Thursday, 28 May 2020
State House of Representatives Returns to Work, But Not to Normal


 Laura Baigert


NASHVILLE, Tennessee – While the Tennessee House of Representatives returned to committee and subcommittee meetings this week, the situation was anything but normal.

The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned on March 19, after passing a limited number of bills and a reduced fiscal 2021 budget, in the interest of slowing the spread of COVID-19. At the time, the General Assembly was to stand in adjournment until June 1.

In preparation for going back into session, House subcommittee and committee meetings were scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday following the Memorial Day holiday.

A normal week of these meetings would number about four dozen, whereas this week totaled less than one-third of that. The hefty calendars, however, more than offset the limited number of meetings with nearly 400 bills set to be taken up.

Visitors to the legislative home of the Cordell Hull Building could access the building only through the Fifth Avenue entrance, and not through the Sixth Avenue or Cordell Hull Tunnel entrances, had to be wearing face masks and have their temperatures taken before entering.

Tennessee Highway Patrol and other security team members at the entrance also wore face masks.

Along with signs reminding of six-foot separations, there were blue painter’s tape markings at the dual staircase, directing those going up to the first-floor committee room level toward the right staircase and those going down to the left staircase.

The cafeteria area was open only to members of the General Assembly and staff, and the Senate side of the first-floor committee level was cordoned off to unauthorized personnel.

Only 40 percent of the House Hearing Rooms were scheduled for use and are newly equipped with clear plastic dividers between each of the member’s desks. The large majority of audience seats were covered with cloths, leaving rows with only seats at the end of the aisles alternating with rows with a seat in the middle of the aisle available for use.

Workers clean all surfaces in the House hearing room immediately following a meeting, readying it for the next scheduled meeting.

A legislative staff member sat outside the committee rooms, counting those entering and tracking the number of available seats remaining.

For the most part, availability of seats did not appear to be an issue, with only a few members of the public present made up mostly of lobbyists including Tennessee Education Association, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, Beacon Center of Tennessee and American Federation for Children, as well as members of the media.

While the House committee and subcommittee schedule gave start times for the meetings, it was also stated that each meeting would immediately follow the preceding meeting.

As each meeting ended, a cleaning crew swept in to wipe down the House members’ desks and witness tables. In between each bill sponsor and witness, a staff member sitting in the room cleaned the podium and microphones.

Representative Jim Coley (R-Memphis) chaired the first meeting of the day, House Higher Education Subcommittee. It was likely his last, as Coley, who has served in the General Assembly since 2007, previously announced he would not be pursing re-election.

Of the 17 bills on the calendar of the Higher Education Subcommittee, 15 were taken off notice by the bill sponsor.

While only two bills were discussed, the meeting lasted nearly two hours. Both bills covered the same topic: prohibiting a public institution of higher education from preventing a student-athlete from earning compensation as a result of the use of the student athlete’s name, image or likeness.

One bill, sponsored by Representative Joe Towns (D-Memphis) failed on a voice vote, and the other, sponsored by Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) failed through a tie 4-4 vote, largely along party lines.

The trend of taking bills off notice continued in the House Curriculum, Testing and Innovation Subcommittee and the K-12 Subcommittee, with 11 of 19 and 21 of 32, respectively, ending in that manner.


Of note, the effort by Representative Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) to delete any and all mentions of the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) Pilot Program of the Tennessee code failed for the lack of a second.

Of course, even if Mitchell’s proposal passed all the way through the House, the Senate would also have to agree to delete the ESA Pilot Program, where it the legislation passed by a wider margin.

In an unusual move, Coley sent what is likely his last bill dealing with an issue he is passionate about – teacher’s annual evaluation criteria – to summer study.

Of the 114 bills put on Tuesday’s House committee and subcommittee calendars, only about 10 had previously passed the full state Senate, most of which were on the calendar of the House Judiciary Committee.

With the Judiciary Committee having a 5 p.m. start time for a 44-item calendar, including several controversial bills like permitless handgun carry and civil asset forfeiture, the meeting was still underway at publication deadline.

It is unclear whether the Senate will take up any bills the House passes in this second session of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly.

The only meeting the Senate has scheduled for this week is of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee, for which an Overview of COVID-19 Related Federal Funding by Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley is the only item on the agenda.

The week of July 1, the Senate schedule shows committee meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, although agendas are yet to be published.

– – –

Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.


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Posted on 05/28/2020 5:13 AM by Bobbie Patray
Tuesday, 26 May 2020
Early divisions between chambers as lawmakers return to Nashville to tackle budget, wrap up session


Published 10:00 p.m. CT May 25, 2020

When Tennessee lawmakers return to Nashville this week for the first time in months, there will be vastly different approaches between the two chambers, with one closed to outsiders while focusing on essential work and the other letting in a limited number of people while weighing legislation including the most controversial measures this year.

Although there are always disagreements between the House and Senate, during most legislative sessions the chambers’ leaders are largely on the same page in terms of timing, ideas and some basic fundamentals.

But that won’t be the case when the legislature returns for the first time since mid-March, after it was forced to recess early amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The two chambers appear headed for a collision course on everything from what types of bills to consider and the public’s access to lawmakers’ office building to the length of the session.

Differing visions 

Most notably, the chambers have a fundamental disagreement on the bills they will consider.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said the Senate would focus on three types of bills: ones that effect the state budget, time-sensitive measures like appointment resolutions and legislation related to COVID-19.

“Senate members are going to try to be responsible and limit themselves to those three issues,” he said Thursday, speaking to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, told the same group the House could consider as many as 400 different bills, including measures to limit abortion in Tennessee, allow residents to carry guns without a permit and making the Holy Bible the official state book,

“Our goal is still to try to pass as much good policy as we can,” he said.

A look at the chambers’ early calendars reflects the different views.

The lone Senate scheduled this week will take place Thursday, when the finance panel will consider no legislation but instead meet with Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley. A preliminary schedule for the week of June 1 shows just 34 bills will be considered in the Senate’s eight committees.

This week, the House has scheduled at least 20 committee meetings with 391 total bills on calendars.

Based on the committee calendars, the House is pressing on with run-of-the mill proposals as well ones that generated significant discussions, including the governor’s signature measures on abortion and guns.

On Thursday, Lee said it was the legislature's responsibility to set their own agenda. The governor said he thought the two chambers would come together in time.

"We all know that the greatest importance in this agenda coming forward is going to be the budget," he said. 

Doug Kufner, a spokesman for Sexton, said the House’s approach for the session will include making adjustments and cuts to the state’s budget, which he said will be a priority, as well as “passing effective public policy.”

But among the bills calendared to be considered in the House next week is a measure to make the Holy Bible the state’s official book. Last time the body considered the bill - in 2016 when the House unsuccessfully tried to override former Gov. Bill Haslam's veto - the chamber had two hours of debate. 

Speaking to reporters Friday, Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said the ongoing pandemic makes it clear to most Tennesseans that the legislature should not be operating as if everything is business as usual. 

"It's going to be really important that we have a do no harm principle," he said. "Our primary goal right now needs to be to prevent the legislature from going in the wrong direction."

Another sticking point between the two chambers is over access to the Cordell Hull building, home to lawmakers’ offices and committee meetings.

In March, after having a greater understanding of the severity of the pandemic, legislative leaders mutually agreed to close the building to the public while they worked on what they said were essential-only measures.

