Grifters Amongst The Grief
April 6, 2020
“To assume the best about another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic. But the alternative—to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception—is worse.”
“The closest we have to Holy Fools in modern life are whistleblowers. They are willing to sacrifice loyalty to their institution—and, in many cases, the support of their peers—in the service of exposing fraud and deceit.”
― Malcolm Gladwell
Watch Out For Grifters Amongst The Grief
“Scams follow the headlines…,” advised a consumer protection lawyer with the Federal Trade Commission, who reported last week that the agency had received almost 8,000 coronavirus-related complaints from consumers.
Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities say there’s been an explosion of scams since January, as fraudsters try capitalizing on public panic over the fast-moving epidemic and the flood of federal money headed to most Americans. The pandemic has affected so many people in so many different ways it’s like a smorgasbord of scam-choices for fraudsters to use on vulnerable people.
In Kentucky, workers in white hazmat suits stood in a Louisville parking lot under a white banner with images of red crosses. A sign said “Covid-19 testing here.” The workers swabbed the mouths of more than 100 drivers — who forked over $240 to be “tested” — before the fraudsters threw their supplies in the back of a truck and sped away.
One New York man compiled a vast stockpile of hundreds of thousands of precious items, everything from N95 masks and surgical gloves to hand sanitizer. He’d been selling the items at huge markups from a warehouse in Brooklyn before being arrested. In Texas, the FBI shut down a website promising consumers access to “vaccine kits” from the World Health Organization, for a shipping charge of $4.95 payable by credit card. There’s no vaccine, but now the scammers have credit card numbers.
A Georgia man charged with scheming to defraud Medicare with fake coronavirus claims was forthcoming about his intentions: “Everybody has been chasing the Covid dollar bird… you can either go bankrupt or you can prosper.”
- Touting Virus Cure, ‘Simple Country Doctor’ Becomes a Right-Wing Star (NYT)
- Coronavirus deniers and hoaxers persist despite dire warnings, claiming ‘it’s mass hysteria’ (WaPo, $)
- I Spent A Day In The Coronavirus-Driven Feeding Frenzy Of N95 Mask Sellers And Buyers And This Is What I Learned (Forbes)
- It’s Bedlam in the Mask Market, as Profiteers Out-Hustle Good Samaritans (NYT)
- Off our trolleys: what stockpiling in the coronavirus crisis reveals about us (Guardian)
- Finland, ‘Prepper Nation of the Nordics,’ Isn’t Worried About Masks (NYT)
- N95 mask shortage: Why donations won’t help every health care worker (Vox)
- How to Make a Face Mask With Fabric (NYT)
- How to make your own face mask for coronavirus (Vox)
Peter Summers via Getty Images
Will Starmer Going Into Labor Birth A Better England?
- Britain’s Labor Party spent years pursuing a staunch left-wing agenda. It has also lost the last four general elections, the most disastrous of which was to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn (the individual on the right of the photo) resigned after that schellacking last December.
- Four months later, the party appears to be moving more to the center with the election of its new leader, 57-year-old Keir Starmer (the individual on the left of the photo), a knighted barrister and leader of Labor’s response to Brexit. A member of parliament since 2015, Starmer won outright over Corbyn’s hand-picked candidate.
- In his victory remarks Starmer said he intended to work constructively with the government, and not oppose it for opposition’s stake. He also apologized to Jewish communities on behalf of the Labor Party, which was criticized for accepting anti-Semitism under Corbyn’s leadership.
- The former prosecutor begins his new position as politics are being kept on hold while the government deals with the outbreak of Covid-19; so far over 3,600 people in the UK have lost their lives to the virus.
- Sunday night Johnson was admitted to the hospital, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus. (WSJ, Politico)
It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Uh Oh…
- Chinese officials disclosed the outbreak of a ‘mysterious illness’ to international health officials on New Year’s Eve. During the first half of January no travelers entering the US from China were screened. Limited screening began in mid-January but only for passengers from Wuhan entering the US in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. By that time 4,000 people had already entered the US directly from Wuhan.
