WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson gave a brief statement to the press after the latest court hearing for Julian Assange’s extradition case in London today, saying the Trump administration is arguing that the First Amendment of the US Constitution doesn’t provide press freedom protection to foreign nationals like Assange.
“We have now learned from submissions and affidavits presented by the United States to this court that they do not consider foreign nationals to have a First Amendment protection,” Hrafnsson said.
“Now let that sink in for a second,” Hrafnsson continued.
“At the same time that the US government is chasing journalists all over the world, they claim they have extra-territorial reach, they have decided that all foreign journalists which include many of you here, have no protection under the First Amendment of the United States. So that goes to show the gravity of this case. This is not about Julian Assange, it’s about press freedom.”
Hrafnsson’s very newsworthy claim has as of this writing received no mainstream news media coverage at all. The video above is from independent reporter Gordon Dimmack.
This prosecutorial strategy would be very much in alignment with remarks made in 2017 by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an embassy in London. He’s not a U.S. citizen,” Pompeo told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That, like nearly every sound which emits from Pompeo’s amorphous face, was a lie. The First Amendment is not a set of special free speech privileges that the US government magnanimously bestows upon a few select individuals, it’s a limitation placed upon the US government’s ability to restrict rights that all persons everywhere are assumed to have.
This is like a sex offender who’s barred from living within 500 yards of a school claiming that the school he moved in next to is exempt because it’s full of immigrants who therefore aren’t protected by his restriction. It’s a restriction placed on the government, not a right that is given to certain people.
Attorney and Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger explained after Pompeo’s remarks, “As Jefferson points out, everyone, not just American citizens, is endowed with these natural, God-given rights, including life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. That includes people who are citizens of other countries. Citizenship has nothing to do rights that are vested in everyone by nature and God. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, that includes Julian Assange.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is himself now being legally persecuted by the same empire as Assange under an indictment which Hrafnsson in the aforementioned statement called “almost a carbon copy of the indictment against Julian Assange”, also denounced Pompeo’s 2017 remarks.
“The notion that WikiLeaks has no free press rights because Assange is a foreigner is both wrong and dangerous,” Greenwald wrote at the time.
“When I worked at the Guardian, my editors were all non-Americans. Would it therefore have been constitutionally permissible for the U.S. Government to shut down that paper and imprison its editors on the ground that they enjoy no constitutional protections? Obviously not.”
Greenwald, who is a former litigation attorney, referenced a Salon article he’d written in 2010 skillfully outlining why Senator Susan Collins’ attempts to spin constitutional rights as inapplicable to foreigners would be outlandish, insane, illegal and unconstitutional to put into practice.
“To see how false this notion is that the Constitution only applies to U.S. citizens, one need do nothing more than read the Bill of Rights,” Greenwald argued in 2010. “It says nothing about ‘citizens.’ To the contrary, many of the provisions are simply restrictions on what the Government is permitted to do (‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . or abridging the freedom of speech’; ‘No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner’). And where rights are expressly vested, they are pointedly not vested in ‘citizens,’ but rather in ‘persons’ or ‘the accused’ (‘No person shall . . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’; ‘In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . . . and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense’).”
“The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2008, issued a highly publicized opinion, in Boumediene v. Bush, which, by itself, makes clear how false is the claim that the Constitution applies only to Americans,” Greenwald wrote. “The Boumediene Court held that it was unconstitutional for the Military Commissions Act to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees, none of whom was an American citizen (indeed, the detainees were all foreign nationals outside of the U.S.). If the Constitution applied only to U.S. citizens, that decision would obviously be impossible.”
“The principle that the Constitution applies not only to Americans, but also to foreigners, was hardly invented by the Court in 2008,” Greenwald added.
“To the contrary, the Supreme Court — all the way back in 1886 — explicitly held this to be the case, when, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, it overturned the criminal conviction of a Chinese citizen living in California on the ground that the law in question violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In so doing, the Court explicitly rejected what Susan Collins and many others claim about the Constitution.”
These “and many others” Greenwald referred to would now include both Mike Pompeo and the Department of Justice prosecutors who are attempting to extradite and imprison Assange for publishing information exposing US war crimes.
