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Tue, 11 Aug 2020
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Coronavirus poll: Number of Americans who plan to get vaccinated falls to 42% — a new low

vaccine injection
So far, most of the conversation about COVID-19 vaccines has focused on the question of whether researchers can develop an effective vaccine in record time.

But maybe we should start asking another question as well: Will enough Americans actually get the vaccine for it to be effective?

"It's not a vaccine that will save us," says Harvard Global Health Institute director Ashish Jha. "It's vaccination."

For a COVID-19 vaccine to actually stop the pandemic, scientists estimate that at least 60 percent of the population — and probably more like 75 or 80 percent — would need to be vaccinated, a number that depends on many factors, including the efficacy of the vaccine itself and how widely the virus has already spread.

covid vaccine poll
With that in mind, Yahoo News and YouGov have been polling the American people for the past few months: "If and when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, will you get vaccinated?"

Comment: With all the monetary interests involved and the fast-tracking, there's no guarantee a safe, effective vaccine will arrive ever. They did leave out one question and it would be interesting to see the answer. That question is: "Would you take the vaccine if the companies that produce the vaccine are NOT liable for any injury or death caused by the vaccine?"


Fire at Iranian industrial area, no casualties

Iran Fire at Industrial Site
© WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire that broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran, Iran August 4, 2020.
Dubai - A fire broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran on Tuesday, Iran's state TV reported, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.

"The fire broke out at the industrial area of the Jajrud district in the Pardis county this morning ... there were no casualties ... firefighters are trying to contain the fire," it said.

A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Bizarro Earth

Pro-Brexit and right-wing academics 'forced to censor views' for fear of being shunned

© Getty Images / Jon Lovette
Locust Walk with students in fall, University of Pennsylvania, University City area, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Academics who identify their political views as right-wing are much more likely to conceal their views from their employers. This was intensified among Brexit supporters, with many fearing expressing such views would have a negative impact on their careers.

The report titled 'Academic Freedom in the UK', by the Policy Exchange think tank, found university campuses are increasingly governed by unwritten rules, which encourage academics to hide unfashionable opinions.

It found that right-wing and pro-Brexit academics were most likely to censor their political views, in fear of being ostracised or passed over for promotion.

Comment: See also:


Police: Man fires gun in Miami Beach hotel, enraged mother and son were not social distancing

Miami social distancing shooting
Police have arrested a man who allegedly fired shots into a Miami Beach hotel lobby's floor after he told a mother and her son to practice social distancing at a Miami Beach hotel.

Miami Beach Police arrested 47-year-old Douglas Marks at the Crystal Beach Suites Hotel, along the 6900 block of Collins Avenue, Monday night.

"The guy came and started shooting," a witness said. "The son and the mom were, like, crying, and they were scared."

When officers arrived at the hotel, they found a man in the lobby holding a black pistol. They said he surrendered to them and was arrested without incident.

According to a police report, the man was enraged that a mother and child were not social distancing. Detectives said the mother and son angered the man enough for him to allegedly fire gunshots into the lobby's floor.


Woman killed, 2 wounded after gunfire erupts at Beverly Crest mansion party

Beverly Crest Mansion Party
© RMG News
Outside a mansion in the Beverly Crest neighborhood after a shooting wounded at least three people. Aug. 4, 2020.
One woman was killed and two other people were wounded after shots were fired at a large party at a mansion in the upscale hillside neighborhood of Beverly Crest in the early morning hours Tuesday.

The shooting occurred at around 1:15 a.m. at a home in the 13200 block of West Mulholland Drive, the Los Angeles Fire Department reports. In a video posted by one party goer to Instagram, about 20 gunshots could be heard. There appeared to be two rounds of gunfire. Following the second, there was chaos as people tried to run to safety.

Officers arrived on scene to find two women and a man with gunshot wounds, Los Angeles police Lt. Chris Ramirez said at a news briefing Tuesday morning.

All three were rushed to local hospitals, where one of the women, believed to be about 35-years-old, died. The two others were in stable condition, Ramirez said.

Comment: The woman who was killed is another unseen death connected to the lockdown. Why isn't this even a part of the conversation?


Lebanon Braced For High Number of Casualties as Absolutely Gargantuan Explosion Obliterates Port Area of Beirut​​​​​​​

Comment: Update 5 August 2020 - 08:30 CET

The death toll has reached 100 people, with around 4,000 people wounded.