They scaled back the budget while encouraging members of the public to take advantage of the state’s website which offers livestreaming of all committee and floor meetings. Despite some technical glitches, members of the public, including lobbyists, largely accepted the building closure.

But this week, there’s differing views on building access.

The Senate prefers to limit the public’s access, given the limited scope of bills that will be considered. That’s in part an effort to minimize opportunities for the virus to spread among the chamber’s members and staff.

As many as 60 of the legislature's 132 members, or roughly 45%, are over 60 years old — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition of vulnerable population. In the Senate alone, the average age is 61 years old. Just 14 of the chamber's 33 members are under 60.  

“Lt. Gov. McNally prefers the rest of the legislative session to mirror the week prior to recess in most, if not all, respects,” said Adam Kleinheider, spokesman for the Senate speaker.

In recent weeks, the Cordell Hull building has continued to be closed off to everyone, except lawmakers, staff and the press. “The Senate prefers that remain the case,” said Kleinheider.

But the House disagrees.

Starting this week, the House plans to allow members of the public, including lobbyists and others, into Cordell Hull.

“Sometimes the two bodies don’t always agree,” Sexton told the chamber last week.

Extra precautions 

Although it’s still unclear how many people will be allowed into the Cordell Hull building - decisions will be based on public health officials' recommendations while incorporating square footage - there will be noticeable changes for anyone who enters.

Guests, as well as House staff, will be required to enter the building from 5th Ave, where they will undergo a temperature check and be asked to wear a face mask. Anyone who does not have a mask will be provided one. Any members of the public who refuse to wear one could be forced to leave the building, said Holt Whitt, Sexton’s chief of staff.

Elevator access will be limited, with special exceptions for those with mobility needs.

Only staff and lawmakers will be able to use the building’s cafeteria. Water fountains will be closed off.

Portions of the ground floor of the building will be cordoned off, as will other sections of the building where lawmakers have committee meetings.

Seating areas inside and outside committee rooms will be limited, with black cloth placed on chairs in the audience. Inside one of the House’s larger committee rooms, only 23 seats will be available, with staff keeping a strict count on the number of people in the room. Standing in the aisles or against the side walls of committee rooms – a common practice when controversial bills are taken up – will not be allowed.

Overflow audience will be required to watch proceedings on TVs outside committee rooms. Signage will encourage social distancing.

Lawmakers’ seats in committee rooms have been outfitted with three-sided plexiglass, which is also expected to be added to their chamber desks.

And as was the case in March, deep cleaning throughout the building before and after meetings will continue.

Such changes will allow a handful of members of the public to watch or participate in House meetings. It is unclear how the House would handle a large influx of people, including protesters. 

The Senate’s side of the Cordell Hull building will be cordoned off, limited to lawmakers, staff and the press.

In the Capitol, there will be similar alterations.

Members of the public will not be allowed into the building through a commonly used elevator from the Cordell Hull building. Instead they will have to enter the Capitol on the first floor, which is expected to have limited access given the presence of offices for the executive branch and constitutional officers.  

From there, the public will be directed to the second floor, where the House and Senate chambers are located.

Like in Cordell Hull, the Senate chamber will not allow members of the public. Members’ desks will be spaced out throughout the floor, forcing staff and some members of the press to sit in the upstairs gallery. Reporters will also be allowed to watch the proceedings from a livestream in a lounge area across from the chamber.

In the House, half of the chamber’s upstairs balcony will be open to a limited number of Tennesseans, with the other side for staff and the press. A limited number of reporters will be allowed on the chamber floor.

A seating area outside the chamber – which is commonly used by lobbyists – will be limited to encourage social distancing.

'A huge challenge'

Another point of disagreement between the two chambers, although to a lesser extent, is the length of session. The Senate is hoping is adjourn in just a few weeks. The House expects to be in Nashville for upwards of four weeks. 

Despite all the discord, most everyone is in agreement on the need to make difficult financial decisions during the session. 

Speaking to the chamber of commerce last week, McNally estimated the state needed to make more than $1 billion in cuts on top of what had already been done. 

“We’ve already trimmed the fat and most of the meat, so we’ll be into the bone of the budget,” he said.  

The Senate speaker, who has been in the legislature since the 1970s, outlined the historic nature of the current pandemic. "Probably in the 42 some odd years that I’ve been in the legislature that this is the worst budget crisis that we’ve faced," he said. 

Sexton, the House speaker, noted Republicans have had to make major budget cuts in the past. He pointed to what he said were $1 billion in cuts during Haslam's early years in office. 

"We don’t have to raise taxes to get through this," he assured members of the chamber. 

During a conference call with lawmakers last week, the governor likewise remarked on the task ahead. 

Lee said he was looking forward to the legislature's return which he said would be a chance to “do something that’s going to powerfully impact the people of this state” through responsible budget management.

“The work that we have ahead of us is going to be a huge challenge,” he said.

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Reach Joel Ebert at or 615-772-1681 and on Twitter @joelebert29.


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Posted on 05/26/2020 12:18 PM by Bobbie Patray
Friday, 22 May 2020
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a hypocrite on life, death and nursing homes: Devine


May 20, 2020 | 10:28pm


In his daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was as haughty and boastful as ever.

The difference this time was that the Albany press pack didn’t give him a free pass.

It’s incredible how highly he rates himself when he has presided over the most COVID deaths of any state in the nation by far — 22,976 as of Wednesday, some seven times more than California, 11 times more than Florida. New York still hasn’t come to grips with why that is. The disparity is not a random act of God, as the governor would have us believe.

He bears at least some culpability. He was slower to respond to the threat of the virus. And then he compounded that error with the unforgivably callous act of forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients — a death sentence for other residents as the infection spread like wildfire.

And yet, not a trace of worry do we see on Cuomo’s tanned face.

There is no remorse, just buck-passing.

Wednesday, for instance, he blamed President Trump for the nursing-home deaths. The chutzpah is astonishing.

But at least he faced tough questions about a potential federal probe into his March 25 directive to nursing homes.

“I have refrained from politics,” he said, laughably. “But anyone who wants to ask ‘why did the state do that with COVID patients and nursing homes,’ it’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance.

“So they should ask President Trump.”

Cuomo even tried to claim that the more-than-5,500 deaths connected to nursing homes in New York was a better toll, per capita, than most other states.

But the state Department of Health seems to have fudged the death toll, admitting it does not count nursing-home residents who ended up dying in hospital of the coronavirus, so the real numbers are much higher.

Asked about this convenient accounting, Cuomo returned to Trump: “The state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance . . . No numbers were changed.”

A reporter pointed out that Cuomo has shown a “willingness to thwart President Trump at other times.” Why not on his March 25 nursing-home directive?

Good question, which ­Cuomo couldn’t answer.

Instead, he switched to blaming the nursing homes.

“In retrospect, do you think that was a bad decision? Do you think it contributed to the death toll?”

“No,” said Cuomo. “Because you have to be saying the nursing homes were wrong in accepting COVID-positive patients.”

It is Kafkaesque. First, he orders nursing homes to obey a directive with his name emblazoned at the top of the page: “All NHs must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals . . . No resident shall be denied readmis­sion or admission to the NH solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

The nursing homes were “prohibited” in that March 25 directive even from COVID-testing discharged patients.

But now that the policy has blown up in his face, he blames those same nursing homes for doing what he ordered them to do.