Kristinn Hrafnsson editor in chief of WikiLeaks: “We learned today from the prosecution that the US does not consider foreign nationals to be protected under the 1st Amendment” #DontExtraditeAssange#FreeJulianAssange
So let’s be clear here: the Trump administration isn’t just working to establish a legal precedent which will demolish press freedoms around the world, it’s also working to change how the US Constitution operates on a very fundamental level.
Does now seem like a good time to fight against this to you? Because it sure as hell seems like that time to me.
Hrafnsson also said in this same statement that Assange’s extradition trial is going to be split into two separate dates, the first on February 24 for one week and then reconvening again for three weeks starting May 18. If you care about freedom of virtually any sort, I highly recommend paying very, very close attention.
When it comes to estimating the human capital and potential fallout from a highly contagious epidemic, arguably the most important variable is the R0 (“R-naught”) value of the disease, which represents the average number of secondary cases arising from an average primary case in a entirely susceptible population. That’s the technical definition, a simpler one is that the R0, or basic reproductive number, of a contagious disease is the number of cases that a case of the disease generates over the course of its infectious period in a susceptible population. The higher this number, the more dangerous the disease, the more lethal the outcome.
Some indicative R0s are 0.9 – 2.1 for the common flu while the 1918-1919 pandemic-causing Spanish flu was estimated to have ranged from 1.4 – 2.8, with a mean of 2. Some other notable R0s are shown below, and note that SARS was between 2 and 5:
So what about the R0 of 2019-nCoV, also known as the coronavirus that has claimed over three dozen lives in China and infected (at least) 1,000 people? Naturally, since the disease is most active in China which is notoriously opaque especially when it comes to matters that can cause a mass panic, the best one can do is guess, and that’s what the World Health Organization did yesterday when it issued a statement on the coronavirus epidemic with the following projection:
Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4-2.5 was presented. Amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.
Needless to say, while 2.5 is quite high, and in line with that of the Spanish flu epidemic which infected about half a billion people back in 1918, killing as many as 100 million before it eventually fizzled out, the real coronavirus R0 number may end up being far higher. That is the working hypothesis of Jonathan Read, a UK expert on the transmission and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases, who has published a paper with four colleagues that estimates transmission parameters for the Wuhan coronavirus, calculates that the R0 of 2019-nCoV to be between 3.6-4.0 or roughly the same as SARS, and reaches a conclusion about spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is frankly terrifying.
This is a major problem because Reed estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24), “indicating a large number of infections in the community, and also reflecting the difficulty in detecting cases of this new disease.” Furthermore, since all of this is happening in China which is not known for making the most socially-beneficial decisions under pressure, there is an ominous possibility that Reed is actually overly optimistic.
Huge public hygiene crisis seems to have erupted in #Wuhan. This video clip was once posted on Weibo but now deleted. The lady in the clip says dead bodies were left at hospital aisles untreated whereas doctors are taking care of other patients alongside them. #WuhanPneumonia
Reed wastes no time to get to his terrifying conclusion which is that if no change in control or transmission happens, then further outbreaks will occur in other Chinese cities, “and that infections will continue to be exported to international destinations at an increasing rate.”
As a result, in 10 days time, or by February 4, 2020, Reed‘s model predicts the number of infected people in Wuhan to be greater than 250 thousand (with an prediction interval, 164,602 to 351,396);
After Wuhan, the cities with the largest outbreaks elsewhere in China are expected to be Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu.
Reed also predicts that by 4 Feb 2020, the countries at greatest risk of importing infections through air travel are Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, USA, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Vietnam. In short: much of Asia will infected, and from there, the rest of the world awaits.
Critically, Reed’s model alleges that Beijing was woefully late in its response and that recently imposed “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China; with a 99% effective reduction in travel, the size of the epidemic outside of Wuhan may only be reduced by 24.9% on 4 February.”
Reed’s prediction is in line with other modelling studies of travel restrictions, which find that reducing travel only serves to delay the epidemic reaching other locations, rather than suppressing the spread entirely. Still, it is important to note that his model only considered air travel, and did not consider the potential impact of travel restrictions relating to land transportation.
That said, Reed admits there is a chance that he is wrong, largely due to using flawed assumptions:
Our findings are critically dependent on the assumptions underpinning our model, and the timing and reporting of confirmed cases, and there is considerable uncertainty associated with the outbreak at this early stage.
Yet even with these caveats in mind, Reed’s work suggests that a basic reproductive number for this 2019-nCoV outbreak is materially, perhaps catastrophically higher compared to other emergent coronaviruses, “suggesting that containment or control of this pathogen may be substantially more difficult.”
