France to Tech Giants: Pay Up, Buttercup

French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at a press conference outside the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris in September 2020.

French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at a press conference outside the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris in September 2020.
Photo: Bertrand Guay (Getty Images)

The French Ministry of Economy and Finance has warned tech companies that it expects them to pay the nation’s new 3% digital service tax starting in December, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

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France halted collection of the tax earlier this year after backlash from the U.S. government and threats of increased trade tariffs by the Trump administration. The matter went to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. No deal was reached. In July, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requested that the negotiations be delayed during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but European officials interpreted that as a stalling tactic designed to blow up whatever agreements had been reached so far. Donald Trump’s administration then nuked the talks. French tax authorities had set a deadline of December for the tax to go into effect if negotiations proved fruitless.

At issue is the current global tax system, where companies usually only pay taxes in the countries they book profits. This is particularly contentious when it comes to tech, an industry ripe with tax avoidance and where it is easy for companies to route profits generated in one tax jurisdiction through tax havens like Ireland. The 3% tax applies to all digital services, but is clearly targeted mainly at tech giants, as it applies to companies with revenue of 25 million Euros (about $29.8 million) within France and 750 million Euros (about $894 million) worldwide. According to Reuters, ministers hoped that the tax would score around 500 million Euros (about $596 million) this year.

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“Companies subject to the tax have received their notice to pay the 2020 installment,” the French finance ministry told Reuters in a statement.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Bloomberg on Monday that he hoped Joe Biden’s inbound administration would move quickly to reach an agreement averting a prolonged trade standoff, as U.S. retaliatory tariffs are set to activate in January. The tariffs, set by the Trump administration in an effort to scare France into backing down, would be set at 25% on $1.3 billion in French goods including cosmetics, soap, and handbags, but not cheese, wine, or cookware. (Trump had previously threatened to impose 100% tariffs on $2.4 billion dollars in French goods, but backed down after U.S. businesses protested that the administration did not understand this would hurt them far more than France.)

“We will not spare our efforts to convince the new Biden administration to join the consensus which is currently the case in the OECD on global digital taxation,” Le Maire told Bloomberg.

Per CNN, that could put the Biden administration in a tough position, as opposition to the tax in the U.S. wasn’t limited to Trump—Democrats were sour on the prospect as well, seeing the digital service taxes as an attack on the U.S. tech industry as well as a way to siphon U.S. tax dollars overseas. However, an OECD agreement applying to digital service taxes and other multinationals could also allow the U.S. to make up for the shortfall by taxing foreign companies doing business stateside. If a deal isn’t reached, France may propose a European Union-wide digital services tax in early 2021.

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“Democrats have been as opposed to the digital services taxes as Republicans,” former U.S. Treasury Department official Brian Jenn told Bloomberg in February 2020. “While very few Democrats are a fan of tariffs, it looks like the tariff approach at least bought a temporary victory in the case of France.”

“Everybody has been leaning pretty hard on the OECD process and saying we need agreement,” Cathy Schultz, the vice-president for tax policy at the National Foreign Trade Council in Washington, told the Financial Times. “But if we don’t reach an agreement, these things are just going to run rampant and we’re going to have more of the trade war.”

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Other countries are preparing to roll out their own equivalents, such as the UK, which plans to start collecting a digital services tax in April 2021. According to the Times, this summer U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer announced “probes into a number of countries that are adopting digital services taxes including the UK, Italy, Austria, Brazil, Indonesia and the [European Union],” which could trigger more retaliatory tariffs before Trump leaves office.

French officials have threatened that any retaliatory U.S. tariffs would not be well received.

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“Trade sanctions threats are not acceptable, and the EU would react swiftly and decisively in case they were to materialize,” a spokeswoman for the tax ministry told Bloomberg last week.

Twitter Will Now Warn You Before You Like a Tweet Containing Misleading Information

Illustration for article titled Twitter Will Now Warn You Before You Like a Tweet Containing Misleading Information

Photo: Leon Neal / Staff (Getty Images)

Expanding upon an existing feature that warns users who attempt to retweet content that has already been flagged as “misleading information,” Twitter will now issue the same warning when users attempt to like content that has been similarly designated.

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In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Twitter announced in September that it planned to debut a number of policies aimed at curbing misinformation around the vote totals, pledging to tack on “additional warnings and restrictions on Tweets with a misleading information label from US political figures (including candidates and campaign accounts).”

The platform soon made good on that promise, flagging one of President Donald Trump’s tweets with a warning that “some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed” with just hours to go until voting in the general election got underway.

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In a tweet, Twitter said that those prompts and others like them had helped to decrease quote tweets of the misleading information by 29%, prompting the platform to unveil similar speed bumps designed to slow users’ propensity to “like” tweets containing falsehoods.

The option for users to pause and think before hitting ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ is part of a larger suite of features aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation that Twitter has recently unveiled. When users try to hit retweet on a tweet containing a link to an article they haven’t read, for example, the site now prompts a message encouraging the user to, you know, read the article before blindly sharing it with their followers.

The decision to add warning labels to “liked” tweets was first reported on by Jane Manchun Wong, a Hong Kong-based software engineer notorious for unveiling new features that apps like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are testing in beta by reverse-engineering their code.

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Although Twitter initially claimed that the new features would be in place “at least” until Election Day, the fact that they’re still being debuted more than three weeks out suggests that a longer-term approach towards content deamplification might be underway.

It Doesn’t Matter If Trump Never Concedes, Twitter Is Giving @POTUS to Biden

The official presidential Twitter account.

The official presidential Twitter account.
Screenshot: Twitter

Outgoing President Donald Trump is set to receive a rude awakening on Jan. 20, 2021 on his favorite social media platform: Twitter. That day, Trump will no longer see a picture of himself on the popular @POTUS account—the official presidential Twitter account, although Trump prefers to use his own personal, @realDonaldTrump, as the world knows—but rather a picture of Joe Biden, the 46th president of the U.S.

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As reported by multiple outlets, on Jan. 20, Twitter will transfer the control of the @POTUS, as well as about a dozen other White House institutional accounts, to the Biden administration. The company confirmed this to Gizmodo on Saturday. Unlike Trump, who has still refused to concede the election and is actively working to overturn it, Twitter has accepted reality and is respecting the will of the American people.

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The General Services Administration, which needs to “ascertain” or formally determine the winner of the election in order for the new presidential administration to use its transition funds and get other access, has refused to ascertain Biden as the winner. The president-elect needs this formality in order to begin the transition process.

“Twitter is actively preparing to support the transition of White House institutional Twitter accounts on January 20th, 2021. As we did for the presidential transition in 2017, this process is being done in close consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration,” the company said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo, linking to the National Archives website. It added that it would meet with the Biden-Harris transition team.

NARA is the nation’s official record keeper. Of all the documents and materials created by the U.S. federal government, NARA keeps about 1-3% because they are “so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.” The intense matter-of-fact tone makes me want to giggle, but since people at NARA probably take their job as record keepers very seriously, I shall refrain.

According to Politico, all existing tweets on official Trump White House accounts, such as @whitehouse, @VP and @FLOTUS, will be archived and the accounts will be reset to zero tweets.

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Trump White House accounts will then presumably be locked and their handles changed, as has happened with past presidential administration officials, per the outlet. President Barack Obama’s tweets from the @POTUS account, for instance, can be referenced in the locked account, @POTUS44. Meanwhile, Obama press secretary Josh Earnest’s tweets from the @PressSec account can be viewed on the @PressSec44 page. NARA maintains the Obama White House accounts, Politico reported.

Now, will this mean that we’ll stop hearing from Trump on Twitter? Oh no, he’ll no doubt still be around, tweeting raving conspiracy theories from @realDonaldTrump. But besides not having his face on the @POTUS account, which for someone as narcissistic as the president has to be a real blow, Trump will also lose his special Twitter protections that allow him to routinely break the company’s rules and have his content remain on the platform because it is in the public’s interest.

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This means that Twitter may apply warnings and labels or limit engagement of certain tweets, a company spokesperson told the Verge on the day major networks announced that Biden had won the election.

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“Twitter’s approach to world leaders, candidates, and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context,” the spokesperson said. “This policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions.”

