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The Washington Report: July 17, 2020 … “American Exceptionalism”

17 Jul 2020

The Washington Report: July 17, 2020 … “American Exceptionalism”

American Exceptionalism … Disappearing Data … Hackusation … Masks … Flag Flap … Environment … Trump v. NFL … Final Sessions … 60% Disapproval … #1 Best Seller … and other news of the week.
Happy Friday, there are 109 DAYS until Election Day.
Best,
JR
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
P.S. AP reports:  “Giving up on 2020, looking toward 2021.”
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American Exceptionalism

NYT “America on track for the worst coronavirus response in the developing world.”
[T]he number of new cases reported each day is reaching dizzying new heights — and topped 70,000 for the first time Thursday, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. Nebraska, Utah and Oregon each shattered their previous single-day records, pushing the total number of infections detected nationwide past 3.5 million.”
@AnaCabrera: “JUST IN: Miami-Dade ICU capacity is over 100%, mayor’s office says.” … ORLANDO SENTINEL: “Florida adds 11,466 coronavirus cases and 128 more deaths”

Disappearing Data

WaPo “On the eve of a new coronavirus reporting system this week, data disappeared from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website as hospitals began filing information to a private contractor or their states instead. A day later, an outcry — including from other federal health officials — prompted the Trump administration to reinstate that dashboard and another daily CDC report on the pandemic. And on Thursday, the nation’s governors joined the chorus of objections over the abruptness of the change to the reporting protocols for hospitals, asking the administration to delay the shift for 30 days. In a statement, the National Governors Association said hospitals need the time to learn a new system, as they continue to deal with this pandemic. The governors also urged the administration to keep the information publicly available.”

Hackusation

theSkimm “Russia’s been accused of trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research [by the] US, UK, and Canada. Yesterday, intel agencies from the three countries said Russian hackers targeted multiple orgs involved in coronavirus vaccine research and development. The culprits: a Russian hacking group called APT29 – also known as Cozy Bear – that’s believed to have connections to Russian intelligence. Their goal: to steal info and intel property tied to the development and testing of coronavirus vaccines, according to authorities. … intel officials apparently believe the group’s attacks have been “persistent, highly targeted, and ongoing.”  UK officials said the group’s managed to get some “initial footholds”
What Does This Mean? It’s unclear. Officials said it doesn’t seem like the alleged attacks disrupted vaccine-related work…that they know of.
What Is Russia Saying? This bytes. The Kremlin denied the allegations and said it “has nothing to do with these attempts.” But this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of Cozy Bear. Back in 2016, the US blamed the group for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails (remember those?). Now, the NSA said they want “everyone to take this threat seriously.”

Trump Issues Directives – But No Plan

WaPo “President Trump has vowed that the nation’s schools must reopen for the fall semester, but neither he nor his administration has detailed a plan for how to do so safely. … “Trump’s most clearly articulated plan to end the covid-19 pandemic is to predict the virus will ‘just disappear’ and to bank on a vaccine being ready ‘very, very soon.’

“While most developed countries have managed to control the coronavirus crisis, the United States under Trump continues to spiral out of control, according to public health experts, with 3.3 million Americans infected and more than 133,000 dead.”

Covid Relief Bill

Politico “If you’re tracking the Covid relief bill, expect a lot of turbulence in the coming weeks. Right now, the two sides are in totally different places. The GOP wants to condition money to schools reopening, Dems say no way. Republicans want to cut away at enhanced unemployment, Dems want to extend it. Democrats want a healthy state and local funding program, Republicans are skeptical. Republicans and Democrats disagree on liability overhaul. So, in short, everything is up in the air.”

McConnell’s RED LINE has been drawn. He says that under no circumstance will a bill pass his chamber without an overhaul to liability laws. That policy has some interesting bedfellows: Business and education are both, generally speaking, on board. The draft summary’s main two planks:

  • PROTECTIONS FOR, SCHOOLS, COLLEGES, CHARITIES, LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENTITIES AND BUSINESSES that follow public health guidelines, and for FRONT-LINE HEALTH WORKERS. Entities and front-line health workers are liable only for “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct.”
  • PROTECTIONS FROM LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAWS for employers who follow public health guidelines. It would protect employers from liability for workplace testing.

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This Is Not From The Onion … and it’s insane.

