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US trade deficit jumps 4.8% to $71.1B in February

shipping container
© Special
The U.S. trade deficit grew to a record $71.1 billion in February as a decline in exports more than offset a slight dip in imports, with severe weather taking much of the blame from analysts, who were expecting a slightly lower gap.

The February gap between what America buys from abroad compared to what it sells abroad jumped 4.8% above the revised January deficit of $67.8 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The coronavirus pandemic has stifled global trade for more than a year, but those barriers appear to be falling as millions of people get vaccinated and countries start easing operating restrictions for businesses. Total trade after two months of 2021 is just 1.8% behind where it was at this point last year, before the global economy was blindsided by the pandemic.

The U.S. vaccine rollout, which so far as gotten at least one shot into the arms of more than 100 million Americans, is far ahead of other major global economies in Europe and Asia. Should that trend continue, economists believe it will accelerate a return to "business as usual" and an even wider trade gap as the U.S. economy moves into high gear.


Arkansas lawmakers overrode GOP governor veto of bill banning gender transition services for minors

Asa Hutchinson
© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Asa Hutchinson at Republican National Convention in 2016
Both chambers of the Arkansas state legislature on Tuesday voted decisively to overridde Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of a bill to ban gender transition surgeries and services like cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers for minors.

The state's House of Representatives voted 72-25 to override the veto and the state Senate vote was 25-8.

"In Arkansas, gender reassignment surgery is not performed on anyone under age 18. If House Bill 1570 simply prohibited gender reassignment surgeries, then I would sign the bill," Hutchinson said on Monday. "But the bill is overbroad, extreme, and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment. In other words, the young people who are currently under a doctor's care will be without treatment when this law goes into effect. That means they'll be looking to the black market or go out of state if they can afford it to find the treatment that they want and need. This is not the right path to put them on," the governor said.

Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson sparred with Gov. Hutchinson who defended the veto during an interview on Tuesday night's episode of Fox News Channel's Tucker Carlson Tonight.

"Now, I think of you as a conservative, here you've come out publicly as pro-choice on the question of chemical castration of children — what changed?" Carlson inquired.

Comment: Preventing teenagers from drinking alcohol - acceptable intrusion into the private lives of minors. Preventing their chemical castration - but small government!


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bans COVID-19 vaccine passports: 'Don't tread on our personal freedoms'

© Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned government-mandated COVID-19 vaccine passports in a new executive order.

What are the details?

Abbott announced on Tuesday morning the ban on any government-mandated COVID-19 vaccine passports.

The executive order, issued on Monday, prohibits any regulation requiring Texans to show any proof of vaccination.

In a Tuesday morning video, Abbott said, "Every day, Texans return to normalcy as more people get the COVID vaccine. In fact, this week, Texas will surpass 13 million doses administered. Those shots help slow the spread of COVID, reduce hospitalizations, and reduce fatalities. But, as I have said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced. Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives. That is why I issued an executive order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas."

"We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health and we will do so without treading on Texans' personal freedoms," he added.


Glenn Greenwald's new book on journalism, exposing corruption, and the resulting risks, dangers and societal changes

glenn greenwald

Glenn Greenwald
In 2015, I travelled to Sweden for an event with former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. It was billed as a conversation about modern journalism between the reporter who had broken the biggest story of the prior generation (Watergate) and the one responsible for the biggest story of the current one (NSA/Snowden revelations).

A couple of years earlier, at the height of the Snowden reporting, Bernstein and I had traded some barbed insults through the media. So before traveling to Sweden, he generously reached out to invite me to dinner in order, essentially, to clear the air so that we could have a civil conversation. The night before the event, we met for dinner at the hotel restaurant. We quickly laughed off the acrimony — it had been a couple of years prior, and both of us have had much worse said about us — and proceeded to have a perfectly enjoyable conversation.

Gold Seal

Listen to the moms: There's something else going on with trans teens

transgender children
© uwe umstätter / Global Look Press
Let's start with a caveat: I love passion. I do. And I have a deep, strong instinct to stick up for people whom I think are ignored or mistreated. I'm a typical bleeding-heart liberal. You know me: coexistence bumper sticker and a cloth grocery sack. I feel your pain, I do.

So let me assure you, I love those incredibly self-assured, brash, righteous, young activists who are screaming for trans rights. I see you. I've been one of you, too, believe it or not. And occasionally, I still go out with my protest sign and my sensible sneakers to make some noise on behalf of those who are ignored or mistreated. That's all okay - and it's good, and it's necessary.