The Coronavirus Has Once Again Contracted Trump

The president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., pictured here speaking at a Republican convention in D.C. last summer, reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., pictured here speaking at a Republican convention in D.C. last summer, reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus this week.
Photo: Olivier Douliery (Getty Images)

The eldest Trump spawn, Donald Trump Jr., has reportedly contracted the coronavirus. Honestly, given the rate at which the virus has spread among the president’s staff and associates in recent weeks, is anyone really surprised?

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“Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result,” a spokesperson for Trump Jr. said in a statement to CNN. “He’s been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended COVID-19 guidelines.”

Bloomberg was the first to report his positive diagnosis on Friday after confirming the news with three sources familiar with the matter. Trump Jr. is the latest among more than four dozen people associated with the White House who have been infected by the virus, including President Donald Trump himself. Among others on that ever-growing list are first lady Melania Trump, the president’s youngest son Barron, his chief of staff Mark Meadows, longtime campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and several White House aides and reporters.

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On Friday, Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and the son of the Trump’s campaign ooziest lawyer Rudy Giuliani, announced that he also contracted the virus. He said in a tweet that he was in quarantine and had been “experiencing mild symptoms.” One of Pence’s aides, Hannah McInnis, tested positive for the virus earlier this month, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke with Bloomberg.

Trump Jr. was one of the hundreds of maskless guests at a packed election night party at the White House, which is starting to look more and more like the administration’s second superspreader event in as many months. In October, Trump and several others tested positive for the virus following a Rose Garden ceremony to announce Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. The nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci later dubbed the gathering a superspreader event, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the same prognosis about Trump’s election night rally in the coming days.

News of another Trump family diagnosis comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across the country. The U.S. set several grim new records on Thursday, recording more than 182,000 new covid-19 cases as well as 1,971 deaths, the highest death toll since May. With the holiday season approaching fast, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is begging people not to travel to avoid potentially spreading the virus even further. As the Trumps have demonstrated in their shining display of ignorance, covid-19 is not something you want to keep in the family.

The Trump Admin Is Refusing to Give Full Cybersecurity Support to Biden’s Transition Team

Illustration for article titled The Trump Admin Is Refusing to Give Full Cybersecurity Support to Bidens Transition Team

Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is using a “standard, paid Google workspace network” with only limited support from the federal government thanks to Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 elections and efforts to hobble the inbound Democratic administration, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

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Presidential transition teams typically have the support of the General Services Administration, which helps them set up and manage “ptt.gov” email accounts, and the Department of Homeland Security, which provides cybersecurity assistance to help ensure those accounts aren’t penetrated. That isn’t happening, or at least not in full. The GSA has refused to recognize Biden has won the election, and its Trump-appointed chief Emily Murphy has given no indication she feels the need to anytime soon. (She could theoretically hold off until congressional certification of the electoral college in January 2021.) The GSA has offered “basic information technology and cybersecurity services,” the Journal wrote, but is apparently holding out otherwise.

Foreign hackers and everyone else would obviously love to spy on a presidential transition team and gain key information about the shape, priorities, and goings-on of the inbound administration. The GSA’s refusal to acknowledge Trump won the election also means the Biden team may not be receiving classified briefings on cybersecurity threats ranging from efforts to target the transition to operations being run by hostile foreign governments.

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In lieu of any effort by the feds to do less than the bare minimum, Biden transition staffers have taken some matters into their own hands. That includes the use of Titan Security Keys (physical cryptographic keys that must be used to access encrypted accounts), a need-to-know information policy, and cybersecurity briefings for staffers, according to the Journal.

Additionally, the Verge reported the transition says all accounts are enrolled in Google’s Advanced Protection Program and Google’s Enhanced Protection Program. The GSA has at least provided computers, cell phones, and office space, though the office has been mostly vacant due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are preparing to govern during a global pandemic and an economic recession, all while working remotely,” a transition official told the Journal. “From the outset of the transition, we have invested in best-in-class IT systems and processes.”