On school reopenings …
“The science should not stand in the way of this.”
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Emerging Consensus On Masks?

Axios “Four months after the first lockdowns, there’s a real possibility of a nationwide consensus on face masks. Why it matters: As is increasingly the case in our fractured society, states and businesses led the way, finally followed by the federal government.
  • 25 states plus D.C. have mask mandates in public spaces. Alabama is the latest to join those ranks.
  • Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger, Target, CVS, and Best Buy are the latest major retailers to require masks in stores, joining Costco and Starbucks.
The big picture: 62% of respondents in the most recent Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index said they’re wearing a mask “all the time” outside the home, up from 53% two weeks ago. Republicans jumped from 35% to 45%.

But, But, But … Meet Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA)

theSkimm — Yesterday, [Kemp] sued Atlanta’s mayor for requiring people to wear masks in public places. … Atlanta’s mayor said the rule would “save lives” and she’d defend it in court. Georgia was the first state to reopen its economy back in April, despite health experts’ concerns. Since the pandemic began, Georgia has had nearly 128,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,000 deaths. Now, it’s issuing a law against masks while about half the country requires them.”
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Defense

THE NDAA … The House Rules Committee meets today to tee up next week’s debate on the National Defense Authorization Act and sift through the hundreds of amendments lawmakers are hoping to attach to the $741 billion bill. As of Thursday evening, 746 amendments have been filed for the NDAA, which the House plans to debate on Monday and Tuesday as lawmakers sprint to pass the cornerstone bill in an increasingly crowded schedule.
FLAG FLAP … Politico “The Pentagon on Friday unveiled a new policy that effectively bans the display of the Confederate flag — without actually naming it. The policy reflects an effort to find a compromise on the divisive issue, as Defense Secretary Mark Esper strives to satisfy military leaders without irking President Donald Trump, who has criticized NASCAR for banning the flag.  A draft version of the policy explicitly banned the Confederate flag on Defense Department property, according to a report. Yet the language in the new policy simply lists the types of flags that are allowed to be displayed, including the flags of the United States, the states and territories, the armed services, and allies. The Confederate flag is not on the list.”
DATING SERVICE TO MATCH DEFENSE VENDORS & INVESTORS … BGov “A “dating service” for the defense industry will be rolled out by the Pentagon in the coming months according to the military’s acquisitions chief, after an earlier attempt to match companies with venture capitalists stumbled last summer. The department has been working on a system to connect investors with companies that need cash to build new technologies such as drones since May 2019, when it introduced the Trusted Capital Marketplace.  Plans to launch an expensive website last summer were ditched when a pilot program hit some obstacles, but some live and virtual events aimed at bringing rich investors and smaller companies together continued.“ … [there are] great expectations that in a few months you are going to see this roll out in a very, very significant way.”
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Race For Appropriations Gavel

BGov “Three House Democrats are jockeying, quietly, to succeed Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) as House Appropriations chairwoman in the next Congress. … Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) are all seeking the gavel.
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Weakening Environmental Rules

NYT “President Trump on Wednesday announced his intention to unilaterally weaken one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects to speed up the permitting of freeways, power plants and pipelines.

“In doing so, the Trump administration will claim hundreds of millions of dollars of savings over almost a decade by significantly reducing the amount of time allowed to complete reviews of major infrastructure projects, according to two people familiar with the new policy. … Revising the 50-year-old law through regulatory reinterpretation is one of the biggest deregulatory actions of the Trump administration, which to date has moved to roll back 100 rules protecting clean air and water, and others that aim to reduce the threat of human-caused climate change.”

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Twitter Hack

Axios “Twitter’s security failure this week — with hackers taking over the accounts of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and others to push a bitcoin scam — stunned the worlds of politics and tech. The accounts of high-profile individuals and corporations were compromised within a short period of time, allowing the posting of a message luring people to deposit bitcoin in a specific account. … President Trump essentially governs via the social network, dictating policy and threatening world leaders. In the wrong hands, that account could start a war. (Trump’s account did not appear to be compromised.)
MORE HACKS AHEAD  … Four years ago at this time, the Clinton campaign was reeling from a public dump of pilfered Democratic party emails that turned the 2016 election cycle upside down. Partly as a result of that fiasco, potential hacking targets are more aware than ever of the potentially catastrophic consequences of losing control of their online accounts. More people are taking precautions, and fewer are likely to fall for the most obvious threats.
But attackers have learned a lot since 2016, too. And the pandemic’s work-from-home era has created fresh vulnerabilities for users who are adapting to new online work arrangements without ready access to onsite support.
The bottom line: The attackers’ apparent goal of fleecing gullible users of bitcoin was modest compared to mayhem they could have pursued — manipulating markets, triggering international crises, or falsifying voting information.
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RBG