But today, I'd like you all to just take a deep breath and center some voices that are being silenced and ignored: the moms of the world. Because we moms might have a few things we've learned along the way, and you might save yourself a hoarse voice and some embarrassment by just stopping for a minute and listening. You might just shift your idea of who needs our protection right now.


'You don't know what it's like to experience totalitarianism,' says the North Korean defector running for Council election in Britain

Jihyun Park
© REUTERS / Phil Noble
Jihyun Park
Jihyun Park arrived in Britain in 2008 as a desperate refugee with no English. Now she wants to cap an extraordinary story by becoming a councillor - and has words of advice for those who say the UK has become too authoritarian.

Award-winning human rights activists tend not to join Boris Johnson's Conservative Party. It's for the elite, the rich, the upper class. You also wouldn't expect one to stand up for the prime minister, who embodies privilege, having attended Eton College and Oxford University. But Jihyun Park is different.

"Sometimes I see people describe the prime minister as totalitarian or a dictator, but they've never been under a totalitarian system or dictatorship," she says. "They say these words and they are allowed to. No one punishes or tortures them. They have freedom of speech. I'd say to anyone in Britain: your life is better than that in so many other countries. Enjoy your life, don't complain, but communicate with your local government to improve it."

Eye 2

Norway considers Covid vaccinations for children, despite ongoing safety trials

So far, no vaccine has been approved for use on children and early teens. However, several vaccine companies are currently testing their vaccines on youngsters to determine their safety and efficiency.

Comment: Enrolling children in an unnecessary experiment such as this is a damning sign as to the state of society today: UK children to be test subjects of latest AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trials

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) has said that it may become "relevant" to vaccinate children as several vaccine manufacturers are currently testing their vaccines on young people.
"The infection among children and young people has increased with these new virus variants. And the pandemic is not completely over even when everyone over the age of 18 has been vaccinated. So we must think ahead as well, whether it will be relevant to vaccinate children," FHI specialist director Frode Forland told national broadcaster NRK.


Border patrol arrests two Yemeni illegal aliens on no-fly, terror watch lists

US border patrol
© USCBP/Photo
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have arrested at least two Yemeni illegal aliens near Calexico, California who appeared on both the FBI's Terrorism Watch List and No-Fly list.

Agents arrested the first illegal alien, a 33-year-old male, on January 29 in the middle of the night. In addition to discovering that the migrant was on both watch lists, border patrol also "found a cellular phone sim card hidden underneath the insole of his shoe" before transferring him into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

Border patrol apprehended the second alien, a 26 year-old-male, in the same area at the end of March before discovering that he was on both watch lists as well. The second man is in "federal custody pending removal."

Comment: See also:


New York's vaccine passport program is already failing

excelsior pass
Liberty advocates, rejoice! The idiocracy is going to save us from another form of COVID tyranny. Thanks to a combination of bungling authoritarians and decaying legacy corporations, these entities are simply too incompetent to pull off a functioning vaccine passport program.

New York's rollout of its vaccine passport already has the markings of a five alarm dumpster fire. The New York State "Excelsior Pass" vaccine passport system, which was created by IBM, has so many issues that I wouldn't be surprised if the program was scrapped altogether before the end of the calendar year. It has massive security flaws, a shrinking customer base by design, it remains incredibly impractical, and it's incredibly easy to manipulate. Excelsior Pass sucks, thanks to the idiocracy that was responsible for its design and implementation.

A rigid system

Say you want to attend a Knicks game this evening at Madison Square Garden, a partner to the Excelsior Pass program. It's 9 a.m. and your event is at 7:30 p.m. If you don't have the vaccine yet, that means you will need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test to receive your pass. Want to take that test this morning? Not so fast! The antigen test needs to have been administered within the last 6 hours, so you better plan your entire day around navigating that short window between your COVID test and the event this evening.

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Hunter Biden says his name was like 'gold' to Burisma

hunter biden
President Joe Biden's son Hunter said his family name was "gold" to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that recruited him to its board when his father was vice president, even as he complained that his prominent family was a burden to him.

In his latest interview to promote his new memoir Beautiful Things, the 51-year-old told the BBC he simply had not expected the level of scrutiny he received even though his father was the Obama administration's point man on relations with Ukraine.

"I don't belong to an administration, I belong to a family," he said.

Comment: See also: