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The New Yorker Cover Depicts Trump with Surgical Mask over His Eyes in Response to Coronavirus!

Dear Commons Community,

The New Yorker has an appropriate cover of Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus (see above) wearing a surgical mask over his eyes.  This is in light of Trump’s response to the threat as a “hoax” cooked up by his political enemies.  Trump’s hoax comments have been echoed by a number of his supporters on Fox News and conservative media outlets.

Tony

Japan to Close all schools for a month because of coronavirus!

Students of Ariake-nishi Gakuen School wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, as they wave to a para-athlete Chiaki Takada and Mascot Someity ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, February 25, 2020.

Dear Commons Community,

It was announced yesterday that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for all schools to close for a month while officials try to contain a coronavirus outbreak spreading through that country.

“It is of extreme importance to prevent one patient cluster to create another cluster, so as to contain the outbreak swiftly,” Abe said in a statement.  As reported by U.S. News and World Report, Japan Times, and the Associated Press:

“While local efforts are being made to prevent outbreaks among children, the next one to two weeks will be of critical importance,” Abe added. “In light of that, putting [the] health and safety of children first above all, the government will ask all elementary schools, junior high schools and senior high schools, as well as special needs schools, to close temporarily from March 2, next week, until spring break.”  For schools in Japan, spring break generally ends in early April. 

Later yesterday, Japan’s health and welfare ministry said Abe’s request does not apply to day care centers and after-school facilities for elementary school students, the Japan Times reported.

The drastic move comes as Japan, the country with the second most reported coronavirus cases after China, wrestles with ways to contain the virus in advance of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this July.

The school closings will affect 12.8 million students, according to the Associated Press.

As of  yesterday, there were more than 200 reported domestic cases of coronavirus in Japan. There were also 700 cases involving passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship while it was quarantined in Yokohama for two weeks earlier this month.

Already in Japan, leading companies such as the advertising firm Dentsu Group, Panasonic and Shiseido have told employees to work from home temporarily.

The directives came after an employee in his 50s at Dentsu’s head office in Tokyo was diagnosed with coronavirus and hospitalized, though he is not in serious condition, the Japan Times reported.

Dentsu has ordered 5,000 employees to work from home. Panasonic and Shiseido, which ordered 8,000 employees to work from home, happen to be located in buildings near Dentsu.

The sporting world in Japan has also been quick to react to the coronavirus outbreak. All spring training matches for Japan Major League Baseball will play the remainder of a 72-game schedule in stadiums without fans.”

Japan is taking coronavirus very seriously as it should!

Tony

Stock Markets Tumbling Worldwide – Dow Jones Industrial Average Sheds 1,190.95 points!

Dear Commons Community,

Stock markets around the world continue to plunge on fears of the spreading coronavirus and after Wall Street endured its biggest one-day drop in nine years.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“Tokyo’s benchmark plummeted by an unusually wide margin of 3.7% and Seoul and Sydney dropped by more than 3%. Hong Kong and Shanghai saw losses of over 2.5%. Oil prices slumped on expectations industrial activity and demand might contract.

Investors had been confident the disease that emerged in China in December might be under control. But outbreaks in Italy, South Korea and Iran have fueled fears the virus is turning into a global threat that might derail trade and industry.

Anxiety intensified Thursday when the United States reported its first virus case in someone who hadn’t traveled abroad or been in contact with anyone who had.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index is down 12% from its all-time high a week ago.

A growing list of major companies are issuing profit warnings and say factory shutdowns in China are disrupting supply chains. They say travel bans and other anti-disease measures also are hurting sales in China, a major consumer market.

Virus fears “have become full-blown across the globe as cases outside China climb,” Chang Wei Liang and Eugene Leow of DBS said in a report.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 tumbled to 21,025.76 while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 2.6% to 2,914.31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.6% to 26,081.87.

The Kospi in Seoul fell 3.4% to 1,984.10 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 sank 3.3% to 6,441.20. India’s Sensex was trading 2.8% lower at 38,653.65.

New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also retreated.

Markets in China and Hong Kong had been doing relatively well in recent weeks despite anxiety over the virus. On the mainland, authorities flooded markets with credit to shore up prices after trading resumed following an extended Lunar New Year holiday.

Chinese investor sentiment also has been buoyed by promises of lower interest rates, tax breaks and other to help revive manufacturing and other industries.

However than confidence was shaken as the S&P 500 fell 4.4% on Thursday to 2,978.76.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 1,190.95 points, its largest one-day point drop in history, bringing its loss for the week to 3,225.77 points, or 11.1%. To put that in perspective, the Dow’s 508-point loss on Oct. 19, 1987, was equal to 22.6%.

“It is a race to the bottom for U.S. indices,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a report. “It may still be too early to call a bottom given the uncertainty around the matter of the coronavirus impact.”

