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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
March 21, 2020

Coming to a Country Near You: A Russian Nuclear Power Plant

Rising from the former potato and wheat fields of a collective farm, huge towers of concrete beckon to one of Europe’s poorest countries with the promise of cheap, plentiful supplies of electricity for generations to come.

But the location of Belarus’s first nuclear power plant — an area of pristine farmland just 40 miles from the capital of neighboring Lithuania — points to calculations that go beyond just kilowatts.

The plant was built by Rosatom, a state-owned Russian nuclear conglomerate, and financed with a $10 billion credit line from Moscow. Belarus soldiers at a new military base nearby have been trained in St. Petersburg by Russia’s National Guard, a security force set up by the Kremlin in 2016.

The facility’s two reactors, set to go into operation soon, will produce far more electricity than Belarus can consume and lie far away from industrial areas eager for cheap power on the other side of the country.


March 21, 2020

As Iran Reels, Trump Aides Clash Over Escalating Military Showdown

President Trump was getting ready to declare the coronavirus a “national emergency,” but inside the White House last Thursday, a tense debate erupted among the president and his top advisers on a far different subject: whether the United States should escalate military action against Iran, a longtime American rival that has been devastated by the epidemic.

One group, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, urged a tough response to rocket attacks that had killed two American troops at a base north of Baghdad, arguing that tough action while Iran’s leaders were battling the coronavirus ravaging the country could finally push them into direct negotiations.

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back. The Pentagon and intelligence agencies did not have clear evidence that the attacks, launched by the Shiite militia group Khataib Hezbollah, had been ordered by Iran, they argued, and warned that a large-scale response could draw the United States into a wider war with Iran and rupture already strained relations with Iraq.

The military’s position prevailed, at least for the time being. Mr. Trump authorized airstrikes against five militia weapons depots inside Iraq, carried out at night to limit the possible human toll.


March 21, 2020

How to Avoid Complete Economic Destruction

The federal government has a chance to save millions of Americans from unemployment as the coronavirus spreads, but policymakers must act decisively.

Employers, facing a revenue drought, are laying off workers at a record pace. Preliminary data indicates that more people filed for unemployment benefits last week than in any previous week in the nation’s history, shattering a record set back in 1982.

The mass layoffs are depriving families of income and, what is perhaps more important in the middle of a pandemic, leaving many without health insurance, too.

The necessary solution is a grand bargain: The federal government provides the money that companies are unable to earn, and companies use the money to keep workers on the payroll.


March 20, 2020

U.S. judge freezes House lawsuit seeking President Trump's IRS tax records

Source: Washington Post

A federal judge froze a House lawsuit on Friday that seeks to enforce a subpoena for six years of President Trump’s federal tax records.

The judge said he will wait at least until an appeals court rules on whether Congress, in a separate case related to former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn, can sue to compel executive branch officials to testify. U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden of Washington indicated that the hold in the tax records case could go on longer if the McGahn case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The House sued the administration in July after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to comply with a subpoena for Trump’s business and tax records issued in May.

The Justice Department has sought to toss out the case for Trump’s tax records, based on White House claims of immunity from congressional oversight.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/us-judge-freezes-house-lawsuit-seeking-president-trumps-irs-tax-records/2020/03/20/34eb3dd6-6ac0-11ea-b313-df458622c2cc_story.html

March 20, 2020

'Hungry' Tom Brady officially signs with Buccaneers

Source: ESPN.com

Signed, sealed and delivered -- Tom Brady is officially the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new starting quarterback.

The six-time Super Bowl champion, who had spent 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, took to social media Friday morning to announce that he had signed his contract.

Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that it is a two-year deal worth $50 million that is all guaranteed. It also includes another $9 million in incentives -- $4.5 million in incentives per year -- and the contract prohibits tags and trades, per sources.

"Excited, humble and hungry ... if there is one thing I have learned about football, it's that nobody cares what you did last year or the year before that ... you earn the trust and respect of those around through your commitment every single day," wrote Brady on Instagram on Friday. "I'm starting a new football journey and thankful for the @buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do."

Read more: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28930366/tom-brady-says-signing-buccaneers

March 20, 2020

Officials long warned funding cuts would leave California vulnerable to pandemic. No one listened

California public health officials have repeatedly warned over the last decade that federal budget cuts were weakening their ability to respond to a widespread health crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the warnings, elected leaders cut millions of dollars in federal grants and other funding to California state and county health agencies, reducing the number of medical workers, including epidemiologists, and jeopardizing the ability to do lab tests and quickly set up mobile hospitals, according to interviews and records reviewed by The Times.

