Richard Burr: US Senate intelligence chief quits amid virus trading scandal

Richard Burr of North Carolina would step down [from being the head f the Senate Intelligence Committee] on 15 May.

..It has emerged on Thursday that Mr Burr’s phone has been seized by the FBI as part of the probe.

The senator is alleged to have used inside information to avoid market losses from coronavirus.

…It is illegal for members of Congress to trade based on non-public information gathered during their official duties.

Richard Burr: US Senate intelligence chief quits amid virus trading scandal – BBC News


CEOs were asked to remove masks before meeting with Mike Pence in Iowa.

Mere hours after Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for COVID-19, he was set to meet with a group of food industry executives who had gathered for a roundtable discussion in West Des Moines. But before Pence joined them on the stage, someone came in and asked all five guests to remove their masks.

CEOs were asked to remove masks before meeting with Mike Pence in Iowa.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong people?

Trump order to paint border wall black could drive up cost $500 million or more

[Trump’s] determination to have the steel bollards coated in black has fluctuated during the past several years, and military commanders and border officials believed as recently as last fall that they had finally talked him out of it. They consider the black paint unnecessary, costly and a significant long-term maintenance burden, and they left it out of the original U.S. Customs and Border Protection design specifications.

Trump has not let go of the idea, insisting that the dark color will enhance its forbidding appearance and leave the steel too hot to touch during summer months.

…The Post obtained a copy of painting estimates that federal contracting officials produced, and it shows costs ranging from $500 million for two coats of acrylic paint to more than $3 billion for a premium “powder coating” on the structure’s 30-foot steel bollards, the high end of the options the officials have identified.

…The White House has obtained about $15 billion for the project so far, two-thirds of which has been diverted from Defense Department construction funds and counternarcotics programs. CBP projections indicate the money will pay for approximately 731 miles of new barriers, but those estimates did not take into account the president’s painting plans.

…One official with knowledge of the plans said it wasn’t clear how the painting crews would operate on the Mexico side of the barrier, where only a narrow strip of land separates the two countries. Painters would potentially need to apply the black coating using a specialized boom long enough to extend up and over the barrier from the U.S. side.

…Last year, after Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) heavily promoted Fisher to the president as a cheaper option for building the border wall, Trump urged aides to give the firm a building contract. The North Dakota company and its owner have donated to Cramer and the president, and the company sued the government when its border wall bids were not accepted.

Trump order to paint border wall black could drive up cost $500 million or more – The Washington Post


Who is Rick Bright? The Coronavirus Whistle-Blower Who Said The Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies

Top administration officials repeatedly pressured [Bright] to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant.

…He had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017.

Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s.

A lawyer for Dr. Bright, Debra Katz, said he felt a “moral obligation” to get the word out that the administration was pressing to stockpile an unproven and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatment, which was supplied by drugmakers in India and Pakistan and had not been certified by the Food and Drug Administration.

The complaint says top Department of Health and Human Services officials, including Dr. Kadlec, who oversees the strategic national stockpile, overruled scientific experts while awarding contracts to firms represented by the consultant, John Clerici. 

…“Dr. Bright was vocal about his concerns regarding the inappropriate and possibly illegal communications between Mr. Clerici, Dr. Kadlec, Mr. Shuy and Mr. Meekins,” the complaint stated, referring to Bryan Shuy and Chris Meekins, two other department officials.

..At one point, it said, Dr. Bright called for an investigation by the inspector general “to help break up the ‘cottage industry’ of marketing consultants and political influence into these contracts.”

Dr. Bright also said Mr. Clerici pushed, albeit unsuccessfully, for an extension of a contract awarded to a company run by someone who was “friends with Jared” and “has Hollywood connections.”

…On Jan. 23, he met with Mr. Azar and Dr. Kadlec to press “for urgent access to funding, personnel and clinical specimens, including viruses,” that would be necessary to develop treatments, the complaint said. But Mr. Azar and Dr. Kadlec “asserted that the United States would be able to contain the virus” through travel bans, the complaint said, adding that Dr. Bright was cut out of future department meetings related to Covid-19.

