Wednesday April 8th, 2020

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf
 Providing an on line Triage of the news since 1997
World & Nation
Pressure mounts on Supreme Court to reconvene virtually, hear case over Trump's tax returns
                 In this March 16, 2020 photo, people walk outside the Supreme Court in Washington.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A new poll suggests Americans want the Supreme Court to reconvene virtually and hold oral arguments during the COVID-19 pandemic that’s shuddered the high court’s hearing schedule, which includes highly-watched cases concerning President Trump’s financial records.

Seventy-two percent of Americans said the justices should hear oral arguments virtually and 61 percent want those arguments live-streamed, according to a PSB Research poll commissioned by Fix the Court, an advocacy group that pushes for greater transparency in the court.

Just 13 percent opposed the high court hearing arguments remotely while 22 percent opposed the remote arguments being televised.

Dr. Birx: Relaxing Social Distancing Could Bring Second Wave

The coronavirus curve may be starting to flatten, which offers some "early signs of hope," but it's important that Americans not let their guard down yet, as a second wave of the virus could occur, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House's coronavirus task force, warned Wednesday.

She said Americans have been working hard to follow the national guidelines, but different locations in the nation have different levels of the disease. In places like Washington state and California, where social distancing came into play very early, "their curves look like they are persistently flat, and that's very encouraging for us."

In New York and New Jersey, the numbers seem to be stabilizing, she added, which "gives us great encouragement."

Democrats Seek to Double Trump's Next Stimulus Plan to $500 Billion

                Democrats Seek to Double Trump's Next Stimulus Plan to $500 Billion

Democratic leaders in Congress said they would seek at least $500 billion in the next round of stimulus, double what the Trump administration is seeking.

The Trump administration has said it wants to quickly move $250 billion in aid to small businesses, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that they also want to see $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments. Democrats are also calling for a 15% increase nutrition programs for the needy.

The next stimulus package “must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods,” the Democratic leaders said. “The American people need to know that their government is there for them in their time of great need.”

Chicago mayor's executive order grants coronavirus benefits to illegal immigrants
                 Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot signs an executive order to ensure coronavirus-related benefits offered by the city of Chicago are available to immigrants and refugees, Tuesday morning, April 7, 2020. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Chicago immigrants who do not have legal status in the U.S. are eligible for all relief programs run by the city amid the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered Tuesday.

Lightfoot said that includes programs for housing assistance and low-interest small business loans administered by the city.

Immigrants who do not have legal status in the U.S. are excluded from the $2 trillion federal relief package approved by Congress. The package is limited to those who have filed federal taxes using Social Security Numbers.

'Presidential decision': Trump shakes up D.C. as pandemic enters pivotal phase

New York reported its largest single-day increase in coronavirus deaths as President Trump directed a Washington shakeup amid the pandemic, tapping a new press secretary and removing the inspector general poised to oversee how the federal government spends $2 trillion in economic relief funding.

Mr. Trump ousted Glenn Fine as acting inspector general of the Defense Department, making him ineligible to lead a committee tracking how pandemic-relief money is doled out.

“We have a lot of IGs in from the Obama era, as you know it is a presidential decision,” Mr. Trump said. “We have reports of bias and different things coming in.”

The move sparked an outcry from Democrats, who said Mr. Trump is replacing seasoned watchdogs with “loyalists” and that it validates their push for congressional oversight of the cash, which is being stacked higher and higher.

Navy secretary resigns after calling captain of COVID-crippled carrier 'stupid'

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday, just one day after audio leaked of the embattled chief accusing the fired commander of the coronavirus-hit USS Theodore Roosevelt “too naive or too stupid” to lead an aircraft carrier.

The move was the latest turn in a head-spinning five days for the Navy, which has seen the saga of the nuclear-powered Roosevelt become a symbol of the Pentagon’s challenges facing the fallout from the global pandemic. And it marks another blow to morale at the Navy itself, which is seeing its second top civilian leader forced out in the space of six months in the midst of a divisive political scandal.

Mr. Modly decided to step down after getting mixed signals on his fate from the White House, as well as a barrage of criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats on Capitol Hill and from some former Navy officials for handling of the Roosevelt furor.

Why humanity is worth saving and why we will be OK

Human accomplishment and progress prevail in challenging times

Even during “normal” times, we all know the importance of, every now and then, reading about the better nature of ourselves displayed in actions that are heartwarming and inspiring.

These “good stories” have become vital in our daily confrontation with existential bad news both regarding our health and the ever-increasing untenable economic situation for our nation.

Yet, as we look to actions that rarely make the news because they are the opposite of threatening and anxiety-producing, (two factors that generate clicks and viewership), I contend these are exactly the kinds of stories that are bigger than a one-off needed respite from bad news: They are actually the biggest indication of all about why humanity is worth saving and why we will be OK.

'Here we go again': Pelosi, Schiff plot new probe of Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spent the last three-plus years investigating President Trump, and each time, she’s come up empty.

But she’s going to give it another go, this time as Americans are locked down while the coronavirus sweeps across the nation.

Mrs. Pelosi announced last week that she is setting up a select House committee to “assure that the taxpayer dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent” — but the California Democrat also said she wants to “examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus.”

" It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright

Medal of Honor
Army Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 


Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.

From the Archives

We Have Met the Enemy…

Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even The New York Times acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998.

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA Treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional  'Patriot Act'.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring ll target information from the Eurv opean mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…


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