Other federal agencies are also not fully cooperating with the Biden transition team in ways that could sabotage the early days of his presidency. The GSA’s refusal to recognize Biden’s win gave cover to departments ranging from the U.S. Agency for International Development to Veterans Affairs to stonewall his team, according to the Washington Post, with political appointees ordering civil servants not to communicate with the transition team or brief them on issues. The GSA is withholding millions in transition funds. Biden’s team recently said that if Murphy continues to stand in their way, the rollout of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus could be delayed weeks or months, as Health and Human Services Department staff are refusing to discuss things like the logistics of manufacturing and distributing the vaccine or the data showing where it is needed most.

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A White House spokesperson told the Verge the administration is “following all statutory requirements,” which is rich.

That Time Donald Trump Tried to Be Captain Planet, as Told by Barack Obama

Captain Planet, he’s our hero?
Gif: Brian Kahn/Getty

It’s Barack Obama book week. The former president’s new book, The Promised Land, dropped on Tuesday, and there’s a lot to pour over.

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Soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump is largely a specter in the book, not appearing until very near the end. While Trump’s most famous tie to Obama is using the false birther conspiracy theory to rise to prominence, Obama recounts his first, and frankly weird, encounter with Trump. Improbably, it involves the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In his book, Obama writes the following after describing Trump as “someone who’d left a trail of bankruptcy, filing, breached contracts, stiffed employees, and sketchy financing arrangements in his wake” (which, unfortunately, yes):

“In fact, my closest contact with Trump had come midway through 2010, during the Deepwater Horizon crisis, when he’d called Axe [adviser David Axelrod] out of the blue to suggest that I put him in charge of plugging the well.”

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There are layers to this to unpack. First, the story is something recounted in Axelrod’s own memoir in 2015, and Trump has admitted it was true, though he said the call was more about building a ballroom on the White House. (Obama notes Trump did indeed raise that after being rebuffed on the Deepwater Horizon offer.) But by all counts, this appears to be a thing that really happened.

Need I remind you, Deepwater Horizon was the single costliest environmental disaster in U.S. history. It happened in 2010, when malfunctions, a series of human and equipment failures, and lax federal enforcement led to a massive oil rig blowout a mile (1.8 kilometers) under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It caused an estimated $61.2 billion loss for BP, the operator of the rig, killed 11, and the impacts are still with us today.

To plug the well required unprecedented expertise. Obama recounts in his book that the Coast Guard’s head of response, Admiral Thad Allen, referred to the operation to cap the well that was actively spewing millions of barrels of oil into the ocean “more like a space mission.” To address the crisis, Obama deployed then-Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, to assist. Crews of BP engineers worked on the issue. In short, this was not a simple fix and certainly nothing like putting your name on a skyscraper.

Now, consider the levels of batshittery of Donald Trump offering to lead the charge. There are many things Donald Trump can be accused of, but having a shortage of chutzpah is not one of them. By 2010, Trump was making money from The Apprentice and licensing his name after overseeing the failure of Trump Shuttle (airline), Trump University (it eventually settled in a multimillion fraud case), Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and various casinos. This was clearly not the man for the job. Obama writes that the federal government worked with “citizen volunteers” on the cleanup, from deploying booms around oil to monitoring the spill from the sky. Dirty work, sure, but maybe a little more Trump’s speed than running the whole operation.

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Now, with the hindsight of four years of Trump’s disastrous presidency, it’s even clearer how bad things would’ve been if he had managed the spill. The U.S. is in shambles because he absolutely failed to address the coronavirus (which he also caught). He’s attempting one of the shittiest coups in history. And he rolled back safety protections put in place after the spill once he became president.

If he had been put in charge of Deepwater Horizon or, heaven forbid, it had happened on his watch, we’d be forced to watch Trump hold press conferences touting “beautiful, clean oil” gushing up from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a nightmare to even consider. With his rollbacks and two more months for him in office, there’s sadly still time for a repeat to become reality.