- On February 2, 2020 President Trump imposed travel restrictions on flights from China. However, in the interim there had been 1,300 direct flights from China to 17 American cities.
- To date, at least 430,000 people have arrived in the US on direct flights from China. That includes nearly 40,000 who’ve arrived on 279 direct flights from China in the two months since Trump announced the restrictions. And to the surprise of many, the screening was hit-and-miss — certainly less than adequate.
- Even so Trump continues to say his travel measures kept the virus’s spread to a minimum in America. At a briefing Tuesday Trump said his administration had taken “early” and “smart” action “because we stopped China.” Last month he said “We’re the ones that kept China out of here.” (NYT)
- Chinese-Americans, Facing Abuse, Unite to Aid Hospitals in Coronavirus Battle (NYT)
- Andrew Yang: We Asian Americans are not the virus, but we can be part of the cure (WaPo, $)
- U.S. faces ‘really bad’ week as coronavirus deaths spike (Reuters)
- Coronavirus in the U.S.: How Fast It’s Growing (NYT)
- Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic: We’re just clambering into a life raft. Dry land is far away (Statnews)
- Holdout States Resist Calls for Stay-at-Home Orders: ‘What Are You Waiting For?’: A small number of states in the Midwest and the South are under growing pressure to order all residents to stay at home to fight the coronavirus. (NYT)
- Apple is designing and shipping face shields for medical workers: More than 20 million masks sourced to date (The Verge) & Tesla shows how it’s building ventilators with car parts (Techcrunch)
- Health care workers aren’t just “heroes.” We’re also scared and exposed (Vox) (Thank you for your service.)
- YouTube says it will suppress content promoting false 5G coronavirus conspiracy: 5G masts have been set on fire in the UK (The Verge) (No thank you for doing the obvious.)
- Early Data Shows African Americans Have Contracted and Died of Coronavirus at an Alarming Rate (ProPublica)
- Ban wildlife markets to avert pandemics, says UN biodiversity chief (Guardian)
- Single passenger flights: The daily woes of airlines, and the crew still working (Reuters) & Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sells part of Delta, Southwest airline stakes (CNBC) (Even the Oracle of Omaha didn’t see this coming)
- Coronavirus: Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for Covid-19 (BBC)
- Chinese families should be sweeping graves now. But thousands still haven’t buried their dead. (WaPo, $)
- ‘We were trapped for too long’: coming back to life after lockdown in Wuhan (Guardian)
- Google uses location data to show which places are complying with stay-at-home orders — and which aren’t (The Verge)
- Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury (NYT)
- A German Exception? Why the Country’s Coronavirus Death Rate Is Low (NYT)
- Coronavirus: The race to stop the virus spread in Asia’s ‘biggest slum’ (BBC)
- Four Ways the Coronavirus Is Changing the Planet (Atlantic)
- The Coronavirus Is the World’s Only Superpower (New Yorker)
- Why this crisis is a turning point in history (New Statesman)
- Exclusive: The Military Knew Years Ago That a Coronavirus Was Coming (The Nation)
Potentially Zooming To Fail Fast
- ‘Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort (NYT, $)
- Security tips every teacher and professor needs to know about Zoom, right now: With Zoom-bombing a cultural phenomenon, here’s how to protect your meetings. (Ars Technica)
- Zoom’s Flawed Encryption Linked to China (The Intercept)
- What Zoom doesn’t understand about the Zoom backlash (The Verge)
Trump & COVID-19
- Office to the CDC, political and institutional failures cascaded through the system and opportunities to mitigate the pandemic were lost. (WaPo, $)
- Trump Again Speaks In Favor Of Anti-Malaria Drug As Coronavirus Treatment (NPR)
- Fauci: no evidence anti-malaria drug Trump pushes works against virus (Guardian)
- ‘Trump is killing his own supporters’ – even White House insiders know it (Guardian)
- Politics Through the Looking Glass: Virus Scrambles the Left-Right Lines (NYT)
- How science finally caught up with Trump’s playbook – with millions of lives at stake (Guardian)
- The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged: From the Oval Trump has nominated one of his lawyers to oversee coronavirus relief funds (Vox)
- The worst president. Ever. (WaPo, $) (He said it, not us. But yes, this assessment doesn’t seem too early. On the bright side, this level of incompetence should inspire anyone and give them the confidence that they too can become wealthy and President.)