…Dr. Bright’s was initially offered a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health to work on a new “Shark Tank”-style program to develop coronavirus treatments.

Who is Rick Bright? The Coronavirus Whistle-Blower Who Said The Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies – The New York Times

Shark Tank????!

House GOP bill would block lawsuits by workers sickened with virus 

A forthcoming House GOP bill would bar workers who fall ill with coronavirus from suing their employers, so long as the company complies with state and federal law as it reopens for business amid loosening health restrictions.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), said legislation he will introduce this week would give complying business immunity from civil suits brought by employees who contract coronavirus after returning to the workplace.

…Democrats previously agreed to limit the legal liability of manufacturers of certain protective equipment in an earlier coronavirus relief package.

House GOP bill would block lawsuits by workers sickened with virus  | TheHill


Betsy DeVos sued for seizing wages from student loan borrowers during pandemic

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department were sued Thursday for allegedly continuing to collect on defaulted borrowers’ student loans — more than a month after she said it would stop doing so to provide relief for those struggling during the coronoavirus outbreak.

Betsy DeVos sued for seizing wages from student loan borrowers during pandemic – CNNPolitics


Joe Biden tweets support to US women soccer players on equal pay

The team’s fight for equal pay was rejected on Friday when a federal judge dismissed the players’ claims that they were paid less than the men’s national team.

In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee encouraged the women’s national team to not give up their fight.
“This is not over yet. To @USSoccer: equal pay, now. Or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Joe Biden tweets support to US women soccer players on equal pay – CNN


Poor People Don’t Have Less Self-Control

Under the right conditions, our brains are capable of unparalleled levels of abstract thought, such as imagining a future goal and making detailed plans about how to get there. But under adverse conditions, our brains have evolved to cut down on the flourishes and focus in on the basics of survival in the here and now.

And in our society, hardly anything is more adverse to survival than poverty. It would be foolish to spend precious mental resources thinking about solving a problem that won’t occur for a month when you can’t afford dinner tonight. 

…Like any other kind of thinking, self-control can be taught. …But that kind of involved parenting takes time, and financially poor parents are often “time-poor,” too.

Poor People Don’t Have Less Self-Control | The New Republic


Tribes Were Supposed To Get $8 Billion In COVID-19 Aid. They’ve Gotten $0.

Tribal governments were supposed to get $8 billion in direct emergency relief from the CARES Act, the $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that became law on March 27.

More than a month later, they haven’t gotten any of it.

Tribal communities are among the most vulnerable to a rapid and devastating spread of the coronavirus. They face some of the highest rates of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and asthma, all of which leave them more susceptible to the virus. They are often in remote parts of the country, where it’s tough to quickly disseminate resources and where families live in small homes shared with elderly family members who are particularly at risk. And the Indian Health Service, which provides health care to nearly 3 million Native Americans, is already notoriously and chronically underfunded.

Put those pieces together and add to the situation that tribal governments still haven’t gotten their fair share of federal relief, and it’s not hard to imagine how quickly this could become a disaster.

Tribes Were Supposed To Get $8 Billion In COVID-19 Aid. They’ve Gotten $0. | HuffPost


The Men Pushing to Open the Economy Clearly Don’t Need Child Care

The coronavirus pandemic is blowing apart the kinds of summer child care relief that parents rely on. Summer school is not happening. Summer camp is not happening. Summer youth sports leagues are not happening. The coronavirus makes it dangerous to dump your little disease vectors with their grandparents. Where the hell are parents supposed to put their kids during long summer days when they’re supposed to go back to work?

Middle- to upper-income families may be able to find babysitters or nannies once sheltering-in-place orders relax. But lower-income families—the families who most desperately need as many wage earners as possible in the household—are going to be entirely screwed.

…Working parents already hoard their sick days (if they’re lucky enough to have them) to cover a child’s illness instead of their own. I don’t think this country has thought through what would be required to make it feasible for every sick person or child to stay home when they’re feeling ill. Businesses might be desperate to resume making profits, but I don’t see them clamoring to give out uncapped sick days to their workers.