Even assuming that most of Reed’s assumptions are overly harsh and pessimistic, his summary leaves little hope that the Coronavirus epidemic will be contained any time soon:
“We are still in the early days of this outbreak and there is much uncertainty in both the scale of the outbreak, as well as key epidemiological information regarding transmission. However, the rapidity of the growth of cases since the recognition of the outbreak is much greater than that observed in outbreaks of either SARS or MERS-CoV. This is consistent with our higher estimates of the reproductive number for this outbreak compared to these other emergent coronaviruses, suggesting that containment or control of this pathogen may be substantially more difficult.”
Finally, while Reed makes no observations on the potential mortality associated with nCoV, one can make a broad observation: late on Friday, China’s Hubei province reported 15 additional coronavirus deaths, which added to the previously reported 26 casualties, bringing the total to 41. And with roughly 1,100 confirmed cases, this means that the mortality rate of the diseases has just jumped from roughly 2.5% to 4%. Which means that if Reed is correct, and if 250,000 people in Hubei alone will be infected by February 4, no less than 10,000 Chinese people will be dead in the next 2-3 weeks.
What happens after that – with China effectively paralyzed by fear and the economy grinding to a halt as nobody leave their home – is anyone’s guess.
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The lunatics are running the asylum and they pretend to be the sane ones.
The Fed is not letting up on their liquidity machine and be clear: Every single outlook they’ve issued since inception of the program has been false. First it was temporary, then it got bigger, then it was there to meet year end requirements, and now already they’re moving the ball again.
And so here we get to see the Fed two step in one set of headlines:
“Fed’s Clarida says economy in good place, does see inflation rising to 2%. Clarida says Fed’s repo operations could continue at least through April.”
An economy that’s in a good place does not need hundreds of billion of dollars in central bank balance sheet expansion and certainly not $70B, $80B, $90B, $100B of repo every day or whatever the run rate is on any given day.
Reality is the Fed is forced to do repo or overnight rates go out of control, and if that were to last for more than a few days the economy would suddenly not be in a “good place”. The house is not on fire as long as I keep dousing it with water. But it’s in a good place.
And of course the big lie is that they have it all under control. If they had it under control they wouldn’t have to keep moving the goalpost:
The irresponsiblity of this, telling the average person to take more risks this late in the cycle is simply staggering, regardless of what the markets do. To make them think a 50% return is low lacks any fiduciary responsibility. This is worse than the Greenspan housing comments. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1215285845336502272 …
But of course the entire premise of the tweet is false on top of that. 401k’s are not up 50%.
Fact is, over the past 2 years here’s your larger index performance since the January 2018 highs:
Unless your 401k is in a few select stocks and $NDX exclusively you’re not anywhere near 50%, or 70%, 80%, 90%. Complete misleading hype and misinformation. Not even the almighty $NDX is up 50% since then. And the 2019 performance is completely meaningless. People did not liquidate their 401k’s at the September 2018 highs and then bought back in at the December 2018 lows, that’s not how this works. So there was a 20% drawdown first.
But I guess we have an election to win and anything is fair game. Just get people to chase a bubble.
And speaking of election: Next week we got the “historic signing’ of a phase one trade deal with China. Also complete hype.
Not only has no one seen what’s in it, but President Xi is not only not showing up, his name won’t even be on the document:
Ministry didn’t confirm if Liu will head to DC as Special Envoy to President Xi. Xi not expected to have his name on the trade agreement – which in a Chinese context gives Xi distance in case issues arise after the deal.
Not only are a few stocks controlling much of the market cap equation that keeps getting larger and larger, now we hear via Bloomberg that only a handful of asset managers control ever more ownership of key stocks:
Index funds controlling corporate America, just like the founders had intended.
I jest of course, but you get the message: Everybody is long, the few are getting ever larger and the Fed and Trump are both doing their parts in disconnecting asset prices ever further from underlying economic reality. We’re building an inverted pyramid here with the majority of the weight on top of the pyramid and everybody sitting up there enjoying the view but with no exit plan on how to get back down.
The economy is in a good place. Now try it without repo and balance sheet expansion. Just try it. I dare ya.
My word here: Stay cautious and critical. This is an environment of hype and non sustainability. But for now the mantra appears the same as in every bubble: Buy until you die.
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