Investors came into 2020 feeling confident the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates at low levels and the U.S.-China trade war posed less of a threat to company profits after the two sides signed a truce in January.

The S&P 500′s decline puts the index into what market watches call a correction.

Some analysts have said that was long overdue in a record-setting bull market, though Mizuho Bank noted it was “the fastest correction since the Great Depression” in the 1930s.

U.S. bond prices soared as investors fled to safe investments. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell as low as 1.24%, a record low, according to TradeWeb. When yields fall, it’s a sign that investors are feeling less confident about the strength of the economy.

China shut down much of its economy to stem the spread of the infection.

Most access to the city of Wuhan, a manufacturing hub at the center of the outbreak, was suspended Jan. 23. The Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep factories and offices closed. The government told the public to stay home.

Authorities are shifting to trying to reopen factories and other businesses in areas with low disease risk but travel controls still are in effect in many areas.

Elsewhere, governments are tightening anti-disease controls as new cases mount.

Japan may close schools nationwide. Saudi Arabia banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites. Italy has become the center of the outbreak in Europe, with the spread threatening the financial and industrial centers of that nation.

Goldman Sachs on Thursday said earnings for companies in the S&P 500 index might not grow at all this year, after predicting earlier that they would grow 5.5%.

Stocks are already trading at high levels relative to their earnings, raising the risk. Before the virus worries exploded, investors had been pushing stocks higher on expectations that strong profit growth was set to resume for companies after declining for most of 2019.

The S&P 500 recently traded at its most expensive level, relative to its expected earnings per share, since the dot-com bubble was deflating in 2002, according to FactSet. If profit growth doesn’t ramp up this year, that makes a highly priced stock market even more vulnerable.

Traders are increasingly certain Federal Reserve will be forced to cut interest rates to protect the economy. They are pricing in a 96% probability of a cut at the Fed’s next meeting in March. Just a day before, they were calling for only a 33% chance, according to CME Group.

The market’s sharp drop this week partly reflects increasing fears among many economists that the U.S. and global economies could take a bigger hit from the coronavirus than previously thought. It also likely will weaken Americans’ confidence in the economy, analysts say, possibly depressing consumer spending.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.42 to $45.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.64 on Thursday to settle at $47.09. Brent crude oil, used to price international oils, sank $1.45 to $50.28 per barrel in London. It declined $1.25 the previous session to $52.18 a barrel.

The dollar declined to 108.83 yen from Thursday’s 109.58 yen. The euro rose to $1.1006 from $1.0998.”

Hang on to your 401Ks and other pension investments!

Tony

“Science Magazine” – Strategies Shift as Coronavirus Pandemic Looms!

China Coronavirus Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Honkong (Reuters)

Dear Commons Community,

Science Magazine this morning has an assessment of the strategies  that are being undertaken worldwide to contain the coronavirus “pandemic”!  Below is the entire article.

Tony

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Science Magazine

“Strategies shift as coronavirus pandemic looms”

By Jon Cohen and Kai Kupferschmidt

The virus seems unstoppable, but mitigating its speed and impact is possibleThe global march of COVID-19 is beginning to look unstoppable. In just the past week, a countrywide outbreak surfaced in Iran, spawning additional cases in Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain. Italy put 10 towns in the north on lockdown after the virus rapidly spread there. An Italian physician carried the virus to the Spanish island of Tenerife, a popular holiday spot for northern Europeans, and Austria and Croatia reported their first cases. Meanwhile, South Korea’s outbreak kept growing explosively and Japan reported additional cases in the wake of the botched quarantine of a cruise ship. The virus may be spreading stealthily in many more places. A modeling group at Imperial College London has estimated that about two-thirds of the cases exported from China have yet to be detected. As Science went to press, the World Health Organization (WHO) still avoided using the word “pandemic” to describe the burgeoning crisis, instead talking about “epidemics in different parts of the world.” But many scientists say that regardless of what it’s called, the window for containment is now almost

certainly shut. “It looks to me like this virus really has escaped from China and is being transmitted quite widely,” says Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. “I’m now feeling much more pessimistic that it can be controlled.” In the United States, “disruption to everyday life might be severe,” Nancy Messonnier, who leads the coronavirus response for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on 25 February. “We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad.” Dye and others say it’s time to rethink the public health response. So far, efforts have focused on containment: slowing the spread of the virus within China, keeping it from being exported to other countries, and, when patients do cross borders, aggressively tracing anyone they were in contact with and quarantining those people for 2 weeks. But if the virus, named SARSCoV-2, has gone global, travel restrictions may become less effective than measures to limit outbreaks and reduce their impact, wherever they are—for instance, by closing schools, preparing hospitals, or even imposing the kind of draconian quarantine imposed on huge cities in China.