Additional World News
- Oil pares losses on hints that Russia and Saudi Arabia are ‘very close’ to a deal (CNBC) & Will the coronavirus kill the oil industry and help save the climate? (Guardian)
- ‘I Refuse to Be Repentant’: The Woman Challenging Uganda’s Ruler (NYT, $)
- Protests, postponements and the last stand of an African strongman (Guardian)
- ‘It’s a place where they try to destroy you’: why concentration camps are still with us (Guardian)
The Unemployment System In A Swing Is A Miss
- Florida is an important swing state for President Trump’s reelection. But an almost $78 million unemployment system designed to minimize unemployment claims by Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott is working so well it’s causing major blowback.
- The online system was put in place in 2013 as part of a series of changes designed to limit benefits, by lowering the state’s reported number of jobless claims, which would ultimately lower unemployment taxes paid by Florida businesses.
- But as one DeSantis adviser said: “It’s a sh– sandwich, and it was designed that way by Scott. It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.”
- Now Republicans must deal with an overwhelmed system that is making it impossible for hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers to even apply for benefits. Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters put it succinctly: “$77 million? Someone should go to jail over that.” (Politico)
Win McNamee via Getty Images
Beware The Ides Of Corona
- Late Friday President Trump notified Congress he was firing the inspector general of the intelligence community. Michael Atkinson was a Trump appointee, and the individual who determined that the whistleblower’s report last year was credible in alleging the president abused his office by attempting to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals.
- The news came as the US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 7,000 (a number many experts said was under-reported), and the White House faced continuing criticism for its handling of the response.
- Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee called Atkinson’s firing “unconscionable … it sends a message throughout the federal government and in particular to other inspectors general that if they do their job as this professional did … they too may be fired by a vindictive president.”
- At Saturday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing Trump raged about Atkinson, first insisting he did “a terrible job” and was “a disgrace to inspector generals (sic),” then claiming he’d never met Atkinson and didn’t know him.
- Trump also said someone should “sue the ass off” the whistleblower whose complaint Atkinson relayed to Congress, per his constitutional duty. (Guardian, NYT)
- Trump defends decision to fire inspector general, calls him a ‘disgrace’ (NBC)
- U.S. defense chief backs Navy ouster amid report captain has coronavirus (Reuters)
- The controversy over a Navy captain’s firing following his warning about coronavirus, explained (Vox) (Trump’s leadership style: Whoever is not with Me is against Me and must be removed.)
Additional USA News
- Why an Idaho Ski Destination Has One of the Highest COVID-19 Infection Rates in the Nation (The New Yorker, $)
- Amazon white-collar employees are fuming over management targeting a fired warehouse worker (Vox)
- Trump administration determined to exit treaty reducing risk of war (Guardian)
- New York City Sees More Burglaries of Businesses Under Coronavirus Emergency Measures (WSJ, $)
- The US presidential election is frozen in time – can it survive? (Guardian)
- How ‘Never Bernie’ Voters Threw In With Biden and Changed the Primary (NYT)
- ‘Zero accountability’: US accused of failure to report civilian deaths in Africa (Guardian)
- No, You Didn’t Just Lose Half Of Your Retirement Savings (Mr.Money Moustache)
- William Helmreich, Sociologist and a Walker in the City, Dies at 74 (NYT, $) & Modern-day flâneur: Theories and demographics are all very well, but to know New York City’s inner life you need to walk and talk (Aeon), We also love walking around New York City and look forward to when that becomes possible again.
- The food that could last 2,000 years (BBC)
- Sit down, Jake Gyllenhaal. Lolo Jones just won the Tom Holland handstand challenge (CNN) We will try this and report back how difficult this is.
- Spider-Man to the rescue! Superhero jogger cheers kids in England (Reuters)
- The Rock, in a towel, sings ultimate hand-washing song for ‘Moana’ fans (CNN)
- Love in time of coronavirus: octogenarians picnic at Danish-German border (Reuters)