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Great, We’re at the ‘8kun’s Admin Is an Election Security Expert’ Stage of This Bullshit

Illustration for article titled Great, Were at the 8kuns Admin Is an Election Security Expert Stage of This Bullshit

Photo: Stephen Maturen (Getty Images)

Since his loss in the Nov. 3 elections, Donald Trump has largely dipped out of public view and occupied his time in some gold-plated panic room, issuing a ridiculous series of tweets claiming victory in various states and ordering his cartoon parody of a campaign legal team to sally forth and step on rakes while trying to disenfranchise Black voters. The right-wing media has been happy to trot out one conspiracy theory about voter fraud after another as fodder for his disinformation campaign, though none of it’s sticking outside the GOP echo chamber.

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Case in point: On Wednesday, Trump tweeted out a clip from the One America News Network interviewing a supposed “cyber analyst” discussing flaws in procedures by election supplier Dominion Voting Systems, which OANN cited as evidence the vote was definitely stolen from Trump. Just one problem, though. The “cyber analyst” was Ron Watkins, an administrator on far-right site 8kun, and son of its owner, Philippines-based pig farmer Jim Watkins.

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8kun is a rebranded version of 8chan, an imageboard that became one of the key nodes of white supremacists and was driven offline in August 2019 after three mass shooters uploaded manifestos to the site before going on killing sprees. It’s also the last refuge of QAnon, a sprawling movement of far-right whackos that believes Democrats, Hollywood, and federal agencies are under the control of a secret cabal of child-raping, cannibalistic Satanists. QAnon is directed by “Q,” a huckster posing on 8kun/8chan as a military or intelligence official helping Trump lead a war against the shadow pedophiles. The Watkinses themselves are suspected to be Q, or at least operating with full knowledge of who it is and profiting from the hoax. (They deny this.)

In October, Mother Jones reported that Jim Watkins’ company, N.T. Technology, appears to have operated a network of sites with domain names “explicitly related to pedophilia”—and that metadata from these sites appeared to indicate they were used to host child pornography. After the Nov. 3 elections sent QAnon into a depressive tailspin, Q hasn’t posted, and Ron Watkins has claimed to be “resigning as admin of 8kun effective immediately” to focus on woodworking.

QAnon devotees view Ron Watkins as “the technical brain behind the platform where Q posts,” conspiracy theory expert Julian Feeld, one of the cohosts of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, said. According to Feeld, Ron Watkins has maintained a lower profile than but “played just as big a role in the QAnon movement’s growth” as his father.

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“His ‘departure’ from 8kun is highly suspect and possibly just a PR move more than anything else,” Feeld added. “It allows him more freedom as a right-wing operative, specifically around the various voter fraud conspiracy theories. It has been astonishing to watch his messaging garner so much support at [OANN] and by Trump himself. He’s also in contact with [Republican members of the House] Kelli Townsend and Jim Jordan, by all appearances.”

Trump has aggressively promoted a baseless and labyrinthine theory in which Dominion is a left-wing software firm with ties to Venezuela and Democratic billionaire George Soros that threw the election for Joe Biden. In this tale, Dominion deleted hundreds of thousands of votes on election night, somehow bypassing chain-of-custody procedures for ballots put in place by states, evading public observation of canvass and certification procedures, and not being noticed in any kind of audit. The theory’s proponents say this allowed Democrats to snap up Electoral College votes in Michigan and/or Pennsylvania. Dominion says its employees have received death threats and harassment as a result.

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In the OANN clip, Watkins was introduced as a “large system technical analyst” and cited procedures in a manual for Dominion voting machines, positing hypothetical scenarios in which someone with knowledge of their vulnerabilities could commit voter fraud.

It is indisputably true that white hat hackers, security researchers, and others have been raising the alarm about poor cybersecurity practices rife in state and local elections and in election system technology for years. It is also true that Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, election officials across the country, and dozens of leading experts in election security have all stated there is absolutely no evidence the election was compromised, let alone in favor of Trump.

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Courts have also been unimpressed: The president’s legal team has been reduced to a gibbering mess as it’s been annihilated in a series of shaky lawsuits claiming irregularities in the voting process. In one recent filing, the campaign asked a federal judge in Pennsylvania to simply ignore the results of the state’s election and award its electoral votes to Trump. None in the slew of lawsuits the Trump campaign has filed across the country have resulted in any change to the Electoral College vote count, and many of them were filled with embarrassing legal errors.