“Border measures will not be as effective or even feasible, and the focus will be on community mitigation measures until a vaccine becomes available in sufficient quantities,” says Luciana Borio, a former biodefense preparedness expert at the U.S. National Security Council who is now vice president at In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm. “The fight now is to mitigate, keep the health care system working, and don’t panic,” adds Alessandro Vespignani, an infectious disease modeler at Northeastern University. “This has a range of outcomes from the equivalent of a very bad flu season to something that is perhaps a little bit worse than that.” Public health experts disagree, however, about how quickly the travel restrictions that have marked the first phase of the epidemic should be loosened. Early this week, the total number of cases stood at more than 80,000 with 2705 deaths—with 97% of the total still in China. Some countries have gone so far as to ban all flights to and from China; the United States quarantines anyone who has been in hard-hit Hubei province and refuses entry to foreign nationals if they have been anywhere in China during the past 2 weeks. Several countries have also added restrictions against South Korea and Iran.

The restrictions have worked to some degree, scientists say. “If we had not put a travel restriction on, we would have had many, many, many more travel-related cases than we have,” says Anthony Fauci, who heads the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But many epidemiologists have claimed that travel bans buy little extra time, and WHO doesn’t endorse them. The received wisdom is that bans can backfire, for example, by hampering the flow of necessary medical supplies and eroding public trust. And as the list of affected countries grows, the bans will become harder to enforce and will make less sense: There is little point in spending huge amounts of resources to keep out the occasional infected person if you already have thousands in your own country. The restrictions also come at a steep price. China’s economy has already taken an enormous hit from COVID-19, as has the airline industry. China also exports many products, from pharmaceuticals to cellphones, and manufacturing disruptions are causing massive supply chain problems. “It would be very hard politically and probably not even prudent to relax travel restrictions tomorrow,” says Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch. “But in a week, if the news continues at the pace that it’s been the last few days, I think it will become clear that travel restrictions are not the major countermeasure anymore.” Smaller scale containment efforts will remain helpful, says WHO’s Bruce Aylward, who led an international mission to China over the past 2 weeks. In a report from the mission that Aylward discussed but did not publicly release, the group concludes that the Chinese epidemic peaked between 23 January and 2 February and that the country’s aggressive containment efforts in Hubei, where at least 50 million people have been on lockdown, gave other provinces time to prepare for the virus and ultimately prevent “probably hundreds of thousands” of cases. “It’s important that other countries think about this and think about whether they apply something—not necessarily full lockdowns everywhere, but that same rigorous approach.” Yet China’s domestic restrictions have come at a huge cost to individuals, says Lawrence Gostin, who specializes in global health policy at Georgetown University Law Center. He calls the policies “astounding, unprecedented, and medieval,” and says he is particularly concerned about the physical and mental well-being of people in Hubei who are housebound, under intensive surveillance, and facing shortages of health services. “This would be unthinkable in probably any country in the world

but China,” he says. (Italy’s lockdowns are for relatively small towns, not major cities.) China is slowly beginning to lift the restrictions in regions at lower risk, which could expose huge numbers of people to the infection, Dye says. “If normal life is restored in China, then we could expect another resurgence,” he adds. Still, delaying illness can have a big payoff, Lipsitch says. It will mean a lower burden on hospitals and a chance to better train vulnerable health care workers on how to protect themselves, more time for citizens to prepare, and more time to test potentially life-saving drugs and, in the longer term, vaccines. “If I had a choice of getting [COVID-19] today or getting it 6 months from now, I would definitely prefer to get it 6 months from now,” Lipsitch says. Flattening the peak of an epidemic also means fewer people are infected overall, he says. Other countries could adopt only certain elements from China’s strategy. An updated analysis co-authored by Dye and posted on the preprint server medRxiv concludes that suspending public transport, closing entertainment venues, and banning public gatherings were the most effective mitigation interventions in China. “We don’t have direct proof, of course, because we don’t have a properly controlled experiment,” Dye says. “But those measures were probably working to push down the number of cases.” One question is whether closing schools will help. “We just don’t know what role kids play” in the epidemic, Lipsitch says. “That’s something that anybody who has 100 or more cases could start to study.” Some countries may decide it’s better not to impede the free flow of people too much, keep schools and businesses open, and forgo the quarantining of cities. “That’s quite a big decision to make with regards to public health,” Dye says, “because essentially, it’s saying, ‘We’re going to let this virus go.’” To prepare for what’s coming, hospitals can stockpile respiratory equipment and add beds. More intensive use of the vaccines against influenza and pneumococcal infections could help reduce the burden of those respiratory diseases on the health care system and make it easier to identify COVID-19 cases, which produce similar symptoms. Governments can issue messages about the importance of handwashing and staying home if you’re ill. Whatever the rest of the world does, it’s essential that it take action soon, Aylward says, and he hopes other countries will learn from China. “The single biggest lesson is: Speed is everything,” he says. “And you know what worries me most? Has the rest of the world learned the lesson of speed?”