“We always had alternative beds . . . Any nursing home could just say, ‘I can’t handle a COVID person.’ ”

Yet in April he told a reporter at a press conference that the nursing homes “don’t have the right to object.”

His reversal of the directive on Mother’s Day was a tacit acknowledgement of wrong­doing, as was the legal indemnity for nursing homes that he reportedly slipped into the state budget in late March.

The terrible thing about ­Cuomo is that he has the appearance of being everything he’s not. He is a facsimile of a take-charge alpha male who stands up and takes responsibility. In reality, he behaves like a dithering, vain, deceitful bully.

He appears to be a moral Catholic family man who talks about his days as an altar boy and expresses concern for the sanctity of life.

“To me, I say the cost of a human life, a human life is priceless. Period,” he philosophized one day while trying to justify his decision to keep everyone in lockdown.

But it’s not true. He doesn’t think every human life is precious at all.

Last year he pushed for ­euthanasia legislation and gloated about signing into law the state’s late-term abortion laws. He even had One World Trade Center lit in hot pink in an obscene celebration of death.

And didn’t he just tell us breezily last week, as the heat from his nursing-home fiasco dialed up: “Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do.”

He made sure of it.

We knew from the start of the pandemic that the frail elderly were most at risk. Florida, with its big retired population, moved early to protect nursing homes.

A mistake is one thing, but Cuomo’s lack of remorse or self-doubt is chilling.

“I feel very good about how exhaustive I have been in communicating,” he boasted on Wednesday.

It is true he has been communicating “exhaustively.”

His “love gov” routine — joking around with his brother on CNN and strutting his stuff as New York’s most eligible bachelor — has done wonders for his approval ratings.

But it doesn’t save the people who died distressing deaths, unnecessarily and alone, in nursing homes that he knew could barely cope at the best of times.

Ex-cop with good shot at beating AOC

No matter how sick you are of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s hard to imagine that a Republican could dislodge her from her deep blue stronghold in The Bronx and Queens.

But if anyone can do it, it’s John Cummings. Born and bred in the Bronx, he’s an-ex cop injured in the line of duty who retired to become a civics teacher at his old Catholic school, Saint Raymond in The Bronx.

Judging by the hefty $2 million he has already raised and the enthusiastic reaction from district residents, it’s not as much of a long shot as you’d think.

“AOC is a far left socialist, and a lot of the people that live in that district are working people, homeowners, union people, people who work in the service industry, in health and hospitals, in construction, firefighters, police . . . They’re not looking for high taxes. They’re not looking for socialized medicine. They like their health insurance.”

AOC won the seat from incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in a primary upset in 2018. Crowley was a “moderate, a Reagan Democrat,” who had the seat for more than two decades, but ended up taking it for granted, says Cummings, 59, whose ideology is closer to Crowley’s than is AOC’s.

“She has done a great job of creating a national persona. But when it comes to the district, she doesn’t even have her own office in the Bronx.”

With any luck, the 14th Congressional District has a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Nancy steps in it

You could tell Nancy Pelosi thought she was clever when she delivered her “morbidly obese” insult against the president. She couldn’t keep the Queen Bee smirk off her face. Buoyed by the adulation of Trump haters, she followed up Wednesday, comparing him to a child with “doggy doo on his shoes.”

It’s pathetic. But it also is a political “own goal,” in a way a geriatric Mean Girl can’t fathom. Trump couldn’t care less, and the insults only confirm the elitism and snobbery that lurk beneath the surface of the Democratic Party.

The party views half of America as fat, deplorable, smelly Walmart people. It’s no way to win an election.

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Posted on 05/22/2020 10:08 AM by Bobbie Patray
Thursday, 21 May 2020
CDC now says coronavirus 'does not spread easily' via contaminated surfaces


For those of you still wiping down groceries and other packages amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, breathe a sigh of relief: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says the novel virus “does not spread easily” from "touching surfaces or objects" — but experts warn that doesn’t mean it’s no longer necessary to take "practical and realistic" precautions in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Though it’s not exactly clear when, the federal health agency appears to have recently changed its guidelines from early March that simply said it “may be possible” to spread the virus from contaminated surfaces. The CDC now includes "surfaces or objects" under a section that details ways in which the coronavirus does not readily transmit.


Other ways in which the virus does not easily spread is from animals to people, or from people to animals, the federal agency said on its updated page.

“COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads,” according to the CDC.

The CDC did, however, remind citizens that the virus does mainly spread person-to-person, noting the virus that causes a COVID-19 infection, SARS-CoV-2, "is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.”

More specifically, the agency said the virus primarily spreads from person-to-person in the following ways:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms

The change comes after a preliminary study from March suggested that the novel coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours, and live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, prompting many to take to wiping down packages and other items. However, at the time, the study was yet not peer-reviewed, and, as Yahoo notes, did not determine if people could be infected from touching certain surfaces analyzed.

Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer for the healthcare website WebMD, called the CDC’s changes an “important step in clarifying how the virus is spread, especially as we gain new information.”

“It also may help reduce anxiety and stress. Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious,” Whyte told Fox News in an email

“I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy,” he added.

Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, echoed Whyte.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person (within about 6 feet). Person-to-person contact is a highway. Touching infected surfaces are little paths, but they don’t carry the big viral traffic,” he told Fox News in an email. “To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the safest thing is to continue social distancing, wear masks, and wash hands frequently and thoroughly.”

Indeed, the CDC on its updated page reiterated important steps to take to prevent exposure to the virus. Maintaining a “good social distance," (keeping 6 feet away from others while in public), as well as washing hands often and “routinely” cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces were listed as key precautions.

“I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy,” he added.

Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, echoed Whyte.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person (within about 6 feet). Person-to-person contact is a highway. Touching infected surfaces are little paths, but they don’t carry the big viral traffic,” he told Fox News in an email. “To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the safest thing is to continue social distancing, wear masks, and wash hands frequently and thoroughly.”

Indeed, the CDC on its updated page reiterated important steps to take to prevent exposure to the virus. Maintaining a “good social distance," (keeping 6 feet away from others while in public), as well as washing hands often and “routinely” cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces were listed as key precautions.

Posted on 05/21/2020 5:59 AM by Bobbie Patray
Wednesday, 20 May 2020
George Soros: We’re now in ‘revolutionary moment’ that allows us to achieve the ‘inconceivable’


In a new interview, the left-wing billionaire called the coronavirus pandemic ‘the crisis of my lifetime.’

Fri May 15, 2020 - 4:24 pm EST

May 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Left-wing billionaire George Soros has indicated that the coronavirus pandemic paves the way for societal changes previously thought impossible, calling it “the crisis of my lifetime.” Soros had lived through the Second World War as a youth.

“Even before the pandemic hit, I realized that we were in a revolutionary moment where what would be impossible or even inconceivable in normal times had become not only possible, but probably absolutely necessary,” he said during an interview on May 11.

Soros also said that “Europe is facing several existential dangers.”

He was “particularly concerned about the survival of the EU because it is an incomplete union.” While, according to the Hungarian-born billionaire, the European Union was “in the process of being created,” that process “was never completed.”

Thus, Soros said the EU was “exceptionally vulnerable – more vulnerable than the US not just because it is an incomplete union but also because it is based on the rule of law.”

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Soros also commented on a recent conflict between Germany and the EU. Germany’s highest court had ruled on May 5 that one of the EU’s Court of Justice decisions regarding policies of the European Central Bank (ECB) was not legally binding. In turn, the European Court of Justice asserted that it alone had jurisdiction over the ECB.