“It seems that the QAnon-ization of the right-wing political machine has led to a portion of politicians acknowledging Ron as a trustworthy source of information,” Feeld said. “Just as people sought answers for the coronavirus by absorbing QAnon or QAnon-like theories into the mainstream MAGA and Republican discourse, we are seeing a reaction to Trump’s loss: the multiplication of voter fraud conspiracy theories.”

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The future is more uncertain for figures like [Ron] if Trump looks like a loser now,” Feeld added.

Tyson Managers Allegedly Made Cash Bets on How Many Workers Would Get Covid-19

In this May 1, 2020, file photo, vehicles sit in a near empty parking lot outside the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa.

In this May 1, 2020, file photo, vehicles sit in a near empty parking lot outside the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa.
Photo: Charlie Neibergall (AP)

Managers and supervisors at a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, allegedly forced employees to work in unsafe conditions during the coronavirus pandemic and even took cash bets on how many workers would get sick from covid-19, according to new filings in a lawsuit brought against Tyson by the son of a worker who died. At least five workers from the Waterloo facility have died since the pandemic began and at least 20 Tyson workers have reportedly died of the coronavirus nationwide.

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The lawsuit, which was uploaded in its entirety by KCCI Des Moines, was brought by the son of Isidro Fernandez, a worker at the pork plant who died of covid-19 on April 26. The suit alleges that supervisors, led by plant manager Tom Hart, organized a “cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool” on how many workers would test positive for the coronavirus.

One supervisor allegedly told employees that “it’s not a big deal; everyone is going to get it” and reportedly referred to covid-19 as a “glorified flu” when workers expressed concern. Covid-19 is more severe than the common flu and public health experts warn we still don’t know about the long term health effects in people who contract the disease but survive. So-called “long haulers” report months of sickness and fatigue after even mild initial cases of covid-19.

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The new suit also claims workers were pressured to continue working, even after they were visibly sick in the Waterloo facility, the largest pork plant in the country. The Waterloo plant employs around 2,800 people.

“At least one worker at the facility vomited on the production line and management allowed him to continue working and return to work the next day,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit says that managers directed their subordinates to ignore covid-19 symptoms in employees to make sure people continued coming into work (emphasis in the original):

Defendant John Casey explicitly directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19. Mr. Casey told supervisors they had to show up to work, even if they were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and he directed supervisors to make their direct reports come to work, even if those direct reports were showing symptoms of COVID-19.

On one occasion, Mr. Casey intercepted a sick supervisor en-route to get tested and ordered the supervisor to get back to work, adding, “we all have symptoms—you have a job to do.”

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Tyson also incentivized sick workers to come in by offering a $500 “thank you bonus,” for anyone who didn’t miss a shift for three months. Most managers at the facility started avoiding the work floor of the pork plant out of fear they would get sick with covid-19, according to the lawsuit.

“Consequently, as the virus spread through the plant, the Supervisory Defendants and other managers increasingly delegated managerial authority and responsibilities to low-level supervisors with no management training or experience,” the lawsuit says.

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A spokesperson for Tyson Foods declined to comment on the lawsuit early Thursday morning but told Gizmodo via email that the company is “saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with their families.” The spokesperson also said Tyson has transformed” its meat processing facilities,with protective measures including symptom screenings, face masks, workstation dividers and social distance monitors.”

Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson and local county health officials visited the pork processing plant on April 10 and lobbied to have the plant closed. A week later, Thompson was quoted in a local newspaper, the Des Moines Register, as saying that the plant should be shut down and get a deep clean. But Tyson continued to insist that it was doing everything it could to keep workers safe.

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The lawsuit also alleges that Tyson didn’t provide workers with sufficient face coverings to help slow the spread of the virus within the plant. The dead worker’s son also says that his father was lied to repeatedly about both the presence of covid-19 at the facility and steps that were taken to ensure workers were safe.

Tyson installed temperature checks at its Waterloo facility around April 6, according to the lawsuit, but we now know such measures are woefully inadequate for detecting the virus, since fever isn’t necessarily present in all people who contract the virus. There were also reports at the time that some workers would take medications like Tylenol to reduce their fever to gain admittance, for fear of losing hours and pay. One worker who took Tylenol to get into work later died, according to the New York Times.