Michael Horn on the University of Southern New Hampshire Agreement with the Pennsylvania Community Colleges!

 

Dear Commons Community,

Michael Horn, a consultant who has published with me and was a close associate of  the late Clayton Christensen, had a good recap of the recent announcement by the University of Southern New Hampshire  on its articulation agreement with the Pennsylvania Community Colleges!  Below is his take on this development.  It is worth a read.

Tony

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In January, Southern New Hampshire University–one of the world’s most innovative and largest universities with over 130,000 students enrolled–turned heads as it struck a noteworthy agreement with Pennsylvania’s community colleges.

Specifically, the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges announced [michaelbhorn.us17.list-manage.com]that graduates of its 14 community colleges could transfer up to 90 credits to Southern New Hampshire University and take courses at $288 per credit hour—a 10% discount on SNHU’s prices and much less costly than the vast majority of in-state public options.

What’s so striking is that the announcement comes at a time when Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education—the state’s four-year colleges and universities—has lost nearly 20% of its enrollment since 2010, which has created significant stress. It also signals that SNHU will continue to find ways to grow and serve more students [michaelbhorn.us17.list-manage.com] who need further education that is affordable.

As the chancellor of Pennsylvania’s State System, Dan Greenstein, has pointed out, this doesn’t mean that its colleges don’t have agreements with the state’s community colleges or that they don’t offer online-learning options. But the agreement with SNHU, a private, non-profit, is notable because it will seamlessly accept up to three-quarters of the credits required for a bachelor’s degree at a steep discount relative to many of those options.

Some commentators have been quick to call on Pennsylvania to boost public funding to create more affordable options for Pennsylvania’s residents. Why, after all, should community college students transfer to an out-of-state, private entity when its own state system seeks more students so that some of its campuses can remain viable?

It’s a good question, but in this piece for Forbes, “Why Disruption Is Stealing Pennsylvania’s Students [michaelbhorn.us17.list-manage.com],” I note that the long-term answer won’t be public financing. Aside from some research that suggests such funds cause universities to increase their expenditures, the problems are more structural than what funding alone will solve. The answer instead lies in heeding the lessons of disruptive innovation to create separate units with new business models that can offer a more affordable education.

OK, so perhaps the headline is a bit too strong—stealing?—but higher education leaders would do well to understand why universities like SNHU and Western Governors University (both enroll well over 100,000 students now) are growing as fast as they are and how they should respond. Yes, disruptive innovation is real. Have a read [michaelbhorn.us17.list-manage.com].

Also worth watching—according to recent data from the Chronicle for Higher Education,  [michaelbhorn.us17.list-manage.com]roughly 60% of public and private institutions missed their enrollment goals and 67% missed their net-revenue goals. Trouble is brewing for traditional colleges and universities that don’t innovate.

 

Donald Trump on the Coronavirus: “There’s a very good chance you’re not going to die from it.”

Tourists wearing protective masks visit Venice on Feb. 25, 2020, during the usual period of the Carnival festivities, which have been cancelled following the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, in northern Italy.

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday Donald Trump attempted to allay concern about the Coronavirus spreading in the United States by declaring: “There’s a very good chance you’re not going to die from it.”  Are you kidding?  His comment was enough to have people scurrying to buy surgical masks.  His comment came while the Centers for Disease Control declared:  “It’s not so much a question of whether it will spread anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,”

NBC News recapped the president’s statements as follows.

“This week, federal health officials warned Americans to prepare for the coronavirus to become a pandemic, stocks tumbled on fears of just how widespread the virus could get, and the White House sought $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the deadly infection.

But in the telling of President Donald Trump, everything is fine.

The media, he tweeted Wednesday, is “doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!” he said, announcing a 6 p.m. ET press conference addressing the issue.

With his re-election clearly in focus — Trump spent last week on the West Coast hosting high-priced fundraisers and holding three political rallies — there is little incentive politically for him to echo the growing concerns of the global health community.

But with public health officials warning the virus is far from being contained, Trump could be heading into the peak of his re-election bid with the virus affecting economic growth and depressing the stock market — two key selling points for his pitch.

Stocks fell sharply Tuesday for a second day in a row and bond yields tumbled on rising concern that the global economy will face a significant blow because of the spreading virus — despite attempts by the president’s top economic adviser to argue otherwise.

“We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight,” Larry Kudlow said on CNBC on Tuesday.

Health experts disagreed. “This is like trying to control the wind, we will see serious problems here in the United States and no amount of political rhetoric will over-trump the science of what we have here,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Past presidents have used moments of national emergency to bring the country together and project the image of a strong commander in chief, like George Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks or Barack Obama when Hurricane Sandy hit days before his re-election. But Trump has shown an unwillingness to do so when past opportunities have presented themselves, like with Hurricane Maria.