Politico “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suffered a recurrence of cancer earlier this year and began chemotherapy in May, she said in a statement Friday. Ginsburg, 87, said the chemotherapy is “yielding positive results” and shrank lesions that were found on her liver in February.  Ginsburg, who is the court’s oldest member and its longest-serving Democratic appointee, has suffered several bouts of cancer in recent years and acknowledged last year that she was receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer. As recently as January, however, she said publicly that doctors believed she was cancer free.”
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Campaign 2020: The Ever-Shrinking Conventions

Politico “Democratic officials are instructing House and Senate members and party delegates to skip attending their national convention this summer, a sign of the ever-shrinking aspirations for their big campaign event in the face of surging coronavirus cases in the United States. … ‘No delegates will travel to Milwaukee and Caucus and Council meetings will take place virtually.’”
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Supremes Decision Could Have Major Impact In November

theSkimm “Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled a law there that restricts felons’ voting rights in FLORIDA can stay in place. In 2018, the state voted to give some felons the right to vote after they served their time and finished probation. The following year, the Republican-led legislature passed a law saying it only applied once those people had also paid all their court fines and fees – which can be tens of thousands of dollars. Civil rights groups sued, saying the law amounted to a “poll tax” (which are unconstitutional). Now, the Supremes say the law can go into effect while the fight continues in lower courts. It’s seen as a win for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) who signed the law. Battleground state impact: This law could stop more than 1 million people with felony convictions from voting. And since Florida’s had a presidential election come down to hundreds of votes (see: 2000), it could have a major impact in November.”
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Trump Vs. The NFL

How The President turned a decades-long grudge with the National Football League into a centerpiece of his campaigns culture war strategy.
Politico Magazine … With Trump reeling—his approval ratings and poll numbers plunging and a growing majority of the nation increasingly skeptical that he and his administration can muster an effective response in the face of the unrelenting spread of the coronavirus—it might seem odd he’d pick this fight. For Trump, though, it’s not just about 2020, or even the past few years. It is a deeply personal feud that goes back decades. … People forget, or just don’t know, but before Trump Tower, before his first divorce, and long before “The Apprentice,” football is what made Trump famous.“
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Final Sessions

To the delight of President Trump, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions lost the Republican nomination for his old Senate seat in Alabama to former Auburn college football coach Tommy Tuberville, 61% to 39%.

Engel Ousted

Politico “Democrat Jamaal Bowman has defeated Rep. Eliot Engel in a primary in New York, ousting the 16-term incumbent and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in an election that took nearly a month to resolve.”
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Trump’s War On Public Health

WaPo “Trump has sent mixed messages throughout the pandemic and has often been at odds with scientists and health officials in his administration. He now faces clear credibility problems with the public. More than 6 in 10 say they do not trust what he says about the outbreak, including 2 in 3 political independents and nearly 3 in 10 Republicans.
Axios “A pandemic would normally be a time when public health expertise and data are in urgent demand — yet President Trump and his administration have been going all out to undermine them.”  Why it matters: There’s a new example almost every day of this administration trying to marginalize the experts and data that most administrations lean on and defer to in the middle of a global crisis.”
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Bye Bye Brad

Axios “President Trump [abruptly] demoted campaign manager Brad Parscale and replaced him with his deputy, hours after a brutal new round of polls showed Trump losing five of six swing states — and sinking into a double-digit hole nationally. .In Reality … Jared Kushner runs this campaign, and above him, there’s Trump. So the campaign manager is but a figurehead.
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#1 Best Seller

Mary Trump’s memoir sells 950,000 on first day, setting a record for the publisher. (Politico)
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In a year of financial firsts, this one stands out: Mortgage rates have fallen below the 3% mark. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.98%, mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac said Thursday, its lowest level in almost 50 years of record keeping.
It is the third consecutive week and the seventh time this year that rates on America’s most popular home loan have hit a fresh low.” (WSJ Front Page)

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