The entire city of Beirut is reporting injuries and damage. Hospitals are barely functioning, following months of Covid-19 lockdown, mass lay-offs, hyperinflation and power blackouts. The city's population is around 2.5 million people, so it may take many days before something approximating a final death toll can be established...

beirut explosion blast radius

explosion beirut
© ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images
A MASSIVE explosion in Beirut on 4 Aug was felt for miles around.
At least two explosions in the Lebanese capital of Beirut have occurred near the city's main port area.

Videos from around the city captured the massive explosion and subsequent shockwave Tuesday evening.

A powerful blast has just rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The cause of the massive explosion is as yet unknown.

But multiple social media videos from various angles shows it happened during daylight hours Tuesday, in the late afternoon or early evening local time.

Images show that a massive shockwave flashed over the city, followed by an immense fireball that appeared several stories high.

Comment: Fireworks? That second blast looks like it was from at least a thousand-pound bomb. The energy it released is associated with only the largest (non-nuclear) bombs and volcanic eruptions.

In the meantime, we fear a lot of people may have been killed here.

Lebanon newspaper The Daily Star suffered massive damage to their main office:

Lebanon's port area, and thus a key economic lifeline for the small Mediterranean country, is certainly wrecked:

Another apocalyptic scene: a priest giving mass is felled from falling debris as he flees a church somewhere in the city:

Here's a still from the 'second' explosion:

explosion beirut


Turns out 'fireworks' is indeed just a rumor (one started by Lebanon's branch of the Global Fake News Factory):

That global media instantly went with that as a cause is likely a clue as to the real cause. Perhaps it was a Hezbollah munitions storage site, which 'somebody' eliminated, taking Beirut's shipping lifeline with it, along with thousands of lives & livelihoods.

Update 9:45PM CET

Here's video footage of the event from real close up:

Strangely (or not), the Israelis are piping up to say that the warehouse stored "munitions confiscated from Hezbollah." So possible motive begins taking shape.


In fact, on July 31st, the Israeli Defense Minister specifically threatened to "bomb Lebanese infrastructure," before placing the IDF on 'high alert'.

Update 10PM CET

The closest type of explosion we've seen to this is the one that occurred on 5 August 2019, one year ago tomorrow. It happened when a major munitions facility in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia exploded:

In fact, the massive blast in Russia this time last year was part of a string of strange explosions at Russian military facilities.

Today's explosion in Beirut, however, is an order of magnitude more powerful, and thus destructive.

Update 5 Aug 2020 - 08:30 CET

US president Trump has told reporters that, after speaking with "our top generals," he (and they) seem to believe this was deliberate:

The US Geological Survey reports that the explosion "generated seismic waves equivalent of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake," with the caveat that if this had occurred underground, the seismic reading would have been significantly higher.

Lebanon was already 'on the brink' before this event. Here journalist and founder of the news site Beirut Report, Habib Battah, explains the dire state the small country is in:

Update 5 Aug 2020 - 13:30 CET

The force of the blast left an enormous crater in Beirut's port:
crater explosion beirut

Update 5 Aug 2020 - 18:30 CET

The ammonium nitrate connection

Lebanese officials have indeed acknowledged that over 2,700 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse in question for the last six years. The presence of the nitrate was apparently well-known, and an investigation had been launched 5 months ago with the goal of preventing any mishaps. For the story of the initial confiscation followed by bureaucratic deadlock, see here and here.

The Lebanese Supreme Defence Council has claimed that a spark from welding work at the site may have caused the initial fire - workmen were supposedly there repairing a faulty door.

But it doesn't really matter whether or not ammonium nitrate was stored there. It requires multiple chemical processes before it becomes an effective explosive. As a fertilizer in farming, it is stored in large amounts in rural areas all around the world. That wouldn't be common practice if there was a general risk of it exploding.

The most likely scenario in Beirut seems to be that a large bomb was transported and assembled there. The fire that preceded the explosion was perhaps a decoy, along with some amount of fireworks thrown in as further decoy. And then the bomb was remote-detonated.

Hezbollah arms storage?

Some have alleged that the port was used as weapons storage for Hezbollah. The head of the port claims no explosives were stored near the substances alleged to have been responsible. HRW chief Roth posted then deleted an unhinged tweet blaming Hezbollah, speculating that blowing up the port was their way of saying "don't mess with us for allegedly killing former Lebanese PM Hariri".