In the interview, Soros sided with the EU. “When Germany joined the EU, it committed itself to abide by European law,” he argued.

He voiced his fears that countries like Poland or Hungary might become more independent of the EU, if also “the German court can question the decisions of the European Court of Justice.”

Soros asked, “Can Hungary and Poland decide whether they follow European law or their own courts – whose legitimacy the EU has questioned? That question goes to the very heart of the EU, which is built on the rule of law.”

“Poland has immediately risen to the occasion and asserted the supremacy of its government-controlled courts over European law. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán has already used the COVID-19 emergency and a captured parliament to appoint himself dictator,” Soros claimed.

The last election took place in 2018, and the next one is scheduled for 2020.

Additionally, a new poll has shown that the majority of Hungarians (54 percent) seem to support the measures of the Orbán administration and would vote for him.

“The ruling poses a threat that could destroy the European Union as an institution based on the rule of law, precisely because it was delivered by the German constitutional court, which is the most highly respected institution in Germany,” Soros emphasized.

In the course of the interview, Soros again talked about his idea of having the EU issue perpetual bonds, which he called Consols. With the money created through Consols, he would finance the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as climate change.

“European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says that Europe needs about €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) to fight this pandemic, and she should have added another €1 trillion for climate change,” according to Soros.

He said Consols “should never be issued in normal times, but are ideal right now.” However, he did not explain why the financial instrument is not appropriate for “normal times,” even though he himself characterized it as a perpetual bond.

In the course of the interview, Soros briefly talked about President Donald Trump, accusing him of wanting “to be a dictator. But he cannot be one because there is a constitution in the United States that people still respect.”

While the constitution, according to Soros, “will prevent him from doing certain things,” that does not prohibit the President from trying, “because he is literally fighting for his life.”

“I will also say that I have put my faith in Trump to destroy himself, and he has exceeded my wildest expectations,” Soros added.

Soros is a prolific financier of left-wing causes throughout the United States and around the world, including abortion, euthanasia, population control, same-sex “marriage,” transgenderism, and more.

His Open Society Foundations spend almost $1 billion annually in 100 different countries, including $150 million per year funding the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the leading abortion company Planned Parenthood, and other liberal groups. He invested $5.1 million in a super PAC dedicated to funding groups working against Trump’s re-election; and is an aggressive supporter of the European Union who has spent money in hopes of influencing the elections of multiple European nations.

In January, he announced the launch of an international network for educational institutions for the purpose of advancing his interpretation of “democratic values” and combating the rise of “nationalism.”

Posted on 05/20/2020 7:31 AM by Bobbie Patray
Tuesday, 19 May 2020
India: Standing up to China in the Post-Coronavirus World


by Vijeta Uniyal 


  • In true Orwellian fashion, top Chinese diplomats are still demanding that foreign governments rewrite the history of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • While India had shown restraint, Communist China has shown little. The Chinese air force has continued its incursions into Taiwanese air space. China has also tightened its grip on artificial islands it created in the South China Sea by setting up fictitious local governments on them. These weaponized islands... trample on the sovereignty of many of its maritime neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

  • The United States and rest of the Western world would do well to see the pandemic as a wake-up call and decouple their crucial and strategic sectors from dependence on China in any way. As US General Jack Keane has repeatedly warned the US, China a not a friend; "it is a predator economically, geopolitically and militarily."

  • The world is looking to India and its Asian Pacific allies, in a strong alliance with the West, to take a stand and face China's increasing military, geopolitical and economic intimidation.


The United States and rest of the Western world would do well to see the pandemic as a wake-up call and decouple their crucial and strategic sectors from dependence on China. In the coming post-coronavirus world order, India is well placed to challenge China's stranglehold over global and regional supply chains. Pictured: US President Donald Trump shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on February 25, 2020. (Photo by Prakash Signh/AFP via Getty Images)


As coronavirus leaves behind a trail of human suffering and economic devastation, nations across the world have begun asking critical questions about the global pandemic. Countries are enquiring into Communist China's handling of the pandemic, which first appeared late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

As early as January 14, China had used the World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency, to spread disinformation about the human-to-human transmissibility of Covid-19, a remark that led US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien later to call the WHO a "tool of Chinese propaganda."

While U.S. President Donald J. Trump faced mostly undeserved, politicized criticism for questioning China's culpability in the spread of the worldwide pandemic and his calls for an international probe into it, more and more capitals across the Western world are making similar demands.

On March 20, The Washington Post attacked President Trump for even mentioning China in context of the pandemic. "Trump has no qualms about calling coronavirus the 'Chinese Virus.' That's a dangerous attitude, experts say."

As late as the end of March, CNN was still claiming that President Trump was targeting China for "political reasons... using entrenched stereotypes and fear of the other to cast off any blame that might fall on him from this crisis."

On May 1, however, the New York Post reported that "[m]ore US allies and other countries are joining the Trump administration's call for an investigation into China, the World Health Organization and the origins of the deadly coronavirus pandemic."

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia has taken lead in asking for an international investigation into Beijing's culpability in the spread of the pandemic. "Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on April 29. Australia's demand was supported by New Zealand.

By way of response, China's Ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, threatened a boycott of Australian goods if Prime Minister Morrison's government continued to insist on an independent investigation into the outbreak.

In Europe, Sweden took a similar stance, asking the European Union to start a probe into "the origin and spread" of the coronavirus. "When the global situation of Covid-19 is under control, it is both reasonable and important that an international, independent investigation be conducted to gain knowledge about the origin and spread of the coronavirus," Sweden's health minister Lena Hallengren told the nation's parliament in a written statement on April 20.

Under threats of cutting Europe's medical supplies, China forced the EU to water down a report exposing Beijing's global disinformation campaign. "The European Union toned down part of a report about Chinese state-backed disinformation because it feared Beijing would retaliate by withholding medical supplies," the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, citing diplomatic sources, disclosed on April 25.

China, which first covered up the outbreak of the contagion in city of Wuhan, is now running a global disinformation and intimidation campaign, trying to blame the United States or Italy for the coronavirus. So far, apparently too many countries are now aware of China's intentions. As Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Germany's largest publishing house, Axel Springer, argued recently in Die Welt:

"Economic relations with China might seem harmless to many Europeans today, but they could soon lead to political dependence and ultimately to the end of a free and liberal Europe... Should we make a pact with an authoritarian regime or should we work to strengthen a community of free, constitutionally governed market economies with liberal societies?... If current European and, above all, German policy on China continues, this will lead to a gradual decoupling from America and a step-by-step infiltration and subjugation by China. Economic dependence will only be the first step. Political influence will follow."

At the moment, it is unclear if China's charm offensive, if one could call it that, is working.

Most recently, on May 4, Sharri Markson reported on a leaked 15-page research document, obtained by Australia's Saturday Telegraph, written by the "Five Eyes" -- the intelligence services of the US, the UK, Canada Australia and New Zealand.

"It states that to the 'endangerment of other countries' the Chinese government covered-up news of the virus by silencing or "disappearing" doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence of it in laboratories and refusing to provide live samples to international scientists who were working on a vaccine."