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The lawsuit also alleges that Tyson successfully lobbied Congress, the White House, and the Iowa state government for liability protections. President Donald Trump ordered all meat packing plants to continue operation and declared a state of emergency in Iowa on March 24 to force meat processing plants to stay open.

The lawsuit also notes how Tyson was running ads in newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times about how keeping meat plants open was crucial to feeding America. Perversely, the lawsuit points to Tyson’s exports to China soaring 600% in the first quarter of the year. Tyson wasn’t just feeding America, it was making a lot of money exporting food to China while the first wave of the pandemic began.

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The covid-19 pandemic has sickened over 11.5 million Americans and killed over 250,500, with states in the upper Midwest being particularly hard hit. Iowa has seen over 198,000 cases and 2,102 deaths since the pandemic began. At least 1,869 Americans died on Wednesday alone, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force reportedly warned Vice President Mike Pence this week that the U.S. could see a death toll of 2,000 Americans per day by Christmas. But with 1,869 Americans dying just yesterday alone, that number seems wildly optimistic. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and hospitalizations are expected to rise after the national holiday.

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Update, 7:58 a.m. ET: Updated with comment from Tyson Foods.

Trump Admin Taps Ex-Aide Fired for Ties to Far Right for Commission That Preserves Holocaust Memorials

Darren Beattie, right, on a recent episode of Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.

Darren Beattie, right, on a recent episode of Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.
Screenshot: Fox News (Other)

In 2018, the Trump administration fired a White House speechwriter after he was revealed to have spoken at an annual far-right conference in 2016 attended by white supremacists, pseudoscientific quacks, contrarian academics, and other racists. This week, the White House nominated the same guy to a three-year term on a heritage commission that preserves Holocaust memorials.

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As first flagged by Yahoo News, the White House sent out a press release on Tuesday evening naming the speechwriter in question, Darren Beattie, as a member of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. That commission was formed in the wake of World War II and identifies and helps preserve sites like buildings, monuments, and cemeteries of U.S. cultural heritage throughout Europe—especially those that have been destroyed, damaged, neglected, or otherwise threatened by events like the Nazi murder of more than 6 million Jews and millions of others during the Holocaust. It also helps establish memorialization projects.

Beattie, who identifies as Jewish, lost his original job at the White House after it came to light he had spoken at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference, named after the viciously racist writer whose work is popular with white supremacists. That conference was a major event in the development of the alt-right and featured a number of far-right personalities who style themselves intellectuals. That included John Derbyshire and Robert Weissberg, two writers fired from the National Review in 2012 for promoting racist viewpoints, and Peter Brimelow, the founder of the xenophobic, anti-immigrant hate site VDARE, which regularly publishes pseudoscientific articles smearing people of various ethnic or racial backgrounds as biological inferiors. (Brimelow is also a National Review alumni, and the H.L. Mencken Club’s leader, Paul Gottfried, was removed as a contributor to the magazine in the 1980s.)

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At the time of his firing in August 2018, Beattie insisted to CNN he had only given a “stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right’” at the conference that contained “nothing objectionable.” But per Yahoo News, he’s also trafficked in conspiracy theories about George Soros and recently made an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to suggest that Donald Trump is being forced out of office by a “color revolution” orchestrated by shadowy deep state elites. (Trump subsequently lost his reelection bid.) Beattie has also written articles endorsing Trump’s Muslim ban, refused to denounce the “alt-right” as anti-Semitic, and said on a podcast in 2019 he had no regrets about his conference appearance, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Beattie’s three-year term on the commission means he could potentially retain the position long into the inbound Biden administration.

Jewish groups were furious on news of the announcement, per Yahoo News:

“It’s appalling that someone who was considered too close to xenophobic white nationalists to continue working in the Trump White House would now be appointed to a U.S. government body focused largely on the preservation of sites dedicated to the memory of Holocaust victims,” said Logan Boroff, communications director for J Street, a progressive Jewish lobbying organization.

“It should be obvious that those who traffic in hatred of immigrants and refugees are the last people on earth who should be entrusted with honoring the victims of Nazis,” Boroff went on to say.