The response to the coronavirus is already off to a polarizing start with Democrats and Trump criticizing each other Tuesday, and the president appearing to be operating off a different set of talking points than his top scientists.

Trump told reporters while traveling in India on Tuesday that he thought the virus in China was “a problem that’s going to go away,” and downplayed the mortality rate for a pathogen that has been confirmed to have killed 2,700 people.

He also said a vaccine, which hasn’t yet begun the months long process of human testing, is “very close” — even as other officials warned it could be more than a year away.

And while Trump was traveling in India, he told reporters he hadn’t been paying very close attention to the situation over the previous two days because he had been preoccupied with the trip.

“You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country,” he told reporters at a press conference before heading back to Washington, D.C. “We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are, in all cases, I have not heard anything other. Maybe there’s something new, because for two days I haven’t been seeing too much of that news because it’s been very all encompassing.”

In less than a month since the virus was officially declared a public health emergency, the number of confirmed cases globally has risen to more than 81,000, with the virus quickly spreading throughout Europe, with Italy hardest hit so far with 300 confirmed cases in recent days.

On Tuesday, Trump rejected the comparisons between the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, which killed 11,310 people in West Africa, and the much more easily spread coronavirus, pointing to the lower mortality rate with the coronavirus. “There’s a very good chance you’re not going to die. It’s just the — it’s very much the opposite. You’re talking about 1 or 2 percent, whereas in the other case, it was a virtual 100 percent. Now they have it, they have studied it, know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”

It was a perspective in stark contrast to that of the country’s top health officials. Shortly after Trump’s remarks, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned “it’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore, but a question of when this will happen” and told the public to “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told NBC News it could be at least a year before a vaccine is widely available, and said the mortality rate in China was closer to 2 to 2.5 percent.

Behind the scenes at the White House, the administration has been working to mount a coordinated response with the acknowledgement they are dealing with a situation that could cost the lives of thousands of Americans. The White House put together a coronavirus task force last month, led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug company executive who was walking a fine line this week between acknowledging the concerns of the scientists he oversees while reflecting Trump’s laissez-faire posture.

The White House could find itself hobbled in its response by cuts to programs over the past three years designed to act in just such a scenario. The White House has reduced the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and eliminated several key positions focused on responding to a pandemic, including having a CDC staffer in China working with disease detectives there to quickly identify and contain new pathogens, according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the former head of the CDC under the Obama administration.

The White House also lost its head of global health security in 2018 during a restructuring of the National Security Council under then-national security adviser John Bolton. The Trump administration has also changed the way the U.S. manages its stockpile of medical equipment, such as respirators and face masks needed by health workers, which Frieden warned would make it much more difficult for those resources to be quickly and effectively allocated.

 

On Monday, the White House sent over to Congress a budget plan for $2.5 billion that would provide funds to speed up vaccine development and production, and stockpile protective equipment. Administration officials briefed members of Congress about the actions they were taking Tuesday.

The funding request quickly came under fire from Democrats, who called it inadequate.

“Here in the United States, the Trump administration has been caught flat-footed. The administration has no plan to deal with the coronavirus, no plan and seemingly no urgency to develop one,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor on Tuesday, accusing the administration of a “towering and dangerous incompetence when it comes to the coronavirus.”

“The Trump administration is scrambling to respond. We have a crisis, and the Trump administration is trying to build an airplane while already in mid-flight,” he added.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the White House response “disastrously inadequate.”

“The approach right now seems to be ‘take two aspirin and call us in the morning,’” he told reporters following the administration’s briefing.

Schumer unveiled an $8.5 billion proposal for emergency funding Wednesday to combat any outbreak of the virus in the U.S. — more than three times the White House’s request.

Schumer’s request would include $1.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $3 billion for medical and public health preparedness, and $2 billion for state and local reimbursements. It would also include $1 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development to deal with emerging health threats and $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health for the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

“This proposal brings desperately-needed resources to the global fight against coronavirus,” Schumer said in a statement. “Americans need to know that their government is prepared to handle the situation before coronavirus spreads to our communities.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after a closed-door House Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday morning that the House plans to unveil a proposal similar to Schumer’s, which she said addresses the need to fill vacancies in the administration. She also blasted the president for what she called an “anemic” response to the virus.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at a GOP news conference Wednesday that the White House request was “a little low” and suggested that Republicans would be more comfortable with a funding bill closer to $4 billion.

Congress approved more than $7 billion to deal with the H1N1 flu in 2009 and more than $6 billion to fight the pandemic flu in 2006.

While the World Health Organization said the number of cases of the virus appeared to have reached its peak in China, it has expressed concern about the spike in cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea. There are currently 14 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., along with 39 cases among those evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and China. But with limited testing for the virus so far, Osterholm warned that number could quickly grow.

