martha McSally in last month's election, making her one of only three incumbents to lose. Kelly cast himself as a problem-solving centrist during his campaign, and his slender 2 percentage point victory over McSally suggests he'll want to be part of Democrats’ moderate wing.
Attorney General William Barr revealed Tuesday that he had secretly given U.S. Attorney John Durham special counsel status in October, explaining that the designation assured Durham and his team "that they could complete their work, without regard to the outcome of the election." The decision was news to President Trump, The New York Times reports. But Trump wasn't satisfied, Axios adds.Trump and his allies are "piling extreme pressure" on Barr to release Durham's findings on the FBI's investigation of Trump and Russia, and they view Durham's special counsel designation "as a smokescreen to forestall the release of the so-called Durham report, which senior administration officials believe is already complete," Axios says. "Trump has been ranting about the delay behind the scenes and mused privately about replacing Barr with somebody who will expedite the process."Democrats view Durham's criminal investigation as motivated entirely by politics and revenge, and Barr's move was widely seen as a way to ensure it will continue after President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20. Trump abruptly pushed out all U.S. attorneys appointed by his predecessor soon after he took office, but special counsels can only be removed by an attorney general under a narrow set of documented criteria. Barr used a work-around with Durham, though, and that would apparently make it much easier for Biden to end the investigation.> This is a very good point from @steve_vladeck. The appointment itself does not comply with the regs. If Barr can appoint someone pursuant to his general statutory appointment authority and apply the regs, it is very likely that the next attorney general can rescind the order. https://t.co/UTOWOt7MZH> > — Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) December 1, 2020A Justice Department official told The Washington Examiner that "attorneys general have often appointed prosecutors to act as special investigators, either under the special counsel regulations or outside them," so Durham's appointment wasn't so unusual. But because Durham, the current U.S. attorney for Connecticut, "was not appointed pursuant to the special counsel regulation, it is possible the next attorney general could rescind Mr. Barr's directive that special counsel rules would apply to him, then end his inquiry without any finding of misconduct," the Times reports."I suppose the calculation is that there is a political cost" for doing so, Duke University law professor Samuel Buell told the Times. But Barr's move is an "odd" use of the special counsel provision.More stories from theweek.com The naked corruption of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue Our parents warned us the internet would break our brains. It broke theirs instead. Freshly pardoned Michael Flynn shares message telling Trump to 'suspend the Constitution' to hold a new presidential election
Israel edged closer on Wednesday towards a fourth national election in two years after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main governing partner, Benny Gantz, backed an opposition move to dissolve parliament. Parliament gave preliminary approval to a dissolution bill, but the legislation needs to pass three as yet unscheduled votes to become law, giving Netanyahu and Gantz, the defence minister, more time to work out differences over a national budget. The coalition crisis could plunge Israel into more political uncertainty as it prepares for a new U.S. administration led by Joe Biden, deals with the coronavirus pandemic and awaits Iran's next moves after the assassination of its top nuclear scientist last week, a killing that Tehran blamed on Israel.