In true Orwellian fashion, top Chinese diplomats are still demanding that foreign governments rewrite the history of the coronavirus outbreak. Under President Xi Jinping's instructions, Chinese diplomats are running a global campaign of intimidation to divert world's attention from Beijing's culpability in the spread of the coronavirus. Dubbed "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy, referring to a popular Chinese movie series of the same name, the strategy aims at silencing and intimidate Western governments, critical media outlets, and think tanks. The good news is that the world is finally getting a good look at the true face of China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi telephoned his Indian counterpart, S. Jaishankar, on March 24, and suggested that India not use "China virus" to describe the Covid-19 contagion

"It's not acceptable and detrimental to international cooperation to label the virus and stigmatise China," Beijing's envoy to New Delhi, Sun Weidong, said following the call.

Apparently unwilling to risk creating a problem, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has so far refrained from confronting China for its handling of the outbreak. To India's credit, it did play a constructive role in combatting the global pandemic. India came to the aid of its allies by shipping large consignments of the drug hydroxychloroquine and other medical supplies to 55 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France and Israel.

While India had shown restraint, Communist China has shown little. The Chinese air force has continued its incursions into Taiwanese air space. China has also tightened its grip on artificial islands it created in the South China Sea by setting up fictitious local governments on them. These weaponized islands, fielding military facilities such as naval ports and military airfields, trample on the sovereignty of many of its maritime neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The United States and rest of the Western world would do well to see the pandemic as a wake-up call and decouple their crucial and strategic sectors from dependence on China in any way. As US General Jack Keane has repeatedly warned the US, China a not a friend; "it is a predator economically, geopolitically and militarily."

Beijing has used its status as world's biggest manufacturer, intellectual property thief, and debt-trap lender to force governments across the world into silence over its culpability for the deadly and devastating pandemic.

In the coming post-coronavirus world order, India is well placed to challenge China's stranglehold over global and regional supply chains. Prime Minister Modi's "Make in India" initiative, originally envisaged to create jobs in manufacturing sector, could also position the country as an alternative destination for rerouting global supply chain needs, especially in critical sectors such pharmaceuticals, industrial manufacturing, telecommunications and information technology.

To take advantage of a post-coronavirus realignment, India would do well to upgrade its infrastructure and seriously cut its bureaucratic red tape.

Modi came to power in 2014 on promises of streamlining the bureaucracy to foster a free economy. Since he took office, India has eased the government's red tape and opened up the country to foreign companies and investment. During his tenure, the country advanced 79 places on the global "Ease of Doing Business" survey released by the World Bank annually, from 142nd to 63rd place. The country still trails China, which, until its pandemic, ranked 31. India, however, plans to invest $1.39 trillion on a series of critical infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, digital connectivity and power sectors.

The world is eagerly looking to India and its Asia-Pacific allies, in a strong alliance with the West, to take a stand, face China's increasing military, geopolitical and economic intimidation, and take up its historic mantle of leadership.

Posted on 05/19/2020 5:28 AM by Bobbie Patray
Monday, 18 May 2020
Central California Town Declares Itself a ‘Sanctuary City’ from Lockdown: Open for Business




In California’s Central Valley, where farmers grow the food Americans eat and shops provide goods for them and their families, the coronavirus era is coming to a close, as Atwater declares itself a “sancuary city” where businesses and churches are opening their doors.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes the move as “in defiance of the California’s shelter-in-place order,” but the people who live there believe it is about their survival — not from dodging the virus, but from the draconian lockdown that cost people their livelihoods:


The City Council heard from a parade of business owners, pastors and residents on Friday who described pandemic-related hardships. Many insisted they could be responsible and keep the community safe by following safe practices like wearing face masks and keeping social distance.

Resident Caleb Hampton — a lonely voice for upholding the shelter order — said there was little proof people would be responsible in protecting public health, as evidenced by those attending the council meeting, most without masks, including the council members and staff. (Hampton wore a mask.)

“How many people came up and touched this lectern and then was it ever disinfected?” he said. “The council has pressed this narrative that small businesses can be responsible to implement these guidelines on their own … But I don’t see evidence of that in daily activities even here.”

The members of the city council, “without discussion” according to the Chronicle, passed unanimously a resolution “affirming the city’s commitment to fundamental constitutional rights and declaring the city of Atwater a sanctuary city for all businesses.” 

Council members said the measure also applies to churches.

“If they don’t open up, they’re going to be in a really bad state, and we’re going to have bankruptcies and foreclosures and we’re just going to have families that are decimated financially,” said Chamber of Commerce President Don Borgwardt, who is also a local pastor and made a plea for people to be allowed back inside houses of worship.

“It’s time to do the right thing and listen to the people who put us here,” Mayor Paul Creighton said in the Chronicle report. “We want you guys to survive and thrive. It’s really critical that the elected in this country and especially this state start listening to you.”

“Creighton later told the Merced Sun-Star that while the city would take no action against anyone who reopened outside the state’s guidelines, local businesses were taking their own risks by reopening,” the Chronicle reported.

“If you do have a state (business) license, that’s between you and the state of California,” Creighton said.

Atwater is in Merced County, California, and has recorded 200 coronavirus cases and six COVID-19 deaths, according to the county website. 

On Saturday, County Sheriff Vernon Warnke said on Facebook that he “will not be taking any enforcement action in this county for any of the COVID-19 ‘violations,’” the Chronicle reported.

“The citizens themselves can make informed decisions on how to proceed and protect their lives and livelihood and not the governor of a state,” the Facebook post said.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter


Posted on 05/18/2020 5:32 AM by Bobbie Patray
Friday, 15 May 2020
Nashville Has Reportedly Suffered the Steepest COVID-19 Consumer Spending Drop in the Nation



Nashville has suffered the steepest drop in consumer spending of any major metropolitan area in the U.S due to COVID-19, according to a report Wednesday in the Nashville Business Journal,

The Journal used information obtained from Harvard’s new Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, working with Brown University and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to pull data from a variety of sources.

As of April 30, consumer spending had fallen 46 percent in the Nashville metro area as compared to mid-January, and reflects more than twice the 21 percent drop seen nationally, according to The Journal.

Meanwhile, small business revenue had fallen 31 percent, which is about nine percent less than the national decline, the Journal reported.

While the drop would seem expected due to the city’s perceived reliance on tourism, the budget book for the upcoming fiscal year reveals that, ranked fifth in the top 10, just 11.7 percent of Nashville’s employment is from the leisure and hospitality industry.

First in Nashville’s employment at 19.8 percent is trade, transportation and utilities industry.

Excluding government agencies, Nashville’s top employers include Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nissan North America, HCA Healthcare, Inc., Vanderbilt University, Saint Thomas Health, Community Health Systems, Randstad, Asurion, The Kroger Co. and National Healthcare Corp.

The outlook doesn’t look all that positive, given a recent S&P Global report that just seven percent of respondents to a survey about overall spending said they plan to spend more overall in the next 90 days than the same period in 2019.

That response represented a shift from just two months prior, when 30 percent of consumers said they planned more spending over the next 90 days and a month earlier when still 20 percent of consumer expected to increase spending according to S&P Global.

When travel – now at a near-standstill – resumes, it will likely start with road trips and be for weekend getaways and domestic versus international travel, reports CNBC.

That may bode well for Nashville, with 50 percent of the nation’s population living within 650 miles of the city.

Nashville’s financial woes were only exacerbated when Mayor John Cooper issued a stay-at-home order that went into effect at midnight on March 22 and didn’t initiate Phase I of the four-phase reopening plan until May 11, while 89 Tennessee counties began reopening at the end of April.