“We need to just roll up our sleeves and say we will get through it with cool calm heads,” Osterholm said. “But it is going to have a big impact on our country just like it has in China.”

Tony

Last Night’s Democratic Debate – Another Messy Affair!

Image result for cbs debate

Dear Commons Community,

I watched the Democratic Party’s Presidential Candidates last night at a debate moderated by CBS News. It was another messy affair and even painful at times to watch.  The candidates talked over one another, would not adhere to time limits, and the moderators appeared to lose control of the flow.  There was too much you did this and you did that and not enough of what I will do if elected and how I will defeat Donald Trump.  Here is a recap courtesy of the New York Times, Yahoo and other media outlets. 

“Seven Democratic candidates gathered in Charleston, S.C., in advance of that state’s primary on Saturday, and just three days after Sen. Bernie Sanders established himself as the front-runner with a dominating win in Nevada. Sanders took fire from all sides, but the debate, hosted by CBS News, was the messiest of the primary season by far, as the moderators lost control at times while a raucous crowd that seemed partial to Mike Bloomberg erupted into frequent cheers and boos. Former Vice President Joe Biden promised that he would win in the state, where his long-held lead has been whittled away to single digits by Sanders, while former Mayor Mike Bloomberg attempted to come back from a disastrous showing in his first debate last week.

From the moment the debate began, the six non-Sanders candidates on the stage took aim at the Vermont front-runner. Bloomberg brought up the U.S. intelligence report last week that said Sanders was Russia’s favored candidate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she would be a better president than her Senate colleague and fellow progressive. Biden pushed Sanders about his past votes against gun control, which Sanders conceded were a mistake before bringing up his current D- rating with the National Rifle Association. Biden and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized Sanders for his favorable comments about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. 

“Occasionally, it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy, and that includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world,” Sanders said. “And when dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans do something good, you acknowledge that.”

Sanders also faced criticism over the cost of his ambitious agenda of social programs — and concerns that he would hurt Democrats in close elections for Congress.

“I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight,” Sanders said after the opening salvo. “I wonder why.”

Biden has been consistently leading in South Carolina, buoyed by his support among older African-Americans, and on Tuesday night he was as aggressive as he’s been in these settings. He targeted Steyer, who has spent millions in the Palmetto State and who has cut into Biden’s margin, for his investment in a company that runs private prisons. (Steyer said he has sold his interest in the firm.) Biden was pugnacious with the moderators, repeatedly demanding more time to speak — in contrast to earlier debates where he often cut himself off when his time elapsed — and he argued with Klobuchar over credit for legislation to prevent domestic abusers from buying assault weapons. 

Biden, who frequently casts himself as the protector of Barack Obama’s legacy, clashed with Sanders over his assertion that his recent controversial praise for Castro’s literacy program was in line with what Obama once said.

“[Obama] did not in any way suggest there was anything positive about the Cuban government,” Biden claimed.

Yet Obama did praise Castro for Cuba’s progress in education and health care, as he recounted in a 2016 town hall in Argentina.

“What I said is what Barack Obama said,” Sanders said at the debate. “That Cuba made progress on education.”

Biden drew applause in his closing remarks for saying he would appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court if elected.

After turning in a terrible performance in last week’s debate, Bloomberg righted the ship to some degree on Tuesday night. He was the first to bring up a subject on the minds of many Americans, the coronavirus, criticizing President Trump for attempting to cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control. He even earned praise from Sanders for his work in promoting gun legislation.

But it wasn’t a completely clean performance. Bloomberg’s effort at a scripted self-deprecating joke about his previous debate performance fell flat. He also appeared to say “I bought them” in reference to his donations to the 2018 Democrats who flipped the House. 

He also was attacked repeatedly by Warren, who again demanded he release all the women who had sued him and his company from their nondisclosure agreements. Warren also cited one complaint that Bloomberg had told an employee to have an abortion, which Bloomberg denied. His response —  “the trouble is with this senator, enough is never enough” — was already turned into a slogan on T-shirts for sale on Warren’s website before the debate even ended.

And in case his debate performance didn’t measure up, Bloomberg’s campaign also ran ads in a number of markets during the debate’s commercial breaks.

The debate included the first Jewish Americans to seriously contend for the presidency, Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, and moderator Major Garrett asked them about a difficult subject for many American Jews, as well as non-Jews: the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Sanders, who has allied himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which is generally sympathetic to the Palestinians, was asked if Jewish Americans might consider him “not supportive enough of Israel,” and whether he would move the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, where it had been until last year and where most other foreign embassies are located. President Trump authorized the move to Jerusalem, which is Israel’s capital but also where Palestinians hope to situate their own capital in a future state, in what was seen as a gesture of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

Sanders said it was “something we would take into consideration.”