In either case, there is the potential for sabotage (in addition to negligence and corruption), given the relatively high profile of both the nitrate and the alleged Hezbollah weapons. (See this unverifiable report from progressive Jewish writer Richard Silberstein, for example, claiming a "confidential, highly-informed Israeli source" said Israel was responsible. They say the Israelis wanted to destroy a Hezbollah arms depot, but didn't know about the nitrate and accidentally caused a bigger explosion in the process.)

PM Diab has asked for help from the international community and promised an investigation followed by justice. Both the U.S. and Israel have pledged to offer assistance. Russia is sending a mobile hospital and rescue unit. Among the 100+ dead was top Christian party official Nizar Najarian. Hundreds are still missing - some may still be buried under the rubble. Over 4,000 were injured, and up to 300,000 Lebanese have been left homeless.

For more pictures and footage of the destruction, see here, here,


Spain's retired king announces he's flees country ahead of investigation into financial corruption

Comment: "So long suckers, I'm outta here!"

Where has he gone to? No one knows!

© Europa Press | Getty Images
Former King of Spain Juan Carlos.
Speculation over the whereabouts of former monarch Juan Carlos gripped Spain on Tuesday, a day after he announced he was leaving the country for an unspecified destination amid a growing financial scandal.

In a letter published on the royal family's website on Monday, Juan Carlos told his son King Felipe VI he was moving outside Spain due to the "public repercussions of certain episodes of my past private life."

Juan Carlos is the target of official investigations in Spain and Switzerland, which are looking into possible financial wrongdoing.

Bizarro Earth

Are chrome grilles 'designed to intimidate & kill pedestrians'? Liberals and conservatives fight over pickup trucks

© Reuters / Joseph White
America's love affair with the pickup truck is the latest battlefield in the unending culture wars, with liberal pundits decrying these 4,000-pound killing machines, and conservatives clinging to their beloved Rams and Silverados.

After an oblivious pickup driver nearly ran Dan Neil over in a Costco parking lot, the Wall Street Journal columnist echoed the arguments of the gun control crowd and focused his attention on the tool itself, and not the user. Why, he wrote, are these square-jawed vehicles getting so damn huge?

These "behemoths," he wrote, are deadly for pedestrians caught in front of their chrome grilles, and pack in so many luxury features that they hardly qualify as work vehicles anymore.

Online, a cohort of liberal commentators agreed. Pickup trucks, which now account for roughly 70 percent of all new vehicles sold in the US, "have basically been deliberately designed to intimidate and kill pedestrians," journalist Ryan Cooper tweeted. It's "pretty f**ked" how "we're not talking about whether they 'belong on city streets,'" New York reporter Dave Colon added.

Arrow Down

Houston mayor warns of $250 fine for not wearing face mask

masked shopper
© Paul Grover for the Telegraph
Houston's mayor warned Monday that city residents who disobey a statewide mandate requiring masks to be worn in public spaces will risk a $250 fine.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said at a press conference that Houston police have been directed to enforce Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) directive, which carries a verbal warning for first offenses and a $250 fine for second offenses.

"For months, we have been focusing on education and not citations, but now I am instructing the Houston Police Department to issue the necessary warnings and citations to anyone not wearing a mask in public if they do not meet the criteria for an exemption," the mayor reportedly said.

Turner had previously shied away from fining residents over mask mandates; in April, he directed officers to issue masks to residents who were not in compliance with a similar order issued by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo as part of a countywide disaster declaration.


Number of UK citizens emigrating to EU has risen by 30% since Brexit vote

Benalmádena  Spain
© Leon Neal/Getty Images
Benalmádena, Spain. The biggest jump in migration was to Spain, where an estimated 380,000 British nationals live.
The number of British nationals emigrating to other EU countries has risen by 30% since the Brexit referendum, with half making their decision to leave in the first three months after the vote, research has found.

Analysis of data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat shows that migration from Britain to EU states averaged 56,832 people a year in 2008-15, growing to 73,642 a year in 2016-18.

The study also shows a 500% increase in those who made the move and then took up citizenship in an EU state. Germany saw a 2,000% rise, with 31,600 Britons naturalising there since the referendum.

"These increases in numbers are of a magnitude that you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis," said Daniel Auer, co-author of the study by Oxford University in Berlin and the Berlin Social Science Center.