The budget woes have left California desperate for more resources, including test kits and hospital beds.

A year ago, Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari warned state lawmakers at a public hearing that the staff and budget cuts would be a serious problem in the face of an emergency such as a pandemic.


March 20, 2020

They. Sold. Their. Stock. They could have made a difference, but they made a profit.

On Jan. 24, Richard Burr, a Republican senator from North Carolina, attended a private Senate briefing from senior government scientists about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican senator from Georgia, received the same briefing.

At the time, many Americans did not yet understand the danger that the virus posed. The same day as the briefing, President Trump — in one of his many attempts over the past two months to make the virus seem like a frivolous matter — tweeted, “It will all work out well.”

Given the disconnect between what they knew and the public’s understanding, Burr and Loeffler had an opportunity to sound the alarm. They could have broken ranks with other congressional Republicans and told the country to take the situation more seriously. They could have criticized Trump for not doing more. Such criticism, coming from Trump’s own party, would have received major attention. It would have had the potential to alter Trump administration policy and, by extension, the course the disease took.

But Burr and Loeffler did virtually nothing to protect the health and safety of their constituents or of Americans in other states. (Burr went so far as to co-write an article for FoxNews.com bragging about the country’s readiness.) Here’s what the two senators did instead: They sold large amounts of their personal stock holdings, cashing in before the market sharply declined, as the severity of the virus became apparent to everyone.


March 20, 2020

The coronavirus has thrown us all in the mud

For a would-be Navy SEAL, Hell Week is the worst week of the toughest military training in the world. It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment, and one “special day” at the Mud Flats. The Mud Flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, where the water comes together and creates a swampy patch of terrain, a muddy bog that tests your determination to be a SEAL.

My training class had been out of the mud for a short period of time when the instructors, looking to weed out the weak of mind and body, ordered the entire group of 55 men back into the bog. The mud consumed each man until there was nothing visible but our heads. We were all exhausted, numb from the cold and desperate to hold on. The instructors told us that we could all leave the mud — if just five men quit. It was the instructors’ way of turning us against each other.

It was apparent that some of the trainees were about to give up. There were still eight hours to go before the sun rose — eight more hours of bone-chilling cold. Several of the students started moving to dry ground; they were ready to quit. And then, one voice began to echo through the night — one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two, and two became three, and before long the entire class was singing. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept singing, but the singing persisted. Those of us stuck in the mud believed that if one of us could start singing when he was up to his neck in mud, then maybe the rest of us could make it through the night. And we did.

Today, the coronavirus has thrown us all in the mud. We are cold, wet and miserable, and the dawn seems a long way off. But while we should not be cavalier about the dangers of this pandemic, neither should we feel hopeless and paralyzed with fear. Hope abounds.


March 20, 2020

Trump Quietly Checks With Aides To Make Sure He'd Be Included In Receiving $1,000 Government Checks

WASHINGTON—As his administration makes plans to combat the economic damage caused by the coronavirus with direct payments to Americans, President Donald Trump reportedly conferred with aides behind closed doors Wednesday to confirm he would be among those citizens receiving a pair of $1,000 checks.

“Hey, I’m also getting in on this deal, right?” Trump reportedly said to a White House economic strategist he had pulled aside, asking him to double-check the list of recipients and make sure he was on there, since he was “an American too, after all,” and it was “only fair” he receive the same assistance as everyone else.

“How soon are these things coming? Can we expedite them? An extra couple grand would be nice right about now. I should get my check first because I’m president and I’ve been working hard. Everyone else should get theirs after me. Maybe we could have a televised ceremony where I receive the check. That would boost morale, especially if I got a little more money than everybody else. Also, my kids are going to get them too, right? Is there any way those ones could just be forwarded directly to me?”

At press time, sources reported that Trump increased the proposed amount of money Americans would be receiving to $2,687 after learning that taxes would have to be taken out.


March 19, 2020

John Cornyn criticized Chinese for eating snakes. He forgot about the Texas rattlesnake roundups.

John Cornyn criticized Chinese for eating snakes. He forgot about the rattlesnake roundups back in Texas.

While defending President Trump’s use of “the Chinese virus” to describe the novel coronavirus, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) blamed China on Wednesday for the disease and several other viral epidemics from the past two decades.

“China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that,” Cornyn told reporters. “These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the swine flu, and now the coronavirus.”

The senator’s comment was immediately panned as racist by Democrats and critics on social media. The Texas Democratic Party said Cornyn was “dog-whistling” and urged him to focus on preventing the spread of covid-19. Cornyn did not immediately return a request for comment from The Washington Post.


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