By Robert A. Vella
This is what happens when a mentally and ethically incompetent leader takes the helm of a nation. Every time a dangerous and unavoidable crisis emerges, it is assured that the Lunatic-in-Chief will make each situation worse. And, when incompetence is combined with uncontrolled narcissism, national crises are likely to get much worse. In fact, the presidency of Donald Trump has brought a continuous stream of crises – most of which were self-created – to the U.S. and abroad at the very time the world needed sane and skillful leadership from its most influential governments.
As Americans participate in the most pivotal election since World War II, the issue of Trump’s competency will be at the top of their concerns; and, right in the midst of the campaign looms the darkening specter of a coronavirus pandemic the response to which Trump is wholly incapable of leading. He has bungled the effort from the start because he is laser-focused on concealing the severity of this public health crisis for fear that it would damage his reelection prospects. In reality, Trump is only hurting his chances because – by retarding the efforts of medical science – he is unwittingly exacerbating both the extent and intensity of the outbreak.
Although Trump’s daily nonsensical ramblings are causing unhelpful confusion and anxiety for everyone, his most egregious offense is hindering the ability of medical professionals to perform the vital testing necessary to gather the information required to effectively combat the spread of the virus. He even publicly admitted his self-interested motivation yesterday in Atlanta (see: Trump Says Those on Grand Princess Cruise Ship Should Stay On Boat So U.S. Coronavirus Numbers Don’t Go Up) where he also called Washington’s governor Jay Inslee a “snake.” Washington state has been hit hardest by coronavirus, and in contradiction Vice President Mike Pence commended Inslee’s efforts (see: ‘Tip of the spear’: Mike Pence praises Washington state’s effort to battle coronavirus).
Also on Friday, Trump fired White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, for publicly admitting Trump’s personal motives in withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine last year, and replaced him with a loyal sycophant –
California North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows (see: Trump Names Mark Meadows Chief of Staff, Fires Mick Mulvaney).
Here’s today’s news:
With the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the country, more than half of all U.S. states have now reported cases.
As of Friday night, officials in 28 states confirmed positive tests for the coronavirus illness COVID-19. In total, more than 330 cases have been reported.
Seventeen people in the U.S. have died, including two in Florida on Friday who marked the first fatalities outside the West Coast.
Vice President Mike Pence on Friday said 21 people on the Grand Princess cruise ship moored off the coast of California have tested positive for coronavirus.
Of the 21 people who tested positive, 19 are crew members and two are passengers, Pence said, adding that the ship will be brought to a non commercial port and every person tested. “Those who need to be quarantined will be quarantined,” Pence said in a briefing.
There are more than 3,500 people aboard the ship.
LOS ANGELES — As COVID-19 cases spike, the test kits needed to help stem the spread of the disease remain in short supply, with health care workers across California reporting widespread failings in the federal government’s response to the growing crisis.
Federal officials said nearly 1 million tests were expected to be available by the end of this week. But in California, one of the country’s hardest-hit regions with 60 cases, the total testing capacity is limited to only 7,400 through the weekend, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The inability to test widely and swiftly for the novel coronavirus has impeded the country’s ability to beat back the spread of the virus, experts say. Without testing, public health officials don’t know where the virus is spreading and where to target efforts to contain it.
This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.
But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found.
“The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.”
Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.
The White House declined to comment.
The spending bill was expedited and passed by both the House and Senate with huge bipartisan support in just two days, an unusual show of unity due to a public health crisis. Three Republicans — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona were the only members of Congress to vote against the emergency supplemental spending bill.
Democrats demanded that the bill include restrictions to keep Trump from using the money for other things, such as building a wall at the southern border, and it states that the funds could be used only to combat the spread of the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
The bulk of the funds, $6.5 billion, goes to the Department of Health and Human Services for vaccine research or supporting state and local government response.
Of that, $2.2 billion is designated specifically for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Within that, there’s $950 million for state and local response, including lab testing and tracing the contacts of infected people. Half of that money must be allocated within 30 days.
Five senior members of Atomwaffen Division (AWD) have been charged with federal crimes in the past weeks, including former leaders and a man who was concurrently a member of the similar neo-Nazi terror group the Base. The recent charges involve members in four states in connection with two separate criminal cases.
In Virginia, a Texas man, John Denton, 26, was charged over an alleged “swatting” conspiracy – a practice involving making false reports about a targets address in the hope police will stage an armed raid on the address.
Four more members were charged with conspiracy to threaten journalists and people associated with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Washington state.
The decision came in a 2018 case filed against the state by Jennifer Fletcher, a legislative librarian who said she was forced to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for medically necessary transition-related care not covered by her insurance plan.
U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland, in his decision, said if a procedure, such as a vaginoplasty, was medically necessary to correct a congenital defect, coverage would have been available under the AlaskaCare plan. But he said the plan denies coverage for the same surgery in cases involving transgender women.
He said Fletcher was treated differently in terms of health coverage because of her sex.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has fired his prosecutor general amid a major reshuffle of his government this week. The move has alarmed anti-corruption activists and western governments, who fear it puts the country’s reform efforts in doubt.
Ruslan Ryaboshapka was removed in a parliamentary vote of no confidence on Thursday night, after Zelenskiy said he should be dismissed, despite objections by ambassadors from G7 countries, including the United States.
The U.S. and the European Union had supported Ryaboshapka, who was overseeing a major reform of Ukraine’s corrupt prosecutor’s office, which has been seen as a block on wider efforts to clean up the country following its 2014 revolution.
Ryaboshapka’s removal came a day after Zelenskiy replaced his reformist prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, and much of his cabinet.
The two steps have caused major concern among Ukraine’s Western partners, international organizations and anti-corruption activists, who worry it signals a turn away from reform and instead points to the growing influence of oligarchs as well as pro-Russian forces seeking to turn Ukraine back toward Moscow.
Oil in London plunged the most since 2008 on signs of a breakdown in the global producer alliance that helped engineer crude’s recovery from the worst crash in a generation.
Futures plummeted more than 9% in London as talks between members of the OPEC+ group collapsed in Vienna. Producers in the alliance are free to pump at will starting next month, after Russia refused to bend to Saudi Arabia’s wish for output cuts aimed at offsetting the coronavirus crisis’s impact on demand.
OXFORD, England—Christopher Steele, a former British spy who compiled the notorious dossier on Trump’s relationship with Russia, attacked the Mueller report and Trump’s Department of Justice officials on Friday, in his first public remarks since his bombshell allegations were published in 2017.
Speaking to students at the Oxford University in England, he described the probe into Russian interference as having failed to do any “drilling down into financial networks and leverage,” which he said was “the way Russian influence works.”
His appearance at the Oxford Union, a 200-year-old debating society, was held in private but attended by The Daily Beast.
Steele said he had been interviewed by the Mueller probe into potential collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government for “two whole days” but said: “I was surprised that very little of what I had discussed with them appeared in the final report.”