The Anti-Defamation League, which was founded to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, called on Trump to “immediately rescind” the appointment. “It is absolutely outrageous that someone who has consorted with racists would even be considered for a position on a commission devoted to preserving Holocaust memorials in Europe,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement.

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Beattie is one of numerous individuals with close ties to the far right tapped by the White House (such as ghoulish adviser Stephen Miller) and he’s not alone in scoring a gig with the feds during Trump’s post-election lame duck period. ScienceInsider reported earlier this month that Jason Richwine, an ex-Heritage Foundation researcher with a long history of racist remarks and and advocate of a scientifically baseless IQ-ranking system for immigrants, had scored a deputy undersecretary role at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

[Yahoo News]

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U.S. Could See 2,000 Covid-19 Deaths Per Day by Christmas: Report

An inmate (center) works loading bodies wrapped in plastic into a refrigerated temporary morgue trailer in a parking lot of the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s office on November 17, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.

An inmate (center) works loading bodies wrapped in plastic into a refrigerated temporary morgue trailer in a parking lot of the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s office on November 17, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.
Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

The U.S. could see 2,000 Americans dying per day by Christmas if strict new mitigation strategies aren’t adopted, according to warnings from doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force and a new report from CBS News. The alarming news comes as the U.S. reports 1,565 deaths from covid-19 on Tuesday alone, with hospitals across the country becoming overwhelmed by the large volume of patients.

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Doctors on the White House task force recommend that all bars across the country be closed and that all restaurants stop providing indoor dining. CBS reports the unnamed doctors told Vice President Mike Pence that this could help slow the spread, though it’s not clear how well that message was received from the nation’s leaders. The White House has been criminally negligent during the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 11.3 million Americans and killed over 248,707, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The doctors also told Pence that it would be helpful if he and President Donald Trump stressed “the importance of taking mitigation measures” through an address to the public in the White House press briefing room. That seems like an unlikely course of action, given the fact that President Trump hasn’t taken questions from the press since the November 3 presidential election and appears to spend most of his days tweeting about the election being “rigged.” Trump has still refused to concede the election, which he lost to Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

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While many states are starting to introduce new measures, there are still at least 30 states where bars are open and indoor dining is allowed, according to the New York Times. At least ten states still have no requirement for residents to wear masks, including South Dakota, one of the worst hit states in the country. South Dakota has seen an average of 1,421 new cases every day for the past week. The state of just 880,000 people has recorded 644 deaths and more than 67,000 cases since the pandemic began earlier this year.

At least 76,830 Americans are currently hospitalized with covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project, a record that keeps getting broken with each passing day. At least 20 states set new records on Tuesday for hospitalizations, including hard-hit states in the Upper Midwest like Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

And hospitals are reaching a breaking point. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that over 900 staff at the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota have contracted covid-19 in the past two weeks. Hospitals from Texas to Michigan are operating near capacity, with no staff available to operate many of the ICU beds needed for patients who get seriously ill.

Numerous reports from the past week have also noted that health care workers are simply exhausted and don’t know how they’ll make it through the next couple of months both physically and emotionally. Some people are worried about the PTSD that will likely become evident after all of this is over, but doctors and nurses don’t even have time to worry about the longer term health effects. They’re simply living in the moment, working long shifts to keep their patients alive.

Incredibly, some people are still in denial about the deadliness of this pandemic, even when they’re literally on their deathbeds. And that travesty can be laid directly at the feet of the president. Trump spent months minimizing the threat of the pandemic, insisting that it would miraculously “go away.”

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Covid-19 didn’t go away. And while we’re tremendously hopeful that new vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna will reach people as soon as possible, there’s still going to be a lot of pain and death this winter before the pandemic is under control.

Don’t go visit family for Thanksgiving next week, even if your loved ones are disappointed in you. As coronavirus expert Dr. Michael Osterholm says, we need to look at 2020 as our “covid year” and promise our families that we’ll see them in 2021. That is, if you want to see them in 2021.

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As public health experts in Mississippi recently warned, if you plan on having big Thanksgiving dinners this year, also plan on having small Christmas funerals.