…There’s already some statistical evidence of the toll this gender disparity is taking on professional women, and we’ve only been without schools for a few weeks. In academia, we’re already seeing that journal submissions authored solely by women are down, while solo-authored male submissions are actually up.

The pandemic exacerbates gender inequalities still too common in domestic life, at the same time as it strips away supports women rely on to manage that unfairness. If women do most of the cooking, families can no longer supplement that domestic labor with trips out to eat. If women do most of the house cleaning, fortunate families can no longer supplement that work with domestic service providers, and many people have probably noticed that the house gets a lot messier when nobody can ever leave it. Working parents have more domestic work to do during the crisis, and yet have exactly the same amount of professional work to accomplish. That burden is falling more heavily on women, and it seems like employers and politicians don’t even notice.

The Men Pushing to Open the Economy Clearly Don’t Need Child Care

Pardon…. Who knew? I bet your wife did.

Also, if somebody always makes cutesie cut sandwiches, the kids always expect cutesie cut sandwiches. why the hell was was your wife OK with not only doing more work than you but taking on the extra work of making cutesie cut sandwiches when you didn’t even know what the kids ate, anyways? Co-parent, equal division of labor my ass.

How Trump Wasted the Best Tool He Had to Fight Coronavirus

Bush didn’t want to hear that there was a major al Qaeda attack coming to the U.S., even though he was told specifically that. Didn’t want to hear it. Rather than saying, “Tell me more, go find out about it, tell me what more we can do,” he reacted by saying, “Well, you’ve covered your ass now by telling me that.” That’s a very different kind of approach than Obama or Clinton, who were always looking for the thing that was going to bite them in the ass.

…None has been more derelict than [the Trump] administration’s failure to provide front-line healthcare workers with the medical and protective equipment they need.

What’s most exasperating is that there was a system in place to provide that equipment: the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile, an integrated collection of secret, federally-controlled warehouses with billions of dollars worth of precisely the kind of critical supplies that were needed in this crisis, such as masks and ventilators.

…The president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has said the stockpile was for the federal government, not the states. In fact, it was built precisely for states and localities to use in the case of an emergency. 

…The president secured money from Congress to put into the Public Health Service and the CDC to create a stockpile. A lot of it was grant money that went down to the state and county level, so they could have labs that would be able to detect and test. They set up a system so that when people came to emergency rooms and reported illnesses, that information would go into a national monitoring system. We realized that if a big event happened in any city, the city would be overwhelmed. So we set up a national stockpile of emergency medical gear that included medicines, hospital beds, ventilators, and put it in warehouses around the country.

We had a plan that when the equipment reached near its expiration date, it would be rotated, either through the Defense Department or Veterans medical systems, so that the equipment would be used before their expiration dates.

…The federal government doesn’t even have first responders. The stockpile is there for community hospitals around the country.

How Trump Wasted the Best Tool He Had to Fight Coronavirus | Washington Monthly


Covid-19 has blown apart the myth of Silicon Valley innovation | MIT Technology Review

The pandemic has made clear this festering problem: the US is no longer very good at coming up with new ideas and technologies relevant to our most basic needs. We’re great at devising shiny, mainly software-driven bling that makes our lives more convenient in many ways. But we’re far less accomplished at reinventing health care, rethinking education, making food production and distribution more efficient, and, in general, turning our technical know-how loose on the largest sectors of the economy.

Economists like to measure technological innovation as productivity growth—the impact of new stuff and new ideas on expanding the economy and making us richer. Over the last two decades, those numbers for the US have been dismal. Even as Silicon Valley and the high-tech industries boomed, productivity growth slowed.

…There’s plenty of debate over the reasons behind sluggish productivity growth—but, Van Reenen says, there’s also ample evidence that a lack of business- and government-funded R&D is a big factor.

Covid-19 has blown apart the myth of Silicon Valley innovation | MIT Technology Review