As Nashville wraps up the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2020, a shortfall of $192.4 million in revenue is being forecasted for the fourth quarter related to COVID-19.

Estimated losses in fiscal year 2020 for six tax funds include:

  • $95.3 million sales taxes
  • $24.1 million business taxes
  • $17.3 million state sales taxes
  • $12.7 million alcohol beverage gross receipts taxes
  • $6.7 million hotel occupancy taxes
  • $6.5 million gas and fuel taxes

For the fiscal year 2021 budget, which begins July 1, 2020, the expected impact of COVID-19 on projections is a reduction of $276.1 million in revenues.

To offset the revenue losses, Cooper has proposed a 32 percent increase in the property tax rate, The Tennessee Star reported.

– – –

Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.

Posted on 05/15/2020 6:39 AM by Bobbie Patray
Thursday, 14 May 2020
Wisconsin now without COVID-19 restrictions after state Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order



Conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ monthslong stay-at-home order on Wednesday, leaving the state with no public health restrictions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 4-3 decision marked the first time a state’s high court has overturned a governor’s stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 crisis, as a majority of Wisconsin’s justices sided with Republican legislative leaders who argued the governor’s administration had overstepped its legal authority.

The court rejected the lawmakers’ request for a six-day stay to allow the GOP lawmakers and the governor to work out new rules, saying the two parties had two weeks since it took up the case to work "in good faith to establish a lawful rule that addresses COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Wisconsin.”

But as of late Wednesday night, neither the governor nor legislative leaders had offered an order or rules to serve as a replacement. That leaves Wisconsin as the only state in the nation without a single protective measure in place to combat the coronavirus, Evers’ office said.

In an interview, the governor said he would work with Republicans to write new rules, but said the “arcane process” could take weeks, and by the time anything is agreed upon, “the ship may have sailed” in containing the contagious virus.

“Republican legislators convinced four members of the Supreme Court to throw the state into chaos," Evers told the Tribune. “They have no plan. People are going to get sick, and those Republicans own this chaos.”

The top Republican lawmakers who brought the suit, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, issued a statement applauding the decision. They also noted that Evers had declined two weeks ago to start negotiating new COVID-19 rules and instead wanted to wait for the court decision.

“We are confident Wisconsin citizens are up to the task of fighting the virus as we enter a new phase,” the lawmakers said. “This ruling allows people to once again gather with their loved ones or visit their places of worship without the fear of violating a state order.”

In the lawsuit, Republicans contended that Evers and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm could not continue to extend stay-at-home orders indefinitely without seeking approval from the state legislature. The legislative leaders took the matter straight to the state Supreme Court after Evers’ “safer-at-home” order was extended until May 26.

Attorneys for Evers contended that the governor and the state’s top health official acted under clear emergency powers allowed for under state law.

After the justices heard arguments in the case during an online video conference last week, they ruled against the governor, a decision that effectively places any COVID-19 public health restrictions in the purview of a rule-making legislative committee controlled by Republicans that would hold veto power over directives issued by Evers and his administration.

In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack did not weigh in on whether Evers and his administration’s actions overstepped his constitutional authority. Instead, the court ruled more narrowly that Palm’s order “confining all people to their homes, forbidding travel and closing businesses exceeded the statutory authority” granted by law to the state’s health director during an emergency. Roggensack was joined by fellow conservative Justices Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly.

Bradley and Kelly wrote separate concurring opinions that went a step further, contending Evers’ health director had overstepped constitutional boundaries.

“Where in the constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single, unelected Cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply, with no input from the legislature, without the consent of the people?” Bradley asked during oral arguments last week. “Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people for being imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities?”

However, fellow conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in his own dissenting opinion that “the people have not empowered this court to step in and impose our wisdom on proper governance during this pandemic; they left that to the legislative and executive branches.”

“We are a court of law," Hagedorn warned. “We are not here to do freewheeling constitutional theory. We are not here to step in and referee every intractable political stalemate.”

Hagedorn was joined in dissent by liberal Justices Rebecca Dallet and Ann Bradley, who slammed the court’s decision not to issue a stay to give lawmakers and the governor time to hash out rules to replace the overturned stay-at-home order.

“The lack of a stay would be particularly breathtaking given the testimony yesterday before Congress by one of our nation’s top infectious disease experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci,” Ann Bradley wrote. “He warned against lifting too quickly stay-at-home orders.”

Emphasizing the immediacy of the decision, the Tavern League of Wisconsin on Wednesday night encouraged its members to reopen Thursday under guidelines the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation wrote for when bars and restaurants ultimately would be allowed to reopen. Those include leaving two empty stools in between parties, limiting tables to six guests, spacing tables 6 feet apart and requiring employees to wear face masks.

“The Tavern League of Wisconsin emailed all their members tonight saying, ‘Open up guys, it’s time to party,’” Evers said, adding that the “ship has sailed” on containing the virus with any new rules.

Vos and Fitzgerald, however, insisted businesses following the state safety recommendations is the right approach.

“We urge our fellow small business owners to utilize the suggestions as a safe and effective way to open up our state,” they said. “Wisconsin now joins multiple states that don’t have extensive stay at home orders but can continue to follow good practices of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer usage and telecommuting. This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health.”

Vos and Fitzgerald repeatedly contended that Evers’ order went too far, but have not offered any legislation or plan of their own on how the state should balance reopening the state’s economy and keeping Wisconsinites safe.

In their statement Wednesday night, the lawmakers said they would start working with Evers on rules “in case COVID-19 reoccurs in a more aggressive way,” implying that no such rules might be instituted right away to replace the stay-at-home order.

In the wake of the court ruling, both the Republican leaders and the governor pointed to a new Marquette University Law poll to bolster their positions.

Vos and Fitzgerald noted that the poll found that 77% of Wisconsin voters said they would feel comfortable visiting a friend or family member’s home. Evers pointed to the fact that 64% of voters approved of his handling of the virus.

That approval rating for the governor’s handling of the pandemic, however, was down from 76% in March. But like many governors, public support for Evers far outpaces the approval of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The poll, released Tuesday, found 44% of Wisconsin voters approved of Trump’s response to COVID-19, down from 51% in March.

The new poll found that 53% of Wisconsin voters said they trusted Evers more to properly respond to the pandemic compared to 33% who said they trusted the state legislature more.

The legal battle is the latest episode in a long-running and bitter political divide between the Republicans and Democrats in a crucial swing state in the fall presidential election. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin four years ago.

Fitzgerald and Vos won a similar decision before the state Supreme Court earlier this year that overturned Evers’ effort to delay the April 13 election and mail all voters a ballot amid the coronavirus pandemic. The ruling required in-person voting to be held as planned, despite a massive shortage of poll workers and a dramatic reduction in the number of voting locations.

Evers issued his initial stay-at-home order on March 18, which closed schools and shuttered nonessential businesses. On April 16, the governor extended the order until May 26, but he allowed for elective surgeries to resume, and state parks and golf courses to open.

At the time the Republican lawmakers sued, Wisconsin’s COVID-19 cases were still on the rise, though they now have started to level off. All told, 10,611 people have been sickened by the virus in the state and 418 have died.

As conditions have improved in recent days, Evers also has begun to loosen restrictions under his “Badger Bounce Back Plan” to gradually reopen the state’s economy. That included an announcement this week that retail stores could reopen with a limit of five customers at a time.