He hastened to add that he was “very proud of being Jewish” and spent some months as a young man living in Israel, but that “sadly, tragically … you have a reactionary racist” — Netanyahu — “who is now running that country.” He said as president he would protect Israel’s independence and security, “but you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Bloomberg said it was a mistake to move the embassy to Jerusalem without seeking concessions from Israel, but that it was a fait accompli and couldn’t be reversed. He endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been long-standing American policy.

Garrett then asked for an opinion by Elizabeth Warren, who is not Jewish, and who, somewhat confusingly, said deciding where to put the U.S. Embassy was “not ours to do,” but “we should let the parties determine the capitals themselves.”

While the debate was spirited, it was also undisciplined, even out of control at times. CBS News’ co-moderators, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King, were unable to keep the candidates from talking over one another and were too quick to move on before all the candidates could weigh in on topics. The production was also bungled, with odd audio feedback on questioner Margaret Brennan’s microphone and an awkward close where they began to read the outro for the show, only to go to commercial and come back just to read the outro.”

Please Democrats get your act together!  I think there is a need for a shakeup in the leadership of the Democratic National Committee.

Tony

President Trump – Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor should not take part in any cases involving him or his administration!

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump yesterday suggested that two liberal justices should not take part in any cases involving him or his administration.

The remarks were critical of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, and came during a news conference in India, where Trump was wrapping up a 36-hour visit. They followed tweets in a similar vein.   Here is reporting by the Associated Press.

“Justices decide for themselves when to step aside from cases the court is considering, and it is highly unlikely either justice would sit out cases involving Trump, including two cases the court will hear on March 31 over subpoenas for Trump’s tax, bank and financial records. The president wants the justices to reject demands for the records issued by House committees and the Manhattan district attorney.

The justices and Chief Justice John Roberts, who chided Trump in 2018 for his criticism of an “Obama judge,” had no comment, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Trump’s comments were the most critical he has been of sitting justices since he took office, though he has not shied away from piling on complaints about federal judges who have ruled against him or, notably, convicted ally Roger Stone.

His comments about Ginsburg stem from interviews in 2016 with The Associated Press and other media outlets that were critical of Trump, then a candidate for president. She quickly apologized for her “ïll-advised” remarks, but Ginsburg has not recused from any Trump case so far.

His ire at Sotomayor appears to be referencing a dissenting opinion she wrote on Friday. The president said the justice was “trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way and that’s so inappropriate.”

But regardless of party and ideology, justices have said they write dissenting opinions to do just that — change the minds of people with whom they disagree through persuasive reasoning. Indeed, sometimes draft dissents are so successful that they become majority opinions of the court.

Sotomayor wrote the opinion in a dispute over the administration’s new wealth test for immigrants. Lower courts had blocked the new policy from taking effect nationwide, but the court split 5-4 in January, with conservatives in the majority, granting a stay of the lower court orders. This allowed the rule to take effect everywhere but in Illinois because that state was under a separate court order blocking the policy.

Then on Friday, the court granted the administration’s emergency request to be allowed to enforce the rule in Illinois, too. Again, the four liberal justices noted their dissent, but Sotomayor went further, issuing a written opinion.

“Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited Court resources in each. And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow,” Sotomayor wrote.

Trump most recently criticized U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson just a few days before she was scheduled to sentence Stone to prison.

In 2018, Trump lambasted an “Obama judge” who had ruled against a Trump asylum policy. That provoked the rare rebuke from Roberts.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them,” Roberts said.

He added, “The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

Trump is trying to intimidate the justices on the Supreme Court.  I don’t think it will work!

Tony

Centers for Disease Control – Prepare for Spread of Coronavirus Across Communities in America!

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the Head of the Centers for Disease Control

Dear Commons Community,

Top U.S. public health officials said yesterday that Americans should prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a media briefing yesterday.

Measures to contain the virus in the U.S. so far have involved restricting travel to and from China — the center of the outbreak — and isolating cases identified so far in this country.

But Messonnier said that evidence that the virus is spreading in other countries, such as Iran and Italy, has raised CDC’s “level of concern and expectation that we’ll see spread” in the U.S.

She added that Americans need to prepare for disruptions to their daily lives, including school closings, working from home and delayed elective medical procedures, as efforts to contain and control the possible spread in the U.S. may accelerate in the coming weeks.

This is becoming scarier and scarier!

Tony

With Harvey Weinstein Conviction – Jury Delivers a Verdict on #MeToo!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, in New York, Hollywood executive, Harvey Weinstein, was convicted of two felony sexual assault charges which could send him to prison for up to 29 years.  His conviction suggests that   accountability stretches from the court of public opinion to the court of criminal law and is a major victory for the #MeToo movement.  Below is an analysis courtesy of The New York Times.

Tony

———————————————————————————————————–

Feb. 24, 2020
The criminal case against Harvey Weinstein was a long shot.

Many of his accusers were bracing for an acquittal. Fellow prosecutors across the country were quietly questioning whether the New York district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had made a mistake by bringing charges.