The Marquette poll found that 69% of voters thought Evers’ stay-at-home order to close businesses and schools was appropriate compared with 26% who said they were an overreaction. That marked a drop in support since March, when 86% said the governor’s actions were appropriate and only 10% said they were an overreaction.

Statewide in Wisconsin, the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases, or positivity rate, has dropped to less than 4%. By contrast, the most recent positivity rate released for Illinois is 17% overall and 20.7% in northeast Illinois.

Asked whether he was worried about Illinois residents from Chicago and the suburbs flocking over the state line to patronize Wisconsin businesses, Evers could hardly contain his disgust.

“I guess the Tavern League would like that. They’d like as many damn people in their bars as possible,” he said. “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that if you bring a lot of people together in a small place, somebody’s going to get sick.”

Posted on 05/14/2020 6:40 AM by Bobbie Patray
Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Knoxville Opts Out of Controversial Practice of Sharing Personal Data of COVID-19 Patients with Police


The City of Knoxville said Tuesday it will opt-out of sharing the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients with law enforcement following a statewide controversy over the practice.

Mayor Indya Kincannon and Police Chief Eve Thomas said that the Knoxville Police Department will leave a state program that allows law-enforcement officers across Tennessee to access a database of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The initiative was well-intended, aimed at protecting first responders and the people they serve, and safeguards were put in place to protect confidential information,” Kincannon said. “But there are better ways to accomplish the same goals, and we will continue to take the appropriate steps to assure public safety.”

The data-sharing has drawn intense criticism, especially from black legislators.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators wants the state to quit giving names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to police, The Tennessee Star reported.

The caucus made the request to Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health. Lee sent letters to Tennessee police offering to provide personal information to their departments once they’ve entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state.

State Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) on Monday asked Tennessee’s top elected officials to abolish the state’s contact tracing lists because he said they could do more harm than good.

Knoxville will handle the matter in part by buying and distributing more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to firefighters, paramedics and police officers, Kincannon said.

“Allowing law enforcement access to the state database was problematic,” Kincannon said. “Few people have been tested, and many others are asymptomatic carriers, so this could present a false sense of security. More importantly, we don’t want to create any public reluctance to be tested out of fear that confidential information might inadvertently be shared.”

Other steps she mentioned:

  • Making sure that all first responders wear face coverings when interacting with the public in close proximity, unless doing so prevents them from doing their job effectively, such as when chasing a suspect on foot.
  • Supporting collaborative community efforts to increase testing capacity, so that ALL first responders can be tested every two weeks until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.


Posted on 05/13/2020 8:43 AM by Bobbie Patray
Friday, 8 May 2020
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee plans for new COVID-19 contact tracers May 6th, 2020


May 6th, 2020 | by Andy Sher

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Tuesday that while her department brought on another 230 people last month to help with critical contact tracing of people exposed to the coronavirus, the department is looking to bring on an unspecified number of additional workers in coming days.

During Gov. Bill Lee's online news briefing on Tuesday, Piercey said in response to questions posed by the Times Free Press that her department has "well above 300 contact tracers and looking to bring on another cohort, probably sometime in June."

The contact tracers interview individuals who test positive for the virus and gain information about their contacts with other people in recent weeks. Then comes trying to find and speak to the people, many of whom likely don't know they had been in contact with someone who later tested positive.

The effort comes as Lee has started lifting many of the economic and social restrictions he had earlier imposed across 89 of Tennessee's 95 counties. The state's six biggest counties (which includes Hamilton) have their own health departments and are deciding on their own measures, although Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has consistently gone along with actions by Lee, a fellow Republican.

The increased economic and social activity as many businesses as well as public facilities begin opening is expected to spur additional community spread. Lee, a Republican, has said the state intends to keep a close eye on the numbers and percentage increases of new infections even as he issues guidelines, not orders, on what residents and businesses should be doing. He urges Tennesseans almost daily to continue following known safety practices such as washing hands, wearing face masks and social distancing as much as possible.

"As our case numbers grow, our need for contact tracers will grow, and so we're pursuing a couple of different avenues to meet that," Piercey said.

Asked how many contact tracers will be needed, Piercey said, "That's based on how many cases we have."

The commissioner noted her department operates health departments in 89 of the state's 95 counties. The six biggest counties run their own. Her contact tracers are largely dedicated to serving residents in the rural counties, she said.

"The last time I looked [at specific numbers] the 89 rural counties only accounted for about half the cases, and so that's the number we're targeting," Piercey said. "The metro counties have their own contact tracers. We're in frequent contact with them to make sure they have their needs met and working with them to potentially supplement their needs.

"But we know that most of the cases are in the metro areas just because that's where the population is. And so making sure they have enough contact tracers for the metros as well as enough for us in the rural areas."

It was not immediately clear how many contact tracers there are collectively in the six largest counties — Hamilton, Knox, Davidson, Shelby, Rutherford and Williamson.

State House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville later said Tennessee's preparations fall well short of a position statement recently issued by the National Association of City and County Health Officials. That calls for recommending 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people during a pandemic.

"That would mean just over 2,000 people in Tennessee," Stewart said. "Other states are already putting significant operations in place, with Texas planning to expand to over 4,000 contact tracers and Washington announcing the hiring of 1,500. Tennessee should place itself at the forefront of this effort.

"As the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has observed, contact tracing is essential to getting the economy running again," Stewart said. "That's because carefully tracking the virus keeps infected workers and customers at home and out of the workplace."

Stewart said that "as we have seen in a number of local factories and nursing homes, one infected employee can inadvertently spread the virus to tens or even hundreds of people, leading to dramatic health problems and even death."

Early identification of those who are exposed and potentially infected "keeps the virus isolated and minimizes such preventable outbreaks, making it safer and easier for businesses to operate," Stewart said.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tennessee increased to 13,690 on Tuesday, up 119 from Monday's total of 13,571, according to the Tennessee Department of Health's daily virus update. There have been 225 deaths from the virus statewide. Another 204,939 people tested negative, and 6,354 who had tested positive are now listed as having recovered.

Lee has more aggressively pushed testing in comparison to Tennessee's neighbors and has ordered mass testing at all state nursing homes as well as all state prisons in response to outbreaks.

Lee's push on nursing homes and similiar senior care facilites resulted in President Donald Trump inviting the Tennessee governor to the White House last week as the president issued a proclamation declaring May Older Americans month.

Contact Andy Sher at Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.



Posted on 05/08/2020 8:38 AM by Bobbie Patray
Friday, 1 May 2020
Commentary: Anti-Lockdown Protests and the Defiant Protestant Heart of America


by George Rasley


In his 1904 masterwork, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. German social researcher Max Weber argued that Western capitalism and the Protestant Reformation were inextricably linked. Weber made the case that the Protestant theology of John Calvin and the idea of work and economic activity as a God-given “calling,” inspired Protestant societies to develop a strong work ethic, leading to the development of Western capitalism.

Today, only about 49 percent of Americans identify as Protestants, but the Pilgrims and Puritans continue to exercise a powerful influence on the American psyche whether one is Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or adheres to no religion at all.

And, Weber’s monumental work, and the century of research and thought it spawned, tells us much about the psychological and philosophical underpinnings of the protests against the government-imposed lockdowns of the economy that have sprung-up in the past week.

In 2013 André van Hoorn and Robbert Maseland of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands published research demonstrating that the psychic harm from unemployment is about 40% worse for Protestants than for the general population. Moreover, people living in Protestant societies are hurt more by being unemployed than people living in other societies, according to their analysis of subjective well-being data on nearly 150,000 people in 82 societies. An analysis of the data shows that the effects derive from an intrinsic appreciation of work among Protestants and in Protestant societies, the researchers say.

“The resulting ‘experienced preferences’ provide strong support for Weber’s original thesis: for both Protestants and Protestant countries, not having a job has substantially larger negative happiness effects than for other religious denominations,” noted Daniel Luzer in an article for the Pacific Standard.

While Weber’s work, and the work of later researchers such as van Hoorn and Maseland, helps explain how deeply unsettling being unemployed is to the millions of Americans put out of work by the COVID-19 epidemic and panic, what Weber and the others have failed to note is another idea central to Protestantism: the right of each individual to read and interpret the Gospel according to his own understanding and live his or her life according to it tenets.

And, intrinsic in that central idea of Protestantism is the notion that the interpretation and authority of priests and bishops and other hierarchical structures is unnecessary and can and should be defied when they conflict with the plain language of the Gospel.

Far from being “anti-science” this anti-authoritarian view is deeply rooted in Protestant ideas of individual conscience. The very suggestion that individual conscience could oppose external authority would, in the years after Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation, crystallize into the affirmation of the ideal of individual freedom. That is why the English historian Christopher Hill went so far as to claim that the ‘essence of Protestantism – the priesthood of all believers – was logically a doctrine of individualist anarchy’.

The recognition of a sphere where political rule could not legitimately coerce the individual ultimately undermined the status of absolutist authority in all spheres of life. It soon became clear that once individuals are granted inner freedom, they find it difficult to unquestioningly obey any form of authority.

What those who demand that Americans bow to the irrational demands of the high priests of “science” and secular rulers who use the supposed authority of “science” to justify their oppressive rule really want is a return to a pre-Protestant Reformation state of affairs where all authority is vested in a new self-appointed elite priesthood.

Thus, in today’s rebellion against the unholy alliance of authoritarian political rulers and the priesthood of the religion of “science” we see opposition to pre-Reformation ideas of intellectual coercion and punishments meted out for heresy and blasphemy:

  • In California, Naomi Soria, 27, is facing criminal charges after she organized last week’s downtown San Diego protest. Around 400 people marched on the Hall of Justice demanding an end to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. Police said Soria is the only protester facing charges as she violated the stay-at-home order by organizing the protest and encouraging others to gather.
  • YouTube has banned any coronavirus-related content that directly contradicts World Health Organization (WHO) advice. Chief executive Susan Wojcicki said the media giant wanted to stamp out “misinformation on the platform.”

(Editor’s note: No doubt Ms. Wojcicki would have happily confined Galileo to house arrest or worse for writing the proof that the planets revolve around the Sun; no misinformation on the platform don’t you know.)

  • In New Jersey, police filed criminal charges against a protest organizer for violating emergency stay-at-home orders.
  • Eight anti-abortion protesters (who were originally part of a 50-person group) in Charlotte, North Carolina were arrested outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center abortion mill designated as an “essential business.” In Raleigh, North Carolina, police announced protesting was “non-essential” activity.

Far from being anti-science these examples of defiance are deeply rooted in Protestant Enlightenment thinking in which all authority may be tested against the plain language of the Gospel and all knowledge subjected to lived experience gathered through observation and experimentation.

Much as Martin Luther studied the Bible, posted his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, and refused to recant before ecclesiastical and secular authority, Americans have begun to gather the facts about the COVID-19 epidemic, interpret them and act upon them according to their own understanding.

This defiance of the authoritarian kings and queens of the universal lockdown order, the high priests of COVID-19 pseudo-science and the Inquisitors of the establishment media is not ignorant reaction. Rather, it is deeply rooted in America’s cultural Calvinism and the Protestant Enlightenment which empowered men and women to challenge the Divine Right of Kings and to ask why they should be locked in their homes to “save just one life” by the same politicians who claim that abortion is “essential” healthcare and who put political correctness ahead of the germ theory of disease to place patients recovering from COVID-19 among aged New York nursing home residents, killing over 3,448 of them.

For more information about how you can end these unscientific authoritarian lockdowns and get your state open visit

– – –

George Rasley is Managing Editor of Richard Viguerie’s

His ancestor, the Reverend Richard Mather, began his ministry in England after graduating from Brasenose College, Oxford. He was twice suspended from the pulpit for nonconformity to the Anglican Church Discipline by that “great adversary of the puritan faction,” Richard Neile, Archbishop of York. Mather joined the Puritan exodus to Massachusetts, in 1635, and ministered from the pulpit of the First Congregational Church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, until his death in 1669.

Additional Reading:

1.) There Really Is Such a Thing as the Protestant Work Ethic, Harvard Business Review, Andrew O’Connell, August 29, 2013,

2.) The Protestant Work Ethic Is Real, Pacific Standard, Daniel Luzer, June 14, 2017,

3.) The Invention of Individual Freedom, History Today, Frank Furedi, March 29, 2017,

4.) The Invention of Individual Freedom, History Today, Frank Furedi, March 29, 2017,

Posted on 05/01/2020 5:47 AM by Bobbie Patray
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2020 Special Session (1) Abortion (13) Abstinence (1) Accomplishment (1) Afghanistan (5) Anti-Christian Bigotry (4) Anti-semitism (7) Biden Family (2) Big Tech (1) Bill Gates (1) Black History Month (1) Children (1) China (3) Christian (3) Christian (11) CHRISTmas (3) Climate Change (2) Columbus Day (1) Common Core (1) Constitution (5) Covid-19 (17) Critical Race Theory (24) Culture (5) DACA (1) Davidson County (1) Debt (1) Deception (3) Democrats (7) Drag (3) Drugs (1) Eagle Forum (9) Economy (3) Education (71) Education (17) Education - Social Studies (1) Elections (73) Electoral College (5) Emergency Powers (1) Encouragement (1) Euthanasia (1) Family (2) Free Speech (2) Freedom (22) Gambling (1) Government (42) Health (10) Hearing on Jan 6 (1) History (2) Homeschooling (8) Hope (1) ICE (1) Immigration (94) Islam (5) Judge Amy Barrett (4) Judiciary (4) Law Enforcement (5) Legislation (23) LGBT (24) Marijuana (3) Marriage (1) Masks (1) Memorial Day (1) Military (3) National Security (1) News Outlets (2) parents (5) Patriotism (7) Persecution (2) Phyllis Schlafly (1) Planned Parenthood (2) Politics (82) Pornography (2) Prayer (1) President Biden (3) President Trump (8) Privacy (1) Private Property (1) Pro-Life (95) Racism (4) Redistricting (1) Refugee Resettlement (11) Religious Freedom (4) Republic (2) Riots and destruction (5) Russia (1) Sanctuary Cities (8) School Boards (1) Sex abuse (1) Sex Education (1) Sex trafficking (2) Sharia Law (1) Social Justice (1) Socialism (18) Soros (1) Special Session III (4) Student Leadership Conference (1) Supreme Court (1) Tax Increase (2) Terrorism (16) Thanksgiving (1) The Right to Vote (2) TN General Assembly (4) Tornado (1) Training (1) Transgendered (23) Vaccinations (6) Veterans (2) Violence (1) Wisdom (1) Women's Vote (1) Zoom (1)