But by pushing the boundaries of sex-crimes prosecutions, the Manhattan prosecutors delivered what many people declared a victory for the global movement against sexual misconduct that Mr. Weinstein’s actions had helped ignite.

“It’s a perfect test case of what happens when a culture begins to shift,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern.

Along the way, one accuser had to be dropped from the case amid allegations of police misconduct. The central victims acknowledged having had consensual sex with the Hollywood producer after being attacked by him, and one had an intimate relationship with him that stretched for several years. Prosecutors almost never try cases in those circumstances, deeming them too messy to win convictions. At every turn, Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers argued he was a victim of the #MeToo movement gone too far.

The jury’s verdict was ultimately mixed. Mr. Weinstein was acquitted of two counts of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charges against him. The jury had suggested on Friday that it was deadlocked on those counts.

“This wasn’t ‘Believe all women,’ and certainly not ‘Believe everything women are saying,’” said Isabelle Kirshner, a former Manhattan prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer, who has represented men accused of sexual assault. “It looks like they were fairly careful on what they decided.”

But prosecutors persuaded the jury to convict on two felony sexual assault charges — which could send him to prison for up to 29 years — suggesting that accountability stretches from the court of public opinion to the court of criminal law.

On Monday, some of Mr. Weinstein’s more than 90 accusers, and others around the world, reacted to the verdict with relief, tears and gratitude that the law had spoken for them.

“For so long these women believed that he was untouchable and could never be held responsible, but now the criminal justice system has found him guilty,” said Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement. “That sends a powerful message.”

The #MeToo movement helped propel the prosecution. Mr. Vance, the district attorney, had drawn criticism for failing to prosecute Mr. Weinstein in 2015 after an Italian model complained to the police that the producer had grabbed her breasts and tried to force his hand up her skirt. And some of Mr. Weinstein’s accusers who had not previously gone to the police were then willing to participate in the criminal justice process if it meant supporting and protecting other women.

“I just wanted to add my voice in support, and share my experience with the hopes of helping anyone else who was” victimized, Miriam Haley, a former production assistant, said on the witness stand.

“I did it for all of us,” Dawn Dunning, who served as a supporting witness in the trial, said in an interview on Monday. “I did it for the women who couldn’t testify. I couldn’t not do it.”

Joan Illuzzi, the lead prosecutor, did not have much by way of forensic evidence or direct witnesses to prove wrongdoing. Instead, her team strove to establish a pattern of predation, putting four additional women on the stand who told similar stories of rape or abuse by Mr. Weinstein. Those types of supporting witnesses had proved crucial in the successful prosecution of Bill Cosby in 2018. In the Weinstein trial, they provided testimony that was much larger than the sum of its parts, reflecting the collective power of women’s voices at the core of #MeToo.

For decades Mr. Weinstein used high-priced lawyers and secret settlements to silence women with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. But during the trial, which began in early January, he was the one who could not speak. On the advice of his lawyers, he did not take the stand. Instead, he listened as six women testified about what they said he had done to them.

Many of the women described being humiliated by the producer. As they spoke, Mr. Weinstein often appeared humiliated. At one point, as one accuser, Jessica Mann, described his genitals, Mr. Weinstein hung his head.

To counter the allegations, Mr. Weinstein and his legal team drummed home the message that #MeToo had spun out of control.

On the day of his arrest, he walked into a TriBeCa precinct house carrying a biography of Elia Kazan, the Hollywood director who became a victim of McCarthyism. He switched counsel several times, finally setting on Donna Rotunno, a Chicago lawyer who framed much of her defense as a broader attack on #MeToo. She argued that Mr. Weinstein’s sexual encounters were consensual, that his accusers were lying to achieve celebrity status, that women weren’t taking responsibility for their safety, and that men were the true victims and the movement had robbed them of their fundamental rights.

In an interview with “The Daily,” Ms. Rotunno asserted that she had never been a victim of sexual assault because she had never put herself “in that position.”

In her closing argument, she criticized what she said was “a universe that strips adult women of common sense, autonomy and responsibility.”

But the jury appears to have rejected those arguments. The Weinstein verdict could prove a symbolic turning point, legal experts said, showing that sex crimes don’t necessarily follow neat scripts and reshaping public beliefs about which victims deserve their day in court.

The verdict provides hope that we can “have a criminal justice system that reflects the reality of sexual violence,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center.

Mr. Weinstein’s legal team has already said it will appeal the convictions, of rape and criminal sexual act. The producer also faces a separate criminal prosecution in Los Angeles, where he has been charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another.

Jane Manning, a former Queens prosecutor and founder of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, said she hoped the Weinstein case would inspire other prosecutors around the country to pursue similarly challenging cases.

“That’s how to cultivate the skill set to try them successfully,” she said. “We need prosecutors to show courage.”